Acquainted with shifting change
by Te
July 30, 2005

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers: Various, AU-ized ones for older storylines.

Summary: "Jesus, Steph, you're making it sound like a
damned gang war."

Ratings Note: Here there be sex.

Author's Note: Sixth in the Intimates series. Kicks off right
around the end of "Then I will warm you," and goes from
there. Will *not* make a lick of sense without the others.

A few more notes at the end.

Acknowledgments: To Betty, Jamjar, Petra and Jack for
audiencing, encouragement, catching me in various
mistakes, and just being cool. Big love to Petra for finding
me just the right title, from Shakespeare's Sonnet #20.


"Okay, *you* pretty much live with the guy, Cass. What the

Really, it's just one of the cool things about having Cass for
a sister and everything else. He doesn't *have* to do
anything but climb in her window and make demands,
because everything else, at this point, is a given.

She punches his fist when Jason sits down on the floor
with her and smiles, and --

"Not a guy."

Well, okay, *most* everything is a given. "Uh...?"

Cass points to their adjoining wall and says, "Not male.

This probably makes perfect sense to her. "Um."

"It belongs to Oracle."

At this point, Cass' tone is pretty much the same one Dick
used to use -- with both of them -- when he was trying to
explain why no maiming. No killing -- fine, okay -- but
really --

"Oracle's female," Cass says. And raises both her eyebrows
in I'm-waiting-for-you-to-get-it.

"And Avatar... belongs to her, yeah, I get it, but..." He has
to stop. "Wait."

Cass tilts her head.

He really, really doesn't want to ask this, and he knows
Cass knows it, because she's squeezing his knee.

"What's wrong?"

But. "You've seen... Avatar. You've seen Avatar naked?"

"No," she says, and now she's giving him the
why-are-you-changing-the-subject face.

Right. Well. "Well, I mean... you say he -- *it* -- isn't... I
mean..." Jason points to his crotch.

"It has a penis."

It. Jesus.

"And testicles." She gestures with her fingers, a movement
that looks like walking, and then possibly fighting, and then
something incomprehensible.

The way he -- it -- *he* moves. Right. "Okay, so if --
Avatar -- is *biologically male*," he says, stressing the
words so that Cass will pay as much attention to them as
she will to his body, "then why do you say... that he's an

Cass frowns. "Other words...?"

Well, maybe if they head to New York and raid Kyle's
sci-fi collection, but... no, not the point. "No -- or...
maybe, but..." Jason thinks about it. "Do you mean he's
gay -- homosexual, I mean." And giving her reading
lessons from *Alfred's* collection had led to way too
much humor.

"Like Detective Montoya?"

Jason blinks. *That* makes a lot of sense. Okay, fine.
"Yeah. Well... kind of."

Cass nods and beams at him. "Yes. Kind of!"

Jason doesn't bother to repress the urge to rub his
temples -- she'd see it, anyway.


"I... I'm thinking."

Cass squeezes his knee again, and Jason knows that when
he opens his eyes again, she'll just be sitting there
patiently, waiting for him to stop being a dumbass. And,
well, they've never actually had a successful game of
'Twenty Questions,' but it can't hurt to try.

"Okay," he says, and folds his arms over his thighs. "Is
Avatar a *woman*?"


Okay. Okay. "But he -- it -- is *definitely* not a guy."

"Correct," she says, and taps his knee for more.

"Avatar's... something else."

She nods, and frowns in her own I'm-thinking face, and
then uses her free hand to smack her chest and Jason's
own, back and forth.

"In *between*," Jason says.


O-kay... "Because... it belongs to Oracle."

"She is... *in* him. Inside, all the time."

Which... okay, it doesn't actually matter that he *knew*
that, already, or that he'd kind of gotten used to the
casual way Cass keeps saying 'belongs,' like maybe the
little freak has 'property of the scariest freak in Gotham,
and I'm not talking about Batman' stamped on his ass --
she's used the same damned word for *herself* and
the *bat* -- but... damn.

Cass squeezes his knee again. "It's okay."

Jason snorts. "Really *not*."


Why. Just... Jason squeezes his hands into fists and --
deals. It's not like this *isn't* why he decided to interrogate
her tonight. Babs had shown up just as he was starting to
think he'd got a *handle* on the kid, and just when Jason
was wondering if that was maybe on *purpose*... he'd
freaked *hard*. *Because* of Babs and... feedback?


"Yeah, I'm..." Cass is giving him the same look she gives
Dick when he's brooding instead of *doing*. ("Stop
thinking. Bad for you.") "Heh." Jason reaches over to
ruffle her hair and gets thrown, and she moves before he
can knee her in the quad, but the punch to her collarbone
lands just enough to make her laugh.

They roll around a bit and give each other some new
bruises, and... it's okay. Mostly okay.

She's still...

She hugs him. "Brother."

"Sis," he says, and hugs her back.

They stay where they are for a while -- long enough that
Jason shoves the coffee table Babs (Oracle? Ava -- Tim?)
had given her further out of true so he can get

"I talked to him -- er... fuck. Cass, I *can't* call the kid 'it.'
That's just *weird*."

She shrugs against him.

Jason nods. "Anyway, I talked to him tonight."

"Good. It likes you."

And it doesn't matter that he's *seen* the kid's face, and
knows he has a name and everything -- Cass is *still*
making him think that maybe when Tim yanks off the
cowl it's all Call of Cthulhu under there.

And however much of that Cass picked up, it makes her
jab him in the ribs.

"*Ow*, okay, *okay*, jeez."

Cass nods against his chest. "You didn't have sex with it."

Jason blinks, again. "Er... *no*. Cass, what the fuck?"

Another shrug. "Likes you," she says. "What happened?"

To stop them from fucking? To -- *what*?

Cass smacks Jason's chest lightly with her palm. "Thinking
too hard. You're... stiff."

"Apparently not as stiff as you think I *should've* been.
Cass, *what* --"

She kind of huffs out a sigh and sits up, crossing her arms
over her chest and glaring at him.

"You're -- why are you angry with me?"

"Talking --" She gestures between them, drawing a circle
with her finger before frowning and drawing a spiral. "No
point. No end. Not -- not what you wanted to *say*."

She has a *point*, but... "Hey, easy. You're just giving
me more questions, is all."

The frown gets a little milder, and then stops entirely.
"Okay. What -- *new* questions?"

Organization, okay. Organization is *good*. "One, why
the sex thing?"

"Stephanie liked you. Dick likes you. You have sex with

"Well, I was also *attracted* to them, Cass. I'm mostly
just kind of weirded out by Avatar." Mostly. He'd made
those sick little *jokes*, and Jason's spent way too much
time around Dick not to appreciate that, and he'd almost
been able to imagine how Tim's face would... And okay,
yeah, he can totally *see* it now, the way the kid had
been almost kind of leaning *in*, like...

And he's not bad-looking or anything, but...

Jason shakes it off and ignores the look Cass is giving him.
"Okay, I get it. Maybe I'll fuck him later or something.
Next question -- you call Avatar. Wait. Do you know his --
name?" Not his 'real' name. Not for Cass.

She shrugs. "Avatar."

Fine, okay. Protocol... at least for now. "You call Avatar 'it,'
but you call Oracle 'she.' Is he... not in *her* all the time,
or something?" And man, that sounds filthy.

Another shrug. "Haven't seen. *You* call Oracle 'she.'"

And that makes sense, but it's still... he almost wants an
excuse to make Cass break into the Clocktower -- if
anyone could, it's *her* -- even though he totally doesn't
want to know.

"Other questions?"

Jason smiles ruefully. "Just the first one. Avatar totally
bailed on me tonight just as we were, I dunno,
*connecting*. He said something about 'feedback,'
and --"


Jason sits up on his elbows and blows out a breath.
"Maybe? I think so? I mean, I'm pretty sure -- suddenly
his whole body just *changed*, but not like before. It
was like he was *freaked* -- or... she was."

Cass nods. "Okay."


"Oracle needed it," she says.

Jason frowns. "What, did she -- fill you in, or something?
Some kind of emergency?"

"Don't know."

And that's... just fine by Cass. Jason sighs and puts his
hand out for Cass to help him stand.


"Not really," he says. "I'm just gonna break into freakboy's
apartment and rifle through his shit, some."


The locks are pretty hardcore, but they're just locks. No
gas, no electric shocks. Just locks and... cameras.

