But hold me fast, and fear me not
by Te
December 10, 2005

Disclaimers: Not even remotely mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Vague ones for JLA #47-49, various
older spoilers from the Batbooks. Takes place in some
nebulous time after ROBIN #120 and TEEN TITANS #8, and
before NIGHTWING #89 and "War Drums."

Summary: "And you went to Batman for this?"

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content, as well as content
some readers may find disturbing, a shameful amount of
meta, far too many godawful puns, and schmoop.

Author's Note: Still almost entirely LC's fault, as she started
the ball rolling, as it were.

Acknowledgments: To Jack, Jam, Mary, and Betty for
audiencing, encouragement, and helpful suggestions. Jack
and Betty are also responsible for a number of the lines
and concepts in here, and Jam found me a title.


It's never seemed precisely problematic that the only women
Tim has ever trained with extensively -- as opposed to
shallowly -- have been Batgirl and Lady Shiva. After all,
while rating these things is rarely especially useful beyond
knowing -- as best one can -- as much as possible about
strengths and weaknesses, it's a simple fact of life that there
aren't many people in the world -- male or female -- who
could match their skills.

And most of them are metahumans.

Still, given the... situation, he thinks it might have been a
good idea to have spent more time training with people like
Black Canary, or even Huntress. People who would thus
know his *own* strengths and weaknesses *and* be able
to fully express what he could do to make himself street-
worthy for as long as he remains biologically female.

Without actively trying to kill him. And Batgirl's methods,
after a while, had begun to seem closer to Shiva's.

Still, when it comes to *teaching*, there is no one better
than Batman, and certainly...

Well, it's not as though he would've felt remotely inclined
to test himself out there *without* Batman's sanction.

No matter how much admitting that to himself feels...


The first thing Batman does is have him strip, and perform
the katas he'd known in his bones before he'd ever
introduced himself.

It feels almost excessively cautious... until Tim nearly trips
doing a spin-kick.

He frowns.

Batman nods.

They begin.


There's some measure of conflict about wearing a brassiere,
but, in the end, there are a few important things to consider:

One, there's a difference between passing the 'pencil' test
and passing the 'dodge multiple flying weapons' test.

Two, getting punched in the nipple had never been
especially pleasant, and now it's almost enough to make
him not miss his testicles more than two or three dozen
times a day. (Even with a jock, a truly well-aimed -- and
Batmannish -- blow to the testicles could be... well.

Three, if Bruce ever had to retire before being horribly
murdered in one way or another, he and Alfred could very
easily start a business catering to the vigilante community's
need for truly perfect undergarments.

He'd had a near religious devotion to his jock about which
he felt no shame whatsoever. And, while the bra isn't as
perfect as it could be -- Bruce had apparently done the initial
measurements by *eye* -- it really is both comfortable and
curiously reassuring.

Certainly, blows to the nipple are less nauseating.

"Good impact dispersion," Tim says, panting and not curling
in on himself.

Bruce grunts, but it's the same sort of grunt he tends to use
when Tim says something complimentary -- and utterly
true -- about one of their vehicles' engines.


In the end, it's almost comforting. Familiar in a way which
has nearly entirely positive associations.

After all, he hadn't really started growing *into* all of his --
he tries not to think 'former,' because it isn't *correct* --
skills before his relationship with Batman -- Bruce -- had
started going to hell.

There's a certain relief in getting tossed around like an

"You're still moving as though you believe you lack flexibility
you *do* have."

Tim spits out a little blood -- his *aim* is still good enough
that he hits the waste-basket properly -- and gets back to
his feet. "Currently. And don't you think it could be
problematic to grow accustomed to flexibility --"

"Flexibility you may or may *not* lose."


"Or did I have to remind *you* that male genitalia are not,
necessarily, an impediment to extraordinary flexibility?"

If it really was the dim, dead days of a couple of years ago,
Tim would be blushing. The first humor Bruce had ever
shown to him with any degree of regularity was, after all,
about Tim's... admiration of Dick. As it is, he raises an
eyebrow. "No, you don't."

Bruce nods. "Good. Again."


It's not natural. It can't really be. Just because his mind
knows these moves in excellent, three-dimensional, and
annotated detail, just because his body -- this body -- feels
no difficulty in performing quite a few of them --

Tim flubs the split-kick which should've, at the very least,
knocked Bruce's head back, nearly flubs his landing, and
winds up pinned before he can even start cursing himself.

"You," Bruce says, "are thinking too much."

Tim narrows his eyes.

"I am, in fact, fully aware of the near-hysterical humor of
that statement."

Bruce pulls them both to their feet and sends him to the
uneven bars.

He hates the uneven bars. He has always -- *always* --
hated the uneven bars.


He... hates the uneven bars less.

He hasn't lost any of his upper-body strength -- though he's
morbidly aware that gaining more (and maintaining what
he *has*) will almost certainly be a challenge -- and he's...

He moves.

There's no *pull* in his groin muscles. Rather, there's too
little to truly distract him.


It *is* a balance thing, more than anything else. With him
forced to focus more than he normally would just to keep
from having a fall long enough to hurt him...

"I should've anticipated you'd find this easier."

Tim grunts and moves into the turn which will allow him to
make a rather showy leap to the lower bar, switching his
hands -- gripping, not too tight -- and letting his legs do
what they almost *want* to do. "Perhaps we could spar,"
he says, "over a drop."



