And the sun, its passionate face [Title Reference]
by Te
September 11, 2006

Disclaimers: Not a thing here is mine.

Spoilers: Vague, occasionally AU-ized references for events
up through BATMAN Annual #25.

Summary: The varying methods -- and meanings -- of

Ratings Note: Sexual content.

Author's Note: Second in the Three red words series, kicking
off a week or so after Petra's "And light of foot, and
unconfined." Will not make a lick of sense without the other.

Acknowledgments: To Betty, Petra, Jack, and Jam for
audiencing, encouragement, helpful suggestions, and all
sorts of other stuff, too.


"Wakey, wakey... pretender."

Tim doesn't bother doing more than following the
suggestion. He allows himself to blink several times to
loosen the salt from his eyelashes -- his body is telling him
that he'd gotten *nearly* his full six -- and allows himself to
stretch, somewhat. His arms are pinned, but his legs aren't.
A reasonable *enough* choice.

"There you are --"

"So that *was* you...?"

Jason shrugs, and grins a little wider. "I was wondering how
well the misdirection worked."

"It wouldn't have -- if I'd had access to any of your clothing
when I started training. By the time I did..."

Jason releases one of Tim's forearms and taps him on the
nose. "You saying I stink, Flamer?"

Certainly, that particular Clayface has limited abilities in
terms of masking/altering his own scent. As for Jason, it
could be a matter of... it could be one of those 'early stages
of a working relationship' things, but Jason is being very
obvious about having not quite decided what Tim's... epithet
should be.

"And, for that matter..." Jason eases back and tugs on Tim's
shoulder until Tim rolls -- rather agreeably, he thinks -- onto
his back.

He raises an eyebrow.

Jason taps his throat -- no. The scar. "Is that mine...?"

It's tempting to blink again -- there's a lot more *emotion*
in that question than Tim would've expected. The reports
he'd hacked in the past several days about the activities of
the 'Red Hood' -- and, for that matter, the man's behavior
at their last (but not first...) meeting had all suggested a
greater degree of... assurance. "To the extent that anything
involving my own flesh can be."

"I -- heh. Right. Would you believe I had some bad intel,
there? The gorget on your -- old -- cape --"

Ah. "You were expecting the fiberglass model."

"*Everything* else you had on you was the latest, the
best --" Jason cuts himself off with a snort. "I was *trying*
to give you a little slice that would hurt like a bitch, make
Bruce lose his shit, and possibly get a little infected."

Tim makes a face. "That would've been worse. Ultimately."

Jason spreads his hands and shifts back until he's crouched
on his own heels. "I know *I* always hated those little
minor cuts."



Tim... shrugs. And smiles like... a pretender. Just to see --

"Oooh. Is this where I grovel a little...? 'Please oh please
give me a home, Flamerbird, I promise I'll be a good little

There. The edge. The -- "I'm not just a pawn. To you, I
mean. I wasn't then, and I'm not now."

"So the long pants *do* make you feel special. I was
*wondering* --"

"Jason. Whoever you think I *am* --"

-- is someone for whom the use of the name 'Jason' (or,
perhaps, his tone) is enough to merit the shift from crouch
to one of --  Bruce's -- more aggressive looms.

Tim decides to let his gaze track very obviously over the
lines of Jason's shoulders, the loose-and-ready set of his
arms --

-- and Jason snorts, again. But he doesn't -- precisely --
shift. "So you're immune? Or playing it to test me?"

"Why limit oneself?"

And then Jason *does* shift... "It's the jacket, isn't it? Just
doesn't send the same generalized message of psychotic

Tim plucks at the leather -- lightly. "There's hardly *any*
'grim vengeance.' But, to be fair, Bruce never could manage
that air of 'posturing street-punk' to any noticeable extent."

"Posturing... heh. Right, okay. You're just as bent as a
fucking paper-clip, aren't you?"

Tim shrugs, and tries for something less casual than...
showy. "Maybe I shifted alliances for the opportunity to
sparkle, Jason."

On him, the eyebrow would be as good as a laugh. On
Jason, it's a little too shaky for that. His face -- doesn't seem
to work quite that way. "Twinkle, twinkle, little --"

"Bird," Tim says, and pulls his legs up to his chest -- and
out from between Jason's own -- sits up, and stands. He
doesn't have anywhere in particular to go, but the window
is good enough.

"Giving me your back?"

"Planning on a second attempt to scrawl out your... tag?"

It takes a moment, but not very much of one. The flat of
the blade rests briefly on Tim's left shoulder before the
point scratches -- lightly -- over his shoulderblades.

And Jason is close enough to breathe on Tim's hair, and the
back of his neck. He's still getting accustomed to the shorter

"I want..."

"Yes, Jason?" Cocking his head to the side -- exposing his
throat -- is perhaps a little excessive, all things considered.
But it's also... satisfying. Somewhat.

And something else entirely when Jason hooks two fingers
under the back of the waistband of Tim's sleep-shorts.

Interesting --

"Interesting," Jason says. "How long have you and Big Bird
been playing good cop/scary fag cop, anyway?"

Tim turns his head enough to look at Jason from over his
own shoulder. The angle is perfect for catching the precise
angle -- and gleam -- of Jason's smile, but little else. "Did
you want a part of your own...?"

"I'm here, aren't I?" And Jason leans in enough that they
can look each other in the eye.

The hilt of the knife is pressed -- lightly -- against Tim's
right hip. Jason's knuckles aren't -- quite -- brushing the top
of Tim's cleft.

The fact that Tim's reasonably sure that they still aren't
flirting in any way other than the rival-vigilante standard...
is a fact.

"I take it your little gang of misfits is...?"

"Scattered to the four winds, Flamerbird. Well, save for the
couple *you* put in the hospital."

So he did watch the whole show. The question is...

"So when do I get my crappy furniture?"

If Tim weren't -- quite -- the person he is, he'd offer Jason
his own bed, with the stipulation that he'd take the entirely
adequate foldout left teasingly ambiguous. However. "Ask
Nightwing when he wakes up. For now," he says, and
points out the door toward the living room. "The couch is
yours... Jay."

The smile he gets is small, crooked, and makes Tim curious
about whatever might be behind the little red domino that...
really needs to go.

Jason gives him a two-knuckle punch to the spine, tugs the
waistband out enough that it *snaps* when he lets go, and
walks out.

He leaves Tim's door open.


It isn't a surprise to find that the number of Bruce's
Bludhaven feeds he can hack has been drastically reduced --
it really did have to happen, eventually.

What is a surprise is that he can't actually break through to
the new ones, which...

They have to be there.

The fact that he hasn't been able to find the new cameras,
the fact that neither Dick nor Jason has reported any sign
of anything but the ones they already knew about --
including the ones which are, for all intents and purposes,
useless bits of plastic and metal --

They have to be there, and it's more than a little
disconcerting to not *find* them.

Tim frowns at the (his) console, stops, stands, stretches,
and... starts over.

Kord's security is a fraction of what he's used to, but it's
admirably redundant, doubling back on itself enough times
that it would take a truly patient -- and careful -- hacker to
break it.

