“This was never going to work,” Jason said, tugging his helmet off, staring at Roy with eyes that had never seemed so purely concrete and hard as they did, in that moment. “ Us ,” he added, as Roy cast his eyes away.
Roy Harper had been cast out, thrown off, dumped enough in his life to know this damn speech. And Jason? Jason had been a failure enough to know it the same. The let down, the inevitable- the I-was-never-actually-good-enough .
“You have too much faith in people,” Jason said, reaching his hand up, resting it on Roy’s shoulder. He was bruised, scratched- freckles and tattoos hidden beneath dried blood. And Jason didn’t want to do this, not now. He wanted to clean Roy up- get his hands on that skin and scrub it clean. Wrap Roy up in bandages just as he used to do for Jason.
Because there was a bit of a lie, in what he had just said. He trusted Roy, more than he had ever trusted anyone, in this life. In the past life. And he had more faith in him, alone, than he could ever have in the rest of this wretched world.
Because Roy didn’t let him down . There was something so good in Roy, something that he just needed to clutch to, to keep from drowning. Something full of potential- and Jason, he wouldn’t drag Roy down, wouldn’t take that from him.
He never saw the same light in himself.
“I don’t have any,” he added, his throat beginning to close up. He leaned closer, so close that he could smell the dried blood, the sweat, on Roy’s skin. Beneath that, hints of his cheap cologne, leather from parts of his suit. The next words, they came in a breath, a whisper from Jason’s chest, his breath tickling Roy’s ear. “I’m sorry,” he offered, pausing for a moment, collecting himself , “I’m never going to be the hero you want me to be.”
He was never going to be the man Roy needed him to be. Never the support, the strength, the comfort- all these things Jason wished he could be for the one friend that meant more than this world, to him. And yet-
Jason pulled away, took a step past Roy. “I have every confidence in you- that you’ll stay the hero I know you are.”
Roy Harper’s light could never go out. The day it did was the day Jason buried himself six feet under again- and swore he wasn’t coming back this time around.
Jason forced himself to take another step, another , to walk away thinking Roy would hate him, for a time. But it was worth it- he’d get over it, maybe someday, down the road, they could look each other in the eye, maybe there’d be a good memory in there-
“ Jaybird .”
Jason stopped, didn’t turn for a moment. He clutched his helmet tighter, before he forced himself to glance over his shoulder.
Roy had turned, was facing his back. Staring at him with one good, gorgeous green eye- and the other, nearly swollen shut, still watching him, somehow. And god he was so wrecked, Jason felt weak in his knees, because this world could have lost Roy Harper and then where would he be-
“Don’t you dare leave me.”
Jason turned, fully this time, facing Roy. Roy’s stare leveled, eye narrowing.
“Don’t you dare tell me you’re not the hero I want you to be. Don’t you fucking dare walk out on me when you know the last thing I need is to be alone .” He paused, and then added, “when the last thing you need to be is alone.”
Jason swallowed the lump in his throat. The tension was thick, growing and clawing up his legs, digging taloned hands into his belly and puncturing every bit of flesh there- going as far as to snap his ribs, he swore. The tension he was beginning to understand, between he and Roy- that had been there, so many years ago. When they wore different suits and took different names and had no idea the men they would become.
And Roy was right , was the problem. Jason didn’t want to be alone. He wanted to get his hands on Roy and call him a fucking idiot and bury his face in that ginger hair and whisper for him to never leave him, ever- ever . To stop getting himself in these messes-
God, Jason never wanted to wake up in a world where Roy Harper’s name was a memory .
And yet, here he was, leaving. Leaving . “There’s good in you,” Jason said, “A good that’ll go to waste on me. You deserve something better, Harper. Take the opportunity to lose this baggage while you can.”
Roy’s hands balled into fists. He took the few long strides to Jason, reached out and grasped his jacket, pulling him in, Jason stumbling a single step. “Stop talking shit about yourself,” he said, and god he was terrifying despite the state he was in. “Stop belittling who you are, Jason.”
“And who is that ?”
“My best friend.” He tugged again, and Jason could see the lines around Roy’s eyes, the freckles peppering his skin, the sweat on his temple. “My partner . You’re Jason fucking Todd. You’re a former Robin. You’re the Red Hood. You’re…” Roy paused, licked his lips, not wincing even as he hit the swollen split in the lower one. “You’re a goddamn good man. You’re the kind of man I want to be. You believe in something, Jason. You’re passionate . You’re-” he choked, and Roy leaned forward, let his forehead rest against Jason’s shoulder. “You’re everything .”
His shoulders shook, and Jason heard his helmet clattering to the ground- yet couldn’t even feel himself letting go of it. Tentatively, he reached out, slid his gloved hands along Roy’s waist, carefully folding him up into his arms. It wasn’t the first time he’d held Roy- there had been moments where he’d allowed himself weakness, allowed himself to embrace the man-
But Roy was broken and exposed, and Jason was raw to his core- and this, it was different .
