And you alone of pure substance
by Te
May 19, 2004

Disclaimers: If they were mine, I'd have a lot more
money and a few less issues.

Spoilers: Various storylines from various titles,
mostly old. Spoilers of varying intensity up through
Teen Titans #11.

Summary: Tim and Jason miscalculate.

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

Author's Note: Part of a series tentatively called
The Drowners.

Title, again, from "An Exequy," by Peter Porter.

Acknowledgments: Never would've gotten off
the ground without the help of the deliciouscrack
crew, especially LC and the Jack.


Tim can smell Steph's sweat when she reaches up
to push back her cowl and mask.

It's not a new thing -- he's used to using his senses
to catalog every piece of input he possibly can at
all times -- but it *feels* different.

He knows why.

"Christ, she's hot." Jason's voice is sincerely
approving in his mind, and Tim checks himself to
find -- yes. He's definitely staring. The color is high
in her cheeks. He wonders why any woman ever
bothers with makeup.

Blush could never look that beautiful. That --

"*Sexy*, dude."

He looks away and smiles at the roof, and listens
to Steph breathing hard. Not very. It had been a
heavy patrol even *before* Steph had joined them,
and it didn't get lighter, but Steph's in better shape
every time he sees her.

"I'll say. Fucking *A*, Tim, what --"


He looks up again, and Steph is looking...

"Tim, man, she so wants you to kiss her."

One of the skills he's developed recently is the
ability to snort solely within his own mind. "What's
up, Steph?"

Steph rolls her eyes, and smiles a small and oddly
secretive kind of smile. Like there's a voice giving
running commentary in *her* mind.

"Yeah, and it's telling her what a *freak* you are,
Tim --"

"Is something... are you okay, Steph?"

"What?" Steph blinks. Her eyes are blue and clear.
"Oh, no, I'm just... well. I was thinking..."

Tim waits, patiently, and watches Steph's mouth
twist into a different sort of smile. A *knowing*
smile, really, and --

"Are you just not *getting* how much she wants
you, dude? You *know* she's been watching you
all night."

Watching you. Us. For some of it.

"Heh," Jason says, and fills his mind with a
memory of the spin-kick they'd used on the armed
robber, the spray of blood from a mouth full of
broken teeth.

Tim shivers and focuses and... Steph's closer now.

"I really love it when we can patrol together, Tim."

"Me, too. It's different when you have someone to
watch your back."

"Dude," Jason says, "one day she's going to shoot
you in the *head*, and you're just not going to
have any idea why."

Steph tilts her head at him. The tilt of her eyes is
on nearly the exact opposite angle. There are a
few wisps of hair plastered to her forehead with
sweat. He wants to --

"Lick them. Definitely --"

"Tim..." Steph reaches out, and cups his
shoulder with her hand and...

It's possible Jason has a point.

Steph licks her lips and Tim leans in --

"Fucking *finally* --"

Her mouth is soft, and she tastes like the Zesti-Ade
Tim had bought for them both from the
convenience store they'd rescued. Not sweet
enough, not tart enough, just --

"Mmm," Jason says. And Steph says.

"Steph," Tim whispers against her mouth, and
she's right there, pressed against him. Her
breasts are even softer than her mouth, warm
and *sweet* even through the tunic armor.

Tim wraps an arm around her waist and kisses her
a little harder, and --

"Fuck, *more*, dude --"

Do you have any *idea* how disturbing this is?

Jason's laugh makes Tim's mouth open wider, and
Steph makes a brief, quiet noise and slips her
tongue in. Tim feels it all the way down, and feels
it more when Steph *licks* his tongue. And makes
his *own* noise when Steph bites his lip.

Steph pulls back and bites her own lip. "Is this... I

"Hell *yes*, it's all right," Jason says, and Tim
can't say he disagrees. And maybe it's on his
face, because there's a sharper, harder light in
Steph's eyes and she slides the hand from Tim's
shoulder into his hair.

"Steph --"

"Mm-hmm," she says, and *pulls* Tim into
another kiss, sucking his tongue and licking him
and biting him and suddenly they're backed
against the roof-access door. Steph's backed up,
and she's got one hand in his hair and the other
on his *ass*.

"Tim, dude, now is *not* the time to panic."

I haven't. We haven't --

"I *know*. Look. Just..."

And there's the feeling, the warm hot *rush* of
Jason coming forward, of *completion*, and he's
right there, and Tim's right there, and Jason
moves Tim's hands to cup Steph's face and the
kiss is so much deeper now, so much --

"Better, it's -- "

*Deeper*, and Steph moans into his mouth and
*squeezes* his ass and Tim wants to jerk at
that, or he thinks he does, but Jason just rocks his
hips forward, against her, and Steph moans even

Tim's face feels hot. His *body* feels hot, and he
feels himself taking it all in, noting it,
*remembering* it -- the taste of her, the feel and
sound and *reality* of her, that she's his girlfriend,
that she *wants* this from him, and the curved
perfection of her breast against his palm --

Fuck, Jason --

"*Watch*," Jason says, and pulls them out of the

Steph is even more flushed now, mouth open and
eyes shining, and while he watches she lets her
head fall back.

And *pushes* into his hand.

"Oh God," and that was out loud. But Steph just
giggles breathlessly and --

He can *feel* her nipple hardening against his
palm, even through --

"The gauntlet *has* to go, Tim," and Jason
sounds breathless, too, even in his head.

What --

But Jason is already moving his hand, up to
Tim's mouth. He feels himself pulling it off with
his teeth, and then Jason jerks his head and
the gauntlet goes flying and one of them moves
Tim's hand back --

"Where it *belongs*, dude."

"You like that, Tim?" Steph is smiling again,

"Answer her. Tell her how it feels. Tell her --"

"You feel so good, Steph..."

And Steph makes a humming noise and
*thrusts* against him -- "So do you."

"Fucking *A*. I'd say 'I told you so,' but man,
I'm *busy*."

And Jason makes them kiss her again, tugging
her suit aside so he can kiss her throat. Saltier
there, hotter --

"Oh, *Tim*..."

He doesn't have anything to say to that, and
he's pretty sure Jason doesn't have any
suggestions at the moment. They're moving
his hips, rocking against her, and he'd think
the armor would make it uncomfortable, but
Steph's whimper doesn't sound anything like

Steph whimper sounds like --


Yes, he thinks, yes, and pushes one hand into
her hair and pulls her away from the door
enough to slide his hand down her back.
Muscular, subtly curved, and he means to
pause at the small of her back, but she pushes
and Jason pushes, and her ass feels so good
that he has to moan against her throat.

"Oh -- *oh* --"

Yes, absolutely, and Steph shifts, bending one
leg up and nudging at his hip with her knee
and now she's *grinding* against him, like this
is just as good for her as it is for him, even
though they're both suited up and --

"So good --"

He isn't sure who says it. He licks his way up her
throat, back to her mouth, and slides his tongue
in and gets it sucked on again and he thrusts
*hard* against her, or Jason does, and someone
says it doesn't matter and someone agrees, and
he can't stop. He absolutely *can't* stop.

Steph's makes this sharp, high grunting sound
with every thrust and tightens her hand in his
hair and rakes her *nails* up over his ass
and --

"I want you, God I *want* you," Jason says, or
maybe he does, and Steph bucks so hard Tim
nearly stumbles, and shakes in his arms and --

"She's coming --"

Jason, she's totally --  "Oh God, *Steph*," and
Tim *knows* that was him, and it doesn't feel
like it matters, either.

Her moans aren't rhythmic at all anymore, and
Tim hitches her up against the door and thrusts
and Jason bites Steph's throat and he really,
*really* doesn't want to come in his tights,
except for how there's nothing he wants to do
more right now than shoot off, right here, in
the night, with Steph pulling his hair out by
the roots and Jason fucking --

Oh God, Jason's fucking him, *too*.

Tim comes jerking, nearly spastic with it, and
Jason's laughing in his head, and Tim has no
idea what his moans sound like.

"You kinky *bastard*," Jason says.

"Mmm. *Tim*."

"I... uh. Steph..."

Steph laughs, and it's a different kind of breathless.
She lowers her leg and slips her hand out of his
hair and down to his shoulder again, and pushes.

But she doesn't let Tim get far, either.

Tell me you have suggestions for what you say
*after* you've randomly had sex with a girl on
a roof in the middle of the night.

"First off, man, it's not random when it's your
smokin' hot girlfriend, and secondly... no."

Right, Tim says, and watches Steph watching
him. "Um... are you... are you okay?"

Steph looks at him like he's crazy.


And snickers at him. "You know... I totally
didn't think we'd *ever* do more than kiss.
What brought this on?"

