As far as Dick is concerned, we need to talk might as well be the worst sentence in the English language. He's not sure there could even be a sentence that's worse than it, because we need to talk manages to so perfectly encapsulate intense anxiety in just four simple words.
We need to talk could be literally anything.
It could be a breakup. It could be a serious illness. It could be a death in the family.
Or it could be the fact that Joey has—somehow—figured out his secret identity.
It's a possibility any time he dates anyone who isn't in the vigilante community, just not a very likely one. He's taken plenty of steps to safeguard his identity, and even someone living with him wouldn't likely figure it out. The whole point is that he gets to tell them on his terms when he's ready.
And when he can be certain it's not going to put them in the line of fire.
Dick pinches at the bridge of his nose and tries not to stress about it. Maybe it's not something bad. They've been together for six months (albeit infrequently, the drive between New York and Gotham isn't exactly great), and it's entirely possible that Joey wants to take the next step and talk about finding a place together. Or maybe...
Nope, not happening. He's already stressed enough, and every minute he spends sitting there in the little cafe is really only serving to make him more stressed.
"Miss me?" Joey says in his ear, and Dick cranes around to spot his boyfriend coming up the sidewalk.
He reaches up, adjusting the bluetooth earpiece, and then gives a wave, waiting for him to get closer before he answers.
"More than you know," he admits. It's been a week since he's seen Joey, and a week seems like an increasingly long period of time to not see him.
Joey leans down to give him a peck on the cheek before taking the seat opposite him.
Joey looks normal, which helps Dick relax a bit. If it was something really bad, Joey would probably look stressed, but instead he looks nice and relaxed as he settles back in his seat.
And then Joey starts bouncing his foot and Dick realizes he's misinterpreted the situation. It's not that Joey isn't stressed. It's that Joey is going out of his way to not look stressed.
"You might as well start with it," Dick says. "Get it off your chest. If not I'm going to just spend the whole time worrying about it."
Nope, he is not beating around the bush on this one. Joey winces in response, letting out a sigh before answering.
"I was kind of hoping to get lunch," Joey admits, "but you're right, might as well address the elephant in the room."
Dick's good and tense, but gestures for Joey to go on anyway. Ignoring the problem isn't going to make it go away, and if it's a breakup...
...Well, then there's nothing he can really do about that.
"I made the mistake of letting pop find out I was dating someone," Joey admits, and Dick relaxes immediately. That's fine. They haven't done a meet the parents (Dick's not exactly tripping over himself to introduce anyone to Bruce Wayne for reasons he feels are fairly obvious, and anyone dating him showing too much interest in meeting Bruce too early is a pretty big red flag), and Joey hasn't said much about his own parents either. Dick knows they're divorced (Joey's sighed about the sort of things that only come with divorced parents), and he knows Joey's relationship with both of them (especially his father) is strained.
Beyond that? He doesn't know much. He's mentioned a sister and a brother, but only very briefly in passing. Joey's a private sort of guy, which is great because Dick tends to be too. Joey hasn't met any of his friends, in large part because there are obvious difficulties in explaining why he knows space aliens and superheroes without explaining that he himself is a superhero.
Maybe he should do that soon, though.
The more he thinks about it, the more convinced he becomes that he probably should. It seems like the right time. He's been with Joey long enough, and if he's being honest with himself, he's probably been putting it off longer than he should.
"He wants to meet you," Joey adds, squinting at Dick's lack of response.
"Oh, right," Dick says, snapping back to reality. "Sorry, I got distracted for a moment there. I guess I was just expecting something... a lot worse when you said we need to talk."
Joey rolls his eyes.
"This is worse," Joey says. "You just don't know it yet."
"Should I be expecting a shovel talk?"
"You should probably be expecting a shovel talk with an actual shotgun," Joey says. "Pop is... intense."
"So you're thinking he's going to try and intimidate me? I should tell you right now, I'm not easily intimidated."
He's faced down worse things than an overprotective father.
"If I thought you would be, I wouldn't even have let it get this far. I just know that if I don't let pop meet you, he'll show up on his own."
The more Dick thinks about it, the more he can't help but think man, this sounds just like Bruce, and that thought just makes his eyes roll. Controlling, overprotective, not willing to respect his kid's boundaries... oh boy is that familiar.
