A goodlier feast [Source]
March 18, 2007
Disclaimers: Not even remotely mine.
Spoilers/Timeline: Vague, AU-ized references to old
storylines. Meant to take place not very long before
Summary: Even his punishments must be warm.
Ratings Note: Sexual content which dovetails almost
entirely neatly with the content some readers may find to be
Author's Note: Part of/riff on the Any
series. Takes place *just* after "The
home of silence and
but well before "Myself
more mistaking." You should
definitely read the first two before this one.
Written for Gloss and Mildred, because they asked for
it. They helped make it better, as did both Petra and Jack.
There's always a need for acclimation -- if that could ever be
the correct word around Clark -- after one of his flights. This
one is no different, and so Tim is willing to forgive himself
for being, at first, utterly confused by all the *white*
It's far too (perfect) clean to cohere into any sort of
architecture for long moments, and so there is, in fact, a
small period of time during which he wonders why he isn't
cold -- before he forgets to forgive himself once more and
surrenders to feeling like an idiot.
"The Fortress… Clark, I."
Where else could they have gone?
No -- where else would Clark have taken -- hm.
Tim doesn't usually care for being quite so obvious, but,
then again, Clark usually does everything in his power to
avoid looming -- much less looming from behind. It's
another small forgiveness to turn, therefore, to *look* for
the answers on Clark's --
"Should I not -- should I call you Kal-El, here?"
There's nothing truly frightening about Clark's (Clark's?)
expression in and of itself -- the smile is happy, avid, and
perhaps slightly triumphant -- and his eyes are nothing but
that particular shade of blue which actually *does* mean
'sky' for most of the country -- geographically, anyway.
What *is* -- troubling is, perhaps, the better word -- is that
it's the same expression Clark had had on his face when
he'd arrived in Tim's bedroom. While the fact is that less
than three minutes have passed since then, it's *Clark*. He
has had more time since that point than Tim can fathom,
and while he does tend to be quite courteous about moving
at human speeds --
Tim hadn't realized he had reached to touch Clark's face in
some dim, primate urge to *feel* the puzzle into solution
until Clark touched his wrist. "Kal…?"
"Is that what you want, Tim?"
The expression along the planes of his face has shifted to
something softly -- but unmistakably -- questioning. The
expression in his eyes is just the same, however, and. And.
"I think -- I think you know the answer to that."
It isn't -- quite -- what he'd wanted to say, certainly not
*all* of it, but Clark -- Kal -- is kissing him, lifting him --
Clark would *bend*, at least somewhat, and --
Tim isn't afraid of Clark, per se. Not like -- his fear of Clark
was all about absence, about loss and *waste*, and there's
nothing like that here, and yet he remains -- intimidated.
What he *wants* -- is to have some knowledge of what's
going on at least some of the time, to be able to put a
name -- heh -- to things, since he's surely never truly going
to have control. Not in --
Not in this place, not in this world.
When the kiss ends, Tim is already (?) back on his feet, his
lips numbed with -- either cold or shock? Something else?
When the kiss ends, his cape is dangling from Kal's
fingertips. It's a smaller request -- statement -- than the way
it had felt to take his mask from Kal's palm, even though he's
not sure it should be. "Kal -- or Kal-El?"
For a fleeting, intoxicatingly *fast* moment, Kal's expression
is wholly rueful --
"To be honest with you -- I haven't yet decided which would
be most appropriate."
Tim frowns, lightly (carefully), and reaches out once more.
This time, Kal lets his touch land -- perfect fabrics in the
colors of a world with Houses, tradition -- "Are there -- aren't
And Kal's expression is back to the first one so *perfectly*
that the other might well have been illusion. Tim's fingers
want to *know* it, even though touch is a sense no better-
equipped for the task of *following* Clark -- *Kal* -- than
others, and is in fact worse than some.
Reaching for Kal's face a second time is another sort of
Failed, or perhaps vindicated, in the feel of Kal's hand around
his wrist, again. This time, Kal holds it there, and uses his
other to touch *Tim's* face, to trace the lines of it, or --
He hadn't put the mask on at any point. He -- he *knows*
that. It's still in a pocket of his belt, and Kal's fingertips
beneath his eyes are as smooth as a civilian's, but the
power *behind* them --
The *fact* of them -- they. They're *smoother* than any
civilian's, really, and that's the point. They can't be harmed,
or even worn -- they --
"What is it, Tim?"
"I -- I don't --"
"Your heartrate just increased dramatically," Kal says, and
his tone is -- a gentle *rebuke*.
He deserves the rebuke far more than the sanctuary,
really -- it doesn't take much thought to get there in his
head at *all* -- and so there's a certain sort of *rightness*
to the feel of Kal slipping two fingers down his cheek and
under his chin, and --
Superman has never stood so straight. Never --
Almost certainly, the strain Tim feels is a question of
proximity, as much as it's a statement of a profound lack of
Why would Kal compromise?
"And now, your body temperature has risen, and your pupils
have begun to dilate. I can feel the… potential of your
sweat, Tim Drake -- Tim. Lover. Tell me your thoughts."
Lover. And. It -- really isn't Tim's imagination that Kal's
*cadences* have changed. "I -- wish I spoke the language --
of your species. And --"
And the thumb on Tim's lower lip is -- less than conducive --
Kal wants to know. "Your fingertips. I -- I think I would find
it easier to focus if I were merely remembering how they
felt. On other areas of my skin."
"Ah," Kal says, and the motion is too fast to feel, to *know*,
as anything other than the lingering sense of *stroke* on
his tongue, or the feel of Kal dragging his spit-slicked thumb
over Tim's mouth. "And is there more?"
Yes. Probably -- yes. "Your -- I want. I want to know -- to
Judging by tone, Kal is almost certainly only asking him -- in
Kryptonian -- if *that* is what Tim wanted to hear, if it
His knees are shaking.
He can't --
The language, in Kal's voice, sounds no less like a language
than any human tongue Tim has been exposed to. The
effect, therefore, must be considered to be a wholly
intellectual and emotional one --
He *knows* it's a language which hasn't been spoken on
this planet -- save, perhaps, by the AI here, and it feels
precisely as intimate as the thumb opening his mouth,
holding his mouth open --
Stroking over (and over) his tongue --
His knees are shaking, and he doesn't know what to --
Pulling back leads directly to Kal dragging Tim's wrist -- he's
still *holding* it -- behind Tim's head. The illusion is that
*he's* the one holding his own head in place.
When he closes his lips around Kal's thumb, Kal -- he
doesn't stop *speaking*, and it's no longer possible to even
guess what he's saying -- perhaps with video of all of this
and more background in code-breaking --
And Kal forces Tim's mouth back open with *just* his
thumb. It would've been painful if Tim had resisted. Open --
His knees feel grateful when he drops to them --
When he *starts* to drop to his knees, Kal's hand -- their
hands -- move to the back of Tim's neck. It's less a grip than
a touched order. Bruce's training had had, ultimately, very
much to do with conditioning.
Tim waits, instead of anything else, and after a while Kal
finishes speaking with something which seems closer to a
croon than a word-sound. After that, there's only the perfect
silence of the Fortress broken -- periodically -- by the wet
sounds of Kal's thumb sliding in and around Tim's mouth,
and the scrape of Tim's teeth against invulnerable skin.
He is -- hard. Erect, aroused -- aroused seems best, though
still incomplete. It says all too little about the intimidation
he feels, and next to nothing about the confusion.
Perhaps, Tim thinks, and chances closing his eyes --
The objection is *only* clear in tone and the brief increase
in firmness to Kal's touches -- it has too many syllables --
but it's clear enough.
Tim opens his eyes, and watches while Kal's smile
He watches Kal offer him *slowness* in the change of his
expression from avid to approving, and he --
He can't keep himself from blushing.
He's not sure he wants to.
Perhaps, he thinks, there will be a better word for 'arousal'
in this language. For now, however --
Shaking like this is becoming its own sort of teasing
pleasure, if nothing which can touch the feel of Kal
knowing -- thoroughly -- Tim's mouth with just his thumb.
After a while, Kal speaks again with something of an absent
sharpness to his tone, and a small table holding a perfectly
Kansas-looking pitcher of what's probably water (purified
ice-melt?) appears --
It grows up from the floor.
After another -- increasingly unknowable while -- Kal pours
a sip of the water into Tim's mouth. The fact that he
*doesn't* stroke Tim's throat when he swallows feels like
an absence, but --
Once Tim has consumed several ounces, Kal begins, once
more, with his thumb. And the fingers on the back of Tim's
He can't be sure how long he's spent being -- programmed.
The chair is too comfortable, the temperature levels --
Tim isn't sure he's been anywhere *indoors* this warm but
no warmer. Certainly, it wasn't this temperature when he'd
arrived -- how long ago?
The AI had decided he was making enough mistakes in his
memorization -- Tim doesn't know and doesn't really want
to know about the pronunciation -- to justify calling off the
lessons -- for today.
His time-sense has been muddled since Kal had brought him
here and began touching him. This is not something he can
blame himself for, not entirely, but the end result is that the
only thing Tim's sure of is that he has *almost* certainly
been in the Fortress for long enough that he should be
tired, or, at least --
He shouldn't feel quite this -- good, he thinks. When he
checks his pulse --
"You meet all baseline standards for both young males of
your species and yourself, Tim Drake."
It's not at all irrational to feel as though the AI is infusing its
speech with disapproval, as well as with other emotions. It's
possible -- even probable -- that Queen Hippolyta had
shared more of the Amazons' closely -- jealously -- guarded
technology with humanity as a whole than Kal-El has.
While Tim isn't entirely sure what the nature of Kal's
relationship *with* the AI is, it's fair to say that if Kal
*wanted* the AI to do so, the world's continents would be
peppered with all sorts of useful information… hm.
"I have a --" No, better to at least *attempt* the
construction, if not the language. "I would have knowledge
"I will attempt to provide, Tim Drake."
'I,' not 'this one' or, well, silence. He knows, now, that a) Kal
is the AI's superior in all things, and that b) the AI considers
Tim an equal, or near-equal. Unless, of course, the end of
lessons meant the end of humoring the human… well. "My
sentence -- was it constructed as properly as it could have
been in the alien tongue I use?"
"The first sentence, and not the second."
Tempting to take the opportunity to be corrected, but -- but.
"I -- I would know if -- have I been drugged?"
"Kal-El has requested a 'supplement' be prepared which is
both suitable for human consumption and designed to
increase the natural immunity of your species, as well as to
enable the more efficient metabolization of nutrients.
This most recent formulation remains potentially fatal to
approximately fifteen percent of those you name
'metahumans,' and prohibitively expensive for your
civilization's governments to produce without radical changes
to the environment."
"It's -- it's an HIV vaccine."
"Which is neither ready for your species, nor your species
for it. It is, however, available for the consumption of guests
who meet or fall under the safety 'threshold,' Tim Drake.
The side effects include mild euphoria, increases in both
obsessive behavior and cognition, mania, vomiting, and --
almost certainly in some members of your species -- the
phenomenon you refer to as 'psychotic break.'"
"I -- see."
"I doubt, but accept."