He is one.

It takes a little longer to find exactly where the man files his
information for new security devices, but he does that, too,
and --

There's nothing there.

Granted, there's an interesting little AI in development
which, when applied theoretically to the man's latest
attempt to build a camera not even they could destroy
leads to some truly interesting possibilities...

But it won't be ready until *nearly* Barbara's next birthday.

Certainly, the man is no closer to coming up with anything
that can defeat Tim's e-m sweepers than he had been the
last time Tim checked, but. No.

Sometime between his attacks on S.T.A.R. and Cyborg,
coffee and a large sandwich had appeared beside him.

Tim uses the problem of trying to figure out exactly when
and who as an opportunity to pause again, and stretch
again, and... eat. And drink.

If it had been Dick, there would've been -- an entirely
impossible to ignore amount of physical contact. Proximity,
if not the demand for communication.

Jason moves precisely as quietly as every record he'd ever
had access to says he never did, or could. Jason has failed
to offer -- much -- in the way of answers to 'who
succeeded where Bruce failed,' but it's only a matter of time.


Tim takes the remains of his coffee into the kitchen, tops it
off with hot, and listens for the others -- Dick's bedroom.

The table is covered with several maps of Bludhaven, and
Dick and Jason's expressions are alternately idly questioning
and somewhat randomly skeptical.

"Nothing yet," he says to Dick. To Jason... "I need your
sources. All of them. Now."

Dick doesn't actually turn to face Jason -- but both of them
know where his attention is at the moment. Which is...
*perhaps* a bit alarmist.

Tim raises both of his eyebrows. "And thank you for lunch."

They both -- also -- have to be aware, right now, of Dick's
minute relaxation.

Jason... it's less of a smile than the judicious use of tension
and release to draw Tim's attention to the curled corner of
his mouth.

Tim makes a note to practice that one himself. And also just
to... note it. It is, in its way, another suspicion confirmed --

"If I have to look at your scrawny ass in the Flamebird
get-up," Jason says, standing straight and shoving his hands
into the back-pockets of his jeans, "then I need to make
sure I can do it without wondering when I wandered into
*that* section of the concentration camp."

Dick's "*Jesus*" is more of a punched-out exhalation than a
word --

And it makes Jason's smile a lot more... natural.

What seems natural, given the information Tim has to hand.
Given... Tim shakes it off, internally and externally. He trusts
Dick to know -- roughly -- Tim's tension levels at any given
time, but he really needs Jason to understand the
seriousness of... this. "Jason --"

"You can -- deduce, can't you?" Jason spreads his arms, and
the t-shirt pulls tight over a chest with no more scars than
any of them had at fifteen. The smile isn't crooked so much
as twisted, and it feels -- irrationally -- entirely right.


Abruptly, Tim is fourteen again, in the suit...

In the *Robin* suit with full Bat-sanction for what might as
well have been the first time, because it's the first time he'd
been able to do it for Jason and no one else. Not Bruce, not
even Alfred. Just --

For the Case.

He remembers that it had taken nearly three entire minutes
for the warmth of the Case's light to make it through the
material of the gauntlet. It had taken longer than that to
realize that what he wanted to say -- *all* he wanted to
say -- was something terribly whiny and useless about how
sad he was that he'd never get to...

He hadn't said a word, of course. And --

And Dick has decided that Jason needs to say it -- *it* --
aloud. Tim's view of Dick's expression is only peripheral,
but... he might as well be wearing the mask.

It makes Tim want to...

He isn't sure. Between the three of them, they have the
skills and resources to do precisely what they please. Or
they would, if it wasn't for the fact that they wouldn't
*have* those things without... their shared and partially-
shared histories.

Their weaknesses.

They are less -- *fragile* -- than they could be, but there's
far too much theory in their practice. The fact that he and
Dick had planned to do it on their own, the fact that all of
Tim's calculations suggested *possibility* with few enough
caveats that it had felt like he had no choice at all...

Dick hadn't needed a Case to build his own Jason-shaped
stress points. *Weak* points.

And *both* he and Dick have been entirely too obvious
about that... even if Tim isn't especially sure what they
could've done about it and still been able to have Jason
here. *Keep* him here -- no.

"This," Tim says, in the voice he's reasonably sure Jason
would've come to loathe if he'd ever gotten more of a
chance to use it in his presence than to make moderately
strangled sounds, "is where you give us a reason."
Flamebird, of course, sounds slightly -- but importantly --
different than Robin. Robin isn't --

"Is that so," and Jason hasn't shifted entirely out of Dick's
reach, but --

Robin doesn't belong here. But, in terms of Jason,
*Flamebird* is too -- Flamebird is *already* compromised --
he's making this too complicated. "Yes," he says, because
he can. "Please," he says, because Dick --

Nightwing can't. And Jason knows *that*, too, or he
wouldn't be giving Dick just a little more space -- and it is,
actually, somewhat desperate. Or it might be, if the next
thing he tries doesn't work.

"Is this where I grovel, Jason?" The drop to his knees
makes Dick's attention shift slightly.

It makes Jason snort. "Oh, you are *not* --"

"Please. Please. Pretty, pretty. Please," Tim says. And bats
his lashes. "I promise I won't tell anyone *ever* that you
spent a little too much time with the pseudo-Bat-ex who
isn't Selina Kyle, if you'll just *admit* --"

Dick blows out another breath -- he'll injure himself if he
keeps trying to avoid laughing, and it's something to be
considered -- but Jason --

Jason has dropped into an unsteady, *rocking* crouch, and
is laughing openly, covering his face with one hand and
holding the other up to *stop* him.

Excellent. "I'll be your bestest friend, Jason. I'll embroider a
nice border on the ragged hems of your jeans and shave
that unsightly hair from your strong, manly thighs --"

"Jesus. *Jesus*, Flamer --"

"I'll stitch little bows into your wounds --"

"Fucking -- all *right*. You already know. I'm post-Lazarus
Pit, and I spent some time. I'm not Talia's operative. I'm
not her partner."

"You're ours," Dick says, and does, in fact, spare a glance
for Tim before crowding into Jason's space for a loom that,
to Dick's credit, doesn't actually *require* Jason to be
crouching for it to be effective. Despite the height difference.

And Dick doesn't offer his hand so much as order Jason,
silently, to take it.

"Bad cop/good fairy, this time...?"

Dick doesn't shift, or respond, and Tim only stands. And
waits. It isn't that he doesn't understand the lure of keeping
one's options open -- certainly he does at least as well as
*Dick*, but... for now, it's Dick's show.

And Jason shakes his head, and takes Dick's hand, and gets
hauled up.

Tim waits for them to finish looming *at* each other, and --

"Every resource, every hint of intel --"

"Every *thing*. I got it, Big Bird. So why don't we let En
Fuego over there tell us why *now*?"

Tim waits, again, but it only takes a moment for Dick to
gesture him to continue. "There's a hole in *our* intel."

"You still haven't found the 'downed' surveillance
equipment," Dick says, and the frown doesn't make it lower
than his forehead, but it doesn't matter.

