A pure addition out of nothingness
by Te
March 10, 2004

Disclaimers: So very much not mine.

Spoilers: Specifically for "A Better World," vaguely for

Summary: Batman has some free time on his hands,
these days.

Ratings Note/Warnings: NC-17. Possible disturbing

Author's Note: I'm playing games with canon again.
In this case: Tim. This isn't the Tim from the comics,
but he isn't entirely his self from the cartoons,
either. Call it a blend.

If this is the sort of thing that bothers you, you
should probably give this a miss.

Title from Rilke (thanks Reilael!):

"...the reality of any joy in the world is indescribable,
only in joy does creation happen (happiness, on the
contrary, is only a promising and interpretable
pattern of things already existing); joy, however, is
a marvelous increasing of what already exists, a pure
addition out of nothingness."

Acknowledgments: Shrift and Weirdness Magnet
made the bunny, and made it grow. They, Livia,
and Jack audienced and gave many helpful


It seemed a small thing, relatively.

A reasonable choice among the many left to him in
this world, in this life. A chance to do some good, and
to, perhaps, remember where he'd once been.

*Who* he'd once been.

He had been given a second chance, perhaps
unintentionally by the others, almost certainly *not*
from... him.

His other.

Though it would be the height of self-delusion to
believe the man had anything quite like *this* in
mind. Which is his problem.

Batman smiles to himself, and steps through into the
Gotham of his memory. It's dark, and dirty, and
thrumming just beneath the skin of its stone with crime
and misery.


The other Lords had been terrifyingly naive --
*childish* -- in their desires to work on an unrepressed
world after all the time and effort they'd put into
remaking their own, but... there was something to it.

A smile in the crack of a dealer's arm -- and he
remembers not to dislocate it *too* badly. He's in the
old suit, and he's using the old ways.

He isn't here to... trespass.

His own Gotham...

It wouldn't matter what suit he wore. Any good he
would do, in any way he would do it, would be
instantly negated by the -- somewhat
understandable -- urge of the populace to tear him
into his component parts.

The days following the Lords' disappearance, the
first tentative news reports...

Well. The chaos has passed, along with everything
Bruce Wayne could do to help abate it. The people
have spoken, and bled, and spoken again. Their
new order is done, and... he isn't sure how he feels
about the relief, or the smallness of it. There is little
he is sure of, really.

He isn't here for self-examination, either.

What he *is* here for... his breath catches in his
throat. Red, and yellow, and green. The flash of a
white-toothed grin as the boy swings far, far too low
over a busy intersection. He'd spent a great deal of
time and effort checking his facts, shifting the views
on the portal until he was sure -- the other is on
Watch tonight.

Nothing short of disaster will bring him back to earth
tonight. Back to Gotham.

He hadn't needed to check anything at all to know
where Robin -- Tim -- would be. To *remember* it,
because it was Wednesday, and while the boy was
admirably careful about the danger in setting
predictable routines, he had always favored the East
side on Wednesdays, for reasons of his own.

He had never asked why. At first, because it seemed
unimportant, and then...

He shakes it off and watches the boy settle on a
warehouse roof overlooking the river. The cape
settles around him perfectly, until the only thing
visible about him is his pale face, and the small
motions as he eats what seems to be an energy bar.
Lunch break.

Batman slips around to the boy's far side and makes
his way to the roof silently and -- he hadn't actually
meant to surprise him. The habit of a lifetime.

Still, there's something to be said for the sight of Tim
not *quite* pausing as he chews the bar, for the
casual shift to allow his other arm freedom for -- it
would be a throw.

Batman smiles to himself and deliberately clears his

*That* makes the boy pause. A careful, thoughtful
one just like any other. "Hey," he says, and moves
to tuck his half-eaten energy bar away.

"Eat. There's no rush." Batman crouches beside him
on the edge of the roof, forcing himself to focus on
scanning the area, even though he knows the boy
would've done it -- and done it well -- himself.

