At last our starving eyes
by Te
March 24, 2004

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers: For various storylines, in various books, from
the post-Crisis Jason reboot through "Hush."

Summary: Tim makes a friend.

Ratings Note/Warnings: R. Content some readers may
find disturbing.

Author's Note: Bunny from Reilael, who broke my
brain and me like it.

Title from "An Exequy," by Peter Porter. At the end.

Acknowledgments: To Reilael, Weirdness Magnet,
Jack, and Livia for audiencing and many helpful
suggestions. Liv also pointed me to the right poem.

*

Sometimes, Tim thinks he's seen too much.

Which is a ridiculous thought on a number of levels,
starting with 'well, of *course*,' and moving right
through to... to. There is no pithy phrase for that sort
of thing, really. For the fact that growing up, that
seeing and knowing *more*, has made the world
make *less* sense.

There are things out there that defy explanation,
and reason.

And the dead find too many ways to walk.

On the other hand, there's a certain satisfaction to
be found in the relative steadiness of his own
heartbeat, and in the fact that he is no more afraid
than he usually is.

Even now, with the too-familiar boy in the too-
familiar clothes...

"I was waiting for you," he says.

Jason smiles, and that's familiar, too. Dick's smirk,
sharpened on Bruce's eyes. "Were you?"

There's no sound, but Tim was still a child when he
learned how to read lips. "Yes. You... no one has
forgotten."

Jason turns away, and for a moment the darkness
of his hair fades into the darkness of the night, a
shadow on shadows. When he looks back, the
lenses on his mask are whiter than anything Tim
has ever seen before. (Bleached bone, his mind
suggests. His mind is a literalist.)

"What... what do you want?"

Jason's head jerks, and without sound, it takes a
moment for Tim to realize that the ghost is
laughing.

If it was a hallucination, he would've known right
away. When Jason looks at him again, Tim can see
the way the streetlights glint on the highlights of --
no, not highlights. His hair is wet from the
evening's light snow -- no.

"What do *you* think?" Jason says.

And reaches out.

*

Tim opens his eyes in -- his eyes were already open.
He's in an alley, and the metal shear stink of blood
cuts through all of the other smells. Tim blinks, and
looks around. The bodies on the ground are young
and... breathing.

The gang tattoos suggest he's made it closer to the
docks. That he...

His hands are *sore*, and he looks down to find the
knuckles of his gauntlets half-shredded where they
aren't simply stained.

He looks up to find Jason leaning against -- into --
*against* the opposite wall. There's something
quieter in his smile.

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"Now I know why you use that stick so much, kid."

Tim raises the eyebrow a little higher.

Another jerking, silent laugh. "You look like
*Alfred*."

"I do not." He probably does.

The shine on Jason's lenses is flat, right up until it
isn't, and Tim realizes that his mind is trying to
compensate for the lack of sound by giving the
ghost expressions that shouldn't exist.

Curious.

"What are you thinking?"

"You don't know?"

Jason's shrug makes his mind hurt. The wall
doesn't -- *cannot* look real with a body half-buried
in it. A living -- not living --

Tim shakes his head, squeezing his eyes shut
behind the mask for a moment. It's possible he
isn't -- entirely -- coping. When he opens them
again, Jason's smirk is predatory.

He steps away -- and out of -- the wall. "Better?"

"Yes. But."

Jason reaches toward his cape, and Tim flinches
backward.

"Wait --"

"I just --"

Tim watches Jason's jaw work, muscle and... it doesn't
look anything like skin. It's more like paper, or fabric,
or...  "You just what?"

"... different, you know?" Jason's smile is rueful. Tim
wonders what his game face is like. Was like.

"I didn't catch... the first part of what you said. I have
to read your lips."

Jason's eyes widen behind the mask. "I thought you
could... you can't *hear* me?"

Tim shakes his head.

"But you see me. And..." Jason's brow furrows, and
he reaches out again, more slowly.

"I don't --" Want to touch you again. "Where did I
*go*?"

Jason laughs. "You tell me."

"Why -- how." Tim shakes his head again. He's still
trying to make this make sense. It is, perhaps, the
most difficult part of living in a world where people
run at the speed of light and touch god. And
where ghosts wear your clothes.

Vice versa. Whatever.

Tim swallows back what would, undoubtedly, be
hysterical laughter.

Jason looks solemn. Calm in a way that... when
Jason died, he was younger than Tim is now. His
hair is tousled, and looks like it would be curlier
than Dick's if he let it grow. His suit is painfully,
blindingly bright. "I don't understand any of this,"
he says.

Tim nods.

"You..." When Jason smiles like that, he doesn't look
young at all. "Thank you."

"I --"

A moan from somewhere else. From *here*, and Tim
looks down to find one of the bangers stirring,
sluggishly.

"You didn't *tie* them --" But he can't see Jason at
all, anywhere.

Tim blinks, and pulls out the zip-strips.

