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let me show you what he can't ('cause he can only show you what love ain't)

Chapter Text

As soon as Jason had managed to calm down, Damian had shouted for their parents, who had come running with identical looks of concern on their faces. Duke and Alfred weren’t far behind.

Jason had been a coward, keeping quiet and hiding himself against Damian’s chest as the younger boy thrust his phone towards their father and began explaining what he’d interrupted. He’d allowed his mother to gently pull him over to herself, instead, tucking his head under her chin as she sat on the side of his bed and stroked his back.

“We’ll call the lawyers after you eat something,” she’d said, and Jason had nodded along numbly as he was coaxed into getting up and going downstairs to the kitchen. She had disappeared for a few minutes, after that, and Damian said she was likely calling their grandfather to inform him of the development.

Breakfast is a somber affair, with Bruce and Damian both hovering a little too much, but Jason doesn’t say anything about it, figures it’s better than being left alone. Duke is quiet, even more-so than usual, but he offers a forced smile of support when Jason meets his eyes while trying to duck away from their father’s attention.

Jason picks at his food, not really up to eating, and Alfred tutts at him as he fixes him a second cup of tea.

“Sorry, Alfie,” he mumbles, “Just not feeling so hot.”

Alfred pats his shoulder lightly as he steps away.

Talia returns near the end of the meal, a grateful look in her eyes as Alfred sets a steaming mug of tea down before her.

“Thank you, Pennyworth,” she says, clutching the mug between both hands as she draws in a breath, “My father will be requesting for the trial to be moved forward.”

Which means that it will be, because Ra’s al Ghul isn’t someone you tell no, and Jason isn’t sure how he feels about that. On the one hand, he just wants everything to be over, so he can close this chapter of his life and just work towards rebuilding his life. On the other, though… He isn’t sure he’s ready to face Max again. He could barely even stand to hear his voice over the phone, how was he supposed to get up before him and everyone else in the courtroom and explain his side of the story? What if he sees Max, and just… freezes? Unable to say anything? Or if he’s so afraid that he just takes it all back, agree that it’s all his fault, and they let Max walk free?

What if he doesn’t? What if he manages to stick it out, manages to put the truth out there, to be brave, and they still let Max go free?

At least, until the verdict is returned, Jason can pretend that that won’t be the case. But if it is… There will be no denying it, not once it’s happened.

Jason draws in a stuttering breath, and forces himself to nod.

His mind is buzzing with anxiety, drowning out the quiet conversation happening around him, and Jason jumps when someone touches his shoulder. He looks around, only to realise that room has been vacated, save for Alfred who remains next to him, his brow creased with concern.

“Master Jason?” He asks gently, and Jason blinks at him, his eyes suddenly damp, “Oh, my dear boy.”

Alfred wraps an arm around him, drawing Jason in towards him, and he buries his face against the older man’s stomach as his breath hitches. A hand smooths over his hair and then his shoulders as his own grip tightly to Alfred’s coattails.

“He’s going to win,” Jason mumbles, and Alfred stiffens slightly, but remains silent, “I’m going to screw it up. I’m going to see him, and- And they’ll all know he’s right. It’s my fault. It was my fault.

Alfred tries to pull back, but Jason only holds on tighter, not wanting to see it on the older man’s face if he agrees. He doesn’t get much of a choice, though, because Alfred’s next move is push Jason back slightly, and guide him to tip his head back so they can see each other properly.

“No one is going to think that,” Alfred tells him sternly, “Not for one moment. You’ve been so strong, my boy, it’s only a bit longer.”

Jason blinks, biting at his bottom lip as Alfred gently thumbs away a tear from his cheek.

“Alfie,” he says, “I’m… I’m scared .”

“I know, Master Jason,” he replies quietly, a sad twist to his lips, and a flash of anger in his eyes, “You’ve suffered so much for so long, but I assure you, you are safe now.” He takes a deep breath, and then continues, “Even if, God forbid, that monster walks free, he will never lay a hand on you again, Master Jason, no matter what he’s told you. You never have to go back to him.”

Jason swallows hard, and stares up at his granddad, reading the surety of that promise on his features, and manages a small nod.

“Okay,” he whispers, and Alfred draws him in once more for a short embrace before stepping back and smoothing his jacket down.

“Now,” he says, “Up to the study with you, Master Jason. Your parents await.”

Jason closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath as he steadies himself, and then nods, opening his eyes as he stands up.

“Thank you, Alfie,” he says, and the older man tips his head slightly in acknowledgement, before he sets about collecting the breakfast dishes.