"Mm." Tim finishes the bar quickly, and tucks the
wrapper in the pocket he uses for non-useful detritus.

When he and Batgirl had found the uniform -- what
had been left of it -- there had been two empty
energy bar wrappers, and the perfectly-removed cap
from a soda can. Analysis had shown it to be from a
grape-flavored Zesti.

Batman closes his eyes behind the mask, just for a

"So... should I even ask why you aren't on watch

"No," he says, honestly.

Tim laughs, quiet and brief, and smirks at him.
"Right. Let's hit it."

He thought there would be... difficulty. That he'd
need time to accustom himself to the feel of working
*Gotham* with a partner, or to working with a
partner at all. Being with the Lords had been --
always -- something else entirely. But Tim matches
his rhythms expertly, or perhaps he matches Tim's...
it's difficult to tell.

They'd only been partners for a few years before...
before Arkham, and it has been *more* years since
then, but his body remembers this. The sound of a
second grapple, the way and time to bend so that
Tim could use him as a vault for a kick, the spin that
leaves his back bare and unprotected save for the
brilliant, ruthless, *dedicated* boy behind him.

There is only one thing wrong, and it is himself.

They'd always worked silently, save for whatever
information it had been necessary to share with
words, as opposed to gestures. Warnings, mostly.
Sometimes, Tim would offer commentary on
whatever seemed amusing, but he'd never done
that as often as Dick.

Tim's jokes were often just a dryer form of silence.
Comforting, usually -- before. He understands the
urge to speak within himself, to coax more words
out of the boy. His memories are brief, stark, and
overused. He had not paid enough attention.

And while he'd had time -- so very much time -- to
grieve, being here now, faced with one quiet,
implacable proof of the boy's continued existence
after another...

He is a starving man at a banquet.

Tim lands on the roof of the GBC tower in a crouch.
When he stands, he stretches. A half-conscious
signal that he needs a rest.

Batman remains in his own crouch and watches
Tim rub absently at one shoulder. Not absently
enough. "You were hit?"

"What? Oh, no, not tonight. Just a strain from the

Gang activity close to Tim's own school. He'd
watched Tim make the other boys sincerely regret
shifting their territory. He isn't sure whether the
other knows, or not. Better to assume he does.
Still... "How bad?"

Tim shrugs, and Batman knows the boy wants
him to watch the way his face doesn't wince, so
he focuses on the boy's hands, instead. The
slightest clench of the other fist.

He narrows his eyes. "Take --" Tomorrow off, he
can't say. "An aspirin."

Tim grins ruefully at him. "Can't for another hour."

Batman twitches internally, filled with a sudden,
misplaced loathing for the other. He had, after all,
left the boy on his own precisely as often as the
other does, trusting in him to know his limits and
accede to them.

He watches the boy do slightly more extensive
stretches, no longer bothering to hide the soreness.
After a while, he slips his staff from his belt and
extends it, doing a moderately showy pass before
tucking it back into place and looking at him again.

He has to be in character, enough not to raise
suspicion. He has to -- he shakes his head. "Rest."

Tim stills, and it's as good as a blink. Batman stares
at him, knowing the cowl and his own habits well
enough to know that it will be perceived as a glare,
even by the boy. After a moment, Tim shrugs
again -- carefully -- and crouches.

He eats another energy bar, and Batman forces
himself to turn away. The boy would be accustomed
to watchfulness in the other, but he must not...
push. Already, he has more than he'd ever thought
he could, just in the sound of Tim's steady

"There's a new after-hours place I was going to
check out tonight."


"Well, probably. Mainly I want to check because it's
owned by someone named Darrow -- new player.
He's nowhere in your files."

Yet. Eventually, Nightwing and Robin will be
instrumental in bringing him down on racketeering
charges. Nightwing will wind up with a bullet graze
on the outside of his left thigh. Robin... Tim will add
to his transient collection of bruises.