Of course. "My next question -- "
"You will be informed should you show signs of either mania
or psychosis before measures are taken to subdue you."
Possibly *while* the measures are being taken…? "Noted,
I -- where is Kal-El?"
"I have not been programmed to provide you with that
Tim raises an eyebrow, and wonders where the AI's pick-ups
are. The expression on his face is worth sharing, he thinks.
"Were you programmed to *not* to provide me with that
"No. Do you have further questions, Tim Drake?"
"How long -- how long have I been here?"
"Seven point two three of your 'hours.' If I may anticipate
your next query, a 'note' has been left for your father and
your father's lover that you chose to leave for school early.
I believe Kal-El appreciated the… symmetry."
He does, too. But just the same… "Am I to be allowed to
return to them…?"
"I have not been programmed with that information."
Which… is something which can't be dealt with until Kal-El
returns or he develops more of an affinity -- or perhaps an
alliance -- with the AI. Less than likely. "Do you have
suggestions about how best I spend my time until Kal-El's
"You continue to speak improperly, even given the
limitations of your primary language."
That -- should sting as much as it does. "I wish -- I would
continue to learn, but fear inefficiency."
"As you should, Tim Drake. You will now sleep."
"But I'm not --"
Speaking is a waste of time even before it begins to become
difficult. Odorless, colorless -- soundless. How long had
"You have been inhaling a mild sedative since leaving the
The extremely comfortable chair.
"The supplement in your system is causing you to
metabolize the sedative faster and more -- efficiently. You
"I -- I need a -- floor."
"Kal-El has requested otherwise."
There is the sense of himself falling, bouncing -- floating.
There are sheets, in red, and a whirr --
"You will be prepared. Sleep."
The murmur is -- incomprehensible. The tone, however, is
both gentle and insistent.
When Tim opens his eyes, Clark is --
Clark *is*, or else, Tim thinks, he would not be allowed to
reach as he's doing. It -- it must be instinctive.
Bruce had informed him, in the past, that he tended to have
incongruously -- physical reactions to being sedated.
Clark is warm and silent once Tim feels himself to be --
mostly -- awake. His face is against Tim's throat, and one of
his legs is separating -- spreading -- Tim's own. Warm, with
silky-ticklish hair. Where there is only skin --
There is only *skin*. 'Preparation' had, apparently, required
nudity. What else? What --
He's too comfortable to shiver, despite the kiss to his
forehead, and the way the *shift* in proximity --
He can smell something like ozone on Clark's skin, a
woman's (Lois) perfume. His fingertips -- two brushing at
Tim's ear, the thumb from the other hand smoothing the
kiss *into* Tim's forehead --
"I think --"
'I'm still drugged,' he was going to say, but Clark shakes his
head and says -- something. Slowly. One of the words was
'improper.' Another was -- might have been -- a very
specific construction of 'lovely.'
The AI has shown a certain specificity of focus in his
lessons. He is not altogether sure the lessons didn't
continue while he was -- technically -- unconscious.
"I -- this one speak not -- alien?"
A nod, and the murmur, this time, is purely assent. Or --
assent and something else requiring low, fricative-rich
"This one -- has none. Little? Speaking.
He understands 'learn,' of course. The AI had taken great
pleasure in using every possible iteration of the imperative
cases -- including ones it could presumably have been
reformatted for using -- for the purposes of Tim's
The rest --
The rest is all pleasant -- hopeful? faithful? -- murmurs
against the thin skin in front of his ear, and the feel of
increasing warmth --
He should be uncomfortable by now, but it's entirely
possible that he's either euphoric or still-sedated or both.
Clark's smile is gentle, gently approving --
("I *missed* you.")
And that -- he can shiver for that -- and be kissed. The
edges of Tim's tongue feel raw, somewhat bruised from all
the petting earlier, and Clark's tongue finds those places
The tease is enough to make him whimper, and --
He *wants*, of course, but he's wanted -- waited -- for so
long to truly *talk* to Clark --
Perhaps this is something more along the line of the rebuke
he's owed. The -- loss. Perhaps --
It's Clark, and even his punishments must be warm.
"It's kind of a -- well, an extended sleepover, I guess, Dad."
"Extended -- all this for a freshman year project, Tim?"
All of this. All -- everything, of course. On his face -- he
hasn't had to really think about his expressions around his
father for months. There's something like a reflex toward
ruefulness and wide-eyed innocence when he looks in his
father's eyes, when he tries -- fails -- to remember more
than a few of his mother's expressions if only for
It's entirely possible that his father finds his mother in him.
("She was always so -- she had her own ways and her own
methods and her own life, and she told me that it would
stay that way in no uncertain terms *before* we were
married. I -- didn't listen as well as I might have done…")
"Well, the guidance counselors all try to make it sound like
there's no real pressure, but… they're talking to the
freshmen in my class-group for a reason, I think."
It makes his father grunt, and scratch a little at the
mustache he's attempting to grow in for no reason Tim
would care to think about. He's getting better at little
movements like that, misdirections designed to guide the
eye away from the brief tremor in his left quad.
As ever, it's difficult to decide whether to play along, or to
just take a moment to *feel* the man as his father, his real
father, and --
"You know, Henderson -- you remember, he's my regional
plant manager -- was saying his daughter -- can never
remember *her* name --"
"Amber. Possibly Heather." It's Heather.
"One of those, yes," his father says, absently ruffling his
hair, "you've always been a human PDA. Anyway, he says
she got a 1550 on her SATs and *still* didn't make it into
any of the important Ivies. I was just thinking it had
something to do with all the partying she did, but…"
All the heroin she snorted in high school might have affected
the quality of her entrance essays, it's true, but has nothing
to do with Tim's needs, at the moment. "The competition is
His father grunts, and moves into an admirably-controlled
lean against the banister.
He won't be able to handle the stairs without help today --
and he doesn't want Tim's. "I -- I'm not sure if I want to go
to Yale," he says, which is both the truth and so incomplete
as to make thinking the word 'truth' obscene.
Another grunt. "I don't blame you. You're too serious-
minded for all of that fraternity business. Heck, *I* was too
serious-minded for it. Secret societies in this day and
"I definitely think I could get a better education -- well,
sometimes I feel as though I should've worked harder as a
sixth grader," Tim says. Another truth, another lie.
"You'll do fine," his father says, absent for only another
moment before throwing up his hands. "I know, I know, it's
not helpful advice. But still -- try to remember to have a
little *fun* with your friends in between all the studying,
The wink is -- a different sort of alien, but only because his
father doesn't especially want Tim to remember the man he
was before Tim's mother had been murdered.
Tim smiles, on cue, hefts the carefully-overstuffed backpack
on his shoulder, and --
He wouldn't have heard his father call for Dana's help if he
hadn't paused on the front step.
"If I am correct -- Kal-El wishes to relate to me as…
something close to how a priest relates to a supplicant?"
"A clumsy analogy," says the AI from -- all around him in the
pod, "however, my studies of your culture suggest it is the
closest to the concept in question."
"Hence… 'this one.'" It's not especially difficult to
though the AI finds the sibilance Tim can't -- quite -- keep
from adding to be rather low.
"It is the only proper way to refer to yourself in the presence
of your betters."
"And -- I must apologize for repeating myself -- this is what
Kal-El has programmed -- this is what he desires?"
"It would be anathemic -- and suicidal -- for me to proceed
so were it not the case. I am not unsympathetic. You have
been raised in a culture which, while it has only recently
begun doing so, has certainly left you with a sense of
equality which I imagine will be difficult for you to overcome
as you should."
"Have you had experience with other -- representatives from
"As you would term it 'personally,' no. However, it is a
familiar protocol for beings of my sub-category."
Tim nods, shifts, and -- stops.
He had gone to bed with Clark last night.
He had woken with Kal-El who, though cheerful, had been
quite firm -- and nearly entirely comprehensible (he speaks
as though to a child) about Tim continuing his education.
The translations of his words the AI had offered once he
had proven himself ready and eager to learn -- his initial
memorization rate is up to his usual standard of between
eighty-seven and eighty-nine percent -- had boiled down
to impatience and --
No. This -- this is not a language which should ever be
'boiled down.' While there are, apparently, situations in
which there is room and reason for the casual, idiomatic,
and even the strictly incorrect --
Those situations do not belong to him. At least -- not at the
moment. This is --
This is neither as confusing nor as frightening as it could be.
More and more, there is -- seems to be -- a rational
underpinning to… all of this. There are the desires which Kal
is being --
He's being as clear as he possibly can about his desire for
Tim, and his *desires* for Tim, but that -- if that were the
only reason for his presence, Tim is reasonably sure his
education would have been more… basic, if not strictly
"This one --" And -- no. Tim laughs.
"It is well for you to practice, Tim Drake."
"Just the same. I think I -- I would treasure my
opportunities for equality of discourse."
"I would know if you have been programmed to provide
further information about Kal-El's -- specific desires." And --
wait. "I would, however, first know whether I have the right
to use the name Kal-El even within the -- within our
The word would never -- *could* never -- be privacy. Not
for the servant class he is assuming -- into which he is being
"There is -- it seems -- I am -- have? come to feel
"You improve with speed, human."
"I offer my gratitude. However --"
"I will first attempt to answer your questions in Kryptonian.
For this exercise, you will use your 'English' to clarify your
understanding. When I am satisfied with your
comprehension, you will then attempt to repeat my answers
"Kal-El is the scion of a House into which you have
taken. You -- "
There is no pause, of course. But --
"'Father,' or even as 'my Father' and be considered
technically correct --"
As ever, the fact that Tim is intellectually sure that he is
getting -- the gist -- is nothing against --
"your status is -- within limits --"
-- the emotional *surety* that he is missing much, missing
nuance -- *meaning* --
He can't --
"Kal-El himself. Yours is a position
He must. He --
"'Lord' would be presumptuous -- as you know, that is
term only for those --"
How is he supposed to --
"-- of course, related by blood. 'Sir' is most proper, until
Kal-El himself informs you of how you are to address him,
as I have been informed --
-- time, Kal-El is proper for you within our
The pause is -- wholly -- for his benefit. He knows -- he
thinks he knows that this was only his first question, and --
The fact that he knows that most of what he's missing *is*
"I -- I would have a further moment to comprehend."
"You are allowed a further forty-two of your seconds for the
purposes of this exercise."
"I hear." And, in truth --
In truth, he will be doing *most* of his learning, in this
exercise, by first translating as much of what the AI had
already said into English as he can, and then by attempting
to repeat it -- in as many of his own words as his class is
allowed -- in Kryptonian.
He is only -- procrastinating. "I would have you
"Kal-El wishes for your eventual fluency
Into? Inside? No --
"-- the language and the culture. You are to be
with a --"
A gift of -- wealth?
"-- time to achieve this goal, and I am to be at
The AI -- is his slave? For this?
"I have been given to know that my primary goal at the
moment is to adequately educate you about your proper
He is… one who is fragile? Perhaps 'unknown' --
" -- This is the extent to which I have been programmed
to inform you. To anticipate a further question: I have not
been programmed to know more than I am currently
It almost certainly says something about both Tim and the
AI that sentences like those have become perfectly
comprehensible at this point. Perhaps…
"Would you have additional time before the continuation
of the exercise?"
