A bright blinding gift
by Te
February 24, 2004

Disclaimers: If they were mine, I'd sigh a lot.

Spoilers: Vague ones up through various Batman
storylines, and some Teen Titans, too.

Summary: It's too soon for a lot of things.

Ratings Note: R.

Author's Note: Part five in the Black Sky series.

Two more parts to go.

Acknowledgments: Much, much love to Jack and
Livia, who dragged me through this with patience
and love and made it far, far better than it would
have been without them. Bas also did some
quality hand-holding.


If it were Dick, he would've been able to assume, on
at least the barest surface of his thoughts, that he
had found himself detained on one adventure with
his team or another.

If it were Jason... he had spent far less time thinking
about what may or may not have been going on in
the boy's head than he should have.

If it were Tim, there would've been a carefully-worded
communiqué set to deliver itself to his systems
precisely twelve hours after Tim had failed to appear
where he should have. Tim could and did program
them remotely. Bruce had forgotten this, and had
had nearly two full days to be aware of his death
before the communiqué arrived with the simple
message: 'I'm probably in trouble. Sorry.' The
co-ordinates of his last known position had, of
course, been those of the Kents' farm.

There is no message, no room for assumption, and
Jason's death had stripped Bruce of the luxury of
ever not knowing his partners as well as he
possibly could. To that end, there is little enough
to investigate, and nothing he hasn't pored over.

The last of the Titans to see him was Kid Flash,
who had come to Gotham to *find* Kon precisely
because Kon hadn't been in contact with any of
them. (He said he wouldn't *do* this again) The
boy is blaming himself, and seems precisely as
likely to listen to reason on the matter as he's ever
been willing to listen to reason on *any* matter.

The Flash has been forced to spend far, far too
much of his time watching the boy, at a time
when Bruce could use him. No one could cover
ground like a speedster.

The area where the tracer had simply stopped
transmitting was entirely free of anything of interest.
He had stopped a mugging there last night as he'd
gone over the ground for himself. A carjacking two
blocks southeast several weeks ago. It wasn't a
*good* neighborhood, but it was one of the better

He had started Tim there for *his* first solo patrols.

He had...

There'd been no sign of the sort of blast damage
that would've been necessary to stop the transmissions
without any warning. There had been no sign of the
tracer itself, as every plastic fragment he and Batgirl
had collected from the area had proven themselves to
be nothing like the compound of materials he'd
especially developed for the things.

It has only been three days.

Oracle has been monitoring transmissions on
metahuman activity, far, far beyond even her usual
impressive range. Nightwing is spelling her.

On his own power, Kon could go anywhere, *be*
anywhere within hours. Minutes. He doesn't believe
Kon... left under his own power.

It would be easier if he did.

Dick, in the years before the Titans, in the years when
it seemed they spent more time together than not,
had still spent far less time in the Manor than Kon.
Dick had never been tied here for any reasons but
his own, and that lesson had been a hard one.

The fact that Tim had always made sure that he could
be contacted just meant the boy could wander more.
And he had. For a moment, the ache of it seizes him
hard. Somewhere within Tim's files is a world map
Alfred had given him to document 'the whims of his
distressingly peripatetic soul,' heavily stained with

There is a terrifyingly powerful urge within him to
call those files up, and others, as well. Everything
but the letter, though he knows himself well enough
that he would wind up there sooner, rather than later.
Just the chance to read the varying reports the boy
had written, to try to read between the sparsely-
written lines of documented crime and Tim's own
reactions to it to find...


He will never forget the way Tim smiled. *Truly*
smiled, with his chin dipped and his head turned, a
move designed to call attention to the shine of the
boy's mask and the tension in his throat, as opposed
to the sardonic curve of his mouth.

When he actually focuses on the monitor, he is not
surprised to find that he has opened the folder with
the temporary copies of the files in question.

Addicts tend to trade one poison for another, as well,
and... no.

Not poison. Just... one less necessary pain in the place
of another.