The other will be helping Superman with one of
those endless, pointless battles with Luthor and his
minions, far, far away.

He forces his face to remain neutral, but he doesn't
trust himself to speak.



"Are you... you seem different, tonight."

It would be foolish to pretend otherwise. "I've been...

Tim snorts and joins him on the edge of the roof.
"I'm shocked, really. Anything I need to know

The unspoken question is the same as it always --
was: 'are you actually going to talk about it this

There is no expectation that he will. He -- the other --
has worn that sort of thing out of the boy. Had done
so years before. But he wants to, this time. So much.

If he keeps staring out into the night, he will
eventually speak despite himself. He looks at the boy,
instead, and...

It's a mistake. Tim's face is clear and free of judgment,
nearly as open as it ever gets, with or without a mask.
He wants to tell Tim about this -- or ask him whether
he knows how affectless he can be, how his truest,
most obvious expressions -- smiles or otherwise -- are
only used when the mask is on.

If he'd ever consciously decided on what his Tim-voice
should be, or if it *was* the real one. The boy had
moved so easily into this life, more naturally than
either of the others. He wanted to tell Tim how it
used to give him pause, the sort of hesitation he had
never allowed himself to dwell on, because every
moment's thought about how dangerous this life could
be for the boy, body and soul, was another reason to
push him *out* of it.

To protect him, if only from himself.

There are so *many* questions he can ask, but the
only important one is both foolish and utterly

Why did you kill yourself, he doesn't say, and strokes
the boy's face.


The Joker was locked away, deeper than they'd ever
managed before. Leslie had said you were safe to
leave the hospital. You were *free* of us, of *all* of
it, and Batman hears himself groan from somewhere
behind his own prickling skin and feels himself move,
and Tim's mouth has the blandly sweet and artificial
taste of the energy bars, but his lips are soft.

Batman slides his hand into Tim's hair and tilts the
boy's head up and back, deepening the kiss and
swallowing the first breathless, shocky sounds. He
tightens his grip in the boy's hair and coaxes his
tongue into his own mouth and sucks. The sounds
are better now, more sure, and Tim's hands land on
his biceps lightly and carefully.

Settle there and squeeze, once, and Batman lets the
boy pull out of the kiss. Batman has only ever heard
the boy gasp in pain, before.

He waits.

"Oh. I..." He watches Tim bite his lip in a moment of
viciously endearing frustration, and has to remind
himself not to pull harder on his hair.

"It's all right," he says.

"All right. All right? I -- Jesus, Bruce. Is *this* what
you were thinking about?"

"Yes," he lies, and presses his other hand beneath
Tim's chin.

"I..." Tim swallows, and his composure is clearly

Batman strokes a soothing path over the boy's chin,
and the small stretch of throat left exposed by cape
and collar. He'd always meant to design something
better, something *safer*, but even through his
gauntlet there is a smooth tautness to the skin that
makes him hunger.

And hunger more when Tim tilts his head back
slowly, offering.

It would be so very easy to open a portal remotely,
to -- no. He's only visiting. He's --



With his hand here, he can *feel* the boy swallow.
"I never thought you would."

Batman blinks, behind his mask. "I... tried not to be
obvious." Even to myself.

Tim grins, face tilted up to the sky. "I *am* a

So *easy*, and the people didn't hate *Robin*, had
no *reason* to hate him, Tim could -- he growls at
himself and buries the mindless, greedy hunger in a
bite. Tim jerks and stills, tensing, and --

"Oh," he says. "Oh..." and this one is more of a
moan. Tim relaxes into his touch and arches his
head back further. It must be painful now, though
perhaps less so than Batman's teeth.

He can't leave marks. He wants to --

Batman forces himself to switch to sucking kisses,
and Tim reaches between them and unhooks the
cape, opens his collar and slides his hands over the
cowl, fingers digging in for purchase.