"We need to assume he's moving to non-electronic."

Jason snorts again and pushes open a space between
himself and Dick. It seems... less than conscious.

Dick doesn't bother to respond to it in any way other than
to take his own step back.

"He could," Jason says, "have decided to give us our space.
You know how he likes to do that."

Dick's laugh is choked, but present.

Tim smiles. "Yes, I remember with great fondness all the
nights I woke up to find him looming whole *inches* over
my bed, admonishing me not to scream so loudly I woke
my -- parents." He can't afford the hesitation, and he can't
yet avoid it.

It makes Dick -- it makes both of them *look* at him.

Really, there are a *lot* of things he remembers, and --
Tim throws up a hand before it can get worse. "We need
our security as tight as possible until we can be absolutely
sure --"

"*Who* he'd send after us, yeah, I got it," Jason says. "How
sure are we that it isn't the Birds?"

It's an interesting possibility --

Dick shakes his head. "Only Babs *could*, on the ground.
And only if she wasn't -- she can't," Dick says, and the smile
on his face is more than a little cruel. "Bruce has done way
too good a job at keeping all of us -- our strengths,
weaknesses, habits, everything -- separate from all of them.
There's only so much Babs can *teach* them about us."

"And we think he'll keep that up, why?"

"Because," Tim says, "one of the reasons why he *has*
spent so much time on that is because of the possibility of...
corruption. Unless either of you really think any of us has
done any *thing* Oracle, Huntress, or Canary hasn't -- at
the very least -- considered." And Dick --

It's not that he's never looked at Tim with pride, before --
it's something he's actually had time to grow accustomed
to, to become somewhat *inured* to. It's just that this is
a very particular *sort* of pride.

And Tim can't quite --

"You're planning on turning Helena. You've *been* planning
it --" Dick's laugh is actually somewhat *delighted*. "Who
else is on your list?"

It's -- "It's not a list. Per se. Just... a sense of people we
could reasonably expect to be willing to hear us out,
whether or *not* Bruce -- or Batman -- has something to
say about it to them first."

Dick's nod is slow. Jason... is watching him.

"It's something for another time. Except for how we can use
it to rule out -- with some degree of surety -- who we can
expect to be *on* us."

"Yeah, well," Jason says, and turns back to the map. "It
won't be a meta. Not at first."

The part of Tim which wants to protest that... is the same
part which is still in Gotham, trying to come up with ways
to explain this -- any of it -- to Bruce which the man
would -- *could* hear. It's never been a very large part,
in all honesty. He nods.

So does Dick, again. "And not the Birds -- he's keeping it in
the family. It'll be Cass."

Almost -- certainly. Steph is -- Steph won't be ready for this
for months, even assuming Bruce had stopped fucking
around with things and finally, truly, brought her *in*.

Jason grunts. "Assassin-trained. *Shiva*-trained -- more
than Wonder Twink here. Everything I've heard --"

"She's exactly as hard-core as you've heard, and probably
more than that, little wing. You *don't* go against her alone,
if you can avoid it. None of us do. She could take Bruce by
herself, if she wanted to."

Curiously -- to a certain extent -- Jason looks to *him* for
further confirmation of that. Tim nods, once, and makes a
mental note to find some politic way or another to get Jason
and Dick to truly spar -- as opposed to the 'rough-housing' --
at least until they're both absolutely sure that they *don't*
know the full extent of what the other can do.

As for himself...

He'd spent the weeks prior to coming to Dick copying every
file of Bruce's he could reasonably manage without calling
too much attention to himself, and certainly the al-Ghuls'
had been one of them, but...

"I'll contact Talia, see what she can do to help us widen our
base's free-fire zone," Jason says, after a moment.

A good soldier. Of course.

Tim's going to have to try to get the League's files, as well.


He likes the suit perhaps more than he should, considering
the fact that it's actually more stark against the Bludhaven
night sky than the Robin suit was in Gotham. Certainly,
Dick was right to make him keep a version of the cape --
again lacking the fiberglass reinforcements which he was
too allergic to use -- because folding it around himself while
crouching is pretty much the only way he can be entirely

And yet.

It's his own, with only a few suggestions and alterations
from Dick -- and it's rather spectacular about *being* his

The fact that the 'flame' patterning on the chest armor
forms, if one looks closely, the precise same bird as the one
on Dick's newest uniform --

He has lost all right to mock Dick's first Nightwing uniform,
and, ultimately --

"Better watch out, assholes -- Liberace's here to bring the
*pain*," Jason says, to the captive audience of meth-heads,
dealers, and -- joyous night -- producers currently
surrounding him.

Ultimately, Tim thinks, as he crashes through the skylight at
just the right momentum that there won't be any pesky
jagged glass to keep his cape from *flaring* just right -- one
might even say in a wing-like manner -- the sacrifice was
worth it.

They had been working separately, leaving Dick back at-base
both for the sake of paranoia and for the greater opportunity
it gives Jason and himself to make Bludhaven their own,
and it had taken Tim the better part of fifteen minutes to
respond to Jason's call.

Enough time that the godawful jacket is shredded, but,
sadly, the sweater *thing* the man still favors is still in
good shape.

And once they're back-to-back...

Well, he'd known at a glance that there's nothing here to
*stop* Jason, really, except for their rules.

The 'heads are just heads, and have nice long jaunts in
rehab in their future. The dealers are just dealers -- but this
had been a party, and there's too many of them.

Even the producers only announce themselves by their
obvious ill-*health*.

But Jason has spent far too much of his solo-time just
killing the people in his way.

It's a good sign that he'd called for back-up on this -- it's the
other *reason* they've had him working alone.

It's just that he's going to be an asshole about things once
it's all said and done --

The crash -- and the sound that is almost entirely unlike a
pile of blankets being tossed to the floor --

It's a meth-lab, and, over the course of his career, he's yet
to make it over fifty percent at avoiding fires, even leaving
his pretty new bombs out of things. He's back down to
forty-three, now, but Jason's grin is more than a little nice
to see, and...

He *is* Flamebird. Which, for now, just means that he's the
only person in this room actually wearing flame-retardant
clothing. Within minutes, there's the smell of several
different heads of hair beginning to singe, any number of
screams, the inevitable loaded gun kicked right into the path
of --

One of the 'heads picks precisely the wrong moment to
stagger upright, and there's no way Tim can get him out of
the crossfire in time --

And Jason's sweater takes an ugly gunfire slash as he dives,
and one of the stupider, non-fleeing-of-imminent-fiery-
death dealers takes the opportunity of Tim's distraction to
try him.

Tim breaks his nose gently enough to keep him from falling,
kneecaps him -- only on the left, but thoroughly -- and it's
not enough distraction to keep Tim from seeing Jason's
jeans and boots getting thoroughly vomited on by the 'head
he'd saved.

"Jesus *fucking* Christ --"

"I'll get the rest of them out --"

"I got the runners," Jason says. "And *fuck*, *fucking* --"

The rest is lost in the small and ominous series of secondary
explosions. Jason's gone.