"Tim, I don't know about this. I mean, I know meningitis
can be horribly contagious, and --"

"Extremely dangerous to people with lingering
immunodeficiency problems, like, say, people who were
once poisoned and *comatose*...?"

His father sighs, and Tim closes his eyes. He's won this
one, really. Again.

Which is how it has to be, so long as Tim looks more like
his late mother than ever. There are a lot of reasons why
he's avoiding mirrors as much as possible.

"I just... are you still all right? Dana and I are worried, son,
and your voice *does* sound a little strange --"

Tim winces. "It's probably the connection, Dad. Um. So far
all the tests are clear. I just... I need to be observed.
More." Somehow, it's always worse when there's truth in
the lie.

Another sigh. "All right, Tim. Just -- just keep us posted."

"I will. Later."


It's entirely possible that Alfred was always within lurking
distance, and that Tim *hadn't* been staring at the closet
in his old/new room for any shock-indicative length of time.

Still. He can't stop staring.

Alfred clears his throat.

"I'm listening, Alfred."

"If I may quote, Mast... Timothy, 'I really don't care what
sorts of things you buy, Al. I just want them to fit.'"

Well, that's... that's entirely accurate.

"Perhaps you would care to first examine some of the
more... deceptive undergarments?"

"Before the dresses. And skirts."

"Yes, young... Timothy. Before those."

He can't fight in the binding -- it's almost entirely unlike
having his ribs taped -- but, should it become necessary to
go home before this can be... fixed...

It could be worse. It could definitely --

"However, if I may say so myself, Timothy, the burgundy
shift truly is excellent for your coloring."

"I'll. Keep it in mind."


"So, you're still crashing with Batman?"

Tim closes his eyes. If Steph ever thinks to *wonder* about
the last time Tim was staying with someone other than his
parents, a lot of secrets won't be anymore. "Yes."

She snorts. "You know, boyfriend, using as few words as
possible doesn't actually change the fact that you sound
like a girl."

"I -- I'm still trying to make myself get used to it."

"Yeah, well, remember that *I* need time to get used to
it, too."

"Steph --"

"God. Am I a dyke now?"

"I... guess we'll have to see."

"Are *you* a dyke now?"

"I... can I continue not thinking about it, please?"

"Awww. Poor baby. Eat some chocolate -- it really does


The modified suit isn't complete yet. Really, it's kind of
impressive that Bruce is this *close* to getting it done,
considering. Right now, Tim is wearing something like the
'draft' of the new tights and shorts and a regular t-shirt
over his -- now perfect -- armored bra.

He hasn't been allowed his usual array of weapons for the
better part of the last two weeks, and that won't change

While he disagrees with Bruce about his relative level of
facility with the staff -- it had been another *limb* for the
last three years, and now it's only a weapon -- he can't
really fault the teaching methods.

Back to basics. Right.

Tim moves into a ready-stance and... pauses.

Bruce raises an eyebrow.

Tim curls his fingers in the come-on he has -- in retrospect --
only used with supervillains and when trying to distract Dick.

"Really," Bruce says.

Tim rolls his shoulders.

And does his best to fight like a girl.


It --

It shouldn't have been a surprise.

It's the first time they've had a spar which had lasted for
more than twenty minutes since before this had happened.
And even then...

It had been just after his last birthday, and they didn't... it
hadn't been a spar so much as a fight they'd both agreed
to pretend was a spar. It had been therapy.

This is training. This is *sparring*, and, as such...

He'd had years to grow accustomed to adrenaline, and its
effects -- on a male body.

Now that they're on Tim's third fall -- and Bruce's third pin --
he really does have to own up to the fact that there's a lot
he still doesn't understand about *this* body.

His thighs are wet.

This suggests -- from his limited experience -- that he'd
been fighting while aroused for an extended period of time.
While this is a fascinating question -- and something of
potential tactical *use*, considering the number of times
when untimely *erections* had left him at least somewhat
vulnerable -- it isn't...

It's not especially helpful, right now.

"Again?" Bruce's voice is low, and somewhat rough. With

With... he distinctly remembers when (he could tell himself)
that sort of thing was only pleasurable in the sense of
primal satisfaction. He had, at least, made the man *work*.
At the moment, though...

"Tim --"

"Time," he says, and grits his teeth. "I need... to visit the

Bruce raises his eyebrow. "I have to admit, I was beginning
to wonder if and when it *would* be a problem."

'It,' right. There are worse things than considering this
along the same lines as, say, popping fresh stitches. And
there's much to learn. "Hm. I take it I *also* need to grow
accustomed to my new... scents."

Bruce kind of... hums, a little. It's a very particular laugh.
"You might consider it."

Tim wrinkles his nose. "It would be better if it were a more...
distasteful scent. To me. I have to admit I didn't notice it in
any particular way, beyond..." Beyond increasingly
not-vague-at-all memories of certain spars with Batgirl. And
Shiva. And he isn't going to say either of those things aloud.

Bruce looks at him as though he's searching for the words
he didn't say, and then smiles at him with his eyes. "Look
at it this way, Robin," -- and the name is very pointed in
*that* tone of voice.

Attentiveness is reflexive.

"It's only a tactical disadvantage if you allow it to be -- and
you show every sign of being even more capable of
avoiding that than you were... in the past. And it might just
prove to be an advantage. With some opponents."

Tim raises his own eyebrow. "That's disturbing."

"Could it be otherwise?"