He pauses just inside the door until he can guess where
the most likely locations would be and then waves at a
couple of them -- just in case.

Of course, if Oracle plans on gassing him now, there really
isn't much he can do about it, but... it's maybe kinda
something like being polite. 'Don't worry, just engaging
in vigilante behavior, no need to release the goddamned
hounds.' Something.

And it's still just a more computer-happy version of Cass'
place, really. He needs to get Dick in here at some point,
if only to help Jason figure out how to make it look like
something other than the Vigilante Arms.

He heads for the kitchen and... pauses. There's gotta be
any number of hidden compartments in here -- way more
than in the bedroom, because the bedroom is *obvious* --

He's not really *investigating* so much as looking. The
fridge is reasonably well-stocked. Nothing home-made,
way too much of that crappy grape-flavored Zesti -- and
the grape-flavored Zesti-*Ade*.

Lots of frozen dinners -- the good kind -- in the freezer. No
ice cream, no eggs. Half-empty gallon of milk. Lots of the
obscure kinds of cheeses that Alfred and Bruce like -- rich
boy? Hmm.

The brands on all the food in the cabinets -- what there
is -- say 'specialty store' more than 'supermarket.' Yeah,
rich boy.

The drawers are full of little normal things like scissors and
tape measures and screwdrivers and... hunh. Really kind of
a *lot* of tools, when he thinks about it. More like the
Cave -- or Alfred's workshop -- than a kitchen.

There are no unfinished projects that he can see, but...

Jason heads back out into the living area and checks the
computers again -- no brand names. At all. Every last one
of them is home-made. Which isn't *surprising*, really,
but... they all *look* store-bought, and he's not sure why.

Something about them having cases, maybe?

"Was it you or Babs, man?" And he'd actually said that
*aloud*, and he doesn't really -- damn. Who's watching
him right *now*?

Maybe no one, but... he waits, just the same, for the voice
from whatever speakers might be hidden, or -- well, right
on the desk.


Jason nods to himself and sits down, frowning to himself at
how low the chair is before just stretching his legs out. He
moves the mouse until what looks like the primary monitor
flickers to life and --

Nope, he's not even gonna try to guess the password.

There's nothing on the desktop but numbered -- not
labeled -- file folders.

He wonders if '1' refers to Batman or Oracle. He wonders if
it'd be that simple.

("It was... my choice.")

Probably not.

The bathroom is pretty normal, except for the shower, and
he can't quite figure out... Jason frowns and flips on his
flashlight, climbing in and prodding at the tile. Normal, no
hidden compartments, and...

He steps out again and turns on the water -- it's water.
Hunh. He plays the light over the whole thing and --

It had been *retiled*, sometime recently. Probably more
recently -- ("Thirty-five months. Approximately.") -- than
the kid had moved in, and... had he done it?

Would Babs *let* anyone else do it?

It's pretty impressive work, actually. Uneven at the bottom
but getting steadily better until it's pretty much perfect near
the top.

*Why* would Babs make the kid re-make the whole
shower? And it *had* to have been more than just the
tiling, because Jason doesn't think he's ever *seen* a
shower with the nozzle in the damned ceiling, before,

He stops, thinks... with the nozzle up there -- and toward
the center... he steps out again and turns the water on
full-blast. The splashes hit the tiles, but *only* the ones
at the bottom. So what's being protected?

It's just tile and -- faucets. Jason drops into a crouch and...
aw, man. A little blinking red light behind the 'C.'

"Oh, that's just wrong."

He gets out of the shower and tries to come up with...
well, the kid's an operative, and it's *Oracle*, so maybe
he doesn't spend that much time at the Clocktower.
Maybe that's no one's base but her own. Maybe it's just
like the way he and Bruce check each other out after a
patrol, making sure neither of them are *too* fucked-up.

Except how, in some ways, that almost makes it worse.

Who the fuck bandages the kid?

And -- Cass *would*, Jason knows she totally will *now*,
but... Jesus.


He's seen it before, of course, but he'd been more focused
on keeping Tim from getting away than anything else.
Blank, spare.

The closet has a lot of plain, normal clothes in Tim's size.
Jeans, t-shirts. Most of the t-shirts have things printed on
them, some of them kinda funny, some a little

'Dromiceiomimus, please?' What?

And he isn't *expecting* a hidden compartment -- way too
obvious -- but... it's there. Just a little panel in the back,
behind which is... really a *lot* of neatly-folded/placed
women's clothing.

In Tim's size. Okay, fine. Disguise-work and... fun?

He can't quite stop himself from pulling out one of the --
leather -- skirts, even though he knows he won't be able
to get everything back the way it was, because... really.

What assignment was *that*?

He can't say there isn't a kind of tradition, there, but at
least Bruce had stopped making him do it once his
shoulders had filled out.

Jason had spent a really, really long and *serious* time
devoted to filling out. Maybe he should send the kid a
package of weight-gain shakes or something.

Or maybe he -- it? -- wouldn't want them.

Jason frowns and tucks it away. The bed is... a bed.
Full-sized, neatly made. Hospital corners. The pillows are
down, the sheets are good linen. There's nothing beneath
the mattress, and no hidden panels beneath the bed.

He's... pretty much done. It's just that he still doesn't know
anything more about what had made Tim bolt.

He heads back into Cass' place long enough to crawl into
her bed and give her a good-morning kiss on the forehead,
and then goes home.


There's something -- there *should* be something -- really
fucked-up about the fact that he actually does get his
homework done faster with no one in the manor but him
and Bruce and Alfred.

He's sure that *Bruce* got perfect fucking grades all the
time, but he's supposed to have a *less* screwed-up

Kind of.

Still, without Cass periodically leaning over his shoulder to
ask Jason to explain the concept of 'metaphor' or demand
to know why the art in his history textbook is so unrealistic
for the battles, it's...

Well, the only thing he *can* do is focus.

Of course, that just means he'll have even *more* of today
to be shut up in this empty damned house. This *quiet*
house, and it doesn't matter that Cass doesn't actually
make more noise (she makes *less*) than either of the
others. *He* could always get her to talk, or laugh, or
make that little sound of 'if you hadn't knocked the breath
out of me I *would* be laughing.'

He likes that sound. Dammit.

It's part of what makes the weekends *mean* something,
and the fact that he just has to go back to school
tomorrow doesn't make anything any better.

And this is where Dick would probably ask him why he
isn't just hanging out with Bruce, but... yeah. Really not.


Dick had *said* he'd spoken to Bruce about the Cass thing,
and... he hadn't made it sound good, or anything, but at

At the very least, it's a great damned excuse to put off
dealing with Bruce himself until he'd hooked up with Dick

He pulls the secure phone out of the cabinet in his
bathroom and dials Dick's number, and -- no, he's gone.
His Titans comm is in the Cave, and so is Bruce,
probably. Dammit.

Jason sighs and heads down, anyway.

Bruce kind of stiffens up a little at the console -- Jason
knows him well enough to see it from the top of the
stairs -- but he doesn't try to say anything until Jason
heads for the uniforms.

"Are you... going out?"

Jason grits his teeth and doesn't -- *doesn't* -- ask why
Bruce is being such a fucking prick, and he already
*knows* it's about the killing, and anyway... "Not
officially," he says, and pulls one of the Titans comms
from his belt. Really no reason to spend any more time
down here.

Even though he can feel Bruce looking at him, and...
damn. It's *that* face, the one pretty much no one
who's ever lived in this damned house can actually
completely ignore. Bruce wants to talk to him.


"Jason..." The cowl is off. That should be against the
damned rules.


"You have every right to be angry --"

"No fucking *shit*, Bruce!"

"-- and I'm... glad. That you and Cassandra are still in
contact. That's all."

It isn't -- it *really* isn't, or Bruce would be back in his
fucking chair again, instead of just standing there waiting
for... what? Forgiveness?

You don't fucking *let* family get away. Not if you're
them. *Especially* not if you're them. But Bruce is still
just standing there.

"Look, I..."

"Yes, Jason?"

'Jason.' Not 'Jay.' Damn. "I'm going to hook up with Dick, if
I can. I'll... be back for patrol."

And Bruce nods at him, and Jason can *feel* him
watching all the way up the stairs.

Jason waits until the clock is closed again before toggling
the comm. "Yo, N, where are you?"

"Surrounded by Titans. We're trying to work some things
out for a new team. Still."

Jason frowns. "'Still?' You hadn't mentioned."