"Oh, dude, I know this one. Tell her she looked
hot. Really, really hot."

"Well, I... you looked so beautiful. You...
your cheeks were flushed and. I. Um. I just
wanted... um."

He feels like an absolute dumbass, but Steph
looks at him like he'd said the most perfect
thing ever, like she wants to hug him and not
let go.

"I..." He moves, awkwardly, and Steph does,
too, and they bump noses when they kiss.
And Steph laughs and reaches up and tilts his
head into a better position, and this kiss is
much better.

"Sweeter, anyway," Jason says, and Tim
ignores him and goes with it until Steph
makes a slow, happy humming sound and
pulls away.

The moon tells him that it's late, and that he
needs to get the bike back to the Cave before
he heads home, and --

"Yeah," Steph says. "How come it always feels
harder to go home than it does to go out on

Tim smiles ruefully. "I don't know."

"Mm. Well. I have to go see my aunt with my
mom tomorrow night, can we... oh, wait, you'll
be headed out to the Tower, right?"

For a second, it's almost horrifying. They'd
just -- and he won't see her again until

Steph laughs again, and pokes him on the
nose. "I think I could get used to seeing *that*
look on your face, Boy Wonder."

"Dude," Jason says, and laughs so hard that
it's all he can do not to do more than smile,
a little.

"I... uh..."

Steph shoves him back, only telegraphing a
little, and heads toward the edge of the roof,
smirking back at him over his shoulder. "Later,

He watches her shoot her line and swing,
and... yeah. Cave, then home. He can feel
Jason... not moving. He can feel Jason
*watching* him, even though the image of
that is impossible on enough levels that it
makes his mind hurt.


"I just... dude. You seriously just lost your
virginity, and shoved it out of your mind
within *seconds*."

And? It's *late*, Jason.

"I... no. Just no." And Jason pushes forward
again, hard and fast this time, enough that
Tim feels his -- their -- *his* knees buckle.

Jason --

"No, go with it this time," he says, and shoves
Tim down to his knees on the roof. He --

I feel --

"Sweaty. Sticky. There's come in your
shorts --"

God, I have to *change* --

"Yeah, pretty soon, but it's still warm right
now. Still sticky and *hot* --"

Fuck, Jason --

"Exactly. You fucked her. You *had* her.
The clothes were still on, but..."

The sound of her whimpering, the sound of
Steph moaning his name  --

"God, yes. And how she felt. How bad she
*wanted* it --"

She would've done anything, for a while
there. He -- they could've --

"Done anything. Because you made her feel
that good. That *hot*."

Both of us --

"*All* of us. You liked it when I was
controlling you. I could feel it. I could --"

Hard again. I don't want --

"This is what sex is. This is what it does,"
Jason says, and yanks the tunic up and shoves
the tights and shorts down, pushing Tim's
jock aside and --"

Jason --

"My hands on you. My hands making you
touch her, making you --"

I pinched her nipple. I don't -- I didn't even
realize --

"How much she loved it. Just like you love
*this*," Jason says, and strokes Tim so hard
that he has to moan.

Jason. Jason --

"You can't deny this. You can't push it aside
so you can get *work* done. You can't just --"

Tim can't feel his hand. He can only feel his
dick, and then it's the other way around
and --

"I can't -- fuck, do me, Tim --"

Tim shoves his other hand into his mouth to
keep Jason from groaning too loud, to keep

"Tim. *Tim* --"

You feel so good.

"We do, oh fuck don't stop --"

You and Bruce.

"Yes. Yes. This is -- please, Tim --"

This is why, he thinks, and bites Jason's hand
and moans and jerks them off, fast and hard --

"You need it, too."

Oh *fuck*, yes, and there's something obscene
and hot and fucked-up and *hot* about the
sight of his own come arcing up and out --

"Money --"


Tim snorts and pants and laughs until it's only
him laughing. Or both of them. He's not sure.
It's... way past time to head back.

He frowns at his jock. Maybe if he just uses his
belt-knife to cut it off and trashes the thing, the
trip home will be less disgusting.


It is, but it also makes the motorcycle ride more
interesting than he's used to. Although, as object
lessons in just how much of a difference an
armored jock makes, it really could've been a lot
worse. He parks the bike and stretches.

These days, every smirk feels like it's on his face,
feels *real*, whether or not it actually is.

It's possible that he's tired.

"You stud," Jason says with a quiet kind of smirk.

Asshole, he thinks, and this time the smile is
*definitely* on his face. Right up until he feels
the depth of the shadow between the parking
area and the garage.

Bruce, stepping forward into the light.

He shoves, reflexively, but Jason is already pretty
far back.

"It's not his fault, you know."

I know. And you said you wouldn't bug me about

"It's been --"

Not long enough.

"You should --"

Shut *up*, he says, and for a second he can't tell
whether it was out loud or not. He looks at Bruce,
but *his* expression hasn't changed. Bleak and
grim and *needy*, like Tim is something -- no. Like
he *has* something Bruce wants.

He knows he does.

"And *you* know that isn't all of it. You can't lie
to *me*."

Tim crosses his arms over his chest and watches
Bruce take a slow, cautious step forward. And
stop again.

The bats scream and flap above them. He really
needs to get back home.

"I want --"

I *know*. And he does. He really... he just...
he listens to the particular not-quite-silence of
Bruce breathing. And hears it deepen and...
pause. Before starting again. And... there was
no way Bruce wouldn't know. He could
probably tell by the drape of his fucking tights.

He feels Jason moving, feels Jason *feeling*,
and feels it, too.

"Dammit, Tim, what makes you think he doesn't
love you, too?"

That *isn't* the problem.

Jason's pause is as palpable as everything else.
The faint chill of the Cave, the *presence* of
Bruce. Right there. *Knowing*.

Of Jay, and of himself, also knowing. There are
a lot of things he can't not know anymore. That
neither of them can.

He forces himself to look up, and Bruce's look
is searching.

"He wants to know who it was."

And whether it was me, you, or both of us.

Jason's snort is humorless. "He could probably
tell exactly what we did if he got a little closer."

You want him to.

"You wouldn't mind. Not really."

He feels... he isn't sure if it's Jason or not, not
really. It's something moving in him,
something shifting, something *feeling*. He
clamps down on it hard. "I... not yet," he says

Bruce's breath is almost a sigh. "All right. I.

Yeah. Me.

Tim nods jerkily and heads out of the Cave
again, on foot, sinking back so far into himself
that Jason has to take over.

Jason likes to run in the night, anyway.


Tim hates eating in the cafeteria. It's almost
impossible to get a seat where he can keep his
back to the wall, it's ridiculously loud, and the
stink of bad food and insufficiently bathed
teenager is...

Wild, strange. Not familiar enough. He'd gone to
private school when he lived with Bruce. He -- no.
Jason had. Tim closes his eyes and thinks back
with Jason, to when his mother had still been alive
and his father hadn't been a complete shit, and
he'd been... really young.

Jell-o with *every* damned lunch. Baked beans
far too often not to be some sort of conspiracy
of --

Methane collection, Tim thinks, and ducks his
head so Jason's soft laugh can make him smile.

He hears the clatter of the tray hitting the table
before anything else registers, and frowns. Too
much sensory input. He should've at least been
able to pick out Bernard's particular way of

"Bad Robin," Jason says. "No cookie."

"Something amusing, Drake? Do share. Lighten
my drab existence."

Bernard leans back in the rickety plastic chair
and crosses his legs, crosses one arm over his
chest and cups the elbow of the other, resting
one finger against his cheek.

Posing. Flirting. He doesn't need Jason to say
it. It's... he's not sure how he didn't *see* it,
really. "Just thinking," he says.

It's just like everything else. How to watch
some thug so you could predict whether he'll
pull a knife or try to punch you. How to look
at a gargoyle so you'd know whether or not it
could handle a grapple.

How to look at the boy sitting across from
you, and see that the sardonic arch of his
eyebrow is meant, consciously or not, to draw
your attention from the way he's watching, and

"Waiting," Jason says, and yeah, that, too.

And... well. What about it? Why shouldn't he just
lean in a little, reach out and hesitate *just* for
a moment before grabbing the apple off Bernard's

Unsubtle, sure, but he's learning. And the apple
is actually the best thing this cafeteria has to
offer, unmistakable taste of pesticides or no.

"I don't recall offering to share my lunch with you,

A twist of the mouth to hide the quick, nearly
hallucinatory way the tip of Bernard's tongue
had slipped between his lips. Tim swallows his
bite of apple. "But you're doing it already." He
gestures at the table, their trays. "Metaphorically."