The call with the lawyers isn’t as bad as Jason had expected it to be. They ask him about how the call went, and he tells them everything he can remember about what both he and Max had said. No one yells at him for answering the phone, or even for continuing to respond once he’d realised who was texting him, but they make him promise that, if it ever happens again, he won’t engage, and will notify someone immediately. Not for the first time, one of his lawyers suggests he look into speaking with a counsellor, but Jason declines. He doesn’t miss the look his parents exchange, though, and tries not to curl in on himself too much.

Later. That’s a problem for later.

His lawyers are going to see if they can get Max offered a plea bargain on this one: six months, concurrent, for breaching the restraining order, to begin at the end of the criminal trial regardless of its outcome, rather than stacking it with the malicious communications charge they’ll be filing otherwise. His parents had both agreed that it would be best to settle what charges they could out of court, if it meant guaranteeing time served, even if it means not going for the highest sentences possible.

Jason just hopes that Max’s own lawyers would be able to convince him to take the plea. After all, they’d wanted nothing to do with pleading guilty to any of the other chargers. Not even the charges regarding the incident that left him hospitalized, and it scares Jason so much, thinking that Max and his lawyers must be so confident that they can get him off.

He’s the one who wanted this, he reminds himself. His grandfather had come to him in the hospital, had offered to ensure that the problem be dealt with, swiftly, in his own way, and it isn’t like Jason is opposed to that - no, far from it. But.

Well, he also knows the difference between justice and vengeance, and letting his grandfather take Max out of the picture would, primarily, be the former. Which would be okay, really, except… Except Jason wants justice. The justice he’d been denied over and over again in his youth. First, with his father, and then his mother’s heroine dealer. With those older men, back when he was still living on the streets.

At the time, he’d wanted to know that someone who didn’t know him from Adam could look at what he’d endured and say, no, that isn’t okay. Whoever did this to you deserves to be punished. He still wants that, terrified as he is by the entire process.

And he might be able to get that, with Max, is the thing.

Of course, Jason isn’t stupid; he knows that the only reason he has any hope of winning the case at all is because of his family and their combined reputations and wealth, the calibre of lawyers they’ve been able to employ. If he was still just that dirty little street rat, Jason Todd, he knows he’d have no chance at convincing any jury that he’d been wronged if he’d found himself in a similar situation (and he would have; somehow, he just knows it). No lawyer worth a damn would look twice at his case, if he was still no one.

With the position he’s in now, he has a duty to help set precedence for other survivors.

But it doesn’t make the thought of facing Max again, of tearing his still-healing wounds open and pouring his heart out to a room full of strangers, any less terrifying. Even more anxiety-inducing than facing the jury is the thought of his family hearing his testimony. He knows he won’t be able to keep his parents and grandfather out of the courtroom, and he has a terrible suspicion that the same will be true of Tim, and maybe Dick, if he can get the time off work. If Damian wouldn’t already be off at university, that would be a fight Jason knows he’d lose, too.

And it’s one thing, to know that everyone has figured out just how far the abuse went, that knowing what charges are being laid confirms any lingering doubts, but Jason can’t stand the thought of the devastation on his parents’ faces when he has to explain it all, has to explain how Max had repeatedly raped him during their relationship, and how he’d allowed it to keep happening.

His parents haven’t really talked to him about it yet, have always seemed to talk around it, and Jason gets that. After all, admitting it had happened would mean admitting that they’d broken their promises to him. Not that Jason sees it that way, but, God, he knows his parents. He knows they’ll both drown themselves in guilt - more than they already are - when they’re forced to confront the details.

A part of him wishes he could convince them to stay home, when it’s time to go to court, but he knows that will never happen. The rest of him is terrified by even the thought of being in the same room as Max again without them there.

Later, he tells himself again, there are other things to worry about right now.

His lawyers remind him to forward the messages to them, but Bruce still has his phone, anyway, so he knows his father will take care of that, and then they ask to speak with Damian, wanting to collect his statement regarding his own interaction with Max, as well as Jason’s state when he’d found him. Apparently it matters, in these kinds of cases, how much distress and harm is caused by the breach.

Jason just feels awful that Damian is getting dragged into everything.

He opts to leave the room when his mother returns with Damian, not sure that he’s up to hearing whatever else Max had had to say about him. His parents will stick around, he’s sure, and, though they both shoot him worried looks, they let him leave.

He wanders aimlessly through the halls of the Manor, not really sure where he wants to go. The thought of going back to his bedroom makes him shudder, even though he knows there’s no rational reason to be afraid. Just because it’s where he’d been when he spoke with Max doesn’t mean it isn’t safe anymore; Max is still half a world away, still can’t physically get to him, but Jason can’t just change the way he feels.

So, his bedroom is out.

He ends up in the main den, eventually, hesitating in the doorway when he sees Duke curled up on the couch with his tablet, some baking competition show that he doesn't recognize playing on the tv, although his brother doesn’t seem to be paying it much attention.

