As well as once green
by Te
August 15, 2005

Disclaimers: So very much not mine.

Spoilers: Current comicsverse, older toonverse. For the
latter, especially RotJ.

Summary: He isn't there to start anything.

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content, as well as content
some readers may find disturbing.

Author's Note: Another in what I'm calling, for now, the
Red and the Black series. Won't make any sense
whatsoever without the others.

Happy early birthday, Jason! Er.

Acknowledgments: To Jam, Petra, and Mary for audiencing,
encouragement, and helpful suggestions.

Tim wakes up with a dead man.

He does it pretty much every afternoon, though there are
times when Jason (comes back) wakes up first. He's tried
to figure out a way to see it coming, to *predict* the way
he'd pretty much gotten to the point where he could call
the day when Bruce's (or Matches') latest romance was
gonna crash and burn and they'd go back to being able to
screw in his office and stuff, but...

This is different. This is random.

Bruce had... patterns. Alfred called them pathologies, but
mostly he was joking. Mostly.

Jason is just the dead guy in the big bed.

Once or twice he's done stuff like put some of his eyeliner
on him -- if he wanted to, Jason could be flat-out pretty,
even all bulked-out like he is. Tim's never especially
shocked about the way he wears two masks as often as
he wears one -- while he was... just gone.

Sometimes lipstick.

It's... he'd done it with Bruce, too ("Really, Master Tim, is
'Electric Peacock Sizzle' truly Master Bruce's color?"), and
it's the kind of thing he's pretty sure Jason would think
he'd need to talk about, but it's not one of *those* things.

He's not mad at Bruce as often as Jason is. He's --

He isn't.

And Tim can never leave the makeup on too long, because
it doesn't matter that he's pretty sure it would be one of
those things which makes Jason... relax, around him. It's
just not the same.

He's breathing, but it's too slow.

He's warm, but he's not warm enough.

Jason doesn't dream.

And it's... he isn't sure (why it gets under his skin, why it
pisses him off, why it's so fucking scary, so --)

Tim squeezes his eyes shut and doesn't stop himself from
crawling on top of the not-corpse. (One day, he might not
come back.)

"I just want you to know," he says, in a normal voice, "that
I'm fully aware that you might actually need to be this
fucking creepy in order to recharge."


He's used to it. Tim digs in with his knees and ragged (so
fucking quiet, so fucking QUIET) fingernails, dragging them
down the still perfect lines of Jason's chest -- wait.

He leans over a little more, and yanks on the ear that's got
a notch in it.

"Come. The fuck. Back."



Nothing, and see, if he was panicking it would be different,
it would be walls and walls and white and Leslie watching
not Bruce not ever Bruce again --

"*Red* --"

One big hand around his wrist and the other around his
throat and he really should've pissed first. Now it's gonna
be -- heh -- hard.

And difficult, even. Tim stills, all over, and then slowly and
deliberately forces himself to relax until the not-dead-at-all
focus all over Jason's jaw and in the muscles of his neck
calms the fuck down.

"Shit," he says. And *then* he releases Tim's neck. "How

He always asks. The answer is always the same. "Too."

Jason nods and uses the hand that's not still wrapped
around Tim's wrist to scrub at his face, pausing for just a
second at the mask.

He hadn't meant to sleep in it. Interesting.

"What do you need?"

Make me think you're still here.

Jason drops his hand and looks at him.

Tim raises his eyebrows and misses his own smile. A little.
"What do I always need?"


They're back on the docks tonight, which suits Tim just
fine. Here, at this time of night, he doesn't have to...

There are fewer targets he's supposed to miss.

Most of the city -- the world -- has become a big and
smelly version of the obstacle courses Bruce used to have
him run, all pop-up Jokers (so *quiet*) and pop-up armed
robbers and pop-up women-with-babies. It's designed for
control, for "safety."

Bruce had to know he could let Tim out safely, that the
adrenaline wouldn't make him hurt someone innocent.

Just like innocence meant something when you were
running around somewhere you had no business.

It used to make sense -- he knows this, inside -- but it
doesn't, anymore.

He knows it could, again. He knows Jason *wants* it to,
needs it to, but there are a lot of things Jason just doesn't
really... get.