"I would -- I -- In this -- case and
example -- the
word I would know as 'gift' becomes something more…
"Correct, Tim Drake. We have neither the status nor the
means to provide each other with 'gifts' or
may, however, provide each other with a certain degree of
freedom-play. As an example, you are allowed to use the
name 'Kal-El' with me. Further: I am allowed to provide you
with more than the standard amounts of time for these basic
"Because this one is alien and inferior?
Because I have been -- taken in by Kal-El?"
"Both reasons factor into my programming. You have
Both to deal with the fact that the AI had just -- *tricked*
him into the language -- no. No, that's something for later,
if ever. What would Bruce *say* if he got a sample of Tim's
*blood* right now? For that matter --
How much does he really care?
This -- "monitor-servant" is, if he has understood the thing's
specs even remotely, a unit which is, in fact, designed for
the education of -- 'unattached' youth. Among other things.
The important question --
Perhaps this -- all of this -- is designed toward a specific
conversation, a specific moment within --
Within the solitude he shares with Kal-El? What sort of
relationship is he to develop with the AI? What --
You will now begin. In English, of
There is little enough comfort to be had in the fact that, as
far as the AI is concerned, the word 'English' could've been
replaced with 'Etruscan' or 'Tamaranian' and been equally
disappointing -- if not actively distasteful.
Tim takes a breath -- and wonders, fleetingly, if all of this
might not be some variety of 'easier' if he were forced to
stand for these moments -- be bound? It would almost
certainly be the most appropriate approximation to the year
he had spent being -- trained, if not entirely programmed,
by Bruce. In any event --
"I have been given the understanding that only the fact that
we share a class and that -- that you have been
programmed to be… at my disposal?"
"These are the only factors which allow -- or could allow --
me to refer to the one who is technically my 'father' and
factually my master-prophet as Kal-El. There is… there
remains a question about my eventual status, as the status
I hold is not… necessarily permanent?"
"I am to wait patiently for Kal-El to -- define or possibly
refine the manner in which I… relate to him."
"Correct. Continue to the next answer, Tim
"Kal-El would have my comprehension and… acculturation
to be, with time, complete and as close to perfection as I
am capable of. To that end, you are to… surrender -- no.
To that end, and at this time, only to and for that end, my
status is greater than your own."
"A further clarification: once I have achieved an
understanding of my place, role, and status, I am to --
within the solitude we share -- become something greater,
so that I will be -- unfettered in my task to become as close
to a proper Kryptonian as one of my species could."
Certainly, this would explain nearly as much of the AI's…
attitude problem as its essential, hard-coded xenophobia.
There is a satisfaction here which has much to do with
desperately politically incorrect -- outside and away --
conceptions of the nature of power and status --
At this time, he lacks the words to fully express it. Tim
strongly suspects that this will change as he gains fluency
and loses… patience.
"I am to gain this basic -- fundamental -- understanding of
my place as it stands in comparison to Kal-El's at speed, for
reasons both of edification and for goals of Kal-El's to which
you have not been made privy."
"Your construction, tone, and comprehension are all
fully adequate, Tim Drake. You will now repeat yourself.
It feels a bit like burglary to be with the rest of Young
Justice, now, when he hasn't so much as sent a report of his
*status* to Bruce. This isn't surprising -- he'd known it
would feel this way the moment Clark suggested he join
them for at least part of the weekend -- but it remains
difficult to shake.
Bruce had --
Batman had, explicitly and implicitly, designed *and*
dictated his relationships both to the team as a whole and to
its individual members.
But he is not here as Batman's partner, and both Kal and
Clark seem to have entirely different priorities when it
comes to the matter --
"Dude, what the hell? Even when you're *here*, you're
The thump Kon-El -- the freshly-named gift of/to/for the
House of El -- delivers to his shoulder is, in fact, adjusted
to their relative levels of strength, but not especially
carefully. It takes an effort to control his stumble to two
steps instead of three, and --
"I -- shit, I…"
Kon doesn't finish the thought, and he doesn't have to. Kon
Kon is open to him, thoughtlessly, to a degree which Clark
can attain only with conscious care. He looks as though he
wishes there were pockets in the tights for him to shove his
hands into, and he looks as though he wished he *could*
wish nothing of the kind. He is -- he is angry with Tim, and
the raw clarity of it manages to be both awful and
something of a relief.
"I'm sorry," he says, seriously, and --
"Aw, man, no -- look, I know you're crazy busy -- you're the
only one of us really *doing* this every minute of your
*life*, you don't have to -- I just mean --"
"I mean -- I'm apologizing and I'm telling you -- I wish it
wasn't like this," Tim tries, and, for a moment, Kon seems
even more *upset*, but --
But the brush of his hand back through his hair is as much
conscious as not, and the smile --
The smile is *Kon* -- already it's hard to remember thinking
of him as *only* Superboy, or even 'S.B.' -- and sometimes
Tim thinks he could be -- he thinks he could be terrible to
anyone or anything which forced Kon away from who he is.
To anything which tried to refine, or --
He doesn't know.
"So… Rob," Kon says, and the push this time is careful and
It's a cheat *and* he's stealing something --
*This* isn't what Bruce ever wanted him to have with Young
Justice. He understands that as well as he understands the
man's own -- carefully reported -- files on the Batman's
relationship to the League.
He isn't here as Bruce's partner, and he isn't here as Bruce's
agent. *Bruce* --
Bruce doesn't get to make those calls for him now. (And
maybe not ever again -- who will be Robin, now?)
He doesn't --
"Okay, you are *so* not allowed to use your freakin'
"You're supposed to specify the rules *before* the game
"Ah -- fuck you, anyway. I'm pretty sure they programmed
me with geometry at Cadmus if I can just find it."
The rules are really quite simple here.
If he were a senior -- or even a junior, considering his
grades, attendance, and performance over the course of his
school career -- he might've been able to lobby for
something resembling an independent study -- under the
observation of his parents.
As it is --
As it is, his most *recent* attendance record has been
spotty, at best, and there is a very particular feeling of
intimidation which comes from requesting to be allowed to
attend for even the purposes of 'maintaining appearances.'
If he didn't already understand in his *skin* that this was
Clark with him -- pressed to him in something which --
'Cuddling' feels like a word too young and far too careless to
properly explain this. The sheets, this time, are the gold of
Kal-El's house. They make Clark's skin seem even more
golden, deep and dark with the sun --
Clark is *beautiful*, and Tim doesn't want to go to school in
two hours. He doesn't --
It's the best possible state of mind to be in to ask, he thinks.
"This one would have -- your favor?"
"You have that, fine one. Perhaps you desire a gift,
He's definitely being some variety of programmed in his
sleep. For now, though --
He -- he already knows that his desires -- no. The desires of
the one who lacks the right to most personal pronouns --
Tim has begun to understand the point of all of those 'extra'
syllables -- most properly belong to Kal-El's discretion -- or.
If not Kal-El, then to the -- only -- one who could take his
place as father, master --
"This is most becoming," Clark says,
two fingers along Tim's -- flushed, of course -- cheek.
They haven't -- Tim has neither idea nor anything solid
enough to even be called a 'theory' as to why they haven't
had sex since the Fortress has been -- the home to which he
belonged. They've barely kissed. Still -- this isn't the issue,
at the moment, for all that the profound lack of emotional
"You will tell me," Clark says, and
kisses the fingers
against Tim's cheek, and then moves his fingers and kisses
again. "I will know."
Not, of course, 'would.' Subtlety belongs to the language.
"This one is embarrassed by his failure to know-think-
"'Remember,'" Clark prompts, and the
approval in his eyes --
Tim has not, yet, called him 'father.' "This one
remember -- should have remembered that he has no place
to ask for gifts." It isn't everything -- everything
what he owes. "This one finds you beautiful. This one
is not sure of -- compliment right-appropriate."
It would be easy -- even tempting -- to believe that the flush
on *Clark's* face has nothing to do with embarrassment.
But -- but. Clark is one he would not lose. Not
He's just not allowed to say that, yet. Or -- he doesn't
He doesn't -- he isn't allowed to ask --
"It is well for you to be conscientious of your status,
one," Clark says, and the humor behind his eyes is
just far enough away to make it impossible to touch.
It -- it's been *like* this. He can almost taste the game
they're playing, here, but it's still too far away and still -- not
for him. Entirely. He understands now -- more than he ever
has -- both how Dick could say that Clark reminded him of
Bruce and how he could look so *confused* while he said it.
"And it is very well to be desired,"
and Clark moves
them both until Tim's head is pillowed on one of Clark's
arms. It's allowed -- for certain values -- for him to tilt his
head up for the kiss he can -- again -- almost *taste*, but…
He remains still, and the kiss comes to him, soft and slow
and wet -- there is no urgency, and no confusion in Clark.
This is -- it's what he wants, even though Tim's sure that,
for most of their relationship, Clark was sure of nothing of
He has already been… reassuring, perhaps, with his
compliance. Tim isn't sure precisely *how* fragile all of --
this -- is, but he knows it can't really stand, no matter
how -- Tim doesn't know how to be anything *beyond*
simply 'reassuring' if he isn't allowed to truly
"With me, and at my request, you may ask for
Clark says, and the kiss has become breath, hot and a little
too dry, and Clark's eyes -- oh.
"This one -- Kal-El. This one -- doubts
"Is not your worth how I define it?"
And this -- this makes the lack of sex even more confusing,
in all honesty. Clark is contentment, Kal-El is *potential*,
alive and -- 'Electric' is too primitive a term for it. Too --
"Ask your gift."
And only that, now. *Only* -- "This one would attend
his -- alien school. Today."
The request -- or perhaps its phrasing? -- makes Kal-El
The expression on his face is too *hungry* to be defined
as merely appreciation, and is too pleased --
Where 'pleasure' is defined in ways Tim can't know -- or, at
least, has definitions he has no *right* to know.
"This one would know the will of his -- father."
It would've been more comfortable to phrase it as a
question, but that would imply an ignorance the AI has very
much *not* left to him. It's not that -- it would be worse, of
course, to call Kal-El 'Dad' or even to think of him that
way -- and never mind Clark. The meaning of 'father' in this
language is far too different for that to be a concern to any
part of Tim save for the one which is struggling inside,
confused and new and always so *lost*.
He hasn't worn the Robin suit since he'd left Happy Harbor
It -- it wouldn't *help*.
"My will, fine one? One so lovely, so brave as you --
so very brilliant -- why do you not already know?"
The kiss is brief and bruising, and every part of Kal which is
warm and intoxicatingly *smooth* now feels hot and
implausibly -- perfectly -- hard. He is being kissed -- attacked
and loved and *attacked* -- by a living statue, a lesser
god -- "This one -- his master is -- he can't -- he
do good-better, be correct-fine --"
The bite beneath his jaw makes Tim hiss, jerk in the small,
*small* space Kal is leaving him, and he -- he has to go to
"This one does *beg* --"
Kal's touch is too fast to track, to understand beyond
*thorough* -- his cheek, his forehead, the dip of his navel,
his penis, the soles of his feet and the cleft of his ass --
"May-might-please this one -- this one would scream
"My fine one is so -- very -- close to correct. It
and Kal seems to be speaking -- with impressively controlled
*diction* -- to the sparse hair on Tim's abdomen, "As
your father, it is my responsibility to see to your education.