“Hey,” Jason says after a moment, still lingering in the doorway until Duke looks up at him and offers him a small smile.

“Hey, yourself,” he says, setting his tablet aside.

“Sorry,” Jason mutters, scuffing his toe against the floor, “If I’m interrupting...”

“No,” Duke cuts him off, “No, it’s cool. Just checking if any of my syllabi are up yet, seeing if I can try and get a little ahead.”

Jason hums, and finally steps into the room when Duke shifts around and then pats at the couch cushions. He sits next to the younger man, his hands folded and hanging loosely down between his legs as he sighs.

“You okay?” Duke asks, and Jason snorts before he can stop himself, “Yeah, okay. That’s fair.”

Jason is so far from okay, he’s not sure he even remembers what okay means . Whatever it is, he hasn’t been it in a long time.

Maybe he never was.

“Sorry you have to deal with all of this,” he says after a moment, and he doesn’t look up to see what kind of expression Duke is wearing, “I know we don’t, uh… know each other, all that well.”

“Jason,” Duke starts, and he thinks he can hear the frown in his voice.

“No, listen,” Jason presses, “I… I just kind of, showed up here, and brought this shitstorm with me. And it seems like everyone keeps getting pulled into it, and now even Damian is involved, and- And I’m sorry, okay?”

He swallows hard, and tries to ignore the burning in his eyes, tries not to remember what Max had said earlier, about how no one else would ever want to deal with everything that he is.

“I’ll… I’ll try to keep it away from you,” he finally continues, “I don’t want to distract you from your schooling. It’s… That’s important , and this is your home, too. More yours than mine, probably.” Jason flinches slightly when a hand settles on his shoulder, but Duke is undeterred.

“Jason,” he says, his voice low, but still steady, “You’re my brother. I’m glad to finally get to know you, even if I don’t like why you’re home. You don’t have anything to apologise for, and it’s not… You being here isn’t some big inconvenience, okay?” Jason makes a small noise of disbelief at that, but Duke presses on, “It’s not, Jason. Sure, there’s a lot going on, but that’s just life, okay? Every family has their shit going on. At least this isn’t some petty drama, right?”

He sighs, and finally pulls his hand back, “This is important. You’re important. The rest of us can handle it.”

Jason is quiet for a long moment, clenching his hands tighter together to keep them from shaking, and lets out a ragged breath.

“Thanks,” he says, finally, and he looks up at Duke with a watery gaze and a weak smile.

Duke offers him a lopsided smile, and curls back up against the armrest before gesturing towards the tv.

“You ever watched Sugar Rush?” He asks, and Jason shakes his head, his shoulders dropping down a little as he allows himself to relax back against the couch cushions, “You’re in for a treat , then, ha.”

Jason forces a chuckle, and says, “Oh, no, Dick taught you to pun .”

Duke smirks, and restarts the episode, and Jason finds himself relaxing more and more with each minute that passes. He draws his legs up onto the couch eventually, wrapping himself around them as he and Duke pass comments back and forth about the show.

It’s nice, he decides, and maybe just what he needed after the stress of the morning.

Chapter Text

Roy had meant it when he told himself that he would give Jason a chance to explain things before he went digging, but that’s getting harder to do with the way the other man’s been ignoring his texts all through the morning and into the afternoon.

He knows, logically, that his conversation with Oliver likely has nothing to do with Jay’s avoidance, but he can’t help worrying, anyway. Jason had seemed really shaken up when they were swarmed by those paps, and Roy’s worried that, maybe, seeing the gossip spreading online will make him change his mind about their relationship.

Just the thought of it makes his gut twist uncomfortably, and Roy hopes with all he has that that isn’t the case.

Maybe Jason had just slept in, wanting to sleep off the post-panic exhaustion.

Yeah, that was probably it.

(Still, he keeps checking his phone what feels like every ten seconds).

He’s getting Lian ready for ballet when his phone finally rings, and he’s a little surprised to see Wayne Manor flashing across his screen instead of Jason’s name.

He answers it, anyway, because whether it’s Jason or not, he’s sure it’s going to be a call worth taking.

Unless it’s Damian, calling to chew him out.

“Hello?” He says, a smile of relief curling his lips when he hears Jason’s voice on the other line.

“Hey, Roy,” he says, and he sounds tired - no, worn out - and it makes Roy’s smile fade a little as soon as he realises it.

“What’s wrong, Jaybird?” He asks, and Lian frowns up at him until he reaches down and pats the top of her head, tilting the phone away so he can murmur, “Give Daddy a minute, okay, baby?”

Lian nods, and goes off to get her things together, and Roy focuses on the sound of Jason’s breathing coming through the phone.

"Can you- Can you come over?,” Jason asks after a few more seconds have passed, and Roy frowns at the hesitation in his voice, the way he sounds small and uncertain, “I think- We need to talk.”

