" What the hell?"
Dick blinks at him with surprise. While Jason's profanity is no longer anything to blink at, the disbelief in the boy's voice is questioning.
"What's the problem?"
Jason looks at him with further incredulity. "What is that?"
"It's a blanket. For the movie, remember?" The older boy still doesn't understand the reason behind his brother's indignation.
"Of course I remember the movie! I'm not stupid. What I mean is, why the hell is that blanket baby blue with clouds on it? It's totally girly!"
Dick frowns with his own bout of outrage. Alfred would say he's pouting. He begs to differ. He's simply showcasing his anger through lip-language.
"Excuse you?! I'll have you know this blanket is a novelty item, and it was given to me by someone very dear. It's special, and it's design is one-of-a-kind."
Jay's laughter intercepts and tackles his passionate speech as the boy's arms latch onto his stomach and he collapses to the carpeted floor below. His guffaws, despite existing at Dick's expense, ultimately bring a grin to the elder's face. Jason may have emotional issues, but his passion for life is unquestionable. As much as the boy can feel hate with such intensity, he can feel joy with just as much genuine emotion.
Eventually (four minutes and twenty-five seconds, to be exact), Jason's chortles subside, and he's left gasping for breath as he speaks.
"Okay, I get it. It's important. Whatever. Just warn me next time you want to get in touch with your feminine side. I'll be sure to steer clear."
"Shut up." Dick childishly sticks his tongue out at his younger brother, and realizes that Jason has succeeded in de-aging his brother back into a twelve-year-old punk. "The next time I get in touch with my 'feminine side', I'll make it my personal mission to get you to join me."
"Good luck, Booty Shorts!"
"Keep talking! You'll be wearing them soon enough!" Hear he is, bantering with a child almost twice his junior like it's the most natural occurrence in the world.
Something Wally has been trying to do for the last five years, Jason does in five weeks. I'm screwed
Dick mentally shrugs, deciding to deal with the 'problem' when it's necessary, and turns to the boy with him. He lifts an eyebrow when he sees Jason off the floor and on the couch, the 'girly' blanket wrapped around his person in luxurious comfort, with the perfect space left for Dick's (currently) larger body. He snorts at the sight of Jason's head tucked into the top of the cloth so that only his blue eyes and ebony hair are visible as he flips through channels with a relatively bored expression. Dick never would have guessed the youth was capable of looking innocent, let alone endearing. The ultimate deception, to be sure.
Jason sees him watching, and temporarily lowers the blanket. "Yo, you gonna stand there like a moron or get this show on the road? I was nice enough to leave you some room. Get'cher ass movin'!"
Dick, his eyes rolling towards Heaven, makes his way to the plush couch moved to the center of the room, and continues to make a show of scrabbling his way under the blanket, consequently ruining Jason's self-made cocoon and earning himself an earful. Before too long, they find their places on the sofa, and Dick hits the 'play' button on the remote for the VCR. He's decided to increase Jason's movie knowledge (which primarily consists of horror, gore, and slapstick comedy) by presenting a feature film the boy would never choose.
"Jay, welcome to 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'."
At first, Jason's face is lit with curiosity, before it soon morphs into an expression of confusion.
"Wait, isn't that a kid movie made with that claymation crap from Disney? I'm not watching this! It's for babies!"
Dick smirks at the boy's expression, and notices the irony in Jason's statement as opposed to his appearance. The boy's head is once again tucked into the blanket, his dark hair wild and disheveled as usual, and his lips are locked in an angry pout.
In other words, he looks like the child he insists he's not.
"Relax. You'll like it, I promise. This happens to be one of the few 'kid movies' that even adults aren't ashamed to love."
Jason's expression didn't change, but he did ease his body back into a comfortable position against the sofa.
"It better be." An unspoken threat that had Dick grinning with affection and reaching over to ruffle the boy's hair. Which resulted in his looking even more childlike than before. Not that he needed to know.
While the Jay's body had gained some much-needed substance due to Bruce's training and Alfred's cooking, he was still rather scrawny. In his time on the streets of Gotham, Jason's meal plans had consisted of any substance to get through the night. Naturally, those items would never be called a well-balanced meal, and Jason's physical development had suffered from it.
At thirteen years of age, Jason's natural development would have had him much closer to Dick's height and build. Instead, he looked to be around ten-years-old. An unfortunate consequence of a fate he could not control.
Nevertheless, Jason's small size (a term that wouldn't fit for long, according to Bruce) failed to stop him from having enough attitude for twenty fully grown men, and a left hook to match.
When Dick tunes back into the movie, Jack Skellington's gift giving is being interrupted by the police, and Jason is enraptured, though he's trying his best to appear less interested. He turns to Dick, his eyes earnest.
"Why the hell would he want to take over Christmas? He rules Halloween! That holiday's way better than sucky Christmas!"
Dick blinks. "You serious? What about presents?"