"Yeah, I... gimme a minute."


Jason starts moving toward the garage. He can't quite hear
anything but a vaguely-familiar buzz of sound which he's
pretty much permanently ingrained into thinking of as
"the Titans." Beyond being sure Vic is there, somewhere --
his voice adds the bass to the general buzz -- Jason doesn't
have a clue.

And then the buzz is fading, fading -- gone.

"Okay, here's the deal, Robin -- the rest of the Titans really
want to know why I'm not putting you forward for an
addition to the new --"

"*What* new?"

"There are all these *kids* out there. Younger than you
and BG. Mostly metas, but... yeah. They're going to need
someone closer to their age who actually knows what
they're doing."

And it's not like he *minds* working with metas, but...
"N... you know I'm not really... I don't *do* the team
thing. Not like you."

"Believe me, I know. I just wish I could say that's why
I'm vetoing it. But... it's not."

Jason pauses on the stairs leading down to the garage.
"Uh... okay?"

"There's too much going *on* in Gotham right now. This
business with O..." Dick sighs, and Jason can pretty much
feel him rubbing his head or something.

"N --"

"If I can't be there, *Robin* will. Got it?"

"Loud and clear, bro. When can we actually *talk*?"

"Hn... gimme a couple of hours. Call it six. We can hook
up for dinner at the usual place."

Midway between Gotham and New York, in the world's
most velvet-intensive diner. It makes Dick look subtle.
"No prob. I'll just..."

"Contact S?"

Jason snorts. "Right. Operation Estrogen. Am I recruiting
for *us* or for *you*?"

"I... crap. Call it both? For now? There's really... God, I
can't believe there isn't anyone else for this. I wonder
where the Ray is. I wonder how *old* he is."

"Go play with the Titans, man. I'll catch up to you."

Dick sighs in his ear again. "Yeah. N out."

Jason decides to keep the comm in, just in case Dick
needs to call back and starts for the garage again.

Alfred, because he's Alfred, is already there. In the hat and
driving gloves.

"You know, I *passed* those tests, Al."

Alfred sniffs at him. "Perhaps, Master Jason, if you had not
been so *assiduous* about turning two of Master Bruce's
work-vehicles into terrifyingly expensive piles of scrap I
might have more faith in your abilities. As it is..."

At least he still gets his bikes. They'll take the bikes when
they pry them out from between Jason's cold, dead

"And where will we be going this afternoon? A leisurely
Sunday-afternoon drive in the country, perhaps?"

"Nah, Dick ordered me to go impress Steph, actually."

"Ah. The Rolls?"

Jason smirks. "Jersey-girl, Al. The *Bentley*."

Alfred raises an eyebrow. "Of course."

He's never managed to nap on a trip into the 'burbs -- it's
just a little too surreal. He'd spent much of his life in or
around the alley where Bruce nabbed him (when he
thinks about it, he can almost kind of remember things
from the time before, but it's harder than it used to be,
and he's pretty sure there isn't much point. Not
anymore.), and when he's honest with himself, he can
admit that he still hasn't gotten much farther.

Going off-planet with the Titans or hitting the Fortress
with Bruce just didn't count -- it couldn't.

And really... when he's *completely* honest with himself,
he likes that just fine.

He's a Gotham boy.

And Steph really isn't Gotham at all -- even though Spoiler
kind of was.

He *knows* why Dick wants him to do this, and he can
even kind of see the point. (Especially since he's willing to
bet that if Steph *doesn't* come back, he's going to be the
*only* one in the family Cass plays with... as opposed to
whatever the fuck she'll be getting up to with the Birds.)
It's just that Steph is *out*, and actually thinking about
colleges *out* of state.

God, they weren't even hooking up anymore.

Much. Hm.

"Uh... Alfred."

"Yes, Master Jason?"

"Do you think you could maybe give me and Steph... er."

"I assure you, Master Jason, I have no intention
whatsoever of proving an obstacle to your... social

"Only you could sound sleazy in a Masterpiece Theater
accent, Al."

Alfred gives him the barest twitch of a smile in the rearview
mirror. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about,
young sir."


The fact that Steph is reading what pretty much has to be
something for school -- she's got a highlighter between
her teeth -- makes it worse.

The fact that she's making the whole "hang out on the
front lawn -- *lawn* -- and do homework" look work for
her is *much* worse.

Even though he can see her registering the sound of the
Bentley from where he's sitting in the back of the car.

Even though she's already grinning that I-know-who-it-is
smile *before* she spins up to a sitting position and looks
at them.

Hell, before Alfred is fully-parked.

Jason allows himself some dork room to wave before he
slips out of the car. She's cut her hair a little since the
last time he saw her. Less Jersey-girl porn, more...
on-her-way-to-college-somewhere-not-here porn.



She peers around him at the car and smirks. "You think I'm
so easy, don't you?"

Jason grins back. "Hey, I *might* just be the sensitive,
thoughtful guy who remembers what you like."

"Uh, huh," she says, and stands, dusting off the back of
her jeans. "Where am I being kidnapped to?"

And... it's not that the way he's dressed -- the way he
*looks* -- is out of place. Steph had showed him a
picture of one of her exes that looked way too much
*like* him for comfort. (And he does remember the
time before, and sometimes he thinks he could've
grown up in a place just like this, with the lawns just
big enough and neat enough and the neighbors *just*
far away enough to make moving out of the real city
count.) --


"Sorry, just..." He shrugs.

"Yeah, I know, you hate it here." The smirk on her face
gets a little superior. "Talk fast or I won't let you drag
me away someplace gritty and gross."

"We can go anywhere you want, Steph. So long as it's

The look gets a little narrow. "And that didn't even sound
like 'let's bone, Steph.' What the hell, Jay?"

Jason sighs and nods back toward the car. "How about that
diner you like? The service is so bad we'll have privacy for
at least an hour before someone gives us a menu."

And this is where she says something about how it's not
that bad, and maybe slaps him, but all she does is nod,
dump her textbook in her front hallway, and walk to the
car. Her mom's almost certainly working.

Alfred, of course, is right there to open the door for her.
Jay gets to open his own.

"Hey, Alfred. Good to see you!"

"Likewise, I'm sure, Miss Stephanie. Have you chosen a

"The Sage. I'll direct you."

"Of course."

She does. And if she also spends most of the drive petting
the leather seats and wood accents, then it's just kind of
fun to watch. And kind of a relief.

She might turn into one of those college girls who frown
at anything not Honda-practical if they don't watch out.

Alfred leaves them in the parking lot, tapping the car phone
meaningfully when he has Jason's attention, and drives
off. Steph waves, just as if she's not expecting to see
Alfred again when they're done. Right.

They manage to get glasses of ice-water out of the waitress
before she disappears, and Steph --

"Spill it."

"We need you. Okay, *I* just want you. Dick's pretty sure
we need you, too."

Steph sighs and leans back against her side of the booth.
The cheap leather creaks behind her. "You know, my
stomach's in too much of a knot for me to even perv on
that. What the *fuck*, Jay?"

Jason blinks. "That's a pretty damned sweet image, Steph.
I'm just saying."


"Okay, okay." He puts up his hands. "Cass is out -- at
least, out of the family."

"What? She's better than either of you guys."

"Yeah, obviously. But... she's out. It's kind of a long story,
and I don't think I'm the one who should be telling it,
but... she's with the Birds now."

"Well... wait. You mean you guys *still* aren't working
with the Birds?"

Jason shrugs. "Oracle's choice." Mostly. With Cass *and*
Helena in the mix... fucking Bruce.

She just kind of glares at him for a minute.

"Steph -- you have to know it's not the way I want it."

"Yeah." The glare breaks and turns into something rueful.
"Jesus. You know I used to be *jealous* of Cass? With
you, I mean. Always with the hugging and shit."

"Uh... you know we aren't... I mean, she's my *sister*."

"Uh, huh, and Dick's your *brother*. But that's totally
different and not sexist and neurotic and *all*."

"Hey --"

"Forget I said it," she says, waving a hand. "But. Why me,
Jay? I mean, seriously. If Oracle's recruiting from you
guys, why don't you just recruit back?"

There's probably something fucked about the fact that his
first thought is "hey, they've *got* a guy now." But the
second thought, at least, is all right. "Jesus, Steph, you're
making it sound like a damned gang war."

She gives him the look of I-can't-believe-you're-actually-
older-than-me and crosses her arms under her breasts.

