Jason owes a hell of a lot to Charlie.
He was the one who took one look at Jason in his ragged hoodie and patched jeans staring through the shop windows at the bikes and sleek little cars, and saw something in him. Instead of running Jason off like most of the shop owners in the area who looked at him and saw trouble, Charlie asked him if wanted a closer look, it wasn't going to hurt anyone, come in out of the rain already kid.
Jason, idiot that he was, had agreed and Charlie's had his hooks in him ever since.
He let Jason hang around the shop after school and on the weekends as long as he did his homework, kept his grades up. Let him watch Charlie and whatever little shit he'd hired that month take the bikes and cars apart, fixing them up better than ever.
Gave Jason his first part-time job keeping the shop clean and answering the phone when Charlie or mechanic of the month were busy with the bikes, hands covered in grease and motor oil. Offered him a roof over his head when he turned eighteen and DCF wiped their hands of him with that tiny apartment above the shop.
He hadn't stopped there, of course, he'd bullied Jason into going to school for a automotive technician degree instead for going for certification. (“That worked for me, kiddo, but trust me, the way technology's moving these days you'll be glad you did.”)
Charlie insisted Jason get ASE certified (“Don't look at me like that, kid. You want people coming to the shop, you give them a reason. They sure as hell aren't going to come for your ugly face.”)
So yeah, Jason owes the old buzzard.
He's been helping the old bastard run his shop for a few years now. No more half-assed idiots fucking things up for the shop, even if Jason just has to look at Roy some days, because Roy. (Kory is a whole other thing, way too damn good to be dealing with assholes like them, but for some reason she sticks around.)
Jason's a little cautious about thinking it, but.
Things are okay.
Or they were, because apparently now Charlie's looking to retire, handing McIntyre's Automotive over to Jason and Roy and Kory, and Jesus, that's a spectacularly bad idea.
Jason's just an older version of that little shit without enough sense to come in out of the rain because he couldn't stop staring at the beautiful machines he could see through the shop windows. Roy's been with them for just over half a year and Kory for about half that time.
“You're fucking crazy,” Jason says, watching Charlie.
Charlie just looks at him, smiling that slow, lazy smile of his.
“Never said I wasn't, kid. I don't have any kids of my own to take over the shop, and hell if I'm shutting it down because I'm getting too old to crawl under cars.”
“We have a lift,” Jason says.
They actually have two, but that's not the point. The point is -
“Not the point, kid.” Charlie points a wrench at Jason. “I'm getting old, and I want to enjoy the time I have left.”
Jesus. Charlie just hit sixty a few months back.
“You're - “
“Oh, I've got a lot of good years left in me, kid, don't get me wrong. I'm not planning on kicking off just yet, but I'd like to see more of the world than Gotham.”
Jason squints at him. “Did Harper talk you into this?”
Because Roy's an ass, and Jason regrets that he only punched him in the face once.
Charlie's laugh sounds like a rusty buzz-saw. “You like him, admit it.”
Jason likes Harper's kid. Sweet and adorable and how the hell she's his, he'll never know.
“I like Lian.”
“Look, kiddo. If you don't want it, fine. But think it over, okay?” And then Charlie smirks. “Remember who your boss is going to be if you don't take this, though.”
A few weeks after Charlie lays the bit about retiring on them, his idiot brother over in Metropolis gets into a pretty bad accident, breaks his leg and a few ribs. Charlie's on the phone with the guy for hours, voice a certain kind of quiet Jason's only heard a few times since they've known each other. Gets this look in his eye that has Jason, Roy, and Kory teaming up on him to get the hell out there already.
Charlie glares at them, mutters something about a trial run and not letting the place burn down while he's gone with what definitely aren't tears in his eyes. (Charlie never fucking cries.)
Kory gets called out on photo shoots more often than not, Gotham's weather cooperating, so it's pretty much just Jason and Roy butting heads in the shop, which is their default most days.. Things go smoother after a while, because Jason and Roy are actual adults and know how to work together to not fuck up Charlie's life work.