"It's too early in the day for semantics, darling."
Dry, quelling. Except for the rising color in
Bernard's cheeks.

"It's after noon," he says, and takes another bite.

Bernard's hand doesn't shake when he picks up
his carton of milk. "Nothing *interesting*
happens until at least three o'clock."

He swallows again. "I think I disagree," he says.
The smirk feels warm and solid on his face. He
could *make* Bernard's hands shake. And he --
blinks. That wasn't... he isn't...

Jason's snort in his mind is strangely faint, but
his voice is clear enough. "It isn't *my* dick
that's getting hard for this game, Timmy."

Don't call me that.

"Right. I think I'll just... watch."

There's a lot to see. Bernard's staring at his mouth
again, and then he isn't. He's drinking his milk,
head tilted back and throat working obviously.

Jason had said, more than once, how badly
Bernard wanted to suck him off, but watching
this little show isn't like *remembering* at all.
It's like feeling it, like knowing it.

Dammit, Jason. *This* isn't my fault.

He's lying of course, and he doesn't need Jason
to tell him that. And he supposes he could do
worse than having Jason's kinks.

He could have *Bruce's*.

Tim can't quite keep himself from smiling. It's
that or start screaming. That's a lie, too.

Bernard puts the carton down, empty, and licks
his lips. "What are *you* thinking about,

"Sex," and it doesn't really matter which one
of them said it. What matters is that it was out

He watches Bernard's eyes widen. They're
almost the same blue as Steph's, but the tilt
is more pronounced. Part of him is considering
asking about Bernard's background. Part of him
just wants to see what the perfect fall of
Bernard's hair will become if he makes him

Makes him shake, and need, and Tim knows
exactly what's on his face, because it makes
Bernard's eyes get even wider.

He feels himself studying the boy, raking his
eyes over him and cataloguing. Checking.
Bernard's shirts aren't tight, but the way he's
breathing is obvious.

And the way he's tightened his grip on his own knee
is even more so.


"Mm," he says, putting a half-absent note in his
voice. He knows what that brand of
non-committal-ness does to Bernard, he knows how
it makes him curious, hungry, just like he'd always
known, on some level, what it meant when Steph's
lips stayed parted a little too long after a laugh.
It's *sex*. And everything --

"We can do," Jason whispers.

Yeah. He makes a show of focusing, of looking
away from the pound of Bernard's pulse in his
throat and into his eyes again. "Let's go."

Bernard's nod is a little jerky, but he stands up
smoothly. He doesn't get his backpack in front of
him fast enough to hide the outline of his
erection from *Tim's* eyes.

But then, he wasn't really trying, was he?

Tim smiles to himself and follows. And maybe
this is strange, and it definitely isn't *him* -- he
knows this, even though Jason is so *faint*. It's
*not* him, but who the fuck is he, anyway?

He's a weapon and a database, a poor man's
detective and a symbol -- a *good* symbol, but
a symbol just the same. It's past time for him to
have more than that. For him to have *this*,
this touch, this connection, this heat all through
him, this thrill of wrong as he walks halls
half-emptied by the lunch hour, following a boy
who can taste this just as much as *he* can.

Bernard pauses in front of a door. The boiler
room. He doesn't quite look back at Tim over
his shoulder, and then he does. His laugh is
faintly nervous, but honest. "I always thought I'd
have a *bit* more class than this."

"Tell him --"

It's less a voice than a feeling, and Jason's pushing
it all right into him, anyway. Or something is. "It's a
tradition," he says, smiling. "Right...?"

Bernard snorts. "Far be it from me to denigrate
*tradition*." And he slips inside.

Tim checks his perimeter, and -- there. Mr. Emory
slips out of his classroom and shuffles down the
hallway. Much too slow. Tim clenches his fist at
his side and waits. Waits.


He slips in and pulls the door shut behind him. The
only light is a bare yellow bulb, dim and sickly. It
heightens the sallow lack of certainty on Bernard's
face, and Tim gets that, too, now.

How scared Bernard is of his own hunger. How
much he wants this, and every image in his head
while Tim had been outside the door *had* to
have been of humiliation, and bad, cruel jokes.

"I understand," Tim says, because that's sex,
too -- or it can be, if you're too much of an idiot
to take the alternative. And Bernard looks
confused for a second, but when Tim cups his
cheek, his eyes flutter closed and he tastes like
milk and the clove cigarettes he sneaks every
day after gym class.

Tim licks Bernard's tongue the way Steph had
licked his, and Bernard's mouth falls open on a
hot, desperate little gasp that makes Tim want
more, now.

All the walls are lined with shelving, so he spins
Bernard around just a little too easily for what
Tim Drake should be able to do, and pushes him
against the door, instead. *Holds* him there with
one hand on his shoulder and the other between
them, splayed flat on Bernard's chest.

The feel of his heartbeat against Tim's palm is
almost as good as the choked-off whimpers.

Trying to hide it from him, trying to --

"Let it out," he says. "I want to hear it. It's
sexy --"

"Oh, God, *Tim* --"

And for a moment it's strange to hear his name
in that raggedly musical tenor, and he kind of
wants to know *why*, but mostly he just wants
to shove Bernard a little harder, *feel* him.

Tim pulls back enough to unbutton Bernard's
over-shirt and strokes his chest through the
t-shirt. Lean, no more muscle than any reasonably
healthy sixteen year old should have.

His nipples are hard, harder when Tim pinches
them, and Bernard's eyes are wide, pupils
blown with lust.

"You want this," he says, just to hear the
sound of it in his own voice. It's a little perfect
and it's a little scary, and Tim knows Jason
had never done something quite like this.

"You... *Tim* --"

Again the strangeness, and it makes his dick
flex in his jeans, makes him want to be naked,
and to watch Bernard strip for him and --
fuck, everything. He twists Bernard's nipples
again and he throws his head back just like
Steph. And... laughs.

"I knew you'd be -- God -- a control freak --"

It shocks a laugh out of him, and that feels
good, too, but it also takes out some of the


He strokes his way up to Bernard's throat, not
squeezing or anything, just feeling for his pulse.
For the rapid, strong beat of it. *Alive*, and he
wants to feel it with his mouth, and -- yes. With
his tongue.

Bernard threads his hands into Tim's hair and
holds him close, and Tim presses him a little
harder against the door, riding his panting

"Please," Bernard says, and Tim sucks,
reminding himself not to do it too hard, and
then reminding himself that Bernard has a collar
on his over-shirt.

A little sweat. The faint sting and tang of
cologne. Scent of sex and skin and pretty, easy
*male*, and Tim hears himself growling and
needs to *bite*. And when he does, Bernard

Gives it up, he thinks, or feels, or both.
Loose-limbed wanting and he's going to have
to put a hand over Bernard's mouth if he
moans any louder. The bite. Animal, primal --
there's a lot of psychology for this. And a lot for
his own reaction, the sudden, real need to
hold him, to *have* him, and he thinks he
might be going a little crazy. He thinks. He isn't
sure what he thinks, and maybe that's okay,

He licks his way up to Bernard's ear and
scrapes his teeth on the little stud in his ear.
Breathes and feels the pound of Bernard's heart
thud its way into his hand. "What do you want?"

The noise Bernard makes is strangled, and that
makes sense, too. All of it does. How had he
ever not *had* this?

*Why* hadn't he? He can't remember, it's all a
meaningless jumble, and the part of him that plans
on figuring it all out is *real*, but it's also
irrelevant right now, meaningless against the feel
of Bernard's hands tightening in his air and on his
shoulder. *Flexing*.


Tim lets himself be moved, and lets himself stare
just as hard as he wants to into Bernard's wide,
shocky eyes.

And then Bernard closes his eyes and drops to
his knees, fumbling at Tim's fly. Fumbling with
shaking hands, and he feels himself shooting
pre-come into his shorts at the sight. He can't
quite figure out why Jason isn't sharing this
raw, primitive *triumph* with him, only he
thinks he knows, and it's big, and it's strange,
and it's absolutely *nothing* compared to the
way the sound of his zipper coming down cuts
through the air like a knife.

He clenches his fists at his sides to keep from
shoving his hands into Bernard's hair when he
pulls Tim's boxers down, when he wraps his
fist around Tim's dick, and those long, slim
fingers are so *elegant*-looking around him.
Every second another shock, another *thrill*,
and it's like drowning.

It's like -- it's --

Heat. *Wet*.

Tim bites his lip to hold in the worst of the
groans, but *has* to get his hands in that
long, blond hair. Thinner than Steph's, and
the image of *her* doing this makes him sick
and hot and terrified, makes him pulse
pre-come again, and this time Bernard has to
be feeling it. *Tasting* it.