Something has happened to Kon. Something he can't
even begin to guess about. The boy has made
enemies, of course. Had made quite a few long before
he ever came to Gotham to stay. Powerful, dangerous
ones -- all of whom are accounted for.

Pamela Isley hadn't appreciated the boy's use of his
heat vision on her plants, but she is in Arkham.

Batman hasn't yet begun interrogating people
strenuously. He has, however, begun thinking in
dangerously amusing euphemism. And he isn't sure
which will be worse: the first time he can't stop
himself from hurting some unwilling informant far
more than is strictly necessary, or the first night
when his... his *family* will begin appearing at the
edges of his vision when he's on patrol. Watching
and waiting for him to lose control -- no.

Watching and waiting for him to allow them to be
his support. He is not so far gone that he can't
recognize the good intentions in the as yet
hypothetical gesture. He won't *let* himself go that
far anymore.

Not after Vesper. Not after Tommy.

Not after...

(I know you want to hear this as much as I want to
say it, Bruce, but you have to let us -- them -- be
there for you. You need them, and they need -you-.
Just like --)

A desperately childish voice is screaming about
fairness, about too *soon*. As if 'fair' had any meaning,
as if there would ever be a right time.

Kon is nothing like anyone he's ever had in his life,
and he has had enough time to understand why he
resisted the boy's presence -- his very *existence* --
so strenuously.

Too easy to see all the ways he was nothing like Clark
as proof of some deeper game, as hints of some
sinister future when 'the clone' would show his true
colors, and use the immense powers at his disposal
against them all.

Watching Tim cleave to the boy had felt like watching
him cheerfully handcuff himself to a ticking time-bomb,
and the only way to cope with it, to *accept* it
without doing something as egregiously foolish as
actively forbidding it was to remind himself just how
adept Tim had been at defusing any and all bombs.

He had given no one anything like the specifics
behind his 'reasoning,' and he understands that, as
well. To use the boy's startling individuality against
him was... mind-bogglingly foolish.

There is some degree of rationalization possible --
there always is -- in the sense that Tim had, of
course, seen Kon's *self-ness*, as well, and merely
found a better way to react to it than Bruce had.

That it had taken Tim's death to make him open his
eyes is inexcusable. The only comfort was in making
what amends he could.

The fact that Kon has been so *willing*, so open
to every small gesture of companionship Bruce has
been able to offer is one more reminder of those
gestures' necessity. And of their pleasure.

And if he lets himself remember them... his memory
is far too attuned to the rhythms of obsessive grief,
carefully and lovingly painting each individual image
with a patina of grief, as though Kon were already
dead, as opposed to simply... missing.

And he is far too lost within his own mind.

He opens the channel to the Watchtower and checks
the current reads. Lantern is there, as are Wonder
Woman and... Superman. It's not a conversation he
especially wants to have, and yet it would almost
have to be better than watching his own mind do its
level best to bury Kon.

Another Robin. He can't --

He grits his teeth and slips the League communicator
into his ear. He will not try to do this with visual.
Even a hologram would be too telling at this point.


"I'm here, Batman. Any word?"


Superman -- Clark -- sighs. "I don't... I wish. You
know Kon and I haven't spoken since I came to see
the two of you, right?"

"That was... ill-advised."

"The visit or the lack of communication?" An
humorless laugh. "Wait, don't answer that. I just
don't know how much I can tell you, beyond that I'm
keeping an eye out."

He lets his eyes close behind the cowl, just for a
moment. "I know."



"Part of me wants to blame you. Wants to yell at you
for hiding him away from everyone else and turning
him into..."

"Another version of myself?"

"We both know that isn't true."

Batman grits his teeth. "I'm not so sure."

Clark takes a sharp, sudden breath, and it isn't

He knows exactly how... troubled he is, right now.

"Bruce, it's only been three days. I've seen Conner
disappear for longer than that when he was trying
to get a *date*."

"And we both know he isn't like that anymore."

"Do we? Look, I --"

"This conversation was probably a bad idea."

"Bruce, don't hang up. Please."