And then, probably because Jason's just starting to relax, to think he and Roy might be able to handle things without Charlie there, shit happens.
A series of burglaries start taking place in the area that has the two of them uneasy and Roy nagging Jason about living alone over the shop. He's never liked it, because Gotham.
He keeps telling Jason he should get a damn dog, if he's going to keep living there, for the shop if not himself. (“Like I care if something happens to your sorry ass, I'm worried about my damn job.”)
More time passes, Charlie checking in on them every few days and sounding more like himself with every call, but.
The cops aren't making headway with the case and Jason's getting tired of their useless reassurances to the business owners and telling the press they're working very hard to find the criminals.
“Come on,” Roy whines, turning his stupid baseball cap around as he leans back in his chair.
Trying to get Jason to come stay at his place and spoil his little girl rotten, like everyone else doesn't do that already.
“Lian wants to see her Jaybird.”
Jason doesn't know where Roy got that ridiculous nickname from, but he's not a fan. “I'm going to kill you one of these days, Harper,” he growls but he's dealing with paperwork and Christ, no wonder Charlie wants out.
“Seriously, Jason.” Roy says, something in his voice making Jason look at him. “These guys are getting worse.”
Jason just looks at Roy because what can he do about it? This isn't like those stupid movies Roy makes Jason and Kory watch, with superheroes in spandex and leather and impractical looking armor, it's.
Roy grumbles and lets him have that, but doesn't stop nagging Jason about his terrible life choices.
With the burglaries and Roy's growing worry (he's a father, Jason will give him that) he's not really surprised when he comes back from a lunch run to find Roy chatting with a cop in the back office.
“Hey, Jaybird, come say hello to an old friend of mine.”
Jason can't help it, Roy brings these things out in him, and he says, “What, did you two meet when he arrested you for something?”
Marginally better than Jason's usual response because cops probably don't deal well with threats of bodily harm against friends of theirs, even if said friend is Roy fucking Harper.
The cop grins at that, knocking Roy's shoulder. “Something like that.”
And hell, he's got a gorgeous smile and this mess of hair that can't possibly be regulation and this is probably not a good thing.
Roy just rolls his eyes, but there's laughter in his voice when he gives the cop a shove.
“That was you being an asshole, Dick. I wasn't actually breaking the law.”
Jason carefully doesn't laugh because Dick, really? And sets Roy's share of the food in front of him.
“Dick Grayson,” the cop says, still smiling. He holds a hand out. “Nice to finally meet you. I've heard a lot about you.”
Jason shakes his hand, eyebrows going up at the callouses on his hand. “Harper's full of shit.”
Dick laughs, and oh, God, that's just asking for trouble, isn't it. “Obviously. I meant Lian and Kory.”
And that's a little better because Kory's great, Jason loves the hell out of her, and Lian. Lian may be biased regarding who gives the best piggy back rides and tells the greatest stories, but she's sharp and smart and is just so goddamned amazing.
Jason snorts, carefully folds himself down into the tiny chair across from the desk he and Roy take turns sharing with Charlie gone.
“Dick's just checking in on us,” Roy says, pulling his food close. “The police are stepping up patrols around here.”
Jason glances at Dick who does this little...head bobble. “We're working on catching these guys,” he says, earnest and heartfelt and Jason.
“Yeah, good luck with that,” Jason says, because it's Gotham.
The thing is, it doesn't sarcastic as he means it to, and then stupid Dick is tossing of a little two-finger salute to him and filching Roy's fries and Jason.
Jason ends up seeing Dick more and more as time goes by and the burglars get more brazen, like they're just daring the cops to stop them.
Dick and that partner of his. The slightly awkward guy who sometimes looks like maybe he doesn't understand how this is his life, and why Dick is his partner and just.
Dick in general, really.