Roy tries not to think the worst when he hears those dread words, swallowing hard as he works to quell any panic that might come up.

“Is this about last night?”

“No,” Jason says, perhaps a little too quickly, “No- Not… Not exactly.”

“Okay…” Roy says, his own uncertainty clear in his voice now, because what does that even mean? “Are we okay, Jaybird?”

Jason makes a startled noise at that, which gives Roy a brief flare of hope.

“Of course!” Jason says, his words rushed, “It’s not- I’m not- There’s just something I really need to tell you, okay? And- And it would be better if I can do that face-to-face, that’s all. Sorry! I didn’t mean-”

“Jay,” Roy calls, gently trying to cut him off, “It’s okay. You just… sounded a little off, and I was worried.”

Jason murmurs another quiet apology, and Roy tries not to sigh.

“I have to take Lian to ballet now,” he says, “But… I’ll see if one of her friend’s parents can take her for a bit after, okay?”

“Sorry,” Jason says again, and Roy has to grit his teeth because all he can think about is why Jason must have learned to apologise for every little perceived inconvenience, “It’s- It’s not that important, if you can’t-”

“It’s fine, Jason,” he says, “I’ll figure something out, okay? I’ll come over.”

“Okay,” Jason replies, voice still soft and hesitant, “I’ll- I’ll see you later?”

“Yeah,” Roy confirms, “See you soon, Jaybird.”

Fortunately, Emmy’s mother says it would be no trouble for her to take Lian home with them for the evening after rehearsal when Roy explains - loosely, of course - what’s going on, and the two girls are both overjoyed by the impromptu playdate. It’s one less thing for Roy to have to worry about as he makes the drive out to Bristol after leaving the studio where the lessons are held.

He isn’t really sure what to expect from this talk that Jason wants to have. There’s no reason, that he can tell, for Jason to suddenly want to talk about the same things that Roy now wants to, and he’s sure the timing must just be a coincidence. It’s not like Jason knows what Oliver told him, and it seems unlikely that Jason would call him over out of no where just to tell him now, after all this time not saying anything.

Which leaves him wondering about what else Jason might want to talk to him about, and he keeps coming back to the sinking realisation that maybe being forced to go public has changed things.

But Jason had said that they were okay, and Roy clings to that as the gates to Wayne Manor open and he makes his way up the long, winding driveway.

It’s Alfred who meets him at the door, greeting him kindly and then leading him upstairs to the library and letting him know that Jason is waiting inside before taking his leave.

Roy takes a few deep breaths, and then knock on the door a few seconds before he opens it.

Jason is pacing, is the first thing that Roy notices, and he seems not to have heard his knock, so Roy clears his throat as he steps into the room. Jason startles, and turns towards him with a look of surprise on his face that slowly melts into a smile - albeit, an anxious-looking one.

“Roy,” he says, taking a step forward, and then seeming to second-guess himself and staying put.

Roy closes the door, and then walks over to Jason, ducking his head to press a kiss to Jason’s cheek. He won’t deny that he’s relieved when Jason shifts, and leans up to press a brief kiss to his lips.

“Hey,” he says when they part, offering what he hopes is a reassuring smile, “What’s got you all riled up, hm?”

Jason bites his lip, and looks away, and Roy feels his previous worries flooding back in like the tide.

“Jay,” he says, his hand settling on Jason’s arm and making the younger man jump, “Maybe we should sit down?”

Jason nods, and allows Roy to lead him over to one of the sofas in the room, but he doesn’t actually join Roy in sitting down. He takes a shuddering breath, and then lets it out, but still remains silent.

“Jaybird, you’re kinda freaking me out, here,” Roy mutters, a plea in both his voice and his eyes, if Jason would only look at him.

“I might… I might have to leave, soon,” Jason explains after another long moment passes, his hands twisting together anxiously as he paces, “Go back to England, I mean. Not- Not for good. Just… just for a little while. It wasn’t supposed to be this soon.”

Roy frowns, and watches Jason as he moves back and forth in front of him.

“Okay,” he says slowly, because that isn’t even remotely what he was expecting, and Jason’s behaviour isn’t really adding up with ‘impromptu vacation’, either, “What’s going on, Jay?”

Jason twitches, and the next time he passes by, Roy reaches out to still him with a hand on his arm, and does his best to ignore the way Jason flinches, first, before he settles into the contact.

“Jason,” he says, gently turning the younger man to face him, “You’re clearly worked up about something more than having to go away. Please tell me what’s going on?”

Jason lets out another shuddering breath, and wraps his arms around himself as he looks at the ground.

“I’m testifying in court,” he finally says, voice shaking, and Roy carefully settles his hands on Jason’s hips to ground him, “And… And something happened, so it’s being moved up.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here, and Roy sucks in a sharp breath.

