A Different Hurt
by Te
February 23, 2006

AN: Just a random birdboys snip. No content warnings.


His calves are aching a little -- it's different from hurt, and
different from straight pain, as well -- when he wakes up.

This is how he knows -- more than for any other reason --
that he hasn't gotten his full six. There's nothing registering
as a threat, and, if he was having a nightmare, it had left
far more quickly than usual. It's --


He's being watched.

He turns into a smile, and is tired enough that his mind
offers him the image of his body being stretched, curved,
hardened into enamel --

He wakes up, and Dick is still smiling at him.

"What's up?"

Dick shakes his head, and the smile is softer. "Nothing. Was
I watching that loudly?"

The interesting thing -- one of them -- about sharing a bed
with someone for personal (as opposed to practical)
reasons, is that there are different rules for conversations.
Things which are easy -- or easy enough -- to express while
clothed and standing are a lot more difficult when things
are... otherwise. The head-shake doesn't quite express the
same thing as the shrug which isn't strictly possible for him
at the moment, but he thinks it's close enough.

"Loud enough," Dick says. "Right. Sorry, Tim. Go ahead and
go back to sleep."

He raises an eyebrow -- some things are, of course, still the

Dick winces. "You're really awake now? God, I'm sorry --"

"Awake enough," he says, and considers, for a moment,
whether it would be better to turn fully onto his side or
just sit up. There are... meanings, there. Far more than
there would be in, say, turning his face up to better meet
Dick's eyes. If they were standing.

If they weren't... like this.

"Why... why are you awake, Dick?" It's a compromise,

And, naturally, Dick has no problem shrugging, even though
they're this close. This wound together.

This --

"I crashed pretty hard last night. Nine hours."

"Were you all right?" And Tim knows he's frowning by the
thumb tracing his mouth. Shifting things a bit until his
expression is, apparently, close enough to be a correct
response to the rueful grin on Dick's face.

"Yeah. I just didn't get enough sleep the night *before*

Which... all right. Tim shakes his head, a little dutifully. He
has the most regular sleep schedule of any of them. All of
them are violating the Geneva convention standards on
torture for themselves.

"So... I was taking advantage of the opportunity to watch
you not working."

Tim frowns. "We went to the game last weekend --"

"We left early, and you spent the hour we *were* there
diagnosing which players were using which performance-
enhancing drugs."

"But we didn't bust anyone."

"So you weren't working?"

The skepticism is affectionately palpable. "I like chemistry,"
Tim says, not bothering to keep *all* the defensiveness
out of his voice. "Especially neurochemistry."

"Mm. I'll keep it in mind," Dick says, and traces a different
expression onto Tim's face. Something...

He's not sure. It's mostly neutral. Still... "You know I
already have a lab, Dick."

"Mm-hmm," he says --as non-committal as he ever gets,
really -- and turns onto his back, arching up into a stretch
which is only lazy because it's Dick. The sheets pool at his

The question becomes how much of the tease is intentional.
There was a time when Tim entertained the possibility that
he would be able to figure out the answer to that question,
given time. He's a bit more realistic about it now.

And Dick is tapping an idle rhythm on his own chest with his
fingertips, and staring at the ceiling.

"I'm still not working, you know."

Dick smiles, at the ceiling, and says nothing for long

Almost long enough --

"Do you really think I'm not still watching?"

Almost. But not quite. "Hm," Tim says, and turns onto his
own back.

There's the particular not-silence of Dick's even, steady --
wakeful -- breaths, and Tim spends the time getting used
to it again, and to the way it does and doesn't mesh with
the faint ozone hum of the television he'd left on mute the
night before, and the night outside.

It's a waiting game, and he always wins those.

He's not surprised when he feels Dick's expression -- self? --
shift to something not a smile, and when Dick turns back
onto his side.

He's not surprised when Dick squeezes the tension out of
Tim's right shoulder, pauses, then moves to the foot of the

The groan he lets out when Dick starts rubbing his legs *is*
a surprise, but not really a shock, per se.

"Uh, huh," Dick says, somewhere between terrifyingly
determined personal trainer and -- always, always -- sexual
tease. "You need to go back to sleep."

"I --" He grunts when Dick hits his calves. "-- will."

Dick pauses, and it's curious, and then a little alarming,
because Dick is staring at his face as if Tim had said
something... entirely else. "What --"

Dick shakes his head, cutting Tim off. "Nothing."

"Dick --"

"Geese, graves..." Dick shrugs.

Dick's lying.

Dick shrugs again.

Dick knows that *Tim* knows he's lying... and so he has to
just take it, for now.

There's a temptation to point out that Dick isn't, precisely,
playing fair -- Tim had just woken *up* -- but.

It fades under the steady look --*look* -- Dick is giving him
which is, of course, a warning about how very close they're
getting to actually discussing... this. Their relationship.

Why, one could even say they were *perilously* close to it.
Because Dick found something... off, or perhaps ominous,
about the way Tim had said he would go back to sleep,


And the longer he returns Dick's look with the frown he
knows is on his face, the closer they're getting. And if he
were a different sort of person he'd keep it up.

He's smiling ruefully before he asks himself if he *really*
should try to change his own expression.

And Dick is touching him again.

It isn't enough a touch -- there isn't enough purity of
*focus* -- to justify saying Dick's name the way he wants
to, the way it's sitting at the back of his throat, pushing at
it, wanting --

It's only that he wants this, just this, and so, paradoxically,
he has to swallow it back.

He does.

And closes his eyes.