Chapter 1: When you look at me
Dick honestly doesn't know why this kind of shit always happens to him, it's like the universe is trying to punish him for some fucked up sin. That's the only explanation he can think of as to why he arrived home after a long night of patrol only to find Jason Todd sitting on his sofa, looking totally lost like a kicked puppy. After confronting the younger male about his sudden visit, he was staggered to find the man couldn’t remember a single thing about the past few years. He barely even knew who Dick was, he just knew he was Nightwing and, apparently, that was enough for Jason to consider him trustworthy.
Initially, the older man thought maybe he was from another dimension or timeline — they had dealt with time travel a few times already and, to be honest, Dick was almost used to it by now —, but he confirmed that this was, in fact, their Jason. Then he kind of expected it to be a trap or some sick prank, but nope, it was happening for real. And he had absolutely no idea what the hell he was supposed to do about it.
With Tim’s help, he managed to gather that, apparently, Red Hood was working on a case involving missing children and his main suspect was some weird magician girl who was doing pretty nasty stuff such as taking away her victims' souls to complete a crazy satanic ritual… or something like that. And Jason, being the complete idiot he is, decided it was a brilliant idea to follow the witch to her hideout and face her on his own.
Turns out she wasn't very impressed by his visit and easily got him, but instead of sacrificing his soul as it's expected from a creepy wizard she simply erased his memories. Like, half of his memories. Really, he forgot everything that happened after he died and some things from before as well. Dick's theory is that she only wanted Jason to forget about everything related to her, but something came out wrong with the spell and he ended up amnesiac. But who knows, maybe she’s just very extra and doesn’t give a fuck about proportionality.
Usually, Constantine was Dick's first choice whenever there's magic involved, but he's extremely slippery when it comes to Batman and his affiliates. Not even the House of Mystery was able to tell Dick where to find the man and that made him worry a bit considering John had never hid from him before. With Zatanna off-world with the League, Dick quickly ran out of resources. Which explains how he eventually found himself sitting in the kitchen staring at Jason in pure silence while the younger eats his breakfast.
"Aren't you going to eat?", Jason asked.
“I'm not hungry", Dick replied, still lost in thoughts.
"What are you thinking about?"
"How you ended up in my house of all places", he answered honestly.
There was a small pause until Jason spoke again.
"It was instinctive, I guess. I woke up in an abandoned warehouse and had no idea what had just happened, but I knew you'd help me once I could find you. Finding you was easy, I kind of knew the way to your place. And disabling your alarms was even easier... your security still sucks, by the way”, he said the last part with a smirk.
That was… unexpected, to say the least. Jason hated him, he had already proved that after trying to kill him four times. It really didn't make sense. Even though this Jason seemed to be unaware of their rivalry, Dick couldn't really get why he'd come all the way to Bludhaven instead of just going to the Manor. They weren't close before and if the only memories he's got are from his Robin days the logical thing to do would be look for Bruce, they were on better terms than Dick and Jason at that time.
"Why didn't you go to the Manor?", Dick asked, ignoring the younger's comments about his security. What does he know anyway?
"I don't know, I had the impression B wouldn't welcome me there."
Now that made a lot more sense. So, he may not actively remember, but he unconsciously still knows he shouldn't overstep specific boundaries. Maybe he didn't really lose his memories, they could just be a bit messed up. God, how he wished he had John or Zatanna there to tell him for sure what the hell is wrong with the guy and how they could fix it. Well, at least he hopes it's something fixable, otherwise he's going to have a hard time explaining this to Bruce.
"He's not around, he's on a mission with the League", Dick explained when he realized he had been quiet for too long.
"If he was here I wouldn't be welcomed at the Manor?", Jason tilted his head.
"Yes and no. Alfred would surely welcome you with open arms, but Bruce may have been a bit wary of you, although I'm almost sure he wouldn't kick you out or anything."
"81% sure", Dick said. Well, more like 18%, he thought. "Lately, you both have been… distant. Many things changed, you're not Robin anymore. Actually, you lead your own team."
"That sounds cool. But why am I not Robin anymore? And where is my team?"
"It's complicated. And I don't know where they are. We haven't had much contact recently, so I'm not sure what you have been up to with them."
"Oh, ok... could you maybe fill me in a bit about what happened in the last few years?", Jason asked, letting out a nervous laugh.
"Yeah, sure", Dick awkwardly replied.
He's not proud to say he omitted a lot of things from Jason. He told him about dying and coming back, about him being Red Hood and about his partnership with Roy and Kory. He didn't tell him about the Joker, though. Or about his revenge tour and the multiple murder attempts against the family. Or about how Dick hadn't been on his side most of the time. Actually, he only told him the basics and made it sound way less tragic than it really was.
After he was done, both stood there in silence while Jason processed everything and Dick reflected on how screwed he was. He'd have to find the girl who did this if he wanted to mend things and he had to do that quickly. Jason was going to start asking questions soon and he sure as hell didn't want to be the one answering them.
After excusing himself, Dick went to the living room to start his own case. Tim had already sent him everything he could get from Jason's previous digging, now it was his turn to do some research. Tim told him he had already checked the warehouse where Jason woke up, but didn't find anything out of order there. Whoever they were dealing with seemed to be well prepared.
He was almost done recreating Jason's potential modus operandi, based on everything he read on the other's files. Glancing at the clock, Dick checked there was still enough time for him to finish before patrol, so he'd probably be able to start following some of these leads today.
"Are you going out tonight?", Jason asked, as if reading his mind, from where he had been sitting on the sofa all this time watching Dick work and occasionally helping him put documents and notes in order.
