It’s a few days into Easter break and Jason and Juice are on a plane en route to Gotham, where they’ll be spending three days.
A few weeks before, as they’d been having dinner, Jason had first brought up the subject. “How do you feel about going to Gotham for a couple days?”
After swallowing, Juice had said, “I don’t really have strong feelings about it. Is that something you want to do?”
Jason remembers playing around with the food on his plate with the fork, not really feeling up to eating. He’d been thinking about Gotham for weeks, but this had been the first time he’d said the words out loud. Juice had probably known something was eating at him, but he’d been kind enough to let Jason work through things on his own.
“I think so. Easter break is in a few weeks and we could go for a long weekend; leave Friday morning, come back Sunday night. Barbara will have had the baby by then,” had been Jason’s response. When Juice had nodded, but kept quiet, Jason had continued with, “and I’ve decided to ask Dick to be my best man. I figure that’s something I should ask in person.”
Juice had smiled; he’d had his best man chosen for weeks – Chibs – but Jason had been debating for a while. He’d thought of Dick almost immediately, but it’d taken a while to really decide that yes, he would like him to stand by him at his wedding.
Even now, just the thought of it makes Jason smiles. His wedding. Now that’s something that he hadn’t thought was in the cards for him. But they’ve been making arrangements for months and it’ll be happening in just a couple months, in Summer, after Jason finishes with classes, in the Wahewa reservation, with Alfred ordaining, because that’s something Jason had thought the old man would like and in fact, when he’d made the offer through a phone call, he could have sworn Alfred had been holding back tears as he’d accepted.
Juice had just said, “then we’ll go” and neither had talked about the elephant in the room – that Jason wasn’t going to see just the new baby, or to ask Dick to be his best man. After all, they’d all be coming all the way to Charming for the wedding, either way.
There’s someone else he wants – needs – to meet and they both know it, though Juice has been letting Jason think that through by himself, being there whenever Jason chose to speak about it, but for the most part letting him decide by himself.
Jason loves him for it; how he hasn’t tried to push Jason either way.
And now they’re on their way to Gotham, where they’ll be staying in one of Bruce’s penthouses. When Jason had called Alfred to tell him they were coming to Gotham, he’d just said “I’ll take care of all the arrangements.” Jason had been half afraid that meant staying in the manor – it was big enough they could stay in a different wing and never see anyone else – but Alfred had then mentioned one of the penthouses and Jason had once again remembered how much he loved the old man, how he always knew what he needed.
He certainly didn’t want to be back in that house – with all the memories – and even as he was on his way to Gotham, there was still a part of him that feared that Bruce still wouldn’t talk to him.
Which was dumb and shouldn’t have mattered either way. Not after everything Jason had pushed through to get where he was. Bruce should not matter. But Jason had never really stopped thinking about him, not… Well, not since they’d first met, when he was all of twelve-years old and had the physique of an eight-year old.
Even though he and Juice had been together for years, Jason still couldn’t help but to see marriage as a new step in their relationship. And he didn’t want to take it still trapped in a part of his past.
Whatever Bruce has to say – or doesn’t – Jason needs to do this.
He grabs Juice’s hand, where it lies on the arm rest, and interlaces their fingers. He’s just really happy he doesn’t have to do this by himself.
“How you feeling?” Juice asks, squeezing back.
Jason smiles back, knows it’s not as confident as usual, but the closer they get to Gotham, the more nervous he feels. “I’m good.”
“You know, it’s been a long time since I was on a plane.”
“What about Ireland?”
“That was a cargo plane, it doesn’t count,” Juice says.
Jason laughs at that, but decides to not question his logic. Instead, he asks “so, when was the last time?” He forces himself to focus on the conversation and not the way his stomach fees all knotted.
“I think it was when I went to Puerto Rico. I told you about it, right? I was twenty-one.”
“Right,” Jason says, then continues, because he’d rather talk about this than anything else. Besides, it is nice. He knows Juice pretty well, yet there are still new, small things to find out. “How did you get to Charming, then?”
“Train, bus, strangers gave me a ride,” Juice shrugs, “whatever it took. To be fair, I wasn’t going to stay in Charming, it was an accident. I had a friend there and then he said a group of outlaws could use a guy with good computer skills, so I went to meet them.”
“But they still didn’t take you in as a prospect.”
Juice smiles, “yeah, cuz I didn’t have a ride. So I had to work at Teller-Morrow for months before I could get one and they finally decided to let me prospect.”
Jason doesn’t say anything right away. It’s funny, how these things worked. Jason had moved to Charming knowingly – he’d liked the name – but he could have just as easily chosen a different place, just like Juice could have decided that actually, working at a garage to buy a motorcycle was too much work and moved on years before Jason even thought of going to college.
Jason squeezes his hand, then lifts it so that he can kiss his knuckles. “I’m so glad I met you.”
“Right back at you, babe,” Juice replies, smiling softly and Jason can feel some of the nervousness leave him.
Whatever happens in Gotham, he at least knows that soon enough he’ll be leaving again, and for something better than he could have ever expected years ago.
There’s a man in a suit waiting for them. Unlike any other drivers waiting, he doesn’t hold a plaque with their names, which really just screams Alfred. Jason can’t help but to smile as he goes to the guy.
“Hey, you Tom?”
“Yes, Mr. Todd?”
Jason nods, even though officially it’s no longer the name he goes by.
“I’ll be your driver for the next three days. Mr. Pennyworth told me to drop you off at the penthouse and then drive you wherever you chose.”
“Thanks,” Jason says. When Alfred had first told him about getting them a personal driver, he’d said “it’s not necessary” but, of course, Alfred had just countered with “nonsense, Master Jason” and Jason was usually good at choosing his battles and he knew that there were not a lot of people that could beat Alfred in stubbornness, not when he didn’t want to be beat. In the end, Jason had simply said, “thanks, Alfred.”
The building Tom drops them off at is one he recognizes, but it isn’t a penthouse Jason’s been in before.
Juice can’t stop staring as they ride up, which Jason doesn’t blame him for. The penthouse isn’t furnished beyond the essential, but it is giant. They could throw a party for a few hundred people and there’d still be enough space for no one to feel claustrophobic.
“I mean, I know Bruce Wayne is one of the richest men alive but there’s knowing and then there’s knowing, you know?” Juice says, as he slowly turns in a circle, trying to get it all in.
“Yeah,” Jason answers. He lived in Wayne manor for about four years and this is still too much. But, he can’t say it’s not appreciated.
He goes to the windows that take the wall’s place, from ceiling to floor, and looks around at Gotham.
It looks… Well, not that different, really. Giant dark buildings surround them, though there’s a clear break when you turn to the poorest parts, where the buildings are smaller.
Jason hasn’t been to a big city in years. Charming certainly doesn’t have tall buildings, and Berkeley only has a couple, nothing compared to this.
Juice leans behind him, putting an arm around his waist and resting his head on Jason’s shoulder. He doesn’t say anything, just shares the view.
Finally, after several minutes in silence, Jason says, “we should get ready for dinner.”
“Shower?” Juice asks and kisses him on the neck.
“I don’t think we need to be concerned about sharing not to waste water,” Jason says through a smile.
“Is that the only reason you’d want to share a shower?” Juice asks, still kissing around his neck and Jason laughs, though it turns into a groan halfway through. He leans his head to the left to give Juice better access.
“I guess there are other reasons.”
Juice smiles against his neck. “What are the chances the shower will be easy to use?”
Jason laughs; he hadn’t thought of that.
“I thought you were a computer wiz,” Jason tells him.
“I’m sorry if I never thought I’d have to deal with a computer on a shower,” Juice replies, but he still sounds amused.
“Come on,” Jason disentangles them, grabbing Juice’s hand and leading them away. “We’re smart guys, I’m sure we can figure it out.”
Juice just laughs behind him and Jason keeps smiling, stressful thoughts about Gotham and its residents the furthest thing from his mind.