Jason sees Dick making the time to talk to concerned business owners to reassure them everything is being done to bring an end to the burglaries. Sees him talking to the sullen brats loitering in front of the shops and stores. Sees him bringing hot coffee and warm food to the poor bastards with their tin cans and handwritten signs camped along the sidewalks further up.
Sees him doing things like this.
“Is he - “
“Yeah,” Roy says, mouth quirked up in a little grin as they watch Dick escort tiny old lady Agnes from the corner grocery store cross the street.
He has his head angled towards her, listening intently to what has to be her favorite rant about government conspiracies and aliens, and is somehow not laughing or looking at her oddly.
“The hell,” Jason says.
Roy shrugs, slides a look at him because Jason.
Jason has maybe been keeping an eye out for a particular uniformed police officer. The one who swings by the shop around lunch time and has moved on from stealing food from Roy and pinching stuff from Jason..
Jason makes a face (he fucking knows, okay?) and pretends everything's just fine.
Not a damn problem to be had here, mind your own damn business, Harper.
Roy points to where Gannon's recording Dick being a cliche on his phone, a big shit-eating grin on his face.
“We're getting copies, right?” Jason asks, biting back a laugh when Dick and Agnes reach the sidewalk and she tips he head back to look at him, that evil little smirk on her face.
Roy nods. “What do you take me for, Todd? Of course we are.”
“Yeah, okay, you think she's going to do it?”
Roy puts on what he likes to think is his innocent, can do no wrong face, and says, “I have no idea what you're talking about.”
Everyone knows tiny old lady Agnes from the corner grocery store and her wandering hands.
Everyone except Dick, it seems, and oh, Jason's definitely going to hell for not warning him before now. Beside him Roy's all but rubbing his hands together in anticipation, so Jason knows he's not the only one headed there, so.
“She's doing it!” Roy says, glee all over his face because he's s horrible human being.
Jason looks back just in time to watch Agnes lure Dick in closer, using that trick where she sounds like a frail little old lady who just doesn't have the energy to speak very loud, young man, come here so I thank you, and fucking gropes him.
Gannon collapses against the side of the police cruiser, and from here it looks like he might be crying with laughter.
“Oh my God,” Roy says, laughing like a lunatic. “His face, oh my God.”
Jason isn't far behind when Dick shoots them accusing looks as he fends off Agnes and just.
Jason likes to take a little smoke break in the alley behind the shop sometimes, even though technically he quit months ago. (He did, just. His life.)
Every so often he'll catch one of the neighborhood kids out there either hanging out trying to look cool or rooting through the dumpsters for who know what anymore.
Today, he comes outside just in time to see Dick sidestepping a clumsily thrown punch by one of the little brats, and do some fancy footwork that trips the kid up, while the kid's friends look on.
“Not bad,” Dick says, smile in his voice, on his face, as he goes to help the kid up. “Try again, and this time keep your eyes on me.”
Dick's out of uniform, sure, but everyone pretty much knows who he is. Hard not to, the way he's making friends all over the place.
“I'm never going to be able to do this,” the kid whines, scowling at Dick.
His friends laugh, elbowing one another and throwing out friendly enough insults, and Jason isn't sure what's going on right now.
Dick's grin widens, and – fuck, no – looks over at Jason.
“Hey, Jason,” Dick calls, waves him over. “Come help me demonstrate this to Artie and his buddies, here.”
Dick grins, and okay, yes. This is the asshole Roy's been telling him stories about even though Jason keeps trying to tell the fucker that, no, really, Jason is not interested in any of that.
“You're not scared, are you?”
The damn kids OoooOooooo at that, snickering and laughing and -
“Oh, it is on, Dick.”
The kids go quiet when Jason stalks over, because Jason's a big guy, and Dick.
Dick is Dick, and apparently some kind of circus kid according to Roy (why the hell not, Gotham's weird enough as it is), and has to look up at Jason when Jason stops in front of him.
