A mean arithmetic
by Te
February 10, 2004

Disclaimers: Not even close to mine.

Spoilers: None, really. I'm setting this somewhere to the
left of current canon.

Summary: Tim is an analytical sort. Bruce is an
interesting subject.

Ratings Note/Warnings: NC-17. Content some readers
may find disturbing.

Author's Note: Jack gave me this bunny, and I found
myself shocked that I hadn't written it already. More
notes at the end.

Acknowledgments: To Jack for audiencing and

Feedback: Always. leytelj@gmail.com


Bruce has a type.

It's blindingly obvious if you're willing to peel away the
veil a little bit. If you can get close enough.

To Bruce's credit, very few people can. And the ones
who do just *happen* to be the ones most likely to
either fail to see the forest for the trees, or simply
politely pretend no such forest exists.

It's no accident that *he's* here -- it's just that it isn't
by Bruce's choosing.

Which makes perfect sense, as far as Tim's concerned.
Were he in Bruce's position, he wouldn't want anyone
*like* him this close.

And frankly, it hadn't taken him all that long to figure
it out. 'Batman needs a Robin,' he'd said, and
sometimes it seemed like he'd said it to everyone who
would listen. And no one had told him he was wrong, per
se; it was just that there was no Robin to be had.

Well enough. Tim has never been a person to shirk
responsibility, or, for that matter, to ignore opportunity.
When he was thirteen, he'd been blinded by the awe,
by the *meaning* of it all. He'd been haunted by the
ghosts of the child Dick had been and the empty case
that was all that had been left of Jason.

By the time he was fourteen, the blindness had
passed. Blood and crime and madness -- Gotham.

And Gotham's sworn protector.

He'd lived in the manor, eaten Alfred's food and slept
in a clean bed that still smelled like dust and death.
And he'd watched.

He had to know, after all. The *specifics* behind
being a Robin. The physical and intellectual skills,
the emotional... fortitude. That had been the first
*real* lesson. Because Robin only looks young. Robin
is a child only physically.

Robin isn't *allowed* to be an actual child.

It had explained so *much*. It had been *distracting*
in its utter, fundamental truth. You don't get to be a
real child in this life, or you don't last. Maybe you
survive in your fucked-up, splintered way. Maybe
you make your way to, say, Bludhaven and set
about becoming Batman yourself -- pretending with
a desperate, endless *care* that you were doing
anything but.

Or maybe you get yourself beaten to death with a

Either way, *children* need not apply, because,
one way or an another, *children* got fucked. Bruce
or the Batman.

The only difference is that with Bruce, your
average person wouldn't see it coming. Too much
distraction in the handsome face, in the roil of old,
powerful emotion always just behind those eyes.

Sometimes he wishes he could talk to Jason, to see
if he can figure out exactly what it was for him. On the
surface, and the few layers beneath Tim has been able
to breach, it all *looks* like something that happened
because of Batman.

He isn't sure Bruce didn't have a hand in it, though.
Certainly, the man had done a thorough job with

The man. Now that... is funny. Terrifying, yes -- of
course it is -- but *funny*, too. Because at *first*,
Tim had thought it was just a function of Bruce's
psychosis that he needed a stalwart young *boy* to
pick up the pieces of his sanity on a nightly basis.
That *only* a man like Bruce would deliberately
set himself up so that he could be saved -- only --
by children.

And it *is* a function of Bruce's psychosis. Just not
in *that* way.

Because Bruce isn't a man at all.

A man would, perhaps, have a little more sense.
The experience and the *wisdom* to leave himself
room for the kind of backup that could actually
make a difference. *Adult* backup.

But the thing is...

Tim knows that he isn't, strictly, normal. He's
healthier, stronger, and more athletic than the vast
majority of boys his age. And, while his childhood
wasn't especially unique or traumatic, it had certainly
affected him. *Shaped* him into something nearly
perfect for this.

Because no one and nothing is more watchful, more
careful than a child whose parents are difficult to
rely on, and for all the care his father had taken
since his mother had been killed, for all the heartfelt
*effort* the man had put in to rectifying the mistakes
he'd made in his relationship with Tim... what was
done, was done.