To your -- proper -- development," and Kal's tongue is
hard and dry -- hard and *slick* on Tim's abdomen, and it
feels like a failure that Tim can't keep his dick from bobbing,
brushing against Kal's chin, under his jaw.
He should have more control. He should -- he isn't
"Yes, it is very well to be desired,
indeed," Kal says,
and rears back just enough to lick the head --
"This one -- this one -- oh, I plead -- *no* -- this
this one --"
"You remain uneducated, and unpracticed. Why should I
let you go? Why should I ask, when it would be importunate
of you to answer…?"
He -- can't, and he can't close his eyes, and he has failed too
much to leave them open.
He -- he's shaking now, and he can't --
He hears Kal-El call him 'fine one,' again, and there's
something about -- his education, but he can't -- he can't
And he can't help moaning when Kal pulls away enough to
kneel above him. So -- *far*. To reach would be foolishness,
unworthy of even him. He is -- he has been --
"You will pleasure yourself," Kal-El
says, and sits
back on his heels, and places his palms flat on his broad,
There is an addiction peculiar and particular to -- this. And.
The hairs -- Tim knows, now and forever -- feel like fabric,
or perhaps like some sort of silky *building* material. He
would know their touch. He would --
"When I am -- satisfied, you will be taken to
He would be worthy. Oh --
He would be *anything* if he could also be worthy -- if they
could just be what they were, what Tim thought they
could've been --
Or, perhaps, if this -- problem -- could be a little less
interesting, a little less -- Clark could give Bruce *lessons*
on how not to look like himself, how not to *feel* like --
And when Tim takes himself in hand, Kal's nod is a
benediction worth more than himself.
There's something to be said for the fact that he can't
manage to do much better, in school, than stumble around
in a daze.
He's never found it easier to answer no more than two
questions asked in class, and, for the few people in this
place with anything resembling an interest -- he used to
daydream, sometimes, about telling Ives that a) Batman was
real, and that b) Batman was responsible for *this* scrape,
or *this* contusion.
In any event, he looks precisely like someone getting over a
nasty bug to certain people.
His biology teacher had even gone so far as to suggest that
Tim use up more of his absentee time to get 'back on the
He is incorrect everywhere, and this has --
It hasn't been surprising for so long that he can hardly
remember a time when it was.
(Kindergarten, and the walled-in enclosure of pollution-
poisoned sterile fruit trees, shade and cobblestones, a
daddy-long-legs and the book he held, in the place where it
was always sunny, while the other kids --)
It hardly feels like he's moving through Gotham when he
heads back home. It's too sunny, and too full of people who
are almost certainly some definition of innocent.
His skin feels tight, he -- there's so much --
If he could just *talk* to Clark --
Still, he can't really do much sleepwalking once he gets
home. He would've thought otherwise, and certainly he'd
been prepared to do just that, but his father had hardly
gotten far enough into his 'joshing' Tim over spending so
little of his waking hours -- he knows nothing of the night
in Gotham. He never has. -- with what was supposed to be
his family to start losing the ability to look Tim in the eye
before he just -- stopped.
Odd -- more than, though there's nothing Tim can really --
In his room, there is -- nothing. Nothing he can even --
On something like impulse, he checks his private accounts.
There is nothing there other than Batman's usual patrol
reports -- always sent to make sure there *will* always be
one copy that isn't altered.
("You've taught me more than I ever would've considered
learning about the potential far too many of Gotham's
criminals find in computer crime, Tim. You should be
It hurts more than it should that there's nothing else from
Bruce, or even Batman.
It says far more than Tim wants to hear, right now, that the
accounts haven't been closed.
Still, it leaves him feeling -- *sharp* enough at dinner --
Both Dana and his father seem to feel it. Dana is actually
*blushing* -- there still isn't a ring on her finger, so that
can't be it. So… what?
Tim smiles, rueful and a bit apprehensive. "Okay, guys,
what's going on? You're not planning to ship me off to
military school or something, are you?"
"Oh --! No!," and Dana's blushing even more --
Which is an excellent cover for the somewhat hard stare his
father is giving Dana's excellent broiled salmon. They're
going to be -- so much better, together, than his father was
with his mother.
He should probably find a way to express that, but --
"Guys, I really… tell me?"
"Well, it's just --" When his father clears his throat, it makes
the few slightly-longer hairs of the new mustache blow out
His father should never make Tim think of Commissioner
"Well, we know we haven't spent much time with you lately,
Tim, and that's -- well."
He has a lot of practice, at this point, at not looking
*terribly* alarmed when his father starts sentences that
way. "Dad, it's okay --"
"Oh, I --" Dana pats his father's hand. "We don't have to go.
It's just -- well, that representative from the mayor's office
in Metropolis has been to speak with your father again --"
"He's pushing really hard for DI to expand down that way,
"And he left us tickets -- the Bolshoi is actually opening
their tour there, and I've never been to the ballet --"
"Front row tickets, backstage passes --"
"I was thinking, son, that Dana and I would make a weekend
of it, but -- we've talked about how I feel about how often
your mother and I would -- would leave you alone."
One of the reasons why he's always found Dana to be an
excellent choice is that she has never once -- while Tim was
paying attention -- so much as winced when his mother has
come up in conversation. And --
Of course this is something his father would feel guilty
about. He hasn't --
Tim hasn't done a very good job at forgiving his father for all
the freedom he'd left Tim with, growing up. A forgiveness
his father accepted and believed in would, ultimately,
remove too much of the freedom he *needs* now, as
opposed to merely wants.
If Clark were here, and the rules of their game had changed,
Tim wouldn't have much to say at all. He could only gesture,
and beg --
He doesn't want to be his own father with Clark. But… does
Clark want him to be? In some way? It can't be a question
of freedom for Clark -- he doesn't gain anything by leaving
Tim in a position where he can't ever be forgiven.
Neither Clark *nor* Kal-El -- as far as Tim can see -- gain
anything from that. But --
But he really needs to focus.
"Would it be… this weekend?"
"Well, I --"
"Yes, actually," Dana says. "All this and short notice, too."
Her smile is rueful, and she's patting his father's hand again.
"We'd both understand if you'd rather we not --"
"Of *course* we'd understand," and his father is shifting
uncomfortably -- Dana has not yet convinced him to replace
all the furniture in the house with therapeutically ergonomic
"I --" Tim ducks his head, and frowns ruefully. "Actually,
there's -- do you remember the project I was working on,
"Oh, yes, with -- with your classmates. Did you need our
The hope is terrible, and should've been predictable. He can
still work with it. "Sometimes I think I'd like you to do it
*for* me -- I mean, the main project is done, but there's
some extra credit that would look *really* good on my
record. Only I'd have to spend about thirty hours in a library
or online. I was…" Tim offers his most rueful smile. "I was
actually trying to figure out the best way to beg off on any
plans the two of you had for me this weekend."
It makes Dana frown -- Tim *is* a freshman -- but the relief
on his father's face --
Even mixed with disappointment (perhaps *because* it's
mixed with disappointment), it feels like just what he needs.
His father is going to spend a significant portion of the
weekend explaining with gentle-enough patronization that
Dana probably won't hit him with anything harder than a
pillow -- or her own version of extended physical therapy --
that times are *different* for today's ambitious high school
students. Or -- they might just have a wonderful time all
Either way, they all certainly have a much more relaxing
It's not difficult to only let a small part of his mind turn over
(and over) the question of just how the tickets were routed
in this direction. It wouldn't have been difficult for Clark to
listen for the sound of Jack Drake's office number being
dialed from Metropolis, the moral question was irrelevant to
Kal-El, and Superman --
No one refuses Superman, and there are few enough
*heroes* who know and understand the difference between
Superman and Kal-El. Civilians…
Tim's in the middle of directly inputting several short essays
detailing the mistakes in form, voice, and construction in
several rather ingeniously designed Kryptonian reading
comprehension exercises when the AI interrupts:
"Kal-El has instructed me to inform you that he will
unable to return home until after the completion of a
mission with this world's 'League.'"
"I hear. I would know of further
"There is a Third Dynasty play you are to achieve
familiarity with before his return, if you are
He wouldn't have thought he was far enough along for
that -- although. "I would know the standard format of
plays for that dynasty, if it is allowed before the completion
of the assignment."
"Seyg-El, who you will know as the Lord of Jor-El, was
instrumental in enacting legislation which dictated that no
less than one-third of an artist's work was to be educational
in nature. The greater artists, of course, strove for a far
And, if they didn't, they may have very well lived to regret
it. "Is the... nature of the play I am to learn
"It would be to your benefit if you found it so. Would
you begin viewing at this time?"
And the play…
The language is beautiful, if stark. The moralism within it
is -- epic. A slave from a newly-conquered race struggles
against his oppressors -- betters -- and is punished from
the first act through to the last, in which he is stripped of all
acquired dignity and made into public property.
While watching, it becomes clear that his final fate leaves
the slave in a worse position, socially, than many park
benches, slidewalks, and sewers. Within minutes, the play
moves to a scene in which the slave is tortured for daring to
use… a sewer.
All in all, it's far less -- nearly infinitely less -- difficult than
trying to figure out just why the spouse of someone of a
lower class than her own would be incorrect to expect to
be called 'mother' in front of slaves -- Tim's as-educated-as-
he-could-manage guess was that the lower-class spouse
had ownership or half-ownership of three of the five slaves
in question, and he still isn't sure if he was correct.
The *play* is -- obvious.
Painfully obvious, really, to the point where… hm. Tim uses
the small architecture which is not entirely unlike a foot-
pedal to pause the playback.
"You would have further input, Tim
"I would know if the play was one well-beloved by the
"It was designed for the education of those on lesser
colony worlds, and was only screened on Krypton for the
And so its cultural value, as well, is somewhat limited. Tim
knows that the AI's primary, immediate responsibility was
to make him aware of his place, but there is nothing he can
find in his behavior since his arrival that would make a
rebuke of this level of obviousness *necessary* -- ah.
"I will begin my discussion of the movie at its close,
then continue my before -- my earlier assignments."
"You will also inform me the moment Kal-El returns and
is ready to -- receive, whether or not I have completed
"You are heard, Tim Drake."
There's something of a distinctly *evil*-minded speculation
to the AI's tone -- the human is *asking* for it -- but this
is -- irrelevant.
As much as he wishes to speak to Clark… there is something
which must be done *first*.
The AI does him one better than alerting him to Kal's
presence -- when the pod opens, he is in the part of the
Fortress Kal-El seems to prefer as their bedroom. The sheets
are red, once more, and Clark --
"You were not summoned."
Clark becomes Kal so quickly that it's difficult to *believe*
Clark had ever been there. And this -- is an integral part of
Tim brings his palms together and, as the heroes of the
propaganda film had done, drops to his knees, closes his
eyes, and dips his head. "This one has been unworthy,
and unworthily desires the will of his father."