Tom takes them to Dick’s and Barbara’s place around eight PM. He’s already given Jason his number, told him to call him when they wanted to go back, but Jason just told him to go home; Dick could give them a ride home (or they’d get a taxi, but he chose not to tell Tom that). Tom still didn’t seem all that keen on it, but eventually accepted Jason’s words and left them with a promise to be free tomorrow whenever Jason and Juice wanted to be driven around.
“Should have had a smoke before we left,” Juice says as Jason buzzes the doorbell to the right apartment. He turns to Juice with a raised eyebrow.
“To be meeting the first Robin and Batgirl, who also happen to be your brother and sister-in-law? Yes,” he replies, absolutely unashamedly.
Jason moves to kiss him. He says in a low tone, “you got nothing to be nervous about. They’re gonna love you.”
“I’m part of an MC, an ex-con and covered in ink.”
“I wouldn’t say you’re covered. There’s still enough space for more,” Jason says, trying to lighten the mood, but Juice just sends him a look, not amused.
But before Jason can say anything else, Dick’s voice comes through the intercom. “Yeah?”
“It’s us,” Jason answers.
“Hey! Come on up!” Dick says and buzzes the door open. Jason grabs a hold of it but before Juice can go in, stops him by holding onto one of his hands.
“You know why they’re gonna love you?” Juice shakes his head so Jason smiles, kisses him quickly. “Because I love you. And that’s enough for them.”
“OK,” Juice says, finally smiling back. He still looks a bit nervous, but he squeezes Jason’s hand and they finally go in.
They take the elevator up to the fourth floor, where Dick is already waiting for them on the second door to the right.
“Hey!” He exclaims as he sees them, moves forward to give Jason a tight hug. Jason smiles as he hugs him back. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Gotta meet my nephew, right?” Jason says, then freezes at the words. It’s something Juice’s said to him and he’s thought it too, but he’d never said it out loud. But before he can say anything else, Dick laughs and squeezes again.
“Yeah, man.” Then he lets go and goes to hug Juice, though it’s a short one. After he’s let go, he smiles, “I’m Dick.”
“Juice,” Juice says, and he looks just a little bewildered. Jason can’t help but to laugh at it; yeah, Dick certainly isn’t what most people expect.
“Come on, let’s go inside. We cheated and ordered some Indian food. I’m a bit of a disaster in the kitchen and Barbara… Well, she just left the hospital a few weeks ago, so I guess she has an excuse,” Dick says as they walk inside.
“I heard that,” Barbara says from where she’s sitting on the sofa, with a tiny baby sleeping against her chest.
Jason immediately smiles at the sight. Barbara looks tired, but radiant.
“I told you being a mom would agree with you,” he tells her as he bends down to kiss her on the cheek. Then he passes a hand through the baby’s cheek, remembers something about being careful with newborns’ heads, doesn’t know for how long that is, so decides he might as well be careful. “Hey, baby.”
“John,” Barbara tells him with a smile, though he already knew. Then she continues, “for Dick’s dad.”
Jason turns around to smile at Dick. “It’s a great name.”
“Thanks,” Dick replies, softly.
“I’m Barbara,” Barbara says, offering Juice a hand for a shake, who quickly goes to her to accept it.
“I know,” she says, and Jason can see Oracle in her face, an expression that screams I am all seeing, I am all knowing. But then it softens and she continues with, “I’m really glad the two of you made it.”
“Jason had to meet his nephew, didn’t he,” Dick says, putting a hand on Jason’s shoulder and Barbara smiles at them.
“Come on, take John to the nursery while I give the guys drinks,” Barbara says and Dick leans down to take the baby from her. His face as he looks at his son is… Unlike any face Jason has seen on him before. Full of love, but wonder too. And maybe just a bit of fear. It’s Jason’s turn to clap him on the shoulder. Dick smiles at him before he leaves the living room, presumably to wherever John is sleeping. Their bedroom, his own? Jason really doesn’t know all that much about newborns.
When he turns back to Barbara, she’s already moved to her wheelchair, wheeling to the kitchen. They follow her.
“What do you feel like? Water, beer, wine? I think we have some sodas too,” she offers.
“A beer would be good,” Juice says.
“Yeah,” Jason says and Barbara opens the fridge to take two out.
“How was the flight?” She asks.
“It was good. ‘Been a while since I last flew,” Jason says. He hadn’t thought of that before but the last time he got on a plane was probably when he got back to Gotham, years ago. Fitting that the next time he did it would be to get to the exact same place, but for completely different reasons.
“Do you like flying, Juice?” Barbara asks and Juice shrugs.
“I don’t really mind. I like the idea of it, you know? That we’re in the middle of the clouds. And that we can land in a completely different country, as different from ours as possible.”
“I haven’t been away from Gotham in a long time. I used to leave every summer as a kid, after my parents got divorced and my mother moved away,” Barbara says and Jason wants to hug her, for the way she’s opening up to Juice.
“Yeah? Where’d she move?”
“That’s pretty far,” he says and Barbara shrugs.
“I guess when people move out of Gotham, they wanna be the furthest away as possible. Maybe they think otherwise the city will pull them back in,” she shrugs a second time. “I don’t blame them. This city… It’s different.” Then she laughs, suddenly looks less serious, “but maybe I too have been around too long.”
“Well, you’ll be on a plane in a few months,” Juice says and Barbara smiles.
“Yeah, I’m really looking forward to your wedding.”
Juice smiles back, then turns to smile at Jason, who doesn’t even try not to smile stupidly and softly back at him.
“Is everything prepared?” Barbara asks them but before either can answer, Dick comes back.
“Come on, go sit down. I’ll bring the food out,” he says.
“We can help,” Jason offers but Dick waves a hand.
“No, no, you’re guests. You know the last time we got to play hosts? Shit, I can’t remember. It’s impossible to get Alfred to just sit down and Babs’ father isn’t all that better.”
Jason notices how there is one name he leaves out of that list, but lets it lie. He just goes and sits at the dining table, Juice beside him and Barbara in front of him.
Dick, of course, manages to come out of the kitchen carrying four different trays in his arms. They don’t even look like they’re close to falling.
“So, what were we talking about?” Dick asks, sitting down in front of Jason.
“I was just asking them how the preparations for the wedding were going,” Barbara tells him and Dick turns with expectant eyes to them.
“Everything’s on track. We’re having it at a reservation, the Wahewa.”
“That’s cool,” Dick says, starting to pour food into everyone’s plates.
“Yeah. Actually, there is one thing… It’s part of why we came,” Jason says, feeling nervous. Juice puts a hand on his thigh and squeezes. Jason doesn’t have to look at him to know he’s sending him a supportive smile.
“Yeah?” Dick asks, raising an eyebrow, looking relaxed.
Jason takes a deep breath, “how do you feel about being my best man?”
Dick stops with his fork halfway to his mouth. Jason can see Barbara looking surprised at him, but keeps his attention on Dick, who slowly blinks.
“Yeah. Who else would I choose?” Jason asks and Dick sends him a brilliant smile, a true Grayson trademark grin.
“I’d be honored, Jason,” he says and Jason smiles, finally relaxes. “I can’t believe you beat me to it, though.”
Jason frowns, looks between Dick and Barbara. “You guys are getting married too?”
Dick laughs while Barbara rolls her eyes and says, “no, thank you. Not until rich ladies stop being shocked at having a baby out of wedlock.”
“No, not that. I just meant… I was gonna ask you to be John’s godfather.”
Jason blinks, can’t quite believe what he’s hearing. “You… You’re serious?”
Dick smiles, softly. “Yeah,” he turns to share a glance with Barbara, and they both turn to Jason, still looking softly at him. “We’d be really honored if you accepted it.”
“I…” Jason starts, closes his mouth. This isn’t something he ever expected. He feels his thigh being squeezed again and turns to look at Juice. He also has a soft look on his face, but it’s different from Dick’s and Barbara’s. Jason sees himself reflected in Juice’s eyes, knows that he knows how much of a surprise and really, a shock, this is. How he couldn’t have imagined this some years ago.