Jason, testifying in court back in England, where his ex boyfriend put him in the hospital. The two facts are most definitely related-

-which makes the last part of Jason’s sentence so alarming.

“What happened?” He asks, and his alarm must show, at least a little, because Jason jolts slightly in his grip, and Roy lets him go instantly.

Jason doesn’t answer, but he’s shaking from head to toe, and Roy knows he isn’t going to like whatever the answer is when it does come. He takes Jason’s hand in his own, and gently tugs him down to sit next to him before letting go, his hands settling back into his own lap.

“I- I have a restraining order a-against my ex,” Jason says eventually, “But- But he saw- There’s an article online, from last night-”

Jason trembles, and Roy feels cold as it hits him, what Jason must have meant when he said this “wasn’t exactly” about last night. Before he can say anything, though, Jason continues.

“He… called me,” Jason says, his head bowing as he admits, “And I answered. Like an idiot. He- He isn’t a good person, Roy. He was- He-”

Jason’s hands tighten into fists in his lap, and he squeezes his eyes shut.

“He… abused me,” he says, and then, “He nearly killed me.”

Jason’s chest seems to stutter with the admission, and Roy longs to reach out to him, to draw him closer and smother him in reassurances that that time is over, but with how tensely Jason is holding himself, he’s not so sure that’s a good idea.

He should probably say something, though, except his mouth just feels so dry all of a sudden, because what do you say to that? I’m sorry? That sucks? Wow, what a jerk? None of that seems even remotely right.

He misses it when Jason opens his eyes to look at him, but whatever else is on his face, surprise certainly isn’t, and Jason notices.

“You already knew,” he says, and he doesn’t sound surprised at all, either, but there’s something like wariness in his tone that makes Roy’s skin crawl.

“Not exactly,” Roy denies, because it’s the truth, “Ollie called this morning, when he saw the papers… He wanted to warn me against seeing you. It… came up.”

“He’s right,” Jason says quietly, and Roy frowns. That certainly isn’t what he was expecting to hear.

“No, he isn’t,” Roy tells him, “Besides, he wasn’t concerned about you, just… Your grandfather, he has, ah, a certain reputation...”

“I wouldn’t let him hurt you!” Jason insists, eyes wide with horror, “Even if- I wouldn’t do that to Lian. Okay? You, you don’t have to worry about that. I swear.”

“Jason, there’s no ‘even if,’” Roy says, his gut twisting with concern, “I would never hit you. Jay-”

“You can’t promise that.”

Roy blinks, and then narrows his gaze as he looks at Jason.

“Pretty sure I can,” he challenges.

Jason shakes his head, and curls in on himself slightly.

“It’s… I know you think that, because- Because you’re good, Roy. But… There’s something wrong with me,” Jason tells him, “Something that, that invites it. Okay? I’m going to do something to annoy you, or piss you off, and-”

“That’s bullshit,” Roy says, cutting him off.

Christ, that bastard really did a number on Jason, didn’t he?

“You don’t control anyone else’s actions, Jason,” he says, as calmly as he can, “If someone hurts you, that’s on them. Not you. Every time, you got that?”

The look that Jason gives him is of pure disbelief, and Roy’s heart aches.

“I don’t care what he told you,” Roy continues, “What anyone told you. If some asshole lays his hands on you, that’s not your fault. I don’t care what you did, or what they say you did, if they take it out on you like that, you are not the one responsible for it.”

Jason’s eyes are brimming with tears by the time Roy stops, and he shuffles closer to the younger man on the sofa, placing a hand on Jason’s knee. He twitches, and turns his face away, but stays where he is, and Roy counts it as a win.

“You could do something that makes me madder than I’ve ever been before,” he explains, and Jason tenses slightly, “But I swear on my Goddamn life, I would never turn around and beat you for it. We might argue, I might have to walk away to cool down so I don't say something I'll regret, but I’m never going to hit you. And that is a promise, Jason al Ghul-Wayne.”

Jason’s breath hitches, and he turns towards Roy suddenly, his face tucked up against Roy’s shoulder, and Roy wraps an arm around him and presses a kiss to the top of his head.

“You’re safe with me, Jason,” he murmurs, “I swear to God, you can trust me. You can trust this.”

Jason shudders, and Roy holds him closer for a few moments until the other man moves to pull away.

“Hey,” he says softly as he reaches out to brush a few stray tears off of Jason’s cheeks, “I know this can’t be easy, and I know I can’t expect you to believe me, just like that, but I’m going to prove to you every day for as long as you’ll have me that it’s the truth.”

A few more tears slip out when Jason closes his eyes, and Roy reaches for his hand, giving him something to hold onto. He takes a deep breath, preparing himself for what he can already tell is going to be a difficult conversation.