"Yeah, but I’m heading to Gotham. Are you coming?"
"You should start getting ready then, I'm almost done here."
"Alright, boss", Jason said, getting up and heading to the bedroom to get changed.
Dick couldn't help but worry about Jason's mental state at the moment. Since he arrived he had been acting too calmly through all of this, one would think he didn't give a damn about the fact that he couldn't remember the last decade of his life. Even when Dick was trying to explain what he thought happened to him he simply listened to everything quietly and then said they could wait for Zatanna to help him regain his memories, as if it was nothing. But that was only their first day, so maybe he still had to have an epiphany to understand what was really happening. Then Dick wouldn't be freaking out alone anymore.
Finally, he was done, so he went to his bedroom to get changed and was greeted by the sight of a semi naked Jason. Damn, he didn't realize until now how well the younger had grown up. Puberty did him many favors. Also, he didn't realize he was practically drooling over the guy until he saw him snapping his fingers in front of his face, with that stupid smirk adorning his handsome face.
"Like what you see, Goldie?", he asked, the grin never leaving his face.
"Yea– I'm mean, no!", Dick stuttered more at the nickname than at being caught staring. But why did he get so nervous all of a sudden? It's not like he had never seen a gorgeous man naked before, he should know by now how to control himself and it doesn't matter if Jason's tan skin highlights his defined muscles or if the bulge inside his boxers is so apparent that makes Dick wonder if he's hard right now or is just far above the average size. That's something he would love to find out, but right now he should be more worried about the fact he's still staring at him like a horny teenager.
Dick averted his gaze immediately and felt miserable as the heat emanating from his face made clear that he was probably redder than Jason's plump lips, that would look perfect around his now hard cock. He's doing that again, isn't he? Thinking about doing something he probably shouldn't with someone he definitely shouldn't. Damn…
Dick didn't even bother to wait for a reply before getting his stuff and heading to the bathroom to lock himself up and regain his composure. Man, what kind of alternative universe was he living at? He's far too old and comfortable with his sexuality to start having gay panics at this point in his life. And triggered by who was supposed to be his somewhat brother, who'd never made a single move on him like that before? Yeah, Dick was utterly screwed.
Eventually, he had to leave the safety of his bathroom to go do some investigation alongside the newfound reason behind his libido. Jason's memories wouldn't be restored if he spent the whole night sitting on his toilet, after all.
"Took you forever. Was it fun back there?", Jason asked. He was laying on Dick's bed, already fully dressed in his Red Hood gear, which made Dick feel half relieved and half disappointed.
"Shut up, it's not my fault this suit is hard to put on", Dick defended himself, desperately grabbing the change of topic.
"Actually, it is. You're the one who chose to wear spandex to fight crime."
"It's comfortable, practical and improves–"
"–your flexibility, yeah, I still remember this speech."
Dick merely rolled his eyes at him.
"Stop joking around, we've got stuff to do. Gosh, I forgot you were such a kid", he said, amused.
Dick was amazed by how easy it was to talk to Jason now. Even after the embarrassing scene from before they were still getting along so well and messing with each other. Maybe this is how their relationship was supposed to be if things had taken a different turn and they didn't have so many regrets between them. Anyhow, Dick was thankful he had a chance to know what it was like to be Jason's friend, something he had wondered about for years.
The trip to Gotham was shorter than Dick expected, the streets weren’t too crowded and they got there in half the usual time on his motorcycle. He was quite successful at ignoring Jason’s clinging to his waist and soon enough they were ready to finally start their search and the first place they checked was the warehouse where everything happened. Although Tim said he already went there and didn't find anything, it wouldn't hurt to double-check, just to make sure nothing important would slip past them.
A good half an hour later, none of them had found anything. The place was flawlessly cleaned up, no evidence left to hint at their suspicions. Not even Nightwing's fancy magic detector — courtesy of Zatanna — could sensor any kind of supernatural activity anywhere. Dick hated to admit, but if their opponent was smart enough to cover her own traces that well she shouldn't be underestimated. They'd have to keep their eyes open and raise their game if they wanted to gain any advantages against her.
"I was lying here when I woke up", Jason suddenly said, standing in the middle of the room. "I was still fully suited up and had everything with me, weapons, smoke pellets, grappling gun... everything. I remember taking a quick look around and noticed the room was totally empty, just like it is right now.”
Empty handed, they moved on to the first place Jason apparently went back when he was starting his investigation: a clandestine casino. According to his notes, that's where people of all types would go to get information about literally anything. Civilians, drug dealers, police officers, vigilantes and, most importantly, villainous magic users. Everyone frequented this place at one point in their lives and it seemed Dick's turn had finally arrived.
He wasn't shocked at all to learn Jason's been to this shithole before, it was totally his style. In fact, Dick bets this would be the kind of place where he'd actually come to spend his time off. Alcohol, poker and semi nude dancers must sound pretty much like paradise for him, in Dick's opinion.
Pushing through the crowd, they made their way to the bar. Jason ordered two drinks as soon as they sat down and said they should wait a bit, occasionally sipping on their cocktails to mingle with the rest of the people. Since this is more Red Hood's style than Nightwing's, Dick simply followed his lead.
After an hour and a few drinks, Jason nudged Dick and discreetly pointed to a guy sitting on the opposite side of the bar.
"I know that guy. Dunno if he was my informant or whatever, but I have a feeling he might have something for us", he whispered into Dick's ear, nuzzling the other's neck to hide the movement of his lips in case there was anyone watching them.