"Clark. You don't --"

"Know him? No, I don't. And that's as much my fault
as it is yours. More, because... I don't know. Never
in my *life* would I have thought he *could* find
anything in your life that would work for him, but
he did. If I'm the wrong person for you to talk to
right now, it's only because he's one of yours now.
Is that... am I making any sense?"

One of his. *His*. "Yes."

Another sigh. "I miss them, Bruce."

"I know."

"Sometimes... you have no idea how many times I
would go to them for help, for *advice*, and
wonder who *you* had for that. You have this
huge, wonderful family, but I don't know how many
times Nightwing has told me... well."

"I've been... trying."

"I know that. I know how much you're trying right
*now*. With me."

Batman feels his mouth twitch, and lets it. "Is that
what I'm doing?"

"Having a conversation with a friend when you're
feeling low? I think it counts, Bruce. I'm just..."

Batman listens to Clark breathe, and waits.

"I'm..." Clark swallows audibly. "I'm feeling my
parents' death more than usual right now."

"It makes sense."

"Of course it does. When does sense ever help?"

"When does anything?"

"Hm. You *would* find a way to talk to me when I
couldn't be any help whatsoever, wouldn't you?"

Batman hears Alfred coming down the stairs, but
doesn't turn around. "I miss them, too, Clark. What
they... I knew how much they meant to you."

"And Tim. I was hoping... I wanted... they called
me, you know. They told me *who* was visiting,
and I was going to drop by for... for dinner..."

"Clark --"

"You understand this, right? How it's just one more
huge, terrible lesson about what happens when you
don't -- oh, God."

Clark doesn't even try to hide the sounds.

"You were right. This isn't the conversation we need
to have right now. I think... I'm going to get back to
you, all right?"

"I... all right."

"Superman out."

Batman slips the communicator out and tucks it
back in his belt. If there was ever *more* proof --

"It was good of you to talk to him, Master Bruce."

"All I did was remind him of... of everything he's

"Hm. And we are, of course, fully aware of how
useful it is to repress such things so that our
pummeling of miscreants will be *extra* violent."


"Far be it from me to question the wisdom of such
a world-view. I am, after all, merely the butler."

Batman smiles despite himself. "Point taken, Alfred."

"One would hope." Alfred leans past him to dust
the monitors, just far enough away that neither of
them have to move.

He has no comment for the files on-screen, and
this is unsurprising. Alfred had already said
everything he'd intended to about his *not* reading
the letters, in great detail. He knows he has a bit
more time to obsess over them before the pointed
comments begin. Perhaps a week.

"I've been giving the matter of Master Kon's
disappearance some thought."


"I do not believe you are the cause, Master Bruce.
I have had some little experience in observing the
sorts of things that may cause young men to leave
our household precipitously, and none of the signs
were there.

"You have been a good friend to him, and he will
return when he is able."

"You think he's injured."

Alfred leans back and tucks his dusting cloth away.
"The lives all of you choose to lead..." He shakes his
head. "Better to say that I *fear* the boy is injured.
What I *believe*... is that he is, in some way,

"He's more powerful than he ever was before.
Everything I've taught him, everything *we've*
taught him, and all of the things Tim had before..."

"Before you were ever able to view him as anything
but a poor copy of Master Clark. Yes, I *am* aware
of these ever-fascinating underlying complications,
Master Bruce." Alfred rests his hand on his shoulder.
"As I've said, you have been a good friend to the
boy, and, yes, a good teacher as well. Both matters,
I am sure, will prove important in the lad's eventual
return to us."

"I miss him."

"He does add a certain... liveliness to the Manor."

"It seems..." Bruce stares down at the keyboard.
"He doesn't remind me of Tim."

"Hmm." Alfred says, and wipes a feather duster over
the upper edges of the console. Waiting.

Bruce can feel it. "At first, all I could see... all I
could *do* was watch him and wonder if *this*
was what had cemented their friendship. If it


"He mocks *everything*. Or... it isn't that he doesn't
take things seriously. It just doesn't seem to stop
him from finding the humor in the situation."

