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He's starving to death, alright?

Jason's not proud of it as he stuffs vials of every oxy- he can see into his pockets. They fetch a pretty penny, though, and a guy's gotta live. Dr. Thompkins is kind of infamous for her kindness, so he figures the odds of her sending some sort of crack team of ninjas—a la Gotham—to murder him for stealing from her is low. She also invites enough vagrants into her decrepit little corner clinic that she might not even know it was him. Definitely won't be able to prove it, at least.

“A-hem.”

Unless she walks straight in on him doing it, that is. Shit.

“Um,” he says, turning, a vial in hand. Shit.

Dr. Thompkins raises an eyebrow. “Didn't you just get over the injuries sustained from your last big heist?” she asks, and, hey, not fair. How was he supposed to know the uppity looking dude whose pocket he tried to pick was some sort of crazy MMA fighter or some shit? Jason had just reached for the wallet—hanging half-out of his pocket! Who walks around the “bad" part of town like that?!—when the guy had turned around and backhanded the hell out of him.

It was a little excessive, really. He was probably some sort of supervillain, and Jason had been doing Gotham a favor taking a little money out of his evil pockets. Or, well, trying to.

“I,” he starts, then stops, his cheeks warming to an almost alarming temperature at being caught at such a low. Fuck. He hates this. Hates having to be reduced to a petty criminal like this. “I'm sorry.”

She stays in the doorway for a moment, lips pursed, looking at him like she's searching for something, before she sighs. “Lift up your shirt,” she says, and every muscle in Jason's body tenses.

Damn. Okay. He swallows hard at the sudden lump in his throat. Turns out everyone is Gotham is awful. He could push past her, he guesses, try to get out. But she's caught him red-handed—could just take him to the police and get him thrown in jail. And, now, he guesses, the stitches she'd sewn into his split cheek pulling at the skin as his face twists, he owes her. Fuck.

Jason lifts his shirt, gathering it around his collarbones, clenching his teeth together almost painfully as he does and looking away from her, up at the cracking ceiling tiles.

“Oh, honey,” Dr. Thompkins says. She hasn't moved from the doorway. When Jason brings himself to look back at her, her expression is some mix of horror and, worse, pity. “Put it down. I'm not going to hurt you.”

He drops the fabric, confused now, with a little, hopefully uncalled for, lingering outrage.

“When is the last time you ate?” she asks as she crosses her arms, that irritating look of pity never coming off of her face. “I can see every one of your ribs.”

“Dunno,” he says, shrugging sharply when she just keeps looking at him, his skin starting to crawl at all the attention.

“Where do you live?” she continues, unwarranted.

See, this is why Jason hates people helping him. He can't just tell her to blow off because she's done him a stupid favor. He sighs. “I can't be the first street rat to get their ass kicked into your fine establishment.”

She just stands there for a minute, staring at him. Unnervingly.

“How would you like a place to stay?” she asks at last.

It takes Jason a moment. “What?” He shakes his head. “Nah. I don't wanna go to an orphanage. I'm perfectly fine on my—”

“No,” she cuts him off firmly but not unkindly. “I'm not offering to put you in the system. I'm offering to put you on my couch.”

Jason stares at her for maybe a moment too long. “I was just robbing you,” he says, finally. “You realize that.”

“Out of necessity,” the doctor counters with a soft smile. “I don't think you're a hardened criminal. You don't have the look.”

Jason isn't sure if he should be offended at that. He bites the inside of his cheek, considering. “I don't need your charity.”

“I'm sure you're quite capable of taking care of yourself,” she sighs out like someone who deals with hard heads 24/7, “but I don't want the next person you attempt to steal from to come at you with a knife instead of a fist.” He must look unconvinced because she tilts her head and adds, “It's supposed to snow tonight, as well. Frostbitten limbs occasionally have to amputated.”

“Ugh,” he says. It's a damn convincing argument, he must admit. The couple hours he's spent in this rinky clinic have been the warmest of his whole week. “Fine. I'll sleep right on the floor here so it'll be easier to pick up where I left off the moment you get out of sight.”

