Slade's used to dealing with informants. Most get caught in the screening process before they ever get as far as working for him, betrayed by flaws in their faked pasts, or nerves in their 'interviews,' or any other one of a dozen things that can show their cards. Billy knows a thing or two about spies, coming from military intelligence, and Slade… Well, he has his own experience. Reading people is second nature.
This one gets all the way to working in their lower ranks before Billy drops the file on his desk.
"Jason Peter Todd," Billy starts, as Slade picks up the file with an arched eyebrow and flips it open. "Used his real name, far as I can tell. Past's real. Willis Todd was found in the river when he was a boy. Mother overdosed not long after. Jumped from one home to another, but never settled anywhere. Was arrested twice, charged once, but they were dropped after a couple weeks. That wasn't long before he came to work for us; said he'd done some minor trafficking work before but wanted to get into something bigger than street dealing."
"And?" He asks, studying the full-body shot of the boy.
Billy picks up the decanter at the edge of his desk, pours them both a perfect two fingers of the whiskey inside. "All true, which I suppose made it all an excellent lie. Second page is the papers for his arrest; take a look at who signed it."
Humoring him, Slade flips to the next paper in the file. It only takes a moment for him to skim over the clipped-on mugshot and down to the detail that caught his old friend's attention.
Yes, that's a familiar name.
"Detective Grayson," he murmurs, tempted to smooth a thumb over the photocopied scrawl of a signature. "Trying again, hm?"
"It would appear so." Billy picks up his glass, swirling it. "Upon further investigation, the assault charges brought against Todd haven't been dropped, only… suspended. Though without the contacts you and I have, it would have been impossible to know. I wouldn't have noticed anything if I hadn't been considering the boy for management."
Slade has fond memories of the first undercover officer dear Grayson tried to slip into his organization. Particularly of how furious Grayson was when Officer Harper was dropped back off on his doorstep, kneecap shattered likely beyond repair and one sleeve rolled up to make his addiction obvious to anyone with working eyes. Slade was only personally responsible for the former, but the testimony of someone high on heroin at the time of attack isn't worth much. Of course, some of his men were instructed to… persuade Harper into trying some of what he was peddling. It wasn't hard.
Much safer to try again with a disposable, minor criminal, isn't it? Like a lamb to slaughter.
Slade lifts his gaze to the mugshot. Jason Peter Todd, hm?
He isn't bad looking. Black hair, green-blue eyes, a good jawline and strong eyebrows. He's angry, in the shot. His teeth are clenched behind the thin press of his lips. Slade flips back to the first picture, a more candid snapshot, likely taken without him knowing. Judging by the other man beside him, Todd's tall. Built, but lean. Early twenties? Birth date was on the paper, but he didn't pay much attention.
It could be fun, to ruin this one like he ruined the first.
"Shall I assume that you're about to do something I won't approve of?" Billy asks, watching him look at the picture.
Slade ignores the pointed question, paging deeper through the file. "Management, you said?"
"I said considering. Obviously not anymore, given that he's passing evidence to our government friends." It only takes looking up for a couple moments, holding Billy's gaze, before he gets a clipped sigh and rolled eyes. "Fine. If he can pass an interview with me, I'll give him control of something suitably unimportant, where he can't do too much damage."
"There won't be any. Grayson wants me, Billy, he won't move on anything less." Slade shuts the file on Todd's high school grades — very good; boy's smart on at least one front — and picks up his glass instead. The whiskey's smooth on his tongue; his favorite. Billy's gift, of course.
"Well unlike you, I prefer not to gamble. I'll set up a suitably accidental encounter in a few weeks." Billy stands from the desk, taking the glass and its remaining whiskey with him. "Finish reading the file, Slade. If you are doing this, you'll do it properly."
"Sir, yes, sir. Right away."
The withering look only makes him smirk.
"Sometimes I still wonder why I put up with you." Billy drains the last of the glass in a large swallow, and sets it down. "It's certainly not for your charm."
Slade leans back in his chair and turns enough to kick his feet up on one corner of the desk. "Mm, no. It's because I'm more visually intimidating than you. Also, not a foreigner."
"Unfortunately true. Read the file; I'll update you with details when I have them."
Billy doesn't wait for an answer, and Slade doesn't offer one. He waits till the door to his office is shut, however, before reaching for the file.
He pages through it, taking his time to sip through his whiskey as he reads what Billy’s pieced together of the boy’s life.
Todd stares out at him from the mugshot, as of yet unaware of what he's been thrown into the middle of. Should be fun; it's been a while since he's had the opportunity to play games with anyone who posed any threat. Todd probably doesn't, but the one holding his leash…
"Well, Detective Grayson… Welcome back to the ring."
Just a briefing, Jason tells himself, repeatedly. It’s just a briefing; one little meeting to go into and show proof of his results, talk himself up as an improvement. It’s not like his whole life rests on it, or anything. It’s not like this actually determines whether he gets to keep his new position, or any place in the whole organization.
Not like how well he does here makes any difference on whether he spends the next few years of his life in prison or not.
He can do this. Wintergreen was fair enough in the original interview to see if he’d get the promotion, and he’s had three weeks to figure it out and make the changes he was told to. Not so scary, and Jason’s done what he was told to. Everything’s… selling better than it was. Higher quantities, more customers, increase in profit now that no one in his section of the city’s skimming off the top. It wasn’t like he was actually lying when he said that he had a little experience in drug trades; he knows the value of what they’re selling, and he only had to threaten one of the people he was put in charge of before the rest of them behaved.
Oh, there are definitely details of this that his handler isn’t going to want to know about. He’ll say he wants to, but then he’ll get that pinched, antsy expression on his face and Jason will regret having told him in the first place.
‘Full honesty is the only way I can help.’ Yeah, sure. Just so long as he’s not doing anything illegal in the illegal organization he’s now part of. That’s logic he hasn’t quite figured out yet.
Sitting outside the office, file folder of proof in hand, Jason makes himself shut his eyes for a moment and take a deep breath. It’s just a meeting. He goes in, talks himself up, probably answers a few questions, and then goes right back to work. He can tell Dick that it was a great success, position secured. Only… fuck, probably months or more left to go before he manages to get anything actually related to the big boss. That’s all.
He takes a glance at the clock, hung on the wall opposite the couch in this little anteroom. Five fifty-nine; he hasn’t got any more time to panic.
Standing isn’t hard, it’s the convincing himself to turn and walk towards the door to the office that is. If he had any choice, maybe he’d just turn and run.
“Enter!” calls a muffled voice that definitely does not have a British accent.
Jason frowns, but he’s already moving on autopilot, opening the door and stepping in. He gets as far as shutting it again before his gaze falls on the man sitting at the desk. White hair, white skin, but that’s as far as the similarity goes.
Slade Wilson. Oh fuck, that’s Slade Wilson.
He feels frozen stiff, and he can’t do anything but stare. Loose white hair, a single cold blue eye, black eyepatch. Definitely Slade Wilson. Definitely the whole reason he’s in here, just sitting there across the room looking at papers. He and Dick haven’t even talked about what he’s supposed to do when he gets a face-to-face meeting with him, it wasn’t supposed to happen anywhere near this soon. It was supposed to be months of working under Wintergreen, months of trying to—
Wilson shuffles the papers into a pile, and looks up at him. “Come sit down.”
Air rushes back into his lungs as he sucks in a breath. Haltingly, the first movement of his leg feeling like just a jerk of muscle, he steps forward. It feels like a mile, just crossing the room, and he all but falls into the chair at the other side of the desk. Wilson extends a hand, palm up, and after a second where he just stares at it, it occurs to him that it’s a demand to hand over the file folder he’s clutching against his chest.
“I— I’m sorry,” he stammers, as he quickly hands it over. “I was supposed to be meeting with— with Mr. Wintergreen?”
“Mm.” Wilson flips the folder open, leaning back into the chair. “He’s busy; got called out of town to clean something up. You know who I am?"
Jason swallows, thickly. "Yes, Mr. Wilson. Uh, sir."
Wilson's gaze lifts back to him, mouth curling in a thin smirk. “Sir will do fine.”
“So, you’re our newest manager, hm?” If he’s supposed to answer that, he doesn’t get the time to. Wilson’s attention drops to his file, and he says, “Why don’t you tell me about this, Jason?”