Hand on his wrist -- his *knife*-wrist, and Tim throws an
elbow --


Ah. Jason.

Tim stops and kind of... he doesn't have words for it.
There's the world, and there's him, and sometimes it just
kind of *takes* a minute.

Jason has one arm hooked through his elbow, forcing Tim
to keep his arm bent behind his own back. The other is on
his wrist. His breath is hot and alive and normal on Tim's
neck and smells like Tim's coffee. (He can't drink coffee
anymore. He can't eat a lot of things anymore. He likes
water just fine. And sugar. And meat, even when it makes
him puke.)

The body on the ground used to be someone with... yes.
There's a nice fat bankroll that's about to get soaked in
the pool of blood. Arterial gushes are inconvenient.

He'd managed to avoid getting it all over himself this time,
though. Which is... it is.

"Why are we stopping?"

Jason doesn't say anything, just squeezes with the bicep
pressed to Tim's arm and the big, hard (not as big as
Bruce's) hand looped around Tim's wrist.

It's not an answer.

He looks around and things are... sirens in the distance.
A nice, neat pile of product for Jason to burn over there.
He doesn't remember doing that.

There's a lot he doesn't really remember, until he *does*,
and then it's mostly kind of fucked-up and Jason-scaring.

"Black," Jason says, finally, and it's the new voice. The
one that comes out feeling like a command, because it's
exactly --


-- because --

Tim shoves back with his hips before he can think about
it, knowing that (it makes Bruce growl) the armor Jason's
got in his pants will make it more painful than anything
else and struggles to get his hands free.

He can't.

He --

Jason's really *good* at moving him, shoving and twisting
and pushing until Tim's right where Jason wants him. Too
good, like maybe someone had drugged Tim again when
he wasn't paying attention, like this is just a dream he'll
wake up from and be right back in Arkham --

"*Black*," Jason says again and it's not enough until Tim
can catch Jason's jaw in his teeth and bite down.

And then he's there, right there, and there's a sweaty kind
of breath-and-coffee funk this close, because it's been less
than a minute since Jason took the hood off, and it's so
hot, it's so fucking *warm* --

"Jesus -- fucking don't draw *my* blood you little
psycho --"

Tim bites harder and gets his head bounced off the wall --
lightly -- and then Jason's hands are on his ass, hauling
him up and *close* even though he doesn't have his pants
open yet. It's more about keeping Tim off-balance enough
to be safe than anything else.

Jason never seems to like it when he fights.

Not in that way.

Just -- in the others.

The bite on the neck is standard, making Tim love and hate
the suit Jason has him in, making him tilt his own head
back further, give it up, give --

("So beautiful, Tim...")

-- making him *buck* and moan and have to work to keep
his thighs locked around Jason's waist, because they want
to just fan the fuck *open*, and --

Jason knows it. Jason feels it, Jason squeezes his ass and
kisses him and kisses him and kisses him for so long that
Tim has to decide whether to breathe through his nose or
not, and has to get his hands off Jason's face into his
hair --

And get his tongue *sucked*.

Jason likes to kiss.

Jason -- he likes to *be* kissed, because the hands on his
ass are kind of --

'Perfunctory' is the word which comes to mind, but it's just
a word. It only feels right because it has enough syllables
to seem as complicated (almost) as this is. Jason wants to
run his hands up Tim's back. If they were horizontal, Tim
would've been flipped on top of Jason by now, instead of

Jason likes to be *touched*, and he makes so much
damned *noise* sometimes.

It's not that Tim doesn't understand getting hot on patrol,
and even why Jason prefers *not* to wait until they get
home. They're not *his* reasons, but there are reasons.

Tim gets liking to have things cut off from other things
that don't belong messed up in it, and he likes it that
Jason doesn't call him anything but 'Black' when they're

("Really, Master Tim, if you persist in this rambunctiousness,
your peas will be hopelessly corrupted by their contact with
the roast.")

What he *doesn't* get is why Jason could like it like this
when he's the same fucking guy who throws a fucking fit
when he needs to use a flashlight and, like, punches Tim
in the gut if he talks too much when they're ("It's part of
the *fun*, Clark.") doing their stalking thing.

But Jason groans when Tim kisses him back, and growls
in his ear and sometimes slaps Tim on the *ass* before
he pushes in, and that's...