Batman -- he designed Robin's uniform, and while
the boy had made additions and alterations of his
own, the basics remain the same. The boy's skin is
hot and faintly damp beneath the tunic, even through
the t-shirt.

"Oh," he says again, and presses against Batman's
searching hand. Batman kisses him one more time,
on the thin skin beneath the boy's ear, and pulls back.
The roof of the tower is flat, the wind strong enough
up here to clear away most of the grit. He lowers
Tim down, pushing his head down against the tangled
fall of his own cape, and works on the boy's uniform

Opens the tunic, pushing it wide over Tim's chest
and sliding the shirt up.

"Bruce, *yes* --" Broken with a bitten-off moan
when Batman licks the boy's nipples. They were
already hard, and they get even harder beneath his
tongue, reddened peaks of flesh that Batman has to

Tim clutches at the cowl again, slipping on the
material and whining high in his throat.

Too much.

Batman pulls back long enough to push back the
cowl, *flexing* at the boy's gasp, and then those
hands are in his hair, stroking it and mussing it, and
Batman leans in again and licks the boy's chest.

Not as thoroughly as he would like, but... it's not
the time. He catches one of Tim's wrists and presses
it back against the roof --

"*Bruce* --"

And kisses the boy's armpit wetly, getting a laughing
gasp and tasting deodorant. Not what he wants. He
lets go and crawls down Tim's body, shoving his
tongue into the boy's navel, and the sound this time
is a strangled, half-desperate groan. And he can
smell the boy's arousal.

He curls his fingers into the waistband of Tim's tights,
and Tim lifts his hips immediately. Trusting,
wanting -- he could have *had* this, and he never
did. He never --

He can have it now. He *will* have it now.

He cups his hand over the boy's jock and squeezes,
and Tim whimpers and shakes his head. It isn't a no.
Tim covers Batman's hand with his own and presses
 harder, curls his fingers around Batman's hand --

"Please, Bruce, please make me come --"

It's a gift, another one. Easier to take than the boy's
reflexive trust of this cape and cowl, this face and

The other hasn't done this. The *other* has never
heard Tim moan like this. This belongs to him, the
way nothing else in *this* world ever could. Batman
pulls down the jock and hides the savagery of his
smile in the shallow bowl of the boy's hip.

The hands in his hair are gauntleted, but clever just
the same, tugging and stroking and petting him
without reserve or hesitation. *Robin*.

He swallows the boy down, and feels himself clench
at the sound of his open scream. The boy shifts,
slightly, and the next scream is muffled. Batman
looks up around his mouthful and watches Tim bite
his own fist. Of course he would remember care
and control, even in this.

Good soldier.

Batman cups the boy's hips and pulls back enough
to suck hard on the head, to taste him, sweat and
pre-come and raw, unapologetic maleness.

The shouts are louder now, even with the boy's fist
in his mouth, and Batman wraps his hand around
the base of the boy's dick and focuses his attentions
on the head, sucking and licking. Kissing as hard as
he wishes to, harder than he'd let himself kiss the
boy's mouth.

Lips bruise and swell obviously.

Tim's free hand tightens in his hair, then spasms.

Batman understands, and tongues harder at the slit
until Tim shouts again and comes in his mouth, his
body a lean, tensed bow. Batman swallows and licks
until the boy whimpers, and then pulls off, setting
him down against the roof and stroking his thighs to
soothe him.

And then simply stroking him, peeling off his own
gauntlets with his teeth to better feel him, all of
him. Smooth, faintly damp skin and the smoother
fabric of the uniform. Tim slips his fist out of his
mouth and watches him, shifting to allow Batman
better access to his ribs, the insides of his thighs,
his pectorals and throat.

His mouth is swollen despite Batman's best efforts
to the contrary, and Batman has to force himself
not to see the fact as permission. He will not make
it worse.

He strokes the boy's cheeks and kisses him as
gently as he is able, and Tim licks the taste of
himself out of Batman's mouth and makes a soft,
satisfied sound.