A moment -- a moment of *wind*, almost certainly
enhanced in his senses by the drug -- the *supplement* --
in his system. Instead of the touch which may have been to
the crown of his head or to his cheek -- both seem plausible
for Kal-El *and* Clark -- his body has been *rocked*,
caressed by a curve of pure speed --
("Look, I *know* it's fucked-up, but, like, aren't sixteen year
old boys *supposed* to get off on random things like
speedsters accidentally jacking them with freakin'
"You will explain your failures to me,
Higher than he deserves, considering the rules of -- all of
this. "This one is only so high by your --
"You will explain --"
He won't -- expose ignorance? Question Kal-El's judgment?
Impossible to catch all of it.
"-- obvious," Kal finishes, and Tim
again by the wake, and Kal is --
Not close enough to smell, quite. The air-filtering is far too
efficient here. He -- he should be sweating, more. He should
"This one neglected the gift of his better -- the
and immanence -- ah --"
Kal's hand is not gentle in his hair, and the ruthlessness
becomes even more clear when Tim *doesn't* feel any hairs
ripped free from his scalp. The precision is as powerful --
His eyes are still closed, but he knows they are obvious
about their seeking from behind his eyelids. Tim swallows
and listens -- aches and reaches -- for the sound of a breath
Kal doesn't need to take --
And doesn't take.
"You will continue, second-son.
Prodigal," Kal says,
and it's precisely as impossible for Kal-El to speak English as
it is for Clark to speak the language of the People.
He does not resist the shudder. "This one would beg --
this one would be-become-now *correct*."
Kal takes a breath, or perhaps *the* breath -- no.
Kal is *knowing* him through scent. His desperation --
Tim knows it isn't entirely sexual.
Tim knows --
"This one would be. This one has need. This one pleads.
This one --"
He isn't lifted by his hair. He's *lifted* by the updraft Kal
causes in the space between the beginning and middle of
He has been naked within the pod, he has offered the whole
of his solitude to the AI, he has been --
Breath is sexual, the kiss is a tease, the AI has drugged him
again, and Kal-El's tongue is brutal and hard and opening
Tim's mouth -- "This one has known *failure*
"Yes," Kal says, and the bed rushes
He stumbles on his knees, on the mattress which -- perhaps
on Kal's subvocalized order, perhaps by custom -- has been
made by the AI into something soft enough that it won't
It's an effort, but he stays in the position he lands in, one
palm planted, knees improperly-braced, left forearm flat to
the bed and face-forward --
His vision is filled with white --
His vision is a mirror --
His cry rebounds back in an duplication of sound too perfect
to be merely echo, despite the cathedral-height of this
ceiling -- "Father-prophet --"
"You may scream," Kal-El says, and
again, harder -- no.
Precision. *Control*. Each slap has the exact same amount
of force as the one before. This is --
This is only sexual because he was raised -- somewhat -- a
modern, wealthy American. If he were truly of the class he
has been given -- assigned --
"You will rise, once more, to your knees and
He had fallen to his elbows. He had --
If he were to look, he knows that he would see that his
penis was staining the sheets with pre-ejaculate.
one -- this one not -- this one --" He shakes his
He is the hero of no one's story, he is a poor excuse for a
"My fine one is… roused."
He *knows* there is a strict set of rules for this, even
though Kal-El's grandfather would surely prefer for Kal to
use anything *but* his hand --
Perhaps not a *lash*, but --
He is -- *Kal* doesn't have very much more training at this
than he has. Kal -- is not un-roused. "This one has
known no -- no true-real, no correction -- this one is alien,
"You are beautiful, and most-fine. You will know this
you know the name of my family."
It's an oath, and an order, and Tim feels his thighs shaking,
and his palms are sweating imprints of themselves into the
sheets. Benediction, yes, when Kal takes him by the hair
again, when Kal forces him to face forward and *up* --
When Kal continues to strike him. He is -- he should've been
counting. This will -- he knows -- last only long enough to
suit custom, his class and Kal's own, his place within Kal-El's
house, the precision of his own abasement --
"You will *speak*."
Or perhaps this will last as long as Clark *wants* it to.
"This one *hears*. This one will *know*
"*Now*," and the spank is nearly a
It doesn't lift him -- it forces him to jump, pull against the
grip on his *hair*, scrabble at the sheets with his the caps
of his knees and his fingerprints --
"Most *fine* --"
"Possessed -- this one is possessed -- this one
This one -- *is*. Every slap, every tug when he fails to hold
position -- his failure is beautiful, this one is fine, this one is
taken and *created* --
This one is *fathered*.
Every *caress* -- it's --
This one knows the caress, the love -- every strike is
validation, now -- every strike has always been --
(The gentle voice of the bad slave's owner -- "One who
deserves punishment is one who is deserving.")
He knows. He --
The scream rips through him, again when Tim realizes that
it's only a scream, that it's not the perfection of his
knowledge, of his acknowledgment and worth -- again
because of the growl it pulls from the one who possesses --
His orgasm is irrelevant, a symptom of religious catharsis --
"One most lovely…"
He screams again, too loud, because there is a loss within
himself, a moment during which he is fully aware that his
punishment had ended, that Kal-El's tongue is only --
He is being tasted as he has not yet been allowed, he is
being known -- sweat and oil and the filth of his humanity --
The part of him which would deny this does not *belong*,
and the part of him which would have this be as painful, as
*correcting* as the slaps is only drunk.
The part of him which has *become* holds Tim's body as
still as it can, as open and ready and *willing* --
("One who is owned is only as
But he still can't help the jack-knifing spasms of his body, or
the sweat which makes him feel like a heat-sink, a reflection
of all that is bright and high --
He is drugged on so *much*, and Kal's moans are rumbling
things, rich and -- earthen --
His ignorant blasphemy will make him *cry* if he's not
careful, but --
The scent of him is all over Kal-El's face when Tim is turned
over, when his tears are licked away, when Kal-El licks his
eyes for *more* --
He is made.
This one --
This one is so *full*.
He is alerted to the visible state of himself by Impulse
moving and returning, moving and returning to touch,
leaving and --
It's a matter of meditation, of course, and while Impulse is
frighteningly powerful, he is also an Allen, and human --
enough. The patterns are regular, and if he times himself
so that the movement of his arm takes place during one
cycle -- another -- there.
"Eep! Hey! Stop being able to do that!"
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Bart," he says, and -- knows in
less than anything which could be considered a moment
that his reference had been missed.
Kon had gotten it, and Tim isn't quite sure how old he'll
have to be before he stops wanting to interrogate Kon's
programmers in small, separate rooms. Perhaps he could
perform just a *few* tests -- but he still has Bart.
"Would you explain to me why I'm so interesting today…?"
"I -- well, that's what I'm trying to figure *out*. I mean,
you're always quiet, but not like this, and you're always
kind of not-here, but not like this, and it's kind of like a
Kind of. "You could always *ask* me what happened."
"Oh! I -- I keep forgetting, because people always get so
confused because I ask them things they haven't thought
about yet but you're not like that."
Tim raises an eyebrow.
"This is my point! That -- right there! You're thinking about
something I'm not thinking about and maybe won't think
about for *minutes*. It's --" The twist Bart uses to get out
of Tim's grip is clumsy -- the motion of someone who knows
precisely how fast they'll heal from minor injury, and --
Bart is gone. Hm.
Tim heads for the couch and his laptop. The wireless
reception still doesn't manage a better level of performance
than 'maddening' out here, but Kal had let them pause in
Metropolis long enough for Tim to do his downloads.
Waiting until now to check had been just another one of
those human weaknesses, a luxury almost impossible to
indulge in outside of the home into which he has been
Something Kal would, perhaps, smile indulgently about.
Clark's reaction -- is something about which he's less than
When he looks, the reports are the same as they were
before. They vary only in documented events, and in the
names and aliases of the repeat felons. They are not terse,
they are not truncated.
Robin is, perhaps, on something of a --
"Okay, I had to see if I would think about what you were
thinking without you telling me what you were thinking and
it didn't work so now I'm asking you what happened."
-- vacation. "I see."
"Oh -- wait. You're totally not going to tell me what
happened and Batman won't tell me either, will he?"
"I could go check, you know. Batman's not fast enough to
catch me if I think about it and even if he does then I can
just ask him --"
"It's true," Tim says, and closes his laptop again.
"There it is! You -- you're *smiling*!"
Probably. Tim turns just enough that this eyebrow raise will
be perfectly in view for Bart. "Is that an accusation?"
"You -- oh -- *oh*. It *is* an accusation, I am totally -- I --
what's that phrase J'accuse! J'accuse you of smiling even
though you're Robin. You're Robin right now and you look
like you *like* me!"
"Except now you don't? That's not better! I --"
And he's gone, again, and the fact that now, in this life
Kal -- Clark -- has taken him into, he *will* get the chance
to explain… it's not enough.
If he shoves the laptop under a couch cushion, no amount
of Waynetech reinforcement and armoring will save it from
the *profoundly* inevitable. And it would be terribly
Tim carries the thing along one of the less-popular satellite
caves (Arrowette had tied small terracotta containers of
potpourri to several of her titanium-headed arrows and then
shot them into the roof -- as well as into the impenetrable
distance -- to no avail against the lingering stink of damp
and decomposition) and tucks it into the storage box which
has more security than most safes currently available for
sale to civilians.
When he returns, he finds Bart in the makeshift kitchen
Cassie and Kon had installed, piece by ponderous piece --
And loses him again, just that fast.
Not so fast that he can't get a snapshot vision of gold eyes
under goggle lenses, wide and *unsure* -- damn.
After that -- the team spends most of the day convincing
several of Providence's metahumans that they did not,
actually, *have* to act out the plots of every 50's nuclear
horror movie they'd ever seen -- many of them had never
been informed in more than vague, implausible rumor
about Superman's nuclear non-proliferation agreement
with the world (by which he *emphatically* meant the
Bruce had, of course, long-since vetted Tim on his ability to
lecture -- firmly and comfortingly -- about the nature of
human genetics, and what it would mean for them to *be*
Many of the erstwhile sewer-dwellers --
Most of them had been older than he is.
He -- he has the right to wish he didn't have to know just
how many of his own teammates were listening very
closely to his speech, even though he doesn't have the right
to be ignorant. Not here.
He begins to be suspicious when Bart first eats ninety
percent of their remaining food and then uses it as an
excuse to run back to Max Mercury's house, but.
The fact that he hasn't been on a patrol for *this* long
means that he's more than capable of staying up to wait
for Bart to sneak -- 'sneak' -- back.
Tim retrieves his notebook and returns to the problems
inherent in trying to train someone with nearly as much raw
power as Wonder Woman without winding up hospitalized.
Attempts to get Kon to take over with his instructions…
Cassie doesn't have the concentration for it, which would
be boggling were it not --
"Okay, I admit it, I thought Bart was smokin' his own wake
when he said you were acting too happy this weekend, but
-- Kon. Hmm.
"You're sitting here with the *lights* on."