"Something rather like Master Dick."

"Something like you."

He watches Alfred's mouth twitch from the edges of
his vision. "I'm sure I don't know *what* you could
be talking about, Master Bruce. I never make jokes."

"Of course not." But it's difficult to hold on to the
lightness. He swallows back a sigh and calls up the
third of the detailed lists of everyone who lived and
worked in the area where Kon's tracer had stopped
transmitting. Random searches could and have
proven useful in the past, for other things.

Cynthia L. Hartman, homemaker, mother of three.

Henry H. Hartman, computer programmer, husband
to Cynthia, father of three.

Edward B. Morell, certified public accountant and
amateur artist. Pet boa constrictor.

John Black, no middle initial. Free-lance travel
writer --

"You should not feel disloyal, Master Bruce."

He blinks and looks up to find Alfred checking the
oil in one of the cars. He had not said a word about
taking up those duties again after Harold... after
Harold. "What?"

Alfred doesn't look at him. "I daresay Master
Timothy would be pleased to see you looking at
Kon as a person worthy of friendship in his own
right, as opposed to another monument to his

"Is that..." What he was doing? He doesn't finish
the question. He doesn't need to do so. "He's more
than a monument."

"Indeed. Perhaps you should --"

"Batman." The monitor flashes once and settles
into the Oracle mask.

"Is there word?"

"No. But there's a complication. Switch on monitor

He does so, and gets an excellent view of Kid Flash
on the roof of the First Federal building, scowling
furiously at... He thinks about the vantage point in
terms of relative height. "Nightwing. Why is he

"He's trying to help."

The scowl on the kid's face shifts to confusion. "Who
are you talking to? Is that Batman? Did Superboy
come home?"

Batman listens to Nightwing sigh through the
communicator. "What do we do with him?"


"He can cover a lot of ground."

"What's he saying, Nightwing? I want to help!"

"True. And it can't possibly be a good idea to let him
run around on his own."

"Talk to *me*. I'm right *here*!"

There's a red blur at the far edge of Nightwing's
peripheral vision that resolves into the Flash.

"Hey, Wally." Nightwing sounds resigned.

"Is the man listening?"

Nightwing snorts. "What do you think?"

Flash looks directly at him through Nightwing's mask
camera. "Sorry, Batman. He got away from me."

"None of *you* have found him! He *said* he
wouldn't disappear and he wouldn't and I --"

The view shifts to take in Kid Flash, who isn't *quite*
struggling in the hold Flash has on his shoulder.
"Batman thinks we can use you, kid."

"He *does*?"

Kid Flash yanks himself out of Flash's hands and...
reaches up to, apparently, grab Nightwing's face.

"Hey --"

And pulls Nightwing down until they're nose to nose.
The view is vertiginously close. "Tell me what to do,

"I am *not* your personal speakerphone, kid."

"*Tell* me. I mean, he's not my friend anymore, not
the way he used to be, but he's still *missing* and
at least before he was missing with *good* people,
but now I don't --"

"Tell him to calm down."


"*Jesus*, kid --"

The view shifts to the back of Kid Flash's uniform and
the surface of the roof. The boy is presumably has his
ear pressed to Nightwing's.

"I'm going to assume you can hear me, Kid Flash."

"It's quiet, but yeah. What do you want me to do?"

"The first thing you need to do is calm down, as
much as you're able."

A brief pause. "Okay, I'm calm."

Subjective time. "Do you understand the concept of a
grid search?"

"Yeah. Where?"

"I'm sending a map to Nightwing's bike. You'll focus on
one area at a time, and report in every three hours."


The view settles back into something more normal,
after shifting in a way that makes it clear Nightwing is
stretching. The Flash is glaring at the top of Kid
Flash's head. After a moment, so is Nightwing.

"Unless you've got anything for me, Batman..."

"There's nothing."

"Right, Nightwing out."

He pulls up maps, and wonders if sending the boy to
run across Australia first would be helpful to anything
but their own sanity.