“Hey,” Dick says, still smiling.
Jason doesn't have any formal fight training, but he can handle himself well enough. Has gotten in enough scuffles and outright brawls growing up that he knows how to throw a punch, and that there's no such thing as a playing fair because that gets you hurt, or worse.
You fight in this city and mean it, you fight to win.
“Hey,” Jason says.
There's nervous shuffling from the kids now, eyes darting between the cranky asshole who gives them shit all the damn time and the nice police officer who is apparently teaching them to beat one another up.
“Wanna fight?” Dick asks, and the little shit is laughing. “Roy told me you're pretty good.”
Jason's pretty sure anyone who is Roy's friend needs to be good in a fight because he's the kind of jackass who gets in over his head all the damn time.
“Bring it,” Jason says, and shows a little teeth.
Dick's smile shifts into a smirk, and then he steps back. Bounces on the ball of his feet once, twice, before bursting into motion.
Dick's careful at first, holds back just enough that Jason gets annoyed by it, pushes back.
It's nothing like what he saw with the kid, it's Dick trusting Jason to be able to handle this, handle Dick coming at him with a bit of a crazed look in his eyes and fists and feet and elbows and knees and what the hell did Jason get himself into?
Jason gives ground under Dick's assault, tries to keep track of him but the bastard is fast, and Roy must have been telling the truth because he does some twisty tumbling acrobatic shit Jason can't hope to keep up with.
And then Jason fucks up, slips just enough.
Thinks he finally has the upper hand on Dick, but he does this thing that human beings shouldn't be able to do because bones, and then he's free and coming at Jason with this frankly terrifying laugh.
They make eye contact in the moment before Dick manes to flip him and Jason goes flying.
Dead silence as Jason tries to figure out what happened, sees the kids staring at him in shock.
“The fuck was that?”
Dick's still laughing behind a deliberately fake look of concern as he leans over Jason.
The kids are still quiet, and something sharp is digging into Jason's back.
“Oh, didn't I mention it?” Dick asks, like he really thought he had. “I'm an acrobat.”
Moves in close and drops his voice so the kids can't hear. “I'm super flexible.”
Jason stares at him, mind blank.
And then, because there are times Jason can actually forget that Dick is close friends with Roy, the asshole waggles his eyebrows where the kids can't see and Jason.
Jason is fucking done.
“So,” Dick says a few day later. “That might have gotten a little out of control.”
Jason just looks at Dick.
It's fucking pouring down outside, falling rain a heavy, steady sound.
Dick is out of uniform again, and, of course, soaking wet.
Jason tells himself that last part is only pertinent because the guy looks like a drowned rat, or some kind of poodle with that damn hair of his plastered down over his face. (Like hell that's regulation.)
Dick ducks his head, rubs the back of his neck. “Um. Yeah?”
Jason feels the corner of his mouth twitch because.
He really hadn't thought it possible, but Dick fucking blushes.
Jason looks on, utterly delighted.
Because here's a thing, maybe the thing.
The burglaries tapered off a while back, the police forced to divert resources elsewhere because crime is always happening in Gotham and they're stretched thin, but.
But this is Dick, showing up around the neighborhood when he can, more and more when he's out of uniform, and.
And he's stupidly good looking and for whatever reason the kind of asshole Jason seems to have an interest in. (For whatever reason, Dick seems to have an interest in him, too. Which. Jason's doesn't quite understand but will take all the same.)
“Weather's pretty nasty out there,” Jason says, so damn glad he told Roy to go the hell home when it started up, spend time with his daughter before she forgot what he looked like, he's been spending so much time at the shop.
Nasty and going to get worse, if the weather forecasters can be trusted, and it's already pretty late. Well. Late enough, Dick stopping by after getting off his shift looking a little tired but content, so no crisis going on at the moment.
Dick tips his head to the side, eyes narrowing just the slightest bit. “Little bit, yeah,” he says.