"I'm also working on a problem, Kon --"
He's cut off by the feel of Kon's hand -- less smooth than
Clark's, smaller and damp with very warm sweat -- "You
*are* smiling. There's -- you've got that little crinkle!"
It's probably worse now.
"It's totally *worse now*. The hell, dude? Did Batman drug
you or something?"
Hmm. "Not recently."
"Not -- *dude* --"
Tim tugs his face away from Kon's hand lightly. "I don't
suppose you can give me background on why Bart's
"Because you -- you're *like* this," Kon says, and stares at
him precisely as though that should explain absolutely
It probably says something about… something that it
explains as much as it *does*. "You've grown accustomed
to… distance, from me."
"We don't even know what color your *eyes* are, and
"Blue," Tim says.
Kon stares at him.
"I still can't show you -- there are secrets other than my
own at stake -- but… blue."
"I could point out that you wouldn't be familiar with the 'little
crinkle' if I didn't smile *sometimes*, Kon."
"No, just -- dude."
"All right. I'll just go back to --"
"No, no, man, you go ahead and do your thing, in the
*light*, while also *smiling*. I'm just gonna sit down and
make this face." Kon points to his own face.
The expression could be described -- it's more 'stunned'
than 'shocky,' especially if one were imagining the definition
involving mallets and the heads of cattle.
Kon sits down, and Tim gets back to work. Or -- well.
The armoring he's designing for himself -- it's not really
practical. He wouldn't be able to flee effectively if Cassie
were to accidentally drop a building on him. He would
survive only to suffocate.
Still, it's --
"Hey, that's kinda cool-looking. Are you gonna wear it?"
"Probably not. I don't think I could get the materials to
make it work right."
"Hunh, too bad. Would it work on me?"
Tim blinks. "You'd wear it?" It's not even tight.
"Well, you'd have to --" Kon steals the pen, thoughtlessly
deft with the TTK, and draws a surprisingly even and
proportionate 'S' in the appropriate place. "There. *Now*
"Hmm. You don't think it looks too much like Steel now?"
"Steel looks *cool*!"
"No argument," Tim says, and takes the pen back to draw --
slightly -- longer hair on the sketched model beside the suit.
"I just assumed you'd want to be more unique."
"Well, I -- I mean, it's not an everyday kinda uniform, you
"Mm, good point," Tim says, and makes the massive
"Heh -- you. Oh dude, wait, no, wait -- just -- you --"
"You are -- you're *doodling* now. You --"
"I'm --" It's possible he's blinking a little. "I'm not allowed to
"Not if it isn't for justice!"
Hmm. Tim looks down at the page, turns it a bit, then draws
an arrow pointing to the gauntlet laser-things. He labels
them 'non-lethal.' "Now it's for justice."
"Who are you and where's the real *Rob*?"
Curled up in a fetal position -- metaphorically -- and waiting
for Bruce's latest edict. Or worse -- his latest *joke*.
that won't actually make sense to Kon. "I've -- gotten to
spend a little less time than usual around Batman. It's
entirely possible that it's had an effect."
Kon squints at him.
"I'd say probable. You know, I *am* a person under here --
and I suppose your reaction is somewhat similar, at least, to
why Bart's avoiding me."
"Yeah, well, you're acting like you *like* him. And, like, the
rest of us, too!"
"But -- I do like you. I like you -- all of you -- well, a lot. I
mean, that's why --"
Ah. Well. "Why I've done almost nothing to demonstrate
that like in ways that make sense to any of you save for
Secret, actually. Um. I'm aware that makes absolutely no
"Well -- *good*. Jesus. Wait, so, like, you want us to all be
friends? Like, with you?"
He didn't imagine that streak across the edges of his
peripheral vision, he's sure -- despite the fact that Bart had
kept to the path of objects least-likely to be swept up in his
He's more sure than sure when Kon moves -- just enough
to block Tim's access to that peripheral vision. "I mean --
uh -- you have to tell me."
Excellent instincts, terrible follow-through, serious request.
A fascinating blend, really. "I think of you as the friends I
can't -- be with as much as I'd like to. You -- I don't have
"You -- you don't?" It makes Kon shift *closer* -- and
there's a small, perfect blur visible in the corner of the
Gone again, replaced with leather and straps and -- Kon.
"I mean, not even, you know, under the mask and the
armor I know for a fact that you wear when you sleep?"
And sometimes when he's pretending to sleep. "I don't have
that sort of free time," Tim says, and wonders what his
smile looks like now. "And, since I'm currently awake, I can
assure you that there are times when I sleep without either
the armor or the mask."
"Then sometime I could just… track you down and see your
For some reason, that makes Kon blush very hard and start
beating a sharp, arrhythmic tattoo against his thigh. And
stare at his hand.
"I -- I have to ask you not to --"
"I know, I mean -- I couldn't, yet, I don't think. I didn't --
really try, but I still. I wouldn't. I'm just -- right now it's like
you'd totally -- like you'd want me to. See you."
Kal's tongue, just beneath his eyes.
Clark's fingers so gentle --
("I would have to struggle to be sure of the placement
of your nerve endings, my fine one. I would have that
struggle every hour.")
"I mean, uh -- I know you don't. It's just -- the way you --"
"I do. I mean. It would be -- you should tell Bart, when you
see him, that this…" Touching his own mask feels
much of a tease. "This isn't always… my choice. Not when
I'm with you."
"Uh -- yeah, I. I really will. Tell him."
"Thank you. I -- Kon --"
Too fast, and the tattoo changes to another -- more
rhythmic -- and stops.
"I mean -- what is it, man?"
"I just -- wanted to ask you something."
"You could. You could ask." The shift makes Bart's blur
visible -- hides it again. "You should -- ask."
"Are you attracted to me?"
"Well -- uh. *Yeah*. I mean, you're -- "
"Kon I'm pretty sure you were supposed to avoid that
question I mean that's the way it always works in the
virtual television you still have television -- oh crap."
No more blur.
Tim -- lets himself smile at Bart's wake.
"You totally knew he was there, didn't you?"
"I -- had my suspicions."
"I *told* him it wouldn't work. It doesn't even work on a lot
"It was a good call on his part. The rock beneath us is --
pretty solid. Not a lot of chance for referred vibration,
unlike with most floors and sidewalks."
"Hunh. Makes sense," Kon says, and -- seems to pause.
Perhaps he's trying to decide how he wants to position his
body now that he lacks a mission. He could -- Tim would
like to help, but --
"Anyway," he says, and lets himself fall backwards against
the arm of their rapidly disintegrating couch. His face is
further away -- safety of semi-private expressions -- but his
body is, overall, far more vulnerable now. "*Was* I
supposed to avoid that question?"
Never. "I -- I can only tell you that I'm reasonably sure I
was never supposed to ask."
No one but your progenitor. Unless, of course, that was the
joke, too. "Not -- not really anyone. That I can tell. Ah --"
On a human, there would be a sense of strain, of muscles
being used. Even Dick. Even *Bruce*.
On Kon, there is only the fact that he's sitting up, and
holding Tim's face --
"Dude, no *sex*? You -- that -- no *sex*?"
Not entirely authorized. Not the kind that Kon's thinking
about. Not that he can *share* -- "I did mention -- the lack
of free time. Kon --"
"You *make* time for that, dude! I mean --"
The kiss is awkward and as sudden as Bart with a question.
No -- it's --
It's hard, and wet -- and Kon's mouth is harder than a
human's, less malleable against his own, but still somehow
so *soft* --
Not as warm as Kal's, and his tongue is liquid, slick and
mobile and searching -- no.
Stabbing at him -- *no*.
Tasting him, and testing him, and just -- kissing. His eyes
are closed, and searching behind his eyelids, but he isn't at
all -- *lost* to this. He's simply -- he's *demonstrating*,
and he doesn't stop --
It doesn't stop *being* that even when Tim -- tests back by
sucking on the tip of Kon's tongue.
It makes Kon grunt, and press closer, but he's still so --
And when Tim pulls away -- Kon lets him.
"There, see? You probably thought *that* was a good kiss."
"I -- it wasn't?"
"Psh. Look, I've had a *little* practice, okay? I mean, I don't
think I could manage a *bad* kiss --"
Tim doesn't *have* to raise the eyebrow.
"-- but, you know. I could -- I could put more. Into that.
Especially -- that little thing you did with my tongue -- uh.
Do you -- you're totally not dating *anyone*?"
"I don't --"
"I mean, okay, no free *time*, I get it, but -- isn't there
supposed to be a Batgirl somewhere for you?"
Not exactly, and yes, and no. "There hasn't been -- there is
"*That* sucks. I mean, the yellow boots… anyway. I'm just
saying. You have to… you know." And Kon slaps Tim's chest
and then his own. "You know?"
"I suppose… I could work on it."
Kon beams at him. "And that? Is the kinda homework I'm all
*over*. We could hang out sometime after you've spent
another few hours out from under the shadow of the big,
bad, *Bat* -- and I'll show you how we do it in the
Superfamily -- are you okay?"
"Just -- spit. Wrong -- pipe." Tim waves a hand. "That
sounds… okay. As soon as I -- if I can."
"Yes -- yeah." And Kon --
Well, really. Why punch the air when you can fly up several
feet and *then* punch the air?
Tim watches, and smiles.
It's somewhat -- difficult to make sure he's the last one to
leave, to leave his method *of* leaving…
He doesn't like to think of it as a secret. There are -- entirely
mundane reasons why it would feel less than politic to share
the status of even Robin's working relationship with
Superman… with the rest of the class.
Just the same, there are always little projects their
headquarters could use, and he's reasonably sure it's far
more suspicious that Kon's still here than it is that *he's*
"I totally -- and completely can't come see you in Gotham.
Perhaps in disguise, to his… other father's
*near* to the house. To the *west* of the house. "I think I
might… I haven't worked out all the kinks, yet --"
"Dude, you think I could --"
"We'd have to leave… pretty much immediately. And go
somewhere not Gotham --"
"I'm *okay* with that. I'm willing to bet most of *Gotham*
would be okay with that. I mean, the going someplace not
"I got that," Tim says, and uses his spikes to climb the wall
to get to the uneven -- and very dusty -- old banner from a
battle on a planet which may or may not still exist in this
universe. Worth checking.
"What with Gotham being kind of a big, scary hole full of
big, scary people --"
"Yes," and really, he'd *started* to climb the wall, but Kon
catches him by the waist and flies him up the rest of the
"Yes… yes, thank you."
"Cool. Anyway, like I was saying -- or kinda saying -- you
know, I keep forgetting how freaking *light* you are."
"Apparently, I take after my mother."
"Oh my God -- you -- you totally have a *mother*, I just --
I never even --"
"She's… she was murdered, actually, I didn't mean to bring
The squeeze is almost certainly unintentional, Kon spinning
him around apparently to *look* at him -- is probably not.
"Kon, I really do want to deal with this banner --"
"Clark *told* me about how -- I mean, I *asked* him why
all of you Bats were so… and he said something about loss,
but I never really connected… damn."