Bernard whimpers around him and *sucks*,
and Tim grunts and just barely manages to
brace his legs.

It's -- *fuck*. The feel of Bernard's tongue on
him, his lips, the way his cheeks are hollowing
and the way the hunger's so powerful in his
eyes that it's nearly *unreadable*.

And suddenly he knows that this is exactly
the way Bruce looked at Jason. And suddenly
he remembers it, and the way his eyes had
looked black, the way Bernard's eyes look
black right now, the way --

"*Yes*," he says, and it comes out on a hiss,
and Bernard's eyes narrow as he tightens his
fist around the base of his dick and takes
more of him. Tim can't tear his eyes away
from the *look* of it, even as the feel is
burning out large, important parts of his mind.

Losing himself to this, and maybe losing himself
for real, and he thinks it's everything he's ever

The thought makes something break like air
inside him, makes him gasp, and gasp again
with the rhythmic pulse of Bernard's sucking.
"So good --"

Bernard groans again and sucks harder,
pressing up against the underside of Tim's dick
with his tongue, and Tim wants to know
exactly who else he's done this for. He wants
to know if it felt like this for them, if they
wanted to chain Bernard to the floor, wanted
to keep him on his knees *forever*. His hips
are bucking; he couldn't stop them if he
tried -- if he *wanted* to.

He doesn't.

And the way Bernard closes his eyes...

He doesn't want Tim to stop either. He wants to
be --

"*Fuck*," he grits through his teeth and bucks
*hard*, coming before he can even think about
warning Bernard off.

Bernard makes a choked, hurt-sounding noise
that just makes Tim's dick twitch harder. He
pulls out as soon as he's able, dropping into a
crouch to make sure Bernard's okay, but all
Bernard does is swallow and gasp. His hair is a
mess. His lips are swollen and obscenely red,
and he isn't -- quite -- looking at Tim.

Tim rests his hand on Bernard's shoulder and feels
something tear in him, something that hurts so
much he think he'd scream if it wasn't so fast.

"*Jesus*." Jason sounds stunned, and still
weirdly faint.

Where were you? he thinks, but really. He

"Yeah, that was --"


Tim blinks, shaking off the lingering... something.
Bernard is looking at him seriously, evenly. Even
though his erection is tenting out his pants, even
though he's still on his knees.

"Hey," Tim says, and reaches out. He feels a
little more... off. No. A little more himself. It's
scary -- more in the implications than in the fact
of it, but he doesn't want to think about it. He
*still* gets it. What Bernard must be thinking

"You don't --"

"I want," he says, before Bernard can say
anything else, and grins, leaning in to kiss him. He
doesn't taste like anything but Tim's own come
anymore. And that's *so* hot, it's not going to
*stop* being hot, even though Bruce's kisses
after sucking him off were always --

Again, there it is again, the warmth in him, the
fullness and everything it means, everything he's
becoming, but Bernard is kissing him so hungrily,
and when Tim slips his hand down to cup him
through his pants, he almost *yells* into Tim's

"Tim, please --"

He shivers against the sound of his name and
works Bernard's pants open, feeling the wetness
of pre-come through Bernard's boxer-briefs and
reaching in through the slit to get him free.

Bernard pants against his mouth and stares into
his eyes, desperate and faintly disbelieving, right
up until Tim squeezes him, and then those eyes
fall closed and Bernard moans again.

And twitches in his palm.

This won't take long, and the angle is only
strange until he remembers how many times --

How many --

Tim squeezes his eyes shut and buries his face
against Bernard's throat, breathing him in and
jerking him off, harder and faster until Bernard
can't say his name anymore, until he can't do
anything but moan.

He comes with a shuddering gasp and Tim
catches most of it in his palm. And pulls off to
lick it without thinking, but the way Bernard
looks at him makes him do it slower. More...

He tastes like more.

Bernard kisses him again, and Tim opens up for it
and opens up *inside*.

What --

"You reached for me," Jason says.

But --

"I know. I... don't really get the rest. We --"

The class-bell rings and Bernard jerks against him,
and laughs nervously before pulling back. "So,
uh... yeah." Another laugh, and Tim knows he's
laughing at himself.

Bernard stands up and straightens his clothes
and hair in a brief series of impressively
efficient -- and effective -- moves.

Tim tucks himself away and scrubs a hand back
through his hair.

Bernard sucks his teeth and reaches out to fix
Tim's hair for him, the way he's done about a
million different times since introducing himself
into Tim's life. But he pauses.

Tim gets that, too. "I made a mess of it?"

Bernard smiles, sharp and almost entirely real.
"As if *that's* a shock." He... does whatever
he feels is necessary to make Tim's hair
acceptable again. The fact that he doesn't pull
the product out of his backpack is a good
sign. "Time for us to go be bored to tears, I

"We should probably wait until the halls clear
again." The sound of all the teenagers beyond
the closed door is actually a little alarming.

"Mm," says Bernard, and swings his backpack
onto his shoulders. "We'll be fashionably late."
Again, it's *almost* right.

Tim fixes Bernard with a look. "You know, I'm not
planning to be an asshole about this."

Bernard freezes.

"You're going to wind up dating, like, seventeen
different people, aren't you, dude?" Jason sounds
deeply amused. And... quiet.

Like that *isn't* your fantasy.

Bernard looks back at him from over his shoulder,
and his expression is somewhere between
flirtatious and curious. "Good to know," he says,
and strolls out of the boiler room as if it was
perfectly natural for him to have been in here in
the first place.

Tim starts a one-eighty count, feeling the way
Jason is stretching and twisting and *testing*
within him, like something that might just be
too big for his skin if it wasn't, actually,
terrifyingly perfect.

He isn't going to think about it.


The Tower rises up out of the blue with the
same weird mix of speed and grandeur as always.
Bruce is silent in the pilot's seat. He hasn't said
more than dozen words the whole time. And
Jason isn't much louder.

He doesn't have to be. The way he *looks* at
Tim is just... it's like looking in a mirror. Or...

Tim shakes his head, and starts undoing his
restraints. Pauses.

"I'm not mad at you anymore."

Bruce's jaw tightens.

"I haven't been for a while. It wasn't about being
angry." Tim stares out the window until he can
feel Bruce looking at him. And then he looks
right back. "But you know that."

"Yes," Bruce says, and Tim can see the tension
in his shoulders that's all about a move he
isn't making. The way he isn't reaching out.
Bruce hasn't actually touched him -- at *all* --
since that night. They haven't patrolled together,
and he's always made himself absent when Tim
had to get patched up -- by Alfred.

And it's only been a little more than a week, and
it's *Bruce*, but it's still....

They -- the family -- are the only ones Bruce
*really* touches, the ones where it means
something. He'd known that before, and he
knows it even better now. And if *he* feels
the lack...

Tim undoes the restraints the rest of the way
and turns in his seat, deliberately turning his
chin up.

The gauntlet is cool and hard, smooth on his
cheek and jaw. Tim closes his eyes, and thinks
about the way Bruce always stroked him
afterward, like a favored pet who hadn't been
de-clawed and never, ever would be.

Jason, he whispers, and feels the pulling away,
the vicious, almost sickening shiver of
separation, feels Jason trying to reorient
himself within him, into something more like

"I'm here," and Jason sounds... faint. Not
weak or tired or anything, just... Tim isn't
entirely sure.

Bruce's eyes narrow. "Tim....?"

Tim smiles ruefully and opens his eyes. "Mostly."

He leans back, away from Bruce's hand, and
slips out of the plane into the San Francisco
fog. The smell of the sea and the faint sense that
it shouldn't be quite this cool, even though it's

Tim moves out onto the roof and listens to jet
lift off again.

There's a weird sense of being on enemy
territory, and he looks inside to find Jason
and... he knows why, actually. He knows it's
because they're in San Francisco while the
Outsiders are in New York.

He knows it's because there's this big, huge
Tower that doesn't even have the decency to
look brand new.

It's because three years feel like complete
and utter *bullshit*, but --

Jason, if I just *know* these things you'll
fade back into me again.

"Is it so bad? Wait, no, what the *fuck*?
That was *your* thought."

Tim smirks. You see my point.

"Right. Shit. Jesus. I..."

What's it like for you when we... fade, he
asks, and deliberately doesn't look for the

"Like being alive. Like... no, that's all I have.
It's like I'd never been *dead* at all."

Tim frowns. But the... it wasn't so bad *is*
my thought. Right?

"Well, yeah, but..." Jason moves Tim's hands
in a vague gesture at the Bay. "It's like I'd never
been dead, but it *isn't* like being

I. Oh. Tim pauses, and tries to breathe around the
*rightness* of that thought.


It feels...

"Really good."