And *that* question... had really very little indeed to do
with Tim's hypothetical future relationships with
supervillains. And perhaps this, too, shouldn't be a surprise.
Or -- as much of one.



"You might consider... any number of things."

It says something -- a lot -- that Bruce is being this obvious.
This... Tim laughs, a little, forcing himself not to wince at
the sound of his voice. He's getting used to it, really. "'Why,
Miss Drake, you're beautiful,' Bruce?"

"Hmm. I'm still more inclined toward 'striking.' And...

"Well, that's at least... tolerable," Tim says, and twists his
wrists in Bruce's hands to work out some of the tension in
his forearms. And pauses. "'Still?'"

The smile in Bruce's eyes gets sharper. "Perhaps you'll
forgive me for finding your current form -- and rather
intriguing degree of physical detachment -- a trifle more...
distracting. Than usual."

Tim blinks. Once. "Interesting. You're... aroused by the fact
that I didn't realize I was aroused."

Bruce strokes Tim's wrists with his thumbs. "Yes. Though I
wouldn't say that was the whole of it. And... I'm curious."

Tim... breathes. "About?"

"Are you calling 'time' now because of the realization... or
because you're honestly too -- distracted -- to continue?"

The euphemisms are growing somewhat deadly. Somewhat...
Bruce smells extraordinarily male in a way which Tim will
undoubtedly find disturbing when and if he gives himself
time to consider it. Right now, though, he needs time to
consider the question of which answer he could give would
be *less* likely to edge Bruce further along the continuum
of 'disturbing interest.'

And --

And then he's not so much 'considering' anything as
watching Bruce lean in. And listening to him inhale. "Do I --
do I really smell that different? To you."

"No," Bruce says against his throat. "Which is, of course, the
intriguing thing."

"Of... course." And --

"Were you going to answer my question?"

The one which had been spoken aloud, or the one currently
being... exhaled against his throat? "I'm still... considering."

Bruce laughs, low and breathy and ticklish. He's just that
close. "You might consider telling yourself that my reaction
to your eventual answer isn't as much of a factor as

"Why would I do that?"

And when Bruce looks up this time, the smile is on his face
*and* in his eyes, and Tim's throat is...

Tim shivers, and the smile gets sharper.

"Because, Tim, there's no objective difference between
those reactions."

And that's... "Ah."

"Yes. I've been fully aware of my own arousal for quite
some time."

"Well. I suppose that's what makes you Batman."

The laugh is enough to -- rock Bruce against him. A little.

Enough to make Tim moan.

"I *had* been thinking it had more to do with a lifetime of
near-uninterrupted biological masculinity, but I suppose it
could be considered remarkable."

"Now you're... bragging." Tim doesn't lick his lips.

"And you're very striking."

Tim doesn't *bite* his lip. "I've earned a modifier...?"

"Consider it a correction in the interests of accuracy." And
Bruce's thumbs push into Tim's fists. It's far more suggestive
than it has any right to be -- Tim hadn't even been
clenching them. "Are you going to continue to go by 'Tim?'"

"Yes. This isn't... permanent. And --"

And Bruce's mouth isn't -- quite -- closed. "Yes?"

"Are you... *tasting* me?"

"I'm making the attempt. I'll let you know if I have any great
degree of success." And Bruce drags his short thumbnails
over Tim's palms, and Tim --

He *is* pinned. Movement requires requests he's not quite
ready to make. Most movement. His hips...

"Tim," Bruce says, and Tim isn't sure whether it's supposed
to a warning or an expression of heartfelt gratitude. But --

"You know, Bruce. It's not your animalistic tendencies I find
most... distracting."

Bruce breathes deeply. And closes his mouth. And smiles.
"All men are beasts, Tim. You really should be careful."

"Why, Grandma. What a large erection you have."

"All the better to --"



And Tim digs his knee into Bruce's thigh until he shifts
enough for *Tim* to shift. And spread his legs. "I have no
interest in keeping this hymen any longer than necessary."

"Hmm. Noted. Shall I use my fingers? Or my beastly male

Tim closes his eyes. Just for a moment.


"Surprise me."


For a while, Bruce seems honestly inclined to try to take care
of the problem with his tongue, which is just the sort of
quixotic thoroughness Tim has come to expect from the


It's gratifyingly predictable that Bruce... likes it from the back.

It's rather more than gratifying, if he's honest with himself.
However --

However, Bruce is whispering something which may very
well resolve itself into poetry were Tim to try paying
attention to more than the ruthlessly smooth roll and snap
of Bruce's hips, to the...

"It's -- oh. It's so *different* --"

"Yes," Bruce says, and licks a stripe -- two -- up the back of
Tim's neck. "I imagine so."


"Hmm," Bruce says, and pauses.

It's the sort of pause which is impossible not to feel, though
that may very well be a function of the fact that Tim is
currently on his hands and knees. Again. Tim lifts his head
enough to look back over his shoulder, though raising his
eyebrow is a bit... difficult.

Bruce is distinctly mussed. His hair is chaotic with sweat and
the amount of effort Tim has put into shoving his fingers
into it and pulling. His mouth is... almost ruddy. Swollen.

Tim narrows his eyes. And presses his tongue against the
backs of his teeth.

"I did, actually, have a question, Tim."


"Have you formulated any theories about how many
orgasms you're capable of having without requiring some
degree of... respite?"