“Look me in the eyes,” Roy mumbled, into the leather of Jason’s jacket, “And tell me you’re the wicked monster you keep sayin’ you are. Look me in the eyes and lie to me, Jaybird- and you can go.” He lifted his head, and Jason turned, so damn close he could feel Roy’s breath-
And… and he couldn’t . He couldn’t stare at Roy and lie . Because there were enough lies, in this world, in their lives- he didn’t want to add to that pollution.
“I’ll destroy you,” Jason offered, and Roy shook his head.
“Only if you leave.”
Jason swallowed, his stomach going painfully tight- and there was so much he wanted, in that moment. His eyes flicked from Roy’s down his face, to his broken lip- back up, and he couldn’t deny everything this was, anymore. Everything he wanted it to be.
“I want more than I can have.”
Maybe that was half the reason for leaving. Leave before a good friendship could be turned sour- before he could make Roy hate him. Leave with the chance of reconciliation, in the future.
“You don’t,” Roy said, “You can have the world, Jason. You just have to take it.” He tipped his head back, and it didn’t matter that Roy was beaten, bloody, bruised. He was still handsome, beneath it all. Was still the man that made Jason’s heartbeat up into his throat to a tempo only gods knew.
Jason flicked his eyes down to Roy’s lips again- and maybe he really was as crazy as people liked to talk, because he was leaning in, pushing his mouth against Roy’s.
And it was like a dream . Like everything he’d wanted for so damn long and wouldn’t admit to. It was slow and shockingly soft, the subtlest of movements but so much heat . Roy made a tiny noise, something low in his throat, and Jason vaguely thought it might honestly hurt -
But Roy wasn’t pulling away. He kept a firm hold on Jason’s jacket, and Jason kept his arms around him, kept him boxed into his chest, tipping his head more and feeling a tremble-
And realizing it was his own .
When Jason pulled back, it was to the faint taste of blood, in his mouth. He licked his lips, noticed that Roy’s split had reopened, was glossy and somehow gorgeous. He pulled one arm from around Roy, reached up, dragged his thumb- despite his glove- across it, before leaning back in, this time kissing the bridge of Roy’s nose.
“I believe in you,” Roy offered, as Jason closed his eyes against the sting, growing in them. Against the ache of tears he would not shed. “I believe in everything you’re going to become, Jason. I… I believe in us . We’re partners. There…” he licked his lips, swallowed, as Jason’s hands tangled in his hair. “There isn’t anyone else I want by my side, Jay. Just you .”
Jason didn’t know what to say , didn’t know if there was anything- all he could do was press his mouth to Roy’s forehead, his hair, keeping him pushed up tightly to him. Like he could tuck him into his ribs, and they would never be apart. Beat with one heart and scream with one set of lungs and one raw, over-used throat. One tired tongue.
Jason wasn’t sure anyone had believed in him, like this. Not now , not after coming back- not after being so damn tortured and letting himself break. Wasn’t sure anyone else was willing to cut themselves on his edges, until Jason was stitched back together-
DIdn’t think anyone else would accept that the end result would never be picture-perfect.
Another kiss to Roy’s hair. “I’ve never trusted anyone like you,” he whispered, finally admitted to anyone beyond himself- and Roy, goddamn him, he tried to smile . Chuckled, in his throat.
“See, you do have some faith.” He leaned down, nuzzling into Jason’s neck- not caring about the hard juts of armor that pushed against his cheek. “And even a sliver of it’s enough .”
Jason said nothing, let them lapse into silence, his hand rubbing along Roy’s spine. “We have to get you patched up,” he finally said, his other hand at the base of Roy’s skull, cradling the back of his head.
Roy lifted his head, nodded- and flashed the kind of smile that could have had Jason dropping down to his knees, thanking every sort of deity known for creating this man. “Be gentle with me?” he asked, and Jason laughed- a real, honest laugh, from the pit of his belly.
“What’re you, a flower?” Roy shoved at Jason gently- but not enough that he took so much as even a step back.
“I’m gentle with you .”
“ That’s what you call gentle? Damn, Harper. Remind me to make sure we take this slow.” Roy laughed, let his forehead fall back to Jason’s shoulder- and Jason threaded his fingers into Roy’s hair, for one final moment.
“We’re taking this somewhere though… right?” A little quieter, a little less sure-
And Jason nodded, slowly. “Yeah,” he offered, a hoarse, raw whisper from his throat. “We’re taking it to the ends of the world, Roy. The only place we belong.”
He didn’t get an argument- and Jason knew he wouldn’t . Not ever. Roy would follow him to hell- and just knowing that, well, it made Jason feel safe , for the first time in a long time. Sad, in his bones, because he truly believed the world was in Roy, and he was so good -
But if Roy wanted to see something in him, wanted to believe- maybe, just maybe, Jason could let him. And maybe someday, he’d believe, too.