Jason lowers a hand to his thigh, putting it on top of Juice’s and squeezing. Then he turns back to Dick and Barbara.
“I’d be honored,” he says, repeating Dick’s words.
“Good,” Dick says and smiles at him. The dinner continues in a light atmosphere.
It’s late when Dick drives them up to the penthouse. They both get out and Jason, who’d sat up front by Dick, leans forward before closing the door.
“Are you going out tonight?” He asks, meaningfully.
“Nah,” Dick shakes his head, looks relaxed, but his hands are holding onto the wheel tightly. “I only go out for emergencies.”
“Good,” Jason says and means it. Dick doesn’t reply right away, studies his face in silence for a few seconds. Jason just stares back, waits him out. Finally, Dick sighs.
“Yeah, I think so. I’ve actually gotten dressed a couple times just to have to remind myself that I’m not doing that anymore. It’s… It’s hard but with John… I know what it’s like to grow up without parents. It’s not going to happen to him, not if I can help it.”
Jason leans forward so that he can clap Dick on the shoulder. Then he straightens out.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night,” he says.
“Yeah. Have a good night,” Dick says and Jason finally closes the door. Dick drives away as Jason watches. Then he turns back to Juice, who puts an arm around his waist.
They take the elevator up in silence.
Once inside, Jason finally speaks, “I’m going up to the roof.”
“You want company?” Juice asks, as he goes to the kitchen to get a glass of water. He offers one to Jason, who takes a sip.
“Thanks, but no. Anyway, I shouldn’t be alone for long,” he says, forces his grip on the glass not to shake. He feels nervous but this is something he has to do, one way or another.
Juice doesn’t say anything, just goes to him and squeezes his arm. “Call if you need me, OK?” Then he kisses Jason on the cheek and leaves for the bedroom.
Jason drinks the rest of his water, then puts the glass on the counter. He leans on it with both hands, lowers his head and forces himself to breathe slowly. In and out. In and out.
It’s kind of ironic that he’s practicing a breathing exercise that Bruce taught him over a decade ago to go meet the man himself.
Finally, Jason straightens up and leaves the penthouse. The elevator doesn’t go to the roof, but there’s a door that leads to a narrow staircase that goes up to it.
Once outside, Jason breathes deeply. It’s a cold night, colder than he’s used to. He’s glad he didn’t bother to take out his jacket. He goes to stand on the edge, though not too far. Jason isn’t exactly afraid of heights but it’d be just his luck to come back to Gotham and have an unfortunate fall. And from this high up, there’s no training that would save him.
The building they’re staying at is one of the tallest in Gotham, though not the tallest. The night is dark and cloudy and when Jason closes his eyes, he can almost pretend he’s a kid again, imagines the sound of his laughter as he jumped from rooftop to rooftop, Batman behind him, and certain that there was no way that Bruce would ever, ever let him fall.
And then he opens his eyes, looks down at his hand, with the engagement ring, and exhales. He’s not a kid anymore, but that’s alright. Maybe his road to get here wasn’t straight and narrow, but he got there eventually.
Jason takes out a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket, lights one up. Both he and Juice have stopped smoking so much, but sometimes, especially on nights like these, there’s just a craving that can’t be stopped.
Jason is only halfway through the cigarette when he feels the air change around him. He still doesn’t turn back, keeps staring down onto Gotham. Even from up here, he can hear the noise of a city which sleeps slightly more than New York.
“Jason,” it’s said in a growl, but doesn’t have the full aggressivity of Batman. Then again, it’s been years since Jason last heard it; maybe he’s mellowed out.
He throws the cigarette on the ground, puts it out with the heel of his boot. Then, finally, he turns back.
Bruce is just staring at him. The suit has gone through some changes since Jason last saw it, but not that many. Jason can still tell where the weak points are.
And God, hasn’t it been a long time since he’s thought that way.
Bruce doesn’t say anything. Jason knows that he can in fact simply stay the whole night up there and never speak a word. He remembers months ago, when Opie came and sat by him in silence after finding out Jason had helped his old man. But that had been a different kind of silence; words truly had been unnecessary.
Here, now, there’s an ocean of words unsaid between them.
“You know you’re a coward, right?” Jason finally says and is honestly surprised when his voice comes out strong. He doesn’t feel that way at all.
Bruce just keeps staring. If Jason was feeling charitable, he might say he was drinking Jason in. The kid that he buried too soon, that he never got to see grown into the young man in front of him. But Jason isn’t feeling charitable.
“Why did you never call?” He asks and this time, this time his voice does break. He hates himself for it, has to force himself not to put his arms around him, reminds himself that Juice is just a few stairs away, that he can leave this… reunion, at any time.
“I…” Bruce starts, then closes his mouth. Jason waits him out. “Dick said you were happy. I didn’t want to jeopardize that.”
Jason laughs, bitter in a way he hasn’t been in a very long time.
“God, you’re such a martyr,” he shakes his head as he speaks. Bruce, of course, doesn’t say anything in response.
Jason sighs, passes a hand through his hair. “I’m getting married.”
“I know. Congratulations,” Jason no longer knows how to characterize Bruce’s voice. There are feelings behind the words, but God knows which ones.
Jason looks down, is sick of looking into the cowl, though Bruce has lowered the white lenses, allowing his eyes to be seen. Jason doesn’t know how he feels about that. “You’re the most cowardly person I know. But you’re also the bravest.”
Bruce doesn’t say anything. Of course. Jason keeps talking to the ground.
“It’s a thing between me and Juice to tell each other that we get to put ourselves first. When things get hard, that’s what we say. We don’t have to talk about what we don’t want to. Do what isn’t good for us. And I told Barbara that, when she talked about retiring because of baby John. And you know what I realized?” Jason finally raises his eyes. Bruce is staring back. “That’s what you’ve been doing since the very first day you put on that cowl.
“You chose not to kill. You told me years ago that it would be easy to do it, but that if you crossed that line, you’d never come back. At the time, of course, I just thought you were weak. But now I realize it’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done.”
Jason feels like he’s run half a marathon after he finishes speaking. He’s been thinking about this for months and now that it’s finally out, he feels like a weight has been lifted.
Bruce stares at him for a few more seconds before taking off the cowl.
He looks older. There’s actually white in his hair, just by the sides. Definitely more lines around his face. Pretty big dark circles.
Jason exhales. “I don’t hate you anymore. Not for not killing the Joker.”
“But you hate me for not trying to talk to you? Like Dick, like Alfred?” Bruce doesn’t sound accusatory. In fact, he sounds like he looks – tired.
Jason throws his hands up. He’s not usual one to speak through gestures, but he has all this tension in his body, that is just begging to come out.
“I know why you stayed away, Bruce. Like I said, you’re the bravest man I know, but you’re also the most cowardly. You just… Made up this story in your head. That I was happy without you. That you’d ruin everything if you showed up.”
Bruce stares at Jason for a few seconds before nodding, “you’re right. I thought that if I showed back up in your life… That I would be a remainder of all that was bad.”
Jason laughs, again bitterly. “You’re not just bad! Fuck!” He turns around, looks down at Gotham, forces himself to slow down his breath.
He doesn’t know what he wants, what he expects from Bruce.
“You should have let me make that choice,” he finally says, in a low tone, but trusts Bruce to pick it up.
Bruce stays silent.
Jason suddenly feels tired. He wants… He wants to invite Bruce to his wedding. For him to meet Juice and to be a part of his life, like Dick, Barbara and Alfred are back to being part of his. But he’s unwilling to deal with someone who thinks they’re just going to ruin everything they touch.
“I’m not your purgatory, Bruce,” he says, finally turning back to him. “You don’t get to use my death to hide away. Not when I’m back.”
Bruce doesn’t say anything, just stares at Jason. His face is impassive; Jason recognizes it from something that he does it too, that Juice picked up from him. And Jason finally realizes where he himself picked it up from.
“If you’re finally willing to let go of your guilt… You’re welcome at my wedding. Otherwise, stay gone.”
This time, Jason doesn’t wait for a response, just starts walking back to the entry door. He passes several feet away from Bruce; no chances of accidental touching. He’s just passed him by when Bruce talks.