"That, too, Tim," and Jason wraps Tim's arms
around him -- them -- beneath the cape.

They watch the waves breaking for a little while,
and Tim doesn't think about how quiet Jason is,
compared to how he used to be, and Jason
pretends not to hear him not-thinking about it.

"I bet you could totally jerk off under this thing
and no one would know."

Tim smirks. Batman. Nightwing. Batgirl. Oracle.

"No one who isn't *us*."


Tim crosses his arms a little less incriminatingly --

"Dude, *only* you."

Maybe not for long.

Jason snorts in his head. "Yeah, well, you know
what they say..."

Tim waits for it, deliberately not *looking* for it.

"Live fast, die young, leave an egregiously
fucked-up looking corpse -- those autopsy photos
in your head? Jesus. -- then possess your
replacement and get swallowed up by his

Tim doesn't manage to stop snickering until his
communicator beeps in his ear.

"All available Titans to the briefing room." Cyborg's
voice is calm, but very *direct*.


It turns out that there's been a series of small,
messy explosions in the still half-built sections
out at Alcatraz. Tim is less than surprised. He
doesn't read as many newspapers as Bart does,
these days, but he certainly keeps track of the
San Francisco dailies.

The number of protests over the fact that
Alcatraz is becoming, essentially, another Slab...

There are just as many as there should be,
quite frankly.

He sits back and listens to Bart ask questions,
absently cataloguing the ratio of relevancies to
irrelevancies -- larger every day. He lets Kon
catch his eye, and smiles at the mugging.

He watches Starfire for a long, long moment
that stops being confusing when he realizes
that he's thinking about how much she's
changed, about the way she used to look at
Dick and --

Don't fucking sink into me yet, Jason.

"You know it'll be easier once we're working.
And a *lot* more efficient."

They don't have to be... one to sound like
each other.

"You knew that before."

Just keep talking. Just for now.

He feels Jason feeling him. The need that doesn't
have anything to do with fear -- or at least not with
fear of what's happening. He forces himself to
think, clearly and distinctly:

I'm afraid of wanting it.

"I... so, Kory."

Tell me.

"She's... she seems *smaller* somehow."

She's six-four with --

"The hair, yeah." Jason snorts a little. "But that's
not... I mean. Look at her, giving the mission
briefing like... like some kind of general."

She *is* a general.

Tim can feel Jason's frustration, and knows that
only a little of it has to do with looking for the
right words. "Why are you --"

Because I have to. For now.

"Okay. She's... she shouldn't be, like, an
*Earth* general. She should be yelling, and
maybe slamming her fist onto that little podium
thing, and --"

Tim pulls up an image of Khrushchev at the U.N.

Jason snickers. "Yeah. Only with more yelling."

Tim nods to himself and folds his hands under
his chin. She lies now.

"You don't think that's... fucked-up?" And sad,
Tim hears.

I didn't before.

"Yeah. So tell me about the others."

And by others, you mean...

"The hot chick who stole Wonder Woman's lasso."

Tim ducks his head so that his fists will hide his
smile. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Kon
seeing it anyway, and feel the question, the
invitation to share the joke.

"Did I say seventeen people? I meant forty-five."

Shut up. That's Cassie. Powers from Zeus. The
lasso is actually Ares'.

"I thought the Amazon types didn't really approve
of war-gods. And that still seems weird, by the

Amazons not approving of war-gods, or the fact
that war-gods exist?

Jason laughs in his head. "Bruce always said --"

Not to think about it. I tend to not-think about
things a lot.

"I noticed." The laughter is gone, but, the briefing
is also -- finally -- over.

Tim stands and stretches. Kon gives him a look,
but Tim shakes his head and heads over to

"Striking a blow for heterosexuality, or just
thanking me for playing along?"

You decide. Or just --

In him, through him. Warm and real like he's
never been, not since last time.

Cassie's still going over her notes, and Robin folds
his hands under his cape and takes a moment to
replay the bits and pieces of importance that he's
recorded for himself. They're mostly going to earn
their pay, to make an appearance, zero tolerance,
blah blah bullshit.

The Mayor seems to think some new supervillain
is trying to make a name for himself by taking out
Alcatraz. But considering the damage reports... if
it's anything more than a handful of bored college
kids playing saboteur, he'll eat his fucking mask.

Cassie balls up her notes and tosses them. "So I'm
your lift today?"

"If you don't mind."

"You know, I'm pretty sure Kon was just talking
smack about the hand-holding."

"Et tu, Cassie?"


Robin lets himself smile, a little. "Nothing."

It's surprisingly -- in an entirely unsurprising
way -- exciting to fly. He hadn't gotten to do much
of it, and he'd never...

He remembers his lives and can't help comparing
them. Tim and Jason, when they'd been -- they'd
talked about friendship.

"Not like you," Jason had said, and it's not like Tim
*hadn't* gotten it then. It's just that he *keeps*
getting it. Tripping over it, slamming into it, like the
cool, damp wind burning his cheeks as Cassie flies
them higher, faster. He was with Bruce for two
years when he was Jason, and for a year and a
half of that Jason had been Robin.

And Jason had barely left the country before that
*really* unfortunate trip to the Middle East. He'd
never met Superman. He'd never spent enough
time with the Titans to learn more than a few

He'd lived in a fucking *box*. A small one, with
an 'R' on it and enough toys to keep him busy
when Bruce wasn't doing it for them.

Jason's never leaving.

Even if he isn't...

Even if maybe he already did.

Cassie sets them down and they head
north-northeast. Theoretically, they're splitting the
search equally, but Cassie isn't remotely trained
for this sort of work, this sort of *search*.
Which is probably why Kory hadn't bothered to
move them to other teams.

And it's...

It feels different. He -- they'd been out here
last week, and they'd carted off yet another
second-rate meta with anger management
issues in for the grateful citizens of San Francisco
and the state of California, and there'd been a
brief food-fight at Saturday dinner, and Krypto
had pissed on the statue of the Founding
Members, and... everything had been normal, in
a way this just isn't.

The grey foggy air is ominous, portentous. The
girl beside him is muscled whip-lean, beautiful
in a very not-Gotham way. Sexy and alien, but
he also looks at her and sees someone who
might be losing too much weight, who may or
may not decide to bail on them, who may or
may not decide that Ares has more of what
she needs than Diana and Hippolyta and the
sweet, overweening ghost of Donna.

Last week he'd been Tim, and Jason. A old-hand
showing a tourist around, and playing with
himself in the most disturbing ways imaginable.
This week...

Robin grins to himself and crouches over a
particularly far-flung bit of rubble. Uncollected,
and possibly untouched. It's charred on one side,
greasy with ash. He smells... smoke.

What else? Batman says in his mind, and he
scrapes one finger of his gauntlet along the
charred side and brings it closer to his face.

Cassie is watching him. The angle is wrong for
him to see her eyes, but just good enough for
the way the wind is whipping her hair around to
be something of a distraction. He wonders what
she tastes like.

He wonders... fertilizer.

Right. Not a surprise.

"Anything?" Cassie's sunglasses are acting as a
rather ineffective headband.

"Nothing much. The bombs are definitely
homemade, for whatever that may mean."

Cassie nods slowly and shades her eyes against
the glare of the hidden sun on the fog, looking
into the distance. "So... we keep looking?"


He lets himself slip a few paces behind, and if
Cassie knows that he's sweeping everything
*she's* supposed to be sweeping, she doesn't
care. Good enough. Cassie had never really
questioned Tim's abilities or judgment, even
when she probably should have.

There's a part of him who remembers watching
her with Arrowette, with Cissie. The way they
became friends instantly, true friends of the sort
who visited each other's homes and held hands
with stereotypical unselfconscious female fellow
feeling. That remembers watching them laugh at
a joke he'd never get to share, because...

For a lot of reasons.

It doesn't hurt as much, and it hurts in different
parts of him. Part of him wonders why he hadn't
collected more memories of Cassie and Cissie
together, and that part doesn't, particularly, want
to be Cassie's *friend*.

Possibly because he doesn't know her well
enough. Possibly because she's living proof of all
the things Bruce was perfectly correct in warning
them not to think about too much. He watches
her stroke the coil of lasso on her hip.

The universe is madness, wild and large and
impossible in seventeen different ways before
breakfast. But then...

*He's* living proof of that now, too.

"Earth to Robin."

She's paused again, this time over a pile of
rubble that he can tell at a glance doesn't have
anything particularly interesting for him. "I'm
here," he says, and looks her in the eye.

"Yeah. Right." She snorts. "I guess I should be
used to the way you do that, but... whatever.
There's nothing here. Let's keep moving."