It's *hot*, it gets him so wound up, so fucking *close*,
but it's also fucking loud.

It makes the kissing easier, even though Bruce never
really did it like this, or as much, and it's only a few
minutes before Jason is shoving him back and away
again, setting him down and getting them naked
*enough*, and --

"*Fuck*, Black, just -- just fucking *keep* slicking yourself
up before patrol, you fucking freak --"

"Fuck me --" Some things *are* still pretty predictable,

"*Yeah* --"

And his legs are up again and Jason's dick is hot *enough*,
so hard and *thick*, and he hears himself making sounds
like ("Um, Mr. J? I think that might be *enough* volts for
the kid --")

And Jason is good, so *good*, because Tim only has to
yank on his arm once before he's got his hand around
Tim's throat, before he's fucking Tim and choking him
and Tim slides his gauntlet over Jason's and holds it

Just in case.


He has a list, in his head, of questions to ask the next
time he gets tired of Jason thinking and brooding and
*thinking* about his stupid fucking master plan enough
to want to play.

Or just when he wants to convince Jason that they
should play a little more in the bases.

One -- why, exactly, did you think it was a great fucking
plan to dress me like Nightwing on a bad day?

Two -- where do you go when you're not-alive?

Three -- why did you get to come back?

Four -- if I call you 'Bruce,' will you hurt me? More
importantly, will you *stop*?

Five -- did you get pissed at Bruce before or *after* you
stopped fucking?

There are others, but those are the big ones.

Jason is scanning the whorehouse -- brothels are usually
too well-run to need their attention, and a lot of things
are still just the same -- with his binoculars and tapping
out a beat to a song Tim liked when he was nine on the

Tim pulls the Bowie -- using his hand to hide the flash --
and --

Jason punches his arm just hard enough to numb it a

Not enough to make him drop it.

"I wasn't planning on stabbing you."

"No. You were *planning* to play fucking mumbledy-peg
with my fingers. *Again*, and that shit doesn't fly when
we're out here."

He's so close to reminding Tim that this isn't a game that
Tim can taste it.

But he won't, because they already had that...

Tim plays with his own fingers instead, and thinks about
the cut under his eye that's almost healed into a scar --
it's just more comfortable to hold his face in half-a-smirk
most of the time -- and the fact that if he evens things

He could make Jason do it for him.

Orchestrating it as an accident might be hard -- Jason
knows too much, and Jason *knows* too much -- but
Jason has these little *quirks*.

He likes to cook things Tim will eat, and there's this kind
of smog-of-victory that comes off him when Tim doesn't
puke *or* get the fucking runs.

He doesn't like to let Tim sleep by himself, even though
Jason's just as likely to go not-quite-dead on him as he is
to sleep *himself*.

He likes to patch Tim up, even when it's something he
can do just as well, himself.

He doesn't like it --

The punch is right on time and right on-target, knocking
him back onto the roof hard enough to knock the breath
out of him, but *not* hard enough to make the knife
clatter too much.

Tim retrieves it and slashes it between them, just to make
Jason pause before coming after him.

"I should take that *back*."

He doesn't mean it. He likes it that it's Tim's knife now.

"I should fucking *let* you carve yourself up, you stupid

He does mean that, a little. "Why don't you?"

"Black," he says. Like it's an answer. Like -- ("Robin.") It's
an answer.

"Is this where I remind you that you're fucking -- hnn
ha -- dead to the world three days out of five?"

"Is this where I remind *you* that I know you, asshole?
You wouldn't off yourself where it wouldn't hurt
somebody else. You're too fucked up for that."

"Hnnnn. Okay. Point." Tim sheathes the knife and leans up
on his elbows. "I just. I want a smile. Again."

"Black --"

Tim lets his face *go*, just for a second, just to fucking --

"Oh -- Christ -- *Black* --"

And then he controls it again. Nice and easy. Nice and
slow. There's a trick to this, just like there is to everything
else. If you hold onto the grapple too tight you'll fuck your
shoulder to hell. If you try to get your face back to normal
too fast, you'll lose a little time and a little more self, even
though it's so quiet, so very fucking quiet now with no one
to tell him what a good (bad) boy he is, anymore.