“But in order to do that, I need you to tell me what not to do,” he says, and Jason opens his eyes, his brow furrowing in confusion, “There are other ways to hurt someone, Jason, and… I’m pretty sure you already know that. So I need you to tell me what we’re dealing with, okay? Because I don’t want to hurt you by accident, either. If there are things I need to avoid doing, or signs I need to look for… I need you to tell me, Jay.”

Jason lets out a stuttering breath, and squeezes his hand.

“I can’t,” he says, and Roy frowns.

“Yes, you can,” he encourages, “You don’t have to tell me everything, okay? I’m not going to make you do that. Just… Just tell me what I need to know so that I don’t hurt you.”

Jason stays silent, and Roy follows suit, giving him time to gather his thoughts and his nerve. He knows this isn’t an easy request, and he’s not expecting Jason to bear his soul to him. He doesn’t want all the nitty gritty details, not unless Jason feels the need to share them, but he meant what he said: he doesn’t want to hurt Jason, not even by accident. He still feels a little sick at the thought of how Jason had frozen up when they kissed on his birthday, and how if he were a little less perceptive, he might have missed that it was a sign of discomfort.

He can’t shake the fear that someday he will miss such a signal, that he’ll be too lust-adled and, Jason, too afraid to speak up, and it will end in disaster.

“I don’t want to give you ideas,” Jason finally says, and Roy is too stunned to respond, “I… Max isn’t… He wasn’t the first person to hurt me, y’know? My father - not Bruce, never Bruce - my first father… He used to hurt us, my mama and me. And I told him that, Roy. Things were good, and I told him about my birth parents, and where I came from, and- And he saw what I am, realised what I-”

Jason cuts himself off, and Roy sees red, taking several deep breaths to keep himself from losing it.

“Bastard,” he spits out, and Jason flinches away from him, “What a fucking bastard. Jesus Christ.” He lets go of Jason’s hand so that he can clench his fists without hurting him, and lets out a harsh breath through his teeth, “That’s not what this is, Jason. I’m not looking for ways to hurt you, or for some kind of justification to. You can tell me anything, and I’m not going to take it and throw it back in your face. Alright?”

The other man doesn’t look convinced, and Roy is pretty sure that if he ever has the misfortune of meeting this Max that he’ll pummel him into the ground.

“Please,” he says when he finally gets control of his anger, “Please trust me, Jay. This isn’t a trap.”

Jason stands up, and walks over to the window, his arms crossed over his chest as he hugs himself.

“I want to,” he says after a few seconds have passed, and hope blossoms in Roy’s chest, “But I don’t want you to see how damaged I am. Either- Either because you’ll know what you can get away with, or because- Because I don’t want you to leave.”

Roy doesn’t go to him, but only because he doesn’t want to crowd him, can’t see anything good coming from that at a moment like this.

“Neither of those things is going to happen,” he promises, trying not to be offended that Jason would even think it. He has to remind himself several times that this is more about Jason than it is about himself. He’s pretty sure he could be a literal saint, and Jason would still have these worries.

No one ever said fears had to be rational, right?

“I believe that you believe that,” Jason says, and Roy isn’t sure if that’s a good start, or if it’s just plain sad. He swallows hard, and lets out a shaky breath of his own.

“Jason, I’m an ex-heroin addict who knocked up his girlfriend in the middle of trying to get sober,” he forces himself to say, “I’m the last person who is going to judge you, or walk away just because you’ve been through Hell.”

He can tell by the lack of surprise that Jason already knew about his addiction, and it takes a monumental effort not to worry about it. He isn’t sure if Dick told him, or if Jason looked into him after they met, or, Hell, if Jason just remembers from the days when it used to make the headlines. None of that matters right now, and if Jason hasn’t brought it up before, then maybe he doesn’t care.

It seems like an eternity before Jason finally speaks again, and when he does, it really isn’t what Roy was expecting.

“Did you know that I was terrified of Bruce for, like, nearly the entire first year after I was adopted? Dick and Alfred, too, at first,” he asks, not pausing for Roy to respond before he continues, “I was twelve, and the only father I’d ever known was an abusive piece of shit, and every other man who’d ever paid me a lick of attention had- had wanted-” He stumbles over his words, and seems to hug himself tighter, and Roy feels like his heart is sinking into his stomach, because he knows.


It's one thing to be pretty sure that someone you care about was sexually abused by their ex, but it's another thing entirely to know that it had happened before, too. That it had happened when they were a child. Even if he wasn't a father, Roy would have been horrified, but all he can think of now is how he would put a bullet in anyone who so much as thought about Lian inappropriately.

But Jason didn't have a father looking out for him when he had to live through such horrors.