Somehow, Wilson knowing his name still comes as an unpleasant shock. He swallows the vaguely nauseous twist of his stomach away, breathing deep and thanking whatever powers are out there that at least for a moment Wilson’s not looking at him. It gives him a second to get his shit together. Nothing’s changed. It’s the same speech, same information, all he’s gotta do is say it.
After one false start, Jason talks, and Wilson listens to him. Twice he’s interrupted for clarification, but it’s nothing that he can’t answer, thank god. He keeps his voice steady, recites what he put together, and then it’s… it's done. He did it.
Wilson closes the file, setting it down on the desk with a smooth precision, just between them. “This is good work. Well done.”
“Thank you, sir,” he manages, through the almost giddy relief lightening his chest. At least if he’s about to get shot, or kicked out, it’s not going to be because he did shitty work. That’s… that’s something.
The relief dwindles to a sharp point of nothing as Wilson watches him, silent and studying. He tries not to squirm, tries not to let the quickly building nerves in his gut show in his expression. He’s not sure he succeeds, but that has to be okay, right? Surely any new ‘manager’ would panic a little if suddenly dropped face to face with Wilson. That’s not abnormal.
“Relax, boy,” Wilson finally says, with a flicker of a smile. “I only bite when I’ve got reason to. You haven’t given me any reason, have you?”
It all feels like a trap. But, after wetting his lips mostly unconsciously, he gets out, “Not that I’m aware of, sir.”
Yeah he is. There’s one giant fucking reason, but if Wilson knew about that surely he’d be dead already.
“Then no need to worry.” Wilson’s head tilts slightly. “Billy filled me in on you, when you were promoted. You’d done some of this line of work before, right?”
Billy. William Wintergreen. Yeah, Dick filled him in on that nickname. “Yes, sir. Minor street dealing, mostly. Got arrested for it, once, but they didn’t have enough to charge me.” And there’s a lot more he did that the cops definitely don’t know about, but that’s the kind of thing he’s not talking about unless he has to.
“I know. And you were arrested a second time not so long ago as well, charged with assault.” Wilson’s gaze is sharp when he asks, “What happened?”
Jason stiffens before he can help it. Then it's too late. Fuck. This is exactly the wrong place to be asked about this. Criminals and gangs don't tend to be the most welcoming towards the not-straight crowd, as far as his experience goes. Too much toxic masculinity wrapped up in all of it, and that goes especially true for the ones that are ex-military. Not that Jason's got any reason to know that Wilson's ex-military. Not like he advertises that.
Well, what the fuck else is he going to do? Lie to Wilson's face? Pass off the tension and the too-long silence as just some kind of panic over being asked about it at all? That's never going to fly. He's just going to have to take his chances.
Slowly, Jason breathes in and makes himself speak. "I was in a bar. Flirting with a guy, and this jackass next to me took offense. Yelled some slurs, tried to chase us out. He hit me first, but… mine got caught on the security cameras."
"Sounds like bad luck."
There's no rejection in Wilson's expression, not that his expression says much of anything. But that's a step up from disgust and violence, at least.
"Yeah," he agrees, relaxing a little at the lack of judgment. Then drawing tight again. "I mean uh, yes, sir."
Another flicker of a smile curls Wilson's lips. "Like I said, relax. I knew already, Jason, I was just curious if you'd tell me the truth."
Cold flashes down his spine, keeping him rooted to his seat as Wilson looks at him. He—
"Good to know you're smart enough not to lie to my face. Your grades in school implied as much, but book smarts don't always translate to common sense. I appreciate finding someone with both."
His… His grades? "How much do you know about me?" Jason asks, faintly.
Wilson's flicker of a smile turns into a slanted grin. "More than enough. We're very thorough about making sure our managers are the right people for the job."
That's a little fucking terrifying. How close did that background history check come to finding out he's an undercover informant working for the cops? Dick promised there was no proof apart from their meetings, and there hasn't been any of those since he started here, just information dead-drops and a heavily coded email here or there. Nothing to risk betraying him.
If they knew, he'd be dead. It's that simple. He just has to keep his head and not fuck everything up by saying something stupid.
"That's good to know," he just barely manages to say, swallowing again. "I'll keep it in mind, sir."
Wilson studies him for another moment, then pushes back from the desk, standing and oh Jesus he's tall.
"Do you have any plans for tonight?"
Jason yanks his gaze up from the way the perfectly-tailored suit hugs the inwards angle to Wilson's waist, and accentuates the broad line of his shoulders. "Uh, no, sir."
Belatedly, he realizes he should probably be standing too. It is definitely not graceful how he stumbles out of the chair, but Wilson just smirks and circles the desk, fingers trailing along the edge of it.
He's… Big. Very big. Jason really hasn't felt small since he was a kid, but Wilson easily outstrips him in height and mass both, and that's very new. Fucking Christ he looks like he could snap most people in half. That can't possibly all be just an illusion of the suit. You don't get a shape like that without being impressively built.
"Come to dinner with me."
Jason blinks. He's… He must be hearing things. "What?"
Wilson lifts an eyebrow. Repeats, "Come have dinner with me."
He's not hearing things. Wilson just asked him to dinner. A date? Where the hell does this fit into Dick's briefings? What the fuck is he supposed to do about getting asked on a date by Slade goddamn Wilson?
"Let me rephrase. You're going to come have dinner with me, that's an order," Wilson preempts him with, before his voice drops a bit. "How the rest of the night goes, however, that part you have a choice in."
It's not like he has any actual option but to say, "Yes, sir."
Wilson smirks. "Good boy."
Jason flinches a little, but he can feel the flush burning into his cheeks. Oh, fucking hell, this is not a good time for his authority kink to be reminding him it exists. He does not need to get that little thrill of nerves in the pit of his stomach over his murdering boss calling him a good boy. Definitely doesn't need to find it just a little hot that he's getting ordered on a date.
Oh god, the biggest crime lord in the fucking city's about to buy him dinner.
"What kind of food do you like?"
That, at least, snaps him out of his panic. "Italian," he manages, roughly.
Wilson pulls a phone from inside his slacks. "Let me make a call."
He stares, not really believing this is happening, as Wilson dials someone and holds the phone to his ear. And then, after a pause and the muffled voice of someone answering, starts speaking in Italian. Jason gapes. It's confident, clearly fluent, and he doesn't understand a word of it but the sound is…
"You speak Italian?" he asks, when Wilson hangs up the phone.
He gets a smile. "Among other things."
A hand lifts as Wilson steps to his side, touching his shoulder before leaning down. He sucks in a breath, and that's about all he has time for before Wilson murmurs something right into his ear, syllables cradled in the deep, rough rumble of his voice. The shiver comes up from the small of his back, and his eyes shut for just a second, breath catching in his throat. He's never pegged himself as having a language kink, but fuck that murmur does something to him.
The hand resting on his shoulder squeezes, briefly, then lets him go. He flicks his eyes back open to find Wilson looking down at him, one corner of his mouth curled in clear amusement.
"Come along, boy. We have a reservation to keep."
Jason swallows, trying to will away the burn in his cheeks. "Yes, sir."
Wilson leads the way, opening the door for him and then guiding him out with a hand at the small of his back. He definitely jumps at the touch, and Wilson definitely laughs at him. The hand stays.
It isn't until they're taking the elevator and halfway up the long rise to the top floor that Jason registers that they're actually… staying in the building. He's distracted, sure, and definitely a little out of it because this is not where he was expecting his night to go, but he can't believe that just slipped his notice.
He opens his mouth, closes it again, and then blurts out, "You don't actually have an Italian restaurant on the top floor, right?"
"No," Wilson answers, looking down at him. He's not laughing, but there's definite amusement in the drawl of his voice. "It'll be delivered soon enough. Until then, I thought we'd share a drink."
Oh, sure. Add alcohol to the mix, why not? What could go wrong?
Under the weight of Wilson's gaze, he can't find any immediately believable reason to refuse. Nothing that won't sound like the excuse it would be, and he doesn't need the suspicion. No, he can't make Wilson suspicious. That way leads to a bullet in the head at the very best.
He swallows. “Sure. Uh, sir.”
Wilson’s gaze flicks down the length of him, and back to his face. “Nervous, Jason?”
It’s not like there’s any point in lying. It’s not a question, it’s a confirmation; Jason is very painfully aware that he probably looks like he’s going to sweat right through his shirt.
“Yes,” he admits, a little shakily. “Sir.”
“Mm. Tell me why.”