The motion gave Dick goosebumps, but this certainly wasn't the right moment to think about that. Instead, he decided to approach said guy and try his luck. Knowing Jason, he wouldn't have met with anyone in this place without at least his domino on, so they were safe for the time being. Actually, anything was safer than letting Jason rub against him.
"Alone tonight?", he asked, smiling friendly yet charming enough to let the guy know he's up for second intentions.
"Yeah, unlike you, it seems", the guy replied, glancing at Jason with a raised eyebrow.
So he had been watching us, Dick thought. Interesting.
"Oh, he's just a friend of mine. I'm Ric, by the way", he extended his hand.
The guy accepted, giving him an attractive smile. "My name's Sam, it's a pleasure to meet you", he shook Dick's hand, smile widening more and more. The guy was handsome, Dick had to admit. He was no Jason, of course, but decently hot indeed. If they weren't there on a mission, he'd definitely go for it.
"So tell me, Ric, what brings you here? A pretty guy like you doesn't belong to a beat up place like this", Sam said, sipping on his drink.
"I needed a change of air, the city gets boring when you spend all of your time there. I wanted to see new faces and I've gotta say I'm quite satisfied with what I've seen so far", Dick smirked at the other man, earning a chuckle from him.
"Gotta say the feeling is mutual", he replied. "Do you want to go somewhere else to talk privately?"
Well, that escalated quickly , Dick thought.
"Yes, sure", he gulped down his own drink and got up, subtly motioning Jason to follow.
Sam wasted no time in taking Dick to his place, which was fairly nice. They sat in the living room, upgrading from having cocktails at a bar stall to a good wine sitting on the sofa. Dick could feel Jason's shadow watching them from outside the window even if he couldn't see the other man.
Not for the first time, Dick was glad he could hold his liquor better than he let people believe, his family included. While Sam already looked tipsy, Dick was handling himself just fine. Soon he'd start spilling the beans and Dick was more than ready to take note of every bit of useful information he could get.
"So, how often do you go to that bar?", Dick nonchalantly asked.
"Quite frequently. It's a nice place once you get used to it", Sam replied. His speech was slurred, something Dick considered a very good signal, as nasty as that sounds.
"I see", he laughed, "Well, I'm still getting used to these kinds of places, you know? I bet you could give me a few tips here and there to help me socialize with the right people. I love to make connections."
Sam giggled when hearing that. God, he's such a lightweight , Dick thought.
"Trust me, you don't want to make connections with the people who frequent this kind of place. They're always bad news, Circe's the living proof of that."
"Who?", Dick asked.
"Circe. She's an old friend, we used to drink together the whole night. She always liked studying magic and this kind of supernatural shit, even though I always told her not to play with those things… of course she never listened to me. Last time I heard she was trying to learn dark magic with some charlatan she believed to be a wizard and since then I haven't heard from her. That's why you need to be careful with who you talk to, you know, trust one wrong motherfucker and you'll end up like Circe.”
"I'm sorry about your friend, it sucks to lose a good drinking partner, those are rare nowadays", he tried to lighten the mood a bit. "I hope she's ok, though. When did you say was the last time you heard from her?"
"A few days ago, when she told me she was 'getting the hang of things with her new teacher’”, he said the last part with a poor imitation of a female voice. “After that she simply disappeared, I tried calling once or twice but she never picked up. I have no idea how to reach her now", he said, lying on the couch with his eyes closed.
Any hope Dick had of taking advantage of the mission to get laid disappeared as Sam looked more and more sleepy. Maybe he shouldn't have let the guy drink that much, after all. At least he made progress and now they had a main lead to follow, maybe even a suspect.
Dick waited for Sam to fall asleep and unlocked his phone, searching for this Circe girl's number. He found a few calls they shared a while ago and traced one of them to an address. He wrote it down and put the phone back where he found it, erasing any signs of him from the device. Then he made for the window and got out through the fire escape, heading to the roof where Jason was probably waiting.
"How was it?", he asked as soon as Dick put his foot on the rooftop.
"I think we're on to something, actually. I've got a name, an address and a background story. Do you know someone called Circe, by any chance?"
"There’s a goddess called Circe in Greek mythology. She’s a sorceress."
"Then I guess we may have found our suspect. He told me his friend disappeared after getting involved with a guy who promised to teach her more about magic. She calls herself Circe, so maybe that’s an alias inspired by this goddess. Or a huge coincidence. The important thing here is that we have a starting point and maybe at her place we'll find more information. So, wanna go check it out?"
"Yeah, sure. Lead the way, Boy Wonder."
Dick was a bit surprised when their address turned out to be a fine penthouse at one of the few wealthy neighborhoods in Gotham. He didn't know exactly what he was expecting, but it certainly wasn't that. Maybe an abandoned cottage in the middle of a forest… is there even a forest somewhere in Gotham? He was not sure, but made a mental note to look this up later, just for general knowledge.
“Ok, we’re here”, he announced to Jason, who seemed just as puzzled as him. “Let’s check this out.”
They easily snuck in through the balcony window and came across one of the most disorganized living rooms Jason has ever seen in his entire life. There were open books and sheets of paper thrown all over the room, it was as if Dick had been the one living on this place for the past few weeks. Even the kitchen, from what he could see, was apparently in a pitiful state as well. How can anyone live under such pathetic circumstances he didn’t know.
“Wow, that's…”, Dick trailed off.
“Yeah…", Jason agreed.
"Let's take a look around the place", Dick walked towards the bedroom, leaving Jason alone to understand the mess in the living room.