*

Tim wakes up cold, and makes a conscious effort
not to wonder what the nightmare was this time. It's
enough that whatever it had been had let him
*sleep* through it, even though he'd kicked off
the --

He hadn't kicked off the covers.

He pauses, and carefully settles into his himself,
into awareness of his surroundings, and... the door
is closed, and so is the window.

He opens his eyes, and Jason is standing at the
foot of the bed, looking around curiously.

"Uh."

Jason looks at him. "Is this where you live?"

Tim shifts his hands beneath the blankets, curling
his fingers in until he feels the slight tear in the
sheet from the first -- and last -- time he'd sat on
his bed without thoroughly checking his pockets.
"Yes."

"You had to *check*?"

"You'll forgive me if I'm having a slight difficulty
being sure of reality just now."

"And you *sound* like Alfred."

"I." It's a defense mechanism. The more syllables
he uses, the less most people listen. Tim forces
himself not to look away, because he doesn't want
to risk missing anything Jason might say.

Jason scrubs a hand through his hair, mussing it
out of the double-curl thing that's probably been
one of the most effective ways to keep people
from ever being entirely sure how many Robins
there have been.

The funny thing is that Jason's hair seems to want
to do it naturally.

And Jason steps forward -- too close. Tim doesn't
look down, because he doesn't want to see Jason's
legs buried in his bed. It feels a lot like the
cartoons he'd watched when he was a kind, when
the Coyote was fine right up until he looked down,
at which point he was thoroughly fucked.

If Tim looks at the bed, or at anything but the
frustrated frown on Jason's face, he might start
falling and never stop.

It's a four-thirty a.m. thought, and the familiarity
is... comforting.

Jason looks at him again. "I can't quite get the
hang of this... solid object thing."

"Maybe you're..." He's not actually going to say
that.

"What?"

"No, it's... insane, actually." He wonders if his
father thinks he talks in his sleep. Maybe he does.
Maybe he and Dana are used to it. He reminds
himself to whisper, anyway.

Jason eyes him incredulously. He has as little trouble
being expressive with a mask on as Dick. "And this
isn't?"

"You..." Aren't supposed to be coping with this
better than I am. Or maybe he should be. "You
have a point."

"So?"

"So maybe you just need to tell yourself that you're
as solid as everything else. To... believe it."

Jason frowns. "That doesn't -- it never -- *shit* --"
And whatever else he says is lost to flailing, silent
motion, as Jason stumbles backward, muscles
bulging and flexing in his bare thigh as he --

Tim looks down and feels his stomach lurch. The
mattress dips under -- and around -- Jason's calf.
The mattress is *swallowing* Jason, or trying to.
He's lying on something that can swallow -- "You're
dead. You're *dead* and you don't *exist*," and
that was much too loud.

And Jason looks at him with a throat-tightening
*hurt*, before it fades into a flickering mix of relief
and comprehension.

But then he's gone, entirely.

The bed doesn't swallow Tim.

He eases out of it, anyway. He can...

He should do some reading. There's always more
reading to do.

Maybe he can start sleeping on the floor.

*

Tim is at the heavy bag, Bruce holding it steady and
staring at him with an open and nearly patient
curiosity.

His knuckles are taped, but they're still incredibly
sore. He'd had to spend the vast majority of time
at home with his hands shoved in his pockets.

For the past three *days*.

Still. Some things are necessary, for any number
of reasons.

The uppercuts aren't as painful as the jabs. He
switches to them to give himself time to recover.

"I trust you to let me know if you're injured," Bruce
says, mildly.

The subtext: 'Tell me that you're injured before I
do something horrifically mean-spirited to where
you're pretending you're not injured.' Tim pauses.
He's had time to consider how he might want to
say this.

It's ridiculously tempting to be completely honest,
in the way that *having* Bruce, for all of the stress
it entails, is soothing -- because there is no one
who knows him better.

At the same time... "I was trying a slightly different
fighting style the other night."

"I gathered."

The subtext: 'I know exactly which of those gang
members are still in the hospital, and for how long
they'll be there.' Tim shrugs as absently as he can
manage. "I rely on the staff too much."

"Mm."

The subtext: Entirely unknown. Tim considers
steering the conversation into less dangerous
territory, but goes back to jabbing -- carefully --
instead.

"I've been considering adding more armor to your
gauntlets."

That'll be good, because Jason is going to want to
use my body to beat the crap out of more people,
and I can't say I won't let him. "Mm."

"There's... nothing wrong with your approach. Tim."

Tim raises an eyebrow at Bruce.

Bruce seems to be making an effort to beam
Distant, Generalized Approval at him.

Tim smirks. "Thanks, Bruce."

He switches to kicks.

He can't say he's surprised to see Jason behind
Bruce when he looks up again, but it's still...
something.

The way he's *looking* at Bruce...

Had he really thought he'd have fewer questions
over time?

"Tim?"

Tim blinks, and watches Jason blink at him. And
look apologetic. Tim focuses on Bruce. "It's
nothing."