Tim pulls the breather-hood out of the gorget-pocket, yanks
it back over his head and hair, and gets to work.

The design isn't perfect -- this filter will be shot before he's
done, and the rebreather tubes are somewhat ill-fitting, but
at least he'll get out of this with all of his hair. He drops
another two bodies on the pile, and --

The hair thing is more than he can say for... any of the
others. Which is --

It's going up much too fast. Tim runs, but --

The boots on the Robin suit had been designed as something
of a cheat -- at the time, he hadn't had the strength in his
calves or ankles for the flexibility he needed, and, invariably,
the feel of them melting to various floors had been a
wonderful warning.

Four left after these two, and he'd counted on a warning he
wouldn't *have*, and he has to pick the last two. He has to --

He might not make it out *with* two --

Except that he doesn't have to.

The rush of wind could be any number of metas and
others -- right up until he has to dive, flip, and *run* to get
out of the path of the portion of the bay that gets dumped
on the entirety of the warehouse once that same rush of
wind has grabbed the others and taken them -- somewhere.


"Thank you," Tim says -- mostly into the man's chest -- as
they fly.

Clark says nothing.


And continues to say nothing after dropping Tim on a
rooftop... hm. His direction sense is telling him east-
southeast, but he doesn't need to see the globe of the Daily
Planet to know they're in Metropolis. He's the dirtiest thing
in sight.

Which was almost certainly as pointed as the fact that Clark
had failed to fly them through any clouds to dissipate the
smoke, blood, and chemical *stink* Tim's radiating right

Though the uniform's material has held up precisely as well
as it should have -- it's barely smudged.

Tim crosses his arms under his cape and waits.

Clark... is doing an excellent job of giving him Superman.
His arms are crossed over his chest just so, he's picked a
spot where the wind can make the cape ripple just *so*,
his face is a shadowy mass of ambiguous disapproval, and
the toes of his boots imply a direct trip to...

Does he believe in Hell? It's an interesting question -- for
another time.

It's tempting to give Clark something of what he's been
giving Jason, but, as wrong as it is, Clark knows him
*better* than Jason does, and while it's plausible that
playing things as obnoxiously over-the-top as possible
*would* throw Clark just as much as it does Jason when
he's in a mood... no.

Tim unfolds his arms and pulls the breather-mask back down
over his face. His hair is short enough now that the wind on
his scalp is a shivery relief, and... yes, this too. The newest
solvent is really more of a cream, and the hope is that it
will ease the chapping and windburn. For the moment, it's
good enough that it makes it somewhat faster and easier to
remove his domino.

He considers tucking it away, but decides to let it dangle
from the fingers of his left hand, instead. And then he tilts
his head back enough to look into the shadows hiding
Clark's face from his own. "You saved lives I couldn't
tonight. Again, thank you."

The silence is as palpable as Clark can make it. Which would
be impressive, had he not spent the better part of the last
three and a half years of his life trying to be as much of
what Bruce needed as possible.

And if this was... something else, and another set of choices
entirely, he could point that out to Clark, as well as the fact
as he's no one who could ever be tagged with a name like
'Conner Kent.' Finally,

"Did you really think I *wouldn't* take an interest in what
you're doing?"

Not even remotely, but. A perfect segue is a perfect segue.
«I have given the histories my attention and study,

"Don't --"

«It was a gift of kindness to censor the information
provided to my brother, these years ago,» he says. There
had been no way to learn anything of dialect, of course,
and if this were any other sort of conversation --

The sound of the cape's *snap* is all the warning -- all the
*sign* -- he gets of... anything.

To the human eye -- to his own -- Clark has not moved a
millimeter. Except for how he had, and returned from... Tim
doesn't know. And.

This, in some way, had to happen, and the stilted formality,
while making him feel like a tourist is, at least, perfectly
correct. For *this*.

He'd had no right to hope that Clark would come to him
first, as opposed to a mass of theory and suspicion around
the fact that he had not asked for this. For Flamebird.

And that it would be a reasonable assumption to make that
the one most *recently* Robin would be the one easiest to
cow back into... something resembling conformity, if not

Tim reaches, not especially quickly, for the toe of Clark's left

Clark allows it, but the experimental tug gets him precisely
nowhere. It occurs to Tim, mostly irrelevantly, that the last
time he'd had anything like this length of personal contact
with the man had been on the roof of Titans Tower, and
he was receiving an entirely random invite... here.

Tim lets his hand sit there, curling his fingers a little. And

Another *snap* --

"I'm not impressed. The AI has informed me any number of
times that any number of humans -- that the Kryptonian
language would not be impossibly difficult to teach."

There hadn't even been time for his fingers to close on air
before the toe of Clark's boot was back. And... the fact that
Clark is a terrible liar at times is less interesting than the use
of the word 'humans,' and the somewhat damning
hesitation. «There is the possibility, Kal-El, that no
language would be more appropriate for this conversation.»

"*Tim* --"

"And if you're going to use my name, you could have the
courtesy to let me see your eyes."

There is no wall or water-tower on this roof for him to be
slammed against, which would suggest poor planning if
Clark couldn't simply buffet Tim back into an unsteady
kneeling crouch with the impossible speed and *force* of
his landing.

However, when it's safe to open his eyes again, he can,
indeed, look up into Clark's eyes. He does so, and stands
again --

"I won't let you argue *semantics* with me, Tim. What
you're doing is -- a mockery of everything you were
*raised* to --"

And he owes Bruce something, perhaps...? "And to any
number of human laws," Tim says. And pauses. «But not
the laws and mores of Krypton.» It's actually one of the
more fascinatingly familiar things he'd found in his study --
and something Bruce had been more than willing to point
out when he'd first began tutoring Tim, years ago. The
phrase that translates to 'Kryptonians,' *best* translates to
'the people.'

As if, of course, there were no others. Some things were,
apparently, universal.

And the glare on Clark's face has lost none of its intensity,
but quite a bit of what had been keeping 'stern' from 'angry.'
Which almost certainly makes it insanely reckless to reach
out for him again, but. He'd very much like Clark to
remember that invitation, in every way possible. And so he
pauses mid-reach to remove his right gauntlet, tuck it in the
belt, and then reaches again.

And rests his palm against the 's' that, truly, is nothing of
the kind. «I took this... mantle, deliberately, Kal-El.
Flamebird is who I am, now, and who I intend to remain.»
He presses, slightly. It's nothing like a push. «And I am
capable of promising to honor it, as I have done. But you
are not the one to whom I make my oath.» Tim tilts his
head and lets all of the smile he can onto his face. "Unless,
of course, you *have* decided to declare yourself rightful
overlord of Earth...?"

"I didn't --" Clark's sigh is irrationally, wonderfully
*relaxing*, even though Tim can't decide if it's because of
or *despite* the fact that it seems impossibly sudden -- to
human perceptions. "You have to realize that Bruce didn't
send me."