“Cute,” Dr. Thompkins snarks. “I think my couch is much more comfortable, though.”

“What, like, in your actual house? Where I could easily murder you?” This woman is insane. He shakes his head as she locks the door to her medicine closet behind her as he exits. Completely insane.

“You could certainly try,” she laughs, herding him down the hallway. “Now, what shall we have for supper tonight?”

 


 

Jason means to leave the next morning but ends up staying for a few months.

He doesn't feel like a complete freeloader, at least. Dr. Thompkins puts him to work after it becomes clear that this is turning out to be a permanent thing—after he tries to leave for the third time and ends up meandering back after a couple days.

It's never dull at the clinic, at least. Gotham has a seemingly endless stream of injuries to treat. Most of them are, in a depressing sort of twist, not actually the battle wounds Jason thought would end up here. The majority of the clients are just families too poor to afford doctors. The first patient Jason helps—actually helps, not just helps Dr. Thompkins help—is a little girl named Mira with a twisted ankle.

“It's not broken,” he tells her and smiles at her disappointed frown. She had really been looking forward to a hot pink cast. “But I can give you a sucker and a bunch of stickers for your trouble.”

“Stickers!” she cheers, and throws herself right onto her hurt leg in an attempt to hug him. Jason consoles her through all the screaming that comes after. Dr. Thompkins beams at him from the doorway the entire time.

There's a bit of a lull one day, and he's able to talk Dr. Thompkins into ordering pizza to the front desk.

“I wish you would call me Leslie,” she says through a mouth full of cheese and bread. She used to have manners. Jason is corrupting her. “Dr. Thompkins sounds so callous.”

“Leslie,” he tests, wincing at how wrong it feels. Like they're old friends or some shit. Disrespectful. “Ms. Leslie?” he tries and looks to her for input.

She's just opening her mouth respond when the door slams open with such force that the lack of shattering glass following is almost a surprise, and Batwoman comes tumbling in.

“Jesus fuck,” Jason yelps, his pizza falling to the ground with a wet splat.

“Well, this is new!” Ms. Leslie says as she rushes over to support the bleeding woman.

“I was hoping,” Batwoman croaks out, “that we would meet under nicer circumstances.”

“I'm assuming I can mark you down as a referral?” Ms. Leslie asks, calm as you like, as she half drags the vigilante into one of the rooms. Jason follows in a kind of shocked daze. “What happened?”

“Blood loss,” she breathes. “I think. From stab wounds. Lot of them? Maybe? I—ugh!” There's a painful looking wince as Ms. Leslie starts to prod at her stomach. “Suit caught most of the damage, but I didn't—I'm sorry about this. I—I wasn't sure if I'd make it back to my place. My head...”

“Uh,” Jason says, growing more confused by the moment, and quickly regrets it when he finds himself under the fucking Batwoman's gaze.

“Who's this?” she asks, her tone a little sharper.

“My assistant,” Ms. Leslie answers shortly. “Jason,” she turns to him, “hand me those scissors—no the other ones.” He does, and she grabs them before turning back to Batwoman. “I hope you have a backup uniform somewhere because this one is not surviving.”

“Ugh,” Batwoman grunts, leaning her head back onto the bed. “Dammit.”

Jason runs a nervous hand down his face as Ms. Leslie starts cutting away Batwoman's uniform. He's not sure if he should look away or...

He ends up sort of looking between the space beside the pounds of red hair spilling out from under the cowl to the door very rapidly—anywhere but her midsection. This is insane. Maybe nobody would notice if he just kinda ran out of the room.

“Calm down, kid.” He looks up to find Batwoman looking at him again, smiling weakly this time. “You look paler than me right now, and I'm exsanguinating.”

“Sorry—I—It's been a day,” he tells her.

“You got lucky this time,” Ms. Leslie interrupts as Batwoman begins to respond to that, reaching behind her to motion for her bandages without even looking. “These aren't deep at all. Flesh wounds,” she continues as Jason presses them into her hand. “I think they might have been coated with something to cause your lightheadedness. I've had a few people come in with these same symptoms. A new gang coating their weapons with some sort of poison—not long lasting at all, but enough to put someone down and go through their pockets. The composition of your costume's fabric wouldn't have allowed much to reach your skin if it's the same as your, ah, associate. Tell me, did you see a symbol on their jacket pockets?”