Jason stiffens a little, blindsided by the question. “I— Uh…”
Wilson’s hand lifts from his back, rising to brush his hair back from his forehead, and Jason goes very still at the touch of those calloused fingers against his forehead. "Speak your mind, boy. There won't be any repercussions."
Yeah, maybe if he had normal fears, and not the fear that Wilson's going to find out he's a mole. (But that's not the only thing that scares him. Maybe he can… twist some of the truth to be an answer. Maybe that's safe enough.)
"I just… You're Slade Wilson, and I'm… I'm middle management, at best. I haven't even been here more than a couple months, and I only barely even got promoted that far, and I—" He stops, glances away from Wilson's steady gaze, and has to take a breath and rein himself in before he can manage to much more carefully finish, "I just don't understand why I'm here, sir."
Wilson looks down at him, but before Jason gets any answer the elevator slows to a halt and announces their arrival with a soft chime. The hand lingering near his forehead drops away, clasping over his shoulder for a moment as the doors open.
He hasn't got any real choice but to follow when Wilson moves ahead of him, hand slipping off his shoulder. The floor is… An apartment. No, a loft. Fuck, he's not sure he has a word to accurately name it. There are some walls off to his right, archways and doors leading to whatever the fuck is in there, but everything else is one big room, and his eyes skip from one thing to another trying to take it all in.
Flatscreen, couches, piano in the middle of a rich black circular rug, one entire wall of windows, partially covered by a sheer drape of fabric. Art on all the walls, a big table with at least ten chairs, a large balcony past those windows — so one must actually be a door, right? — and oh god, everything in this room looks like it's worth more than anything he's owned in his whole life. What is he doing here?
"What's your poison?" Wilson asks, yanking his attention back across the room.
He's standing next to a large bar, hands busy with pulling two glasses from a lower shelf, and retrieving a bottle that Jason thinks is probably some kind of whiskey. He doesn't recognize the bottle even a little, but the color's about right. Either whiskey, or a scotch, maybe? Hell, is it rum?
Haltingly, Jason moves closer. He skirts around anything that looks like it might be breakable, and gets to the bar just as Wilson is recapping the bottle, one of the glasses roughly half full. He looks at the other bottles, lined up at one end of the marble countertop, and tries not to visibly show any dismay that a lot of the labels are in other languages, or at least are brands that he's never even heard of before. A couple say what they are, but gin and wine have never been his thing.
Wilson leans against the bar, taking his filled glass in hand and idly swirling the amber liquid. "I can choose for you, if you want."
Jason flushes, watching as Wilson takes a small sip of the drink. Watching the bob of his Adam's apple as he swallows, single eye shutting for just a moment. He clears his throat, not letting himself have the time to wonder if asking, "Can I try some of that?" is actually a good idea.
Wilson smiles with what Jason's pretty sure is approval, and offers him the glass. His hand shaking just a little, he takes it.
It is whiskey, he finds out when he smells it. He takes a careful sip, and it slides smooth over his tongue, rich and warm. Strong; it burns some when he swallows it, but in a good way, not harsh. He can't identify what the flavor left behind in his mouth is for the life of him, but it's really nice. Granted all he's ever had has been the cheap, big bottles of stuff from department stores, but this is… good. Really fucking good.
"I take it you like it?"
Jason looks up from the glass, not fully realizing he'd closed his eyes to focus on the taste until Wilson's voice pulled him out of it. "Yes, sir, I do."
Wilson reaches for the bottle again, uncapping it and pouring a second glass. Jason sets the one he's holding down, suddenly conscious of the fact that he just stole Wilson's glass. Or… was given it? Is it stealing if he borrowed the glass and then Wilson never took it back?
"It's one of my favorites," Wilson comments, as he sets the bottle aside. "Found it on a trip overseas, years ago; I ship a few bottles in every now and again."
He almost asks what the trip was for, before realizing it's more than likely it was something very illegal and therefore not his business. Well, it's exactly his business, but it's not something he should just ask about.
Jason decides it's much safer to just say, "It's good, sir. Thank you."
Wilson pushes the original glass back towards him, but catches his hand before he can pick it up. "Coming back to your question," he says, before Jason can really start to panic, "you're here because there are very few men in our line of business that lean the way you and I do, Jason. So when I find one, and they happen to be to my tastes, I take the time to see if I'm theirs as well."
A thumb rubs a small circle into the skin of his wrist as Jason stammers, words heavy on his tongue but completely unwilling to actually come out of his mouth. Whatever he does manage to say, he's sure it's not much more than unconnected syllables.
Wilson takes a step closer to him, putting them close enough Jason has to tilt his head back to keep eye contact, and when he shifts, the bar digs in against his low back and reminds him that he's got nowhere to retreat to. The hand lets go of his wrist, and reappears to press knuckles in under his chin and keep it lifted. The breath he takes in shakes.
"Let me say it plainly, boy," Wilson says, voice lowered to something darker and more rumbling. "I like the color of your eyes, I like that your hair's long enough to get a handful of, and I especially like how 'sir' sounds coming off your lips. So my plan is to have a drink, eat something delicious, and then have you for dessert."
The knuckles leave his chin with a last nudge, as he stares. Speechless. His gut twists, not entirely badly.
Wilson's smile is wicked, a perfect match for his voice. "You've got until dinner ends to decide whether that's something you want, Jason." A shrug, and Wilson steps back. Jason blindly takes his glass when it's pressed into his hand, but can't do more than glance at it before his attention gets pulled back. "If it isn't, you're free to go."
Wilson will just… let him go? Really? There aren't any strings attached to this, waiting to strangle him if he refuses?
"Just like that?"
An eyebrow arches. "I'm rich, powerful, and good looking; there are plenty of people willing to have sex with me. And since I'm particularly good at it, most of them are willing to come back, too." Jason blushes, fierce and sudden, and Wilson chuckles and picks up his own glass from the bar. "Trust me, boy, you're here because you're interesting, not because I'm desperate. If you decide you don't want this, I'll make a few calls and find someone that does."
Jason’s not sure that statement of his own unimportance should make him relax, but it does. It’s bizarrely reassuring to know that there’s not some underlying motive for pulling him up here. Makes things simpler, at least. He probably doesn’t have to worry about suddenly dying unless he does something stupid enough to deserve it. Probably.
He takes in a breath, steadying, and then manages a nod. “Alright. I’ll keep that in mind, sir. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, boy. Now come sit down and tell me about yourself.”
The nerves are instant, but he follows Wilson over towards one of the couches without protesting. A brush of a hand against his arm guides him to sit near the middle, and Wilson settles down close enough their knees brush. It’s warm, only light pressure but he feels hyper aware of it regardless.
The glass is a steadying point held between both hands, even as Wilson angles towards him and prompts, “Go on, then. Tell me something.”
In searching for some excuse, Jason seizes on the first thing that comes to mind. “I thought you said you already knew more than enough about me?”
Wilson actually looks surprised for just a flash of a moment, and then he grins and laughs, brief and low. “I know facts, boy, not flavor. I’ll trade you pieces of information, if that makes you more comfortable.”
Oh god, that’s a whole other mess that Jason’s not sure he wants to get into right now. He swallows. “I’m not sure asking questions about you is the healthiest course of action, sir.”
Wilson’s grin shifts slightly, smaller but still real. No answer comes. It clicks after a moment that he’s waiting, apparently relatively patiently, to get what he’s asked for. Right, not actually a choice. Wilson wants to know things about him, and it’s a demand, even if he did wrap it in some polite words.
Jason breathes in, slow and trying to find some kind of equilibrium. Flavor. Just, preferences, or things like that? That’s not dangerous, right?
He turns the glass slightly, keeping his gaze on it as he cautiously offers, “I like dogs more than cats?”
Wilson's hum of sound is soft, and thankfully amused. "That's a good start. Go on."
"I um… My favorite color is red. I like historical movies, and uh, romances. Classic literature.” Jason glances up, trying to gauge if he’s about to tip over into just being annoying instead of questionably fulfilling what Wilson wanted.
Wilson catches his glance, and offers a flicker of a smile. “Classics, hm? How’d that become an interest?”
Jason shrugs. “Assigned reading, for school. Always liked them better than anything else, and uh…” His jaw tightens a little, as his thoughts catch up with where his tongue was taking that explanation. Yeah, he knows exactly why books became such a big part of his life, when he was a kid. Well, if Wilson wants flavor, that sure as hell counts, right? He eases his jaw, and forces himself to finish, “Libraries were always safer than a lot of other places; spent a lot of time in them, growing up.”