It's almost enough to make him blink, but that would require
shifting some degree of focus away from the slick shine of
his own orgasmic fluids on Bruce's fingers. And the --
eventual -- shine of Bruce's saliva. "I can't say that I have,

"Interesting," Bruce says, after pulling his fingers from his
mouth. "It brings me back to the original question -- which
you still haven't answered."

It takes an almost shameful amount of time to remember
what that question might have been. In his own defense,
however, Bruce's hands never seem larger, harder, or more
rife with intriguing potential than when they're seated on
Tim's hips.

But he is still capable of thought.

"I would think the point about just how aroused I was when
I called 'time' would, at this point, be somewhat moot."

Bruce strokes Tim's hips with his palms, making them seem
even more curved than they are. It's a disturbing sort of
irrationality. "You could consider it an exercise in honesty."

"Why -- I have to ask -- would I do that?"

This smile shows a number of even white teeth. And Bruce
releases Tim's right hip to press his thumb against Tim's
clitoris. "In the interests of full disclosure, perhaps...?"

Tim is aware of his eyes slipping half-closed, but there isn't
very much he can do about it.

Less when Bruce's thumb begins teasing -- ah. That would
be the aperture of his urethra. Just one of the many...
things which provides an entirely different...

Different sort...


"In the interests. Of full disclosure. I... I..." Just a shift,
barely -- and then Bruce's thumb is *inside* him again, into
that... that...

"Tell me, Tim. Please --"

"Not enough -- not enough pain. Not -- doesn't --"

"Would you like me to be less --"

"Don't stop. Don't --"

Bruce squeezes Tim's hip with his other hand. "Then tell

Tim growls into the mats and works his hips back. And then
he turns his head enough to pant, "I would've been
perfectly... ready... for more sparring... after judicious...
use... of a wet wipe."

"I've changed my mind," Bruce says, smoothly replacing his
thumb with his erection. "You're enchanting."


Bruce is painting his toenails.

The polish came from their disguise closet, but it's not one
Tim has ever worn before. Perhaps Dick. Or Jason, he

Though it seems a bit... no.

Bruce is painting his *toenails*, with the sort of shamelessly
loving *care* which should only be given -- in Tim's
opinion -- to combustion engines and remaining alive, and


"About your earlier 'still,' Bruce."

Bruce blows on the big toe of Tim's right foot. "My attraction
to your formerly male body?"


"I assume you'd like me to... clarify?"

"In the interests of full disclosure, and..."


Tim flexes his toes -- carefully -- and rolls his head on his
shoulders. He's not especially sore, as these things go,
which is something of a surprise. "It would pass the time,"
he says, as pointedly as he can.

"Hmm," Bruce says. Mostly to Tim's toes. "I must admit that
there's a rather greater intensity at work here, at the
moment. I wouldn't think you'd be surprised."

"I think I'm allowed to be surprised by your being so
obvious about... it."

Bruce looks up at him through his lashes. It's an expression
which is both ageless and terrifying. "I have always been
drawn to women with a certain... gravity."

And men with a certain lightness..? How curious -- and how
very Bruce -- that this sort of thing is nearly perfectly the
opposite of how his own parents were.

By all reports. However...

"Is this where you ask me to shave, Bruce?"

"Only if you're planning to wear that burgundy shift Alfred

Purchased under your direction, Bruce...? "Forgive me,
Bruce, but was there some sort of occasion which would
suit that dress?" He would look precisely like his mother.
She'd liked that color quite --

Bruce hums a laugh and rakes his thumbnail down the
center of Tim's foot, making his toes splay for long enough
that Bruce can slip in the little foam separator.

"Suddenly, we've moved into the sleepover party of the

"Perhaps merely the 'purgatoried,'" Bruce says, and pulls
Tim's left foot into his lap. "If science continues to fail to
return your gender to you, I'll begin researching other

When? No... no. "When?"

"Hmm. You have at least another week before the 'testing
for meningitis' excuse begins to fray at the edges, Tim."

"And you have a lot of kinks to explore?"

"That," Bruce says, lifting Tim's still-unpainted toes to his
mouth, "can't possibly be a surprise."


Tim shaves. The stockings Alfred had purchased are dark
enough to hide most of the scars on his legs.

The shift, on the other hand, practically exclaims the scars
on his upper body.

Bruce provides a shawl.



It's one of the only things Dick has said aloud in the past
hour -- as opposed to pacing around Tim's room in the
manor and generally screaming his discomfort silently.
"Dick --"

"I just --" Dick waves his hands and keeps pacing.

"Dick, I really didn't want to talk about... this with anyone I
didn't have to."

Dick stops, and glares at him. "You could've --" And then
he scrubs his hands back through his hair and starts pacing

He really should've expected to be caught by the paparazzi.
And the local news.

And by people like Dick, who really *wouldn't* just say,
'that woman looks a lot like Tim' and move on. Steph
hadn't so much talked to him earlier as laughed herself sick
in Tim's ear.

Tim sighs and tries again. "Dick."

"You're a woman. And you're dating Bruce."

Dick, of course, would be one of the few people who reads
body language *just* that well. Bruce hadn't done
anything -- obvious -- while they were in public. "For now,"
Tim says. He wouldn't call it dating, personally, but Bruce
would, and... that's not the point.

"You --" Dick goes back to pacing. He's on the dresser now.

The fact that the dresser is covered with more 'beauty' aids
than Tim can quite make himself think about is, of course,
no real impediment for Dick.

"You... are you *stuck*? Or -- you're completely okay with...
everything? Or... *Jesus*," Dick says, jumping down and
sitting next to Tim on the bed.