"The boy seems..."

"Alfred, the fact that you're at a loss for words says
it all."

Alfred sniffs at him. "The time and effort I have
expended in the search for adjectives equal to the
task of adequately describing each and every one of
you is not insignificant."


He sends Nightwing a map of New England,


It shouldn't be strange to patrol alone. While he has
spent far more time with a partner than not, he
*has* spent a significant amount of time by himself.
Before Dick, before Jason, before Tim, before...

Perhaps it's a function of what patrolling alone has
come to mean, more than anything else. Death and

It has only been three days, and his body misses the
wordless feel of Kon flying above and behind him.
The soft footfall of another body on the rooftops
when he pauses to watch and judge. The absence of
tension when there was someone else to watch his

They were all of them so *easy* to become
accustomed to, to *rely* on. He is only human, and
there is something to be said for companionship.
Something that is, perhaps, too large for language,
because while he has come to understand that he
*needs* a partner -- if not to be precisely
comfortable with accepting the idea... they were
not interchangeable.

Dick had given him the idea that this, all of this,
could be fun. Innocent in a way he had never

Jason had effortlessly validated the primal
satisfaction the predator within him felt, night after

Tim had offered an entirely different satisfaction, a
business partner for a job both worthwhile and
occasionally enjoyable.

And Kon had offered... it was all of those things
and none of them. It was youth tempered with
hard experience, and grief to match his own. His
laugh was entirely different from Dick's, his
enjoyment of the raw physicality dampened
under years of controlling his strength. And this
was never a job for the boy, nothing so small, or
so necessary.

This is his *life*, and it hadn't taken long for
Batman to see it in the boy. Kon had clearly never
imagined another existence for himself, and
Batman is greedy enough to hope he never does.

(I've never really had a family before -- God.
Don't tell Superman I said that.)

Kon makes it -- the idea of all of them *being* a
family -- something more than an old, tired, and
terribly unamusing joke. Kon looks at them and
sees what Batman has always hoped for, and
makes it easy for him to see the same.

And certainly, this probably has something to do
with the life the boy had lived before Tim had
died. And yet... perhaps there was something they
could offer a boy other than an endless legacy
of violence and obsession.

Something *he* could offer.

Which is an amusing enough thought to have
while beating a drug dealer's head into a wall that
he has to smile a little.

It has the right effect on the dealer.

"Okay, man, I'll *tell* you!"

(Man, I appreciate that look a lot more now that
you don't aim it on me.... No, it's just not the
same. Sure, it makes me *want* to tell you
everything I know, but that boils down to 'I kinda
have to pee.')

A part of his mind takes down everything the
dealer has to say about his suppliers, but that has
more to do with training than anything else.

He isn't surprised to find himself headed toward
the Clocktower.

Nor, apparently, is Oracle.

"You're early. I was giving you at least another hour
before you showed up to glare my computers into

"There isn't any news." It's an effort not to make it
a question.

"None, though it's an interesting experience to
watch Kid Flash's feed." She flips on a monitor
showing an intensely colorful blur. "I figure the
cameras are picking up maybe -- *maybe* -- a third
of what the kid is actually seeing. It would be an
interesting challenge to see if we could design a
camera that would make bugging speedsters useful."

"Where is he?"

She shrugs. "It's less colorful than it was an hour
ago. If all that color was foliage, we can assume
he's moving vaguely south."

"He started from Maine."

"Yep. Zipped over the border once or twice, judging
from his reports. I quote: 'I always expect there to
be a great big black line. There's no line.'"


"Batman. Do you really think..."


"Busywork." There's neither approval nor disapproval
in her tone.

"I know I'm... being obsessive."

"Mm." Oracle flips Kid Flash's feed back off and turns
back to her other monitors. "Plastic-Man reported
some sort of anomaly in New Haven a few minutes
before you got here. Nothing showing up in any
police reports, but... I was thinking about sending
the kid to have a look. He *is* closest."