"I do." Bruce never, ever would. And -- it wasn't irrational
at all, really. Clark *is* relaxing, obviously now, pulling
himself into it, shifting from one stance to --

"And you --" The cape *snaps* again, and Tim's own yanks
itself into Clark's wake, and it's all over much too quickly
for analytical thought --

Clark is closer, forcing Tim to bend his elbow to keep his
hand on Clark's chest, he's cupping Tim's shoulders with
his hands, and his smile... is not Clark's, at all.

«Tim Drake. The appropriation of custom and customary
trappings without explicit permission, without *boon* -- is
the sort of discourtesy there *were* laws against.»

There is no relaxation in this, at all, of course -- but the
color belongs in his face for this. He just has to... keep it.
Tim offers his own smile, once more. "Perhaps you would
consider refining my --"

«Speak *properly*.»

The shiver belongs, as well. Perfect. «As you say, Kal-El.


«I would form a greater companionship with you,» he
says, deliberately stressing that particular noun -- he'd
studied it extensively -- deliberately curling his fingers in
tighter. Which touch -- and all the others, of course -- breaks
any number of rules -- *and* laws -- of protocol. By --
human -- codes, Clark has about one more purely correct
chance to... correct, push him away with any degree of
finality --

«You would have me as your shield, and make use of me
for your own purposes.»

-- which he does not take. «Have I spoken poorly, Kal-El?
Did I fail to request just that thing?»

«You -- requested many things, Tim Drake. And offered
more. It would be a pleasure to know of how many you
intended.» Or had that been 'pleasure-offering?' One of
the more pointed forms of 'delight...?'

"There are things Robin couldn't have --"

«*No* --»

«-- and there is a marvelous serendipity, a gift-kindness,
and, perhaps, a truth in the ways in which those things are
so close -- familial? -- to that which Flamebird *can*.»

The laugh is somewhere between shocked and pleased.
«Familial --!»

Tim presses again, and tries one of the smiles Jason
had brought home from Talia al Ghul. At -- yes. Kal. «I am
required elsewhere. At this time.»

«I --»

*Snap*, and they're in the air, fast enough that Tim loses a
little necessary air --

"Tim --"

«You refused that --»

Kal's laugh is, actually, somewhat more breathless than Tim
feels, even with an arm pressing him rather tightly against
Kal's body.


"Tell me -- that you're *sure*."

«Kal, this --»

"Tell me there's nothing I could have said, or done --" And
Kal's hand is warm and smooth and living stone, impossible,
inhuman on Tim's jaw. And, between one moment and the
next, so is Kal's body against his own.

Admirable, frightening control -- relaxed.

 «I ask for comfort,» Kal says, or perhaps it's something
closer to a *plea* for *succor*. The tonal shifts --

-- are less 'irrelevant' than 'irrelevant at this moment.' Or,
perhaps, something closer to 'impossible to consider with
Kal-El's warm, slick, and powerful tongue in one's mouth.'

It's a possibility he'd considered for this conversation, and
something less than a hardship. For all of Dick's attempts to
alternately embarrass Tim to death with his sexual history
and earnestly explain the importance of sexual
multiculturalism to the lifestyle of the young vigilante --

This was never appropriate. This could never *be*
appropriate. The Robin he'd been wasn't designed for this
sort of relationship, for this *degree* of -- companionship.
Not with Clark, or with anyone else not approved by the Bat.

The youngest pays for the mistakes that came before, for
the fears built into the impression of a parent, for all the
ways the world outside had proven to be precisely as wild
and unsafe --

«I beg --»

«Yes,» Tim says. «There is -- only -- acceptance -- »
No. «My acceptance. My -- surrender?» The question is
entirely honest. The word has too many --

«There is no capitulation between companions, Tim

-- connotations, of course. Tim laughs, deliberately aloud.
«One hopes for the freedom of gentle correction between
companions.» And that one hasn't just asked for a
spanking. He really does need to get back to Bludhaven.

«I would have you,» Kal says, and bites Tim's lower lip,
and sucks on it, and wraps Tim in both their capes and
flies -- very quickly.


«I would have you speak only thus for me, Tim Drake,»
Kal says through the comm.

He can forgive himself the shudder, the abrupt sense of
*confinement* -- «This was -- my intent.»

«I will find ways to give you ease.»

Or, perhaps 'you will take your ease from me?' The question
matters -- somewhat -- less once they land, and Clark --
*unwraps* him.

They are on the nearest whole rooftop to the warehouse
Tim had left -- the gutted remains of the thing. The air
quality is an eye-watering mix of polluted water and

He pulls his breather-mask back up and over his face with
a touch of -- human -- apology to Kal's hand. He'll replace
his domino later.

And there's an itch between his shoulderblades entirely
related to wherever Jason -- *Jay* -- has gotten to, nearby,
but there's no real way to remove his hand from Kal's
sudden -- two-handed -- grip.

Even if there was reason.

One of the many useful things about -- acquaintance -- with
Kryptonians is that there is no need to remove the mask
currently keeping his lungs from evacuating his chest cavity
before raising an eyebrow.

«There is a lack of certainty in the lives we have chosen,
Tim Drake. And yet I would have your theory of when next
we'll meet.»

There's something -- maddeningly *something* about that.
A kind of *extra* precision which -- in English and between
the two of them -- would be entirely and *merely* flirtatious.


There is no reason to think there's *more* than that, except,
of course, for the very high-stakes game he's playing with
the most powerful being within several parsecs. The smile
on his face turns Kal's expression -- mildly -- curious.

Tim nods, and curls his hand within Kal's own. «I need to
consult with my brothers, Kal-El. When I am more
knowledgeable... that knowledge will be yours, as well.»
One more *snap*, and, abruptly to the point of vertigo,
Kal's expression... is Clark's.

"And not one moment before, Flamebird...?"

He allows himself the pause, and the honesty of expressing
it -- for Kal. «Not one, 'you who are highest.'»
Superman, indeed.

«And so I am at your pleasure,» Kal says, pulling him
close enough for another kiss -- through Tim's mask. «And
my own delight.»

Tim watches him fly.

And waits --

"You seriously bailed on patrol to mack on the one-alien

"Our agendas diverged momentarily, Jay. I may only tender
my -- oh, Christ, I really need to stop that."

Jason is staring at him in a manner that had left
'incredulousness' behind several miles -- perhaps even
parsecs -- before.

Tim waves him off. "Later."

"Uh -- *yeah*, Boy Rent."

Heh. "Takes one," Tim says, and dives off the roof.

Jason's laughter follows him over the comm. "Start praying
we find a rapist or something *before* I catch you,


Four nights later, Batgirl announces herself by standing,
backlit, on a rooftop three blocks southeast of their base --
and then crouching once more -- gone, before Tim can
adjust his flight, or really even consider how best to do it

The fact that it's a message as much it's an announcement...
is a fact, though one lacking in clarity and much in the way
of actual utility --

Beyond the confirmation that there are, now, any number
of terrifyingly faithful -- the word 'operative' lacks a certain
something when it comes to matters of the Demon's head --
*within* a three square block radius of the base.

It's --

It's a statement of their own, and not one he's especially
comfortable with. For many in his -- former -- community,
in *their* former community, it's an irrefutable statement
of intent.

