It’s the green suit that does it.
Jason had been wandering around the party, a sea of black and white and shiny and rich when he saw, in the back corner near the refreshments table, a horrific bright green suit over an even more horrific lime green shirt and the whole thing just burned into his brain. He would never forget it and he needed to go talk to whomever was wearing that fucking suit because surely they were insane, and that would be a fun change of pace from the rest of the people at this shindig, the others full of praise and congratulations when they probably haven’t even read the book, don’t care about Jason’s work, just that this was one of the parties of the season.
Jason plows his way through the masses, nodding politely at passing people but not letting himself be stopped. When he reaches the table he snags a plate and piles on pretentiously tiny portions of food; one inch square petit fours when he just wants a nice, big slice of cake. He ends up nearly emptying several platters to fill his plate as he works his way down, closer to the end where the flutes of champagne are being snatched by the guests at an alarming rate, closer to the green suit. Now that he’s near he can see person wearing that suit and is not disappointed. Long, black hair and sharp, blue eyes and Jason kinda just wants to stare at the man for a few hours. Put him up on a wall and study the way his pretty face contrasts with his slouched posture and bitten lips.
When he’s only two steps away Jason smiles and says, “Hello.”
“Hi,” the man says after glancing around as if Jason might be talking to someone else, but they’re the only two within range. He’s holding his own little plate of food and shifts it to his left hand, offers his right for Jason to shake. “Tim Drake.”
“Nice to meet you.” Jason doesn’t volunteer his own name, but Tim doesn’t seem to care. Or perhaps is just distracted by the food Jason is holding; his eyes have locked on to something on Jason’s plate.
“Is there something wrong?”
Tim shakes his head a little, glances away, but soon goes back to looking at the food. “No, it’s just. Well, you got pizza.”
“I think they’re mini calzones.”
Tim gives him a flat look and insists, “It’s folded pizza. And I’ve been waiting for them to put out something good, and I missed it. All I got was these zucchini finger sandwiches.” Tim regards the tiny, pale sandwiches with disdain. It’s awfully close to a pout and Jason finds it terribly cute.
“You can have some of my calzones.”
Tim smiles, easy and wide, with a slight lilt to his head. “Thanks. And they’re pizza.”
Jason laughs for a short moment and Tim seems confused by it, but he keeps on smiling while eagerly sliding the proffered calzones to his own plate. Tim moans happily as he eats one, then swallows and clears his throat. “So what do you think of Smashed Cake?”
In lieu of answering Jason asks, “You’ve read it?”
Tim nods. “I’m not much of a reader actually, but I thought I should, coming here. Do the proper research, you know?” He turns to scan the crowded room and shrugs. “Apparently it was a waste of time. No one else here cared enough to read it.”
“A waste of time,” Jason echos, trying not to be too hurt.
“Not like that,” Tim shakes his head, waving a calzone for emphasis. “It’s just that it hasn’t helped me with any of the small talk. The book itself wasn’t a waste of time.”
Jason bites down on his smile. “So you liked it?”
Only years of practice in the art of being rejected by publishing companies keeps Jason upright. He’s learned by necessity to not take it personally. Not everyone will like his work, and that’s okay. But still, he’s disappointed. At least he was right in thinking this guy would be interesting to talk to.
“Why not,” he asks, working to keep his voice level. Mildly curious but ultimately indifferent.
“Not my thing,” Tim says lightly. “It was good, of course. The writing was solid and the characters were well formed, but they weren’t relatable- at least, not to me. And the style was heavy and dark, full of thick metaphors. Something I might enjoy for a short time, but not a whole book.”
When he’s finished Tim shoves more food into his mouth and makes more happy little noises that Jason can’t properly appreciate right now, his mind whirling with the critique.
He’s saved from having to form a reply when there’s a hand on his elbow, and a flash of fiery hair as Kori leans in from behind to whisper in his ear that it’s time. He nods, and holds out his plate to Tim. “Here, I’ve got to go do a thing, you can have the rest.”
Tim’s face lights up and he gratefully accepts the food.
“It was nice talking to you,” Jason says as he turns away.
“Yeah, same here,” Tim calls after him.
Kori leads Jason through the crowd, toward the far end and the polished, hardwood stage there, where Dick is flashing that million-watt smile and talking about why they’re all there tonight. Singing the praises of the book that’s climbed the bestseller list in record time, and the fresh new author that’s taking the literary world by storm with his first novel.
Jason rolls his eyes a little.
He’s proud, of course, of his work, but the way Dick plays it up to crowd makes it feel wrong, feel cheap. Makes Jason feel like an imposter, even though he wrote the damn thing.
But he dutifully climbs the short steps up the stage and walks over to Dick at the podium just as the man is introducing him with an elaborate wave of his arm. There’s polite applause from the crowd as Dick steps back and Jason takes the attention, spotlight too bright in his eyes.
“Thank you,” he says into the microphone, and his voice echoes around the room. “Thank you all for being here, to celebrate Smashed Cake.”
He looks out at the sea of overly polite, fake smiles. At the blank eyes. He looks to the buffet table and Tim is still there, now staring at him with wide eyes and a red flush to his cheeks that clashes with his green monstrosity of an outfit.
Jason grins. “Even though I’m sure almost none of you actually read it.”
There’s slight stir, people glancing at each other uncertainly. He sees Kori, off to the side, pinching the bridge of her nose with a small shake of her head. They’d talked beforehand about what to say, he practically had a script written out for him. Wasted time and effort, now.
“But you’re having fun anyway, right?” he continues, to the growing confusion of the audience. “This is a nice party, who cares what it’s for. Long as you get to get dressed up and show off your new diamond cufflinks and pearl necklaces. As long as you get to catch the latest gossip and maybe end up in a picture on the society pages.
“I spent years of my life writing this book. Staying up for days at a time, forgetting to eat. Not seeing my friends or family. Tearing out my hair when the chapter just wouldn’t go right. But hey, if it means all you fine folk get to have a nice time tonight, pretending to be cultured and well read, then cheers.” He tops it off with a raise of his champagne glass.
The ballroom is silent.
And then there’s laughter.
Tim, bent over and cackling madly, filling the air with his laughter as everyone else looks around in discomfort, wondering if they should be joining in. They look so stupid that Jason starts to laugh too, and he steps off the stage with a final, “Thanks, y’all.”
Kori is glaring when he passes her, but it’s kind of half-hearted and fond, so Jason just winks and accepts he’ll get scolded later.
The crowd goes back to their conversation, though slightly more subdued than before.
Tim is still chuckling, wiping tears from his eyes when Jason approaches. “Way to go, man. That was great.”
Jason smiles. “Thanks, I thought it was good.” He offers a hand, again. “Jason Todd.”
Tim wipes off calzone grease on his pants, then shakes it. “That would have been nice to know before I shit all over your book.”
With a shrug, Jason says, “Where’s the fun in that? Besides, would you really have lied to me, if you knew?”
“Well.” Tim scratches his nose. “No. But I would have been more… politic about it.”
“I think I’ve made it clear I don’t care for politic people.”
“You certainly did.”
“So,” Jason says, “you wanna to go get a real pizza, and tell me all the ways you don’t like my writing?”
Tim grins. “Sounds fun.”