Bruce looks nonplussed, and he doesn't even
twitch when Jason touches his bare arm, tracing
a scar that Bruce had gotten... during No Man's
Land. Killer Croc, Tim wants to say, because
Jason would know who that was, and it might
seem less... strange.

"*Really* nothing, Bruce," he says, and looks
the man in the eye for long enough to establish
his rueful smirk before he looks away again. Too
much direct eye-contact would just be out of
character. "Just a weird moment of deja-vu." The
movement at the edge of his vision is distracting
and flickery. He doesn't look.

Bruce nods slowly. "If... if there *is* something.
That you want to talk about."

Looking at Jason stare at Bruce with a weird mix
of anger and confusion is almost the same as
continuing his own habit of helping these touching
little moments be as awkward -- and thus rare --
as possible. Almost. He looks at Bruce again, and
makes it a promise. "I know, Bruce. I... will."

Just as soon as he gets a few more questions
answered.

Or never.

*

Jason joins him on a rooftop of one of the cheap, new
cracker-box-style apartments that not even Bruce
Wayne had been able to keep from being built.
Though Tim's willing to bet they're safer and sturdier
than they would've been if Bruce *hadn't* kept a
hand in. Tim doesn't like them much, and it has
nothing much to do with aesthetics. They don't feel
like Gotham buildings.

He forces himself to use them often, just the same.
He can't really afford to avoid things just because
they make him uncomfortable.

Icy touch on his shoulder, and Tim represses a
shudder to find Jason -- almost -- touching his cape.

"It's different," he says, and Tim knows he isn't
talking about the material. Or not just that.

"There was... there was an epidemic. And an
earthquake. And --"

"An *earthquake*? Here?"

Tim nods. "Other things."

Jason shakes his head, frowning. "It... sometimes
I... it's like waking up, you know?"

"Yes."

"And I would look around, and find myself in such
*strange* places. So many..." Jason frowns more,
and looks down at the street below for a long
moment.

Tim waits.

When Jason looks up again, he's smiling ruefully.
"It's hard to explain, but... it was like there was
something trying to keep me from *being* me."

"Death?"

Jason twitches with what was probably a snort,
and punches him, and --

Cold. So *cold*, and Tim holds on to the feeling
reflexively, until it *is* a feeling again, and he's
shivering, and he's... "Jason?"

"Uh."

Tim swallows, hard. He *heard* that, but when
he looks around... he's alone on the roof.
"Jason...?"

"I think... I think I'm *inside* you..."

"Oh. I. That's... new."

Jason snickers. That can't be anything *but* a
snicker. His voice is deeper than Tim's, which,
granted, isn't difficult, but...

Tim closes his eyes and *looks*.

Jason is crouched on top of a massive black
pearl. It looks like something that should be in
the Cave. He'd never realized it was so... much.

Jason knocks on it with his knuckles, a fast, flat
tapping.

"Gonna retire the Robin suit and take up jewel
heists?"

He sounds like a kid. Like... someone who plays
nicely heterosexual sports and watches reality
TV. Tim blinks.

"You know... I don't know your name."

"You're in my *head*."

Jason raises an eyebrow. "So I have permission
to go wandering around, looking shit up?"

"I." Tim walks up to the pearl, craning his neck.
"I can hear your voice."

Jason makes a small, strange sound that Tim
can't immediately classify and slides down off
the pearl, grabbing Tim's shoulder before he
can step back with one hand, and covering his
eyes with the other.

He doesn't feel cold at all.

"Say that again," Jason says, and... it's hunger.
That's what hunger sounds like.

"I can hear your voice."

Jason's hand tightens *hard* around Tim's
bicep. "Again."

"I can hear you, Jason. And feel you."

This close, he can feel Jason shake. "You don't...
you don't know how long it's been."

"Three years."

Jason laughs, a cracked, unnatural sound even for
its unfamiliarity. He slides his hand away from
Tim's mask.

Tim blinks up at him. Not *far* up, but...

"Three years," Jason says, and smirks. "You don't
know *anything*."

Tim breathes, and stares, and... there's a strange
tapping between his shoulder blades, steady and
irritating.

"What's that...?" And Jason looks back over his
own shoulder, and Tim...

Opens his eyes and spins, reaching for his staff,
and it's Batgirl.

Tim can see her face shifting behind the mask,
but it's too dark to be able to guess at an
expression. She cocks her head at him and steps
back, spreading her arms, palm upward.

"What. The fuck," Jason says inside his head. Tim
can feel Jason staring, making *him* stare. He
barely manages not to move his lips.

Tim swallows. "Meditating... yeah. I was..." He
plasters a rueful smile over the suspicious
confusion *Jason* wants. "I guess I got a little
too into it, Batgirl."

She nods at him, and makes a beckoning gesture.

Tim follows.

"That's *not* Barbara," Jason says.

"No *shit*," he thinks as firmly as he can while
still following Batgirl's lead. "Now just... let me
concentrate."

Jason snickers. "No prob, kid --"

I'm older than *you* -- and he stops, because.