He doesn’t turn around, but does stop.
“I’m happy for you,” Bruce says. Jason waits, but he doesn’t say anything else. So Jason leaves.
He goes down the stairs slowly. There’s a light on at the penthouse, enough so that he doesn’t accidentally walk against anything.
He takes off his clothes as he walks towards the bedroom, leaving them where they fall. He thinks about going for a shower, but really, all he wants is to go to bed and cuddle with Juice.
Jason walks inside the bedroom in just boxers.
“Hey,” Juice’s voice sounds sleepy. Jason can’t tell if he woke him up or if Juice has been waiting for him.
“Hey,” Jason says back, in a soft tone. He turns off the light behind them, then walks in the dark towards the bed.
He gets under the covers, feels Juice turn to him and moves so that he has one arm around him, by his waist, pushes one leg between Juice’s.
“I don’t wanna talk about it,” he whispers and Juice kisses his collarbone.
Jason exhales, feels Juice moving until he has his head underneath Jason’s. Jason kisses the top of his head; can feel the tiny brushes of air every time Juice breathes.
Sleep finds him more easily than he thought it would.
They wake up late the next morning, completely tangled up, even though the bed is big enough they could each sleep on their own side and have to fully extend their arms to touch.
“’Morning,” Juice says, raising his head from where he had it laying on Jason’s shoulder.
“Hey,” Jason replies, yawning, and then kissing Juice on the lips, keeping them closed. Morning breath is a real problem. “What time is it?” He asks afterward and Juice rolls over to check his phone.
“Just past eleven.”
“Shit, I don’t remember the last time I slept that long,” Jason says, stretching. He feels great.
“It was a long night,” Juice says, having rolled back over. He looks attentively at Jason, who suddenly remembers all the events of last night. Not just having dinner with Dick and Barbara, which went great, but going up to the rooftop and talking to Bruce for the first time in a very long time.
Juice doesn’t question him, just pushes a hand up to Jason’s face, so that he can move it up and down on his cheek. Jason closes his eyes at the contact. Their first real plan for the day won’t happen until at least another hour – Alfred coming over with lunch – so they have time to just relax.
“It went alright,” he finally says, opening his eyes. Juice still looks serious.
Jason just nods. Blood wasn’t drawn so it really did go alright. But the events are still too raw in his mind for him to want to talk about them. Even with Juice, who he knows won’t judge either way. Jason could have pushed Bruce off the rooftop and he’s pretty sure Juice still wouldn’t judge.
It’s a bit of a frightening thought, if he really focuses on it. He remembers being a kid and being benched from Robin because of using what Bruce called extreme force. But Juice… Jason knows that there isn’t a lot he could do that would make Juice walk away.
It feels good, knowing the amount of love he’s on the receiving end. But it makes him frightened of losing it too. But then again, if he didn’t feel that way, he was probably taking Juice for granted and if there’s something Jason refuses to do, it’s that.
“Hey, what did you think of Dick and Barbara?” Jason asks, not because he wants to pull Juice’s brain away from Bruce – though maybe a bit – but because he’s genuinely curious.
Juice smiles, a real one. “I really liked them.”
“Yeah?” Jason asks, really happy to hear it. He’d been so nervous about everything that it meant, being back in Gotham, that he hadn’t really thought on what would happen if Juice met his family and didn’t get along with them.
“Yeah, I’m glad they all got back in your life,” Juice says, smiling softly and Jason smiles back.
The curtains are drawn, but some light is passing through, just enough that they can see each other. Juice looks so soft, more than usual, and Jason feels so happy he could burst.
He almost pinches himself to make sure this isn’t a dream. Once upon a time, he died. And then he came back to Gotham to cause havoc and left again, thinking that… Well, at the time he hadn’t really been thinking. He’d just wanted out. And after a year away it had led him to Charming, which had led him to meeting Juice.
It’s funny how things worked. He couldn’t say falling in love with Juice made being beaten to death with a crowbar worth it, but being with him certainly had made Jason less angry and more accepting of his hand in life.
“I love you,” he tells him and Juice smiles back, absolutely no doubt in his face.
“I love you too,” he replies and then they just cuddle for a while, until eventually they do decide it’s time to get up and get dressed.
They do it slowly; there’s really no need to rush. Jason had been the one to invite Alfred for lunch, just the week before when he’d called him but before he could say anything about a restaurant or cooking, Alfred had said, “I’ll be bringing some of your favorites” and the argument had been lost even before it started.
It’s just past noon when the doorbell rings. Juice gets up from where he’d been sitting on the sofa, while Jason goes to open the door.
He hasn’t seen Alfred, face to face, since before he died. He saw him when he came back, of course, but always from afar.
Even back then, with all the anger in his heart, he’d known that if there was someone that could convince him to change his path, it would be Alfred. So he’d kept away.
Alfred looks shocked. It is, after all, also the first time he’s seeing Jason in years.
“Master Jason,” he says and sound a bit chocked up, but apart from that, the tone hasn’t changed at all from when Jason was a kid. Not like the first time he said it, when it was just for politeness sake, but when weeks later he’d fully embraced Jason’s presence in his life and hadn’t sounded anything but warm ever since, even when Jason was a little shit.
“Hey, Alfie,” Jason says and smiles. Then he leans over to hug Alfred, sure that the old man would never do it first, always thinking of respectability.
Alfred only hugs back with one arm, holding onto a picnic basket with the other hand, but it’s still a strong grip.
“It’s so good to see you, Master Jason,” Alfred says after they let go and there’s nothing but honesty and love in his voice.
Jason keeps smiling, can’t really stop. For the first time, he actually wishes he’d come back to Gotham sooner, just for this.
“Come on in,” he finally says, leans so that Alfred can come in, who, of course, closes the door behind him once he’s inside.
Juice has moved from the sofa, is just a few steps from Alfred. He offers a hand for a shake.
“I’m Juice. It’s really good to meet you.”
Alfred doesn’t hesitate to shake his hand, “Alfred. And the pleasure is all mine, Mr. Ortiz.”
“You really don’t have to call me that,” Juice says, even though Jason had told him hell would freeze over before he got Alfred to call him Juice. Maybe Juan Carlos, if he’s lucky.
“Nonsense, Mr. Ortiz,” Alfred says, in that tone of his, the one that really leaves no room for argument and it makes Jason grin.
“I made chili hot dogs, Master Jason,” Alfred says as he walks to the kitchen, clearly familiar with the space. He puts the picnic on the counter in the middle of the kitchen, starts taking out containers. He didn’t make just chili hot dogs, but brought bread and several options for fillings as well. After the food is out, he moves around the kitchen, getting plates, cutlery and glasses out.
Jason doesn’t try to stop him, though he does help in taking the food to the table, Juice as well. Nothing really speaks as loudly to how much Alfred missed him as the fact that he’s here, about to have lunch while sitting at the same table as Jason and Juice. Jason can’t even remember the last time he did that while at the manor; he knew it definitely wasn’t because Bruce refused him the seat, just one of those things that Alfred thought shouldn’t be done.
They still got to have tea together, though, when Jason was back from classes. Jason cherishes every single one of those moments.
“How was dinner with Miss Barbara and Master Dick?” Alfred asks, only sitting down after Jason and Juice have done it. He picks up the wine, offers it to them and pours it once it’s accepted.
Juice looks a bit uncomfortable, not being used to being waited on. And if it was anyone else, Jason wouldn’t accept it either. But he knows Alfred does it out of love, that it’s just his way of being.
“It was really nice. John’s… The cutest baby I’ve ever seen, really,” Jason says and Juice laughs.
“You sure you’re not just saying that ‘cuz he’s your godson?”
Jason’s smile gets even bigger at that and Alfred sends him a warm look at that.
“I’m glad Master Dick didn’t lose any time in making his request.”
“Oh, he still came in second,” Jason shrugs, “I beat him by asking him to be my best man.”
