"Well hel-lo there," Jason Todd chirped in his best sexy voice when he finally saw the two men approach.
Bruce Wayne stopped dead in his tracks, and looked at him with a frozen expression.
"You must be kidding," he drawled.
"I am," Jason admitted. He'd been sitting on that line ever since he'd opened the newspaper this morning.
The hunky billionaire still didn't move a single muscle in his face. "Please don‘t lean on the hood of my car."
Jason shot his former mentor a cocky smile, but then he obediently removed himself from the 18-foot monstrosity that Bruce, out of touch as ever, chose to call a "car". Which was ridiculous; other cars could have lived in it.
He watched as Bruce turned towards his companion. "Alfred. Feel free to go get yourself a coffee."
"That wouldn't be prudent, Sir. It's half past ten at night." Alfred's eyes darted back and forth between his master and Jason a couple of times, until they eventually rested on the latter, and he seemed to make a decision.
"…but I suppose I can find a place where they'll serve Virgin Mimosas." He said, even sparing Jason a short, polite nod. "Ring me if you need me, Master Bruce."
And with that, the butler walked away, leaving them alone together.
Jason could feel his smirk vaporize under Bruce's gaze. He'd been looking forward to doing this, but now he realized that he wasn't entirely sure how to play it. To his surprise, though, Bruce came to his aid.
"It'll only be minutes before the reporters catch up to me. Let's talk in the car," he suggested, gesturing stiffly towards his giant limousine.
That…he hadn't seen that coming.
Jason felt his face burn up as he, for the first time in years, got into a vehicle with Batman. The real one, not Dick or one of the other clowns playing dress-up. Even if it wasn't the Batmobile, and nobody was wearing a costume.
They sat down across each other. Both of them were tall, broad-shouldered men, but the luxurious seats nearly swallowed them whole. Jason struggled to make himself comfortable while at the same time feeling really, really tiny. He'd never gotten used to this; he wondered how Bruce could stand it.
The older man wasted no time, his demeanor as businesslike as ever. "I'm assuming this is about the news."
Jason stopped writhing around in his seat and looked straight at him. "You bet it is."
Without further comment, he reached into his leather jacket and pulled out the newspaper he'd been carrying around with him all day. Page 4, society news.
BRUCE WAYNE: I LOVE MEN
Notorious Playboy Comes Out As Gay, Baffles Gotham.
Our correspondent Vicki Vale: "Called it!"
He saw Bruce wince as he looked at it. Interesting. He'd obviously given that statement voluntarily, there was a picture of him looking uncomfortable with the article, but he didn't seem crazy about the screaming headline.
So he winced, and said nothing.
Jason couldn't take this anymore. He had to ask the thing he'd been wondering all day.
"Is this some play?" He asked bluntly. "This some kind of ruse? Are you trying to draw out one of them gay super criminals? The Kinkster? The Riddler?"
Bruce seemed deeply offended by that. "Absolutely not," he insisted. Then he paused. "Wait. Nygma is – "
"'course he is. I mean. Bruce. C'mon."
The Dark Knight processed that for a moment.
"Anyway," he then said, dusting off his exquisite suit. "No. That wasn't the reason."
"It was time. That's all. You know I don't believe in disclosing private matters in public, but with the things that are happening these days, I ... it felt like the right thing to do."
The words fell from Jason's mouth more than he said them. "So it's true?!"
As simple as that.
Jason didn't know what to say to that. Even though he had a million things to say to that. Instead, he turned his attention to the article, completely determined to take the piss out of it.
"Uh, there's some rousing stuff in here, I gotta admit. The young boys and girls in this country should know they're not alone in ..."
He trailed off. It was pretty hard to make fun of things that were, yeah, actually kind of sweet.
"I'm glad you think so," Bruce replied humbly, every inch the noble philanthropist, but Jason could tell he was terribly pleased with himself; he always was. Jason smacked his lips, looking for other openings. "Your story caused quite a stir today. Totally overshadowed Batman catching the Penguin for the ... what? Twentieth time? Last night."
"It did." Bruce tilted his head. "Today has been ... interesting. People have been quite supportive, however. A surprising number of my former lady friends said that it explained a lot."
He lowered his head, and to Jason's surprise, shot his wayward Robin one of these rare, dark smiles. "Since apparently I always seemed like I was keeping a secret. Glad I could take that weight off their minds."