Eventually, Jason found his way through the disarray and, after what seemed hours, both men were done inspecting the whole place. Whoever this Circe girl was, she seemed to be in a hurry to leave and never made it back here. Maybe she was in trouble? Whatever it was, there weren't any hints left in the apartment they could follow to find out what happened to her.
"Did you find anything?", Jason asked.
"No, you?", Jason shook his head. "Fuck, what now? This was our best lead and turned out to be a waste of time", Dick's voice reflected Jason's own exasperation.
"I don't know, maybe we should try to find Constantine again? Since Zatanna is unavailable right now…", Jason suggested.
"I can try to talk with the House of Mystery one more time, see if I can convince it to take me to him."
"Alright. Where should we go now?"
“Let's spend the night in my old apartment, it’s where I stay when I come to Gotham.”
“Ok, then”, Jason agreed, following the other man back to his motorcycle.
The next morning, Jason woke up alone in Dick's flat. When entering the kitchen, he saw a small note on the table.
I had to go back to Bludhaven to work, be back at night and we can go after John. There's frozen food in the fridge, if you get hungry. There's also cereal.
See you later,
Jason snorted. Yeah, as if he's going to survive on sugary cereal and instant food while he's at the other's place. Instead, he walked to a small market near the apartment to do some grocery shopping. Since he had the whole day to himself, why not use the time to do something useful?
Three hours later, he was done shopping and unpacking the bags. To avoid falling back into his reign of boredom, he decided to clean up the place a bit to have something to do. He finished rather quickly considering the flat wasn’t used often and therefore hadn’t reached the Dick Grayson chaos level yet.
Evening was already approaching when he was done, which meant Dick was probably heading home soon to get ready for more investigation. Jason took a quick shower and went to the kitchen to cook a simple meal for both of them. He knew Dick would be hungry after a long day at the station, plus the travelling back and forth.
He was so focused that he almost missed the sound of the door opening.
"Woah, I was hoping this heavenly smell was coming from here, but I can't believe it actually is", Dick said as soon as he entered the kitchen. "What are you making?"
"Spaghetti alla puttanesca"
"...pasta with that red sauce you like", Jason clarified with an eye roll.
"Oh! That's one of my favorites", Dick said, smiling.
"Yeah, I know. Which is why I'm cooking it. Now go take a shower or something, you're distracting me."
"So you're saying I'm distracting… you mean that you really like the sweaty and tired look that much?", Dick wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, but it wasn't that effective with Jason too busy ushering him out of the kitchen to notice his flirty smile.
Dick found out rather quickly that he absolutely loved to tease Jason like that. He'd better enjoy this closeness while he could since he didn't know what would happen once Jason came back to his senses. It certainly wouldn't be a very pleasant situation.
When Dick emerged from the bathroom a few moments later, Jason had already set the table and was waiting for him in the kitchen. They both sat down and helped themselves to the food, but Jason didn't start eating right away, wanting to hear Dick's opinion on the meal first.
"Mhm Jay, this pasta is delicious! Practically as good as Alfred's, he taught you really well" Dick moaned approvingly as he swallowed everything down, licking his lips to savour the flavor left over from the sauce. For some reason the scene made Jason feel a bit hot, even though the living room's open window let the night's chilly air inside the apartment. He blamed it on the embarrassment of being highly praised for his cooking, not wanting to think too much about it.
"Don't exaggerate, my cooking would never compare to Alfred's", the younger rolled his eyes. "But thanks, I'm glad I got close enough."
Satisfied with the feedback, he started eating his own meal. They ate in a comfortable silence, making some small talk here and there, both enjoying the other's company and the peaceful moment. Both of them stealing looks at the other and, surprisingly, none of them noticing those.
Soon after dinner, Jason was washing the dishes while Dick busied himself with searching a good location to summon the House of Mystery. Dick could only hope his insistence would convince John that he had a serious problem and the man would come out of his hiding place to help them.
"Get ready, I think I found a good place", Dick announced after a few minutes of silence.
Once prepared, both of them went to a cliff on the outskirts of Gotham. Jason waited while Dick did his meditation or whatever he was doing now to try to attract the house with his energy. Something like that, Jason didn't really pay attention to everything.
He unconsciously started watching Dick. With his eyes closed and furrowed brows he looked so focused, Jason found it quite sexy. He was even biting his lip a bit in concentration.
Jason started wondering how his relationship with Dick was like. The older man seemed surprised to see him in his apartment and he did say they weren't that close, so he supposed they weren't exactly friends. That's a bit weird since Jason has always considered him a mentor and he honestly thought they would grow closer as time passed by. Maybe something happened to estrange them…
He remembers Dick implying that he and Bruce weren't on their best terms either, so maybe he had fought with him and they grew apart, which would explain why he and Dick aren't that intimate as well. If he's not around Bruce he's not around Dick either. It would also explain why he had gone his own way, building teams and doing his own thing. But what would be the cause of that change? The death and resurrection that Dick told him and he didn’t quite understand?
He knew he had a replacement already, Dick didn't directly tell him but he heard him referring to another boy as Robin, but would Bruce really make the same mistake twice? He's seen how things went downhill with Dick because of him, Bruce wouldn't be stupid enough to do the exact same thing with him, would he? Knowing him, he probably would, actually.
Or maybe he was replaced after dying and before coming back, which would make more sense and be less stupid from Bruce’s side... Damn, he really wishes he had his memories back soon, he could already feel the headache from all this theorizing coming.
"Nothing…", Dick sighed, interrupting his thoughts.
"Are you sure? Not even a small trace?"