He can feel Jason *moving* in him, like Tim had
maybe swallowed the eye of a storm, and it's just...
*waiting*.

"Jason --"

"Like I said. No problem. I think I'll just... look
around."

Tim can feel Jason smiling, and he knows it's on
his own face. Batgirl gestures impatiently.

He goes.

After a while, it just feels like being... warm.

*

When he gets home, it's an effort not to rush to
bed. He watches his father with Jason's eyes and
his own. He makes a profound effort *not* to
watch his step-mother.

Jason's apologies reek of insincerity, even mostly
silent. Tim can feel them on his own face, and
he's reasonably sure he's never stared quite that
insouciantly at his dinner before.

He escapes with the excuse of homework.

He *does* his homework, and rolls his eyes at
himself, and thinks about Steph. Thinks a *lot*
about Steph, and he hadn't realized he'd collected
quite so many memories of her... torso.

"Torso. You have *got* to be fucking kidding
me, man."

Tim writes a short essay on the lead-in to the
Great Depression.

"Where are you hiding the *good* stuff?"

He erases the word 'breasts' seventeen times.

"Un-fucking-believable. You've got a chick who's
done everything short of stripping down and
*throwing* herself at you -- wait. Who's *she*?"

Tim winces. Ariana. It didn't work out.

"Uh, huh. *Are* you gay? I can't actually tell."

Tim moves on to his Calculus homework. "Let me
know if you figure it out."

*

The bed feels... crowded. Small.

Then again, it's better than having it feel like a
soft, dry, hungry mouth.

"You've got some terrifying mental imagery there,
Tim."

Like you don't.

Maybe he's the one who feels crowded. His is the
only body on the bed. He hasn't been... there is...

"You're used to being alone," Jason says, quietly.

Yes.

"I was alone a lot when I was a kid, but..."

It was never anything you wanted.

"No."

What was it like? Living with Bruce.

"You lived with him, too."

It's true, but...

"I think..."

Tim feels himself frown, and knows it's Jason.

"Part of me feels like I've been trying to figure this
out for longer than I was alive. The rest of me feels
like this is the first time I've *ever* had the chance
to think about it."

There's never time for thinking. Not about this.

"No, there isn't. And then a bunch of crazy people
beat you to death, and there's *really* no time."

Tim feels himself smirking, and it has nothing
whatsoever to do with what *he's* feeling.
What...

"They had my mother. Joker, his goons. I
thought... I thought she'd survive, you know. I
didn't know she was dead until a few hours ago.
It's in your head. A lot of things are."

I'm --

"Don't say it, man."

All right.

"It's just... she was sorry, too. At the end."

Cigarette smoke and a pretty woman with eyes like
Jason's in Alfred's pictures. A pretty woman
turning *away* from -- "Jesus," Tim thinks, and it
takes a moment to realize he'd said that out loud.
And there's just... he hadn't *known*, but it
makes so much sense now, it -- she --

"*Don't*."

But --

"And your parents were perfect, right, Tim? The
clearest memory you have of *your* mother is
her *back*."

*Fuck* you.

Tim laughs, quietly. And then *really* laughs, and
the feel of it... He closes his eyes and looks.
Jason's sitting tailor-style on the big, soft couch
from the second Young Justice headquarters. He
pats the cushion beside him, and Tim joins him.

There's a faintly lingering smell of corn chips, and
Bart flits across the farthest shadow, the mop of
his hair massive and unruly as it hasn't been in
a while. Jason watches him curiously, then gives
him a wry look.

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"So, I'm thinking we've got mother issues," Jason
says.

"And father issues."

Jason snickers again. "*Life* issues."

Tim smirks. "*Death* issues."

Jason smacks him with a pillow. "*Speaking* of
issues."

"Yes?"

He pulls a remote control out of nowhere, and turns
on a television that wasn't there a moment before.
Tim looks at the screen...

And groans.

"Uh, *huh*," Jason says, as Dick flips and twists
across the screen, over and over again. "I think I've
got some theories about that sexuality question of
yours."

Tim yanks the pillow out of Jason's hand and smacks
*him* with it. "I was a *kid*."

"On a *mission*."

"Yeah, well..." He watches Dick do the quadruple
somersault, one more time, and then turns back to
match Jason's smirk with his own. "Worked, didn't
it?"

"Oh...? So is there some secret little compartment
of your brain that I missed while I was looking for
the porn? And, by the way, I'm pretty sure other
people's porn is easier to find."

"We could always send you around to possess
random people until we're sure."

Jason blinks. "Possess... damn."

"It seriously hadn't occurred to you that that's
what you're doing?"

"Well, to be honest? Fucking *no*, dude, that's
*creepy*."

Tim smirks a little more and watches Dick smile
at a television camera. "You're the restless ghost
of my brutally murdered predecessor. I think
'creepy' is understating. A bit."

Jason snorts. "Yeah, and *about* that freaking
*decade* you spent stalking Dick..."

Tim reaches over to grab the remote out of
Jason's hand, and flips off the television. "I didn't
say I *minded* the creepiness."