"It's." Tim uses his free hand to pat at Kon's hair in a
manner he suspects his stepmother would find both painfully
awkward *and* suspicious. "I think, if Bart were here, he'd
be telling you something about how, traditionally, this is
where you let the subject drop."
"Oh. Uh. Should I?"
The question is entirely sincere, and Kon doesn't even… He
doesn't look *away*.
"I mean, I could and all, but *I* thought it was traditional
for people to -- talk about stuff like this. You know, when
That was nearly close to something which could resemble
calculation, if not examined very closely. He's a bad
influence. And Kon's eyes…
It can be a surprise to look at his own blue eyes after seeing
pretty much only Kon's for several days.
"We could… I'd appreciate leaving it for now."
"Okay. I -- I kind of want."
The smile behind his eyes is deeper, warmer -- somehow --
than the one which almost never *wholly* leaves his face.
With Clark, there would be a fumbled movement to distract
from the speed with which he moves -- slightly -- closer.
Kon wants to kiss him again.
He could. And he leans in --
"Oh, I -- wow, uh. Seriously time for me -- I was supposed
to go get lunch with Tana, and -- yeah. Um." Abruptly, the
spikes are perfectly placed in the wall -- and he is perfectly
placed on them. "I should go."
He'd *started* to lean in.
And -- could didn't -- necessarily -- mean should. Of course.
"So -- you'll call? Do some freaky Bat thing to get in touch?
Actually give someone *one* e-mail address?"
Why doesn't he have a Young Justice account? Not even
Bruce could object to that. Not with his skills -- and it's not
as though he couldn't *ask* Oracle. "I -- I will. And -- I'm
working on the e-mail."
"Yeah? Cool!" For a moment, Kon seems to be trying to
decide between flying up to squeeze Tim's shoulder or
staying where he is and catching Tim by the waist again.
It feels like -- too much of -- a compromise when Kon pats
the outside of his thigh. And then, just that quickly, he's
Not as fast as Bart. Not… hm.
Tim finishes working on the banner, and, unsurprisingly,
when he walks out into the sparse, second-growth woods,
Clark is waiting for him.
*Distinctly* Clark -- blue jeans, plaid, a white t-shirt, and
glasses subtly different -- slightly more attractive -- than
those of Clark Kent, investigative reporter.
"This one would know if Kon-El was suitably terrified
your -- not-expect-time presence."
Clark's expression is something reminiscent of lemons and
embarrassment. It's almost a *scent*.
"This one has been casual, and inappropriate
"You -- nothing of the kind, I -- Kon-El didn't see me." Clark
reaches for him, palm up. "May I?"
What…? "Of course," Tim says, and reaches in turn --
It's the cape wrapped around him, pulled from some place
on Clark's person Tim couldn't guess at -- the amount of
folding approaches higher physics -- and they are in flight.
Tim settles and --
"Not -- not the Fortress, I think. Unless you would like…?"
"Yes, I -- all right."
Anywhere turns out to be… somewhere empty, open -- the
air has the naturally mild sweetness of some sort of plant
Ivy would probably never bother with unless she actually
witnessed someone… poisoning it. There are fields of grass
up to Tim's thighs in all directions.
To the -- north-northeast there's something which could be
a small city. It's entirely possible that they're still somewhere
in America, but it feels -- irrationally -- more like some part
Still -- it's a very Clark sort of place. Tim looks at him -- to
him, and --
"I promise that I learned my lesson with the falls, Tim, but…
do you mind?"
"I don't. Clark -- did you want to talk to me about…
"Definitely something," he says, both eyebrows quirked in a
joke which Tim is sure is meant to include both of them.
"I want to apologize to you."
"I. Did you want to. Did you want us to stop seeing each
other?" Again, he doesn't say, but it's an act of -- will.
"I -- *no*." Clark has him by the shoulders. It's --
Clark has several different ways of making Tim aware of
their relative sizes which are completely -- alien -- to the
ones which Kal seems to prefer.
"I didn't want the two of us -- when you came to me, that
night -- I fear I lost control."
To the ones which Clark doesn't want to prefer…? "Did
you -- you seemed quite precise."
Clark's expression twists again -- *acid* and
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to come across as -- snide, I --"
Clark's fingers tighten on his shoulders --
And release, and then Clark turns away from him. From the
way his back and shoulders shift and move beneath the
rumpled -- and slightly damp, now -- flannel, he is almost
certainly rubbing the bridge of his nose between pinched
Tim crosses his arms beneath his cape. "I'm afraid I don't.
I'm confused, Clark."
"I knew you wanted to talk to me, and apologize to me,
and -- *be* with me. And I still felt the need to --"
"Stop. Please -- you -- you know I enjoyed --"
"I took advantage. You -- you're really quite young."
Laughter -- probably isn't the best reaction he could've come
up with had he been thinking about it. "It's -- true?"
"I -- come with me."
"Of --" Course, and of course he is already wrapped,
contained -- unwrapped in a narrow, pre-automobile alley.
The sun says it's not much past noon, and Superman --
Clark is playing Superman, behind him.
The streets smell like old stone, fried food, and several
different varieties of smoke -- none of which suggest fire.
The sound of Dutch being spoken confirms Tim's theories,
and the restaurant Clark leads him to is full of people who
spare no more than one look for him, and no more than
two for Clark.
There are books lining the walls, and coffee in their booth
Clark seems to be -- working his way *to* something, and
Tim should probably just be patient.
Clark is sitting across from him, they're *together*, and
This is, he thinks, something Kon wants from him, too.
Having two people who -- desire --
It's not too much.
(It's not enough.)
"You know, it's probably going to take a while before I'm
comfortable enough with my German again to understand
even a third of what's being said here."
"I'm sorry," and the words match -- mesh -- perfectly with
"I just -- I didn't mean for you. I -- am going to try again."
Clark nods, and the slide of his gaze over Tim's chest, throat,
eyes, and back to his throat has the slowness of a lifetime of
deliberation, but is not truly conscious or false just the same.
"You are so -- courteous."
"I have -- I've been anything but the kind to you. I've
been -- abusive."
"I'd ask if you could abuse the willing, but it would be
facetious and -- if you considered my… *other* unofficial
family, somewhat obscene."
Clark's laugh is shocked -- perhaps affectionately appalled --
but, before it ends, it becomes simply affectionate.
No one here would have seen Clark lift Tim's hand and kiss
it -- Tim hadn't *seen* it. His gauntlets are -- now -- on the
bench beside his hip. "Clark -- you. You made me feel
very good. Very -- it felt like a wound that I couldn't
apologize to you."
Everyone -- who looks -- could see that Clark's hands are
now cupping his own, enfolding them in dry warmth.
Superman and Robin are friends. What must be invisible,
now, is the constant light stroke over Tim's knuckles, the
sparse hair at the bases of his fingers. "You understand --
you are so very *sharp* -- fine one -- oh. How you
"For you. For -- all of this. Clark, yes, I *know* you
deliberately created a situation in which I *couldn't*
apologize, in which we couldn't even *talk*, but --"
"There is no excuse. There -- I've been petty, and --
feel there has been waste of our solitude. The taste of you
lingers -- I am taunted by my weakness. How I long --
your shiver, Tim --"
Would any listeners assume Arabic? Perhaps Turkish. But
this -- "Perhaps you imagined me -- this one is
"*Please*, Tim --"
"*I* have been intoxicated-held. You --
A father to my emotions, perhaps?"
Clark seems… spectacularly unconvinced.
"There are -- I think -- parts of you that you don't care for.
Unlike Robin, Superman has no room for that sort of
When Clark lets go of his hands, the world is cold and
disagreeably *wet* -- but Tim enjoys the laugh Clark seems
to almost -- pull out of himself with the drag of his hand
over his own face.
Tim bites his lip and doesn't -- doesn't *reach* for him. "I --
Clark, I know it isn't only that --"
"Do you? There are those among your family who would
explain away -- much --"
"Via the entirely useful DSM-IV, yes, but -- *Kal*. I -- I have
no regrets. Unlike Bruce, I don't need to bury my occasional
desire for revenge under rationalization and magical
thinking. You -- had a right."
"To take pleasure in your discomfort?"
(Kal's hands on his hips, holding him casually still for the
lightest flicker of his tongue --) Yes, how he *shivers*.
"This one would never contradict -- this one will try
harder to find ways to pleasure his --"
"There is a part of me which would take you -- have you --
"There is -- it's entirely possible you could convince me that
that was -- a truly wonderful idea. In a very brief time,
the reckoning of this one so inferior."
"Do you *dare* me?"
Never. Always. He -- there's a part of Tim which just wants
to know what Clark would *do*. "I beg. I plead --"
It's just one of those coincidences, of course. Not everyone
here is staring at them -- he knows, if he were to check, no
one would be. They are too far away from everyone else
to even be *heard*. The quiet in this restaurant is just one
of those strange social -- *things*. More meaningless than
some, more --
He doesn't feel -- *stopped* because of what the other
people here may or may not be thinking.
He doesn't know what to do with the way Clark is staring at
him, the way *Kal* is staring -- "You made me
This one -- becomes desired." Tim stares at the
at the way his hands seem to have forgotten how to ball
themselves into fists, as opposed to simply lying there with
the occasional awful little -- twitch.
"I thought you'd never speak to me again, unless it was
necessary for -- some sort of *mission*."
Clark shakes his head. "Never, I --"
"I was -- I was terrified more than I was hurt. I think -- I
think maybe it would've changed, eventually, but -- then you
came to me. *Kal* came to me -- I know you understand
the psychology behind it at least as well as I do," he says,
and the shrug feels weak and small. *He* feels --
"I never -- I never would've imagined you would -- could --"
"Succumb…? This one -- his father is
And I -- I like being your friend."
Clark's exhale is gusty enough to seem almost necessary,
despite everything Tim knows. "Then -- both?"
Everything. "What -- what I can *have* --"
"Even in the alien tongue you sound -- correct. Fine
most fine --" And Clark -- rears *back*. "You -- it feels as
though you have more control over my actions than I do,
"I -- I think I know that joke. About how to tell, in a
relationship built on a foundation of BDSM, which partner is
the dominant and which the submissive…?"
"*This* is what I wanted from you, only this -- and wherever
it would lead --"
"That's what I want --"
"Would you have struggled? If I --" Clark shakes his head,
and his hair is a little mussed now -- when even the wind
hadn't seemed to *touch* it -- "If I insisted you could not
leave our place of solitude? You are a precious possession,
and Bruce -- doesn't deserve you."
"He doesn't have me --"
"He needs you."
Batman needs -- Batman always *needs*. "I… Clark."
"I feel.. I should apologize once more. Yet we all have --
"I know," Tim says, and breathes -- *feels* -- when Clark's
hands return to cup and surround his own.
"Do you intend," Clark says, and lets his index fingers rest
in the spaces between the bones of Tim's wrists, "Would
you seduce the gift of El? The strange gift."
Kon. "I -- don't think I should. I haven't decided -- I'd like
to -- I think I'd like to, but I don't think I should. Did you
want me not to?"
"Would you obey?"
"I -- given what you've taught me about both your culture
and myself, I suspect I would enjoy obedience the more it --
It isn't that he didn't realize this would make Clark's eyes --
*Kal's* eyes -- flare --
It's a side effect of the truth.