"Robin... Tim had said the boy was maturing

"Wally's been less than enthusiastic."

"Is Lantern available?"

Oracle taps her mouth with a pencil. "He could
probably be down in forty-five or so. Send him in to
give the kid back-up?"


She nods, more at her monitors than him, and opens
the channels -- to Lantern, first.

"I'm backing up Kid Flash?"

"Yes," she says.

"Fine. But if he pisses me off, I'm wrapping him in a
power bubble and sending him to Keystone."

Batman watches Barbara smile in the reflection
from the monitors. "That's fair."

"Hm. Lantern out."

"He's crankier than Kyle."

Batman lets himself smile. "That isn't a difficult task."

"I suppose not." She flips the frequency. "Kid Flash."

"Hi, Oracle! Are you a girl or a boy? I can't tell."

"You're not supposed to. We've got a job for you --"

"Is Batman there? I haven't found Kon, yet. I think I
might need to go eat again."

Oracle glares. "Focus."

"I'm focused. What's the job?"

(You never know how serious he is. Or... it's weird. I
think he's serious more often than he isn't, but
*taking* him that way is almost impossible. I don't
think even Tim could manage it all the time. I think
I might have fucked up when he visited. I think --)

Batman pinches the bridge of his nose and tries to
focus on Oracle explaining things slowly and
carefully. Her rising irritation is obvious in the set of
her shoulders, but not the tone of her voice.

She had grown accustomed to modulating her tone
for voice-scrambling software far, far less adept
than what she has now.

On the street, there'd be more to catch his attention.
Or more that he would possibly miss in this state of

He wants to be easy on Kid Flash for Kon's sake, and
it feels... precisely like the sort of gestures he makes
for the dead.

For a while, the only sound is her typing and the
tersely cryptic one-sided conversations she has with
her operatives. Family. She's taken them all off
speaker. Perhaps by design, but more likely by

There's something almost soothing about it, even
as it makes a part of him *itch* to get back to his
own systems and surveillance.

"You know, Nightwing always says he can *feel*
you brooding."

(You're not even *trying* to be human, are you?
And when did that get to be a relief? Don't answer

Batman smiles to himself. "Alfred has been known
to describe it as a miasma just beyond the range of
human vision."

"Possibly more of a pall."

"I'll leave you to your work."

"I appreciate it. But... Bruce." She turns around to
face him. "We'd all miss him even if he *didn't* do
such a good job of making it possible to live with you."

"Noted." He heads for the window.

"Someday I'll have visitors who use the door. And
aren't trying to kill me, I suppose. Hmm. Oracle
here. Wait, what? Where? Slow down --" She turns
to face him again, jumping a little when she sees how
close he's gotten. And glares before turning her focus
back to whoever's trying to talk to her. "But Kon's all
right? Then what --" She shakes her head. "He's
giving the communicator to Kon," she says, and flips
on the speakers again.


"Batman's here, too, K."

"And you guys know who I am and why I'm calling
you and everything, right? I mean, the whole... thing."

"Where were you?" He winces internally at his tone,
but Kon just blows out a breath.

"Yeah, that sounds like you, all right. I'm just going
to assume I made it back to the right universe until
it starts raining tweezers or something. Basically, I
got zapped into an alternate dimension. I think. It's
a long story, and I'm tired, and Kid Flash is vibrating
at me."

Oracle blinks. "An alternate... dimension?"

"Either that or I got hit on the head and had some
really fucking *vivid* dreams. I'll be there in ten.
Wait... okay, Kid Flash is going to *carry* me, which
may or may not be a good idea, but, well, I'll be
there... sooner than that. Which there should I head

Meaning, how much does Kid Flash know. "R-point
C-twelve." The second closest rendezvous point to
the Clocktower.

"Got it. K out."

"Well," Oracle says. "I suppose that would explain
the anomaly." She grins at him. "I'm almost sure
you're allowed to hug a person in a situation like

He doesn't have words for that, and settles for

"Uh, hunh. I'll tell the others they can stand down."