Ms. Leslie varies between light conversations about gang violence and scolding Batwoman as she cleans the wounds, pausing only to motion for Jason to hand her things occasionally. Batwoman takes her cowl off a few minutes in at Ms. Leslie's urging. Really, it can't be easy to breathe behind that thing. It's a bit of a shock when all that red hair comes off with it, though.

Jason isn't really sure what he was expecting—he's never seen a hero unmasked before—but it's pretty uneventful. There are dark, dark circles under her eyes, and he realizes he never really thought of the people behind the lean, mean crime fighting machines. It's disillusioning to say the least.

“Alright,” Ms. Leslie says after a few more minutes. “I think you'll survive the night.” She sighs as she places the leftover bandages on the counter. “I may have some clothes about your size that'll get you home. Give me just a moment.” She pats Jason on the shoulder as she exits the room, leaving him alone with Batwoman.

There's a few beats of uncomfortable silence before Jason notices that her teeth are chattering. He's been dutifully looking away from her exposed skin, but, when he finally gets over himself, she has her arms wrapped around herself, rocking slightly back and forth.

“Oh,” he says. “Do you want a blanket? Here I can—” He opens one of the cabinets where blankets are supposed to be only to find it bare. Damn. “Here,” he turns back to her, stripping his jacket off and handing it over.

“No, no,” she shakes her head, “it's fine. I don't want to bleed all over your clothes.”

“It's fine,” he promises. “I have too many, anyway.” He has way too much stuff, these days. He's getting spoiled.

Batwoman looks at him dubiously, but, after a few more violent shivers, gives in and takes it. She pulls the hood over her head and pulls her knees up into a chilly looking ball. They sit in a more companionable silence until Ms. Leslie comes back.

Jason dutifully leaves the room as Batwoman begins to remove the rest of her ruined costume. She's shoving her cowl and the tattered ruins of her costume into a bag that Ms. Leslie provides her when she comes into the lobby, still looking a little pale but better than she had a few moments ago. She tries to offer Jason his jacket back, but he refuses. It's cold out.

“It's red,” she argues weakly and despite her nightly attire. “Redheads aren't supposed to wear red, you know. It clashes.”

“You make it work,” he promises with a smile, and she shakes her head.

“You're cute, kid,” she says, ruffles his hair as she walks out the door, and then she's gone into the night.

“So,” Ms. Leslie says from beside him as he stares after her, “I may have neglected to mention some of my more... eccentric patients.”

 


 

It's mercifully quiet for a couple months after that. Jason's birthday comes and goes. He reaches legal adulthood with a whole day of stunned silence. He's quiet enough that Ms. Leslie asks him if something's wrong multiples times. He's fine, he tells her. He just never thought he'd live this long, he doesn't tell her.

Ms. Leslie has started paying him for his help, which he dislikes very much. He's living in her house for free—that's more than enough. But she always slips it under his pillow like an oversharing tooth fairy if he refuses it. By his 18th, he's got enough to buy a plot and a rinky little tombstone for his mom. Her body isn't there, Jason knows, as he traces the engraved letters. It's buried in an unmarked grave somewhere outside the city limits like all the other saps who dared to die while being poor, and Jason is nowhere near rich enough to get it moved. Maybe one day.

And then, a week after, along comes Robin.

He just kind of drops out of the sky one muggy evening, landing right outside of the clinic doors with a thud and a loud groan that's audible through the thick glass doors.

“The hell,” Jason says as the spandex clad fool tries to open the locked door, continuing to pull at the door even when it refuses to open. He puts down his book and half jogs over.

“You're not Dr. Thompkins,” Robin informs him before he's even got the door open, backing up a couple steps and wincing.

“There's those legendary skills of observation,” Jason deadpans as he opens the door in a clear invitation for him to enter. He doesn't.