"No, you didn't," Jason says, and his tone is...
soft.

Tim looks up just in time to see Jason reaching
out, and his hand feels like anyone's on Tim's
cheek. Except not, because Jason has a lot of
the same calluses *he* does, and because not
just anyone touches him like this. Tim watches
Jason's face, and wonders what his eyes are
like behind the mask now.

And blinks, because... in reality, somewhere
outside and away from *this*, he's wearing
pajama bottoms and a wristwatch. Here, he's
in full uniform.

He hadn't even realized.

"What is it, Tim?"

"No, I..." He smiles at Jason, a little helplessly.
"I think I'm having one of those moments where
I'm realizing how fucked up my life is."

"I thought we weren't thinking about those."

"No, we're just not supposed to have *time* to
think about them." Tim pulls away from the
hand on his cheek, more than a little reluctantly,
and thinks about brushing the frown from Jason's
forehead.

Thinks about it too *much*.

Tim stares at his gauntleted hands, and wills
them bare. "I just..." Why are you here? Why
now? Why are we like *this*? He isn't surprised
to see the gauntlets fade back in. "Have you
thought about it?" He doesn't look up. "Why
*I'm* the one who can sense you?"

"Uh... because you're Robin?"

"Just... just like that?" He looks over, and Jason
shrugs.

"It makes as much sense as anything else. I
can't touch *any* of the others, and I think
sometimes Alfred *thinks* he sees me, but he's
never sure, and..." Another shrug. "You're
Robin."

"And so are you."

Jason smirks. "Until the day I die. Oh, wait."

"It doesn't -- I don't think it works that way. I'm
not..." Robin. Not really, except that's the gauntlets
are telling him that's the biggest lie he's *ever*
nearly told. Still. "If it worked like that, then
where's *Dick*?"

"You didn't know Dick when I did. And I don't...
look, I'm not the thinking Robin, man. I just... I
think Dick put a lot of time and effort into *not*
being Robin."

And it's... a workable theory. If a disturbing one.
"I don't want to think of myself as *just* Robin."

Jason unfolds his legs and leans back against the
arm of the couch, kicking him not especially
gently. "So who says you have to?"

"You don't think it's disturbing that Robin is
apparently this huge, spiritual *construct* that
reaches across time and space?"

Jason nudges Tim's thigh a little harder with his
foot. "Hey, I *died* in the suit. It has to mean
something, doesn't it?"

Tim plays with the toe of Jason's boot. There's
steel under the ridiculous green pixie-ness, of
course, and he *knew* that, but it's still
reassuring to feel, in ways he doesn't especially
want to examine. "Yeah," he says. "It does."

"Mm. So *that's* out of the way." Jason
reaches over and takes the remote back, flipping
on the TV again. "So. About Dick."

Tim jabs Jason hard in the ankle.

"We could talk about your girlfriend's *torso*,
instead."

"It's a nice torso."

"Mm-hmm."

The television offers some rather choice images of
the torso in question.

"Now would you classify your... appreciation of
Miss Brown's torso as aesthetic or visceral?"

"Now *you* sound like Alfred."

"Alfred talks about your girlfriend's tits?"

The nice thing about apparently being unable to
think himself out of the Robin suit is that he's
heavily armed.

*

The alarm clock is a harsh, painful buzz and he
slaps at it. And hears a distinct crunch. Whoops.
Alfred is going to be --

Tim blinks awake and stares at the wreckage of
the clock.

"Er."

That doesn't sound like 'sorry,' Jason.

"Oh, like you didn't want to do it."

I didn't want to do it with my bare *hands*. Tim
picks a fragment of plastic out of the heel of his
palm and sucks the blood away.

And licks it. Slowly.

I'm beginning to have a few theories about
*you*, Jason.

"It's your fault. Do you have any *idea* how
many shots of Dick's ass you have in your head?"

Shut up.

"Bending. *Flexing*. *Inviting* --"

Okay, it's Dick's fault. Stop making me make out
with my own damned hand.

"It's a nice hand."

It's -- wrapped around him, and Jason -- Jason --

"You don't do it like this."

"No --" And Tim bites his lip and licks it, over
and over, and Jason squeezes him hard --

"You should."

Oh *fuck* --

"I can't... I can feel you, and I can feel *me* --"

Jason --

"Come in here."

*School* --

"Then come in my hand."

My --

*Mine*.

Tim gasps and turns his face into the pillow,
coming hard.

Jason pets him one more time, and brings his
hand to Tim's mouth.

Blood and come.

"Mmm."

You're fucking *twisted*.

"You love it, schoolboy."

Tim snickers, helplessly, and drags himself out of
bed and into a robe. At least he'd left himself time
enough to shower.

"Naked, *wet* schoolboy. Hmm."

Tim bites back another snicker and stumbles out
into the hall.

*

"Feeling *extra* mysterious today, Drake?" Bernard
lounges against the locker next to his own.

Jason stares.

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Hmm?"