If she says anything else, Batman doesn't hear

By the time he reaches C-twelve, they're already
there. Kid Flash is more or less seated in a heap,
panting and grinning at Kon... who is grinning at

"Man, it's good to be home."

"I --"

Kon wraps his arms around him and hugs him
with a fierce, open affection. He doesn't hold on
for long enough for Batman to relax, though he
does keep a hand on his shoulder.

"Is Kid Flash..." He forces himself to stop and
actually *look* at the boy, who is visibly less tired
than he was a moment ago. "Are you all right?"

"What? Yeah. He's *heavy*."

Kon snorts. "You know, I *could've* just flown

"Yeah, but they were all freaking out. Sooner is

"Freaking out, hunh?" Kon doesn't look at Batman,
but the hand on his shoulder tightens.

"Good work."

Kid Flash beams at him. "All I did was see him in
the sky. He was headed back here anyway."

"Back from an... alternate dimension."

Kon's hand slips off his shoulder. "Yeah, that was...
okay, important stuff. Somewhere down on Tenth
there's almost certainly a guy named John Black.
He can open rips in space-time, though apparently
he doesn't do it often *here*."

"He's a free-lance travel writer. We... didn't
investigate him deeply enough."

Kon nods and absently offers his hand to Kid Flash
to help the boy stand. "When we went to talk to
him -- me and the *other* Batman -- he mentioned
that some of his... other hims have less control over
their powers than others. And sometimes they
wind up in each other's universes and... it gets
ridiculously confusing at this point."

Another Batman. That was... something that required
thought. "Is there any evidence that Black sent you
to that other universe on purpose?"

Kon scrubs a hand through his hair. "I don't know?
I don't think so. We did an experiment after we'd
introduced ourselves. Black reacted *really* badly
when I hit him with my aura, and almost sent me
somewhere *else* before he could get control
again. I think I must've just accidentally... set him

"I need to know more physics."

Kon grins down at Kid Flash and flicks at one of his
lightning bolts. "You can always invade M.I.T."


Kon catches him before he can run. "You should
probably wait until business hours."

"But --"

"Or you could teach yourself another language and
go to some place where it's day."

"Languages are hard. I never get the pronunciation

"Yeah, but you could learn how to write in it and
give the librarian a note."


"Or you could go home and eat something."

The boy's stomach rumbles impressively and he
winces. "Why did you have to *remind* me?"

"Because you weigh approximately four pounds
and you're freaking me *out*. Go home, dude.
I'll call you after I've gotten some sleep."

The boy gives Kon a long, serious look.

"I promise."

The boy nods slowly and gives Batman a shy smile,
and then he's gone, running down the side of the
building and heading west. Kon stretches and sighs.
"You should probably tell Flash to watch out for
any attempts to build nuclear weaponry."


And Kon grins at him again, reaching out a little
hesitantly before settling for tugging on his cape.
"You were pretty quiet there. I mean, even for

"You were handling it."

"Yeah, I... I didn't get to see Bart in that other
universe, but I'm willing to bet he just needs
someone to talk to there, too."

"You said there was another Batman."

Kon swallows and reaches for his collar, undoing
the cape. "That's not all."

"Tim was... alive?"

"Alive and kicking. Ass. Everyone's."

"I don't --"

"He just... he says 'hi.'" Kon folds the cape carefully.
"I don't think I'll be wearing this anymore."


"You know, when you say my name like that it's
*almost* like you're touching me. Which probably
sounds fucked up, but it's true. And I missed it.
Only a few days, but...  But you want to know
about Tim."

Batman clenches his fist and tries to keep from
reaching out.

"He was... he was *himself*. And..." Kon shakes
his head and strokes one hand over the folded
bundle of the cape. "You ever get a chance to
have something you thought you wanted, you
*knew* you wanted, and it was just wrong?"

There are so many questions he absolutely doesn't
want to ask. "You and Tim couldn't... work it out."