The look intensifies when *he* looks, but shit, he's
human. "Steph --"

"You're telling me it's *not* a gang war? All get-the-best-
recruits and --"

"Hey, you might as well call it a *corporate* war."

"Except that it's totally not and you *know* it. Well. Unless
we talk about quotas." And now she's got that I-dare-you
look on, and...

There's nothing he can say to it. "I'm not going to lie to
you, Steph. Dick's pretty freaked about our profound
failure to keep a woman around for, like, more than five
damned minutes. Jesus, Helena never even made it *to*
the Cave --"

"And what about you, Jay? What do *you* think?"

And the Dick in his head is trying real hard to get him to
stay on point, but, then again, he can't think of *any*
Dick who'd actually want him to lie. "I think it's up to
you." There. That's --

"You know that's not what I asked. Don't make me dump
the ice water in your lap. It's not like we'll get another
while we're *here*." She smiles, a little, but... she really
wants to know.

Jason sighs and bangs his head back against the booth. He
hates the tall ones. They always make him wonder if
someone's gonna come in with something that can cut
through plastic. Like every damn thing in his belt. "Steph...
the last time we talked, you spent more time talking about
your damned *guidance* counselor than you did
interrogating me for gossip."


"And *I* don't even know what my damned guidance
counselor *looks* like. And I'm a *senior*. I already made
my choice, Steph. *And*... I was thinking you'd made
yours, too."

For some reason, that just makes Steph frown a little more.
"You think I made the right one?"

"I -- shit, Steph. Yes? Maybe? I just... I know all of these
people who are never going to do anything but -- what I
do. Ever. They're gonna *die* like this, just like I will,
and it's gonna be nasty and too soon. And just because
*I* can't think of anything I'd rather do... doesn't mean
you shouldn't."

Steph looks at him -- into him -- for a long moment before
shaking her head. "I..."


She laughs, softly. "I'm not sure what I wanted you to say
to that, Jay."

He frowns. "Oh... okay?"

"C'mon, walk me back to my house. My mom won't be back
for three hours and I need you to distract me."

Jason stands up and drops two bucks on the table, because
maybe the waitress just sucks because she's poor. And...
stops. "Wait. You sure?"

Steph grabs him by the ears and kisses him hard. "So
maybe you're my brother, too, Jay," she says, and gives
Jason a truly fantastic view as she walks out of the diner.

And it's nothing like the first time in her bed, but it's been
way too long. In a way, it feels like the first *real*
bedroom he's been in since the last time he'd been in Dick's,
and really, Dick's only bedroom only felt like one because
Kory was still stamped all over it.

It's gotta be something like a rule -- more than two secret
panels and more than one week spent designing ways to
escape if a supervillain attacks makes for not-a-real
bedroom. Something like that.

Steph pushes him down and the mattress dips and creaks
just like it should -- he *knows* she's been sleeping on
this one since at least middle school. Her pillow smells like
her shampoo and her body feels perfect.

"You're totally checking my muscle tone, aren't you?"

Really yes. "I could've gone straight for the tits, you know."

"Yeah, and then I wouldn't have *noticed* you checking
out my fitness for duty, Boy Obvious Much."

"That's *Teen* Obvious Much." Jason palms her breasts
through the bra, all scratchy lace and
nipple. "Happy now?"

Steph grins and presses her tits against his hands and
grinds down. "Almost."

"Hunh. Maybe I should be trying something different."

"Like what?"

"Well, you *are* a younger woman, Steph. I should
probably be kissing you tenderly and --"

"Oh, kiss this, asshole."

And she stands, and strips out of her jeans, and... man.
Steph's the only girl he's ever met who goes commando
because she likes it. (Spoiler always wore little shorts,
and they'd get sweaty and wet and when she took 'em

When she took 'em off, it was just enough like this to be
fantastic -- Steph kneeling over his face and crouching
down just enough. Her quads are just as perfect as they
ever were -- just the kind of thing to grab and *hold*
when she starts to buck --

"Fuck -- Fuck, I'm close. God, you asshole, why do you
have to *smile* like that?"

Jason tries to make the hum sound -- or at least *feel* --
obnoxious around her clit.

"F-f-*fucker* --"

He slaps her ass and gets another buck for his trouble --
and another -- and -- Oh yeah, he'd found the right spot.
He slaps her again just because and flicks her a few
times just *because* --

"Ah -- ah -- *fuck* --"

He's not quite fast enough to catch her come on his tongue,
but he's *good* enough to get her *clean* --

"Oh -- J-Jesus -- wait --"

Jason gives her one last lick as she pulls away and waits,
wiping his face with the back of his hand and arching up
so she can pull up his t-shirt and pull down his jeans and

"Fuck. Jesus." She's straddling his waist, bracing herself
with her hands to either side of him. Her hair's hanging in
her face and she looks like she needs to have more sex.
Right now. With him.

Jason sucks on his sticky fingers and leers.

"You... fucker."

"Not *yet*..."

She scratches his abdomen, one long stroke that makes his
hips jerk.

"Steph --"

"So is this part of the recruiting?"

Jason can't even... "*Jesus*, Steph --"

"Never mind. Just... don't even listen to me." She strokes
over where she'd scratched and Jason waits, listening to
her breathing even out.

"You know... I think Dick actually wants you for a new
Titans team."

"Holy --"

"*Along* with being with us in Gotham."

"Jay --"

"If that, you know, makes it any --"

"*Jay*," she says, and she's staring at him through the
strands of her hair and she looks desperate and --

"Shut the fuck up?"

"And fuck me, yeah," she says, and reaches up to tug on
his shoulders until Jay rolls them over. And he always feels
kinda guilty about liking it like this with *Steph* -- as
opposed to with whatever random schoolgirl he fucks --
but she gives him that same rueful smile as always (like
maybe she's got her own reasons for feeling guilty about
it), before reaching to get the condoms out of her bedside

"I would just like to point out," he says, kneeling up to get
the condom on, "that I *didn't* bring condoms with me
this time."

She snorts. "And you think that makes you sensitive?"

Jason rolls it on as fast and as gently as he can. "Well...
yeah. God --"

"It just makes you a fucking *dumbass*," she says,
grinning. And throws her right leg up on Jason's shoulder.

And fans her left leg *out*. And... it doesn't actually
matter that he was just *there* --

"Oh, fuck -- Jesus, that's just *teasing*, now --"

Jason cups her ass and lifts a little, enough so he can get
his tongue right *there*, stabbing in as fast and as hard
as he can --

"Oh -- yeah, okay, maybe... maybe... *Fuck*, Jay --"

But this is the kind of thing that works a lot better the
*first* time, because he's not really going to be able to
do this comfortably for long enough to make it work
*this* time. And his dick is so hard it's about to have its
own little revolution. He pulls out --

"No, dammit, *teasing* --"

And rears up and over her, pushing in as slow as he
*can* --

"Ohhh, *fuck*, fuck me --"

Which isn't -- at all -- "Oh, God, Steph, you feel so fucking
*good* --"

And all she has for him is noise now, squeezing him with
both legs and her pussy, digging her short (she still keeps
'em *short*) nails into his shoulders and the rhythm is
perfect and the mattress is screaming and he wants to
scream, too.

A *lot*.

Reason number fucking one *million* why it's better in a
real bedroom, because Steph is digging her heel into his
shoulder and her voice has gone up to that sex-octave,
and he can just curse and fuck and groan all he *wants*.

"Just -- so fucking *tight* --"

"*Harder* --"

Absolutely. Just -- her *tits* are bouncing and he can
either close his eyes or --

"Jesus -- Jesus *yes* --"

And Steph comes hard enough that it almost *hurts*
around him, or maybe he's just that hard, and fuck *yeah*
he's keeping his eyes open, just to watch her bounce,
just to watch her eyes start to roll up a little with the
aftershocks, just --

Just to *see*.

And just because it's probably only one minute more
doesn't mean it doesn't *feel* like the best hour of his life,
right up until he's shouting and digging his fingers into
the pillow to either side of Steph's head and coming his
brains out.

"Jesus. Just... perfect," he says, and lets himself fall to
his elbows.

Steph wraps her arms around him and squeezes.

Her biceps aren't what they used to be, but he *knows*
how fast she bulks up. Takes after her Mom's side of the
family way more than her Dad's, and really, thank fucking
Christ for *really* small favors.