"You've been even quieter than usual, and frankly?
'Usual' is reminiscent of a *tomb*, dear boy."

"'Dear boy?' Did he seriously just --"

Tim smiles. "Just have a lot on my mind."

Bernard stares at him --

"At your *mouth*, Tim."

"Really...?" Bernard says. "Why don't you tell me
*all* about it?"

"You do realize this kid wants you so bad he can
*taste* it, don't you?"

Tim smiles a little wider, and watches Bernard
blush, a little.

"A *lot*."

"Maybe later," Tim says, and closes his locker,
heading for the exits.

"Er... later. Sure, Drake."

"He could be blowing us right *now*."

I have to go to school with him five days a week.

"He could be blowing us in the freaking *locker
room*."

It's... an interesting image.

"Go with that thought."

I have things to do.

"People."

Things.

"Torso."

Patrol.

"... Blow-job."

Tim smirks. Semi-random acts of violence.

"I admit it, I'm weakening."

Blood-whore, Tim thinks, and licks the backs of his
teeth.

"Don't knock it --"

I'm really not.

Jason grins on Tim's face.

It feels... good.

"You, too."

*

Though it was, perhaps, not the best idea ever to
let Jason out to play on a night when his assigned
territory was quite this close to *Bruce's*.

He watches from behind his eyes as best he can,
and the new gauntlets ease the pain he'll be feeling
whenever he gets something like full control back,
but he can feel Bruce *watching*.

And he can feel Jason *not* feeling it, and there is
no way in *hell* he's going to bring it up *now*.

Jason laughs with his voice and uses Tim's staff
more like a club than anything else. A rather
*effective* club, considering the fact that Tim's
lost track of the number of bones he's heard
snap.

Faintly mobbed-up thugs, by the look of them,
though they must be out-of-towners, because a)
Tim doesn't recognize them, and b) none of
them are showing the slightest wariness about
attacking a Robin in *Gotham*.

There's nothing to be done about it, though.
Bruce is -- there. A flash of cape.

And Jason's kicking like he's still in the pixie-
boots, as opposed to -- another snap of bone.

And the last one is down.

Tim pulls himself forward as much as he can,
pressing against the shapeless, difficult-to-
understand mass of *self* that is Jason. Kick
that gun away.

"Wha...? He's unconscious."

Just do it. And quiet.

Why -- oh, shit.

Bruce is glaring down at him. Maybe you should
let me do the talking, Tim thinks, but --

Too late. Bruce grabs his shoulder, and before
Tim can even *try* to stop it, Jason knocks the
hand away. "*Off*."

Tim watches Bruce's mouth fall open, slightly, and
winces.

Whoops.

We are so fucked. We are --

*Boned*, Jason says, and then there's a flash of
movement that makes no sense at all until Tim
feels the back of his head bounce off a wall. Jason
informs him that the reason why they're --
*he's* -- choking is that Bruce is holding him up
by the neck.

"Who are you." Bat-voice.

Am I still letting you do the talking?

Probably for the best. Possibly. Tim forces in a
breath. "Exactly. Who you think. *We* are, B --"

The attempt to use Bruce's name goes badly. He's
going to have bruises on his neck. Jason is...

Are you *turned on*?

I'll tell you *later*, man. *Fix* this.

"Don't toy with me, boy. Or whatever you are."

"Okay. Why don't we skip to --" Tim gasps in a
breath. Bruce *lets* him gasp in a breath. "The
part where we find some mutually-agreed-upon
way to prove it."

"That could be difficult." Bruce's smile is sharp.

Subtext... "Because too many of the wrong
people know -- too much."

Tim... ask him how many people know about the
time he bent me over the Batmobile.

Jesus fucking *Christ* --

Bruce *squeezes* again, and there are black
flowers blooming at the edges of Tim's vision.

Just *do* it, Tim.

"The time. Over the Batmobile."

Bruce doesn't so much as flinch. "You're not
making me *less* inclined to break you like a
twig."

It was the first time --

"First time --"

He said he loved me.

"You said. You... loved me."

Bruce drops him like his hand is burning and backs
off a step.

Tim does his best to keep his feet, but winds up
dropping to his knees anyway, retching weakly.
He manages to avoid puking on the unconscious
criminals.

You take your victories where you find them,
Jason says, and laughing just makes it worse.

And then there's an arm around Tim's waist and
Bruce shoots off a grapple and takes them both
*up*, ignoring the pile of bodies on the ground.

Try not to puke on Bruce.

Fuck *you*. He doesn't puke on Bruce.

Bruce sets them down on a rooftop, and sets
Tim *down*, forcing him to sit and crouching in
front of them. His hands are on Tim's face, and
the gauntlets are gentle and cool and *wrong*.

"Jay..." That's no one's voice but Bruce's.

"Not... entirely."

The hands firm, squeezing a little. Better. "How."

"He's... in me."

"Now."

Tim swallows bile and winces at the soreness of
his throat. "Yes."

And Bruce... *pets* him.

He used to do it all the time.

You're not *helping*, Jason.