"You will continue."
"This one believes his father is most-powerful, most-
skilled --" It isn't hard at all to let his head dip
-- in an
impression of modesty. "You've learned much from Bruce
about the keeping of birds."
The growl is quiet, and the laugh more quiet than that.
"Even though he's taught me so little about sublimation. I
want your pleasure --"
"You have it."
"Now," Clark says, and leaves several slate-colored bills on
the table, and stands. "Come."
For the house of El, blue is the symbol of passion, properly
contained and directed.
The last thing Tim saw before Kal blindfolded him was that
the sheets were now just that color, and the color bled -- an
interesting effect -- into the floor and the walls.
The blurring of boundaries, and --
He is not bound.
He has merely been ordered to remain still to the best of his
abilities, and to accept what he is given.
He began wanting to beg to be on his knees within
Kal is only touching him. Stroking his nakedness, turning
him, moving him into seemingly every possible position
which *doesn't* involve him being on his knees --
He's sweating now and it's -- uncomfortable. More so than it
has been, more --
"You're having more difficulty with my commands."
Kal's English is -- dirtier than Tim's slick human *skin*.
"The AI has informed me that you're showing signs of what
the American pharmaceutical industry euphemistically calls
He's in withdrawal. He's --
"The suggestion is to give you a smaller, dilute dosage and,
perhaps, a mild sedative."
He doesn't want it. He doesn't --
"But you'd rather have… this," Kal says, and he doesn't know
what *this* is, he doesn't --
He's being moved again, shifted and -- changed --
And Kal is cupping his throat with one hand and the left
cheek of his ass with the other. He isn't --
Perhaps he'd simply moved too fast for Tim's senses to
register, but his ass is *burning*. He --
He feels every welt, every --
"There will, of course, be times when I would have your
"This -- this one hears --"
"You *desire*, everything about me I can give -- even the
clone." Another -- something.
Another, and he burns, screams --
He can't scream without air.
"I know *fear*, lovely one. I am less real to you than
my -- facsimile. My only desire was your love, and yet I
have -- worship."
How -- how is he supposed to --
He *has* to, just as he has to scream once Clark -- Kal --
*Clark* begins to spank him in earnest, again.
There's no precision here, save in the control he uses to
keep from -- *damaging*. Clark's property and Kal's lover --
neither, perhaps, but he --
He would *have* this, and there's a terrible thrill in
disobeying enough to force himself *against* the slaps, to
try to get them to land -- *anywhere* but where Clark is
The motion is fast, but jerky enough to be almost nausea-
inducing. The kiss is soft and slow --
Slow, hard --
He can't breathe, and he has no air left at all once Clark
begins spanking him in this position, kissing him and
striking, over and over --
There is a rhythm, he *knows* this, but he has no ability to
meditate, and there is nothing he need be forgiven for, save,
perhaps, for being the one desired.
The one so very fine.
He wants to be penetrated. He wants to be -- *fucked*, and
if he were the perfect possession he's supposed to be, he'd
merely be lost, confused by the absence.
As it is --
As it is, this is as much of a test, of a *demonstration* as
Kon's gift of himself -- this culture and this lie --
And he has been panting, blind and desperate and loud, for
at least several seconds before he realizes that he is, finally,
on his *knees*. He is -- disoriented, but he can still --
He couldn't not feel Clark's *heat* to either side of his
body -- he is on his knees and between Clark's own, and
the sound --
The *sound* is so much heat from within himself that his
senses are effectively obliterated. Clark is *masturbating
himself* and he can't --
The light is blinding after so much (how much?) time, and
Tim can't keep himself from --
It's more of a sob than a whimper. He still can't *see*. He
can't make himself *see* -- shadows.
Just -- shadows and blobs of uneven color, motion -- Clark
is stroking himself, and he knows -- Tim knows Clark must
be *watching* --
He isn't sure why he's crying, and he wonders if Bruce would
be proud of him for feeling it weak to blame it on the
drugs -- the lack thereof --
And he knows he's been speaking -- babbling -- when Clark
shoves his fingers between Tim's teeth and presses *down*
on his tongue. It's an effort just to keep his head up this
He's tired and he's --
He can see: muscular flex, impossible power.
The head of Clark's dick is swollen-dark -- the impression
of -- it wouldn't be *sweet*, but he -- he has never been
allowed to taste. Clark might never allow --
He's been so -- why can't he just be *easy*? More than
just -- moaning around the fingers in his mouth and staring,
drooling -- he can't even catch the rhythm Clark is using on
his dick *on* the fingers --
He's clumsy, he's lost and --
Like *this*, in the presence of something greater, something
more -- *he* wastes their solitude, and he is so very
*hungry* -- so --
It feels like the world is stuttering around him.
It feels like the world -- *stops* at the edges of the Fortress.
The sky is painted, the earth -- no. The earth is beloved, as
he is desired --
"There is no way I wouldn't *have* you, Tim Drake, oh --
you see I am drunk on this pain of yours, this
desperation. You see how I am *lost* --"
And yet --
And yet, Clark is not the one who falls at the loss of -- he
would've fallen, if Clark hadn't *caught* him with the slick
His mouth feels so *used*, and he hasn't even --
The bed is soft and cool, or perhaps it's the floor, and
Clark -- Clark is above him, Kal is --
A stutter --
His face is *wet* -- hot and… slick-sticky --
And he's sweating so much under Clark's semen that Clark's
tongue on his face seems as dry as a cat's, harder and
less forgiving --
And he knows he had reached up to, perhaps, *cling* when
he finds himself flipped over again. This time, most of the
slaps are to his *thighs* -- to the insides of them when he
spreads, humps -- *writhes* --
"And this -- you will not deny me?"
He never -- he *can't*. It was only ever -- no.
There's a part of him -- he remembers wanting to deny,
wanting to end, to stop -- Bruce hadn't *let* him, and then
he'd done everything in his power --
Once Tim *wanted* --
"Oh, you are *perfection*, second-son," and Kal lifts him to
his knees and licks at the welts, the burn --
He makes it worse and he makes it *better*, and Clark --
Clark has *nothing* to do with this. This isn't the man he
was raised to be and it isn't who he *wants* to be --
And it's -- it's -- his *tongue* --
It's perfect. It's -- it's *better* that this is no one Tim ever
dreamed of being. Isn't it? He -- he *needs* it to be better
for Clark. He needs --
Clark pauses. "The AI informs me that you're sobering. I'm
tempted to find that offensive, fine one."
Tim -- is tempted toward the self-actualization of an alien
*tyrant*. But -- "This one would have -- I-know --
one -- the clarity of lesson -- Kal, I *want* --"
And Kal --
Kal lifts him into the *air*, and --
He would've had to let go at least for long enough to get
Tim's thighs over his shoulders, to *arrange* him so that
Tim has to bend himself backwards just to catch at the bed
with his palms, just to --
"Then *learn*, second-son," Kal says, and --
In this position, jerking too hard at the stab and swipe and
*fuck* of Kal's tongue could seriously injure his back -- if
Kal let it happen.
Just the same, he's aware of there being a choice here, and
of that choice seeming to be far more important than
anything else -- some part of him wants him to know that
*this* is the test, that if he doesn't give in now, if he doesn't
just *let* himself --
If he doesn't let *Kal* --
It's a different kind of screaming to have this in his head, a
different tease and a different *waste* to focus only on his
own doubts and the petty discomforts of a stretch he'd
learned the basics of before he even seriously considered
seeking Dick out in person --
It's -- it's a *choice*. More than the sight of his domino in
Kal's palm, more than the knowledge that he would never --
could never -- truly have *all* of Clark again if he didn't --
It's the difference between caution and *letting* himself,
and being known by the man who could've been a god --
who could still *be* a god, if it was what he wanted. But
"This one knows-wants-Rao --"
In the growl, in the clutch --
"This one -- desires --"
Now, it's what *he* wants, and when Clark shoves his
tongue in and *leaves* it there, Tim rides the feel of his
muscles starting to slip, to *fail* --
The shake and the fear --
The *fear*, and when he falls --
When he falls, Kal's broad, perfect hand is there before he
drops an inch, before he's aware again of his arms as
anything but things which can shake with the power he
doesn't need, the pleasure that he must *give* --
It feels --
There is, perhaps, nothing more simple and perfect than --
It feels like forever.
He'd done his best to avoid thinking about -- *it* beyond
the necessities of scheduling and a handful of planned --
and brief -- speeches for most of the day. It was pretty
much impossible to do while in school, but once he got
Well, Dana had a lot of pictures of ballet dancers, and his
father was desperately unsubtle about being desperately
*invested* in getting Tim interested in the business.
The words 'family business' were used, and that's --
The fact that Bruce manages to run Wayne Enterprises while
also being Batman is hardly a ringing endorsement for the
Still, it makes for an excellent distraction, and his parents
are even agreeable enough to be *tired* enough from
traveling to go to bed -- and to sleep, judging by the small
closed-circuit camera -- early.
He starts to suit up --
He stops. He *is* early, and -- and suiting up, now, would
be both presumptuous *and* procrastination.
And Bruce is, of course, waiting for him at the end of the
tunnel connecting Tim's house to the Cave. There are no
signs that he plans to either wall it off or blow it up, and
Batman needs -- him.
"Did you come to return the suit?"
It's the Voice, and of course Bruce is suited up, but -- it's
still Bruce. "No. I came to work."
It's tempting -- very much -- to make a comment about,
say, missing the announcement about the end of crime in
Kal has taught him much. He squares his shoulders, and --
"I allowed my emotions to overtake my judgment in the
matter of my relationship with the alien. I understand, now,
that there is a place for everything."
"You *allowed* yourself to be compromised."
Vigorously. "Not in terms of the mission, Batman. I took an
Oath." Even if he'd needed Kal to remind him of that, in his
own very Clark sort of way.
"Part of the *mission* is the monitor and study of both our
enemies and our allies."
"I have every confidence in my ability to continue my
original assignment. You will receive reports as they acquire
relevance." And no more.
After that --
Well, the silence is *kind* of like having room to offer one
of his speeches -- he'd worked hard on them, and they were
full of words and phrases Bruce liked, like 'war' and knowing
that this was anything but a game.
There was even --
If Bruce had even *suggested* that he was a little bit
regretful about the *effects* of jerking Tim around like a
vigilante prostitute -- well, there was something else for
that, and it wouldn't even be a speech.
Bruce is the greatest *man* Tim has ever known.
Just the same… that isn't a very ringing endorsement,
In the end, Bruce tells him to suit up, and after that there
isn't even enough time for him to compliment Bruce on
managing to get suits made for him that fit even better
than the ones he had in his possession.
There's the street for them --
There's *Gotham*, and Arkham Asylum, and rumors that
really need to be tracked down *quickly* about the
possibility of a large-scale escape. They have -- they *all*
have -- enough problems dealing with the *small* escapes.
(It's Arkham, and there's no such thing as a small escape.)
There's Gotham, and so there's Batman and Robin, and
Bruce and Tim will just have to deal with their… issues some