The touch isn't really characteristic to Dick at all. It's fast,
and light, and it drifts over the line of Tim's jaw, his cheek,
down to his hip and back up to his breasts. "Dick --"

"God, I -- little *brother*," Dick says, and it sounds like he's
begging for something.

Tim winces. "We haven't -- yet -- exhausted the magic

Dick winces right back at him.

"I'm... I'm getting used to it. As much as possible."

"And dating Bruce..." Dick waves a hand between them, but
never takes his gaze off Tim's own. "... helps?"

He hadn't really thought of it that way, but... "It's definitely...

"I --" Dick shakes his head almost violently before slipping
off the bed and down onto his knees in front of Tim. "God,
you even --"

"Smell like a girl, I know --"

Dick's fingers are on Tim's mouth and his eyes are wide
and full of a dozen things Tim can guess about and even
more that he can't. "Do you... should you be my little
sister, now?"

"No," he says, and wonders if he's supposed to pull away.

Dick presses a little harder before pulling away himself.
For a moment he rests his hand on Tim's thigh, then yanks
it away --

"I said *no*, Dick."

And then Dick laughs, shakily, and puts it back.

Tim covers it with his own.

"I... should I be worried about you? You look -- you look
*good*, and whoever did your makeup last night did a
great job of making you look about ten years older, but
you -- this..."

He doesn't know if Dick should be worried about him or not,
and all he can do is shrug.

"Should... are you..." Dick bites his lip. "There's something
I have to know. And I -- you don't have to answer, or
anything, but I..."

It's about Bruce.

"I just... I have to *ask* --"

"Ask," Tim says, and squeezes Dick's hand.

"Are you..." Dick shakes his head again, and Tim is
absolutely sure that he'd be bolting if Tim didn't have his


"Are you gay? Were you gay before? I... bisexual, I suppose,
and I never even --"

Tim blinks. "I was. Yes. I -- Dick...?"

Dick's laugh is choked, and for a moment he drops his head
enough that it's...

Well, it's on Tim's breasts.

"Oh, God. I'm resting my head on your breasts."

"It's okay --"

"You have -- oh *God*. Okay, I'm not -- I'm just going to
stop doing that now, okay?"

Tim nods before he realizes Dick can't see it. "Okay."

This time, when Dick looks up, his smile is a little better.
Closer to 'rueful' than to 'actively going insane.' "I just... I
never even guessed. Not that I ever do, but... way to keep
a secret, little brother."

Tim smiles back, carefully.

"I guess... I... how do you think it's going to work? If --
*when* -- you get changed back?"

"I -- work?"

Dick looks at him like he's insane, or possibly just slow.
"You and *Bruce*."

Tim blinks... kind of a lot. It's a good thing he'd skipped the
mascara. "I... it *won't*, Dick. That's... it's a. I guess it's a

If anything, the look on Dick's face gets worse. "A -- a fling
for *who*?"

Well. That's actually kind of a good question. But... not a
difficult one. "Both of us."

"That's -- Tim. That's *terrible*."

"Dick, I'm... I'm more attractive to Bruce as a woman than
as I am... otherwise. *Bruce* is more attractive to me now
than he was... ever." Granted, it's more about Bruce's
personality -- the sudden appearance of one -- than anything
else, but... "This is -- this isn't --" Tim bites his lip. "It's
going to end."

"And I should be *happy* about that? That he's using --"

"Dick --"

"That *you're* using --"

And it's not that grabbing Dick by the hair seems like a good
idea, but it works, well enough. "He's teaching me how to
live in this body, Dick. And we're both... enjoying ourselves.
It doesn't need to be any more than that. Not. Not with
us." And he's kind of willing Dick to *hear* the stress he
doesn't quite put on the last word, but...

It's enough when Dick nods, brushing Tim's hand out of his
hair and squeezing it.

And now they're holding each other's hands, really, and it's
creeping close to... to the sort of thing his body is both
more and less obvious about, these days.

"You really do smell good, little brother. I mean... wow."

Tim snorts. "I'm starting to think I smelled awful before --"

"You really didn't." And that's... Bruce. Making his doorway
look small and pointless and smiling at both of them with
his eyes.

"Bruce..." Dick trails off, and Tim is absolutely sure that it --
and the fact that Dick isn't across the room -- has everything
to do with the fact that they're still holding hands. He
laughs, though, after a minute. "I *swear* I'm not macking
on my little brother."

And Tim thinks about just going ahead and laughing at that,
but --

"My little brother. Who you're... dating. Because he's a
woman now. Oh my God."

Bruce frowns. "Dick --"

Tim squeezes Dick's hands. "Dick, really, it's --"

"It's okay, I get it. I... no, I don't get it. I'm. I get that it's
*okay*, though, so... yeah." Dick squeezes *Tim's* hands
and stands. He's kind of hovering, though, and...

And Tim realizes that he's trying to decide whether or not to
ruffle his hair. He does his best to keep the wince internal.
"It's only really a problem after I've been hitting it with the
product, Dick. I mean... you're used to that."

Dick snorts. "And this is me, being obvious..." Dick shakes
his head and rests his hand on Tim's head, but doesn't muss
his hair. And then he looks up at Bruce, and Tim really
would agree to at least six more months -- on top of the
past two weeks -- of being a woman to be able to see Dick's

Whatever it is makes Bruce look even...