He kisses her neck -- soft, she bruises *easy* there -- and
rolls off, wedging himself between her body and the
poster-covered wall.

Carefully -- the first time he'd done this he'd wound up
with most of Superman's crotch stuck to his back. Which...

Steph hums a little and reaches for her alarm clock.

"Still got time?" He knows they do, but...

"Yeah, I... yeah," she says, and falls silent again.

Jason strokes down over her stomach, resisting the urge
to check for the abs he knows full well are under her belly.
He scratches a little at her pubes, instead. *Pet* the pussy.

After a minute, she pushes his hand away and sits up
enough to strip off his condom, tying it off and tossing it
in a practiced move which always makes him think of the
baby she has, somewhere, and thus always makes him
feel like an asshole.

He squeezes her thigh instead of saying anything.

"I almost kinda wish I was in love with you, Jay."

And that's... unexpected. "Uh..."

"Because, see... if I was?" And she looks at him.

Jason nods, cautiously.

"If I was, then I could just fucking *hate* you for making
me think about this."

"Steph --"

"Oh... fucking shove it, Jay. Tell Dick I'll think about it,
okay? Because I'm not going to be able to do anything

Jason nods, and bites back as much of the wince if I can.
"Am I allowed to apologize for putting this on you?"

Steph turns away from him. "Yeah. But... not now, okay?"

"Sure," he says, and watches her for a while.


Alfred picks him up about ten minutes after he calls, rolling
up smooth to the corner he'd made it to -- Steph really
fucking needs her space now -- just like it's Gotham
instead of the ass end of suburbia.

Jason slides in, checks his watch, and tries to figure out
whether it's time to head toward Dick or not. He's a little

Alfred sniffs a little, but he doesn't say anything.

Of course, it's *Alfred*, so that sniff was absolutely
commentary. With footnotes.

"I'm... I gotta go see Dick again," he says.

"In New York, or...?"

"Nah, I have to be back in Gotham for patrol tonight. Just
up to Nanny's."

"Just so, Master Jason."

They ride in silence for a while, and the highway is good
for that. Blank, anonymous, Jersey through and through.
It doesn't matter that he's just heading to another damned
suburb -- he *might* be headed someplace real.

He still can't nap, though. And... shit.



"You know Dick wanted me to recruit Steph, right?"

"The theory had occurred to me."

Right. He probably knew before *Dick* did. "What do you
think about it? I mean -- seriously?"

Alfred sighs, and doesn't look back in the mirror even
though he's got a bunch of car lengths between the
Bentley and the next car.

For a moment, Jason's pretty sure he's just going to do
that just-a-butler thing which is the world's best way for
Alfred to stay out of everything he wants to, but --

"I must confess, I had hoped that Miss Stephanie's
retirement was a sign of her desire for larger things."

"It still might be. I mean. She just said she'd think about

"Of course she did, Master Jason. My mistake."


Dick's late, which gives Jason enough time to get used to
the sludgy-but-weirdly-good coffee and to being hit on by
three different waiters.

He orders another coffee for Dick, on the theory that no
Bat worth anything would let it get cold, and -- yeah.

Dick strides in apologizing, hair a little mussed from the
bike helmet and clothes looking *exactly* like he'd just
thrown on any damned thing that would cover his uniform.
The shirt has polka dots, and was almost certainly
purchased when the man was high on Kory-sex.

It doesn't clash with the decor of Nanny's any more than
anything else, though, so that's something.

Jason gestures at the empty side of the booth and Dick
slides in, salutes him with the coffee, and starts drinking.

"Tough day?"

"Some idiot locals were trying to hold a meta in a county
jail upstate," Dick says, shaking his head and drinking
more coffee. "He took the whole place hostage, injured
a few cops..." Dick frowns. "You know, it only took us
about twenty minutes to clean things up. Which means it
absolutely wasn't a tough day, except..."

Jason slugs back the last of his own coffee. "Except?"

"Except that if we'd gotten there twenty minutes before
that, there wouldn't be two cops in ICU."

Roy would probably punch Dick in the shoulder and say
something about how it's why they do this, but Jason
really doesn't have to. He meets Dick's eyes until Dick
frowns and nods at him, instead.

Very Gay Waiter #2 shows up with menus, smiles, and
an expression for Jason which does a really good job of
combining "you lucky boy" with "don't let him dress

Though it's possible he's projecting. And also Jason hates
the fact that he's the best dresser in the family. There's
just something wrong about that. He wishes he could find
a way to make Bruce count, but, well, as near as Jason
can tell, Alfred has been dressing Bruce since forever.

Alfred, being British, also doesn't count.

Jason hands his menu back -- he knows he's just
getting the cheeseburger deluxe platter -- and watches
Dick frown at his own.

"Did you want to know the specials, sir?"

And also possibly your phone number? Jason smirks behind
his hand. "Nah, he's just trying to pretend that he's *not*
about to order the damned veggie platter. Or the fish."

"Shut up," Dick says to him, and then turns a smile on the
waiter that'll probably have the guy offering a lap dance if
it lasts too much longer. "But he's right. I'll take the broiled
catfish platter with the second order of veggies on the side
instead of the mashed potatoes."

"Absolutely," the waiter says fervently, and wanders off,
completely forgetting to ask if they want refills on their

"You really fucking need to quit doing that to people,
man. I'm thirsty."

"It never hurts to be polite, Jason. But -- God. We're really
not going to have much time to do anything *but* eat,
are we?"

Jason shrugs. "Just give me the basics."

Dick blows out a breath and raises an eyebrow.

Jason nods to tell him there's no one paying too much
attention from *his* vantage point, and Dick nods back.

"The basics: Bruce is freaked about Cass."

"I -- what?"

"Freaked. He -- he actually used the word 'frightened,'

Jason frowns so hard he thinks he'll give himself a
headache if the conversation doesn't. "What -- the *hell*.
I mean, shit, she's Cass."

"You know that, I know that, *Bruce* knows that -- in his
mind. But, you know, deeper than that..." He shrugs,

And Jason doesn't *want* to know, but want really doesn't
have anything to do with it. "She crossed the line."

Dick nods. "And you know it was never just about...
morality for him. Or for..." Dick frowns. "Or for me."

"Dick --"

"Look, I'm with you, okay? She's *Cass*, and she's B --
she's one of *us*. But it's still... I can get it, where he's
coming from."

"You always can."

Dick sighs. "Jason..."

"No, forget it," he says and waves a hand. "It's not like she
isn't already settled into being a Bird."

Dick reaches and grabs Jason's wrist, holding it against the
table and squeezing. "If he was the kind of person who
could deal with... something like that, then he wouldn't be
the man we know, Jay."

Jason stares at their hands until he can stop gritting his
teeth and nods.

Dick squeezes him again. "So are you gonna talk to *him*
anytime soon?"

Jason snorts. "Push it, much?"

"He misses you, Jay."

"Ah, Jesus, Dick. You talked to him about *me*?"

Dick shrugs at him. "I didn't have to. Your turn, just the

"Steph said she needs time to think."

"Makes sense," Dick says. "What do you think she'll

He wants -- really badly -- to say he doesn't know. But
that would be the worst kind of lie. "She'll do it. Just a
question of when."

Dick nods. "Thanks, Jason."

He shakes his head. "Don't, really. I just... anyway." Jason
takes a breath. "Uh, you heard a lot of that convo with

"Not enough of it --"

It's Jason's turn to grab Dick's wrist and hold it. "You heard
enough, for now. Just... trust me on this, okay?"

"Jay --"

"She's... I think she's reaching out."

*That* makes Dick stop fighting him and look. "She...

"She *sent* me to talk to... her boy," Jason says, and leans
back and smiles for the waiter.

He misses it, of course, being focused on Dick.

And as soon as they can convince him to go away again,
they push their plates to one side and lean back in. "Like I
was saying, she pretty much goaded me into seeking the
kid out."

"But you'd already --"

"Met him, yeah. But he was freaked out *and* she took
over midway through."

Dick winces, but recovers quickly. "But... she didn't, this

"Not until I had the kid's name and, well, a *conversation*.
And even then..." Jason shrugs. "Cass says there was some
shakeup with them. And, as near as I can tell, this is just a
beginning." In a way. Jesus.

"Have you... have you spoken to her again, yet?"