"Shit. Okay. I get it."

Tim licks his lips, wondering how messed up his lipstick is
now -- Harley really did have the best. She made it
herself -- and raises his eyebrows nice and high. "Do

Jason is covering his face -- the hood, which is covering
the mask which is covering his face -- with his gauntlet. "I
*get* it."

"Then you'll let me?"

Jason's fists clench -- both of them.

It makes him look like he's midway through punching
himself in the head. Laughing now would be a bad idea.
Even a little one.

"I could *get* you a fucking plastic surgeon, Black. You
know that."

"I don't --"

"You weren't even going to use a fucking *mirror*,
asshole. You *know* how easy it is to fuck things up. You
could make the whole right side of your face go dead,
and you'd never -- you'd never have a goddamned

He thinks about pointing out that he is, actually, better
with a knife than anyone they know. Even the ones you
*don't* throw. But. He waits, instead.

It makes him prickle all over and it makes every healing
wound on him start to burn and it makes him feel like he'll
look over and find his wrists shackled down and his tights
so ripped and dirty that they don't even look red
anymore --

Tim bites his lip. He doesn't laugh.

"When we get home."


"I promise."

("I promise you.")


The cowl isn't a cowl so much as a really *broad* tie-on,
designed more to let his cheeks heal than to be

Still, it works.

It makes him feel less like Nightwing, especially since the
tie is long enough in the back to be completely fucking
impractical, *and* looks nothing like the mullet he used
to sport.

"You look like a goddamned pirate or... something."

'Or something' means that the Bruce in this world has a
little Zorro shrine somewhere, too. He wonders if Bruce
ever fucked Jason there.

Maybe it was more like 'making love.'

Tim touches his face, stroking over his covered forehead,
his mouth, his chin --


-- his cheeks. They're sore, even beyond the healing cuts.

Jason had cut him, and stitched him, and then stared at
him critically like he was trying to decide (if the suit really
fit, if it was *really* time to let Tim wear it, and he's not
going to be a kid about it if Bruce makes him take it off
again, he has to follow the rules, because Bruce's rules
are right and they're Batman's --)

And then he'd slashed open the other wound and
re-stitched that. He's been smiling for... for hours,

Even when he was asleep.

Jason jabs the back of his neck lightly. "Hey."

"I... give me a mirror."

Jason takes a breath that's much too loud and walks

When he comes back, he doesn't wait -- just grabs one
of Tim's hands away from his face and slaps the handle
against his palm.

It's one of those weirdly huge mirrors you get from drug
stores, all extravagant curves to make you forget that it's
just cheap plastic and...

And it takes a moment, just like it did when he first put
on the Blackbird suit and couldn't see anything but
someone Dick would never be. Someone Dick would
hate so *much* --

It takes a moment, but he's right there. He used to look
like this every day, almost. Not when he was suited up,
but when he was going to... to school, or something. Or
when he was smiling for Sarah at Bruce's office. The
quiet smile.

He bares his teeth.


He smiles.


These are the things he wants to say to Jason but can't:

"I hate it when you hug me, because you're too cold and
you're not big enough and it always lasts too damned

"I like having sex in beds sometimes."

"The hood makes you look like half a dildo. Worse, it
makes me think you might try to stop me from killing the
Joker, because you should've done it before and you

"You think it makes it better that you get off on being
scared of me, but I know you were never scared of

"It makes no fucking sense to only kill the bad guys.
Killing is killing. It's all the same."

"If you beat me up more often, I probably would behave

"Please don't leave me."

All of them run through his head all the time, less because
he can't figure out when -- or how -- to say them than
because it's so quiet.

All the time.

Jason snores in his sleep -- it *is* sleep, this time, even
though there are no dreams.

It's still not enough.


He's pretty much thoroughly fucked his ability to go out
in daylight, at least for the weeks until the scars heal.

He still *wants* to, it's just that he hadn't really...

It's also not enough that he knows that it's never any
good out there, especially in the daylight.

If it's not washed-out, it's too fucking bright, and he
can't really pretend anymore that it's just something he
needs to get used to, again.

He burns fast, and the headaches are --

They're not a replacement for the noise.