'Bigger' isn't the word. 'More male' just makes him want to
start packing or something. It makes Bruce look like the
man who is, actually, counting the orgasms he gives Tim.
With great and terrifying pleasure.

"Dick," he says, shifting in the doorframe, "I know this is...
I know it has to seem insane --"

"Well, *yeah*, Bruce, but..." And Dick slides his fingers
down over Tim's cheek. "It's not like I can blame you. I..."

And Dick's looking at him again, and it's like he's trying to
look *into* him, or maybe just say a lot of things Tim
can't -- quite -- catch.

"Just be careful, hunh?" And he turns back to Bruce. "Both
of you. Little brother's *deadly*."

He does, in fact, get the hair ruffle before Dick leaves.

It just doesn't feel the same.


"Okay, so I've decided that it's crazy fucked-up that you're
actually going *out* with Bruce Wayne."

"Well, it's not really... I mean --"

Steph snickers in his ear. "God, how is he not even getting...
you seriously told him you were your own *cousin*? But had
to go by a fake name? And why *aren't* you still crashing
with Batman?"

Steph, he doesn't say, one day I'm actually going to be able
to explain all this to you. And because you are who you are,
it's entirely possible that the humor factor will stop you from
wanting to beat me *too* badly. "I needed to be closer to...
that part of town." And you were never supposed to be able
to recognize me that easily.

"Ooh. Does that mean we're gonna get a rooftop date
sometime soon?"

"Um. Date...?"

"Well, I mean... you're still *you*. I had a long talk with
Cass about things, and I... um. She... we... uh. Anyway, it's
not important. You're still *you*."

With Cass...? "I --"

"And you're totally and completely not a dyke, are you?"
Steph laughs again, more than a little ruefully. "Oh God. I
am never getting to third base with you."

Tim winces. "Steph, that isn't, I mean --"

"But this just means you have to spill the details on
Braindead Wayne. He's totally trying to mack on you, isn't

"Er --"

"Is he *succeeding*? I mean, I didn't think you *liked*
them dumb, Girl Wonder, but he *is* kind of hot."


He doesn't need a mirror to know the uniform is absolutely
perfect. It feels just as good -- no.

It feels better than his first Robin uniform did. Back then,
he barely felt like Robin himself, after all.


Tim flexes his fists in the gauntlets and resists the urge to
slide them, palm down, over the tunic. He knows what the
sound will be, after all. He knows how it will make him feel.

"Have you given any thought to your hair...? Makeup?"

Tim looks back over his shoulder and raises an eyebrow at
Bruce. "You have, of course, already picked the shade of

Bruce -- the cowl is still off -- opens his hand to reveal a
small, black tube.

Tim snorts a little. "Let me think about it. What, if anything,
will we be telling the Commissioner?"

"I don't expect it to come up. If it does..." Bruce shrugs,
minutely, making his armor creak. "I was planning on
leaving it to your discretion."

"'Hi, Commissioner Akins. I know you already think
everything about this arrangement is insane, but I just
wanted to let you know that I've been turned into a

"If you wish," and the gauntlet is slick and cool on Tim's

"Perhaps we can keep our meetings to Montoya and Allen."

"Hmm," Bruce says, leaning in. "Careful. I believe you're
dangerously close to Renee's type."


"Oh God, no, son!"

"Dad, it's all right. The doctors think they've caught it in
time. And I still don't even feel *sick*."

"You -- I don't understand why we can't *be* there with
you, Tim."

Tim pinches the bridge of his nose. "I... I have a confession
to make."

"You... what is it, son?"

Bruce doesn't look up from the volume of poetry he's
perusing so much as shift his shoulders just enough to
make Tim hyperaware of his attention. He really can't
entirely hold back the smirk at that.

"Tim? Are you --"

"I... you *can* come. It's just. I can't. I can't really -- I
don't think I can stand seeing you and Dana through the
stupid sealed-off *glass* and not... not..."

Bruce is definitely looking at him now.

"It's just easier this way, Dad. I... I'm sorry."

"Oh, son. I understand, I think."

Of course he does. Tim can still remember listening to his
father argue with his mother in the hall outside his hospital
room after his appendectomy. His father has never been
fond of hospitals. It's probably part of why he'd healed so
fast after coming out of his coma, now that Tim thinks
about it.

"... us posted, all right?"

"I will, Dad. I will."

Tim hangs up the phone and lets his head fall back against
the arm of the couch. It's not a very hard bounce, but --

"I never taught you anything about deception."

-- it's satisfying. In a way. Tim rolls his head on his neck
until he can meet Bruce's gaze. "You taught me
*everything* I know about deception. Brucie."

Bruce raises an eyebrow at him. "I suppose I can accept
that. Janet."

Tim feels himself pulling a face and doesn't bother trying
to stop it from happening. "It was more amusing in my

"As opposed to the society pages...? Hmm. When *are* we
tying the knot?"

For a moment, it's deeply tempting to take the man
seriously. A huge, public wedding -- especially with a
socialite-sleazy wedding *dress* -- would be just the sort
of thing to make whatever gods and monsters quietly and
madly ruled the universe change him *back*.

And then Tim thinks about explaining that -- any of it -- to
Dick, and the temptation fades rapidly.

He closes his eyes and breathes.

"May I get you something?"

"I would like some sort of reason for the fact that I'm both
entirely un-aroused and slick -- *sticky* -- to the thighs."

"Would you settle for an excuse...?"

Tim doesn't bother opening his eyes to glare. It's Bruce;
he can feel it.