"No. He's either very busy or really not in the mood for that. If he hid the house that well it's because he doesn't want to be found and we're only wasting our time here, he can be extremely slippery when he wants to."
“So, what now? Wanna go back to your place or you’d rather go patrolling for a bit?", Jason asked.
"The city seems to be pretty quiet tonight. Besides, Gotham isn't really my jurisdiction anymore, B can take care of her himself. Let's just head to 'Haven, we can discuss the situation better from there."
When Jason woke up the next day, the first thing he noticed was a really warm feeling and a comfortable weight pressed against his side. Opening his eyes, he was greeted by the sight of Dick’s face turned into the most peaceful expression he’d ever seen. He was snoring softly, his mouth was a little open and he was drooling a little bit, but still managed to look like perfection.
The funny thing is that he didn’t even remember going to bed with him.
Jason didn’t know where these feelings were coming from and he honestly wished they would go away, since he probably wasn’t supposed to feel that attracted to his… what, brother? It doesn’t matter if their relationship was fraternal or not, he knew deep down he should stop this thing before it got out of hand. Since the beginning, Dick's behaviour made it clear that both him and Jason weren’t bffs, so those feelings would probably just become a nuisance for both of them after he had his memories back.
With that in mind, he carefully got up from the tangling mess that were Dick’s limbs around him, heading to the bathroom to take a shower and finally get rid of this uncomfortable gear. How they were able to sleep in full costume would remain a mystery for Jason, he could only blame the tiredness.
He took his time in the shower, letting the water wash over him and take all his doubts away. When he went back to the bedroom to look for some of Dick’s clothes that would fit him he was unsurprised to find said man already awake and sitting on the bed.
“Good morning”, he greeted.
“Mornin’”, Dick replied, still sleepy.
“Can I borrow some clothes?”
“Yeah, sure. You can get anything you want from the dresser.”
He then started fiddling with the infinite sea of clothes that was Dicks dresser, having a hard time finding something that not only fitted him, but was also wearable. He couldn’t simply put on any of Dick’s hideous clothes, after all. It was too humiliating for him and not even the worst amnesia could erase his self pride.
Finally, he ended up with a white t-shirt, grey sweatpants and a pair of boxers that Dick swore were new and unused. He then left his towel drop to put on the clothes, forgetting for a second that he wasn’t alone in the room. In fact, he only remembered of Dick’s presence when he heard a loud shriek behind him that made him jump and turn around.
“Are you going to get changed here?”, Dick asked, looking anywhere but at him, mainly now that Jason’s… friend was facing him.
"Uh…", Jason coherently said.
"It's fine! Get changed, I'll just go out to give you some privacy", Dick said quickly and immediately got up from the bed, almost running out from the room without even giving Jason's nude form a second glance.
What the hell was that?
All dressed up, Jason left the room to eat something and saw no signs of Dick. Hearing the shower running, he decided to go make their breakfast and give the other some peace to deal with his inner crisis or whatever alone.
One eternity later, Dick emerged from the bathroom, looking as collected as ever. Jason had already gotten tired of waiting for him and started eating ages ago.
“Finally decided to give me the pleasure of your company?”, Jason asked.
“Keep this attitude and you’ll go back to eating alone”, Dick scolded, with no heat behind his words.
Jason merely rolled his eyes and pointed to the microwave, where Dick’s breakfast was waiting for him. Once Dick was settled down, both of them ate in a comfortable silence, simply enjoying each other’s company.
“So…”, Dick started. “When you said a few days ago that you would wait for Zatanna to come back from her mission with the League, were you serious? Because I don’t think we’ll be able to contact John anytime soon and I took another look into your notes but only reached dead ends. That Circe girl must be long gone by now, if she’s even alive at this point. I can’t see any other options at the moment, but I’m open to suggestions if you have any.”
“I can’t really see many alternatives for us right now either, so I can wait if that’s the case”, Jason shrugged.
“Alright, then. I just hope the waiting doesn’t worsen your case.”
“We were going to wait either way if we kept going after Constantine or Circe. Also, we don’t even know if she's really our culprit. If it wasn’t her we were going to wait even more since we’d have to start another investigation that probably wasn’t going to lead us anywhere as well. I’d rather wait for Zatanna, who I know will actually try to help us and has the skills to do so, she seems to be our best shot at the moment”, Jason retorted.
“Makes sense”, Dick conceded. “I’ll go make a quick call, be right back”, he added, leaving the kitchen right after that.
“Ok”, Jason called after him and resumed his eating.
Jason was lying on the sofa watching some trashy TV show when Dick finally came back, sitting down next to him.
“I talked to Tim and told him to give me a call when Bruce comes back with the rest of the League, so that we can ask for Zatanna’s help”, Dick announced.
“Alright. Should we stay here until then or do we go to the Manor?”
“About that… I discussed this with him and we agreed that it’s better if we keep you far from the Manor. We don’t know the extent of the spell and I don’t want to risk messing up your head even more. I know you probably miss Alf, but I’m extremely worried about your reaction to him or the place, they hold many memories for you and we think you might not be ready to face them in this condition.”
“I get it… well, I guess Alfred will have to wait.”
“I’m sure he’ll understand”, Dick reassured.
Jason smiled at him and it made him feel a lot of things at once. The next days were going to be hell for him, that’s for sure.