Which is just one of the many reasons why Jason can
frankly kiss his ass with the 'Superman and Flamebird,
sodomizing in a tree' bullshit.

They *need* --

No. He'd explained himself to Dick, and Jason has accepted
his leadership as much as Tim himself has. He has the
go-ahead and then some -- and had received another one
of those fascinating *sharply* prideful looks from the man
when he'd pointed out that Kal (he had, of course, chosen to
speak of him as 'Clark,' for the time being) was fully aware
of the *whole* of his agenda and entirely approving --

And so this --

"Seriously, I gotta know -- do you beg in Kryptonian when
he's fucking you?"

-- is irrelevant. Despite the *days* of it -- it's irrelevant.
*Batgirl*. Tim heads for his computers.

"How does that even *work*? I mean, yeah, I can curse in
Spanish and Portuguese, and can even talk dirty a little in
Creole --"

Interesting, but not surprising, given the census information
about the Crime Alley area from fifteen years ago.

"-- but, you know, I'm kinda thinking that you need to put a
little more thought into 'make me your *bitch*, Big Blue'
for -- heh -- an alien tongue." Jason is --

Jason might as well be lashed to the waistband of Tim's
chinos for as far *away* as Tim -- hasn't -- been able to get
from him. At the moment, he's putting just enough of his
weight on the back of Tim's chair to make it lean.

"For *that* matter, Tink..."

Very annoyingly. 'Tink' is new. "I *do* believe I'm going to
castrate you in your sleep, «Clitoral Hood.»

As always, the sound of Kryptonian directed at *him*
makes Jason pause, even though he hasn't the faintest
clue what Tim has just said. Which is... satisfying.

Something more along the lines of 'foreskin' would've been
more so, but the similarity in -- Kal's and his own --
pronunciation between the English 'd' and the Kryptonian
'v,' the commonality of the 'eh' sound, the fact that Kal had
confessed a desire to change the basic colors of the
Superman uniform *because* 'red' sounded so very much
like the word for... yes, well. It's a little too perfect.

Jason hasn't actually stopped tipping Tim's chair back, but
the moment of respite is enough to call up all of his feeds
and -- ah.

The camera Batgirl is sitting in front of, tailor-style and
patient, was, in fact, one of the ones that *Jason* had

Which would be...

If it were Bruce, the choice would've been a deliberate one.
It still might be -- all of his observations had long since
suggested that Bruce had been far more *open* with Batgirl
about Jason than he had with any of the rest of them --
but... it probably isn't.


Tim resists the urge to lean back, but not the one to steeple
his fingers --

"Hunh. She looks about twelve like that, bro."

"She ripped a man's throat out when she was somewhere
between the ages of four and six."

"Did he deserve it?"

It's a question Bruce had never asked. It's a question... he
wonders if Oracle had. "Insufficient data. The target had
been chosen by --"



"Okay, so," Jason says, and starts swiveling Tim's chair back
and forth.

"Stop that --"

"Suck me," Jason says, mostly absently, and, "which one of
you is she waiting for?"

"Almost certainly me. And if you're jealous of Kal-El --"

"*That*'s just gay. I mean, over and above you being your
own personal, walking, talking, Pride parade. And what the
fuck does he call you, 'Tim Drake?'" Jason spins the chair
around, and -- he's not smiling.

He's *looking*, searching him almost, fast and almost
feverish, almost --

"Am I backing your play, or do we do this as a *family*?"
And Jason leans in, pushes Tim's chair back *again* --

He's too close for -- this. "As a matter of fact, he does,
which is interesting considering the number of other things
I give him to do with his --"

"Stop fucking around, *Drake*."

There are a half-dozen wonderfully pointed observations he
could, at this point, offer, but none of them are more
important or true than the fact that they are, indeed, flirting.
"Suit up, Jay. We shouldn't keep her waiting --"

Jason doesn't actually let him finish before *yanking* the
back of Tim's chair down to the floor and striding --
nearly *storming* -- out.

They could probably time it -- all of it -- better. Certainly the
parts directly related to putting themselves in range of the
woman who'd defeated Shiva single-handedly. However...

It's really all the question of linguistics in macrocosm, if he
lets himself think about it -- as opposed to thinking about
the fact that Dick, who has otherwise been entirely helpful,
had just shown up three nights ago with another damned
leather jacket for Jason, instead of making Jason *help*
design something better --

"Don't fucking start, Flamer."

"I wouldn't dream of it," he says, fastening his collar and
diving out of his favorite upper window. Jason's behind him
in a moment, beside him in the sky a moment after that --

The new, deep-brown v-mask isn't enough.

The -- none of it's quite *there* yet, and recognizing the
steps which have to be taken, and knowing mostly *how*
to take them --

Also isn't enough.

It's the 'mostly,' but it's also -- well. It's the fact that the
direction of a push can't ever entirely predict the path of the
fall. It's the variables of connotation and mood, and the
varying methods -- and meanings -- of belonging.

Jason uses the word 'bro' even more casually -- and perhaps
even more sincerely, for certain values of same -- than Dick
uses the phrase 'little brother.' And Jason is eschewing his
usual knifing twist and roll to land in a crouch on Batgirl's

Tim does the same a few yards to Jason's northeast --

And the only reason why they're flanking her is because
she's allowing it.

"Batgirl," he says, and wonders, idly, what it might have
been like if he'd ever been able to think the name
'Cassandra' with any degree of ease.

It -- almost certainly all of it -- earns him both a nod and a
questioning tilt.

It's not important, right now, he thinks as clearly as he can,
as -- *thoroughly* as he can, even though he knows his
body is certainly broadcasting discomfort and perfectly
reasonable suspicion much more obviously.

She spreads her hands in a wavering motion -- something
about her *own* certainty? And then points, at him.

The not-quite-hallucinatory flash at the left corner of his
vision is Jason's immensely *compensatory* knife. And the
question has nothing whatsoever to do with the briefing
she'd undoubtedly received from Bruce, beforehand --

And his "yes," is ultimately unnecessary -- judging by the
way she's already turned toward Jason.

"I don't know you," she says, after a moment, and the
mildness of her confusion -- the exceedingly *quiet* sense
of '... and this seems curiously unlikely,' is all very --

It's all very clearly as troubling -- or, perhaps, interesting --
for Jason as it is for him. Jason seems to have something
of a reflex for closing when there's confusion, which is one
of the reasons why he's going to need back-up until they
can afford -- among them -- rather more fatalities.

For now, it just means that he's allowing the directionless,
mustard-colored nighttime light to pick out his features and
build entirely.

More that that, for Batgirl.

"No? Now why would *that* be, Leathergirl?"

"No," she says, again, and nods. "I don't know you at all."

"Well, I guess we could date a little first -- wait, what --"

And Tim has very little to offer for that other than his shrug.
Batgirl is over the roof -- and entirely out of sight before
*he* makes it to the balustrade. Tim looks to Jason --

"Lost her at the corner. Best I can tell you is that she's
moving low."