And the daytime is full of targets he's not supposed to

He catches himself pacing the base, working around the
neat piles of weapons, the computer desks, everything

He catches himself but he can't stop.

His muscles are twitching itching flexing to move, and the
knives are right there, and the hoodarangs are right there,
and it's entirely possible that if he draws a big smile on
the damned hood Jason will either leave it right there or
punch him so hard Tim has to fight back and they'll wreck
the place and there'll be broken glass in his back, in his
skin, in his *back* when Jason shoves him down, and
Jason will say his name over and over and over again
and then it'll be okay when he hugs Tim too long and
he's *itching* --


That's not an itch.

He keeps moving, on reflex. The Bowie is taped to his
back for the day, and there are a lot of guns right fucking
there and --

There. The shadow over the skylight moves, just enough.
No cape, and... it seemed small.

Jason did say there was a Batgirl in this world. He moves
closer to the bed, figuring a hoodarang to the shin will
wake Jason up if it *has* to happen, and --

There's a knock. On the door.

"What the -- fuck?"

No hoodarang needed. "We have a visitor."

"Yeah, no fucking --"

"He or she was watching us from the roof a minute ago."

Jason pauses on one elbow and raises an eyebrow behind
the domino. He'd slept in it again. "You don't say."

Tim bares his teeth. "I do say."

Another knock.

Jason slips out of bed and pulls on pants, then straps on a
thigh holster. He jerks his head toward the door.

Tim considers, for a moment, putting on something
more than his (black) boxer briefs, but that make it harder
to get to his knife.

He opens the door and --

"I was told I had a double. I didn't expect... this."

-- pulls the knife. There's a part of him which can hear the
click of the safety being taken off Jason's gun, but mostly
there's the sunlight, enough of it even though the entrance
is in an alley that the...

That the *other* is backlit enough to make him squint.

But not enough that he can't see him.

He's not squinting in the sun at all.

"I'd say something about how I'm not armed, but we all
know that's not the point."

"Let him in, Black."

Tim doesn't twitch. The other is... looking at him. And he
can feel Red *not* looking at him. He can feel Red
("Fucking *trust* me, okay?") expecting that he won't just
start this, thinking that it doesn't *have* to happen --

"I'm not here to start... anything," the other says.


Tim walks backward, and the other takes a step forward
for every one of his, closing the door -- gently -- behind
him. His walk is steady, cautious (Bruce) and his hands
swing at his sides in a way designed to make people who
weren't them think it was casual. (Bruce) Nothing.

His hands are scarred and gnarled and right.

He's --

"Would you... take off the mask?"

He's looking at Jason.

This is where he shifts so Jason can flank. He is. It's just
that it takes him a moment that he knows (both) Jason
can feel. And he can hear Jason ripping off the domino.

And the other stiffens -- once.

Did they know each other?

"So you *didn't* talk to the man."

"Not until he saw... him. I believe it was... Selina who
notified him."

And then Bruce would've had to go look for himself. How
many of the reports on the scanner of Batman in this
neighborhood or that one were really of the Batgirl? Tim
knows Jason will be wincing enough for both of them,
even if he doesn't show it.

The other takes a breath. "I --"

"Why are you here?"

It takes a moment to hear the voice and know it's his own.
It takes another moment for the other to turn and look at
him. He looks. He looks like Bruce.

It's in his eyes and his... the way his brow is furrowed and
he looks like *Bruce* and --


Is he smiling? No, he's smiling all the time now. He must
have laughed.

The other is just... looking.

Oh. The knife is at the other's throat. Tim pulls back and
sheathes it again. He misses Bruce so very badly.

"Answer his question, Timmy."

"Tim," the other says, quiet and steady and it's not the
same. It's not --

He *can't* call Jason to come and... and help, hold him,
hold him down, hold him still --

"I came to see. For myself." The other's mouth twitches
like maybe he's afraid of his own smile, even though it
doesn't work that way in this world. "And to wish you a
happy birthday. Jason."

-- birthday? "It's your birthday?"

Jason blows out a breath. "It's *August*?"

The other's mouth twitches, again, and -- no, he has to
laugh. Just a little. He opens his mouth.

"Hnn ha ha hnn. Happy heh hnn heh heh Birthday, Red."

"Oh... fuck, don't do that," Jason says, and snorts.