Jason gives Dick's hand a quick squeeze. "No, man, but...
well. She doesn't want us to be enemies, or even hate
each other. She *said* that. She *wants* our people and
hers to get along, as opposed to just avoiding each other."
And okay, so maybe he's paraphrasing, but... "You have to
admit that's a fucking step *up*."

Dick stares at the table and chews his own lip. "Tell me
about the kid."

"I... he told me his name, man. And... I've seen --"

"What is it?"

"Dick -- c'mon. *Tell* me you wouldn't blow off whatever
it is you *need* to do to go stalk the kid's house."


And that's totally Nightwing voice, but. "Leave it. For now.
Hey, you *want* me in Gotham for this stuff, right?"

"Are you protecting him?"

"I..." Is he? That's a damned good question, really. Maybe
too good. "I'm not sure yet. Why don't you give me some
time to figure out if he *needs* to be protected."

"From me?" And when Dick smiles like that, he doesn't
really look like himself, as opposed to like the man Jason
hopes to God Dick'll never grow into.

"If this was anyone *but* Babs? No. Never. You know that."

The hard smile on Dick's face stays there for too long, but
it does fade. Eventually.

"Anyway. I'm gonna track him down again tonight."


Jason leans back and smirks, pulling his plate back within
reach. "We didn't finish our chat, Big Bird."

Dick shakes his head at him and grabs his own plate.


Patrol is... weird, in a way that makes him feel pissed-off
*and* guilty, because it'd had only been a little more than
a week since he'd last patrolled *with* Bruce, but...

That was enough.

It's not that they're off-rhythm -- five years of this won't
*let* them be -- it's just that it keeps being a surprise
that they're on.

Like Bruce's back *shouldn't* line up against his own when
a bunch of punks are smart enough to surround them.
Like when Jason reaches out, Bruce's hand *shouldn't*
be right there, ready to swing him into a kick that makes
bones crunch.

But it does, and it is, and it leaves him feeling satisfied
and restless and pissed. More pissed because he doesn't
know who he's angry *with*.

They stop on a rooftop high enough and windy enough
that Jason can't help but remember the panties, and the
little fairy boots (He gets why Bruce wanted to change the
suit after they'd found what the Joker had done -- his
mother -- he. He gets it, maybe even more now than he
did before, but he'll never get why the boots were pretty
much *last*.), and how he would've been scarfing the
energy bars as fast as possible -- as fast as Bruce would
let him get *away* with -- just to have an excuse to
move again.

When he jumped, the wind on his arms and legs would
start out feeling just like *wind*, but in the end would be
more like flying into some kind of sandstorm, like being
scoured so raw he wouldn't be able to keep himself from

He'd had to learn how to ski just to have an excuse for
being wind-burned all the time.

He really fucking hates skiing, even if Dick *had* made
that first trip surprisingly --

"I admit... I was hoping this would... help."

Fun. Jason snorts and shakes his head. "It never stops
being creepy when you use that voice out *here*, man."

"And not vice versa? Hmm."

"Vice versa just means you're trying to get me to
*behave*, Batman." And... yeah, he's smiling a little.

"Familiarity breeds contempt?"

And... that's a lot more serious than Bruce wants him to
think it is. Or maybe Bruce *does* want him to know. He
can't tell, not with the cowl on. "Familiarity breeds
familiarity, B."

He watches Bruce nodding slowly out of the corner of his
eye and finishes his energy bar.

"Time to hit it?"

"Yes, Robin," Bruce says.

Jason leaps.


He doesn't have a plan so much as a vague idea of using
one of his own grease pencils to scrawl something clever
like "fucking call me, you freak" on one of the kid's

(Did he have more than the one in his bathroom? *Was*
there one in his bathroom, or did he just assume...?)

That's *enough* of a plan, anyway, for this time of
night -- morning -- and if he can excuse himself for
forgetting how much *fun* this stuff was when it was
Batman-and-Robin, he still can't help feeling like a

*Bruce's* alarm isn't gonna be going off in three hours.

Still, he'd told Dick he was going to do this, and so he has
to. If only to keep Dick from taking things into his own
hands before... something. He doesn't know.

He gets his picks out without fumbling, and --

The door opens.

And Avatar's right there, which works. No... Tim is, because
he's stripped down to his pants, boots, and cowl.
Somehow, it's an even freakier look without the goggles --
probably because it looks so damned much like Cass'. And,
as soon as the door's closed behind them, Tim strips off
the cowl and just... looks at him.

It feels like a look he should be able to read, but... he's
just not used to the kid enough for it. So...

"Hey, Tim," he says.

"Hi. Jason," and Tim gives him a full once-over -- another --
like he has to remind himself that Jason's in civvies this

"So --"

"You were in here. In... um."

Jason smiles ruefully. "So I was right that all that went on

Tim nods. "Oracle... showed me. You... you touched..."

"Your stuff? Well, yeah. One second we were talking, the
next..." Jason shrugs, and moves a little further into the
living area.

It's the same as it was last night, only the top of the Avatar
suit is tossed over the arm of one of the couches. It's
reassuring to see it there, rumpled and bunched with
armor, for some reason Jason doesn't have words for.

"So are you gonna tell me what the hell that was?" He
looks back over his shoulder, and Tim is still right where
Jason left him -- standing near the door with the cowl in
his fist.

And... he stays that way, for a long enough moment that
Jason's getting a little twitched again -- just a little, and
he's *wiped* --


The shudder is almost too fast to see, but almost isn't
good enough  --

"Hey --"

"There was... emotional feedback," Tim says, voice atonal
and calm. "Between Oracle and myself. It was mutual, and
mutually disconcerting."

"Okay, wait --"


If people would just let him get *one* question answered
before -- right. Jason moves to the couch and sits down
deliberately. "C'mere."


"I'm tired, okay?" Jason pats the cushion beside him, and
it's so very much *exactly* the same as Cass' that it's a
surprise not to smell her when Tim sits down.

And then Jason's over that illusion, because *Tim* sits like
a girl. Or... not like a girl so much as like someone who
expects to get touched at some point, and isn't looking
forward to it.

Jason doesn't actually know too many girls who sit like
that, though there was a time when he'd watched

But that's kind of beside the point.

"So, before you tell me anything else --"


"Look at me." It's not what he'd meant to say, and he can't
decide if it feels mean or just gratuitous, but... Tim does
it. The expression is... it's *not* blank, and it's not scared,
and it's not...

It still isn't anything he feels confident reading. Maybe he
should come up with an excuse for Cass to be in here. Or
just keep *looking* until he can figure it out.

"Next thing. What did you *do* over there a minute ago?
You went from freaked to zero in about a second, man.
Was it..." Jason leans back against the corner of the
couch, just on the off chance that looking relaxed would
actually help things, and then gestures toward Tim's skull.

"Oracle had... nothing to do with that."

Jason nods, and gives a little 'and?' gesture. The corner of
the kid's mouth twitches, and... if it was Bruce, Jason
would say that was a smile.

"I... coped," Tim says, and doesn't stop looking at him,
and that was absolutely a twitch. And...

Fuck it. "Was that a smile?"

The kid blinks at him.

"I'm asking, because..." Jason reaches out and drags a
finger over the corner that had twitched for him twice.
"It *could* just be a facial tic."

"I suppose... it could have been. To the best of my
knowledge, however, I don't have any... neurological

Twitch. All right, Jason can play this like it's just a tiny,
more fucked-up version of Bruce. He smiles back -- that
twitch lingered. "Hey," he says, and doesn't really have
any idea what comes after that, but --

"Hey," Tim says, and turns his face about three and a
half millimeters toward Jason's thumb before leaning
back again.


"Did you have... another question?"

"Uh, huh. 'Emotional feedback.' What does that mean?"
There's a deep enough frown-line between the kid's
eyes that he actually *looks* fifteen for a second... though
that's still not the same as 'Steph's age.'

"I... I'm not sure how else to explain it. We were -- Oracle
and I -- feeling each other's emotions for a moment. It
was disturbing."

His turn to blink. "Uh... shit. How... no, don't answer that."

Twitch. "All right."

"But just what were *you* feeling right that second that
having Babs feel it would cause a..." Jason waves a hand.
"System meltdown."

"I'd rather not say," Tim says, but he doesn't look away.

It kind of makes Jason wonder if he'll look away before
Jason *says* to, but... later. Maybe. He shrugs. "That's
pretty much it for me, question-wise, at the moment,

Tim nods, slowly. "May I... get you something?"