"She only does otherwise for speed, usually." Steph had
mentioned other times, but Steph is not here.

"Right. So we're going with the idea that she's just finding
someplace the same general distance away where we
*can't* watch her...?"

Tim nods. "She's made all of the security Talia sent."

"Shit. I'm -- not going to bother *asking* if you're sure
about that, because --"

"You're not, actually, a dumbass." The shove Tim gets is
perfunctory, meaningless --

"What *was* that, exactly?"

-- or, perhaps, simply absent. There's more than a little
temptation to test that, to -- *urge* Jason somehow, even
though there's really nothing worth questioning. Jason's
habits are his own, and... hm.

The only comfort in the fact that he's stalled -- suspiciously --
long enough to make Jason's attention on him entirely
obvious, even though he's still scanning for signs of Batgirl,
is the fact that he is -- now -- considering the question.

"There's -- I have a theory, but nothing to base it on, really."

"And this is where I point out that I only got to spend about
twelve *hours*, max, with the first Batgirl and I still know
her better than *either* of you know this one."

"The *first* Batgirl didn't get her own satellite Cave and
unlimited access *only* to Batman and -- Robin."

"Excuses, Flamer," Jason says, and the sigh is a tired one,
rather than irritated. They'd finished patrolling nearly two
hours ago, and Dick has been asleep for at least an hour.

It's -- he sleeps well, now.

It's somewhat disconcerting when it isn't simply one of the
many things about the choices Tim has made which allows
him to -- breathe.

"So are you going to tell me?"

And -- his... brothers (it's easier, in too many ways to
consider, to think the word in Kryptonian, but it's also a
cheat) aren't the only ones who need more rest. He'd been
standing there staring --

"Or are you just gonna stand there and make me wait for
you to decide if I'm *worthy*?"

Tim blinks. "That -- that's not -- I. Jay."

Jason makes him wait for it -- and *then* it becomes clear
that he's being made to wait for it, in the moments between
Jason beginning to turn his head and Jason's twisted and
not very Talia-esque smile being entirely obvious.

Tim narrows his eyes --

"You're fucking easy sometimes, aren't you?"

Asshole. "Is this where I pout at you for being a 'meanie,'
Jay? Or is it simply where I point out that my -- working --
theory for that encounter is all about how very *much* B
might have shared with Batgirl, in those long and
oh-so-lonely nights with a pretender wearing the suit while
you -- to all available reports -- languished in the grave...?"

The interesting thing is that the smile doesn't so much as
slip before there's a hand around Tim's throat and a knife
prodding -- almost entirely uselessly -- at his side.

"Oh, dear. Have I been a *very* bitchy little queerboy...?"

The twitch of Jason's shoulder is the only warning he gets
before the knife at his side shifts --

Tim takes the bruising hit from the hilt because it's better
than trying to wrench his head away from that grip without --
again -- the very best gorget money and obsession can buy.
And, really --

It's about time he *makes* Jason understand that his choice
of 'uniform' is entirely unsuitable.

Jason lets him get in three nerve-strikes -- two of which
almost certainly do exactly what they should -- before the
shove knocks him halfway off the roof. He's loosely balanced
on his back on the balustrade --

And the punch to his midsection would have, actually,
caused Tim's position to stabilize -- through the efficient
method of forcing him to double over, and thus back down
to the roof -- if he'd let it land instead of rolling.

Jason has enough control that he probably hadn't broken
his knuckles --

And Tim has enough that flipping down and off the roof
without first plotting his position only leads to him wrenching
his shoulder when his grapple hits.

The first reasonable alley --

Is anything but, considering the fact that Batgirl still isn't far
enough away to make the space between Tim's
shoulderblades stop twitching, but it's better than a rooftop,
even though it's close enough to dawn that the shadows
have gone deep and a little strange.

And Jason --

Ditches his own jump-line early enough that his tackle is
fast, hard, and *flying*. The wall gives Tim at least two
cracks in the more fragile parts of the flame-retardant
'paneling' over his back-armor, judging by the sound, and
he doesn't have enough air --

He has enough air to use the steel in the heels of his boots
to take *both* of Jason's calves at once, since Jason had
been obliging enough to only *effectively* pin Tim's upper

The grunt --

The grunt is a shock to something he can't, *can't* pay
attention to right now, something in his *spine*, or
somewhere harder to reach, harder to understand --

The head-butt is better -- especially since the gorget *is*
good enough to help him keep his head from bouncing too
hard on the wall.

Tim goes for another heel-strike and gets one -- but the
other is off-target once Jason *shoves* against him, cup
grinding against Tim's pelvis -- but only on the right.

Jack-knifing his own body gets him free enough to flip,
make some space -- and Jason catches his kick before it can
do more than almost certainly bruise his forearm

The question becomes just how *much* training time Jason
had gotten with Dick, and how much use he'd made out of
it in his first life, but the question can only be answered by
abusing the muscles of the leg Jason's holding enough to
drop, give himself *spring* --

And Jason's strong enough to take his weight when Tim
comes up, and so strong enough to take *this* kick right to
the back of the neck. Perfect -- or it would be, if Jason
didn't have the presence of mind and will to hold on *just*
long enough to break the mathematics of Tim's planned

The ground is greasy, slick -- and gritty against his cheek
when Jason can recover faster than Tim can get *up* --

And it's actually almost a little *funny* the way Jason is
punching for Tim's left kidney at right about the *exact*
same time when Tim's elbowing up, *pistoning* up with
his right. Almost --

Jason's gasp has nothing to do with the blows Tim's landing --

Jason's gasp makes Tim *flex*, and it's something like
*waking* to scrape his -- armored *enough* -- knees along
the ground enough to get them a little under himself,
enough to buck, roll, move --

Not this. Not -- Jesus, he's not that fucked *up* --

It's like waking, not fast enough to avoid the gauntlet
cupping his shoulder, not well enough to avoid the last
scream the nightmare wants out of him --

It's like *waking*, and then Jason's arm is locked against his
throat and Jason's free hand is scratching -- *clawing* -- at
his jock --

"Say *no* --"

He -- he *bucks* -- "*Fuck* you --"

And Jason's arm is gone --

Jason's kidney punch forces him into another spin, clumsy
as Jason's pounce --

Tim's slouched against the wall and he isn't pinned by
anything but the maddening -- *muffled* shove of Jason's
jock against his own, the pain that isn't *enough* to keep
him from thrusting --

"Fuck, you --"

And when Tim punches Jason in the mouth, Jason catches
his *gauntlet* on the follow-through, catches it with his
teeth, and it's too dark to see anything but the lenses of
Jason's mask, but the way they're -- *aimed* toward his
own --

At the flush spilling down from under the mask --

The feel of the flush crawling up from under his gorget --

Tim hears himself *growling*, but it's just another of the
useless alarms, he's waking up to the helpless pump of his
own hips, the grind of Jason's own, the stink of the alley --

"Jesus -- Jesus fucking --"

And the sound of his own *shout* when he comes in his
jock, when Jason freezes --

When Jason punches the wall next to Tim's head and
shudders like the aftermath of a poisoning -- "*Fuck*."