Jason rolls his eyes, leans forward against the counter separating them.
“We really going to do this?”
There's a little bit of a smirk in his eyes, says, “Do what?”
Jason sighs, wonders what the hell is wrong with him that he likes this idiot so damn much.
“I've got some dry clothes upstairs that should fit you,” he says, feels a scowl coming on when Dick's mouth twitches. “Fuck off, you now what I mean.”
Dick laughs, glances at the shop windows at the street outside, rain a heavy curtain. Back to Jason, mouth curving upwards.
“Throw in some hot chocolate and a movie and it sounds like a date.”
When he was younger, just a snot-nosed little shit staring in at the beautiful machines in Charlie's shop, Jason probably have though it sounds like a fucking terrible date, but.
He's older, if not wiser, and there's Dick standing there with a smile on his face and laughter in his eyes and an easy set to his shoulders that says he's relaxed, happy right now, and.
Jason is very much an idiot, so he leans, maybe waggles his eyebrows a little to give Dick a little of his own.
“Then it's a date.”
Jason starts awake, the sound of breaking glass fading in his ears.
Looks around to see the loading screen to one of the Blu-ray's Roy loaned him, music a low murmur. He remembers bringing Dick up here, digging for clean clothes for him while he took a shower.
Making hot chocolate while Dick picked through Jason's movie selection, and Dick settling next to him on the bed because Jason's apartment is so damn small it's pretty much one big room, no space for a couch or much else.
Jason goes still, looks down to see Dick's head pillowed on his chest, arms wrapped around him.
Dick's wearing one of his old sweatshirts, logo long faded, and a pair of ragged sleep pants.
“Shit,” Jason breathes, tries to untangle himself, when more noises drift up from the shop, but Dick won't let go.
There's a wordless grumble from Dick, arms tightening before he freezes, brain kicking into gear.
“Hey,” Jason says, makes sure to keep his voice down. “Hi.”
Dick peers up at him, hair an unholy mess and maybe if this were any other situation, Jason would do something about that.
“I think we have a problem,” Jason says, just as someone kicks the door to Jason's apartment open like they thinks this is some kind of action movie.
Dick looks at him, shifting a little so he's more in the bastard's line of fire like he thinks Jason won't fucking notice.
“Oh, no,” Jason snarls, sits up. “The hell with that.”
Dick's expression goes tight.
“Hey! I have a gun here,” the burglar yells, waving it around like an idiot.
The mask hides his face well enough, but not that well.
“That's nice,” Jason says, because the burglar's some damn kid, of course he is.
There are still more of the fuckers downstairs, and Dick is desperately trying to make Jason shut up with the power of his mind.
“Do you even know how to use that?”
The kid and Dick, both stare at Jason.
Jason who is half-naked in bed with an increasingly angry Dick and mouthing off to some stupid kid who thinks he's invincible because he has a damn gun.
“The fuck kind of question is that?”
Jason sighs, long and low, and gives the kid a look.
Doesn't point out that the safety's on, because he's not a complete idiot, but.
“Jason, maybe don't?”
Jason opens his mouth to, who knows, smart off even more most likely, but the burglar's buddies show up to see what all the yelling is about and things go downhill from there.
“Well, on the upside,” Dick says, like the two of them aren't tied up back to back in the middle of the shop that's been pretty well picked clean, burglars long gone. “We're not dead?”
Not dead, no, but they're stuck here until fucking Roy and Kory come in in the morning, and won't that be fun.
Jason sighs, thumps his head against Dick's not at all gently.
“The fuck were you thinking up there?”
He feels as much as hears Dick suck in a breath to lay into him because Dick, at least, hadn't antagonized the gun-wielding burglars.
“You know what I mean,” Jason snaps, resting his head against Dick's, tired. “The hell, Dick.”
Dick wriggling a little, trying to get as comfortable as possible for the long haul, maybe, Jason doesn't know.