Jason smirks. "Not unless you suddenly developed a taste
for something *other* than grape freaking Zesti."

It's... actually kind of *weird* to watch someone blush
without turning away. At all.

"Hey --"

"You were... you touched."

Jason frowns. "Coping all done, then?"

"Jason..." And the kid *still* isn't looking away, but he's...
blinking a little too fast. A little too much.

"Hey --"

"Did you like the skirt?"

And the question's so damned random that Jason kind of
flinches on the inside, because... was that Babs?

"I mean... it was the only thing you *moved*. On purpose,

No. It absolutely isn't. But... he'd kind of really like to know
where she *is* right now.

"I always used to imagine that you -- and Dick -- had
closets a great deal like mine. Better hidden, of course,
but still." Tim's eyes are wide and... it's not just the iffy
monitor-light making them dark and strange.

His irises aren't wide enough.

"I suppose I was wrong."

"Uh." Yeah, *he's* brilliant. "We usually kept the disguises
in the Cave, unless we needed them somewhere else for
whatever reason."

A slow nod. "I suppose that makes sense."

"And I'm pretty sure we never did *enough* disguise-work
to call for an entire mini-closet full of chick clothes."

Tim shrugs, and the smile isn't a twitch this time so much
as a kind of *pull* to the side of his face. It would be
disturbing if --

Jason's not actually sure why it *isn't* disturbing.

"It amuses Oracle to track down assignments like that for
me. It amuses me, too. To be honest."

Jason nods. "You seem like the type to get off on tricking

"And being... attractive."



And see, that's... it's one thing to stare, and one thing to
stare through a blush, but the fact that Tim isn't turning
away even now that he's biting his *lip* a little is just
fucking --

"You never answered my question."

It's almost a *tease*. Or... the exact opposite of a tease,
actually. "I'm not the kind of guy who can just tell how
something will look on a person by looking at it," he says,
wondering who he can blame for controlling *his* mouth.
"Not without knowing the person pretty damned well."

Tim nods. "Personally, I think the... effect is somewhat
more realistic in a dress. A shift. Then my lack of curves
can be attributed --"



"Do you want to put it on? For me?"

"Yes. I do."

Shit. Just... Jason's lips are dry, and he licks them, and
watches Tim's mouth drop open.

"I'd like to do it right now," he says, and the voice is still
pretty *flat*, but it's also... low and a little breathy.

Uh, huh, okay, and... okay. Jason goes for it, a little,
brushing his thumb *over* Tim's mouth and getting a
sharp little *sound* for his trouble. Like a breath that
just forgot to catch a note on the way out of the kid's

It's a little like a fucked-up kind of magic. One second it's
Tim's mouth, and now... it's a small, pink *mouth*. Upper
lip a little bigger than the lower, or maybe that's just the
mild overbite.

Rich boys aren't supposed to have overbites, he thinks,
and wonders if Oracle has already gassed them for their
own good.

"Jason... may I?"

He swallows. "Tell me why. You want to."

"Because you touched it. Because the... degree of
separation is..." Tim licks his own lips, catching Jason's
thumb and moaning, and --

"Shit," he says, because now it's Tim's *mouth*, because
it's wrapped around his thumb and --

There should've been a pause in here somewhere,
something to let him know when they were moving from
'talking' to 'making out,' and Jason thinks it maybe has a
lot to do with the fact that Tim is still staring right *at*

And hasn't stopped for more than the blinking, and the
kid's tongue is moving on his thumb so fucking --

Jason pulls out, and for a second it's like he's reeling Tim
in on the shiny little rope of spit connecting his thumb to
the kid's mouth.

But it breaks, and then Tim is just... moving. Coming for


And at that point, kissing the kid is more of an imperative
than anything else, though even that might not go far
enough. If you walk into the Cave, you're not walking
out without a uniform.

If you let Tim suck your thumb, you're *gonna* let him
suck your tongue, and crawl most of the way into your
lap, and --

He kisses like he was never freaked-out, at all. Like it's
something he was just waiting for the opportunity to do,
and do *right*. If he focuses, Jason can almost see the
method in it -- the way the kid is trying every technique
he can think of until he finds the one that works, and
then --

Working them.

Working *him*, and focusing is rapidly losing any kind of
appeal, especially since he can just grab Tim by the hair
and --

"Oh, *Jason* --"

-- kiss *back*.

And he's only in civvies, but Tim is already half-naked, and
it's hard to decide whether he wants to push the kid away
so he can strip down a little or if he wants to do it just to
play with his nipples.

And if Tim will *let* him do it either way. The noises he's
making are loud, constant things -- and almost like the
world's sexiest afterthought when compared with the
way Tim is giving as good as he's getting here -- more.

Hands on Jason's shoulders and thighs bracketing his
own and -- *mouth*. Jason growls a little, bites a little
just to *see*, and Tim's hips jerk against him and those
hands are in his hair, pulling Jason *in*.

If the kid was stronger, Jason would already be on *top*
of him. As it is, he's only *just* too weak to fight off
Jason's push.

"Jason --"

"Easy, okay?"

The look on Tim's face says 'no, really not,' but he doesn't
pounce again. And he doesn't stop *looking* at him.
And --

"Still wanna put that skirt on for me?" It's not even *close*
to what he wanted to say, but --

It makes Tim turn and bend, yanking at his boots until he
can kick them off and then standing to push down his
tights. Black boxer briefs where Jason would've laid
*money* there'd be tighty-whiteys.

He reaches out to snag his finger in the waistband before
Tim can skin 'em off. "Did Babs buy these for you?"

"Canary, actually," he says, just like that's nothing at *all*,
and then they're gone, and he's naked, and...

Jason also would've laid money that *that* wouldn't* have
happened, even if he *had* been willing to go with the
idea that he'd be doing this at all.

And Tim is just standing there, waiting. Acting like
someone who's *used* to being stared at while naked,
as opposed to just being naked in company, and -- Jason
thinks of the shower and swallows.

"Tim --"

"It will only take a moment, Jason. I could be..." And this
time the smile is an *actual* smile.

Just not a *real* one. Or --

"I can be your girl."

Or, he has no fucking idea, because that's... that's the
exact same fucking smile Babs had turned on him after
patrol that one time, the one that had stunned his
fourteen year old self so bad he couldn't respond at all.

The one he'd jerked off over for about a fucking *year*.
And --


Tim shakes his head. "Though I can't decide whether to
be flattered that the imitation is so accurate, or just a
little disturbed." The smile on the kid's face shifts just
enough. "Let me, Jason. For you."

Just a little... shit. Jason is fully *dressed*, and sitting on a
*couch*, but he still kind of feels like the aftermath of all
those jokes they tell about Superman which Dick assures
him are *almost* entirely inaccurate. Avatar is a fucking
blitzkrieg *attack* of sex, and the fact that Jason knows
it's making him act -- and look -- like a lobotomy case
isn't enough to make him stop. "Jesus, man --"

"I don't have to be a 'man,' at all. That's... kind of the point
of me, Jason," and the smile is right, *so* right -- Tim
looks excited and shy and horny and *excited*, and it's so
real Jason can fucking taste it. But.


"You don't have to... I mean." Tim shrugs, and Jason can't
help but notice the muscle -- there's a lot of it for such a
little guy.

He doesn't know why he expected Tim's body to be any
different from any other crimefighter's. Or supervillain's.
"Tim --"

"I know Cass told you how much I wanted you, Jason. I
just. I'm not sure if you really..." Another lip-bite without
looking *away*.

Like maybe the kid is just going to show him --

"I can't think of anything I wouldn't do to..." And the look
is *focused*, now. "Jason."

Everything. All bets off. "C'mere," he says, because it
seems like the safest thing he *can* say, and because he
can't imagine not doing it.

"The dresses -- the *skirt* --"

"I want you... right here." And Jason swallows, and
wonders if Tim is just going to keep trying to convince him.
If he'd *survive* it.

But Tim moves, climbing back on the couch and kneeling
between Jason's thighs. Naked and --

No. It's such a little thing -- such an *obvious* thing for
one of Oracle's -- for a *Bird*, that Jason hadn't even
registered the slim, gold chain and earring. He stops Tim
from moving any closer with a hand on his slim, hard
chest. "Two things."

Tim reaches up -- almost kind of jerkily -- and covers
Jason's hand with both of his own. "I'm listening."

"First..." He strokes the necklace -- just the chain.

