The tiles were hot under Jason’s bare feet. He shifted from one foot to the other, chewing his lip and staring at the pool. One hand fiddled with the hem of his swimming trunks. The water sparkled in the sun and Jason edged backward. Maybe if he just...went back inside. Yeah, he could tell Bruce that he wasn’t feeling up to it today, that’d get him off his back. Bruce was good about that kinda stuff. He turned around and came face-to-abs with Dick Grayson.
“Hey, Little Wing!” Dick said, grinning down at him. Jason side-stepped. Dick side-stepped too.
“Get outta my way, Dickface,” Jason snarled.
Dick raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong, Jay?”
“Nothin’s wrong. Fuck off.”
“Mmm, I don’t think I will. Thanks though!”
“You’re such a di-” Jason stopped himself at the broadening grin on Dick’s face. “Bastard,” he finished primly.
“Aw, Little Wing.” Jason found himself swept clean off his feet and slung like a sack of potatoes over Dick’s shoulder. A very light sack of potatoes. A sack of feathers maybe. “You’re hurting my feelings!”
“Lemme down!” Jason howled, feet flailing. “Lemme go!”
Dick laughed and practically pranced through the patio doors. Jason pummeled his back with his fists but Dick didn’t even seem to feel it. Bastard.
“Hey, Bruce!” Dick called, bursting into the kitchen. Bruce looked up from chatting with Alfred and raised a single eyebrow.
Jason took his chance, pinching Dick as hard as he could. Nails may have been involved. Dick yelped and dumped Jason into Bruce’s waiting arms. “Someone’s nervous,” he said. He rubbed at his shoulder, scowling at Jason. “And violent.” The glare would have been more effective if Dick wasn’t fighting a smirk.
“You’re the one that wouldn’t fucking let me down!” Jason yelled, trying to wriggle out of Bruce’s grip. Bruce was annoyingly good at juggling squirming preteens and he gave up with a huff.
“Language,” Bruce said distractedly. He was looking at Jason with that soft frown where his eyes got all soft and the skin on his forehead scrunched up and Jason needed to get out of this like yesterday. He tried to roll out of Bruce’s arms but only succeeded in getting his leg more firmly grasped. He groaned.
“What’s wrong, Jaylad?”
“Nothin! I’m fine! Dickface over there ambushed me!” Dick stuck out his tongue and Jason flipped him off as best he could while his limbs were trapped. Bruce sighed.
“Is this about your swimming lesson?”
Jason stilled. He glared at the floor. “I never said that.”
Bruce hummed. “Is it?”
Jason tried to squirm away again. “...of course not,” he said. Bruce could see the tip of his ear turning red.
“Of course not,” Bruce repeated. “Then there’s no reason for us not to start, hm?”
Jason froze, halfway through clambering over Bruce’s shoulder. “Um. Well-”
Bruce tilted his head to one side as Jason stuttered to a stop. The boy slumped over his shoulder. “No,” he said, sounding miserable.
Bruce hummed and strode back the way they had come, out into the sun. It really was a beautiful day. Jason hadn’t seen a lot of them growing up; the sun was always blotted out by the skyscrapers and smog. Too bad he was going to drown. He sighed, limp over Bruce’s shoulder, and wondered what Bruce would do if he just...didn’t move. Went all floppy. He had tried that once when he was really little with his da- Willis, and it...hadn’t gone well, but Bruce wouldn’t hit him.
He was still pondering the viability of this plan when Bruce set him on his feet. “What’s bothering you, Jason?” he asked gently. Jason looked away but Bruce put a hand on his shoulder. “You don’t have to be scared,” he tried.
“M’not scared!” Jason yelled, jerking away. He shouldn’t have looked over at the water when he moved away though, because he froze up a little and he was with two detectives they totally noticed-
“Don’t worry, Little Wing! It’s just water!” Dick said.
Jason scowled, folding his arms tightly around himself. Bruce tilted his head to one side and hummed thoughtfully. Then he turned and was in front of Dick in two large steps.
“What’re you-” Dick cut off with a yelp as Bruce scooped him up with barely more effort than he did Jason. “Bruce!” Dick yelled, flailing. Jason watched, open-mouthed, as Bruce walked calmly to the edge of the pool. “Bruce!” Dick grabbed at the man’s arms but couldn’t get a grip. “Bruce I swear to God, I’m not wearing-”
Bruce grinned. Jason took two large steps back, wondering if he was next. Dick exploded out of the water, hair flattened over his face, still yelling. “Bruce!”