“Where is she?” he asks, clearly unamused, in a threatening tone. Great.

“I killed her,” Jason tells him, voicing what the guy is obviously speculating. Ass. “Yeah, I was sort of in the middle of stashing the body, so if we could hurry this up that would be great.”

Robin stares at him, his eyebrows climbing above his weird little mask as his mouth falls slightly open in surprise.

“She went to pick up an order of supplies, jackass.” Jason rolls his eyes. “Hence the locked door. I'm not supposed to let anyone in, but I'm trying to get you to come in here before someone decides to jump you while you're out in the open. Not many people in this part of town are that fond of you, you know?” He motions for Robin to enter, but he, again, doesn't.

“Who are you?” he asks instead, still looking terribly suspicious.

“Fucking hell, dude! I'm her assistant! Now would you please.” He motions again, more irritably this time.

“Fine, fine, jeez,” Robin finally limps inside. “Don't have a stroke. Excuse me for not wanting to follow a murderer into a secluded area.”

“I'll break your other leg,” Jason promises as he herds the vigilante into one of the lobby chairs. He's still giving Jason a suspicious sort of side-eye, so he doesn't think that trying to lead him into the back of the office would be a good idea.

“Comforting,” he says as he seats himself. “I think it's fine, though. I just couldn't run on it anymore.”

Jason hums as he crouches down. “Let me take a look anyway.”

It occurs to him as he's taking off Robin's boot to examine the injury how weird this situation is and how well he's taking it. Jason has been mentally preparing himself for something like this ever since Ms. Leslie explained some of her special patients to him. He didn't think he'd be alone when it happened, though. He could fuck this up big time and put Robin out of commission, he realizes as he pushes the weird material of his costume up and away from the injured ankle, and wake up with Batman standing over his bed at night planning on murdering him or something to avenge his now legless sidekick. No pressure. Ms. Leslie has been teaching him how to deal with little injuries like this for a while now, and he's at least got the adrenaline rush he's currently experiencing to keep him focused.

“How'd it happen?” he asks, then tilts his head, adding, “Nice Spongebob sock, by the way.”

“If you see a woman with a giant whip, you should probably run the other way,” Robin informs him. “And thanks.”

“Good life advice in general,” Jason says as he continues examining the bruised ankle. He's watched Ms. Leslie treat hundreds of sprains and breaks by now, so he's pretty sure he can tell the difference. He wants to be sure, though.

“I'm at Dr. Thompkins',” Robin suddenly declares into the silence, and Jason jumps a little at the interruption of his focus. He looks up, preparing to check for a head injury or something, when Robin taps at his ear, looking apologetic. A communicator, Jason realizes. Some kind of built in Bat-phone. Weird. Everything about this is weird.

“No,” he continues, “I'm fine. She just got my leg pretty good. Couldn't run from them anymore, so I'm just laying low here for a minute.” A pause. “Nah. I'll make it back on my own. Maybe just a little slow, but—”

“Oh, no, no,” Jason interrupts, shaking his head. “You are not walking anywhere on this.”

Robin throws him a dirty look. “No, it's not her. She's got, like, a nurse now.” Another pause and he snorts. “I think he's worse, actually.” Then, he sighs. “Yeah, I guess... Yes. Of course. Sorry.” Robin presses a hand to his ear—doing something with the communicator that's apparently lodged in there, Jason guesses—and frowns at Jason. “Thanks,” he says. “You got me chewed out by the boss.”

“Forgive me for trying to protect the integrity of your joints.”

He mumbles vengefully under his breath as Jason fetches the brace and an ice pack from the back room, stopping only to swat the brace away.

“Keep it,” he says, shaking his head when Jason tries to protest. “The clinic needs all the supplies it can get.” He pauses. “Gimme that ice, though.”

There is a slight struggle when Jason tries to demonstrate the proper height to elevate. He offers Robin one of the suckers they keep around for unruly kids half way through, and that seems to placate him.

“I wish you would stick around until Dr. Thompkins gets back,” Jason tells him as he helps him to his feet when a sleek looking black car pulls up out front. “I'm no professional.”