“Safer from your first family, or the foster ones?”
He expected that Wilson would know (if he knew his grades, of course he’d know about his list of temporary homes), but the question itself tightens his gut some. He breathes out, and answers honestly, “Both.” He clears his throat, yanks himself away from those memories before he can spiral any further. “Doesn’t really matter. It’s just life, all in the past.”
Wilson shifts, drawing Jason’s attention like a magnet as he lifts a hand. It comes to his face, cupping his cheek and hooking a thumb under the angle of his jaw, encouraging him to turn his head and look up. He swallows, breathing in a little shakily as Wilson's gaze sweeps across his face and down his neck, before returning.
"I disagree," Wilson murmurs. "Your past shaped you, after all." He leans in, voice dropping low enough Jason almost feels like he should be straining to hear it, except that Wilson is so close. "And I happen to think it's an excellent shape."
He feels his cheeks burn, but doesn't have time to even really register that fully before Wilson closes those last few inches and kisses him. He's pretty sure the choked sound of surprise he makes is distinctly unflattering, but it doesn't seem to matter. Wilson's lips move against his, confident, warm pressure that he responds to automatically, leaning into the touch and almost lifting his hands to touch back, before he remembers the glass in them.
Maybe it's just that it's been a while since he actually spent the night with someone, or maybe it's that none of his past relationships ever came with the sharp thrill of danger and illicitness this does, but it all feels so much more magnified than he remembers. He can feel every little drag of the calluses against his skin from the hand at his jaw, feel the vibration of it as Wilson makes a rumbling sound of appreciation, deep in his throat. When a tongue flicks at his bottom lip, he can't help but suck in a sharp breath. It's enough to almost make him dizzy.
Wilson pulls away right as Jason starts to struggle with keeping still, needing to breathe, needing to touch, needing more and less and he doesn't even fucking know.
He takes a deep breath, opening his eyes and immediately being confronted by Wilson's single, intense blue one. A few inches away, but not much more.
Wilson's hand shifts, thumb lifting to hook over his bottom lip and tug it down, just a bit. The flush of heat that sweeps down into the pit of his stomach makes his breath sharpen.
"Oh, I could eat you alive, boy," Wilson breathes, deep and dark and coaxing a small shudder from him. "Piece by piece."
Jason doesn't really know whether the spiraling tightness in his chest is fear or arousal, but he knows it's all for Wilson. Everything is; every thought, every bit of his focus. How could he even—?
The chime of the elevator makes him flinch, hard.
Wilson chuckles and straightens back, brushing fingers along his cheek as his hand drops. "There's another meal to finish first, though. Have some of your drink; I'll get it set up."
Jason doesn't really have any words he can actually manage, but luckily Wilson doesn't seem to need any. He picks up his own glass from the table and sweeps past, back towards the other end of the room and the now-open elevator. There are four other men there, piling into the loft carrying all kinds of things, two pushing carts. Wilson greets them in Italian, or says something at least, and by an indication of the hand with the glass, directs them… Somewhere. Outside? Not towards the big table in the room, at least.
He looks away and shuts his eyes, putting all that aside for the moment and trying to center himself, trying to get his brain to work again.
Okay, so he's attracted to Wilson. That's not totally surprising; he's been into older men in the past, and confidence has always been attractive to him. He just didn't think… Wilson's hitting buttons he didn't even know he had. Or maybe he's just so high on the potential of getting found out and killed that it feels that way. Also possible.
Does it even matter which it is? There are bigger things at stake here than how into Wilson he actually is.
Like the fact that this is a golden opportunity. Finding evidence against Wilson is the whole reason he's here, and this is the shortcut of a fucking lifetime. What better place to find something than where he (presumably) lives? Maybe there's an office in here somewhere, or a laptop, or a bedroom with something incriminating. If he stays, maybe that gets him access to it.
If he doesn't… Who's going to want to work with someone that turned them down for a hookup? There's no way he gets this close again. Maybe he could be upper management at some point, or work for Wintergreen, but… This is now. He could finish this all now, and then he just hands whatever he finds to Dick, Wilson goes down, and Jason gets to avoid the whole idea of prison altogether. Just like that.
Is that worth the risk? Is it worth what he'd have to give? To do?
(Fuck, it's not like sex with Wilson would be a chore. Maybe terrifying, but not a chore.)
Jason opens his eyes again, looking down at the glass of whiskey. His deal with the devil's already done, isn't it? There's nothing he can do to change that, so why not try and make it easier? Why not take the risk, enjoy what he can, and try and get out of this as fast as possible?
He could always… try it? Try tonight, see if he can find anything, and then if he can’t, he just goes back to ‘work’ and does it that way. Best of both worlds, right?
Yeah, he can do that. Pretending to be interested in Wilson, that’s not hard, right? Especially since it’s actually true.
When he actually takes another sip, the whiskey is warm in his throat, settling heat into his chest and soothing a little bit of his nerves. Tempting, to just down the whole thing, but that would be massively disrespectful to the whiskey, to start. Also, dumb. He does not want to go into this intoxicated, that’s for sure.
He looks up at footsteps, and his gaze lands on Wilson approaching. Unhurried, one corner of his mouth crooked upwards. “Ready?” he asks, as he reaches the couch.
No, but he doesn't have much other choice but to breathe out, get to his feet, and answer, “Yes, sir.”
Wilson steps to his side, that same hand coming to the small of his back to guide him with light pressure. Towards the wall of glass windows, and a sliding door that's much more obvious now that it's propped open, wind stirring the drapes near it. Outside is the balcony, big and long, with a mid-sized table the delivery people are swirling around to the right, with more relaxed end tables and chairs beyond, and off the other direction… Okay. That's a hot tub. Just, out here on the balcony, hundreds of feet up in the air at the top of this enormous building.
A small press of Wilson's hand at his back urges him forward, towards the wall at the edge that comes up to his stomach. He stares out at the city below, bright with light even with the sky overhead already a dark black. No stars, but Jason can't remember the last time he was far enough outside the city to see stars at night. He didn’t think he'd ever see the city from this high up, either. Skyscrapers and high-rises haven’t exactly been on his list of commonly traveled places. Not till now, anyway.
"Not afraid of heights, I hope," Wilson says, shifting close enough to be all but against his side, one long warm line next to him.
Jason shakes his head, “No. Just never seen the city from this high up. It’s… different.”
The wind picks up for a moment, whistling past him, and Jason can’t help how he shivers, curling his shoulders down to shield a bit from it. It’s cold, cutting right through the fabric of the dress shirt he’d put on to meet with (he thought) Wintergreen.
Wilson hums, maybe agreeing, maybe considering; he can’t pin it. He moves, though, and Jason looks over to find him setting his glass on the wall. Then, smooth and fast enough that Jason doesn’t fully understand till it’s already done, Wilson pops free the button at his waist, rolls both shoulders back, and strips his suit jacket off.
Jason stares, knowing his eyes are wide but unable to do anything about it, as Wilson slides the jacket over his shoulders instead. Large hands pull it close around his neck, then smooth out over his shoulders and linger there, as Wilson eyes him with a critical edge.
It takes Jason more than a second to get his throat working again, so he can manage to croak out something like, "Yes, sir."
The way Wilson smirks, hands squeezing down on his shoulders for a moment too long, tells Jason plain enough that Wilson knows exactly why he's having trouble articulating anything. Not just the sudden weight of the jacket around his shoulders, warm and actually too big like very little ever is on him, but the fact that suddenly he's face to face with Wilson in just a white, crisp dress shirt, tucked into his slacks and no, the suit was absolutely not faking what he's built like. Wide shoulders, angling slightly in to a waist smaller than the rest of his chest, but not by much. Thick arms, too, which he can see now that they're not hidden by the sleek lines of the jacket. He stands by his earlier thought; Wilson could absolutely snap most people in half and probably barely break a sweat.
Jason is pretty secure in the knowledge that he's bigger, taller, and stronger than most people, and a rough life means he can put up a pretty decent fight when he has to, but right now he's got absolutely no illusions about his chances. Ex-military, and built like that? If Wilson wants to do something to him, it'll happen.
That shouldn't be hot. It really fucking shouldn't.
Wilson's hands leave his shoulders, one retrieving his glass from the wall while the other extends in the direction of the table. "After you."