Jason's heart leapt at that - the smile, that was - but he stuck to his guns; there was still a certain amount of teasing he had to get out of his system.
"Heard Dick Grayson's been dodging reporters left and right today, assuring everyone that there'd been no illicit hanky panky going on at Wayne Manor while he was your underage ward," he quipped, not without Schadenfreude, all of which was directed at Dick. Nobody had hounded Jason, since to the world at large, he was dead.
Bruce's face fell. "I'm aware. It's ... regrettable."
Jason cocked an eyebrow. "So. Was there?"
"Jason." Bruce spoke his name for the first time, with that disapproving frown that seemed to go so well with it. "I'm gay. Not irresponsible."
Jason half wanted to point out that it was vaguely irresponsible to dress up young boys in little green speedoes and encourage them to chase around criminals. But he didn't, because he'd quite dug that, back then.
Apart from that, he was still eager to get to the other part. The gay part.
"For how long have you known?"
Bruce Wayne still seemed to be in confessional mode, or someone had slipped something into his tea, it was hard to tell.
"Always," he said, readily, "As long as I can remember."
"Then you're really good at hiding it. I never picked up on it, and I totally lived with you. Did you have a string of secret boyfriends or something?"
"Not as m-" Bruce started, and it seemed as if he was about to say Not as many as I'd liked. But then he didn't.
"Not many. No," he said quietly.
That was almost sad. Jason had to remind himself that he was talking to the Man Who Had It All. Not to mention that he was also a pompous asshole. There was no reason whatsoever to feel bad for him.
"Wow. You disappoint me, Bruce," he taunted, grinning. He was slowly getting into this. "I mean, with those looks, and all that money you have, you could have gone to all kinds of depraved parties. Y'know. Masks. Costumes. Secret meetings. Isn't that what you like?"
As always, Bruce proved himself completely impervious to mockery. He simply sat there and took it, though the vacant look in his steely blue eyes suggested that his soul had left his body.
"What kind of guys do you like?" Jason asked him provocatively. "I mean. If you'd had the balls to find 'em."
"I don't know why I should answer that," Bruce replied cooly, "Since you seem this determined to make fun me."
Jason's eyes narrowed. "Well, someone has to," he hissed.
It wasn't fair. He knew. There was nothing funny about being secretly gay. It actually kind of sucked, probably even for a handsome rich boy adored by all. But then, very little things in life were ever fair. Nobody had ever been fair to him. And if there was even the slightest chance to push Bruce Wayne's buttons, Jason could be counted on to show up and at least try. Because again, somebody had to.
Across from him, Bruce folded his hands. "Anything else you're dying to know?" He asked, with the faintest note of sarcasm.
Jason's face grew hot. "Well, why did you start answering?" He shot back. "You don't even like me!"
"We were close once," Bruce said solemly, "I feel you've earned the right to ask." He hesitated. "And I don't recall ever saying I didn't like you."
Jason scoffed. "You try to run me out of town like, three times a month!" He pointed out.
"That's not what I'm doing. You skipping town would actually be the opposite of what I want. I want you to answer for your misdeeds. You know that."
Jason hated Bruce so much for the fact that he could make it sound as if he was doing him a favor.
"Not in the mood to discuss that," he snapped, crossing his arms. "We're not even wearing our outfits."
"You're right. We're not."
Bruce said nothing for a while. Then suddenly, he fixed his eyes on his former ward with the most piercing of stares. It was that kind of look that made hardened criminals break down in tears. That look that told him he finally had Bruce's full attention. Which was something he craved; and dreaded.
"What's it to you, Jason?" He asked quietly, using his name for the second time and wielding it like a weapon. "I've answered all your questions – "
"Well, not all of 'em – "
"Don't interrupt me. I've answered your questions, now you'll answer mine. Why do you care? I refuse to believe you chased me down tonight only to mock me. Because not even you are this petty and juvenile. Perhaps I should ask you what your play is."
It was chilling. But Jason had long conditioned himself not to show nerves in front of the Bat. Even if his heart was currently trying to escape his body through his throat, which in turn was very dry.
He leaned over to the older man, holding his gaze.
"Well. I thought. Now that you're out, Bruce, you'll need someone to show you the ropes."