“I can tell,” he quips, and Jason has to remind himself not to just throw the little ass on the ground.

“Fine,” Jason says, opening the door and shuffling them both through. “Enjoy your ligaments while you have them.”

Robin scoffs. “I'll be fine,” he promises as they reach the car. He opens the door then hesitates, hopping on one leg to turn back around and face Jason. “Thanks,” he says.

“I better not see you jumping around on that leg,” Jason threatens with a finger wag he's seen Ms. Leslie use a few times before. “At least a week.”

There's something that sounds like a stifled laugh from the car's driver as Robin shakes his head and lowers himself into the backseat.

“Sir, yes, sir!” he laughs and fires off a sarcastic salute before closing the door. Then, he's gone, the perfectly polished car looking starkly out of place as it rolls down the dirty, dusty streets. Jason goes inside, locks the door, and vows to never tell Ms. Leslie about this.

 


 

He gets ratted out by the goddamn Batman. Because that's what his life has become lately.

Jason comes back from the store one miserable afternoon a couple days later, shaking the raindrops out of his hair, and finds an oddly familiar looking man in a very expensive suit leaning on the counter. A little part of Jason that he's desperately trying to quiet these days squeals about what a good score he'd be. That watch alone...

“Ah!” the man says, mercifully interrupting that train of thought, and straightens with a too-wide grin as Jason stops in the middle of the lobby. “You must be Jason!” The man closes the space between them with a couple steps and extends a hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“Uh,” Jason says as he takes it and is pulled into a strong—shit, really strong—handshake. “Hi.” He peers around the man to see Ms. Leslie all but rolling her eyes from behind the counter. Not a threat, then? He still has no idea what's going on.

“I have an... associate who you helped out in a pinch,” the man tells him, pulling out an envelope from inside his suit and holding it out. “He sends his thanks,” he continues as Jason tears at the paper, “and I should be going! A CEO's work is never done.” He pats Jason on the shoulder as he passes, throwing a, “Wayne Enterprises is always looking for new workers if you ever become interested. It pays well!” over his shoulder as he leaves.

Jason reads and re-reads the letter a few times before he moves from the middle of the room. It's a short, vague, and overly-formal thank you letter signed in black pen with an enigmatic cursive B and a great big R in different handwriting. He stares down at it in dull surprise for a while.

“That was Bruce Wayne,” he realizes, looking up to find Ms. Leslie looking at him expectantly. His mouth just sort of hangs open for a moment as it all clicks together. Ms. Leslie shakes her head.

“I told him you were smart,” she says with a laugh.

“Bruce Wayne,” Jason says again. It makes so much and so little sense at the same time.

“Bruce Wayne,” she confirms, then crosses her arms, tilts her head. “And he told me the most interesting story.”

 


 

Jason has his first death in September. In retrospect, it's kind of amazing that it took this long all things considered, but that doesn't make it any less terrible. Her name is Bette, she tells him right before puking all over his shirt, and she's not exactly young. She's obviously been an addict for a long, long time, and she's trying to quit, but she's had a major relapse. The combined stress of the withdraws and the major OD are just too much. She refuses to let them take her to a hospital that has the equipment to actually help her, just keeps saying how she didn't want to be alone.

Jason stays by her bedside the entire time, petting her hair and lying to her about how everything is going to be fine until she falls asleep and doesn't wake up.

“It's fine,” he tells Ms. Leslie when she tries to talk to him after. “I'm just tired.”

He goes up to his room and just stares blankly at the ceiling for a while. When he does, finally, actually sleep, he dreams of things worse than death—snippets of terrifyingly normal life. His father is in them, even, next to his mother in their pristine kitchen, laughing and drinking his coffee. He kisses his mother on the cheek as she places a loving hand Jason's back and ruffles Jason's hair before heading off to work—a real job, he knows in that way that dreams automatically provide information, one in some kind of office where he does legitimate work. He opens the door and there is nothing but swirling darkness outside, pulling him in and swallowing him whole and—

Jason jerks himself awake so violently that he nearly brains himself on the headboard.