Batman pulls back and straightens the boy's hair.

"Bruce... I want... can I..." Tim shakes his head
and smiles secretively, quietly.

He's mocking himself. Batman brushes another
lock of hair off the boy's forehead and Tim looks
at him steadily.

And raises and spreads his knees, planting his feet.


"I want you to," he says, after a moment.

It takes him outside of himself, and forces him to
see it, everything. A rooftop, a man, a boy. The boy
is still mostly dressed, but no one could ever doubt
what he'd been doing. The man is entirely dressed,
save for the bare hands he can't seem to remove
from the boy's body.

Not even for a moment.

It shouldn't seem so beautiful.

He slips his free hand back between Tim's thighs,
cupping his face with the other in case he should
try to turn away.

Tim doesn't. Looks at him steadily, and only tilts his
chin up a little when Batman cups his sac.

"I used to wonder," Tim breathes. "What I was to
you. Why you... you never opened up to me, even
though I was your partner..." He slips his hand
down around Bruce's own, and squeezes.

Gasps when Batman squeezes, too.

"Oh... I get it, Bruce. It's... it's scary." Tim swallows
and pets Batman's knuckles, and watches him
steadily. The mask doesn't dull or diffuse the
intensity of the boy's gaze.

It never could.

"I trust you," Tim says, calmly and easily.

I'm not the one, he doesn't say. Because... because
*shouldn't* he be? He knows now, understands so
much more than the other does. Than the other
*can*. He knows precisely what he has in this boy,
even if it's only here, exposed to a Gotham that
doesn't deserve... anything.

Batman releases Tim's sac and guides their hands
down, together. Presses Tim's fingers against his
own hole and watches the boy's forehead crumple, his
lips part.

"Beautiful," he says, and Tim moans, low and quiet,
and spreads his thighs even further, arching up into
his own touch.

Tim slips his middle finger in, and whimpers. Too

"What --"

"Have to use my other arm, just..."

The shoulder. He'd forgotten. Inexcusable. He lifts
Tim so that he can remove the boy's t-shirt entirely.
The bruising is only nominally severe, but extensive.
Batman sets his hand flat and gently rubs the blood
back into it.

"Hey, now, don't get distracted..."


Tim laughs and strokes Batman's arm, his chest.
Pushes against Batman's hold to sit up enough to
reach down and cup him through the suit. "Then...
do that later. Do *me* now."

Batman raises an eyebrow at the boy. "You're...

"Sometimes. You know that."

"I'd forgotten."

Tim frowns. "You're... busy with the League," he
says, and doesn't quite look at him.

*He* is. He... was. Batman cups the boy's chin and
tilts his face back up. Tim's expression has smoothed
to blankness and patience. The decision is made.
"I'm going to find you. More often." *Every* time
the other is safely away.

Tim smirks at him. "That's a threat."

Batman slides his hand back between the boy's legs
and presses up hard behind his balls. "Yes. It is."

Tim's growl is quiet and serious. "Good. That's --

He wants, very badly, to watch the boy fingering
himself, but his control is eroding far too rapidly
for that. Another time, he tells himself, and it makes
his heart pound, painfully. Joy is just another
exercise, another way to hurt yourself if too much
is given after too long.

"Bruce..." the boy says as Batman lays him back
down. "Oh," when Bruce lifts his legs over his own

The taste of him is dark, powerful. Obvious in a
way very little is on the boy. Tim doesn't *allow*
himself obviousness, and taking this from him is
an intimacy beyond the act itself.

You're giving me your *pleasure*, he doesn't say,
because it's obvious, and because he isn't sure
whether he'd be able to keep it from coming out
an accusation. Partners. They are... *partners*.

And no team, no matter how well-meaning, no
matter how competent, could ever come close to
the importance of a true partnership. How had he
ever forgotten?

Tim's thighs tighten around him, and his heels
drum on Batman's back through the suit. The boy's
fist is back in his mouth, and the scent of arousal
deepens and sharpens again.