"Jay," Bruce says again, and it's something
between a command and a plea.

This is too fucked-up. Even for me. I can't  --

Tim... go to sleep.

What? But I'm not --

*

Tim wakes up in an entirely wrong bed, sore and...
*sore*. What the --

He wakes up alone. And *cold*, and he looks up
to see Jason perched on the window-sill, hands
over his face. The manor. Bruce's *bedroom*.
And...

"Jason."

It shouldn't be possible to see a ghost *tense*.

At the very least, it shouldn't be this satisfying.
"Where's Bruce?"

Jason looks up. "Showering, I think. Or brooding.
Maybe both." Nothing but air and the motion of
his lips. "Tim --"

"What the fuck did you *do*?"

"I... didn't think you'd want the details."

"So you fucking put me to *sleep*?"

"I couldn't... he... he could *see* me, Tim --"

Tim pushes the covers off and gets *out* of the
bed, and he's... naked and --

He stalks over to the window. He *limps* over to
the window, shivering at the cold.

"You *used* me."

"You don't know how long it is when you're dead,
Tim. You don't --"

The door opens, and Bruce walks in, wearing a
robe and probably nothing else. The faint smile
on his face fades quickly.

That's satisfying, too.

"Tim."

"Clothes. Now."

Bruce nods, and steps back out through the door.

It's no colder than it should be considering his
nakedness. And the *sweat*.

Jason is gone.

When Bruce returns, he's carrying some of Tim's
extra street clothes from the Cave. He turns his
back, and doesn't say a word until Tim is fully
dressed, jacket zipped up to the neck. Tim knows
it isn't that chilly outside.

"Tim..."

"There's nothing you can say. Don't try."

Tim walks out, and heads down the stairs. He
feels Alfred's eyes on him as he passes through
the study, but he doesn't pause.

He checks the time by the moon. If he books,
he can be home in time to 'wake up' for school.

Fucking. Joy.

*

He doesn't, actually, get to school.

"Dana" called Tim Drake in sick from the pay phone
closest to the third stop after his house. There are
a lot of reasons.

Far too many of them have to do with the fact that
the idea of eight hours in wooden chairs feels a
little too much like the sort of torture he usually
saves for marathon crime-fighting sessions.

Far too many of them have to do with the fact
that school had looked... better through Jason's
eyes.

Tim sits -- carefully -- on a park bench and glares
at ducks.

The ducks, being Gothamites, glare right back.

He has no idea what he's supposed to do with...
*any* of it.

And he isn't remotely surprised when the weather
in his immediate vicinity turns bitter cold.

The ducks scatter. Interesting.

He turns to find Jason looking at him, obviously
upset even through the mask. Around it. Whatever.
"What."

Jason looks down, then up again. "... find you here."

"I cut school. You're a great influence."

"I'm sorry."

"For pimping my ass to Bruce. That's nice."

Jason shakes his head. "I'm sorry that it *wasn't*...
about you. I'm sorry that I needed it. I'm sorry --"

"Stop."

Jason looks down again, and Tim goes back to
staring at the lake. He wraps his arms around
himself because he's cold.

Because he's...

He feels... *something*, and turns to find Jason
just sitting there, arms wrapped around his
knees.

"I thought I could trust you. I *did* trust you.
With -- everything."

"I know," Jason mouths. "I didn't... he doesn't
know anything about you that he didn't know
before."

"That isn't --" The problem.

Jason smiles at him, ruefully. "I liked being in
your head, Tim. You're nothing like anyone I've
ever met."

Subtext: Don't try to lie. Tim sighs and pulls a
bottle cap out of his pocket and skips it across
the surface of the lake.

Watches it sink, and watches the ripples spread
and fade. Jason is still looking at him.

"Do you love him?"

"I don't know. I never did. He was... I never had
time to figure out if I wanted him to be my father,
or my partner, or... something else. And in the
meantime..."

"He was everything."

Jason nods.

"He... he *isn't*."

"Not for you."

Tim stares at his hands. They look like poorly
tenderized meat. He doesn't fold them under his
arms. "Is that why you liked being in my head?
Because there was... space?"

"That was one of the reasons. There are... I
mean..." Jason stares down at the ground.

"I can't... see what you're saying."

Jason moves beside him -- laughs -- before
looking up again. "Maybe I don't want you to."

Tim breathes. And thinks about it. "You didn't
have... friends. When you were alive."

"No. Not like you."

Tim blinks. "Not like... that's fucked-up, Jason."

Jason's smile is an invitation. "So what else is
new?"

"I... can't imagine what... you must think I'm the
whiniest bitch on the *planet*."

"I think you're a freak, actually. It works on you.
I'd punch you now, but, well..."

"You probably *should* punch me. You --"

"Tim. None of this is *your* fault, okay?"

"But --"

Jason smirks. "The more you blame yourself, the
more I think about Bruce."

Tim chokes on a laugh. "Sometimes I wonder.
There are... there are so many people who know
Batman, and when they meet me..."

"You're a lot like him."