He's not exactly keen on sleep anymore after that, finally getting bored at around 3AM and deciding to risk waking Ms. Leslie up so he can go downstairs and try maybe sort files or something to make himself useful.

His tiptoeing turns out to be pointless when he finds her downstairs splinting a spandex-clad man's leg in the first exam room.

“Oh,” she says when Jason appears in the doorway. “Good morning.”

“Hello,” the guy adds with a wave and an uncomfortable looking smile.

Jason returns the wave hesitantly. “Uh. Hi.”

“This is... Nightwing,” Ms. Leslie introduces, apparently putting the finishing touches on her work and .

“Pleasure,” Nightwing says, then clears his throat, looking between the two of them. “Not to be rude, but, uh, who are you?”

“Jason here is my...” she hesitates, looking to Jason for some sort of explanation of their relationship.

“I'm sort of like a live-in assistant.”

“My personal candy striper,” Ms. Leslie says, then laughs. “Maybe I should get him an outfit.”

Nightwing snorts. “That would be... something.”

If Jason were a little less humble, he would swear that was a once-over he just got. He raises an eyebrow, but Nightwing is distracted by Ms. Leslie as she taps gently his leg, drawing his attention back to her.

“The splint will be fine for a while—a short while. You need to go to a hospital as soon as possible. First thing in the morning. I'll,” she cuts herself off with a somewhat irritated sigh. “I'll make up some sort of excuse as to why you came to me instead of an ER if you need me to.”

“It's fine,” he assures. “I'll think of something. I—uh—thanks again.” He goes to move, but Ms. Leslie is quick to push him back down.

“No, no, no, you aren't going anywhere. I've called Bruce—”

Nightwing makes a strangled noise, looking pointedly at Jason.

“Oh, relax, he knows. Now, I've called Bruce, and he's sending a car. You are not walking on that leg.”

“How does he know?! I was just here a few months ago—”

Exactly. It's been months since you've been back. Things have changed, and don't you give me that look. I wasn't the one who told him. Bruce was.”

“He just—” Nightwing starts, then stops, pressing his mouth into a hard line with a huff. “I'm sorry,” he says. “We had a spat.”

“I gathered,” Ms. Leslie sighs. “Jason, would you go and get me some ibuprofen from the back? Nightwing here will need it for the road.”

“Uh,” Jason says, stopping where he's been rubbing the sleep away from his eyes. It's too early for all this mess. “Yeah, sure, of course.”

“Secret identities used to mean something to him,” he hears Nightwing hiss from inside the room.

“I know it must be hard leaving,” Ms. Leslie says as he makes his way down the hall, deliberately slow so as to eavesdrop as long as possible, “but you can't just be an ass to everyone who associates with him. No, hush, I'm not just talking about Jason and you know it—”

He digs around for a while, deliberately slow in finding the pills as he has no desire to stand uncomfortably in the corner while Ms. Leslie lectures yet another superhero. He comes back to find Ms. Leslie is helping Nightwing up off the bed when Jason comes back. He spots Jason in the doorway and gives him a guilty look as he's handing Ms. Leslie the medicine.

“However long the doctor tells you to stay off of that leg, you stay off of it,” she's telling him as she follows him out of the room. Jason trails behind and finds an older man in strangely formal dress waiting in the middle of the lobby. His face falls into something fond when Nightwing and Ms. Leslie round the corner.

“Long night, Master Grayson?” he asks, then nods cordially at Ms. Leslie. “Dr. Thompkins.”

She answers with a sigh. “Your boys will be the death of me.”

“No doubt,” the man responds as he moves to hold the door for Nightwing.

Nightwing stops just inside the door, steadying himself on the door frame to turn back with the same guilty look. “Thank you, Dr. Thompkins,” he says, then turns his gaze on Jason. “And, uh, thank you, too, Jason.”

Jason shifts uncomfortably. “Don't mention it,” he tells him, and there's something about the way the smile slides onto Nightwing's face before he turns and leaves.

Ms. Leslie sighs, and throws an arm over Jason's shoulders. “You should get back to sleep,” she tells him as they make their way to the stairs leading up to her apartment.