I forgot to mention in the last chapter's notes, but, as you noticed, the updates are going to be quick for this fic since it's already finished. I planned to post as a one shot, but it ended up being so long that I decided to divide into chapters. Anyways, the last one should be up tomorrow already :)
Chapter 3: I'll always remember us this way
By the way, the chapters' names are from the song I'll always remember us this way, by Lady Gaga, from the movie A Star is Born. For some reason, this song started playing in my head while I was writing.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
As the days passed, they only got closer and closer. Both of them falling more for the other, but neither of them having the courage to even address it. Jason was too confused to do anything about his newfound feelings and Dick felt like he was taking advantage of the younger man’s vulnerable state, so he simply pretended that nothing was happening and the palpable tension he was sure Jason had noticed as well was only inside his head.
He was about to freak out when Tim finally called him to announce Bruce's return. He didn’t know if he should curse or feel blessed by the news. He knows he should go immediately tell this to Jason, but he’s enjoying the other’s company so much… call him selfish, but he really doesn’t want to lose this new relationship. They’re getting along so well, something that Dick had only dreamed about before. Even if it drives him crazy to feel so many things and not be able to do anything about it, he can’t help but love being around the younger man.
However, at the end of the day, he knows he’ll have to do the right thing and let him go, this isn’t the real Jason and he can’t deceive himself with this fantasy anymore. Besides, Jason has his own stuff to do as well, soon his friends will start looking for him and the criminal empire he carefully established will start falling down without Red Hood there to command it. It’s not only about his needs, but also about Jason’s entire life that’s on the line right now.
“Jay?”, he called.
“I’m here”, came the reply from the balcony.
“Oh, hi. Appreciating the view?”, Dick asked. Small talk is the way to buy time.
“Yeah. Bludhaven is not that ugly if you look at it the right way, just like Gotham. Guess they really are sisters, after all”, Jason smiled softly.
Moments like this weakened Dick’s determination and reminded him of the reason why he didn’t want to lose the other. This was the man Jason would become if he hadn’t died, he was a ghost that never had the chance to live and Dick really didn’t want to kill him a second time.
But he had to. He had to do the Joker’s job this time.
He still felt heartbroken and disgusted with himself, though.
“Tim called to tell me Bruce is back. Which means Zatanna is back as well and therefore will be able to help you. I mean, us”, he quickly said, ripping it off like a band aid. A band aid that was currently holding the pieces of his heart together.
"That's good, right?"
"Yeah…", Dick said miserably.
"Then why do you sound so down?", Jason innocently asked. Dick suddenly wished he hadn't lied so much to him, the guy genuinely had no clue about how fucked up his relationship was with all of them, mainly with him. He didn't know what this whole thing meant for Dick.
"I guess I'll miss sharing the apartment with you. Living alone gets kinda lonely sometimes, you know? Having someone around is nice…" he trailed off, hoping he sounded convincing enough. And it's not like he was lying, he would miss Jason's presence all over the place on a daily basis. But not only for the company.
“Aw, don’t worry, Dickhead. I’ll still come to visit you frequently”, he assured. If only he knew…
“Promise?”, Dick asked.
Dick felt terrible for making Jason promise something he knew the other wasn’t going to be able to keep, but he needed to hold onto something and this false hope was all he had. Still, that didn’t stop him from feeling dirty after defiling Jason’s word like that.
The next day, they both went to the Manor to fill Bruce in on everything and reach for Zatanna. Bruce wasn’t happy to be the last one to know about the situation, of course, which made Dick feel tempted to remind him about the many important things he also didn’t tell him, like Jason’s death and resurrection or Haly’s Circus’ relation with the Court of Owls, for example. He wasn’t in the mood for a fight, though, so he decided to keep his mouth shut and let Bruce drown in his own hypocrisy.
While Bruce went to call Zatanna, Jason and Alfred engaged in a very pleasant conversation together. Dick stood aside, lost in his thoughts until a light tap on his shoulder snapped him back into reality.
“Are you ok?”, Tim asked.
Dick sighed. "Not really… am I an asshole for liking this version of Jason and feeling sad that he’s going away?"
Tim glanced at Jason, who was all smiles for Alfred, and thought for a moment before replying.
"I don't think so, I kinda liked this Jason as well. He's way less aggressive and rude, which I honestly prefer. It'd be surprising if you didn't get attached to him, mainly after spending weeks with him."
"I feel bad for not wanting him to leave. Don't get me wrong, I love our Jason too. Even when he's in his worst day I still consider him part of the family and would never turn my back on him, but I know for a fact that he doesn't feel the same way. Like this, he gave me the chance to see what it'd be like to get along with him, what we would be like if we ever became friends and of course I loved every second of it. He reminds me so much of how he was during his Robin days… he's like an older version of that self. It kills me to think that if it wasn't for the Joker we could've been really close."
Tim stayed in silence for a few minutes and Dick was ready to drop the subject, thinking Tim wasn't even going to reply to that anymore when the boy suddenly spoke.
"I’m sorry, Dick. I know how much Jason means to you and how you wish things went different with him… I don’t think you’re an asshole and I will never blame you for wanting him to be happier. Remember that, ok? You’re a good man and deep down he knows you tried, it doesn’t matter if he’s not willing to admit it. I don’t think he resents you as much as you think he does.”
Dick gave him a small yet genuine smile. Even if everything went wrong, at least he had Tim by his side.
"She's coming", Bruce's voice echoed through the Cave, interrupting the lovely moment he was having with Tim. Then the man simply decided to disappear into the Manor.
Tim gave Dick a quick hug, then excused himself to try to talk to Bruce, Dick presumed, leaving him standing alone. He sighed again and decided to join Alfred and Jason to enjoy the latter's presence while he still could.
They talked about everything and nothing. It reminded Dick of the good old times, when he would visit Alfred during Bruce's absences and was mature enough to actually acknowledge Jason's existence. He felt a pang in his heart at remembering those days which he took for granted.