You can't turn back the clock on something like this,
and while Tim understands that he *is* young, and
that, assuming he lives, it's entirely possible he'll
change and grow and all that other stuff...

He is who he is.

And Bruce is the only real child here.

Six-foot-three and two hundred-something pounds of
terminal... innocence? No, not that. And 'adolescence'
would probably be pushing it. *Dick's* the
adolescent. Bruce is... not.

Even an adolescent knows when an adult is needed,
and only petulance and hormonal stupidity stops them
from asking for it. Bruce is neither petulant nor ruled
by his body. If anything, he's tethered to that body
by the thinnest of cords. And yet he's *still* a child,
and the only adults children willingly look to for
assistance... are their parents.

Batman needs a Robin.

Bruce wants a playmate.

Bruce *needs* that playmate to be an unnatural
amalgam of comforting fellow-youth and rock-solid
age. Strength and wisdom and control.

Batman doesn't want anyone to know that.

Which is... too fucking bad, really. He's here, now.
And while he's certainly more than a little
disillusioned -- he's not the type to lay blame, but
even if he was, it wouldn't all be for his parents.
Not by any stretch of the imagination. -- the
foundations behind his presence remain.

He believes in Batman and Robin. He's doing this
because it needs to be done, and it frankly doesn't
hurt that, more often than not, he enjoys himself.
Nothing can touch the feeling of being on the end
of a jumpline, hurtling through space toward
something that will suffer immensely as soon as his
feet make impact.

He's neither an acrobat nor a thrillseeker, but it isn't
only sex addicts who enjoy getting off, either.

Which is... something like the point.

He's on surveillance duty tonight, a watch-and-report
on one of Batman's ongoing projects. A prostitution
ring, which would normally leave them right out of
things -- there's less than no point -- but on top of
the usual 'and how old is that girl, exactly?' two of
*these* girls have been picked up on drug charges.
Possession with intent, which could *also* be minor,
but probably isn't.

There's a difference between a pro with an ounce
of weed in her purse and one with way too many
*full* vials.

The girls hadn't talked, but chances are that they're
runners. The question is for whom.

He knows Batman hopes it'll turn out to be someone
he can put in the hospital, but for all they know
right now, it might well turn out to be the little old
lady who owns the crumbling old brownstone where
the girls turn their tricks.

Tim stopped trusting little old ladies a *long* time

Batman will probably just have to put up with
crippling her hired muscle, whenever this actually
goes down.

He checks the audio, pleased with the new design. A
few tiny mikes planted on likely looking windows,
all sending their signals to something almost exactly
unlike a radio. The 'stations' aren't especially
interesting tonight, though. It's just several different
varieties of bad porn, waiting for his imagination to
fill in the bored expressions of the pros and the
pathetic neediness of the johns.

Dick told him once that this sort of thing always fell
to the Robin. The party line is that the sex workers
tend to feel more comfortable with and less
suspicious of the fresh-faced and ridiculously-dressed
teenager, but Tim doesn't think even Dick entirely
believes *that*.

It's just another one of those wordless lessons from
the Bat: Sex is dangerous, messy, and really not
worth it, besides. See?

Which, granted, is more *subtle* than Batman just
flat out telling them to keep it in their pants, and
thus less likely to engender rebellion, but still.

You didn't have to be a genius to figure out that it
didn't have to be like *this*.

You just had to have a little maturity.

He monitors the police band on his actual radio, but
it's a quiet night. Four armed robberies that he
hears about, at least two put to a stop with the help
of '*him*' -- Batman -- and who knows how many
foiled drug deals and muggings that would never
be officially reported.

Target four has an impressive snore. Targets one,
two, and five have apparently lucrative evenings.
Target three really hates yeast infections, and either
doesn't own any other music or has a deep
appreciation for Justin Timberlake. Target six
spends the night watching television, playing with
her cats, and collecting the take. No one so much
as mentions narcotics.

Tim rubs his eyes and yawns, and isn't at all
surprised that Batman picks that moment to land
on his roof. He looks sharp.


"Nothing for us," he says, and stretches from within
his crouch.

"You should head home."

He nods casually and stands. Waits for Batman to
start to turn. "I need something back at the Cave."

Batman pauses, briefly tense, and nods. "I'll meet
you there." And he's gone.