 


 

It rains on Monday, pulling in a bone-chilling cold front that's sure to set the tone for the coming months.

Jason is making a soup run to the dinky cafe down the street that sells Ms. Leslie's favorite when someone appears beside him.

“Hey, there,” the guy greets a little too cheerfully out of absolutely nowhere, and Jason jumps about three feet in the air before whirling around to shove him.

“Fuck off,” he says. “I don't have any money.”

“What?” He seems bewildered before he realizes. “Oh! No, I'm not mugging you!”

“Oh,” Jason says, giving the guy a look when he just stands there like he's waiting for something to click.

“Sorry, I—” The stranger shakes his head like he's refocusing himself. “I'm Dick,” he greets, holding out a hand for a shake.

Jason doesn't take it, just squints at it dubiously. “What do you want?”

“Well,” Dick says, frowning as he withdraws his hand, “I wanted to thank you for helping me out the other night,” he sticks his leg out a little, and Jason notices the cast for the first time, “and apologize for being, well, a proper dick.”

It takes Jason a moment. “Oh,” he says when he realizes. Then, in his surprise, “I'm pretty sure you're supposed to have crutches with that.”

Nightwing snorts before shoving his hands in his pockets, shifting his weight to his good leg. Jason hesitantly turns to continue on his way, not sure if he should just stand in the middle of the sidewalk in the pouring rain for the entirety of this conversation, but Dick trails right along beside him.

“Look, I just—I feel like I gave you a pretty shitty first impression,” he says as he easily keeps pace with Jason. He's not sure if it's more impressive or worrying how accustomed he seems to be at maneuvering around with a broken bone.

“Nah,” Jason assures. “Half the first impressions I get are someone puking on my shoes.”

“Being better than vomit isn't good enough,” Dick huffs. He furrows his brow and gives Jason a serious look. “We're probably going to be seeing a lot of each other, and I don't want you to think I dislike you.”

“You expect to get your ass kicked a lot, huh?”

“If the past few months are anything to judge by...” he trails off with a shrug and a motion to his general, injured person.

“Yeah, well, don't worry. I won't botch any operations just because you said some vaguely assholeish things when we first met.”

Dick sighs. “I wasn't trying to imply that.” He shakes his head as Jason opens the door to the cafe, ducking in after him, apparently not willing to let this quest for friendship or whatever this is die. “Here, let me get this for you,” he says, pulling out his wallet before Jason has even ordered anything.

He sighs. “Please, don't.”

Dick frowns but doesn't protest, just shoves his cash back in his pocket and waits for Jason to finish what he's doing. He doesn't stick around when Jason leaves, though, follows him right out the door.

“Okay, I didn't buy you dinner this time,” he starts up once they're back on the street, “but how about another time?”

Jason fixes him with a look. “Why are you under the impression that you owe me something? If you're gonna be up someone's ass for helping you, it should be Ms. Leslie.”

“Maybe I just want to get to know you,” Dick says innocently.

Feel him out is more like it. He wasn't exactly overflowing with trust the other night. “I have to get back to the clinic,” Jason says noncommittally.

“I didn't mean now,” he says. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Nothing,” Jason admits. “But Ms. Leslie might need me for something.”

“I'm sure she wouldn't mind,” he promises. He must see something in Jason's face, then, because he stops his cheesy grinning and dons a more serious expression. “I'll leave you alone if you want,” he says seriously. “Say the word, and I'm gone.”

Jason hesitates at that for a moment before he gives a jerky shrug. “I don't mind,” he admits, and finds it rings true.

Dick smiles a little softer this time. “Alright,” he says. “Pick you up at five?”

“Fine,” Jason sighs with faux annoyance, “you win.”

“I always do,” he promises with a wink, and spins—on the heel of his cast, the idiot—to take off in the other direction. “See you then!”

“Hey!” Jason shouts back at him. “If you don't have your crutches, I'm not going anywhere!”

Dick spins around on his cast—again—and fires off a mocking salute before continuing down the street. Jackass.

That guy's gonna be a thorn in his side, he can already tell.

He smiles all the way home.