Alfred smiles at that, doesn’t need to say anything for Jason to read what he’s thinking in his eyes. How he’s happy they’ve been able to build a new relationship between them, how he already loves John and is so happy for Barbara and Dick and how he’s happy for Jason as well.
“And classes, Master Jason? How have they been going?”
“They’re good, thanks. I’ve started writing a couple short stories.”
“Well, if you’d ever like to share them, I’d be honored to read them,” Alfred offers and Jason nods with a smile. Then he turns to Juice, “and you, Mr. Ortiz? You work as a mechanic, correct?”
“Uh, yeah,” Juice answers, caught off guard. It’s like he thought he’d just be there for decoration. But Jason isn’t surprised at all, knows that Alfred is genuinely curious about him and that, out of everyone, is probably also the one who’ll judge him less.
Because as much as Barbara and Dick might come to like him, they’ll also never really forget that he is part of a criminal organization, even if it is a small one. And it’s not like Alfred isn’t aware of the fact either, but he’s been around for a long time and he’s never really shared the black and white mentality Bruce has, and which he’s passed on.
“You’re close with your co-workers, correct?”
“Yeah, pretty much everyone is part of the Sons of Anarchy. It’s a Motorcycle Club,” Juice explains, even if he too knows that Alfred is aware of what exactly the club does. It’s like they’re all playing a part, but it’s not bad.
“Is it stressful? All the time spent together?” Alfred asks and he sound genuinely curious. After all, he’d know better than most what it’s like to have work and then work at the same place, with the same people.
“Not really. I mean, with the garage it’s… It’s like a well-oiled machine, you know? Everyone knows what they have to do, no one really steps on anyone’s toes. And if there are problems with the club… We keep it there, don’t let it blend to our day jobs.”
Alfred hmms at that.
“This is really good,” Jason says, bringing his attention to him. He points at the food. He hasn’t touched anything but the chili dogs yet; is debating if there’s enough for him to eat and still share with the others, even if he’s sure neither would mind if he ate them all. But still, being around Alfred makes him remember all the lessons in politeness that he was taught as a kid. Don’t eat with your mouth open, swallow before you speak, don’t take so much food that there isn’t enough to share.
“Thank you, Master Jason. It has been… A while, since I’ve had a chance to make chili hot dogs,” Alfred says and it sounds like the understatement of the century.
“Well, you haven’t lost your touch,” Jason says with a smile and Alfred smiles back.
The rest of the lunch passes in the same way. The eat and chat and Jason gets to see Juice open up, and Alfred look genuinely interested in what he has to say.
By the end, Jason’s face is hurting from all the smiling he’s been doing.
At around five PM, Alfred leaves, and an hour later so do Jason and Juice. Dick and Barbara have booked a table at some Italian restaurant for dinner – Commissioner Gordon got babysitting duties – for seven thirty PM, so before that Jason wants to show some of Gotham to Juice.
They walk around holding hands as Jason shares stories. While they’re still in the neighborhoods surrounding the penthouse, the stories mostly involve Robin antics or a party somewhere that he got dragged by Bruce.
But as they continue on and the buildings get smaller, clearly in need of a new paint job, if nothing else, Jason talks about his childhood, until eventually they do end up in front of his old building.
It looks pretty much the same: rundown.
Juice pulls Jason towards him, putting an arm around his shoulders and Jason exhales.
“I miss my mom. She wasn’t… There all the time and the good moments were few and far in between but… She was the only person in my corner for a long time.”
Juice squeezes his shoulders, but doesn’t say anything, waits Jason out.
“She wasn’t my birth mother, you know,” he doesn’t make it a question. He’s never talked about Catherine Todd with Juice before. In fact, he’s never told this to anyone. “My real mom made a deal with the Joker and got me killed. To be fair, I don’t think she expected him to take it that far.” He makes a noise from his nose, “everyone liked to underestimate him.”
“He’s dead now,” Juice says and Jason relaxes his hands from where he’d squeezed them into fists. That knowledge does help. In fact, he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have made it back to Gotham if he hadn’t arranged for the Joker to be assassinated years ago.
“Yeah,” Jason says.
“Hey, and where did you meet Batman?”
Jason smiles up at Juice. It’s kind of a fun memory, looking back on it, though everything that surrounds it – why he was out by himself at night, why Bruce ended up in that exact alley – isn’t.
“Come on,” he says and grabs Juice’s hand, leading him to Crime Alley.
“It used to be called Park Row. And then Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered in it, and now it’s called Crime Alley,” Jason says as they look in.
Even though the sun is still out, the alley itself looks cast in shadows. It doesn’t surprise Jason; Gotham is a dark city and sometimes he’d swear the city itself is aware of it, that it knows some places are… Sadder than others.
“Shit,” Juice says. “And you met him here?”
“It was the anniversary of their deaths,” Jason says and Juice turns to him with raised eyebrows. “I didn’t know at the time.”
Juice thinks about that for a few seconds and then, “it almost feels like fate, doesn’t it?”
“Well, at the time I thought I hit the jackpot.”
“I can’t believe you managed to jack the tires to the… What do you call his car?”
“Batmobile,” he says seriously and Juice looks incredulously. It makes Jason laugh. “Blame Dick. He’s the one who started with the Bat theme. Batarang, batmobile, batcave…”
“That’s insane,” Juice says and Jason laughs again. If it hadn’t been his life, he doesn’t think he’d be able to take it seriously either.
“You ever think about moving back here?” Juice asks, though he’s turned back to the alley. Jason looks into it for a few more seconds before grabbing his hand and walking away; it’s not a place he particularly wants to stay for long.
“No. I don’t see a future here, not with you. Our lives are in Charming and I like them there.”
Juice humms, but doesn’t say anything. Jason turns his head to look at him and while he looks serious, he doesn’t look that deep in thought. They’ve talked about their futures before and neither has any plans to be moving out of Charming anytime soon, though what exactly Jason will be doing after he graduates is still up in the air.
“Come on, let’s get a cab to the restaurant, or we’ll never make it in time,” Jason says and pulls Juice to stand by the road. But before he can raise a hand, Juice turns him, so that they’re looking at each other.
“I’m glad we came here.”
“Yeah?” Jason asks, and it feels like he’s asking something else, but even he doesn’t know what.
“I get to know another part of you. Thank you for sharing it with me.”
Jason smiles, puts a hand on Juice’s face and kisses him – someone whistles, but neither of them pay any attention to it.
“Of course. Thank you for coming with me. I think I’d have been a lot more nervous if I came alone.”
Juice smiles as Jason leans back and Jason thinks back to when they first met, remembers distinctively thinking that he didn’t know whether he wanted to climb him like a tree or kill him. He’s certainly happy he didn’t go with option number two.
Things sure have changed. And oh, how he wouldn’t have it any other way now.
It’s once again late as they’re dropped off.
They share kisses as they ride up to the penthouse, giggle as they go inside.
“Hey, you know something?” Juice asks and Jason makes a questioning sound against his neck. “I love you and we’re getting married.”
“We’re getting married!” Jason exclaims, louder than he usually is. Both he and Juice had decided to indulge in a few drinks over dinner, though Jason isn’t super drunk. More like… Comfortable.
Gotham is no longer his home, but it’s like he finally remembers it. Not the bad stuff, not the violence, the blood, the death. But the good stuff. His mom reading him stories, cooking with Alfred, Bruce helping him with his homework, Dick calling him Little Wing for the first time.
“I love you so much,” Juice says again and Jason leans back, holds his face with both hands and kisses him soundly.
“I love you too. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“Hey, that’s my line,” Juice says and it makes Jason giggle. He feels… Well, drunk, but not on alcohol. On happiness.
He’s half tempted to pick Juice up and go find some place that will marry them right then. Gotham isn’t Vegas, but surely there’s some place they can find to officiate weddings at one in the morning.
“I can’t wait to marry you,” is what he says instead. He does want to marry Juice as soon as possible, but he also wants the party. To celebrate with all their friends and family and to make a promise for the future.
Before Juice can say anything to that, the doorbell rings. They both look surprised at it; they’re certainly not expecting visitors.