Partners. Right. The hell of it is that they *are*. When
they work together, they're the quintessential
well-oiled machine of vigilantism. And it is, actually, a
*good* sign that Batman trusts him on his own as
much as he does. It's not just a function of the fact
that Tim *can't* be with the man 24/7, and that,
technically, he has a life away from the Cave *and*
the manor.

But it's not just about Tim's competence, either.

Batman keeps him at a distance. Batman is *wary*
of him, and very, very careful. Some part of him
had to be relieved when Tim's father had up and
decided to make his presence felt, even as Bruce...
was anything but.

Bruce knows what he needs, whether he has words
for it or not. Batman has done an astonishingly good
job of making sure he doesn't get it. But then...
Tim also hasn't really been trying.

That's about to change.

He takes the long way back to the Cave, almost
easing his bike through the streets and taking the
time to kneecap a purse snatcher on the way. He
doesn't even have to get off the bike to do it, just
slows down a little more and extends his staff. The
woman waves at him, and Tim watches in the
rearview as she kicks her attacker a few extra
times before retrieving her bag.

He takes it slow because he knows *Batman* will.
Consciously or not, he's going to give Tim enough
time to get whatever he needs and go. It's not the
first time, and Tim has  done his homework -- in Dick's
time, there'd be nights when Batman arrived back home
for a 'meeting' long after Dick had gone to bed.

As it happens, he pulls in right behind the Batmobile,
parking his bike just as Batman steps out of the car.
The cowl is still up.

"You were delayed."

It's almost a question. Tim stands, taking off the
helmet and shaking out his hair. Doesn't bother to
mute the stretch-and-shift he still needs after time
on the bike. The engine is exactly as powerful as
it needs to be. "Purse-snatcher," he says, and gives
Batman his best Robin-loves-the-night-life grin.

His -- *Bruce's* -- mouth twitches. Dick says he used
to smile. Often, even.

Tim doesn't need his teeth. He holds Bruce's gaze
through the cowl, and feels the moment linger and
stretch between them until it snaps and Bruce
remembers what he's wearing.

"You said you needed something." Batman's voice,
dark and grim and forbidding.

It doesn't work on him. "Yeah, I do." He steps off
the bike and closes the distance between them,
reaching up to push the cowl back over Bruce's nose
and eyes.


"Yes." He unhooks his own cape and belt, letting
them fall next to the Batmobile, and works the
catches on his tunic. "The question, I think, is what
*you* need."

The shutters come back down *again*, but it isn't
shock they're hiding. "I don't know what you think
you're doing --"

"Don't lie." He rests his palm low on Bruce's stomach,
feeling nothing but armor. "It's beneath you."

"Tim --"

"Take the cowl off."

"Stop this. *Now*."

It's probably what he'd used for Dick. The voice, the
order, the utter stillness of his body -- so easy to
read as disgust, especially for a lonely, *loving*
teenager like Dick pretty much had to be. Batman
had had years of Dick's trained obedience to count
on. Tim isn't Dick. "No."

Batman catches his wrist, squeezing almost --
almost -- hard enough to hurt and holding it away
from their bodies.

Tim doesn't move.

Bruce *feels* him, and takes a deep, ragged breath.

"Take the cowl off."

Bruce pushes it back, short hair mussed and sweaty.
His eyes are wide and blue.

"I want you. And we both know that the only
protection I need is from what's out there. Not what's

"It's... not right."

"You told me once that we don't get to make the
rules, Bruce. You're absolutely right. But we also don't
get to follow them entirely, do we?"

Bruce frowns. It's only expected.

Tim rolls his wrist within his grip with nothing like the
force or motion he'd need to break free. "You've kept
me at a distance."

"I know I have, and I know --"

"You were right to do it, Bruce. Because now I'm
*just* your partner. You don't have any ties on me.
You're not the whole of my existence."

A flash of hurt, and Tim presses the advantage, resting
his other palm against Bruce's stomach.

"I need this."

He grabs Tim's other wrist and lifts him bodily, easily
off his feet, spinning him back against the wall of the
Cave and holding him there. The move is Batman's,
but there was bound to be some overlap. There's
confusion warring with the hunger on Bruce's face, or
maybe it's the other way around. Tim lifts his legs and
wraps them around Bruce's waist, pulling him in.
Armor to armor and mouth to mouth, and Bruce's kiss
is angry and hard and deep and desperate.