“If you think that Max is the only reason I’m fucked up, you’re wrong,” Jason continues, “I’ve been afraid for a lot longer than just these past few years. I- I can’t promise you that I’ll tell you when I don’t want something. There’s never been a point, before. If anything, it made things worse.”

Roy stands up, unable to help himself, and crosses over to where Jason is standing. Carefully, he reaches out and turns Jason around to face him. There are tears streaming down his face, and a look of despair in his eyes, and Roy wants nothing more than to bundle him up in his arms and protect him from the world.

But he doesn’t.

Instead, he meets Jason’s eyes, and reaches out with one hand to cup his cheek.

“Jason,” he says, “I don’t need you to promise to be perfect. I just need you to promise to try. To take a chance, and trust me. Tell me how you’re feeling, trust that you can disagree with me, or tell me if you don’t like something I’m doing, or if something I said bothered you. You’ll see in time that it’s safe, that I’ll listen, but you have to try. I can’t just will you to believe me.”

He forces a weak smile, and continues, “I promise to pay attention, to always make an effort to look a little deeper, to make sure that what you’re saying matches up with what I can see on your face, but I need you to help me do that, okay?"

He can still see the disbelief on Jason's face, the wariness and reluctance in his eyes, and Roy can't help but sigh.

Time to bring out the big guns, then.

"Jason," he says, blunt and to the point even though he's not sure this is such a good idea, "I want to have sex."

The colour drains from Jason's face so quickly that Roy is genuinely concerned, and the flash of betrayal in Jason's eyes makes him feel a little sick, but he's trying to prove a point here.

"Here," he adds, then glances back towards the sofa before looking at Jason again, "Now."

Jason trembles, tears welling up in his eyes once more, and Roy holds his breath. This is the moment of truth, and Roy is pretty sure he's going to ask Dick to punch him in the face if this backfires.

He might either way, actually. 

He hesitates, briefly, and then moves closer, forcing himself not to back down when Jason's breath hitches, though he does drop his hand back to his side.


Jason wets his lips, and glances at Roy before his gaze skitters back away, his shoulders drawing up.

"I-" He starts, and Roy's heart breaks a little, because it shouldn't be this hard. It's obvious that Jason doesn't want it - and Roy doesn't either, not really - but the fact that he's hesitating hurts. Jason swallows hard, and opens his mouth to speak, and Roy hopes to God it's going to be to tell him no, or, Hell, to shout at him for being a massive jackass.

Anything but a yes, or an okay, or an if that's what you want.

"I don't-" Jason says, and he's shaking like a Goddamn leaf now, and Roy feels like the worst scum in the world, especially when Jason flinches away from him when he reaches out to him, "Please."

"Jay," he whispers, his gut twisting with shame and disgust as he hurries to explain, "Fuck. Jason, I'm so sorry. I just- I wanted to see if you'd tell me no. I… I needed to know that you would, Jason."

Jason shakes his head, and reaches up to scrub at his eyes with the palm of his hand.

"And you tried to," he continues, "I'm so proud of you for that, okay? But even if you hadn't, Jay, baby, it was obvious, and I swear I would never do anything when I can tell you aren't on board."

He reaches out again, and when Jason doesn't back away, Roy wraps his arms around him and holds him tight.

"I'm sorry," he says again, "That wasn't the right way to prove my point. I didn't mean to scare you that badly; you were never in danger."

Jason shudders, and lets out a choked whine as he slumps into Roy's hold.

"Don't test me," he says, so low that Roy has to strain to hear him, "Please, I- There's n-never a right answer, and I, I can't- just, please."

"Shh," Roy murmurs, holding him tighter as he nuzzles into Jason's hair, "Fuck, Jay, I'm sorry. I'll never do that again. Okay? I promise. No tests, no beating around the bush. Just… honesty, okay? I'm sorry."

He pulls back slightly, his nose brushing against Jason's temple as he says, "Look at me? Please?"

It takes a few seconds, but Jason does eventually tip his head back so he can look at Roy, and Roy gives him an apologetic smile.

"I'm so proud of you, Jason," he says, and the other man makes a questioning noise in the back of his throat as his brow furrows, "You just did exactly what I was asking you to do. I fucked up, and you told me. That's all I want, Jay."

Jason blinks up at him a few times, before a hesitant smile starts to spread across his face.

"You fucked up," he agrees quietly, and his voice still quivers with a hint of fear, but he keeps going, "You… you tried to manipulate me. That's- That's not okay, Roy. You can't- You can't do that."

"I know," Roy replies solemnly, "And I won't ever again. You don't have to forgive me, either. You know that, don't you?"

"You were only trying to help me," Jason argues, and Roy frowns, because Jason isn't wrong, but that doesn't make things right, either, and isn't that just a slippery slope to have ended up on?