But this is Bruce Wayne’s penthouse and if there’s anything Jason can trust, is that no one can simply waltz in.
So he goes to open the door. And feels himself sober up, just a bit.
Bruce’s at the doorway. Really Bruce. He’s wearing a shirt and slacks and Jason realizes that the last time he saw him dressed like this was… before his death.
“Bruce,” he says, doesn’t even know what the hell his tone is trying to say.
“Hey,” Bruce says and he sounds nervous. “Can I come in? It’s quick.”
Jason frowns, but nods and steps aside so that he can come in.
Juice seems to have sobered up just a bit as well, though his eyes are still droopy.
Bruce goes to him, offers a hand for a shake. “I’m Bruce Wayne.”
Juice blinks, then accepts the hand shake. “Juice.”
“It’s really nice to meet you. Congratulations on the wedding,” Bruce says and Jason finally closes the door. He can’t see Bruce’s face but he sounds warm. Has he entered a twilight zone?
“Thanks,” Juice says and looks behind Bruce to Jason, asking him pretty strongly what the fuck with just his eyes.
Jason goes to him, puts an arm around his waist, feels Juice move so that he’s leaning some of his weight on Jason. He sees Bruce’s eyes follow the movement, but he keeps smiling pleasantly.
“I’d like to ask you two to come have lunch at the manor tomorrow.”
Jason blinks. Juice turns to him, clearly leaving the ball in his field. Jason looks in his eyes for a couple seconds, but quickly turns back to Bruce.
Now, Jason understands why he looks nervous, though the people who don’t know him probably wouldn’t be able to see it. Jason can’t remember the last time he saw that look on his face.
“You’re right about what you said yesterday, Jason. And I’d… I’d really like it if you gave me another chance.” Jason recognizes the look in Bruce’s face; he looks ready for battle. Determined, but expectant that things can either go really well, or really shit.
“Yeah,” Jason finally says. “We’ll be there.”
And Bruce… Bruce smiles, and Jason’s breath gets caught in his throat. He actually feels tears in his eyes. He can’t remember the last time he saw Bruce smiling. It makes him look younger, reminds him of the guy that actually picked him up when he was a kid just to goof around, or to take him to bed.
He wants to hug him and then thinks “why not?” and so, does it.
Bruce doesn’t do anything right away. But then he hugs back, strongly, like he’s making sure Jason is real. Or that he doesn’t escape.
“I’m so glad you’re here, Jaylad,” Bruce whispers against his ear and Jason holds on to him just as strongly.
The hug lasts a long time; Jason finally realizes that Bruce is not going to be the first to let go, so he does it. Bruce smiles at him, a soft, small one and Jason smiles back, feels like he’s twelve-years old again and that this rich guy is asking him if he wants to be adopted. Bruce had looked all bashful, like there had been any way a poor kid was going to say no. And that, that had been the reason Jason had said yes.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Bruce says. He shakes Juice’s hand again and then he leaves.
Juice puts an arm around Jason’s waist, who’s pretty sure he’d fall without the support.
“Well, that just happened,” Juice says. He sounds a bit confused, definitely surprised, but mostly happy.
“Yeah,” Jason says and then he turns to him, smiles. There’s a lot of things he could say, but he realizes they’re all things Juice already knows. So he just kiss him. “Let’s make use of that big bed, yeah?”
“You read my thoughts, babe,” Juice says and then they’re walking to the bedroom.
Tom drives them up to the manor, leaves them right by the giant doors, not the gates that are still quite the distance. Jason almost told him to just leave them there; he could certainly use the walk and the fresh air. But then again, he’s not sure he wouldn’t just start running back to Gotham, all twelve miles of it.
Jason wonders if Bruce knew he and Juice were a bit drunk the night before, when he made the request. Jason is pretty sure that if he’d been one hundred percent sober, he’d never have said yes.
Juice hasn’t let go of his hand throughout the whole ride, though he hasn’t been holding onto it with too much strength. Just a presence for Jason to focus on and not freak the fuck out.
The results are… Mixed. He is freaking out, but Juice being there gives him a good reason to not just open the door and jump out while the car is still rolling, no matter the speed. Jason would survive it, he’s sure, but Juice would not be amused.
So he stayed inside and he waits until Tom fully stops the car before taking a deep breath and leaving.
“Mr. Pennyworth has told me he’ll be driving you to the airport so this is the last time you see me,” Tom says.
“Thanks for everything,” Jason says, wonders if he should give him a tip, but knows that he’ll just say no.
“It was a pleasure to meet you two,” Tom says.
“You too,” Juice says and then Tom is driving away.
Jason takes in another deep breath, the only thing stopping him from running after the car and begging him to take him away.
He’s being dramatic. He knows he’s being dramatic, but can’t seem to quite stop it from happening. He made plans for when he was in Gotham: meet the baby, share meals with Barbara and Dick and then Alfred or a variation of the three and force at least one confrontation with Bruce. Being back at the manor? Yeah, maybe that had crossed his mind, but only for the five seconds it took Jason to push the thought away.
He hasn’t been back since before he died.
“You OK?” Juice asks, still holding onto his hand. He’s running circles with his thumb and Jason does feel himself relax. Worst comes to worst… They’ll just leave.
Alfred might be upset, but Jason doesn’t doubt he’d still drive them away. Or, there’s still the running back to Gotham plan. They might lose their plane, but he’s sure they could do it.
Finally, Jason leads Juice to the doorway. Of course, before he can ring the doorbell, Alfred opens the door.
“I’m so glad to see the two of you,” Alfred says with a smile and Jason smiles back, tells himself that Alfred will keep things controlled.
Alfred moves aside so they can go in and Jason focuses on the way Juice is looking with wide eyes at everything instead of how it feels to be back.
“Master Dick and Miss Barbara have already arrived with Master John,” Alfred tells them. Jason feels just a stab of disappointment that it won’t just be the two of them and Bruce but then immediately squashes that and thinks that the two of them being here – especially Dick – will be the only way they get through lunch in a civilized manner.
“Already calling him Master John? You’ll give him a complex,” Jason says, barely paying attention to the words coming out of his mouth, too busy making sure he doesn’t stumble over his own feet.
Alfred replies with something but it goes over Jason’s head. They’re in front of the doors to one of the living rooms, the one with the big TV, where Jason and Bruce spent a lot of nights watching films.
Alfred just opens it, lets it open for them to pass through. This time, it’s Juice who pulls him as he goes in.
“Hey!” Dick says as he sees them and Jason can see he’s genuinely surprised they made it.
“Hey,” he says and Juice waves with his free hand.
Barbara and Bruce look up from where they’d been talking about something. Bruce has John on his arms, looks really comfortable with a baby there. They might cry a lot and smell bad, but they also don’t talk, so Jason figures they’re Bruce’s favorite type of person.
No one says anything for a few seconds, just stares being exchanged. It’s Juice who breaks the silence, surprisingly.
“You have a really nice home.”
“Thank you,” Bruce says and sounds genuine. “It’s been in my family for six generations.”
“A lot of history,” Juice says and the conversation does sound a bit forced, but at least he’s trying.
“Yes,” Bruce replies and closes his mouth. Again, silence, but this time it’s Dick who breaks it.
“There isn’t a chandelier I haven’t swung from.”
Juice looks surprised at him and Jason remembers that while he knows Dick was the first Robin, he doesn’t know the details.
“Wasn’t that… dangerous?”
“He gave me a few heart attacks,” Bruce says before Dick can answer and he has a smile playing on his lips, small but playful.
“Excuse me, I’m a professional,” Dick tells him and then turns back to Juice, “I was in the circus, had a trapeze act with my parents.”
“Wow, that must have been something,” Juice says and Dick walks closer so that he can tell him all about it. Jason tuns it out, already knows the story, and instead just stares at Bruce, who is staring back.
Eventually, Barbara rolls forward to join Juice’s and Dick’s conversation and Jason lets go of Juice’s hand to walk towards Bruce.