Tim gives it right back, swallowing Bruce's
strangled-sounding groan and rocking against him.

Bruce switches his grip on Tim's wrists to one hand
and tugs the other gauntlet off with his teeth, sliding
his bare hand inside Tim's tunic and under the shirt.
His palm is damp with sweat, but the calluses make
the touch rough just the same, and it's Tim's turn to
moan into the kiss.

He twists in Bruce's hold, wanting more and getting
a hard, *powerful* thrust that drives his ass back
against the wall and makes him feel like his teeth
are rattling. Bruce's thumb finds his nipple and
strokes one slow circle, short nail digging in for a
moment and making Tim buck.

And then Bruce stops, pulling out of the kiss and
resting his palm flat against Tim's sternum.

"Bruce --"

"What... I have to know what you want to do."

Tim gives him one of Dick's more careless smiles.
"This is good. This is almost perfect." He flexes his
forearms and grins wider when Bruce squeezes. "Don't

"I want."

"Tell me." He thinks about it. "No, show me."

Bruce doesn't lick his lips so much as slip his tongue
out just far enough to wet them in the center. And
then he slides his hand out of Tim's shirt and under
his ass, pulling Tim in tight against him. And carries
him further into the cave, just like that, the rhythm of
his walk rocking them together not-hard-enough.

It isn't the first time Bruce has carried him, but it's
the first time he's ever really appreciated it.

He doesn't need Bruce's hugs, either.

Bruce sets him down on the console, pushing him
back against the monitors when Tim tries to keep

"Let me..." He doesn't finish the thought, cupping
Tim through his tights and squeezing once before
finally letting Tim's wrists go and dropping to his

"Oh..." It's more of a moan than a word, but it
suits his purposes. Bruce curls his fingers into the
waistbands of Tim's tights and shorts and tugs
them down together, pulling hard enough that Tim
has to hold on to the console to keep from sliding
off. "Bruce."

"Yes," he says, and sucks a hard kiss to the bulge
in Tim's jockeys, a *promising* kiss, before he
pulls away again long enough to work off Tim's
boots. It's the sort of backwardness that wouldn't
be especially notable -- or noticeable -- with
anyone else in this situation. With Bruce it's almost more
damning than the fact that he's stripping Tim in the first

It makes him want to hold Bruce, to give him the sort
of comfort people like his stepmother seem to find
effortless. He settles for staying still enough to make the
stripping easier, lifting his hips for Bruce to ease off his

"You're beautiful," Bruce says. Bruce *grits*, pained as
any compliment from the man, but in an entirely new

"Please." He spreads his legs wider, and Bruce doesn't
make him wait any longer, sliding his hands under
Tim's thighs and pushing them up and out before licking
a wet, hot stripe up the underside of his dick.

And looks Tim in the eye. It's nothing like a tease.
There's a plea in Bruce's eyes, a hungry, hurting
desperation that makes his dick twitch.

"Yes," he says, and Bruce bends his head and sucks
him in, slow and hard and wet. He pushes harder on
Tim's thighs, bending him nearly in half, and the
stretch makes it better, makes it impossible to get
a deep breath and every attempt gasps itself off on
a moan.


He hums around Tim's dick and takes him deeper,
sucking hard for a long moment and then starting to
bob his head, fucking his mouth on Tim's dick. Tim
uncurls one hand from around the edge of the
console and buries it in Bruce's hair, petting his
scalp and weaving his fingers in enough to get a
good grip.

"Bruce, it's so *good*," he says, pushing a little and
feeling his dick spit pre-come at Bruce's whimper.
It's not a lie. Bruce's need is as raw and blatant as
blood, his hands rough on Tim's thighs and his

So tight. So hot and wet and perfect.

Even better when Bruce *swallows* him, shifting his
hands back under Tim's ass to pull him deeper. Tim
digs his heels into Bruce's back and thrusts, rocking
up and *in*. Bruce makes a muffled, incomprehensible
noise against him and squeezes Tim's ass *hard*.