"I've been assured that the audio is off. I don't need to be
assured that our more internal connection is... damped."
It shouldn't be possible for a mouth twitch to come off
*slow*, but...

A lot of things shouldn't be possible. But. Okay. "I'm just...
why isn't your symbol an 'A' or something? Shouldn't it
be -- please tell me you realize how creepy it is that you're
wearing an 'O,' man."

Tim presses on the back of Jason's hand with his fingers.
"Am I? Mostly, I tend to think of it as an empty circle."

Jason feels himself pressing his tongue against the back of
his teeth, and -- he doesn't know if his body is trying to tell
him to scream or just --

When he gets his other hand around Tim's back, he can
sort of *press* the kid between them for a moment, push
some of the... some of the *breath* out of his body,
and --

Watch it make him even hotter. Fuck the kid's rock-hard,
wet-*looking* dick -- it's all over his *face*.

"Jason... please..."

"I don't want a girl, Tim," he says, and eases the pressure
enough for the kid to gasp in a deep breath before
squeezing again.

The response he gets isn't a word at all. It isn't even a
*sound* so much as -- heat. Frustration. *Want*.

"So... what are my other options?"

"Anything," Tim gasps, and...

Jason keeps up the pressure for a little longer, just to
*see* -- Tim's hips bucking so hard he spatters Jason's
shirt with pre-come. Fuck. Fuck.


"How about... just you?"

And Tim isn't breathing -- Jason isn't *letting* him breathe,
and okay, he's definitely going to have to *go* with that,
maybe, no matter how fucking *terrifying* it --  should be.

"Well...?" And he eases up -- on Tim's *back*.

Tim breathes, and watches him -- it's going to maybe feel
a little weird to leave here, to *not* be watched, and yes
he *had* noticed that Tim hadn't said one damned thing
about the *video* being off -- and -- "Like I said, Jason --
anything. May I suck you off? Please. No, strike that," he
says, leaning forward against the hand Jason still has on
his chest. "*Please*."

And there's a voice which sounds way too much like an
*amused* Bruce -- or Dick -- telling him that he'd *asked*
for this, and --

There's no way to deny it. Cass is his sister, and there's
nothing in Tim's body that says 'lie.'

And the second he lets go, the kid is moving -- sliding off
the couch and onto his knees, grabbing Jason's hips and
*pulling* until Jason shifts his ass just off the edge of the
cushion, and  --

"Take it out for me, Jason. Put it in my mouth. Let me --"

"*Fuck*, Tim --"

"Fuck my *mouth*, Jason, and then --"

Jason shoves the fingers of his left hand into Tim's
mouth -- he can't *deal* with 'and then' -- and uses his
right to yank open his jeans. *Clumsily*, because Tim is
sucking his fingers -- trying to fucking *swallow* them,
and because he feels like he's been rock hard for about
a year, like Steph was a fucking hallucination --

Like everything outside this *room* is an hallucination, or
maybe just everything other than Tim's eyes on him,
Tim's *want* on him, and --

"How long," he says, more because he needs to focus on
something *else* for long enough to get his dick out.
"How long have you wanted me to fuck you?"

And Tim sucks his fingers *harder* in response and --
*looks* at him harder.

"Pull off and tell me, man, come on --"

"Since the fourth time I watched you knock a man's teeth
out and smile," Tim says, and goes *right* back down on
his fingers, closing his eyes this time -- no.

Closing them *part* of the way, lashes shadowing his
cheeks and making Jason think of mascara, making Jason
*want*, and he hears himself growling and watches
himself yanking his fingers out of Tim's mouth --

Getting them *bitten* --

But the only thing that matters is that his fucking jeans are
open and his dick is finally -- fucking finally -- in his fist --

"Someday... I'd like you to jerk off on my face," Tim says,
and the low, breathy *honesty* is nothing compared to the
fact of it, the absolute *truth*, and --

Jesus, Jason is *better* than this, but when he grabs a
handful of Tim's hair and pulls, Tim's eyes just roll back a
little and his mouth falls open like it was on a goddamned
*switch*, and his dick slides in --

In --

So fucking --

Deep --

"Suck me, c'mon, suck it --"

And it's like the world's most fucking benign tazer to the
spine. Jason's jerking, spasming and rigid and Tim's
mouth -- his *mouth* --

Sometime when he's alive again, he'll try to make
comparisons. Technique, effect. Sometime when he's not
feeling himself pull hairs from Tim's scalp, sometime when
he's not --

When Tim's not *groaning*, and at first Jason thinks it's
rhythmic, over and over with every time Jason pulls him
down onto his dick, but -- it's not.

It's just one long *noise*, broken up every time Jason
shoves --

In --

"God -- *fuck* -- gonna --"

And just that fast, Tim's hands are *locked* around his
wrists, and Jason has just enough time to be a little
shocked by the strength of Tim's grip before he's coming
down the kid's fucking *throat*, pulsing like somebody
nicked an artery and too far gone to actually scream.

And just --

He --

*Fuck*. He really doesn't want to know how long he's been
fucking *zonked* with his hands buried in Tim's hair and
Tim's face basically impaled on his dick. It's just -- it's too
much to even *look* at, especially since he has to *push*
Tim to get him off, even though he'd stopped sucking
before it started to hurt.

He'd seriously just been *waiting* there, and, judging by
the gasping sounds he's making now, quietly asphyxiating.
"Jesus. Fucking Christ."

The look Tim gives him is wild and *dizzy*, and Jason has
to grab the kid's shoulder to keep him from falling over.

"Tim --"

"I'm -- all right."

His mouth is swollen and his pupils are blown and every
breath has a terrifying little whooping noise, and --
"Jesus, Tim --"

"Thank you," he gasps, and swallows, and breathes, and
before Jason can even think of how the hell he's
supposed to respond to that, he... smiles.

And looks at Jason.

"Thank you," he says again, and reaches down to give
himself a squeeze that looks really damned *inviting*...

Until Jason notices the kid's come all over the floor and
the couch. "Uh..."

"How long... can you stay?"

And he thinks this is where he should probably be telling
Tim that he doesn't *have* to keep staring him in the
face, especially when he's asking the kinds of things
which make his expression look like it's at war with itself
in about a dozen different ways -- all of which make
enough sense to *hurt*, but --

"I mean --"

"How often... how often do people get to see your face,
Tim? Or -- how many?"

"Canary. Huntress. Oracle, of course, and now Batgirl.
Power Girl has. And I imagine, at some point, well..."

*That* makes him look down at the floor, but it's only
for a moment, and Jason can't figure out why he did it.

"And you."

Jason nods slowly. "You're... you're getting off on *this*."

Tim's mouth twitches. "Does it bother you more or less
than me masturbating over surveillance footage?"

"I --" No. Just... no. Jason lets his head fall back against
the couch and squeezes his eyes shut.


He reaches out without thinking about it and winds up
pulling Tim into his lap again. He straddles Jason's thighs
and touches his cheek. Lightly. Jason opens his eyes

"Thank you," Tim says, *again*, but at least this time the
twitch at the corner of his mouth is more like a smirk.

"Sure thing, freakboy. Uh."

Tim raises an eyebrow.

Jason gestures between them. "So... really *not* a virgin.
I'm guessing."

Tim catches the hand Jason's gesturing with and drags it
around to his ass. "No. Really not."

Jason squeezes, and wonders with a thankfully fleeting
insanity if he should be spanking, instead. Somehow,
Steph made it seem a lot less freaky. "So... uh. Anyone
I know... of?"

And Tim pushes back against his hand and cocks his head
at Jason, and --

"You're totally deciding whether or not telling me would
break my head, aren't you?"

Tim nods.

Jason laughs, softly, closing his eyes again and -- getting



"Next question?"

And Jason -- a *part* of Jason -- really wants to go with
that for a while, but it's the same part which made him
shadow Bruce all night, tonight, and that part only gets
to win *some* of the time.

He pushes his hand into Tim's hair, instead, and pulls him
into a kiss, and... keeps his eyes open.


End Notes:

The Bentley bit is stolen *shamelessly* from Jack.
Because it's true. It's so very, very true. (Though *this*
Jersey girl is more partial to Jags. *ahem*).

"Dromiceiomimus, please!" is from Dinosaur Comics,
which all should read and giggle at. Sadly, that t-shirt
does not (yet, dammit) exist.

.Interlude: Under the ocean floor.