“What’s the matter, Chum?” Bruce asked, sincerity painted over his face. “It’s just water.”
Jason couldn’t help it; he laughed. Bruce’s smile came back, even wider. Dick scoffed, pushing his hair back with one hand while treading water. “I cannot believe you.” He was at the edge of the pool in a few powerful strokes, reaching one hand out. “At least help me out.”
Bruce raised one eyebrow so high it almost disappeared into his hairline. “Help you out,” he repeated, voice flat. Dick nodded, grinning. Jason looked between the two of them. There was clearly something going on that he wasn’t aware of. Bruce sighed, sounding resigned, and reached down, clasping Dick’s arm. Jason’s eyes widened as Dick braced his feet on the wall and pulled hard.
Bruce didn’t budge.
“Oh my God, why are you so fat?” Dick panted, still pulling.
“Excuse me?” Bruce asked, sounding offended. He was smirking though. Jason grinned. Dick made eye contact with him and a grin of his own spread over his face.
Jason could see the muscles in Bruce’s back tensing as he prepared to turn around, but he didn’t give him the chance. With a war cry, he raced forward, slamming into the back of Bruce’s legs as hard as he could. Dick pulled from the front, laughing loudly.
The combined attack proved to be too much, and Bruce fell forwards with a short shout of surprise. Jason laughed madly for the second it took him to realize that there was no way he could keep himself from falling in as well. He shrieked, the water rushed up, and everything was bubbles and muffled shouting and he couldn’t breathe.
Strong arms wrapped around him and Jason coughed as he was hoisted out of the water. “Are you alright?” Bruce demanded, staring into his eyes. Jason spit out some pool water and considered the question. Dick broke the surface, still laughing even as he gasped for breath.
“Your face,” he wheezed. He held out a hand for Jason to high-five. “Nice one, Jay!”
Jason looked from Dick’s hand to Bruce. He grinned and completed the high-five. “That was awesome!”
Bruce huffed, but a smile slowly spread over his face. “And you’re in the water.” He raised one eyebrow meaningfully, “And you’re not drowning.”
Jason suddenly became aware of the emptiness below his feet and scrambled to get a better grip on Bruce. Bruce let him clamber around until he was clinging to his shoulders. “I can’t touch the bottom,” Jason said, trying to keep a quaver from his voice.
“I certainly hope not,” Bruce said. “Otherwise we might have gotten hurt from your stunt.”
Dick floated over, apparently no longer upset about his wet clothes. “You mean I might have gotten hurt from your stunt.”
Bruce reached out one long arm and shoved Dick under the water. When he emerged, looking fully ready to exact revenge, Bruce jabbed one thumb towards Jason, who had both arms wrapped tightly around his throat. “Uh uh, I’ve got Jason.”
Dick looked distinctly sulky, but he didn’t attack. Jason wondered if he should be insulted by the insinuation that he couldn’t handle it, but he decided that he would let it slide. Just this once. He was generous like that.
Bruce swam over to the shallow end and Jason marveled at the feeling of the water rushing past. He leaned his head on Bruce’s shoulder, the man’s warmth a soothing contrast to the cooler water. This was kinda nice actually. His stomach tightened when Bruce stopped.
“You can let go now, Jason,” Bruce said. “You can touch the bottom here.” Jason tightened his hold. Bruce sighed and reached up, gently loosening his grip. Jason reluctantly came away, clinging to Bruce’s forearms. “You’re safe, Jason,” Bruce said, looking directly into his eyes. “I promise.” And, well, a promise from Bruce was as good as gold. Jason reluctantly let himself sink until his feet hit the ground. The water came up to his collarbone, and he was pretty sure he was leaving bruises on Bruce’s arm at this point.
Dick waded over to the wall -- Jason noticed resentfully that the water only came up to his waist -- and hopped up to sit on the tiles, feet kicking absently as he tugged off his shirt. Jason looked back at Bruce as the man took a step towards the wall, alarm flooding him, but Bruce didn’t let go, only gently tugged him along until Jason had no choice but to walk along the bottom of the pool, which was harder than it had any right to be. He scowled. He knew he was short for his age -- it was pretty fucking hard to miss, with Alfred measuring him every month and fussing about his calorie intake -- but most of the time he could brush it off as Bruce being a fucking giant. But there was a sign on the side of the wall saying 3’6” and Jason hated being small. It had been an advantage on the streets, where the smaller you were the easier it was to disappear, but now he didn’t even have that.