"Hmm. You're ovulating, I think. Have you given any
thought to what sort of sanitary products you'll be using in
ten-to-fourteen days?"

"I don't suppose hysterectomy is an option."

"Why, Janet," Bruce -- Brucie -- says, plummy and falsely
musical. "I thought we were going to make a family?"


"Damn. I mean... *damn*. I'm transferring back to

Montoya rolls her eyes at Allen before turning back to Tim.
"This pretty much sucks for you in all kinds of ways, doesn't
it, niño?"

Tim smiles, letting it be precisely as wan as it wants to be.
"Not as long as you keep calling me 'niñ*o*,' Detective."

She snorts and ruffles his hair.


Jason Blood always seems on the edge of a complete
psychotic break.

Tim is reasonably sure this is part of the man's charm for
Bruce, but... it's more than a little stressful to be around.

Especially when Tim is supposed to perfectly still *and*
calm within a capital-C Circle.

Still, though. It's possible this can be part of how he
explains things to Dick, at some point:

'You see, Dick, having the immortal host to a demon anoint
my naked, female body with various oils before drawing on
the runes with something almost entirely unlike paint might
have been a little too much to deal with if it wasn't for that
afternoon when Bruce put the lipstick on himself and
proceeded to have surprisingly artistic playtime with my --
you guessed it -- naked female body.'

He's still working on the phrasing, though.

"... strange, ungodly -- a male inside a woman's body --"

Tim blinks. It's a bad sign when Blood starts rhyming, even
mid-chant. He's almost sure of --

"-- gone, the form of man! Rise the --"

A very bad sign.


"Jason is very apologetic, you know."

Tim focuses on glaring at the wall.

"And... the oils weren't flammable," Bruce says, stroking
two fingers over the bandage on Tim's back. "Per se."

"Small. Favors."

"I've been assured that the runes will fade over the next
thirty-six to forty-eight hours."

Tim closes his eyes, and runs through a few dozen decimal
places of pi.

Bruce strokes his hair. "It gives you a certain 'Ancient
Priestess' je ne sais quoi."

"I'm thinking about hurting you while you sleep. Just so you

"Even though you're making me feel religious?"

Tim considers it. He's actually. He's...

Bruce slips around and kneels in front of Tim's gurney,
covering Tim's knees with his palms.

And spreading him.

"Think positively, Tim. We know more than we did before,"
Bruce says, before licking a perfectly accurate tracing over
the reddish rune snaking disturbingly over his left inner

It burns in an entirely non-painful way. "Tell me. What we --
what we know."

"We know that whatever happened..." Another lick, another
burning rune. "... was definitely magical in nature. A curse
protected enough..."

"Bruce, that -- that --"

"It doesn't hurt. Does it?"

"N-no. It's just... I..."

"You're sweating. You smell like black magic and sex. You...
yes, I believe I'm going to stand by 'enchanting.'"

"I'm going to kill you for that pun alone, Bruce, I *swear* --
*ah* --"

Bruce hums against Tim's abdomen, against the 'top' of
another rune. "The curse is protected enough to shake over
a thousand years of the most powerful magic and drag
Etrigan into the light. There really aren't very many
individuals capable of that sort of thing."

That is, actually, somewhat soothing. "We're... closer."

"Yes," Bruce says, and pushes Tim's legs far enough apart
that Tim's forced to balance on the edge of the gurney.

"Oh, stop, Bruce. Your enthusiasm is -- *nn* --


It's still a bit... disappointing -- on a number of levels best
left unexamined -- when Bruce sends him out to patrol

"Hmmm. I spy with my little electronic eyes... something
which would look much better in heels."

'Alone' is, of course, relative. "Oracle, do you really think
*either* me or Batgirl could pull that look off?"

"Not even remotely. However..."

The 'eyes' -- self-propelled cameras developed with help
from the Blue Beetle -- abruptly whir close enough to see --
though not fast enough to catch. Tim flips the cape back
over his shoulders dutifully.

The 'whistle' is actually closer to a grating whine with the
voice synthesizer, but the meaning is clear enough.

"Was that sufficient, Oracle?"

"Don't rain on my parade, Not-Quite-Boy Wonder. You'd be
surprised how very effective B's cape has been at cloaking
you from the public -- and private -- eye."


"Or perhaps you wouldn't."

Tim lets the rueful smile make it onto his face, lets it be

"Come play sometime, Robin. I imagine we have a lot to

"Noted. Is there anything...?"


The synthesizer -- or perhaps Oracle herself -- lengthens
the laugh into an entirely different sort of whine. It makes
Tim clench his jaw and waver a bit, as usual.

"As a matter of fact, a certain elder brother has requested
your presence in Bludhaven for the evening. Black tie not

Also interesting. "Noted, again."

"Oracle out."


He's barely a mile inside the Bludhaven city limits before
Nightwing's bike flanks his own.

Dick, being Dick, forces them into a curve which necessitates
the brief -- any longer would, actually, be suicidal -- brush
of their calves before putting on enough speed to take

No, a wave *isn't* good enough.

Tim shakes his head and follows, and Dick leads them into
the part of the city both close enough to the docks to have
a constant reek and far enough away to always be nearly
entirely deserted save for squatters, people in the process
of actively dying, and the occasional would-be crime boss
looking to make a more subtle than usual start.

Tim's expecting the last of those, and so waits to see which
alley Dick has chosen for his bike before doubling back a
few blocks to park his own.