Jason sniffs crossly. "I never got any presents from some fat, white guy. But I did get candy on Halloween. Kept me full for weeks. Christmas never came close."
And there it is again. Jason doesn't seem as sensitive when speaking of his time in Crime Alley. If anything, he simply disregards it as a piece of his past he'd happily forget. But it still causes a small bit of discomfort for those around him. Alfred once told Dick about the first gala Jason attended as Bruce's newest ward, and how he single-handedly shunted every first-class, snot-nosed dignitary within a forty-foot vicinity who foolishly attempted to treat him like any normal child. Alfred recalled the dual expression on Bruce's face, a combination of pride and sorrow.
At this moment, Dick can relate to his pseudo father. Instead of letting the slight awkwardness show, he smiles and says, "Fair enough. But I'll bet your opinion changes when you experience a Wayne Christmas. Definitely an experience to last a lifetime."
Another sniff and slight snuggling that brings him further under the blanket. "Yeah. Right."
By the end of the movie, Jason has changed position again, and now his entire body is curled on Dick's solid chest, his head buried in his brother's broad shoulder. A light snore issues from his lips, and Dick knows he's out for the count. Just as he's about to carry the boy to his room, he hears the front door open, and Bruce, along with Alfred, comes through the door and into the foyer, where Dick knows he has a perfect view of the living area, where he and Jason are camped out. Sure enough, his mentor looks to the sofa, and locks eyes with his eldest. To Dick's surprise, he slowly smiles.
"Rough night?" he asks, his tone teasing, and Dick looks down to see Jason still burrowed in his chest, even with Dick's gentle jostling.
"Yeah," he replies uncomfortably. While he and Bruce have reached a kind of civil impasse, there still exists a kind of tension between them, enough for both of them to keep their distance from one another. With Jason's presence, however, circumstances seem to be slowly, gradually improving.
"Do you want me to take over, Master Richard?" Alfred's offer, while tempting (Jason continues to grow every day), isn't necessary, and Dick shakes his head as he rises completely off of the couch with Jason in his arms.
"It's all right, Alfie, I got 'im."
"I believe I'll retire for the evening, then. Goodnight, sirs."
Alfred begins his ascent up the staircase before turning back to the younger men.
"Oh, and Master Dick, be sure to return the furniture to its original position before you retire, as well."
Dick smiles sheepishly. "It was Jay's idea."
Alfred's not convinced. "I'm sure it was. But seeing as the youngest master is currently occupied, I'll leave the responsibility to you."
Dick sighs. He knew Alfred wouldn't buy it, despite Jason's reputation. "Yes, Alfie."
He swears he sees a smirk on the old man's face. "Very good, sir." With that, the faithful butler (and secret shadow king of Wayne Manor) disappears up the dark staircase.
Dick turns to Bruce. "He scares me, sometimes."
"I know. He scares me, too."
Both grin in unison, before Bruce comes closer and places a warm, heavy hand on his son's shoulder. "Why don't you two head on up to bed? It's late, and it's hard enough getting Jason to bed at a decent hour."
The younger man chuckles quietly and does his best to salute while still holding Jason securely. "Got it. Night."
Okay, so maybe things could be better. But they're progressing, and that's what counts.
Dick finally reaches Jason's door, nudges it open with his sock-clad foot, and proceeds to lay his brother on his bed. To his amusement, the boy briefly refuses to cooperate, and his arms tighten around Dick's shoulders.
"C'mon, Jay. I have to go to bed, too, y'know."
Jason mumbles incoherently and reluctantly lets go, and Dick lowers him to the bed and tucks the comforter around his person. Finally, he leans down to remove the hair from his forehead.
"Goodnight, you little monster."
As he reaches the door to head to his own warm bed, a voice sleepily calls from the darkness.
He turns back with a smile. "Yeah?"
Jason grins softly, his blues flashing in the night. "Thanks for the movie. It was pretty awesome."
"I know. I told you it would be."
Dick knows that look when he sees it. "Is there something else?"
A small flush lights Jason's face and he shifts slightly under the blankets. "Um
will you be here for Christmas?"
His older brother returns to his side and reaches down to ruffle his hair one last time. "Tell you what; I'll do my best to make sure we have plenty of time to spend together, just the two of us, for the holidays. We can even roast chestnuts, decorate the tree, drink hot chocolate, exchange presents, the whole nine yards."
Jason smirks, but loses it in a yawn. "You sound like one of those cheesy Hallmark cards. You won't show up in a red suit, will you?"
"I'll take that as a 'yes' and a compliment. And no, that's Bruce's job."
Both shudder as disturbing images of their father bouncing around the manor shouting "Ho ho ho!" crash through their thoughts. Five seconds later, they leave the picture in the blackest corners of their minds, and quickly wish one another a peaceful night.
There really is no point in ruining the holidays with such horrific imaginings.