Somehow, when Jason turns to follow the prompt, the delivery men are gone. Vanished without a trace, and all that's left behind are two places set in neighboring chairs, and a spread of dishes covered in the kind of fancy metal domes that he thought only really existed in movies. All lit by several candles, low in tall glass containers to protect the flames from the wind. It's like something out of a romance novel; a candlelit Italian dinner on a balcony overlooking the city, just him and Wilson.
He almost laughs at that thought, but Wilson's guiding him forwards, pulling out his chair, and the impulse flits away as suddenly as it had come.
Wilson's seat is just at his side, so they're both facing out towards the edge of the balcony. The bottle of whiskey, he notices after a second, has been moved out here as well.
“Help yourself,” Wilson orders, settling into his own chair. “If anything’s out of reach, let me know.”
After a moment of untying his tongue, he gets out, “Thank you, sir.” He’s not really expecting the chuckle he gets in response.
“Slade is fine, Jason.”
His tongue runs off without him, apparently far more behind the idea of doing this than his brain is because what comes off it is, “But you said you liked how ‘sir’ sounded.”
Wilson pauses, then deliberately turns, hooking one arm over the back of the chair to face him. Jason swallows, bites his tongue to stop it saying anything else stupid under the weight of Wilson’s gaze.
“I do. But you don’t have to use it privately, kid.” Wilson’s gaze flicks down the length of his chest, and back up. “Unless you want to.”
He’s made his choice, hasn’t he? This is worth the risk. All he has to do is follow through. If he gets to play around with some of his kinks, that’s just a side benefit, right?
He dips his head a little, dragging up the determination to say, “I understand that… Sir.”
Wilson smiles, slow and heated. “Good.”
Slade's enjoying this more than he thought he would. He hadn't really fully decided what path he wanted to take, before meeting the boy, but once he heard that nervous 'sir' come off his tongue, well… Plenty of people call him sir, but most aren't relatively handsome, young, gay men that are eager to convince him they're worth something, however they have to. Easy decision to make, to try and get the boy in his bed. It's not as direct as a bullet, or a dismissal, but he’ll get to have more fun with it. He can stretch it out longer, too.
Billy won’t approve, but he’ll go along with it. He always does.
In the end, seducing is easy. Slade's done it to men, he's done it to women; anyone he wanted in his bed that needed a little more than just a suggestion. Todd's scared, but he's interested, and that makes it easy. Be direct, capitalize on that initial attracted reaction to his orders, but leave the choice open so the boy feels like it's all his decision. Be a gentleman, where it matters, and overwhelming where it doesn't.
Entertainingly enough, the boy even already has leanings in the directions Slade prefers. He'll be interested to see how much more Todd likes, past calling him 'sir.' Been awhile since he had someone in his bed that he could ‘forget’ to be careful with. Maybe the boy likes pain, too. Or maybe he’ll endure it just to prove he’s ‘good,’ or to try and prove he’s worth keeping around.
It’s so useful, when they’re desperate to please.
"Finished?" he asks, when the boy pauses long enough between bites to suggest it.
He's finished the whiskey Slade gave him, but declined more when offered. Said he wanted to have a clear head. Slade won't argue; alcohol makes convincing easier, but it tends to lead to regret in the morning and that’s not as conducive to the plan he’s putting together.
He could have just one night. Push the boy, break him, send him limping back to Grayson happy to take the prison time of his assault charge instead of staying with him. But he’d prefer to take his time. Peel him apart, layer by layer, and find out where all those soft, vulnerable parts are.
“Yes, sir.” Todd’s gaze flickers over the table, and what remains of the meal. “There’s a lot left…”
Slade gives a careless shrug. “So it’ll serve as breakfast for tomorrow. I am in possession of a fridge and a microwave, believe it or not.”
The insecurity is one weakness. It’s not just his fear of being caught that’s making Todd hesitate and shrink at the edges. Definitely not the fear that made him blush so hard, when Slade complimented his looks. The boy so desperately wants to be desired. Not unusual in the younger men that Slade’s enjoyed, over the years. All he usually has to do is make them feel wanted and accepted, no matter their kinks or lack thereof, and they’ll do whatever he wants them to.
“Breakfast?” Todd echoes, eyes widening a little. “You mean, uh…”
“You’d stay, yes.” Slade allows himself a grin, an arm looped over the back of his chair as he angles himself to face the boy more head-on. “Did you think I was going to fuck you and then just throw you out?”
The blush he gets is really almost cute, hot on Todd’s cheeks and ears as he stammers, confirming it even as he tries to deny. Slade lets him try for a couple moments, before taking pity.
“If you stay, boy, then you’ll stay the night.” He lifts his hand, brushing his fingers over Todd’s shoulder, and watches the way his throat moves as he swallows in reaction, the nervous but entranced fix of his eyes. “The morning too, if I have my way. I'm willing to bet I'll want more of you than just tonight."
The flush spreads further down Todd's neck, but to his credit, he does manage to speak, even if it's a little choked. "Why? I'm not… There's nothing special about me."
Insecurity. Easy to pinpoint. Easier to exploit.
Slade rolls his shoulders in a shrug, and takes the time to sweep his gaze down the length of Todd's frame. Long legs, trim waist, pretty blue-green eyes and a strong jaw. Handsome, young, tall, but no, not particularly special. That doesn’t mean he can’t still be entertaining, though.
"You're here, aren't you?" He raises his hand a little further, to brush his knuckles along the angle of Todd's jaw. "Catching my attention makes you special, kid, whether you think you are or not. Unless you think I take any young man I run across into my bed?"
The torn edge to the boy's gaze is clear enough. Caught, as Slade designed, between acknowledging his own importance, or risking offending him with the implication of anything else. Nothing too complicated, just a simple way to make him feel wanted. And, more importantly, make him want in return.
"No, sir," he finally says, as barely a breath.
Slade slides his thumb, slowly, over the softness of the boy's bottom lip. "Good." He slides his hand back, curling his fingers into the black hair he's been wanting to pull for the last hour. "Then come here, boy."
Todd stares at him, and Slade waits for him to make the decision on his own. To, finally, lean forward across the gap between their chairs and kiss him. It’s tentative, sweet in its shyness, and it takes a good amount of self-restraint for Slade to just let it happen. It would be so easy to drag the kid into his lap, force those legs wide over his own, and just take everything being offered up to him. Todd would let him, he doesn’t doubt that anymore. If he wanted to throw the kid down on the table and fuck him right here, he could.
But, he reminds himself, that wouldn’t get him what he wants. Slade’s more than capable of setting aside short-term satisfaction for the sake of a bigger goal.
What he wants, is to put this kid on his knees at Detective Grayson’s feet. He wants to win this game of theirs, one more time. Perhaps one last time.
He hums a pleased sound when Todd’s hand touches his chest, as tentative as the first touch of his lips. The fingers brush, feather light, down his side and end up curling into his shirt near his waist. Barely even a real grip; the boy’s still nervous about touching him.
Slade doesn’t mind that. He’ll get over it. Or he won’t. He doesn’t mind the idea of the kid holding onto a reluctance to touch him without permission, either; could be fun.
He lets the boy choose how long the kiss lasts, keeps the fingers in his hair soft and guiding as he tamps down on all the rougher urges. Just for now. When Todd does pull back he’s got a lovely flush on his cheeks, eyelids still closed and lingering that way for a moment, before they lift.
That should be enough.
He combs his fingers through the boy’s hair, holds his gaze and lets his voice come out low. “Are you staying, Jason?”
There’s still a sharp flash of hesitation, wariness that the boy would be smart to listen to, but doesn’t. He swallows, but nods. “Yes, sir.”
That’s step one. Now all he has to do is keep himself in check enough that Todd wants to stay, enough that he loses track of exactly why he’s doing this. Then Slade can do whatever he wants, within reason, and by the time Todd realizes what he’s gotten himself into, it’ll be far too late. So much harder to get yourself out of a trap once you’re already in it.
Slade smiles, leaning in the last inch to steal one last brush of lips before he pulls away and lets his hand come loose from Todd’s hair. For a fraction of a second the boy looks disappointed at the loss, but it vanishes when Slade clasps a hand around his wrist instead.
“Come with me,” he orders, pulling Todd to standing along with him.
The nerves are a little easier to see now, right next to the anticipation. The boy glances at the spread of leftover food, but doesn’t argue being pulled away from it, back inside the loft. As much fun as it would be to have him out in the open, better to start with a little more class. If this goes as planned, the balcony can be a later experience, along with other things. As much as he can get the boy to give, piece by piece, choice by choice.