“You seem like a natural with the baby,” he says, feels like it’s a safe topic of conversation.
Bruce looks down at John, smiles softly at him, and then back at Jason. “I always… Regretted that I didn’t get you and Dick earlier, that there was so much I missed.”
Jason doesn’t say anything to that right away, doesn’t know what to say. That certainly isn’t what he was expecting. He thinks of a joke, something along the lines of “instead you just go the angry teenager phase” but he has a feeling Bruce will say something sentimental to that and that’s not something he wants to deal with.
Jason moves so that he can put a hand on John’s chest, just leaves it there for a few seconds, feels his tiny chest move as he breathes. “Well, now you just get to be the cool grandpa.”
Bruce doesn’t reply right away and Jason looks up. His smile still isn’t giant but Jason can see true happiness in his eyes, how he loves being a grandfather, even if it also serves as a pretty good remainder that he’s getting older.
Before either of them can think of another awkward topic of conversation – God, what if Bruce asked if he and Juice were thinking of adopting? – Alfred comes back and tells them lunch is ready.
They leave in a line, with Jason being the last. Before he closes the door behind him – just a habit in the manor, he never quite figured out why – he looks back at the room. He’d been so focused on the people inside that he’d barely paid any attention to the room itself.
It looks pretty much the same. Everything is where it used to be – though the TV got even bigger – and there now is a small corner with toys and some type of device to make sure John doesn’t crawl away, though Jason guesses that’s still a long way off.
When he finally turns back, Bruce is staring at him. He’s no longer holding John; Barbara or Dick probably took him to lay him somewhere to sleep.
“Your room is still there.”
Jason’s breath gets caught in his throat. He thought… That even if they had kept it after his death, that everything would have been thrown away after he came back as the Red Hood and pretty much pissed on all of Bruce’s teachings.
“If there’s something you’d like to take with you,” Bruce says and the conversation is just so fucking awkward, Jason almost starts laughing.
But instead he controls himself and just says, “thanks,” not making a promise one way or another – he doesn’t know if he even wants to see his old bedroom again – and then starts walking, Bruce waiting until they’re close to do the same.
They eat at the dining room, in the giant table that’s been there for probably all those six generations of Waynes who’ve lived at the manor, but at least Alfred has never been in the habit of setting the plates several chairs away from each other.
The other three are already sitting, with the only available spaces being the head of the table and the right chair to it. Jason takes that one, sitting beside Juice and in front of Dick, while Bruce gets the head.
Dick is telling a story about when he was Robin, one of his first nights out and Jason can see Bruce’s barely noticeable pause as he grabs his glass of water to take a drink. They never really mentioned what they did in masks outside of the cave, yet Jason figures that Bruce is more surprised at the fact that Dick is telling the story in front of Juice.
He looks surprised at Jason, but not judgmental, and Jason really doesn’t know how to deal with that, with whatever is running through Bruce’s mind about Juice or their relationship or… Anything, really, so he pays attention to the story.
It’s a funny one, involves some petty thieves, and it kind of makes Jason nostalgic. Dick got the good times, when things in Gotham still hadn’t gone completely to the crazies. Not that Jason dealt with the really bad stuff – Bruce had always wanted to protect him from that, even if he knew that Jason knew a lot of what went on after living on the streets – but it was still different.
For the first time in years, he wonders what would have happened if he’d been the first Robin, if their ages had been reversed and Bruce had found Jason first. Would he even have been interested in adoption? Or would he have just left him with social services?
Alfred comes in with a tray of food and Jason forces himself to focus on the now. He wishes Alfred sat down with them but, unfortunately, he doesn’t think he’d be able to get that unless he was dying.
They share the food around as they serve themselves, still with Dick jumping from story to story, with Juice asking questions and Barbara interjecting once in a while because Dick got some detail wrong.
But eventually Dick is forced to stop as he eats his food and there’s silence for a few minutes. If he and Barbara weren’t here it’d be so much worse. Jason feels genuinely grateful they’re here.
“And you, Juice, where are you from?” The question comes from Bruce and Jason looks surprised at him, but he’s looking at Juice.
“Oh, Queens. But my mom’s from Puerto Rico. ‘Never met my dad,” Jason pauses, “she died when I was a kid and then it was just foster home from foster home.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Bruce says and he’s genuine. Of that, Jason has never doubted, that he knows what it’s like to lose your parents at a young age.
Juice just nods; Jason knows he’s never been all that comfortable with receiving condolences, that he thinks they’re awkward. Bruce seems to get that – maybe it’s another thing he too feels – and moves on with the conversation.
“Did you move to Charming a long time ago?”
“About six years. Spent a year in college in Queens but it wasn’t exactly for me.”
“Well, Jason will be the first in the family with an undergraduate diploma since my parents,” Bruce says and Jason almost drops the food in his fork, but forces himself to put it in his mouth, even if it feels drier than he’s sure Alfred’s food actual is.
First in the family. He doesn’t know how to deal with that. Being considered part of the family.
He almost gets up, starts a scene right there, yells at Bruce about how he doesn’t get to feel that way after ignoring him for years. But he takes a deep breath, notices that Bruce keeps glancing at him, like he’s afraid he’ll suddenly disappear.
Jason almost wants to do it, almost wants to get up and say “ah! This was just a joke! I never want to see you again!” and grab Juice’s hand and leave, just to put some of the hurt Jason’s been feeling for years on Bruce’s heart.
And if he’d come back alone, if he hadn’t met Juice and wasn’t currently engaged, he thinks he would do it. Hell, wouldn’t even be at this table in the first place. But as it is… Juice’s hand is on his thigh and his presence really calms Jason down, makes him think things through.
And the fact is that he wants a relationship with Bruce. He’s come to love the people in the club – well, most of them – and especially Gemma has come to be a real parental figure in his life, but it’s also reminded him of everything he lost when he died.
Jason came back from the pit angry, only remembered the bad stuff – the being benched, Joker still alive – but with time and distance, he remembers the good stuff as well. And he misses Bruce.
Not Batman, but Bruce, the one who awkwardly asked him if he’d like to be adopted, as if there was a chance in hell any kid would say no to that, the one who helped him with his homework, stayed home from patrol when he was sick and genuinely looked ready to fight old ladies who gossiped about Jason, usually calling him some variation of street trash.
The conversation has already moved on by the time Jason focuses back on it. Dick and Juice are talking about prison, which is… Absolutely not what he expected.
But Juice is talking about his experience – the danger, the rules, the power – and Dick and Barbara ask genuinely interested questions.
Jason turns to Bruce, who is also paying attention to the conversation.
“Guess you never thought you’d have an ex-con for a son-in-law,” Jason says in a low tone, continues before Bruce can say anything. “Well, if you ever thought about having a son-in-law.”
Bruce stares at him for a few seconds. Then, surprisingly, puts a hand on top of Jason’s. “If it made you happy, I’d happily accept two, three sons-in-law.”
Jason feels himself blushing, can’t actually remembers the last time that happened. Bruce squeezes his hand and lets go, goes back to eating.
“You’re so embarrassing, old man,” Jason says, and it feels like such a familiar sentence. Bruce grins at him, suddenly looks almost exactly like the man Jason first met over a decade ago.
“It’s my job,” Bruce says, also repeating something he used to say.
Jason thinks that this shouldn’t be so easy, getting this easy familiarity back. But he can see that Bruce is more nervous than he looks, that he knows they’re completely on Jason’s field, that if he wants to leave and never come back, there’s nothing he can do to stop him.
And that… That makes all the difference, the fact that this relationship isn’t being taken for granted.
Yeah, maybe Jason shouldn’t have accepted Bruce back in his life so easily, but he can’t really make himself regret it. He feels happy. He’s let go of a lot of anger in the previous years and that simply is not a place he wants to get back to. So he has two choices: fully cut Bruce out of his life or move on.
With Juice by his side, the choice is easy. He doesn’t let anger make his decisions anymore and Bruce is trying. That makes all the difference in the world. So Jason starts a conversation about Wayne Enterprises and enjoys his first Wayne family lunch in a very long time.