Tim can see Jason drop-fall into a crouch out of the corner
of his eye and this is *not* when he moves in for the kill,
this is *not* when he takes over the attack, this is --

Jason's laughing.

And when the other moves, it's -- just to shove his hands
into his pockets. If there's anything in them, it's very, very

This is -- perhaps -- where he starts flipping the knife over
his fingers, or --

"I have some ice cream. In my car."

He can't. It's not. He doesn't *sound* like that. So fucking
*quiet*, all the time so fucking --

"I only eat --"

"Neapolitan. I know."

Jason's still laughing. "Of fucking *course* you do. Jesus,
little fucking *stalker* --"

"And 'pretender.' Yes." The other cocks his head to the
side, exposing the pulse throbbing in his throat.

It's fast. He's still just as agitated as he *should* be, and
if Tim got in the slash he -- thinks -- he could, it would be
like dousing the place in red paint --

The other shifts on his feet.

Tim's telegraphing. Interesting.

The other shifts again, standing down.

"Y'know... I don't *have* to look up. I *know* you two
are about to try to kill each other --"

"I'm not here for that --"

"Shut the fuck up, stalker-pretender-Timmy. You've never
fought *Black*."

The other looks at him, deliberately, pausing at Tim's
shoulders and hips and feet. "No," he says. "I haven't."

Tim wants the ice cream. "I want the ice cream."

The other looks at Jason again, and Tim knows he nods
or gestures or -- something. The other nods and walks
out the door.


"We were going to visit *him* anyway."

When he was more... predictable, to Jason. More stable.

Jason looks up, finally, and the smile on his face is one Tim
doesn't know. "It's my birthday, Black."

You're supposed to hate him. You. You. "*Red*."

The fight is a brief one, mostly over by the time the other
walks in again. Jason has one hand on his jaw, making
his not-quite-scars-yet ache, pulling his face into a frown.
The other is bleeding -- lightly -- around his knife-wrist.

"I could come back. I don't know what sort of cake you

Jason snorts, but he doesn't look away from him. His eyes
are wide and not-sharp-enough and on him, and Tim
knows what he looks like. He knows.

The kiss is -- a kiss. It's just that it's also supposed to tell
him something.

"I really, really could come back --"

"Shut up," Jason says, and pulls back -- taking the Bowie
with him. When he lets go of Tim's face, it feels like his
cheeks have rubber bands in them. He's smiling again.
And Jason turns to the other, and reaches out with his
bleeding hand. "Ice cream, please."

The other tosses it. Jason catches it, and walks to the
area he's blocked off as a kitchen space.

Tim watches him go, and knows the other is, too.

"Oh, I'm just getting a spoon. Go ahead and fuck each
other up a little. Try not to bust up my computers."

"I'm not *here* for --"

The other blocks his first two punches and first three
strikes. Tim can see him moving to block his kick --

But then Tim has to flip back and up, away from the sweep
that might've taken him down. He crouches on the table
and -- the ready stance the other is in isn't one of Bruce's.

It just isn't Dick's or Babs', either. (It couldn't be Babs',
not in this -- not --)

The other curls his fingers. "Come on."

Tim leaps, moving in low for a tackle-fake and striking at
the other's quads. He gets one, misses the other, and
feels most of his back go a little numb from a strike
before he can roll away. He compensates with a
split-kick -- to the shin and to the other's chest -- and
takes another strike in the ankle before the other dances

"Watch the fucking *computers*, you assholes."

Jason's mouth is full -- of *ice cream* -- and the other

Almost exactly as confused as he feels.

"Oh, please, don't tell me you're *done*. Black, you can
see he's not a closer."

The other's eyebrow twitches. Once.

("How are you doing in Math?")

Tim raises a hand between them and curls his own fingers.

"You know, I could --" Jason swallows. "*Almost* wish I
had this place wired up like the Cave. I'm pretty sure
Bruce is killing himself because he can't see this."

The ready-stance is karate. The other *isn't* a closer.
But... he is.

He takes the nerve-strikes over his ribs as his due and
chops down and *in*. He misses the left shoulder but
hits on the right, and the other jerks as his arm goes
limp and -- strikes Tim with it over the ribs, again.