"Either way," Dick says, "we can do that whenever you want. I'm not against it or anything." Which means he's going to need to tell Joey about being Nightwing, and then probably set up a meeting with Bruce to make it even...
"Good, because he's waiting at the apartment," Joey says with a sigh. "Took everything I had to get him to stay up there and not come following after me to ambush you in the street."
Oh boy does that sound like Bruce.
"We can go now," Dick says. He's only had a glass of water, so he drops some money as a tip, finishes the glass, and leans over to give Joey a light peck. "Let's go meet your dad."
Joey's practically vibrating with anxiety as they take the elevator up to the penthouse. Dick's only been inside once (while very drunk), largely because it's a lot easier for Joey to come visit Bludhaven then it is for him to drive up to Manhattan. He knows it's big and that it's swanky and that he and Joey have very different tastes in decorating, but he doesn't get much time to really think about it while following Joey inside.
"Living room," Joey says, guiding Dick out of the entranceway as he kicks off his shoes. "I know he's pretty intimidating, but you'll be fine, alright?"
And Dick is pretty confident in his ability to be fine right until they turn the corner and he slams to a halt.
White hair and an all too familiar face as Slade fucking Wilson turns to look at him.
Did he just say 'Oh no' out loud? He's pretty sure he did. Which means there's absolutely no chance of trying to pretend like he doesn't recognize him.
Dick holds his hands up in the most universal I don't have a weapon so please don't stab me gesture he can muster.
"I want it on the record right now that I had no idea you two were related."
"You know my dad?" Joey says, looking absolutely flabbergasted.
"How can you not know we were related?" Slade says. "We have the same name."
"Wilson is a very common name!" Dick protests. "I've met like six Wilsons through work alone!"
Joey holds his hands up.
"Everyone hold on," he says. "Please tell me you don't know each other through work."
Slade gives Dick a look that could curdle milk.
"You're dating my son and you didn't feel the need to let him know you were a vigilante?"
"Again, I didn't know he was your son!"
Joey looks more horrified by the second.
"Dick?" Joey says. "What's he talking about?"
Well, it's literally already too late but he might as well say it he guesses.
Joey does not look as shocked as Dick would have hoped. No, he mostly looks annoyed.
"And you didn't think that was an important detail to share with me?"
"I'd say it was about as important to share with your significant other as the fact that your dad is Deathstroke."
"...Point taken," Joey admits. "It's not exactly something you bring up casually."
"Again, neither is... this." Dick gestures to himself. To his... nightwinginess.
"Joey," Slade snaps. "Did we not have a discussion about having private conversations with people around?"
Oh. Which means Slade's been hearing half of the conversation.
It was a private conversation, Joey signs at him. It wasn't meant to include you.
"Maybe you should," Slade says. "Considering I've got a history with your boyfriend."
That's nice, Joey signs. Too bad I don't care.
Slade looks... confused. Hell, Dick feels confused.
"What?" Slade says.
This works out perfectly for me, Joey signs. This means I don't have to worry about you doing anything stupid like trying to kill my boyfriend for looking at me the wrong way. Even better, you've already met him, which means I don't need any sort of introduction. So the whole meet the parents thing is already done.
"...Wha?" Dick mumbles. He... he doesn't get it. How is this happening? How is Joey just rolling over Slade Wilson? The man kills people for a living and Joey is just... man, he is not even afraid. Not even slightly.
Nope, you lost your chance, Joey signs. Make nice with Dick. Swear you're not going after him.
Dick's not sure who's more confused by the situation: him or Slade.
"If he tries to interfere with my work-"
He's my boyfriend, Joey signs. That takes priority over work.
Heard it, Joey signs. After you torched my last relationship, you owe me. If you want to start making it up to me, this is a place to start.
Promise, Joey signs. Now.
Dick looks at Slade.
Slade looks at Dick.
"...I won't target your boyfriend because he's your boyfriend," Slade mutters.
Good enough, Joey signs with a shrug. You going to be alright with this, Dick?
Dick's pretty sure Joey just got him out of murdered by Deathstroke.
"Uh, yeah. I'm good."
Great, Joey signs. Now I'm taking my boyfriend out for a nice long dinner, and you better be out by the time I get back.
Joey wraps an arm around Dick's shoulders, spinning him around and marching him back to the front door.
"...Thanks," Dick says quietly.
"No problem," Joey says through the earpiece. "So... when do I get to meet Batman?"
Dick just groans in response.