“Grab the wall, Jaylad,” Bruce said. Jason did and Bruce smiled at him so soft and hopeful that it made something in Jason’s stomach loosen and then tighten up all over again. “We’re going to start with kicking and getting used to the feeling of having your face in the water.”
“I’m not a baby,” Jason said, but he didn’t object when Bruce kept one hand on his stomach, ready to keep him afloat if he started to sink.
A shriek of rage pierced the lazy summer afternoon and Jason glanced over the top of his book. Damian was in the pool, hair plastered down and screaming threats while Dick laughed his ass off on the side. Jason rolled his eyes and turned the page.
He saw Dick sneaking up on him, of course he did. He wasn’t blind. Jason turned another page, not even gracing Dick with a raised eyebrow as the smaller man tried to tug him out of his deck chair. Dick grunted and Jason sunk his weight more solidly into the chair, a hint of a smirk flickering at the edge of his mouth.
“You and Bruce,” Dick huffed, putting his hands on his hips. Jason glanced up, raising one dangerous eyebrow. Dick wasn’t deterred. “You’re both so fat.”
“At least I don’t have noodle arms,” Jason said.
Dick gasped theatrically and Jason rolled his eyes. He knew when he was being needled. Dick was trying to get him to stand up, and if he did Dick would try to pull some bullshit twisty move to land him in the pool. Not. Happening.
“Go pick on someone you actually have a chance of tossing in, Dickhead,” Jason said. He looked up, making direct eye contact, and smirked. “Like Tim.”
Dick scowled down at him, but then a thoughtful expression came over his face. Jason’s alarm bells started ringing.
“Hey Bruce!” Dick called. Jason went stiff. Bruce looked up from where he was grilling burgers. “Remember when we were first teaching Jason how to swim and he pushed you in the pool?”
Jason growled. “Don’t you fucking dare.”
Bruce tilted his head to the side, closing the lid and turning to face them more fully. “Yes.”
“I’d say this is a perfect time for some payback, huh?” Dick dodged Jason’s attempt to grab him, dancing backwards with a grin. “If I remember right, he even got you to scream.”
Jason shut his book and put it on the table, ready to leap up at a moment’s notice. “Bruce,” he called warningly. Bruce wandered closer and Jason tensed further. “Don’t even fucking think about it.”
Jason flung himself out of his chair, already mapping out his escape route, but fucking Dick was in the way, already laughing and dancing around to block his escape. Jason decided to say fuck it and just plowed into his older brother, but Bruce could move fast and Jason felt arms wrap around him even as he knocked Dick over.
“Fuck!” he yelled as he was lifted clean off his feet. He kicked wildly, aiming one at Dick’s head because fuck him but Dick just rolled back onto his feet, still laughing like the goddam weeble wobble he was. Jason caught a glimpse of Tim filming off to the side, a gleeful expression on his face, and immediately vowed revenge. “Bruce don’t you fucking dare,” he hissed, trying to twist out of the man’s grasp. His arms were trapped by his sides, which made the whole thing a lot more difficult, and the water was getting awfully close. “Bruce!”
“Sorry, Jaylad,” Bruce said, sounding not sorry at all, the bastard, “but I am vengeance.”
Jason twisted his neck just so Bruce could get the full force of his incredulous stare. “Are you fucking kidding me.”
Bruce grinned. “Afraid not.”
Jason didn’t have time to do anything other than yell one final “Fuck!” before he was flung bodily into the pool.
He emerged just in time to watch Dick also get tossed in. “Bruce!” Dick cried when he bobbed to the surface, sounding betrayed.
Bruce shrugged. “If I remember right, you were involved in that little stunt too.”
Dick and Jason glanced at each other. Dick tipped an eyebrow. Jason nodded minutely. Yeah, he’d help Dick get Bruce back. But first….
Jason pounced on Dick, shoving him under the water, laughing even when he got elbowed in the gut. Just because Bruce was Batman didn’t mean he had to take all the vengeance.