"Yeah."

"But also completely different."

"Yeah?"

Jason nods solemnly. "I'm pretty sure his obsessive
mental organization system is completely different
from yours."

"Oh, fuck you."

"He probably has better porn, too."

Tim smirks. "Yeah, well. Your ass."

"And yours."

"Probably Dick's."

Tim snickers. "God, that's *wrong*."

"Again, I say --"

"What else is new. Yeah. I get it. I..." He stares at
his hands again. "Jason." He reaches out and
shudders hard, and it hurts, it *hurts*, and Tim
holds on and --

"Fucking *ow*, dude."

Your fault.

"Bruce's fault."

Yeah. You just... go ahead and not share.

Jason laughs in his head, and in his body, and
everywhere else.

I missed you.

"Ditto. Tim..."

Yeah.

"I think we're probably pretty sad."

Tim's lips move into a rueful smile. He isn't sure
which of them it belongs to.

"Does it matter?"

It probably should.

"Subtext: 'no.'"

Tim grins, and rests his head against the back of
the bench. The ducks remain absent.

"You're pretty much going to make Bruce suffer
for this as much as humanly possible, aren't you?"

Problem with that?

"Lemme think -- no."

Tim snorts.

"But I totally get to grope your girlfriend."

Bernard.

"Miss Brown."

Blow-job.

"Torso."

Dick.

"... *and* Bernard."

Deal. And Tim sinks back behind his eyes, and
watches Jason stare at the lake.

"It's pretty. I'd forgotten."

Me, too, Tim says, and Jason wraps his arms
around them.

Tim squeezes.

end.

In wet May, in the months of change,
In a country you wouldnít visit, strange
Dreams pursue me in my sleep,
Black creatures of the upper deep--
Though you are five months dead, I see
You in guilt's iconography,
Dear Wife, lost beast, beleaguered child,
The stranded monster with the mild
Appearance, whom small waves tease,
(Andromeda upon her knees
In orthodox deliverance)
And you alone of pure substance,
The unformed form of life, the earth
Which Piero's brushes brought to birth
For all to greet as myth, a thing
Out of the box of imagining.
This introduction serves to sing
Your mortal death as Bishop King
Once hymned in tetrametric rhyme
His young wife, lost before her time;
Though he lived on for many years
His poem each day fed new tears
To that unreaching spot, her grave,
His lines a baroque architrave
The sunday poor with bottled flowers
Would by-pass in their mourning hours,
Esteeming ragged natural life
("most dearly loved, most gentle wife"),
Yet, looking back when at the gate
And seeing grief in formal state
Upon a sculpted angel group,
Were glad that men of god could stoop
To give the dead a public stance
And freeze them in their mortal dance.

The words and faces proper to
My misery are private--you
Would never share your heart with those
Whose only talentís to suppose,
Nor from your final childish bed
Raise a remote confessing head--
The channels of our lives are blocked,
The hand is stopped upon the clock,
No one can say why hearts will break
And marriages are all opaque:
A map of loss, some posted cards,
The living house reduced to shards,
The abstract hell of memory,
The pointlessness of poetry--
These are the instances which tell
Of something which I know full well,
I owe a death to you--one day
The time will come for me to pay
When your slim shape from photographs
Stands at my door and gently asks
If I have any work to do
Or will I come to bed with you.
O scala enigmatica,
Iíll climb up to that attic where
The curtain of your life was drawn
Some time between despair and dawn--
Iíll never know with what halt steps
You mounted to this plain eclipse
But each stair now will station me
A black responsibility
And point me to that shut-down room,
"This be your due appointed tomb."

I think of us in Italy:
Gin-and-chianti-fuelled, we
Move in a trance through Paradise,
Feeding at last our starving eyes,
Two people of the English blindness
Doing each masterpiece the kindness
Of discovering it--from Baldovinetti
To Veniceís most obscure jetty.
A true unfortunate traveller, I
Depend upon your nurseís eye
To pick the altars where no Grinner
Puts us off our touristsí dinner
And in hotels to bandy words
With Genevan girls and talking birds,
To wear your feet out following me
To nightís end and true amity,
And call my rational fear of flying
A paradigm of Holy Dying--
And, oh my love, I wish you were
Once more with me, at night somewhere
In narrow streets applauding wines,
The moon above the Apennines
As large as logic and the stars,
Most middle-aged of avatars,
As bright as when they shone for truth
Upon untried and avid youth.

The rooms and days we wandered through
Shrink in my mind to one--there you
Lie quite absorbed by peace--the calm
Which life could not provide is balm
In death. Unseen by me, you look
Past bed and stairs and half-read book
Eternally upon your home,
The end of pain, the left alone.
I have no friend, or intercessor,
No psychopomp or true confessor
But only you who know my heart
In every cramped and devious part--
Then take my hand and lead me out,
The sky is overcast by doubt,
The time has come, I listen for
Your words of comfort at the door,
O guide me through the shoals of fear--
"Furchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir."
 

.You who know my heart.
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