He can't feel most of his torso, but he's used to that. And
he can feel his legs just fine.

The kicks separate them, but he lands three out of four.
The other spits the blood in his mouth at Tim's face,
and his aim is perfect. He's blind in one eye and moving,
moving, and it's been so long, so long since it's just been
a spar, just been --

No, it's more.

He takes two punches to the ear and he can't hear Jason
eating, anymore. He lets the dodge of the next punch
send him into a spin and --

Pulls the kick before it would've broken the other's ribs.

Why --

The other's punch opens the cut on his left cheek, but
doesn't break the bone.

"I don't.... know what to call you," the other says, stepping
back double time. Bruce, not Dick.

Tim slips into an aikido stance he hasn't used since he
was... he was... "Black," he says.

The other matches him.

"Aw, *come* on," Jason says.

There's an itching tickle on his neck. Blood from his ear.

The other would be feeling it on his chin, right now. And
he says, "Do we have to? I don't. I don't want to."

("I'm fucking sick of *hurting* you, you asshole!") Tim
bites his own lip, hard --

"Black... Blackbird --" And the other wasn't ready for
the shot to his ear.

But he's ready when Tim stands down.

The other nods, slowly, and wipes at the trickle from his

Tim wipes at the blood on his chin.

"I'm not sharing the damned ice cream," Jason says.

"It's okay," the other says. "I have more."


It's Jason's birthday, so Tim joins him on the bed when the
other comes back with -- Rocky Road, his-their favorite --
and lets himself be pulled against Jason's chest. It's still

No hair, no scars, no...

Tim thinks about it, and takes a spoonful of ice cream
when the other passes him the carton from the chair he's
pulled next to the bed.

Blood and chocolate.

He licks the spoon and feels Jason tensing behind him and
knows the other is watching him.

He waits until the other takes his own spoonful and
watches right back. Then he says, "You're not fucking
him. Why aren't you fucking him?"

The other stiffens and watches him harder ("You'll give
me everything you've *got*. And then you'll give me
*more*.") for a moment. "It never came up."

Jason snorts, making the skin on the back of Tim's neck
prickle. "So to fucking speak?"

"We don't. That's not. That's not who we are," the other
says, and hands the ice cream back.

"I could've told you that, Black," Jason says, and squeezes

"I wouldn't have believed you," he says, and eats more
ice cream.

"The scars on your face are... purposeful. Why?"

"The Joker," Tim says, and watches the other not react
enough. "I wanted to be able to smile again."

Jason squeezes him again and Tim can hear him scraping
the bottom and sides of his carton.

"How... how long?"

"Three weeks," and the other looks so much like Bruce he
wants to jump him and just -- just --

Jason squeezes him *again*.

It's his birthday, so Tim doesn't break Jason's nose with
his skull. He reaches for the carton, and the other blinks
and hands it to him.

And waits for Tim to take another spoonful before asking,
"What are they doing without you in your world, do you

Tim keeps eating. "Waiting, probably. It's four o'clock. I
should be taking my meds. There's no more Robins there.
Not anymore. Timmy."

"Dick thought that. Once."

Jason's spoon stops scraping.

Tim pushes back against Jason, shoving him against the
wall with his body until Jason squeezes him in
acknowledgment. "Dick helped Bruce build the case for
my suit."

"But --"

"He. *Helped*."

The other... swallows. And when Tim offers him the
carton, he waves it off.

And stands.

"When you get back to the 'haven, *Robin*, you've got
some weapons shipments to stop." And Jason rests his
jaw on Tim's shoulder.

The other pauses, not quite looking back over his shoulder.

"You've got a week."

"I won't let you kill, Jason. That isn't --"

Jason isn't fast enough to stop Tim from pulling the gun
in his thigh-holster, but Tim isn't going to shoot. Yet.

The other narrows his eyes. "That isn't what we do."

Jason snorts, again, and digs his fingers into the nerves
under Tim's trapezius. "Which 'we' is that, pretender?"

The other just stands there for much too long. But

His mouth twitches. "You know about... Cases. Or do you?

Jason's fingers dig in hard. "You're saying there's a
fucking... *case* with my Robin suit in it? In the Cave?"

