Chapter 1: Chapter 7, Next Step
Once Joey was safely inside, he let his expression twist as he headed upstairs. Oh god, what the hell had he been thinking?
He forced himself to concentrate on navigating the Manor for now, and counted floors and doors until he got to his room. He shut it behind himself a little harder than usual and dropped his face into his hands. This was going to suck.
He breathed for a second, collecting himself, then began stripping off the suit. He left it on the bed while he went for his suitcase, but someone had already unpacked it into the tallboy in the corner. Joey huffed at the sight of his few shirts and pants barely filling in one drawer, then pulled out a t-shirt and workout shorts.
Slade had told him that basically everyone in the family except Alfred was a vigilante. Even Damian probably could fight better than he could. Jason was the second Batman. Joey had been a Teen Titan, sure--about eighty million years ago. Now he was barely a hero, and mostly just provided air support when he did anything at all. He was a tech exec, for fuck's sake. He was absolutely going to have his ass handed to him. He put his clothes on numbly and tried not to picture it.
Defeated. Pinned, tapping out. In front of everyone.
In front of Slade.
Pop had watched him fight before. Pop had always had strong opinions about his performance, he thought with a wince. The memories weren't particularly good. Some of those opinions came with bruises.
But. No, he signed emphatically to the room, trying to make himself believe it. Slade was a different man from Pop, had shown himself different in almost every possible way. Slade would probably be horrified if he had any idea that Joey was thinking of Slade responding to something Joey did the same way as Pop would. Even with Pop's face, it was growing increasingly hard to imagine Slade doing anything the way that Pop would.
But old habits died hard. Joey sank onto the bed and forced himself to breathe in the pattern that the therapist at rehab had taught him. The old anxieties were welling up, and he struggled to stay calm.
It was just a casual spar, he told himself. This was supposed to be just for fun, give people a chance to show off. Jason was a nice guy, from everything Slade had said and everything Joey had seen. He was a hero; he was Batman. He wouldn't deliberately try to make Joey look stupid or embarrass him, he wouldn't try to hurt him to earn points from their father. He reminded himself of how Jason had been earlier this morning when he showed him around--obviously feeling awkward and unsure but still trying to reassure him, friendly and sincere about wanting him to feel welcome even though Joey had invaded his life and his house and his relationship with Slade. That wasn't a guy who'd wipe the floor with him just to show he could.
It was going to be fine. He was sure. He was almost sure.
He stood up and headed for the door.
Guess he'd find out.
Chapter 2: Chapter 7, Next Step
Slade fell into step beside Joey as they headed back to the house. "Nice moves," he said, dropping a hand on his shoulder, and Joey jumped a little.
Thanks, he signed, looking a little hesitant. It's been a while since I trained seriously, I'm not very good. I… He looked nervous, his hands hanging in midair. I used to be better, he signed, and Slade could have sworn that Joey was bracing himself for a strike, his shoulders tense under Slade's hand. Slade felt a familiar surge of rage towards his counterpart and smothered it with what was becoming expert thoroughness. He made sure his grip stayed soft, giving nothing away.
"You landed a solid hit on Batman," Slade pointed out, "and anyone else would have been on the ropes from it. Jason's just got a high pain tolerance, which you couldn't know. You did great."
Joey smiled hesitantly, and signed Thanks again. His shoulders loosened, just a bit. Next time I'll do better, though. I promise. Fuck.
"Do better if you want to," Slade said, and very gently shook Joey by the shoulder, trying to push his point home. "I don't care how good a fighter you are, you don't have to promise me shit." He waited a second, made sure Joey was looking at his face. He was going to nip this shit in the bud. "As long as you're happy, that's all I give a damn about."
Joey shivered a little and Slade ached at the look in his eyes. He nodded after a beat, and for a moment his body pressed up against Slade's as they walked. Slade dropped his arm around Joey's shoulders and hugged him, then let him go.
"I'm so glad you're here, kid," he said, as they stepped inside, letting the transition from bright sunshine to dark house allow Joey a moment of privacy to wipe his face. "And I don't care if you never win a fight again. You're my son."
Chapter 3: Chapter 35, After It's Over
That night, like a switch was flipped, Jason dreamed.
He was back on Santa Prisca, in the ocean and surrounded by sharks. The sun was intensely bright above them, and the water was impossibly blue. Joey was with him, and Jason was wearing his wetsuit but Joey wasn't, was just in the swimming trunks he'd worn at the pool. His hair was gold in the sun, and his eyes were the same color as the ocean.
Jason felt cool, rough sandpaper under his fingers and caught the dorsal fin of the shark that swam past. His dive gear was gone, and the water felt good on his face as he was pulled along. He wasn't breathing but it felt natural, comfortable. He was floating, and it was effortless.
The skin underneath his fingertips changed, became warm and smooth. Jason held Joey's shoulder and pulled him around, until they were underwater facing each other. Joey was talking, his mouth moving, but Jason couldn't hear what he was saying. His hair was a soft cloud around his head, and he was so incredibly warm in Jason's hand, he felt so good. The water wasn't cool anymore, but Jason shivered anyway. His wetsuit was gone.