How many times did his ex use the same excuse after correcting something he didn't like? Did Jason's birth father ever tell him he was helping him prepare for the real world when he hit him? That he was teaching him to be a man?

Roy isn't sure he wants to know.

"That's true," he finally says, hoping he hasn't just opened a huge can of worms, "But that doesn't mean you can't be angry about it. You don't have to justify my actions, okay? Well-meaning or not, that was a dick move."

"Okay," Jason says, and Roy hopes it's a real agreement, and not just Jason trying to get out of the conversation. The younger man hesitates, opening and closing his mouth a few times before looking away as red spreads across his cheeks.

"Hey," Roy prompts gently, his hand dropping lower to stroke Jason's back comfortingly, "Go on, you can tell me anything."


Roy blinks a few times, his mind taking a minute to catch up to Jason's rush of words, but when it does, he feels disgusted with himself once more.

"Jason-" He starts, right as Jason starts to babble, as if trying to fill the silence Roy had left.

"I know it was a test," Jason says, "That- that you weren't really- But… But, someday. Someday, it's going to be real, and, and I- I don't know if I can-"

He cuts himself off with a whine of distress that cuts Roy to his core, and he draws Jason closer again.

"Hey," he says gently, "It's okay. It's okay, Jay."

Jason shakes his head, even as he hides his face against Roy's shirt.

"It's not," he protests, and Roy frowns.

"It is, though," he says, "I'm not going to lie, I'd be disappointed if you never wanted to screw around, but that's it. I'm never going to take it out on you, or bully you into changing your mind, and I'm sure as fuck never going to force you."

He takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly, and then continues.

"I don't need sex, Jason," he explains, feeling his own cheeks begin to darken, "Hell, I haven't had it in years, okay, and I've gotten by just fine. Do I want to? Yeah, I won't deny it."

Jason shudders again, and Roy smoothes his hand down his back once more.

"You're… insanely attractive, Jaybird," he continues, a slight smile curling his lips, "And I'd like to show you someday how good it can be. But if that never happens, I'm not gonna die, okay? I care about you, Jason. You. Not just your body, not what you can do for me. Just you."

"I know it can be good," Jason admits quietly after a few seconds have passed, "I've- I've had sex before that I- That I wanted."

"That's okay," Roy tells him, "That doesn't mean you have to want to again."

Jason makes a noise then, and Roy isn't sure if it's agreement or something else, but he doesn't try to press the issue. Instead, he keeps rubbing his back and presses a kiss to the top of Jason's head.

“I slept with Slade,” Jason blurts out after a while, eyes wide as he pulls back and hurries to add, “Not last night! Years ago. It’s… It’s not a thing, okay? I’m not going to do it again.” He swallows hard, and then adds, “And… And his daughter, Rose. We, we dated, before that, so we- She was… She was the first person I… That it wasn't-"

Roy thinks he should be more surprised than he is, but there was something about the way that the older man and Jason had interacted that makes it easy to believe. What's more surprising to him, really, is that Jason is telling him.

He runs his hand down Jason's back again, barely missing a beat, and hums softly in encouragement.

"We’re… She’s my best friend, still," he continues, and Roy knows he isn't imagining the way Jason's back tenses under his hand, or the way his eyes look a little wild with desperation, "But I don’t- We don’t- We’re only friends. We only want to be friends. I swear.”

Roy frowns, and brings his hand up to cup Jason's face again.

"Hey," he says, soft but stern, "I'm not going to- to fucking police who you get to be friends with, Jay. I'm not dating any of them. I'm dating you, and I trust you, okay?"

The expression on Jason's face is heartbreakingly surprised, still somehow cautious, and Roy swallows hard and keeps going.

"Unless someone is hurting you, or using you, or…," he hesitates, only for a moment, then adds, "Yeah, okay, if they seem like a really bad influence and I don't want them near Lian, then it's none of my business who you spend your time with, okay?"

He brushes his thumb over Jason's cheek, and tries to wait him out, but eventually he has to continue, too uncomfortable with the silence.

"Is that something he did?" Roy asks, "Control who you could be around?"

Jason ducks his head a little, his eyelashes casting shadows down his cheeks in the light from the window, and Roy feels another spark of rage that is becoming uncomfortably familiar.

“Yes,” Jason says finally, his cheeks red with what Roy suspects is shame, and Roy has to bite down on the growl that wants to escape him.

“I know it’s going to take time for you to really believe it,” he says, fighting to stay calm, “But I’m not him. You’re a Goddamn human being, Jason, and I’m your boyfriend, not your owner. You get to make your own decisions about what you do and who you do it with.”

Jason trembles, and Roy leans down to rest their foreheads together.

“It’s going to be okay,” he murmurs, “I’ll show you.”

It’s a big promise to make, but Roy has never felt more sure of anything in his life.