He wants to know more about her moods, about
any changes that may or may not be occurring
now that she's carrying a psychically sensitive
mystical weapon on her person -- and possibly
carrying it more often than she's not. It's
frustrating that he's never learned how to do
that sort of thing properly, how to truly get to
*know* people beyond the usual profiling,
especially since it's entirely his fault.

He hadn't been interested in doing it when he
was Jason-in-the-box, and Tim had never been
a person with whom other people acted naturally
unless those people could be induced to forget
he was there -- such as when some other person
distracted them.

Bart used to be particularly good for that sort of

Last week Cassie had been a friendly acquaintance,
an ally, and a potential danger. This week she's
more like a stranger with a familiar face.

Of course, he has more options now, but the
reasons for not letting Jason take over too much
last weekend are the same as their reasons for...
merging, this weekend. Only so much can be
allowed to be seen, and known.

If he lets out the part of him the others might like,
and open up to -- Gar especially, he thinks, and
perhaps Kory if she knew just *who* was walking
around in Tim Drake's skin -- he has to do it
carefully. Slowly and subtly.

There are ways. But it will take time and -- it won't
be today.

Cassie gets to the man first, of course. He's young,
scruffy. The wind brings the scent of some sort of
incense, or perhaps a truly unfortunate cologne.
He's yelling something about fascism, or perhaps
the integrity of the landscape with regards to
socio-environmental concerns. It's difficult to be

Spittle flies from his mouth and he wants it to
be blood and -- he has other things he needs to

The timer has, of course, already been started.
Two minutes. The man had an optimistic sense of
his own speed and subtlety. And, considering, he
doesn't really think there could be more, but...

"Are there others?"

"Fuck you, pig!"

One of the best things about Cassie is that you
never have to tell her when to hit someone.

Robin focuses on the bomb, listening with half an
ear to the saboteur's attitude adjustment and
eventual denials. Too eventual.

One minute, thirty-one seconds and counting.
It's just as crude as he'd suspected, the timer
nothing more than a two dollar alarm clock, the
mass of explosive put together badly, sloppily...
chances are they'll be able to find this idiot's
allies by the pieces of themselves they leave
when their other projects explode in their faces.

He could, probably, disarm it safely. He could,
and he *wants* to. One minute, fifteen and a
part of him is always going to hate the Joker for
nothing but the *head* shots, the ones that
took him out of the game.

He hisses between his teeth. The tools are in
his hand.

One minute, five. He can. He shouldn't. He
isn't reckless.


One minute. He breathes.

He snarls behind his face. "You have to take it.
High enough --"

"I know what to do," Cassie says, and drops
the saboteur. She isn't as fast as Bart, but she's
faster than Kon. He watches her fly for just
long enough for the saboteur to do a runner.

Robin smiles just as widely as he wants to --
there's no one to see -- and follows, only
picking up his own pace when the asshole
shows signs of veering towards the others.
That's simply unallowable.

He didn't get the bomb -- he extends his staff
on the fly and sweeps -- he *will* get this.

The man goes down hard, and Robin's close
enough to hear the whoof of breath when he
hits the ground with his chest. Robin comes in
from the side and aims something like a
punter's kick at the guy's ribs and --

Perfect. He flies up just enough to flip and lands
on his back, flailing like a crab, like a dying
insect. One shot to the ribs. He gets two more,
tops. One if he makes it -- yes.

He lands purposefully, knees down, and the guy
still doesn't have enough air to do more than
wheeze pitifully. This is getting excessive, he
thinks, but the faint, coughing boom of an
explosion high overhead gives him all the excuse
he needs. His hands are still wrong, but the
new gauntlets are *just* right.

One to the mouth, and his mind takes a perfect
snapshot, the gruesome humor of a man's lips
pooched and twisted out of true, scraggly
whiskers standing for just long enough for the
human eye to catch.

One to the chest, far enough above the solar
plexus to be safe, hard enough to get him
another wheeze, a brief splattering explosion of

One more to the mouth, and then he has to
plan. He stands, wrapping one fist in the collar
of the man's shirt and lifting. He almost
staggers -- almost -- but remembers just in
time to compensate for his not-quite-right

He thinks about drinking milk, about the newest
brands of meta-drugs... no. He can wait. He's a
growing boy.

He pauses. Considers.

The man is limp, but it still has more to do with
surrender than physical hurt. It would be better
if he fought.

Robin firms his grip and pulls back for one more
punch -- the man's nose isn't even broken, yet --
intending to let go as soon as he lands it. If he
times it right, he knows the man will fly
impressively. A little further, a little to the left --

"Jeez, Robin. I think he's done."

If he doesn't apply pressure to the slide of his
teeth over themselves, it doesn't count as
'gritting.' That's been Tim's rule for years. He
takes a deep, quiet breath and drops the guy,
plastering something a little less blank onto his
face before turning. He needn't have bothered.
Cassie is impressively singed, and impressively

She's going to need a haircut to even out the
damage. The lower curve of her left breast is
plainly visible, rosy pink with what would
probably be a crippling burn on a normal
human being. There's a hint of... trouble in
her eyes.

He shouldn't have given the man quite that
much time to run, but then he'd been careful.
The Titans should have been able to find the
precision of his attack familiar, and not especially

She isn't wearing a bra. Her breasts really are
*just* that firm, and the trouble comes in a
little deeper in Cassie's eyes. Women are
always quicker on the uptake about this sort of
thing than you'd expect, and the part of him that's
still Tim is *desperate* to -- He has to --

Split, focus, and it's the most painful thing he's
ever done, the most painful, he can't, he
absolutely --

"Jay," he says, and he hopes it was silent right
up until Cassie says,


Tim bites his lip and feels breathless, worn in a
way that has nothing to do with the physical.
He's slammed against the near wall of himself,
of his consciousness, and Jason is a massive,
impossible weight pressing, wanting --  it's
more than just Jason.

"Rob -- *Tim* -- what's wrong? Are you okay?"

Cassie's hands are on his shoulders, and that's
enough to snap him too attention. He pulls on
something that should resemble a rueful smile
and looks directly into Cassie's eyes. The
effectiveness of the move when he's wearing
a mask is variable, but Cassie responds the
way she should.

The relaxation of the tension in her body is
just as obvious as the smell of burnt hair.

"I think... that's supposed to be my line."

She smiles, California-girl perfect. "*I'm* fine.
You know how quickly I heal."

Within six hours she'll be blandly perfect again,
eight at the latest. "Yes. I -- yeah. I just..."
*This* calculation is more difficult, more of a
gamble than a true calculation. "That bomb
could've killed him just as easily as it could've
damaged the building. I can't..." He looks away,
deliberately, feeling the blood pound in his ears,
feeling it flush his cheeks.

Cassie squeezes his shoulders until he looks at her
again. Her smile looks like one of Troia's, motherly
with a more perfect kind of rueful, wry amusement
than he'll ever be able to manage without a great
deal more effort. "Hey, *nobody* likes a sloppy
worker, right?"

He gives her a brief laugh, and watches it register
in the way her eyes widen, in the way the mass of
Jason and... other roils within him and swells with
dare and demand. A little too much.

The hint of trouble is back, a skim of clouds over
blue sky. Cassie *wouldn't* find anything
comforting about a Tim who hits on her.

He pulls back carefully, folding his arms under
his cape. "I should... can you handle the rest of

"Sure," she says, and as he turns he can see her
slinging his whimpering not-quite-victim-enough
over one shoulder. It's an interesting question --
those shoulders aren't very broad. It must be
frustrating to have that much power without
having a body designed to allow the maximum
efficient use of same.

Then again, she's probably also used to it.

Tim walks toward where he knows Bart will be
patrolling with Starfire, and when he gets there
she raises an eyebrow at him. He knows it's
wrong now. He knows how she *should* be.

Everything changes, he says to the confused
mass within, and feels it tear itself a little closer
to order.

"It's done," he says, perfectly blank. He has a lot
of practice at not showing discomfort.

Starfire nods, and frowns at him. *Studies* him,
really, and it's disconcerting. But it shouldn't be
a surprise. Starfire's decided to learn from them.
And that means learning *them*.

*This* tear makes it feel as though his mind is
a fragile, liquid mass, one good yank from
exploding all over his body.

He didn't hide that wince especially well.

"Are you all right, Robin?"

"Just... a headache. From..." He can't quite
immediately decide why he should have a
headache. Never start a sentence you don't
know how to finish, Bruce says in his mind, and
the next tear makes him swallow back bile.

"Robin! I think I should take you --"

"Just back to the Tower. I need... a dark room.
A little silence. It might be a migraine."

"I wasn't aware that you suffered from

"Just tell her they're stress-related," Jason
whispers from behind a thousand curtains.