Another twitch. "Bruce is almost certainly gazing into the
hollow depths of your old mask as we speak. I wore it
once, you know. I --"

"Get out. Get out of here." That was *his* voice. Again.
Tim growls to himself and shifts his aim from the other's
throat to his right eye. "Get out."

"I was hoping you'd remember, Jason." The other is staring
at him, and not moving.

He'll be able to stop Tim from killing him, but probably
not from a good, solid graze. Jason isn't moving at all.
"Get out."

"I used to think I could feel you. Watching," the other says,
and turns his back to walk toward the door. "The way I

And he just keeps... and Jason isn't --

But Jason is.

He slides his hand -- slowly -- down Tim's arm until he can
wrap his hand around Tim's wrist and push it down toward
the bed. "Black," he says, quiet enough to get a little lost
under the sound of the closing door. "I've got you."


This is what he doesn't say:

"For how long?"

"This isn't my world. It's yours. There's nothing for me here
without you."

"You still look like half a dildo. Is it because you want there
to be a difference between what Red Hood does and what
Jason does?"

"You were supposed to hate him. You used to hit me
sometimes *because* I reminded you of him."

"You were supposed to hate him."

"You were supposed to hate him."

"You were supposed to hate him."

"You were supposed --"

"If they lock me up again, I don't know what --"

"Is it because he's not fucked in the head?"

"Is it because he's not a killer?"

"Is it because he's Robin?"


This is what he does say:

"Who are we killing for your birthday?"

Jason laughs, pulls a gun, and places it, casually, against
Tim's temple.

Tim bares his teeth.

Jason laughs again and uses the barrel to nudge his own
jaw up. It smells like the oil Jason used to clean it and the
safety is already off. "How old are you, Black?"

It's August, so... "I'm seventeen."

"I'm sixteen. Or maybe nineteen. Or maybe... I'm not
sure," he says, jaw working against the barrel. "You look
about fourteen, you know. *With* the makeup."

"Red --"

"I *would've* said you looked about twelve, but seeing
you and Timmy side by side made you look older. And

Don't leave me. "*Red* --"

"Bruce never trained me -- or Dick -- in the psych warfare
stuff. That wasn't Robin's job. Not for you either, right?"

He's fast enough to grab the gun before Jason can stop
him. He doesn't think he's fast enough to stop the shot.
"Red. Please."

"You've got a little -- clearly it comes natural for
*Timmies* -- but *he's*..."

"Please --"

Jason moves the gun, and clicks the safety back on. "Give
me my domino, Black. I know you've got it stashed

"Just let me --"


Tim yanks the sheath out of his belt, removes the Bowie,
and dumps the balled-up domino between them.

Jason catches it before it can hit the floor. "Watch me,
Black --"

"I *am* --"

"Fucking *pay attention*," Jason says, and tears the
domino in half. And folds the halves over each other.
"Just -- fucking --" Another tear.


And when they go out, Jason's face is bare beneath the


He didn't think it was possible for Riddler to look gayer

Well, than he always does.

It helps that, for some fucked-up reason, he's young and
has *hair*. But mostly it's the way his lipstick matches his

He's almost too *pretty* to die.

So he stops Jason from making the head-shot, and pushes
on his arm until the gun is aimed at the man's heart.

Jason looks at him, expressionless through the hood.

Riddler hitches in a breath, and Tim knows he's about to
start begging. "Call it an -- hnn -- aesthetic choice."

Jason shakes his head.

And shoots Riddler's heart out through his back.


Later, they watch their base burn from about half a mile

Jason watches.

Tim pulls the cake he'd stolen from a bakery window
while Jason was beating up a pimp from his belt. It's a
little crushed, and Jason's probably going to want to
disinfect the pocket or something, but most of the icing
is still attached the way it should be.

He sets it down between them.

"I like lemon."

The cake is chocolate. "Learn to like chocolate, fuckface."

Jason snorts, cracks the hood, tears off half the cake, and
eats it. He starts to push the rest back toward him -- and
stops. "Can you eat it?"

Tim shrugs. "Probably not."

Jason eats the other half and closes the hood again.

"Happy birthday. Again."

"I don't want you to be him."

Don't leave -- "Fuck off and die."

"Maybe tomorrow," Jason says, and belches behind the


.Pieces, by Mary.