Kon grins at him over his shoulder, sharp and a
little too old. It's a Robin smile. "You could say
that. And anyway... I couldn't have stayed there.
I'm not..." He shakes his head again. "Luthor
won't kill him, or the Kents. Not in that world. I
think that's enough."

"Come home."

Kon takes a shaky breath and closes his eyes.
"Yeah, I think... I think I don't feel like waiting
for the car to show up from wherever you've
stashed it." And Kon slips his arm around
Batman's waist and lifts them into the sky without
another word.

He can't say he disagrees with the sentiment. Batman
wraps his hand around Kon's forearm and gets

"Tell me if this is too fast."

He ducks his head against the windburn and doesn't
say a word.


He watches Kon move through the Cave, not-quite
touching the console, the weights, the mallet he'd
taken from Quinzel. Other things. Alfred had been
waiting for them when they arrived with mugs of
coffee -- fully caffeinated -- for both of them and a
long, speaking look especially for him, before retiring

He drinks his coffee and waits, careful not to follow
Kon too closely.

Kon stops in front of the cases, working the cape in
his free hand.

"This is the only real difference. I mean... between
the Caves."

"It's enough."

"That has to be the understatement of the century."
He sets the cape down in front of Tim's case. "I
think I'll leave this here, for now."

"All right."

"You..." Kon hugs himself with one arm, still holding
the coffee in his other hand. "I'm sorry."


"I'm sorry I didn't come back right away."

"I understand --"

"You *don't*. You --" And Kon turns around and
closes the distance between them. "I'm not sorry
because of you, or the others. I'm sorry because I
*belong* here. With you. All of you."

It's hard to breathe.

"I... can I." Kon sets his coffee down on the
console next to Batman's own and wraps both arms
around his waist, tentatively. "I know this isn't...
what you do."

He slide his hands under Kon's arms and holds on.
"Not because I don't want to."

Kon gasps and kisses him hard, moaning into his
mouth and sliding his hands up Batman's back. It's
impossible not to kiss back, not to suck Kon's
tongue and pull them closer together, at least for a
little while.

At least until he has to breathe.

But there's no room to back away and sliding his
hand up over Kon's chest... he's warm, almost hot.
Even through his tunic. And Batman can feel his
heart beating. He doesn't manage to push Kon
away for much too long, and then he can't make
himself *look* away.

"This is... probably a bad idea. Um." Kon's gaze
drops to his mouth. "Tell me it's a bad idea."

"It's... too soon."

Kon groans and presses tighter for a moment, and
Batman hears his breathing go even more ragged.
But Kon lets go and takes a deliberate step back.


He shivers. "You want this."


"I... I think I do, too."

Batman smiles, and lets himself touch Kon's face.
It's tempting to say something foolish about how
they'll have time, shockingly so. There are other
temptations in the way Kon leans into his touch,
pressing his cheek against the palm of his gauntlet
and making him want to be no one but Bruce.

He strokes Kon's cheekbone with his thumb, and
Kon shivers and catches Batman's hand in his
own, squeezing it and smiling. "Not... *too* much
too soon."


Kon squeezes his hand again and takes another
step back. "I'm... going to go change and hit the

Batman nods. "I want to look into Black before you
go out again."

"Heh. Probably a good idea. Try not to get zapped
into the universe where they elected Mr. Freeze
president or something."

"I'll do my best."

Kon nods at him and lets go, walking away and
stripping as he goes. Batman manages not to
watch, with far more effort than he wants to think
about until Kon is... ready. He closes his eyes
behind the cowl for a moment before sitting down
at the computers.

He opens a channel to Oracle.

"I'm here, Batman."

"I need everything on John Black. He's a
metahuman with the power to open holes between

"And that's how we lost our Boy Wonder. Interesting.
Code names?"

"None that I know of, yet. You have his address in --"

"The resident files. Got it. You're notifying the


"I'll call you when I have something."

"Batman out."

He double-checks the schedule, but Superman isn't on
watch tonight. That's a separate call he has to make.

He wants... just to see Kon asleep, in his bed. Here.


.And talk me down again.