He lets the smile make it onto his face. "My
doctor said something about stress. I'm sure I
don't know what he's talking about."

For a moment, she looks like she's thinking
about ruffling his hair, or maybe just petting
him, but it passes, leaving him with an
uncomfortable -- but soothing -- mix of relief
and sadness.

She wraps a powerful arm around his waist,
instead, and they're back on *their* island

"I could fly you directly to your quarters...?"

"No, that's all right. There's something..." He
isn't sure at all how to say it, and Jason is too
quiet to hear. He looks toward the one door
that's always shut, and Starfire lands them

She *does* touch his face, this time. "Is that
sort of solitude really best for you right now,

The scent of her skin triggers a brief flood of
images. Impossibly long hair in a white sink,
the New York City skyline through a half-open
window, a long, golden stretch of thigh, and
a hand instantly recognizable as Dick's
traveling along its length.

"I want to tell her," Jason says, more clearly.

Not yet, he thinks, and looks up -- and up --
into Starfire's eyes. "Just for a little while, I

She smiles at him, and the strangest thing
about her eyes isn't the color, or the lack of
pupil -- it's the way they narrow, instead of
crinkling at the edge. Almost -- predictably --
feline. She looks like she wants to butt his
nose. "Sometimes you make me think of..."
She shakes her head, hair shifting like a
heavy curtain behind her, and taps him
lightly on the chest -- where the 'R' would
be visible if his cape wasn't folded around
him. "You're probably tired of hearing that."

He shrugs, enough for it to show even with
the cape.

Starfire nods sharply, the general again, and
Tim feels Jason watching her go.

Soon, I think.


He moves them into the Memorial, letting the
door fall shut behind him. There's no echo,
there's no scent or anything in particular, there's
no sound. Just the sense that he's entering a

No, a *church*.

Icons lining the walls, demanding... nothing but
what he wants to give.

He sits tailor-style between and a bit behind
Troia and the Golden Eagle, resting his head
against the pillar.

"I could've been here."


"Well... I've had some time to think about it,
you know? I was never really a Titan except
on paper, but... I could've been. I had the
choice. I didn't really *think* I did, but... you
know what I mean."


"And... time." Jason laughs, and there's
something strange about it.

Something Tim can't quite put his finger on.

"I'm not here as much as I was before."

Don't --

"I know you don't want me to do it, Tim, but...
you have to admit there isn't much point.
*You're* not here as much as you were
before, either."

Tim breathes, and breathes, and pulls his hands
out from under his cape, tugging the gauntlets
off and staring at his hands. Intellectually, he
knew that they'd look perfectly normal -- pale
from being inside the gauntlets, save for his
knuckles, which will probably never be the
same -- but it's still something of a shock to see
them... solid.


Where were you, Jason. Before.

Jason laughs again, and overlaying the reality
of his hands is an image of the way they'd
looked in the alley, his knuckles bloody and

"You tell me, man."

We have... a problem.

"No shit."

It's not just --

"A temporary thing when we merge. It's not
just --"

Some other strange thing we can do. It's --

"Our future. Unless --"

*No*, Jason. I won't let you --

"Yeah, well. It's not like *I* want to leave."

Even if you... if *we* wind up... gone?

"Even then."

There's a finality to it, and that's always felt
so good. There are few things more satisfying
than a *sure* thing, than knowing your path.

"I always thought it was kind of limiting."

Tim smirks. I wonder what we'll think...

Jason snickers in his head. "Maybe we'll just be
really fucking schizo."

Well. So long as we're making the *intelligent*

It takes a while for the laughter to fade, for the
Memorial room to settle itself back into silence
and dust and viciously comforting weight.

Tim rolls his head on his neck and lets himself
smile. It's gotten a lot easier, lately.

"So... what happened to Joey?"

Tim shows him what he knows, what he's
inferred. The sword, the rather uncomfortably
familiar brand of *possession*. Wintergreen.

"That... doesn't really sound like Joey."

So I've heard. Is that why you didn't look?

"There are some parts of your mind that were,
like, labeled with names I know. Only when I
got close..."

Tim feels it. The wrong. The sense of impending
knowledge. Spoilers, really. The kind without --

"Beautiful torsos."

Beautiful, soft, touchable -


God. Fuck. Is it Monday yet?

"Heh. I'll make a heterosexual out of you yet."

Before or after you make me suck Bruce's dick?

"Don't knock it --"


Tim freezes and feels Jason moving within him,
waiting to merge or... there's no 'or.' Not
anymore. All or nothing.

"We didn't really think this through, did we, Tim?"

It'll be okay, he thinks. Aloud, he says: "I'm
here, Kon."

Kon's footsteps are heavy and steady. He's tired,
but uninjured. One of his boots -- the right --
has an uneven sole. He should get that fixed.

Tim waits until the footsteps pause to open his
eyes. He remembers when that sort of thing
didn't make a difference when, like now, he
was wearing the white-out lenses. But Kon's
posture shifts, just a little. His expression...
sharpens. Focuses.

"You trained him, man."

Guess I did. "What's up?" he says aloud.

Kon's expression sharpens even more, and Tim
knows he's seeing... everything that feels like
it should be real and visible and isn't.

All the ways he just isn't here, and all the
ways Jason is, and all the ways... they both
are. Tim swallows, and holds Kon's gaze.

"Rob... are you... Tim?"

Tim smiles a little helplessly. "Excellent
question." Jason snorts in his head.

"Listen, if you want me to leave you alone,
just say the word. It's just..." Kon shifts on
his feet again. One hand is shoved in his
back pocket. He scrubs the other over his
brush-cut. "Cassie said you were acting
kinda off, and, well... you know you can talk to
me, right?"

Wide, blue *earnest* eyes.

Jason's entire presence within him is one, big 'I
told you so.'

"I know," Tim says. Probably to both of them.

"Yeah, okay." Kon drops into a crouch in front
of him, and his hand is big and heavy and
warm on Tim's shoulder, even through the
suit and the cape. "*Do* you want me to split?"

"What's he like," Jason asks in a voice that
shouldn't feel like as much of a whisper as it

Look for yourself, Tim thinks, and he knows
Jason hears *every* implication of that. Out
loud, he just says, "no."

Kon grins at him, and it's hard to distinguish
the familiar warmth of it from the familiar
warmth of Jason... moving. Being. It feels so
right. Stupid to fight it, really.

He closes his eyes for just a moment, and
feels Kon shifting to settle in beside him. He
thinks about leaning in to kiss him, holding
it firm until Kon got over the shock and
kissed him back. He thinks about just leaning
in, getting closer, and he knows that Kon
would lean in just as far as he did, or
perhaps a little more.

He remembers not knowing that at all. He
remembers that he would've been surprised,
because he remembers a time when his
body -- this body -- was an adequate weapon
and an endless source of (usually unpleasant)
surprise and inconvenience.

He remembers, and knows that he always
will, because Tim hadn't allowed himself to
forget anything in years.

But he also isn't Tim.

"So..." There's another smile in Kon's voice.


"We're just going to hang out with the dead

Robin smiles. "It's surprisingly soothing."


Sunday evening, and it's not quite sunset. In
another hour, the Bay will be countless different
shades of gold and the sky will be pink. For
another two hours or so after that, it will be
warm enough to, say, stand out on the roof of
the Tower in nothing more than his uniform,
and watch the city sparkle and *live* across
the Bay while he... does something.

Part of him is irritated that he has to go back
to Gotham now that the weather has finally
gotten reasonably attractive. Most of him
knows he'd be bored, or at least restless.

He always gets into trouble when he's restless.

He ducks his head to hide a smile from the boy
standing not quite far enough away, or possibly
too far. Kon's either feeling self-conscious or
suspicious -- it could honestly be either. Most
of the time, good mood or bad, Kon stands
close enough that they could hold hands, if
they did sort of thing.

"I hear the jet," Kon says.

Robin nods. Bruce isn't late for anything short
of criminal apocalypse. He's honestly not sure
whether even that would be enough to make
Bruce late for... who he *thinks* he's picking up.
He grins at the roof again.


He thinks about telling Kon that he misses the
days when he called him "Rob" or "Robbie."
That really is the sort of statement that requires
more lead-in than they actually have time for
right now, though. He settles for, "mm."

One big hand on his shoulder and... mm. The
other big hand on his *other* shoulder. Kon
sighs, and the small part of the back of his
neck not covered by the cape prickles. "I...
you'd *tell* me if there was something going
on, right?"