Starting with this one.
He leads the boy to his bedroom, tugging him close once the door's shut. A flick of one hand pushes his suit jacket off its resting spot across Todd's shoulders, crumpling to the floor near their feet. Billy will frown at him, later, but he doesn't care. Creases can be ironed out.
First, he pulls the boy into another kiss. Hungrier, now, winding fingers in his hair and holding tight as he wraps his other arm around his waist. Todd yields under his touch, pliable and accepting of the pull that brings them chest to chest, and the twist of fingers in his hair to arch his neck back to an easier angle. Todd’s hands find their way to his shirt, less wary now as they press against his back, curling loosely into the fabric to hold on.
He breaks the kiss only so he can lower his mouth to the tempting arch of Todd’s neck, murmuring, “Tell me what you like,” as he brushes lips just under the angle of his jaw.
He feels the shudder run down the kid’s spine, feels the way his Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows and takes a shaky breath in. “I, um… I don’t really—” The hands on his back flex, drawing the shirt tighter for a moment before Todd finds the nerve to say, "I don't know. I haven't done any of this before; not really."
Not the clearest, but Slade can make his assumptions. The boy flirts with other men in bars, so clearly he's had sex; he's not new to that. But he doesn't find it hard to believe that many would see the attitude, the bluster, the size, and assume Todd was a more dominant partner. So most likely it's the kinks that are new to him, perhaps the roles as well. That's fine. If no one's taught the kid better, then he won't know if Slade cuts a corner or two.
"We'll explore, then." He pulls back enough to look Todd in the eye, keeping whatever heat is in his gaze relatively banked for now. "How about I do what I want to you, and if there's anything you don't like, you let me know?"
Todd's breathing hitches, at that idea. It's as much nervousness as anticipation in his expression. "Alright." He swallows, flush rising across his cheeks. "Sir."
Slade lets himself grin. "Good boy."
The trap’s easy to set. All he has to do is show the kid around in the morning, tell him where everything is, invite him to stay (or come back). And then, when he inevitably asks what the one closed door in the bedroom leads to, tell him it’s an office. Off limits. Always locked.
Todd’s eyes practically light up, though he really does try and hide it. It’s not a lie, either. Any proof the boy could find would be in that room, and he doesn’t intend to offer any chance to look in it that isn’t completely under his control. When the time’s right, then he’ll lure the kid in. He’s in no rush, though.
The kid’s fun, after all. A bit shy, inexperienced, and not sure of everything Slade introduces to him, but he enjoys nearly all of it. With a bit of coaxing. It’s not like he’s forcing Todd into anything; it’s hardly his fault if the boy’s wary about saying no to him, and it isn’t as if he’s ever forced the issue. That doesn’t suit his goals, after all. He wants the boy to get addicted, wants him leashed and collared and happy about it, and forcing him to endure what he doesn’t like won’t get him there.
The second part is offering Todd a job just underneath him, light work as an ‘assistant’ to the more legal sides of the job. (He does try to suggest that he’d be fine with the less legal parts as well, but Slade ignores it and distracts him, rather successfully. The fumbling attempts at manipulating him are almost cute, but doomed to failure. Poor boy.) It gives him full control over nearly every aspect of Todd’s current life; how he spends his time, what he’s focused on, what he wears…
He’ll admit, if anyone asks, that the kid cuts a very nice figure in a suit that actually fits. Unused to the attention, embarrassed, but the blush only adds to things, as far as he’s concerned. The tie is a nice preview of things to come, too. Slade makes a point of straightening it himself whenever it needs it, drawing it perhaps just a little too tight against Todd’s throat to be fully comfortable.
(He’s intensely pleased when the kid comes in one morning with the tie drawn just as tight as he always pulls it. That gets a reward; if he leaves a few marks for the tie to put pressure on, well, it’s a very targeted reward.)
The details of everything, he leaves to Billy. It doesn’t take that long to pinpoint that the kid’s communicating through emails and the occasional dead drop. All coded, but it’s nothing either of them couldn’t break in an evening.
Meanwhile, he gets to enjoy himself. Take a few slow months to play.
After all, he’s got plenty of time.
The first thing that registers, when Jason shifts into awareness, is that Slade's not in the bed with him. He cracks his eyes open, reaching out across the sheets, but there's nothing in the bed beside him. Sheets are cold. He shifts, wincing a bit as the soreness of his thighs and back complain, to sit up and peer around the room. Faint light spills out from the slightly cracked door of the bathroom, and as he wakes up a bit more, he realizes he can hear the shower running. It must be something like three in the morning, why would Slade be taking a shower?
'Business,' his mind supplies automatically. Unexpected business. Probably the same thing that got him out of bed without waking Jason to explain where he's heading, like he usually does.
He scans the room, squinting against the darkness to see if there's any hint of what that business is. He almost misses it, the first time. It's only when his eyes skip back towards the bathroom — maybe he'll just see if Slade wants company, since he's awake anyway — that his gaze catches on a sliver of deeper black. He blinks, stares, and then takes a sharp breath as he processes what he's seeing.
The door to Slade's office; it's open. Only barely, just a crack where maybe it didn't quite shut and then drifted open an inch, but it's there. Not locked. Jesus, it's open.
It's open and he's alone.
He swallows. Looks at the bathroom door, then back to the office. "Slade?" he calls, raising his voice enough to carry across the room.
From somewhere in the bathroom, muffled by the water but loud enough to understand, comes, "Just about to step in the shower, Jason. Go back to sleep."
Just about to. Not in the shower yet, then. Slade tends to be pretty quick about his showers, but not like, lightning fast. He'll have some warning when the water shuts off, if he moves fast enough. It's a hell of a shot in the dark, but it's the one room Slade's never let him in, so it must have something he doesn't want found. He can just get in and out, just a look to see if there's anything obvious he can take. That's worth the risk, isn't it? The opening's there, and if he doesn't take it who knows when his next chance will be, if he ever even gets one. It's been months, and this whole undercover thing isn't working, even this far up in the 'food chain,' so to speak. Slade's too careful to let anything slip around him.
He inhales, slowly. Then pushes the covers back. "I'm going to get some water; I'll be right back!"
There's no confirmation from the bathroom, but if Slade heard him before, he'll have heard him this time. It gives him just a little bit of cover, if Slade pokes his head out and sees he's not where he should be. A cover that he adds a little bit of substance to by crossing the room and cracking open the door to the rest of the loft. His hand stays still on the knob for a moment, before he takes a breath and turns away.
No time to waste worrying. He either has to do this, or give up, and giving up isn’t going to get him out of this. He’s way too far in to quit now; couldn’t even if he tried, considering failing to find evidence probably means getting hunted down. He can't live his whole life pretending to work for Slade, dodging Dick's questions and just hoping Slade never finds out why he's really here. Every extra second is gambling his life, among other things.
Despite his best efforts, he still hesitates a second just before edging his fingers through the gap, very carefully easing it open while he does his best to not actually touch it with his fingertips. He hasn't actually ever seen Slade dust for prints or anything, but he's not always here, and he wouldn't be surprised if at least Wintergreen does it. Seems like the kind of attention to detail he'd have.
The shower keeps running, comfortingly steady.
It's completely dark inside, except where the faint light cuts a skinny line across the floor towards the wall. Jason slips in and turns, easing the door shut again till it's back to just that faint sliver of open space. It doesn't leave much for him to see by, but he turns his eyes towards the deeper black and tries to force them to adjust, easing his way into the room by feeling carefully ahead with his feet. If he knocks something over… Drawing attention while he's in here will totally fuck him over. But then, if he takes too long, he's also screwed.
Shit, maybe this was a bad idea.
There's a quiet click from ahead of him, then before he can even begin to think of what it might be, light floods the room.
He flinches, jerks back a step. A yelp sticks in his throat. The light's all but blinding, but the second Jason cracks his eyes open again, he goes rigid. He's only about four feet away from the desk that's sitting in the center of the room, so he didn't have far to go, but the chair behind it is occupied.
Slade sighs, sounding intensely disappointed.
He can't move. He can't— Oh god, Slade's sitting right there. Slade knows he broke in. He—
Slade shifts back in the chair, opening one side of it and lifting a hand. "Jason, come here."