“I'm a cop,” Dick says after a long moment. Slow. “It's what I do.”
Jason elbows Dick best as he can, aiming for kidney.
Dick laughs, more this exhausted little exhale of breath than anything. “Yeah? What were you thinking up there? Huh?”
Jason. Jason was thinking how fucking tired he is of seeing kids like that, like he used to be, doing shit like that. Fucking up their lives and for what?
“Fuck off,” Jason mutters.
Doesn't say a damn thing when Dick leans up against his back, hard, closest to hug they're going to come any time soon.
“Also,” Dick points out, warm and solid and goddamn, they're so fucking lucky neither one of them got hurt tonight. “They weren't wearing gloves.”
Dick hums, light, pleased, while that little nugget of information sinks in.
“Are you kidding me?”
“Our forensics people are pretty great,” Dick says, which.
They'd have to be, wouldn't they.
“So you think you can find them after this?”
The idiots hadn't been careful enough, letting things slip here and there about this being their last job, about leaving Gotham and never looking back.
“Positive,” Dick says, something sharp in his voice Jason decides not to think about too closely.
“Huh,” Jason says. “Okay.”
He can live with that. (Probably.)
Time ticks past, Jason listening to Dick breathe, feels it at his back and just.
“Great date, by the way,” Dick says, just when Jason thought he'd fallen asleep, and there's amusement in there. “Maybe we could do this again, sometime, just you know. Without all this.”
Jason doesn't have to see him to know Dick's trying to gesture at the shop, Jason's poor ransacked apartment, and the two of them trussed up.
“Yeah, I'll see what I can do,” Jason says, and in spite of everything, feels a grin creeping over his face at that because.
Roy's a dead man, dead.
“What the hell, Todd?”
“Shut up and get us out of these, you bastard.”
Roy, though. Roy crosses over to stand in front of Dick and grins
“Roy,” Dick greets, a little wary.
And because Roy's an asshole, “Wait until Kory sees you two like this.”
“Hold on, I need to call her, she had a night photo shoot so she's probably sleeping in.”
The sound of Roy chortling to himself as he walks a little bit away to call Kory.
GCPD tracks down the burglars and Dick and a few of his buddies do something to put the fear of God into them because they sing like a little flock of terrified birds, ratting out all their criminal friends.
Some time later, and Jason has the television in the front of the shop going, Lian playing quietly with her Lego a few feet away.
Dick is bickering with Roy over something while Kory laughs at everyone, and Jason.
Jason is trying not to dwell on how damn content he feels at the moment, seeing how fucking domestic is all is and would be a damn liar if he didn't admit that it scares him a little.
He and Dick have managed to have a few incident free dates since the whole being tied up at gunpoint together thing, and.
It's good? (Jason doesn't know if he can trust it, but. He's willing to give it a shot, for Dick.)
Charlie's decided to retire early, take his money and fuck off to who know where now that his brother's hobbling along just fine and he knows the shop won't burn down (too soon) if left to Jason and the others.
There's a little clatter, plastic bricks hitting the floor, and Lian's babbling something about Uncle Bruce and Grandpa Alfred.
Jason looks up, sees her at the television, little hands patting the screen.
There's a long black limousine pulled up in front of a red carpet, one of Gotham's endless charity balls and galas. There's a guy in what Jason assumes has to be an outrageously expensive tuxedo smiling wide for the cameras, and Lian is cooing at his face.
Distantly, he's aware of Dick coming over from where he's been stealing food from Roy and talking to Kory to stand next to him.
Jason looks at him, dread building because he remembers Roy mentioning that Dick had been adopted, that the guy was kind of a big deal in Gotham but he hadn't been paying much attention at the time with Dick being right there.
“Oh, didn't I mention it?” Dick asks, and the little fucker is enjoying this, it's all over his face. “Bruce Wayne is my adoptive father.”