And then they're still, and -- staring. At each other.

Just... Tim knocks his head back against the wall -- once --
and laughs. And coughs, and spits out what tastes like
more blood than saliva, and laughs more.

"God -- that doesn't even sound -- fucking *human*," Jason
says, and laughs, too.

"And yet somehow -- appropriate, for the moment?"

"Fuck, I just --" Jason punches the wall again and laughs
harder, rocking back on his heels enough for Tim to start
moving into a position from which he could -- possibly --
stand up again.

He winds up using the wall to do it, since Jason's still busy
finding the whole thing --

Precisely as amusing as he does. Tim shakes his head once,
and offers Jason his hand.

He's expecting the yank, but there's some question as to
whether Jason expected his own, considering the fact that
the end result is of them slamming each *other* back
against the wall.

Something else on Tim's uniform cracks, and Jason's breath
is hot and damp on Tim's ear.


"Yes, Entirely Heterosexual Wonder?"

And Jason has Tim's left wrist --

And Tim has the hilt of the knife.

"That's -- heh -- kinda dirty."

Breath on his *ear* -- "You're only confirming... several
unflattering theories about your psychosexual --"

"So are you gonna jack it for me, or are you a tease, too?"

The answer to that is less a word than a groan, but it's
almost certainly the one Jason expects, considering the fact
that Tim's earlobe is going to have an imprint of one of
Jason's canines for some doubtlessly problematic --

"Let's take this home, bro."

-- length of time. "Yes."


Tim's balls are sore and the living room couch is canted
uneasily on three legs. Jason is currently snoring on it, just
the same. It's entirely probable that Tim's efforts to avoid
being obnoxiously obvious -- it had almost certainly seemed
like a good idea to Dick to have his bedroom *between*
their own -- had been...

Entirely useless.

Still, it's a difficult call to make. Dick only sleeps *still* when
he's badly injured, sick, or drugged, and so the fact that
he's mostly diagonal on his mattress now... doesn't actually
offer any clue of whether or not they'd woken him in any
*serious* way while --


The tooth marks on Jason's hand are going to be a lot more
serious than the ones on -- both of Tim's ears. He avoids
rubbing them.


There's something laughably comfortable about the sight of
his shadow falling over Dick's bed, even though it's nothing
that was ever supposed to happen. Or --

The connotations are difficult, even though no part of him
is precisely surprised that Dick is capable of sleeping
through what is, in all respects, a *loom*.

There are...

There are things he wants to ask Dick, and it only feels as
though the questions will drown him until he can remind
himself, again, that all of the questions boil down to
wondering *why* he's so sure. Of everything, all of this, all
of *them* -- and of Tim himself.

He'd come because he needed to, because it was the only
real choice left after --

It was the only real choice even before he'd come home to
find his father bled out in the living room -- it was *Dick*,
and a chance to have something, *be* something not
dependent on a man he hasn't trusted in much too long.
There's a certain safety in knowing that, and owning that.
It's just that safety is by no means equivalent *to*
certainty --

Certainty is one of the more dangerous things in his world.

Talia al Ghul's -- gifts -- are meant to give them room, and
they do. But not enough that they won't all be taking
watches, at least for a while --

He and Jason had left Dick *alone*, and.

Batgirl can't stay here forever, or even for very long. Bruce
is going to *need* her in Gotham -- and that's without the
question of Steph's training. Of --

When Tim stops planning, stops moving, there is really only
one question he'd left unconsidered, and that is whether or
not it would've made -- *could've* made -- any difference
if he hadn't allowed his father to pull him *free*, or if Bruce
*had* given Steph everything Robin needed in the first

Certainly -- yes, that -- he had done nothing of the kind over
the two years they'd been --

There's a watchfulness, abruptly, within their base (home),
but it's not an unfamiliar one. And since Jason's still

He waits long enough for Dick to turn onto his back, into an
easy sprawl that's not -- especially -- loose-limbed. Not for
the man in question. He doesn't wait for Dick to gesture,
and the smile he gets is one of the newer ones. The calmer --
quieter ones.


He isn't sure.

"You're half-asleep," Dick says, once Tim is close enough for
Dick to throw an arm around his shoulder and pull him into
something resembling half a hug. The headboard is
dangerously wonderful against his back.

"Perhaps more."

"Mm. Also -- God, you are some terrifying and *loud* kind
of naked in that suit when you're not wearing the cape."

He suspects it's his size. "You'd mentioned that," he says,
and smiles. They are all, of course, quite accustomed to
large, muscular people being the armored variety of naked...
though it would probably help if the jock he *had* been
wearing earlier wasn't a sticky, knife-slashed ball in the
bathroom trash.

"So tell me about Batgirl," Dick says.

"You were awake when we left?" Interesting.

"Not enough to chance blocking any plays you made with
Jay, little brother -- spill."

Dick's new habits of caution are the sort of thing... that
makes Tim grateful, at the moment, for the fact that Jason
had left Tim's balls *just* that sore. Still, it's neither
especially new nor -- seemingly -- anything which can
touch Dick's confidence. "She seems to be here on
recon-only, unless I'm completely wrong in suspecting that
she'd *been* here for some amount of time before tonight."

Dick grunts. "We need on-the-ground Gotham intel -- none
of us go out alone until we *know* she's back there, and
that's going to be damned annoying."

And inefficient. "We're going to have to consider doing what
we can to keep Gotham exciting enough that Bruce *can't*
spare personnel to --"

"We won't let him run us, little brother. And I have faith that
you're going to keep doing your part to limit what he *can*
throw at us."

It's somewhat guilt-inducing to bask in pride that is, at least
in part, based on the fact that the staggering number of
heroes Batman can count among his allies can be rather
simply reduced with the question, 'yes, but do you *agree*
with the man?'

Not that it stops him from leaning into the touch.

"My ass belongs to the Mission, Dick. Rest assured."

Dick snorts and slaps the back of Tim's head lightly -- before
wrapping that arm around him again. "You're spending too
much time with little wing."

Layers and connotations? Perhaps, but just the same... "It
occurred to me that we -- for certain values of 'we' -- were
last at our best when we spent the most time in each other's

Dick gives him another squeeze. "No arguments. It's one of
Bruce's mistakes I don't think you'll have to watch for from
me, Tim."

It's a question, though he isn't sure *which*, unless --
"You're wondering why I'm here."

"Only in a very specific sort of way," Dick says, squeezing
Tim one last time before shifting away enough to fold his
hands behind his head and lie down on his back again. His
smile is somewhat lazy, and also a little private.

I'm studying you, Tim doesn't say, but only because he
doesn't -- really -- have to. Whether or not Dick realizes that
Tim's searching for the source of Dick's *faith* is only
moderately relevant.

"Then again," Dick says, turning the smile on Tim directly,
"it's not as though I mind, little brother."


"Mm. Give me another hour, and then crash somewhere for
at least six."

"And again," Tim says, and returns the smile before leaving
the room.

He'll need at least that long to figure out how much of his
suit is salvageable.