And Tim has just enough time to think 'I don't want
to stop' before he comes hard, growling aloud and
pulling Bruce's hair. Shaking.

It takes a moment before he can loosen his grip,
and he whimpers when Bruce pulls away. Breathes
when Bruce rests his forehead against his thigh,
and strokes Bruce's hair.


A moment's tension, ruthlessly suppressed.

"Come up here."

He moves like an old man, slow and hesitant, and
doesn't meet his eyes until Tim forces his chin up.

There's a kind of bleak terror in his expression that
Tim thinks has nothing to do with the sex. At least...
not specifically. Tim slips his other hand down and
works at the catches on the Batsuit. It's not easy to
do, but he's watched Bruce do it enough times that
it isn't impossible, either. Bruce is hard, feverish-hot
against his palm and slick with pre-come.

And his eyes are perfectly focused on Tim's own.

"I know why you pushed me away."

The flinch is almost entirely behind those eyes.

"I know what you're afraid of."

Bruce jerks, mouth pursing and tightening in a way
that lets Tim know that he's biting the inside of his

"I'm not going anywhere."

"Don't. Make promises."

"I like to think of it as a threat."

Bruce's laugh is choked and brief, but real, trailing off
into a series of pained-sounded gasps as he pumps
into Tim's fist.

"Kiss me again."

He leans in and does it, cupping Tim's shoulders and
licking his way into Tim's mouth. Moaning when Tim
adds a corkscrewing little twist on every upstroke,
more when he does it faster.

Tim sucks Bruce's tongue and hooks one leg around
the back of his thigh. And pulls back just enough to
bite his lip hard enough to taste blood.

Bruce comes with a surprised little grunt, pulling Tim
down with his weight for a moment when his knees
buckle. Tim doesn't let go until Bruce is balanced
again, and then just leans back against the monitors

And Bruce... stares. Into his eyes and at his mouth
and at his... chest? Tim looks down. There's come
on the tunic. He bites the inside of his cheek to keep
from laughing. He'd done this in uniform for a

Bruce is his, and Batman has no deniability

"I have to get home," he says, conversationally, and
Bruce blinks himself back to something like awareness.


Something like. "You're going to be tempted to brood
about this."

That twitch of a smile. "Other people have tried to get
me to stop brooding. It doesn't seem to be something
I can manage."

"I don't think you've tried hard enough."

"Tim --"

"We'll work on it. Later. For now... pick something
*else* to brood about, Bruce, because there's no
stepping back from this."

Another blink, and Batman's staring at him through
Bruce's eyes. "Why."

Tim knows he isn't talking about consequences, and
it takes a moment to decide how much truth he
should give. Because he could? Because he's sick of
the sublimation? "Because you make me want it.
*Both* of you."

And Batman nods slowly and steps back, giving Tim
room to jump down from the console. Tim can feel
his gaze on him as he dresses, and doesn't especially
mind. Speculative wariness isn't the same thing as
brooding. "Tomorrow," he says, and heads for the
bike, not bothering to wait for a reply.

The thing about disillusionment is that you had to
think of it as a word, as opposed to the complex
tangle of negative emotions that it's come to embody.
As a *word*, there's nothing wrong with it at all.

Losing your illusions just leaves you with a gorgeous,
naked view of the world.

And if you can see it, you can *have* it.

One way or another.


Vague, unhelpful end notes:

1) No, I don't really believe this. Except for the parts
I do.

2) Title taken from "A Spiritual Woman" by D.H.

CLOSE your eyes, my love, let me make you blind;
     They have taught you to see
Only a mean arithmetic on the face of things,
A cunning algebra in the faces of men,
     And God like geometry
Completing his circles, and working cleverly.

I'll kiss you over the eyes till I kiss you blind;
     If I can—if any one could.
Then perhaps in the dark you’ll have got what you want to find.
You’ve discovered so many bits, with your clever eyes,
     And I’m a kaleidoscope
That you shake and shake, and yet it won’t come to your mind.
Now stop carping at me. -- But God, how I hate you!
     Do you fear I shall swindle you?
Do you think if you take me as I am, that that will abate you
Somehow? -- so sad, so intrinsic, so spiritual, yet so cautious, you
Must have me all in your will and your consciousness --
     I hate you.