For one wild moment, he thinks about running. Just turning and sprinting for the door. The one behind him is open, so is the one to the rest of the loft. He could run and not look back and—
And what? He's naked and it's the middle of the night, and even if he could get out of the apartment there's nowhere in the building to go. Everything's monitored, and everyone's on Slade's payroll. He'd never make it out the door; the whole place is a death trap.
That settles somewhere in the back of Jason's head with a dark finality. Escape isn't an option, not at this point. It's too late.
He steps forward.
Slade turns a little further away from the desk when he takes the offered hand, lightly tugging as he taps his thigh with the other hand. It's a familiar command, but Jason feels stiff and awkward following it. Slade’s hands steady him as he climbs up, till he’s firmly settled over Slade’s lap, knees on either side of his hips. He flinches when Slade’s fingers touch his waist.
He’s terrified, he can feel the harsh pounding of his heart thudding into his ribcage and when those fingers trail upwards to rest there, they clearly can too. But there’s a little part of him that, even under all the fear, can’t help responding to the familiarity of the position. Him naked, Slade still partially clothed even if it’s just lounge pants, all his focus entirely on him.
He can’t even truthfully say he hates how the skim of Slade’s fingers up his throat makes his breath catch. He doesn’t; not completely, anyway.
Slade’s knuckles settle under his chin, more familiar there than anywhere else as they lift it an inch. It doesn’t force him to meet Slade’s gaze, but he does it on automatic anyway. He swallows again, thickly.
“I almost hoped you wouldn’t take the bait,” Slade murmurs, stroking over the bump of his Adam’s apple. “It’s been a long time since I had a boy in my bed that actually enjoyed the same things I do. It’s a shame you couldn’t keep your nose to yourself.”
Wait, maybe… Maybe he can still get out of this alive. Maybe Slade just thinks he was too curious for his own good. Maybe—
“I— I’m so sorry, sir, I—”
Slade silences him with a sharp, displeased noise. He freezes.
The hand under his chin slowly, deliberately clasps around his throat. “Think very carefully about the next words out of your mouth; I’m not in the mood to be lied to.”
It takes a second for Jason to remember how to breathe under the light pressure. His mind spins off in a dozen different directions, trying to figure out what to say. He can’t lie, but what if the truth makes things worse? What if Slade just thinks he was too curious? But also, what if Slade knows more than that? What if he knows everything?
Slade’s thumb rubs a slow circle over his captured wrist, almost comforting in its familiarity, as his voice drops to something low and demanding. “Don’t keep me waiting, boy. Speak.”
Desperation makes him seize on the only really honest thing he feels, and it spills off his tongue without input from his brain.
“I’m sorry.” He leans into the touch of Slade’s hands, eyes squeezing shut as he feels the truth of it. Whether or not it’s sick, or wrong, he can’t help regretting coming in here. He regrets messing up everything that he had, even if it was all based on lies. “I shouldn’t have done it; I know that. I just thought—” He grasps for the words, and almost laughs when he finds them. “I didn’t think I had a choice.”
It must be something like the right answer, because Slade lets go of his throat. The fingers stroke up next to his ear instead, tucking some of his hair back behind the shell of it.
"No, Detective Grayson didn't leave you any good options, did he?"
Every thought stutters to a halt.
Jason's eyes open, lifting them to calm blue. "You know about the deal."
Slade gives a quiet hum, stroking the side of his throat. "I knew the whole time.”
Somewhere under all the fear and desperation, a part of him registers those words and relaxes. It’s done. Slade knows. There’s no more point in lying.
He stares, barely feeling like he’s breathing as Slade’s fingers pause on a particularly sore spot on his neck, knuckles tracing a slow circle with just enough pressure to sting. A… bite? He thinks it was a bite, from earlier. He clings to the sensation, holding tight as everything else threatens to fly away.
“It was well done,” Slade comments, and he almost sounds admiring. “You played your part good enough; it was his name on the arrest records that gave it away. It would have been easy to miss, but Grayson and I know each other. We’ve done this before.”
That gets his attention. Dick knows Slade? That… How?
“He didn’t tell you about the first time he tried this, hm?” Slade makes a small, disappointed noise. “Of course he didn't. I suppose he considers a CI to be more expendable than sending another officer. Last I heard his friend still hadn't recovered enough to return to work, so why would he risk another one of his people when he could manipulate some naïve boy into taking the risk instead?”
Jason swallows, shaking his head a little. "No, he wouldn't—"
"But he did," Slade interrupts. "He handed you to me on a silver platter, even knowing I'd caught one of his little moles before.” His fingers press a little harder against the bite. “You're disposable, Jason. You’re just a tool to him; if he’d ever cared about your wellbeing, he would have warned you, or never sent you here in the first place.”
It doesn’t— No, it does make sense. He wishes — so much — that it didn’t, but it does. Dick knew that Slade had taken an interest in him, knew he was working ‘under’ him (all those stupid jokes), but he'd never said anything. Only warned him to be careful, like that meant anything, like that was supposed to prepare him for the possibility that Slade could have known the whole time. God, he's an idiot. What was he thinking, actually believing that Dick cared what happened to him for any other reason than his investigation? He's a police officer, that's all. He saw someone in a shitty position and used it to his advantage, that's all.
"Grayson's a lot more ruthless than people give him credit for," Slade says, echoing his thoughts. "Behind that charming smile he's a manipulative snake; not cruel, but he'll say whatever needs to be said to make people do what he wants them to. Even against their own self interests. I respect that."
Slade's hand shifts, clasping around the back of his neck and squeezing, lightly. It shouldn't, but that touch makes him focus and try and steady; automatic reaction that's just as effective here as it is in the middle of play and scenes. Jesus Christ, Slade's conditioned him, hasn't he? Just…
"Easy, boy," Slade murmurs, "it's almost over. I just have one thing left for you to do."
Something for him to do?
Jason swallows, the words feeling numb even as they pass his lips. "What thing?"
Slade's gaze shifts to look past him, and he nods down towards the desk. Jason doesn't look; he barely even remembers what the desk looks like. "There's a flash drive sitting there. You're going to take it to our mutual friend in the morning, tell him that you have his evidence. And of course he's not going to have any reason not to believe you, right?"
It has to be fake, right? Or… "What is it?"
Slade’s gaze comes back to him. “Enough. You’ll look through it tomorrow, before you leave, so you can describe it to him. Lucky, that I had to leave in such a rush tonight that I didn’t quite lock the door right. It was the chance you were waiting for, wasn’t it?”
So that's the story. He pretends that this worked. Slade left, he snuck in, he found files on the computer or laptop or whatever it is that he thought would be good enough to end all this. "And then?"
"Then?" Slade echoes, pulling him slightly forward by the grip on his neck. His voice lowers. "Then, when it's all done, you come back to me, and we decide how this ends for you."
How it ends. Sure. Like there's any way he ends up still breathing once he's done what Slade wants.
He shivers, doesn't even really want to ask but the, "Or?" slips off his tongue anyway.
The grip on his neck gentles, at complete odds with how Slade holds his gaze and says, "Or, you disappear, and Grayson gets in a very convenient accident. That'd be a shame, though; I don't think anyone needs to get hurt."
He laughs before he can stop it, a short burst that's as desperate and slightly hysterical as he feels. Then, since he's already fucked it all up anyway, he points out, "You're going to kill me." His voice only shakes a little.
"Maybe." It's as idle as if it's just an answer to whether or not Slade thinks it will rain later. "I do think it'd be a shame to kill you, but I will, if it's necessary. I suppose we'll see. Now come on, boy, let's go back to bed. This can all wait till the morning."
Jason's pretty sure he vehemently disagrees with that idea, but his throat feels glued closed, so he gets up on shaky legs and lets Slade pull him out of the office without another word. Ten minutes ago having Slade climb into the bed behind him would have been warm, and comfortable, and just a little thrilling, but now the arm that drapes over his chest feels like an iron bar, and the sheets a cage.
He doesn't sleep. Slade does.
It all goes so fast. One moment Jason's handing off the flash drive to Dick, trying not to show too much of the guilt and anxiety twisting knots in his stomach (Dick assumes that it's because of the 'betraying Wilson' thing, and he doesn't correct him), and then the next he's being carted off to a safe house that Dick swears, up and down, no one but the investigative team knows about.
The second Dick's gone, the officer assigned to guard him presses a cheap phone into his hand, tips his hat, and says, "Wilson sends his regards," before he walks out the door to the car parked outside.