Eventually, Zatanna arrived and Bruce suddenly reappeared from wherever he went to hide himself. Tim also came back, trailing behind his mentor and holding a cup of coffee. He's probably going to have a long night ahead of him.
Jason, who had been paying close attention to Dick's behaviour all of this time, immediately notices how the older man visibly deflates at the sight of Zatanna. He quickly hides his disappointment, but Jason's not fooled by his act. He knows what he just saw.
It's something that has been going on in his mind for a few days, actually. Today has only confirmed his beliefs. He pretended that he didn't notice how Dick would always show a glimpse of sadness at the perspective of him regaining his memories, almost like he doesn't want him to come back to his senses. He also pretended he didn't notice Bruce's wistful stares and the nostalgia in his eyes.
At first, he thought it had something to do with sentimentality. Dick said he resembled his younger self and since he seemed to not be as close to them as he was, maybe they missed who he was before. But now… he felt like there's more to it than Dick had actually told him. Since the beginning he sensed that the other hadn't been a hundred percent honest with him and he hadn't been bothered by it, really. Memories or not he trusts Dick and if he didn't tell him something it's because he had his reasons not to do so.
He's starting to doubt his own instincts, though. Maybe he shouldn't have accepted Dick's words unquestionably, after all. Maybe if he had insisted or asked more questions he wouldn't be feeling so uncertain about getting his memories back. Maybe if he had tried to actually understand his own life instead of blindly following Dick he wouldn't be so hesitant to do what he believed to be the right thing.
They have been waiting for this moment for the past few weeks, but now that it’s finally arrived Jason was starting to question everything… there are too many what-ifs to consider and Jason can’t ignore all of them so easily.
“So, Jason, can I see what’s going on inside this head of yours?”, Zatanna suddenly asked, breaking him from his stupor. He was so distracted by his own indecision that he didn’t even hear her approaching.
Jason hesitated for a second, but ended up nodding after seeing Alfred and Dick’s worried faces staring at him. He laid on one of the beds in the med bay and closed his eyes, feeling slightly dizzy as Zatanna put her hands on his temples. Then he felt… light.
“Ok”, Zatanna said and he was fully awake in a blink, like nothing had happened. He wondered how much time had passed, it felt like an eternity, but at the same time it seemed like he was gone for only a few seconds.
“Do you know how to fix it?”, Bruce asked.
“Yes. It’s a simple spell, actually, but the effects can be extremely unpleasant. It was probably going to wear off eventually, even if I didn’t manage to reverse it. However”, she turned to Jason, “your memories would come all at once and you’d feel overwhelmed, possibly even hurt. Fortunately, I’m sure I can restore everything without any problems and within a controlled atmosphere, in order to not cause you any pain”, she paused. “Unless you’d rather wait for them to come by themselves… which I can’t tell exactly when would happen, it could take months or years. The only certainty I have is that they will return, sooner or later.”
Jason stayed in silence for a moment to think about his possibilities. The obvious decision would be to get his memories back and get it over with, everyone would return to their respectives routines and life would go on. But when he looked at Dick, who held barely hidden hope in his blue eyes, he hesitated. Jason liked to spend time with him. He liked their banter and Dick’s caring demeanour towards him. He liked Dick.
“Ok…”, Jason finally said. “Dick, can I talk to you in particular for a second, before deciding anything?”
“Uh, sure…”, Dick replied, looking as confused as pretty much everyone else in the room but Zatanna. Somehow, she seemed to know exactly what was happening, even though Jason himself didn’t understand much at the moment.
Dick led him towards the back of the Batcomputer, far away from the rest of them and their curious gazes, then turned to him expectantly.
“I don’t know what to do”, Jason admitted. He looked so lost that Dick’s first instinct was to take him away and protect from everyone.
“What do you mean, Jay?”, he softly asked.
“I don’t know if I should get my memories back. You don’t look happy about it, I know there’s something wrong and as soon as I remember everything I have a feeling we’ll both part ways… but I don’t want that. I’ve had a good time with you in the last few days and I know you enjoyed my company, I don’t want to lose that.”
“Jason, listen to me, ok?”, Dick put his hands on his shoulders, stabilizing him. “You’re right, once you remember everything we’ll both go our separate ways. There are many things I couldn’t tell you myself that would change your perspective, so believe me when I say it’s better if you let Zatanna help you. If not for yourself, do it for me, Jay. Please, I can’t leave you in the dark anymore. As much as I appreciate everything related to you, I know this isn’t really you and your normal self wouldn’t ever forgive me for letting you forget the past that gave you a purpose in life”, he pleaded.
Jason knew it hurt him and he couldn’t understand why Dick wanted so badly to go back to a life in which he was clearly unhappy when it came to him. But he trusted Dick’s judgement all this time and wasn’t about to stop now. If the older man had put his own disappointment aside to convince him to do this, Jason should probably listen to him.
Jason took a deep breath and stared at Dick in silence for a few seconds before speaking again.
“I don’t fully understand many things right now, but I’ll trust you. You took great care of me, so that’s the least I can do to thank you”, he said. “Before I do that, though, can I give you something?”
“Sure”, Dick seemed confused, but smiled encouragingly at him. “What is it?”
“Close your eyes”, Jason ordered and Dick quietly obeyed.
Jason slowly got closer to him until there were only centimeters separating their faces. He could feel Dick’s breath caressing his face and knew the other could feel his as well. Memorizing every detail of his face, Jason closed his eyes and connected their lips.