Tim had taken the oath, freely and solemnly.

Tim had given him this *years* before, and it was
only his own distraction and stupidity that kept
him from realizing what he truly had in this fine,
dangerous, beautiful boy. He will rectify the
situation. He will --

"Oh please, Bruce, *please* --"

"Yes," he growls against the flex of the boy's muscle,
and holds him through the trembling until Tim has
control again. The lubricant is a new design, but he'd
put it in the old bottle. He doesn't think Tim is familiar
enough with the feel of it on his own skin for it to
make a difference.

And Tim is... distracted.

Flushed and shifting, moving, neither quite writhing
nor closing his thighs. He is comfortable with his
exposure to Batman's eyes. This is for *him*.

Batman swallows a gasp and forces himself to be
careful, though he knows neither the boy nor his
own needs will allow him slow.

"Harder. *More*."

He gives the boy two fingers and slows down
*anyway*, just to -- yes. Another growl, and Tim
keeps his feet planted and thrusts up and back onto
him, forcing him deeper, forcing him *faster* --

"I like it. I -- *Bruce* --"

He crooks his fingers on every back-thrust, and
the boy is hard again, erect and leaking on his
own abdomen, fingers curled against the surface of
the roof and. Batman can't wait, any longer.

He releases the panel on the groin guard and
pushes down his own jock. Tim's face is avid,
expressive and *focused*. Watching him as he
slicks himself, and there's a shocking, sudden
temptation to spend himself like this, all over the
boy's body. More than the pleasure of his own
bare hand; it's another thing he *wants*.

Another thing he could have.

"Later," the boy says. "Tomorrow. Or the Cave.
Or -- just fuck me now, Bruce. Or... God, you're
so *sexy*."

And Tim frowns and slips his good hand between
his own legs, slips his fingers *in* and watches
Batman stroke himself.

"Do it. Do me -- oh, your *face*..."

He doesn't know what he's showing, and there's
a reflex to repress it, whatever it may be. But he
owes the boy his own honesty. His *hunger*.

And the way Tim's looking at him...

Batman feels himself breathing raggedly, *hears*
himself, and growls and bats the boy's hand away
from himself and guides himself *in*, one long,
hard *push* that makes Tim whimper and jerk
beneath him.

"Legs up," he says, and the boy doesn't hesitate,
despite the fact that he's obviously still trying to
accustom himself to Batman being inside him. He
wraps his legs around Batman's waist, flexes and
*pulls*, holding him deep.

"*Oh* --"

Batman strokes the boy's chest and throat and
rocks, slowly. Not a thrust, not yet, and the boy
whimpers every time, whimpers and *squeezes*
him, and he can't --

He leans in, bracing his hands on the roof on
either side of Tim's head, and Tim grabs his hair
and arches up and in, kissing him and... moving.

"Not yet, not --"

Tim kisses him again, gasps against Batman's
mouth, and takes a slow, deliberate breath.
"Now," he says, and lets himself fall back against
the roof, smiling lazily and pumping his hips up
against Batman's own.

So beautiful. So strong and faithful and *alive*,
and Batman stops trying to hold back. It would be
another lie, and he will be as honest as he can be.
The boy strokes his naked cheek with his gauntlet
and Batman turns and kisses the palm and rides
him, fills him and uses him and gives him everything
he has.

"Bruce, *yes*."

It feels like another order, and Batman listens,
thrusts harder and faster until he's *moving* the
boy, but the roof is no place for that.

He pauses long enough to roll them over, and Tim
groans and sinks down on him, scratching at the
chest of Batman's suit and gritting his teeth.

Batman reaches up to stroke his hair, his face and
throat and everything he can reach, and Tim meets
his eyes and rises up on his knees.

And rides *him*, faster and harder with every
move, and Batman catches his rhythm and lets
himself groan.

Again when the boy cries out and spills pre-come
between them.