A few hours later and they’re on a plane back to Charming. This time, Jason just reclines on his seat, feels absolutely no stress.
“You happy we came?” Juice asks and he turns his head to look at him. Smiles.
“Bruce gonna come to the wedding?”
“I think so,” Jason says and keeps smiling.
Juice smiles back. Then it suddenly falls.
“What?” Jason asks, frowning.
“You know what this means, right?” He says the next part in a whisper, “Batman, one of the biggest symbols of crime-fighting, is going to be at our wedding, where more than half the guests are involved in some type of crime,” he sounds just slightly hysterical.
“Oh,” Jason starts, thinks about it, then shrugs. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
Juice rolls his eyes, “yeah, I figured.” A pause, “so, what do we do?”
Jason frowns, “nothing?” Juice looks incredulously at him, so he continues. “It’s not like he’s going to kill anyone. Worse thing he’ll do is stab someone.”
Juice keeps staring, then he starts laughing, again with that slight hysterical tone to it. “I can’t believe there’s a high chance of someone getting stabbed at our wedding and it’s not because of my side of the guests.”
“I think you’re kidding yourself if you think the Sons are coming for you,” Jason tells him with a shit-eating grin and Juice puts a hand on his shoulder, pushing him away, which makes Jason laugh.
“You’re such an ass,” Juice says, but he sounds amused too.
Jason keeps smiling, “an ass that you’re marrying.”
“Yeah,” Juice says with a giant grin. They continue to smile stupidly at each other before Juice grows serious and changes the subject. “You know, Jax came to talk to me a few days ago. When Clay steps out, and it should be soon, he wants to lead the club into more legit ventures.”
Jason raises his eyebrows but doesn’t say anything right away, thinks it over. “What’s he thinking?”
“More porn, maybe a few strip clubs as well. More mechanic work; the construction for Charming Heights is still going ahead, they’ll need someone to do maintenance on the vehicles.”
“And the Irish Kings? They won’t accept you getting out of the gun business lightly.”
“Probably not, but if we find other sellers…” Juice takes his hand and squeezes, “it’s a good thing.”
“I know it’s a good thing, Juice. I just… It’s hard to get out of the crime world cleanly. I don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
Juice doesn’t say anything right away, just studies Jason’s face in silence for a few moments. “I know. But… Things between Clay and Jax are stressful, like they were years ago. Clay wants more money for the club, and that means more risk. Jax has two little kids to think about.”
“I’m good with going legit. I’ve never been in it for the money, you know that.”
Jason nods, squeezes his hand. “I’m here for you either way.”
Juice smiles, pulls their hands to his face so that he can kiss Jason’s knuckles.
“I know you are.”
“No secrets between us, uh?” Jason asks, smiling.
“Maybe a couple small ones. Wouldn’t want things to get too boring.”
Jason laughs. “I can assure you, boredness is not something I feel when I’m with you.”
“Good,” Juice replies and leans forward to kiss him. Jason hums into the kiss.
Yeah, life’s definitely not boring.
Jason doesn’t feel nervous. He’s watched enough romantic films to know having jitters on your wedding day is normal, but that’s not how he feels at all. This day has been planned for months and all he’s felt as it came closer was excitement.
He and Juice both decided that neither wanted to be walked down the aisle, so they’d simply arrived earlier than their guests and are waiting for when everyone is there and Alfred starts the ceremony.
Juice is, probably for the first time since they’d met, wearing pants that actually fit. Jason had half expected him to show up in an old pair of baggy sweatpants, which while would have definitely contrasted with what Jason is wearing – black trousers, white shirt and red velvet jacket – really wouldn’t have made a difference for him.
But Juice has made an effort and Jason doesn’t doubt that it’s mostly for him, since Juice isn’t a formal person, probably would wear more shorts and flip flops if it weren’t for the fact that he regularly rode a motorcycle.
He has a white shirt on and his vest on top. Jason kind of wants them to just give each other the rings and just skip the party. But as their friends and families start arriving, happy to share this day with them, the urge starts diminishing.
Getting married, especially with a big wedding, had never really been in Jason’s plans but damn, how he was happy his life hadn’t turned out at all like he’d first expected it.
There were members from clubs not the Sons – a couple Mayans, including Alvarez, a couple Niners and most of the Grim Bastards – but this wasn’t a “who’s who” of the criminal underworld like Opie’s wedding had been. But Juice had been the first to bring up inviting people outside the Club and Jason hadn’t seen a reason to oppose it.
Maybe these weren’t close friends, but they had good relationships going on and if wedding parties served to help keep people happy and improve those bonds… He didn’t mind.
“You look gorgeous,” Barbara tells him, with Dick by her side with John on his arms, and Bruce beside them, though Jason has to make a double take to make sure it really is him.
He’s come disguised; a beard, glasses and he’s dyed his hair brown. Jason feels relieved; he hadn’t been sure just how to explain Bruce Wayne being his adoptive dad, especially when as far as the world was concerned, his second son was still dead, and now he doesn’t have to.
“Thanks. You too,” he says, meaning it. He notices how Barbara’s blue dress matches with Dick’s tie and it makes him grin.
“Juice’s best man have the rings?” Dick asks and Jason nods, shows how his left hand is currently ring-free.
“We just got him a matching ring to mine. ‘Didn’t really see the point in me wearing two.”
Dick nods at that and then Jason sees Gemma and Clay walk up, Gemma with a brilliant smile on her face, and with a clap on Dick’s shoulder, goes to them.
“Hey,” he says with a smile, receives a quick, one arm hug from Clay and a longer one from Gemma.
“You look gorgeous,” she says, repeating Barbara’s words and he smiles.
“Thank you. You too.”
Gemma shrugs, “I love a good reason to dress up.”
Jason continues to smile; he’s certainly never seen Gemma look anything but put-together.
“That your family?” She asks, pointing with her chin at Dick, Barbara and Bruce.
“Part of them,” Jason says and smiles at her, trusting her to understand her meaning. From the way her smile softens, she does.
“I’m happy they’re here,” Gemma says and Jason knows she means it, though he also has no doubts she’ll be paying close attention to them, trying to figure out if she likes them or not. Juice has said Jason is her favorite and while Jason doesn’t quite believe it, it’s obvious that she has a soft spot for him.
Jason certainly doesn’t mind it.
“I’m happy you’re here too,” she says and pats him on the cheek before moving on.
Juice comes to stand by him as they greet guests until eventually it is six PM and Alfred is standing under a flowery arch.
Jason and Juice walk hand in hand. He sees John in Barbara’s arm in the front row, sitting by Bruce, while Dick moves so that he’s on Alfred’s left side and Chibs on his right.
As good as Jason is with writing words, he and Juice had both decided they didn’t really want to write their own vows, that some things were meant to be kept private, so they just repeat the vows after Alfred.
Jason is slightly surprised when the guys from the different clubs repeat the club’s wedding vows, the same ones they had at Opie’s and Lyla’s wedding. Jason had been half expecting that they’d let that go, based on how they’re both men. But everyone yells it alongside Juice and Jason just grins at him.
After that, there’s food, drinks, conversations and eventually, a dance.
Jason spent months trying to find a song for their first dance. They both enjoy music and had their favorites, but he didn’t think the Rolling Stones or Lynyrd Skynyrd were the best choices. So he’d gone over hours and hours of YouTube playlists named a variation of “wedding songs” and eventually, one had sounded perfect from the first verses and that’s the one that starts playing as they meet in the middle of the dance floor, with all their friends and family watching.
My love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song
Jason knows he’s had a stupid smile on his face for hours, but he’s also pretty sure Juice’s looks like an exact mirror of his, so who cares. Their wedding rings glint from the lights around them and Jason feels happier than he has in a long time.
He remembers being twelve, almost thirteen and jumping up and down dressed in the Robin costume and saying “this is the happiest day of my life!” Now there’s so many up for competition, there isn’t even a point in trying to find a winner.
Jason is just going to make damn sure he and Juice get to feel that way as often as possible