The kiss was sweet and delicate, but intense and passionate at the same time. Jason's hands found their way to Dick's face and held him with such tenderness that surprised even himself, while Dick's hands automatically went to his waist, pulling him into an embrace.
Soon enough, both had to pull away to breath and the first thing Jason saw after opening his eyes was that Dick still had his own closed.
"I don't know if I'll remember the time I spent under this spell, so we can keep this here, if you wish", Jason softly said.
He then went back to where the others were gathered in the med bay, leaving Dick alone with his confused emotions. How could someone feel so happy yet so destroyed at the same time?
The process itself was quick and Zatanna was done in a blink.
"He should wake up in a few, maybe he'll feel slightly confused, but should be fine overall", she said.
"Thank you, Zatanna", Bruce said.
She simply waved him off. "Don't worry about it, just call me if you need anything else."
With that, she said her goodbyes and disappeared to who knows where.
After checking that Jason was peacefully sleeping, everyone dispersed in the Cave. Bruce and Tim headed to the computer to work on a case and Alfred went to the Manor to get them more coffee. That only left Dick, who had been silent the whole time since the kiss, sat on the chair next to Jason's bed, guarding his sleep.
An hour or so later, Dick was almost drifting off himself when he noticed Jason moving in his sleep. He fully awoke and waited for the younger man to find his bearings, bracing himself for whatever was going to happen. Deep down, he hoped the other would remember their kiss, although the bigger, rational part of him hoped he wouldn't, to avoid the uncomfortable atmosphere that surely would follow that knowledge.
Finally, Jason slowly opened his eyes and searched around the room, trying to figure out where he was. He visibly tensed when he saw Dick and realized he was in the Cave. It hurt Dick and he knew that was more of an answer than he needed.
"Welcome back, Jaybird", he whispered, getting up to go call Alfred and leaving an extremely confused Jason behind.
No one was the least bit surprised when Jason wordlessly walked out of the Cave after Alfred dismissed him and went radio silent for the following weeks.
In fact, it took four months for Dick to finally hear from him again. Coincidentally, they were both working on the same case involving a trafficking ring that operated in both Gotham and Bludhaven. Batman had given him the lead, saying he and Robin were busy with a riot in Arkham, so he was taking care of it for them. And, apparently, so was Red Hood.
"Nightwing", he was greeted by a metallic voice coming from behind him.
They both stood in silence, watching each other on top of a random rooftop.
"So, have you been feeling good after that little adventure? No collateral effects, I hope", Dick desperately tried to break the stony silence before it suffocated him.
"Yeah, everything went smoothly. Thanks for, you know, taking care of me, by the way", Jason awkwardly said. "You ran away too quickly that day, I didn't even get the chance to say it, but I appreciated your help."
"Oh… it's fine", now it was Dick's turn to get awkward.
"Ok, listen, I hate these kinds of things, but I want to end this weird mood as soon as possible so that we can work on this case without incidents, since I know you won't let me do my job in peace. I remember everything that happened during the time I spent with you, so if you're wondering if I remember that stupid kiss then the answer is yes, I do."
Dick didn't reply, he couldn't even face Jason. Mainly after he described their kiss as stupid.
"I don't know what happened back there but that doesn't change anything about us, ok?", he kept going once he noticed Dick wasn't going to say a thing. "Not saying you took advantage of me, because you didn't, but I was vulnerable and unaware of many things. Now, though, I'm back to the sensible version of me and I don't want you to think that I feel this way towards you, not even I can be cruel enough to lead someone on like that, so you can just forget that ever happened."
"Alright, I totally get it. Is that it?", Dick asked.
"Actually, no. I'd also like to thank you for convincing my retarded self to get my memories back. You could've let me live blindly for as long as the spell would let me, but you insisted on doing what you thought was fair to me. That made me realize that maybe you're not the type of guy I've always thought you were and I actually respect you now for that. If the circumstances were different, I guess we could've even been friends."
That was the final blow and Jason knew it. He felt a bit bad for being so harsh on Dick, but he didn't spend years training himself to grow out of his stupid crush on Dick to let his efforts be ruined by a few days that didn't mean anything for the other man. He promised himself he wouldn't let anything nor anyone get in the way of his mission and he would keep that promise even if he had to lose all his allies in the process. Jason couldn't afford distractions and he had always worked better alone, anyway.
"I was only trying to do right by you for once. After everything you went through, I think that's the least you deserve from me", Dick replied when he finally found his voice. "Also, I really get you. I didn't expect a few days to change all the years of resentment between us, although I wish we could've seen the best in each other earlier, before we let our pride ruin everything."
Jason tilted his head to the side, considering his words.
"You're a good man, 'Wing", he said, finally. "See you around, I guess.”
He then left as abruptly as he arrived.
Once again, Dick found himself alone in the cold night, with only his thoughts to keep him company. He couldn't help but remember the deep kiss they shared and the torrent of emotions they exchanged. If he closed his eyes and focused enough he could almost taste Jason's mouth against his. Working on this case with Jason was going to be torturous, he knew it. But he was willing to endure any pain if it meant he could be near the younger man one last time, even if it was on the other's terms.
He'd let Jason break his heart a thousand times if he wanted to, nothing compares to the suffering that comes with all the regrets. At least this way he could be around the man he finally learnt how to love. He just wished he hadn't been so late.
“Yeah, see you, Jay”, Dick said to the empty night.
It's over! I really liked this fic, although the bittersweet ending left me heartbroken. Again, I got carried away by the characters and followed their hearts instead of mine when I was writing. Thanks everyone for reading <3