There was silence, and then, Bruce demanded in the iciest of voices, "Explain."
Jason couldn't suppress an incredulous chuckle. Did Bruce really not understand? He was never this slow on the uptake, why now?
"Come on. Do you have any idea what you've missed? Somebody has to show you where the best bars are. Where the worst bars are. I know some really really cool places. You need to know where to meet the right guys, and where to meet the wrong guys, how to talk to 'em, how to keep 'em, how to get rid of 'em, everything. Because these are things that I know and you don't, for a change, because guess what, I'm gay."
It was a million years too late; but holy crap, did it feel great to tell him.
What didn't feel great, though, was the complete non-reaction it got.
Bruce simply sat there. And stared. And said nothing.
Jason could feel himself shrink deeper into his seat. What was he even doing? Coming out way too late to a man who had once been his surrogate father after flirting with him on the hood of his car because somehow he'd thought it'd make him laugh?
That was the kind of shit that growing up without parents did to you, apparently.
He blinked. Swallowed, hard.
"Yeah," he said to the staggering silence in the limo. "Yeah, this was a bad idea. I don't even ..."
He tossed all that crap about not showing nerves, and made a quick dive for the door handle.
He was already halfway out when he heard Bruce's voice behind him.
"Jason," he said quietly. "Stay."
He wasn't sure why; Bruce wasn't his father, or his friend, or his anything, he had no reason to listen to him. But he did.
It didn't help the conversation along, though.
"Can we get some music in here, or something?" He eventually asked petulantly, after a few more beats of not talking.
"You probably wouldn't like my collection," Bruce replied solemly. "I'm listening to Barbara Gordon's podcast series about public security issues in the wider Gotham area."
Jason beamed at that despite himself. "Oh, I like those. Heard the latest one? That's a real good one."
Bruce had produced a mini-bar seemingly out of nowhere, and was now offering him a tumbler full of iced water. He took it. He was tempted to ask for a glass of that 50 year old Macallan he knew was in there, but he resisted. He'd pulled that a couple times when they'd still been working together, and it had never gone great.
"I had no idea," Bruce admitted. In a low, mild, kind voice that did all kinds of things to Jason's resolution to be an ass to him at all times. "That must have been difficult." He paused. "Was that why you became petulant and impossible to work with?"
Well; he'd turned that around quickly.
Jason blushed. "No," he mumbled. "No, that was just me."
He took a sip. There was more silence, until Bruce suddenly said, "Dark hair, blue eyes."
Bruce looked straight at him. "You asked me what my type was. Tall, athletic, dark hair. Blue eyes."
His blush deepened. That was …interesting on so many levels. "You're such a fucking narcissist," he teased him.
Bruce gave him a weary smile. "I'm aware."
Then, he said: "Tell me about those really really cool places."
"Whu – what?"
Bruce took as sip from his own glass. His gaze had all the properties of a tractor beam. "You said I could learn a few things. I have no reason not to believe you."
Jason gaped at him. He'd been really excited to rub his knowledge in the Dark Knight's face, and hadn't thought for a minute about how weird it'd be to actually go clubbing with him.
"What's wrong?" A small smile played around the older man's lips. "Are you embarrassed to be seen with your – "
He didn't finish that sentence. Because even Bruce knew, if he said 'father' now, both their heads would explode simultaneously.
Still, the sentiment was …nice.
"I'm not embarrassed," Jason protested, "I'm just – I'm – surprised, I – "
Screw it. He reached into his jacket again, scribbled something on a piece of paper, and handed it to Bruce, his face tinted red. He tried not to look too much like an overexcited puppy. "This place. Saturday night. I'll be there."
Bruce studied the note. "Saturday's no good for me. There's an underground slave auction I was planning to disrupt. Friday?"
"It's lame there on Friday. And I have a … raid … I mean a thing. How 'bout Sunday?"
"Can't do Sunday. I have a yacht christening on Sunday."
"Okay, how about this? We'll meet up on Saturday, we do the slave auction thing together, wrap that up real quick, then we go out?"
"Why wouldn't we go to your club first, and then break up the slave ring?" Bruce inquired.
But he didn't say 'you can't come'.
Jason grinned. "Because, Bruce," he said. "We can only do one of these two things drunk. And trust me. We'll be getting really really drunk."