There were some doubts in the pit of his stomach, curdling 'what if' thoughts, but that solidifies them into a cold, solid mass in his gut. There's no safety. Nowhere to run. The 'evidence' is either fake or tainted, and even if he told Dick the truth there's nothing he could do to stop it. If Slade has someone this involved in the investigation on payroll, who else does he have? Lawyers, judges? Could a jury be trusted, if there was enough evidence to even have a trial?
The only answer he has is that if this doesn't go how Slade's planned it, he'll die. Him and Dick both. He can't find the faith to believe in any other outcome, and even if the chance is slim, he wants to live. Damn that selfish, desperate part of him but he wants to live.
Slade calls him that night. Most nights. He hates the sickening, thrilling twists that Slade's voice makes him feel. Hates that he stills gets off on what Slade describes to him, in the low, smooth rumble of his voice. He can't help it. Slade terrifies him, but somehow it doesn't cancel out all those nights — and days — spent with him. He's still a perfect match for every kink Jason wishes he didn't have.
Also, as days turn into weeks, and he stays confined to the little suburban house they've stuck him in, Slade's calls start to be the only things that feel real. Dick's visits are few and far between, and there's never anything of substance. Empty platitudes and empty words, unable or unwilling to talk about where the investigation is going, or anything else even remotely related to it. Slade's the one to offer him news, little pieces of information that feel like one tiny breath of fresh air before everything closes in again. Traps him.
There are two officers assigned to watch the house, in shifts. Always plainclothes, after that first day, parked somewhere along the street. One's Slade's, but he has no idea if the other one is too. Telling her anything isn't any safer than telling Dick, anyway, so he doesn't.
Time drags on, and then, suddenly, everything goes back to happening at once. A suit appears that he recognizes as one of the ones Slade bought him, and there's the rush of a lawyer dragging him through the details of the testimony he recorded. That's barely done and he's being dragged out of the house and into a car, and he finally puts together that this is it. The trial, must be.
The time between climbing the steps to the court and stepping into the witness box feels hazed, and then everything snaps into focus when his gaze sweeps the room, and there Slade is. Sitting, neat and composed, looking as in control and calm behind his section of the desk as he always did his own.
Jason's throat goes tight.
Dick's there too, back in the audience. He looks unnerved, almost. Worried.
The bailiff starts to talk to him, and he jerks his attention back to the stern face and tries to pay attention.
At first, it all goes normally. The lawyer asks questions, he answers. No different than what they did in private, except for his audience. Some of the questions are prying enough — "Is it true you explored non-standard kinks in your sexual relationship with Mr. Wilson, Mr. Todd?" — that he has to fight through the blush to say them, but he mostly manages.
His lawyer sits down, the other stands. Slade's lawyer.
The very first question, "Mr. Todd, could you tell me how you got into the laptop you claim to have acquired these files from?" doesn't make sense.
He frowns. "Uh, I woke up and Slade was gone. The door to his office wasn't locked."
"Yes, as you've said. What I'm asking, however, is how you got into my client's laptop, Mr. Todd. You claim that you found a selection of files that looked promising and copied them to a flash drive, so I would assume you know at least a basic amount of computers. Enough to know, certainly, that most laptops have some kind of a digital lock on them, as a security measure. How did you get around that, Mr. Todd?"
Everything clicks into place. He swallows. "It wasn't locked."
The lawyer arches one eyebrow, pausing the shuffle of his papers. "So you're claiming that Mr. Wilson — a man that you accuse of being the leader of a very large criminal organization for many years, and yet who no one seems to be able to produce any other concrete evidence against — not only was careless enough this particular night to leave the door to his office open and unlocked while he left you alone in the apartment, but also left the laptop inside equally as open and unlocked?"
His gaze skips towards Slade, then Dick, in the audience. He doesn't… No one ever brought this up before, not the lawyer, not Dick, not Slade, but hearing it all aloud he's realizing how much of a lie it sounds like.
"I guess?" is what he manages, forcing himself to look back at the lawyer. "It wasn't locked when I got to it, that's all I know."
"For the record, I'd like to state that a warrant did recover Mr. Wilson's laptop from inside the office, a mere four hours after Mr. Todd claims to have handed off his evidence to his handler, Detective Grayson.” The lawyer looks to the judge, then the jury. “It does have password protection on it, as well as an automatic time-out after five minutes, which shuts down the computer and locks it again. Mr. Wilson graciously agreed to unlock it for the investigative team, to verify that. No incriminating files were found on the device.”
Of course not. Slade knew they were coming; the whole place was probably cleaned and ready long before anyone showed up. It wouldn’t even have to be the same laptop he actually uses, just some generic one filled with whatever makes him look like a legitimate, clean businessman.
“For the scenario Mr. Todd describes to have happened, the defendant would have had to have left the room less than five minutes before he woke, and left both the room and the laptop open in a supposedly very unlike him moment of carelessness. Yet, Mr. Todd did not describe hearing or seeing any trace of Mr. Wilson leaving the apartment, nor being woken by that.” The lawyer looks back at him, arching an eyebrow once again. “Where did you get the flash drive from, Mr. Todd?”
“It was already there.”
“Sitting on the desk?”
“Then, could you offer us an explanation for why the only fingerprints, even partials, on the drive were your own, Mr. Todd? Surely if this was something Mr. Wilson used often enough to leave it lying on his desk, he would have touched it at some point.”
Yeah, it fucking would, if he used it. If it was his. If Slade had ever touched it.
He feels like an idiot, gritting his teeth through the, “I don’t know.”
“You have no idea why that might be the case?”
“No! It was there on the desk, the laptop was unlocked, I don’t know what else you want me to say!”
“If you don’t have answers to those questions, how about this one. Were you aware that several of the so-called pieces of evidence on the flash drive you claim to have handed over were falsified?”
For some reason, that still surprises him. God, he doesn’t know why. Why would Slade have put anything real on that drive at all?
He digs his fingers into his thighs, breathes in and out again. “No.”
“Did you look through all the files you claim you copied?”
It’s hard to swallow. “No, just a couple.”
“So then, you would have absolutely no way of telling us what was actually on the drive, apart from those ‘couple’ of files?”
The lawyer nods to himself, as if it’s just confirmation. “Then if Detective Grayson substituted falsified evidence, you wouldn’t have known, would you?”
His gaze snaps up. Wait… “What? No. He wouldn’t do that.”
“I didn’t ask whether you believe he would, Mr. Todd. I asked whether you would have any way of knowing if he had. A yes or no answer will do fine.”
Despite the fact that he hates it, that he doesn’t for one second believe that Dick would do that (maybe lie to him, but fake evidence?), Jason’s got no choice but to say, “No.”
It doesn’t get any better. The lawyer keep pressing, poking hole after hole in arguments Jason didn’t even know that he was having. He feels worse than useless; if everything wasn’t fucked already, his mess of a testimony definitely made sure it was. Probably the point.
By the time they let him leave the witness stand, he feels sick to his stomach. He can’t look at where Dick is sitting; he doesn’t want to see the expression on his face, or the inevitable disappointment. Or anger. The guilt’s bad enough already.
He didn’t know… He didn’t know that Slade was going to frame Dick for it. He didn’t think…
Fuck, this is his fault. He’s messed it up, he’s— It’s all his fault.
They take him back to the safe house. Slade doesn’t call. No one does.
It’s almost a week before he hears anything. There’s nothing. No calls, no visits apart from the swap of the officers watching him. Nothing.
Then, one day, suddenly one of them is herding him out to the car without any explanation. He almost asks, before it connects in his head that the officer driving him is the one Slade owns. He reconsiders.
He wishes he was surprised to see Slade’s skyscraper come into view. He wishes that the tight tension in his stomach was all fear. The cop escorts him into the building through the back entrances, up the elevator. The ride feels as long as that first time, standing at Slade’s side and trying to figure out how the hell he’d gotten asked to share dinner with him.
He knows the answer now. Slade knew what he was the entire time. The invitation was just an excuse to trap him.
The door opens, and Jason steps in alone. Slade’s there, leaning against the bar, dressed as neatly as he always is when anyone else is around. It feels surreal, walking back across the living room.
Slade extends a hand, and he takes it on automatic, letting Slade reel him in.
“Welcome back, Jason.”
The voice goes straight down his spine, just like it used to. Makes his breath catch. Fear, and want, and everything in between.
“Let’s talk about what your future holds, shall we?”
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed!