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With the Fume of Sighs

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Jason’s been dyeing his hair since he was five years old. Well, mama used to dye it for him. It’s dangerous for little boys to stand out in Crime Alley. Jason’s scarlet hair is like waving a flag before a bull, if the bull is every creep ever.

By the time mama is dead, Jason’s so used to dyeing his hair that he doesn’t even think to stop when Batman takes him home and adopts him. He doesn’t even stop to think that it’s a security measure he won’t need in Bruce Wayne’s home.

Because the ugly things that happen in Crime Alley could never happen in Batman’s home.

Jason is 100% safe.

That doesn’t stop Jason from slipping into corner stores and gas stations so he can pick up black hair dye. It doesn’t stop him from dyeing his hair after school, when he’s “at a club” just so none of the boxes and gloves and such can be found; it's a habit to hide it all.

It’s when he’s laid up with two broken ankles (and now everyone at his prissy school is going to think he’s too uncoordinated to know how to ski; he’ll catch hell for that when he has to go back!), thanks to the Riddler, while Bruce is out working on the new Garzonas case, that Jason can’t sneak out and get the usual dye.

Alfred Pennyworth merely raises an eyebrow when he brings up breakfast, about a month into Jason’s confinement, which is driving him insane. But the butler doesn’t say anything except, “Will that be all, Master Jason?”

Bruce winces after he gets back from patrol one morning a few days later, awkwardly pats Jason’s shoulder, and promises, “You’re safe here.”

“I know,” Jason replies. Because he does know. “It’s just a habit.”

“As long as you know,” Bruce replies gruffly.

It’s Alfred who goes out shopping and comes back with the supplies necessary to remove the black dye from his hair. But it’s Jason who accepts that he doesn’t have to wear camouflage to stay safe anymore and lets Alfred remove the black.

And when Dick Grayson finally takes a break from the back-to-back Titans’ missions to come home for a while (seriously, he’s been gone almost the whole time Jason’s lived there; he’s nice when he’s around. He’s just not around.) Dick’s mouth drops open when he sees Jason for the first time.

Dick blushes and babbles, “You’re beautiful. I mean handsome. I mean … wow.”

And Jason, who’s secretly harbored a crush on the original Robin, blushes and mutters, “Thanks.”

Dick steps closer and strokes Jason’s hair. “It’s so soft.”

Jason’s heart races in his chest as Bruce grabs Dick by the shoulder and drags him off to remind Dick that Jason is still underage and give him the shovel talk to end all shovel talks. No one does shovel talks like Bruce Wayne. Not even Batman.

But as Bruce drags him away, Dick glances back over his shoulder and doesn’t look away. And Jason can’t help but hope that Dick will think he’s worth waiting for.

Two and a half years isn’t that long, is it?