Joey smiled, and it was like sunlight underwater. He reached out and touched Jason, fingers like a smear of heat on his chest, and Jason shuddered awake with a groan, gasping for air. His head was spinning.
He trembled for a minute and took stock of himself. He was sweating, tangled in the sheets. One hand was down at his hip, between his legs, and he'd been--been grinding into it, he realized, flushing hard. It was wet now, and his whole body felt relaxed, buzzing with endorphins.
Oh fuck, Jason thought, and squeezed his eyes shut. All the warm feelings were fading away, and he felt cold and shaky.
His bedroom was dark and he didn't turn the lights on when he gingerly slid out of bed and stripped off his clothes, wiping himself off. He didn't want to look at himself, and he didn't want to look at his sheets, and he didn't want to look at his stupid traitorous cock, soft and pleasantly sensitive when he pulled on a pair of clean pajama pants.
He felt his sheets in the dark and decided to ignore the few damp spots he found, crawled back into bed and curled up with his face in a pillow.
Wet dreams, he thought with despair. Like a goddamn teenager. Only he'd never even had them when he was a teenager--too stressed trying to stay alive in a hostile world, he'd always figured. Now he was having wet dreams at the age of twenty-seven, after a single conversation with a guy, and he felt like his face might burn off with the shame of it.
The house was dark and quiet and Jason tried to calm his breathing, let the lassitude of orgasm take him back into sleep. If he couldn't avoid it, he thought bitterly, he might as well take advantage of it.
The last thing he thought of before he fell back asleep was Joey's smile in the dream, and Joey's hand reaching out to touch him.
Against his will, it made him feel warm again.
Chapter 4: After It's Over, Chapter 39
Joey let himself into his room and shut the door behind him, then reached a hand down to squeeze himself. His cock throbbed and for a second he was afraid he might lose it right there.
Fuck, he thought, dizzily. Oh fuck.
Jason. Joey stumbled towards the bed, fumbling with his pants. He shoved his jeans and briefs down his hips together and kicked them off, then sprawled out on the bed and blinked at the ceiling. He could feel his cock twitching against his stomach and forced himself not to touch it for a minute, trying to catch his breath.
Joey closed his eyes and forced himself to relax, squirmed until he was more comfortable on the bed. He breathed deeply and rubbed his hands down his sides, staying away from his cock.
Jason was all he could think about.
Jason, his broad shoulders as he turned away and pulled his shirt off, unflinching and determined. The heavy muscles of his back shifting as he moved, the rough rippled skin of his scars throwing shadows over his skin in the warm light.
Jason, his skin hot under Joey's fingers. He hadn't meant to touch, he'd been afraid he'd screwed up at first, but Jason had only shivered and let him, let him stroke delicately up the long line of pale ridged scar next to his spine. Joey didn't think he'd ever been the recipient of such trust.
Jason, his pale face when he turned back around, braced for the worst but so brave, so goddamn brave that Joey wanted nothing more than to hold him forever, show him in every way possible that Joey thought he was gorgeous, that his scars made him even more beautiful because they were a reminder that he was alive, that he'd survived. He ached for the pain Jason had experienced and his dick was rock-hard as Jason clung to him and cried, his head swimming at the overwhelming emotions crashing through him.
And then the kiss.
Joey let out a soft huff of air as he gave in and took himself in hand. His cock was so hard it was almost painful, and he hissed and squirmed as he brushed his index finger over the head, gathering up droplets on his fingertip and smearing them around. He shuddered up into the touch, unable to force himself to slow, feeling like he'd been hard forever.
The kiss had been amazing, Jason's mouth soft under his. Jason had followed his lead without hesitation and Joey had felt a devastating surge of tenderness at the way Jason touched his waist, opened his mouth, leaned into his space. Trusted him. He'd never been with someone so…so new, never been the one who had to take the lead like this before. He'd felt terrifyingly protective and also like he might die a little, his cock trapped and urgent.
Joey could barely catch his breath. He moved his hand over his cock a bit faster, wishing he had something to slick himself up with but even touching himself dry it felt too good to stop. His brain kept flipping through sense images, every one of them accompanied by a surge of emotion. Jason's face, soft and dazed with pleasure when the kiss ended. Jason's hands warm on his sides. Jason's hard thighs tight against his as he sat close beside him. Jason's tongue tentatively meeting his.
His balls ached, and he flushed when he heard the little gasping, wheezing sounds he was making--the only sounds he could make now, very loud in the quiet room. He couldn't help himself, but they sounded so bizarre--he wondered what Jason would think of them. The thought made the tension in his groin draw tighter even as he felt himself go red with embarrassment.