Kon deserves to ask that question. They've
spent most of the weekend... *Robin's* spent
most of the weekend fucking with Kon's head,
if he's going to be brutally honest. Not out of
malice, or even amusement. Just because he
doesn't actually *want* to lie to Kon, but
every truth he tells right now, every silent
thing he does with his body...

He knows that it just leads to one question
after another, and not just because every
one of those questions is in Kon's eyes. He
thinks he's significantly more intelligent than
he used to be.

He thinks he used to be a dumbass, in two
deeply distinct ways.

Kon's hands tighten on his shoulders.

"I will," Robin says. "Eventually. I just have
to figure out how."

He hears Kon take a sharp breath, and...
"So that means there *is* something going

Figuring out how is just a part of it. Figuring
out what he'll do *next* is another. Sooner or
later, he'll either have to declare himself some
sort of free agent or... settle down? He's more
than a little conflicted about that prospect. Even

He supposes that makes sense. Jason and Tim
really had been rather... different.

Kon starts rubbing his shoulders, and Robin
knows Kon thinks he's not saying anything
because it's difficult for some *emotional*
reason, as opposed to the problem of phrasing.
And, well, the utter rape of logic.

It feels good, though, and he lets himself lean
into it.

"You know I'll be here, right?"

"Yes," he says, and he should probably have
made that sound a little less... available.

Kon doesn't stop rubbing until *Robin* can
hear the jet. At which point he moves far
enough away to be... close enough to hold

Robin grins at him over his shoulder, and
Kon looks like he wants to say something,
but he winds up just grinning back. The
jet's landing throws out a backwash of air
that sends Robin's cape flying, and Kon
catches one edge and looks like he's seriously
considering trying to fold -- and hold -- it


Kon blinks and shakes himself like a slightly
less terrifying Superdog. "I... yeah. I'll just
head inside before your boss decides to play
target practice with my 'S.'

Robin grins a little wider. "See you next
weekend, Kon."

He waits until Kon's inside again before heading
for the plane.

Bruce starts powering up before he gets his
restraints fully fastened. Robin raises an
eyebrow and waits.

And waits.

And turns to see Bruce pretty much radiating
tension. He thinks he could see it if he flipped
to infrared.

Robin frowns. He really thought he'd settled...
this. Or that Tim had. Whichever. "Bruce...?"

"What... did you do."

The fact that, for a moment, Robin thinks Bruce
is talking about *Kon* is more proof than
anyone could ever need that he really needs a
timeout. A cold shower. A chance to get used
to the fact that he's become a person who
really enjoys sex. He bites the inside of his
cheek to keep from laughing at himself.

"T -- what did you *do*?" There's something
close to honest *panic* in Bruce's voice.

It's not funny anymore. "I didn't have a choice.
Not really."

"Tell me --"

"We... I..." Robin sighs and scrubs a hand back
through his hair, briefly surprised by the lack of
gel until he remembers that he's decided to give
*that* a rest, too. "I'm just one person now."

"Autopilot engage."

"Confirm," Robin says, reflexively, and checks
the instruments.

"Confirmed," Bruce says, but he doesn't let go of
the throttle for several long moments.

"Look at me, Bruce."

Bruce exhales in a long, shuddering, shockingly
*loud* gust. And shoves his cowl back. And looks
at him.

Robin has had five long, strange years, and he
doesn't think he's ever seen Bruce's eyes quite
that wide. He takes his own breath. "I didn't
have a choice," he says, again.

And waits for it to sink in.

Everything Jason had whispered to Bruce that
night. The long, dead time of trying and failing,
again and again, to come back. The way it
finally worked. The only way it could have. And
everything that hadn't needed to be said at all,

Whether or not any of them could have managed
to let him go; Jason would have done anything,
given *everything* to stay.

And he had.



Bruce moves nearly too fast to be seen, but the
result is obvious enough. Bruce had smashed a
dent in the one fist-sized space on the console
clear of important instruments. "What. About
your parents."

"I --"

"What about your *friends*?"

"Bruce --"

"Stop. And think. About what you've done."

Robin bites the inside of his cheek hard. There's
nothing within reach that *he* can safely smash
to shit, after all. And... Bruce has a point. But. "I
didn't have a fucking *choice*."

Bruce looks away briefly, and when he turns
back the smile on his face is sharp enough to
bleed on. "No. *You* didn't."

The stress is unmistakable. Robin narrows his

"The nature of life is the inherent urge to
*protect* it. To fight for it. Self-preservation...

Robin bites his cheek again and gives himself
a five-count. "They *gave* me life."

"And you took it."

"You're acting like I'm not *them*! Like --" Robin
clenches his fists hard. "I'm not. I'm not *either*
of them. Because I'm *both* of them." I'm
better. Stronger. Smarter. I'm *alive*.

Bruce looks away again.

Robin rips off the restraints and stands, dipping
his head just a little more than necessary, just
enough for the hair to fall in his face. "*I'm* still
here, Bruce. And I remember everything."

Including what it's like to watch Bruce shudder
all over. The horror and the power of it.

"Bruce," he says, and rests his hand deliberately
on Bruce's shoulder, close to where the cowl is
still protecting the side of his neck.

"Don't. Do that."

"You think it's a lie. It *isn't*."

When Bruce looks up at him again, his eyes are
clear as lasers. "It's just not the entirety of the

Robin looks right back. "Maybe now you'll get a
chance to *hear* the whole truth. You think
they would've done this if they weren't *ready*?
If they weren't *sure*?"

"Not... Tim."

Robin snorts. "Part of me wants to punch you
for that. And I bet if you tried to guess *which*
part you'd be dead fucking wrong."

Bruce doesn't flinch anywhere but in his eyes.
It's more than enough. Robin grabs Bruce's hand
and pulls it up to his face, tugging on the fingers
until they're out of the fist, until they're splayed
against his cheek.

"What do you see when you look at me, Bruce?"

"An abomination."

Robin lets himself smirk exactly as much as he
wants to. It's not like the answer was a surprise.
"Or maybe a mirror...? What's the matter, Bruce?
Choices don't count unless you're a scared little
boy with bloody knees?"

Bruce's hand tightens *hard* on his face. If he
holds that pressure for much longer than a few
more seconds, Robin will almost certainly

He is *not* going to look away. "There's a *lot*
you don't know about me, Bruce."

After a while, Bruce lets go, and lets his hand
fall back between his knees. "It was never. The
right choice."

Robin blinks. "I. How can you *say* that?"

The smile in Bruce's eyes isn't, entirely, without
humor. "There's a lot you don't know about

And... he doesn't know what to say about that.
The autopilot shifts their course according to
some momentarily obscure change in variables,
and Robin corrects his stance accordingly.

He takes the awareness he has of Bruce
watching him do it as his due.


"There's no going back." It's actually a question.

"There hasn't been since the first time it...
happened." The memory of Steph's sweat on his
tongue isn't one he has room to enjoy right
now. "Every time they tried, it was harder, more
painful. And less effective."

Bruce settles back into his seat, and the shadows
give him an effective cowl again.

Robin knows that move must have been reflexive
for Bruce since before they were all *born*.

"Tell me why," Bruce says.

Tim would explain it detail. Jason would want to
know what the *point* was. And he... "Tim wasn't
attached to himself. Jason was. And if you want
the whys for *that*... you're going to have to
give me some time. Though I have my theories."
Robin resettles his stance again before just giving
up and leaning against the side of his own chair.

"Tim... never wanted to lie to his parents."

"I have fewer compunctions."

"He never wanted to lie to his *friends*, either."

"I don't intend to."

Bruce shifts, and the shadows only hide half his
face now. The question is obvious.

"This isn't Young Justice anymore, Bruce. I'm *not*

It takes a moment -- and Bruce's wintry little
smile -- for him to remember the last conversation
like this any of them had had. Tim.

If he reaches, he can feel it. The rage and
frustration and the way it was the only thing
*Tim* had felt comfortable admitting to. "I'm
better than that now," he says. "And I'm going to
show you."

The smile fades from Bruce's face slowly, leaving
something that might have been unreadable if
he wasn't... who he was. But...

While it's possible -- probable -- that he doesn't
know Bruce as well as he could, he knows him
well enough to know *hope* when he sees it.

And that old, familiar hunger. Nothing to do with
sex, or love, or anything so simple.

Everything to do with the way Bruce needs to
believe in something brighter.

Robin can do that, too.

He smiles a dare at Bruce and slides back into
his seat, refastening the restraints and settling
back after one more check of the instruments.
And one small moment just to run his gauntleted
finger through the rough, uneven curve of the
dent Bruce has left in the console.

Bruce's grunt is entirely noncommittal -- which
is, of course, an answer in itself. Though not an
especially relevant one.

He's Robin.

That is, by far, the most important thing.