"Oh, Bruce. Oh, Bruce, it's so *good*..."

There is no denying that. He wraps his hands
around the boy's hips and forces himself not to
guide him. It's enough to feel Tim moving on his
own, to watch the roll and flex of muscle, to feel
it beneath his palms.

The motions become ragged soon enough, though,
and Tim's sounds are both frustrated and heartfelt.
"I can't. I -- ah -- *please*, Bruce, help me --"

He hears himself moan and it's irrelevant,
meaningless beyond the need to squeeze the
boy's hips (too hard, don't mark him, don't --) and
*move* him, to feel Tim tensing and relaxing in his
grip every time Batman pulls him onto himself.

Tim covers one of Batman's hands with his own and
wraps his other around himself. And strokes himself
hard and fast while he stares down at Batman, lips
bitten and frozen into a fierce snarl.

It's too much, and Batman can feel orgasm building
in him, rolling through him, forcing him to be brutal,
and when Tim's mouth falls open on a shout,
Batman comes, deep inside the boy's body.

And then pulls him down *hard*, and holds him

Tim is silent save for the gasps, and the way a few
of them randomly catch on a low note in his chest.

Batman watches, and listens, and feels something
small and terrifyingly important within him stretch
and *snap* when the boy throws his head back and
groans, coming all over the chest of Batman's suit.

Tim stays in that position for a long stretch of time,
breathing hard and tensing, relaxing. He's testing
himself, checking himself over with silent, reflexive
efficiency. Batman lies still and enjoys the sight of


Eventually, Tim rolls his head on his neck, right and
left, and then hums, low and probably mostly to
himself, and pauses, just for a moment, before
looking down at Batman with a searching sort of

"We're not done," Tim says.

Batman raises an eyebrow.

"I mean, tonight I have to get some *sleep*, but..."

"Tomorrow," he says, and *then* tries to remember
the timeline he's so thoroughly wrecking. It would
be... not watch, but... ah. Aresia is going to break
out of prison.

Tim nods at him, and Batman can feel the boy
smiling behind the mask.

Aresia is going to get out if he has to *help* the
woman. Batman reaches up and traces the edges
of the boy's mask with his fingers. The choices
have been made. There are reasons he could use,
things he could tell himself about the boy's safety,
about the timeline not being *worth* saving,

He doesn't need to lie. Not to himself.

Tim catches his hand, and presses it over his own
mouth. Batman feels the boy smile, and feels him
stop before he pushes Batman's hand away

"Have to -- ohh." He stands, swaying a little on
his feet. "Have to do *that* slower."

Batman smiles at him, helplessly, and forces
himself to dress. And not to hinder the boy in his
*own* dressing.

"Are you heading back home, or..."

Home. *Alfred*, and -- for a long, terrifying
moment, he knows he looks precisely as stricken
as he feels, but Tim never looks up from
fastening the catches of his tunic.

Saved by his own well-earned reputation of
neglect. He doesn't actually think it will last. Tim
is a detective.

"I have to get back to the Tower, tonight," he

Tim nods, half-absently. "Then I'll see you when
I get back from school." The smile this time is
professional and faintly distant.

Tim is a detective, and... Batman kisses the wrong,
terrible smile off the boy's face with thorough care,
and presses his re-gauntleted thumb to the boy's
lower lip. Kisses him harder, and chooses to believe
it will make a difference when the time comes. "Yes,"
he says. "You'll see me."

He leaps from the roof, enjoying the feel of the
boy's gaze on his back until he slips around a
building, another. Deeper into this black memory of

He pauses to break the jaw of a gunman running
from a liquor store. He places a fading, perhaps
dying junkie under the first functional streetlight
he finds. And calls 911 for good measure.

He opens a portal, and walks into the silence of
his Cave. There is a lot of dust, and a lot of work
to be done, but... Batman walks to the cases
instead, and stares into the blankness of the
mannequins behind the empty masks.

He asks them to understand.