And then. "I love you." Oh god, it wasn't real, it couldn't be real--not yet--but the thought that his touch, his kiss was enough to throw smart, competent, self-possessed Jason so completely for a loop was intoxicating and Joey let himself wallow in it, just for a moment. He could fall in love with Jason, he knew. He was close already. He cared for him, cared about him, wanted him to be happy. Too soon, he thought helplessly, but that was the way he was, wasn't it?
He remembered Jason's red face, the way his hands shook ever so slightly where they held him, the way he'd been braced for rejection. His hips were bucking up into his hand, and he wanted to hold Jason and never let him go and he wanted to stand between him and the world, and he wanted to kiss him again and never stop. He thumbed the head of his cock, rubbing the delicate skin around the slit, and grunted helplessly. Everything was tumbled together in his head, and it was too much. He couldn't keep a single thought still for more than a moment.
When he came, he stopped thinking and it was almost a relief.
He listened to his panting in the quiet afterwards, traced absent lines through the cooling smears of come on his stomach, and thought about Jason's hand in his, the look in his face when they'd said goodnight.
He needed to go slow, he thought, rubbing his fingertips together, feeling the tacky sensation as his come dried. Slow, slower than he'd ever gone before. He wanted Jason but he wanted Jason to be happy, to be comfortable, to be okay. Everything at his pace, nothing too fast. Jason had been hurt badly, and he was maybe the bravest person Joey knew--which was saying something--and Joey would rather cut his hands off than push him, make him uncomfortable.
His pace, he signed to the room, feeling resolved and determined. No pressure, no rush. He'd let Jason make all the moves at his own speed, make sure he knew Joey was there to meet him when he was ready but that Joey wasn't going anywhere and that they had all the time in the world. Honestly, Joey thought a little ruefully, if just a couple kisses and some handholding were enough to make him lose it like this, he could probably do with going a bit slow himself. His hand wasn't going anywhere, and Jason was too important to fuck this up.
He sat up and headed to the bathroom, stripping off his shirt as he went. He needed to shower, and then sleep. They'd talk more in the morning, that was for sure. He'd never been around a group of people that was so good at communication, that was so willing and able to share their feelings. It was a lot to get used to, and Christ knew it wasn't what Joey had come to expect from Bats, but it certainly seemed to work for them.
God, Jason's family. Joey cringed a little at the thought of facing Slade over the breakfast table when he and Jason had been kissing the night before. He didn't have a single hope of trying to keep it from Slade, who was just as perceptive as his Pop had been, and he was sure Slade would have an opinion about Joey possibly getting together with his son. Slade wasn't his Pop, though and Jason sure as hell wasn't Ish. Maybe it would go better this time. Jason's brothers hadn't seemed to mind the idea when they told Jason about it. And Bruce hadn't treated him any differently over the last few days.
Maybe it would all be okay.
Maybe…maybe he'd even get to kiss Jason again.
He licked his lips, tasting Jason, and smiled hopefully.
Chapter 5: Legacy's Sway, Chapter 5
Joey went back to Jason and dug his wallet out as soon as he came in, the heavy hotel door falling shut behind him. "He admitted it?" Jason asks, gleefully, sitting up from where he was lounging on the bed with a book.
No, Joey signed one handed, but he's, like, one or two weeks away from it, max. He pulled out a twenty and tossed his wallet towards the dresser, feeling every so slightly disgruntled. They'd had the bet since Will left for Star City and even not knowing who most of the team would be, Joey hadn't been able to picture his pop picking up another kid after what had come before. Jason had just laughed at him and pointed out that after all, Bruce had only been the first of his two dads to adopt him.
"I'll take that," Jason said, pulling Joey down next to him and snuggling close while one hand deftly plucked the twenty away from Joey. Joey huffed a mock grumble and Jason smirked and kissed his nose as he tucked it into his jeans pocket. Joey rolled his eyes at Jason's antics and refused to laugh, although it was tough. Jason was cute when he was gloating. "Thad Wilson, though. Has a nice ring to it."
I just can't believe I'm getting a new little brother, Joey said, and leaned into Jason's shoulder, staring at the bland, inoffensive, profoundly boring excuse for modern art the hotel had chosen. The hotel was nice, for what it was, but it wasn't home. It was a constant reminder of what was going to happen soon, and that had him on edge at the same time that the boredom of waiting was starting to chafe. It was an uncomfortable feeling. He thought back to Thad, huddled close to his pop, and sighed a little. The kid seemed nice, but, well. Even with their bet, he hadn't ever seriously thought it would happen. It would take a little getting used to.
"I can," Jason said, shifting so that Joey was between his legs and leaning back into his chest, and Joey tipped his head back so that Jason's warm breath was against his ear. "I think it's nice," Jason murmured, and let his hands wander, sliding down Joey's sides to his hips and then back up to his chest, resting across his pecs, one thumb stroking his collarbone. "He's learning how to be a real dad."
Joey nodded against Jason's shoulder, and let his hands fold over Jason's before he lifted them away again. I think I don't want to talk about my pop anymore, he said, before twisting on one hip and kissing Jason's smile away.