He barely has his cape back on before Dick melts back out
of the shadows, though. "I thought we were doing...
something over there?"

Dick smiles ruefully. "Really not, little brother. Sorry. This is
where I'm *supposed* to be distracting you with vigorous
crime-fighting so you don't decide to head back to base

"I... is there a reason for this?"

Dick shrugs -- a little falsely.


"It *might* have something to do with the runes B
mentioned -- and which, now that I'm close enough, I can
*see*, Jesus -- and the fact that B is now doing something
he failed to specify with Blood, Zatanna, and a bunch of
other people who frankly give me the willies, and who
would probably react in various not-good ways to the
enchanted Boy Wonder actively dripping black magic."

And that's absolutely plausible. It's just that if it were the
whole answer, Dick would've said it right away. "And what

Dick sighs and crosses his arms over his chest. It's a gesture
Tim frankly misses being able to use without... drawing
attention. "I don't... I don't actually have more than
speculation. I just don't think *I* got the whole answer
from B."

And... Tim thinks he can maybe guess. However. "I'll take
the speculation, Nightwing."

Dick looks up, but not at him. And he doesn't uncross his
arms. "See, if it was just a matter of keeping you out of the
line of unholy fire, he would've *told* you, as opposed to
getting Oracle to get me into manipulating you out of the
damned *city*."

Tim nods and tries not to want to bolt. He knows. He --

"So, I'm thinking it's maybe about keeping you out of his
*own* sight... and keeping his resolve."

He knows. "I see."

Dick scrubs a hand through his hair. "I'm not... I'm really
not comfortable thinking of B-- of *B* that way. Of thinking
he can just... be that *selfish*. So this is where you tell
me that I'm reading -- everything -- wrong, Boy Used-To-

"I... I don't think I can."

"Jesus, I --"

Tim grabs Dick's shoulder before he can spin away. "Don't
think about it that way. It's not... it's just that I'd be lying
if I said I was one hundred percent ready for this -- all of
it -- to be over, myself."

The expression on Dick's face would be funny, if this were
an entirely different situation in an entirely different

"Is it really so... does it seem that fucked-up? God, I -- I
think I'm finally starting to figure out who this funny,
friendly, not completely infuriating *guy* is that you kept
telling me about."

And Dick is blinking at him -- the lenses are up, as usual --
and staring at him, and, yeah, Tim's used to losing those
battles. He starts to turn --

-- and Dick stops him with a gauntleted hand on his jaw. It
would be a little excruciating on the runes if Dick's fingers
were bare, but they aren't, so it's just... It's just Dick.

"I used to think it was the most wrong thing in the world
that you *weren't* in love with -- B."

Tim winces. "Nightwing, don't -- it's not --"

"You just told me that you're not ready to get your *dick* --
and for once, it *isn't* funny -- back, little brother. And
that it's because you're --"

"No, it's not, I mean, it is -- fuck." Tim twists away and
winds up in a spar which takes about twenty seconds --
he's never going to use his weapons against Dick if he
doesn't have to in order to keep them both alive.

It ends with Tim's back against the wall and Dick's forearm
digging -- lightly -- against his throat. Just enough to make
the point.

"All *right*, Nightwing --"

"No, it's not fucking -- it's not all *right*, Timmy."

Tim winces behind the mask.

"Oh, God, I'm starting to picture that ending with 'ie.' God,
little brother, you --" Dick slams his free hand against the
wall beside Tim's head. "How are you not *getting* that
it's a *problem* that neither of you can seem to figure out
that you don't have to be a *woman* in order for the two
of you to actually get *along*?"

"You *know* it's more than that --"

"Yeah, I *do*, and that just makes it even worse. My
*God*, if the two of you are that... are you seriously telling
me you can't even *imagine* trying to make it work with
Bruce if you're not also trying to pretend it's okay that
you're under a *curse*?"

And it's... it's not like Dick doesn't have a point.

"Please -- *please* -- tell me you're hearing me. You're
too -- you're both too good for this, little brother, I love
you too much to just let you --"

"Nightwing --"

"*No*, Tim -- God, this isn't -- you're not supposed to *be*
like this. It's not supposed to make *sense* to you that the
only way you can love Bruce is if you're not... you're --"

"*None* of it is supposed to make sense, Dick, Jesus, I --"
Tim bangs his head back against the wall. It makes the
runes feel a little crawl-y and it makes it *right*. He does
it again --

"Don't, God, stop fucking *hurting* yourself --" And Dick
has him by the hair and they're close enough that Dick's
breathing coffee into his mouth, and then they're --

Then they're closer, and there's a part of him which is
seriously trying to figure out how to explain to Dick that
really, his relationship with Bruce is a good thing, if only
because it's taught him not to completely loathe the
whimper-high moan which comes out of him when Dick
slips his tongue into Tim's mouth and *pushes*.

With his tongue, his body, everything, and the sound Tim's
gauntlets make over the arms of Dick's uniform is whispery
and electric, insinuating and --

And he's *kissing* Dick, and how the hell is he supposed to
regret being a woman if it gets him --

"Ah, *God*, you were supposed to be back in your own
*body* before I did that."

Tim blinks. "I --"

"No, I wasn't supposed to do that at all, oh God, little
brother --"

And kissing Dick again isn't a good idea. It's a terrible idea
on --

It's wonderful, it's *Dick*, it's --

"I want to touch you, I want -- I want you to smell like my
little brother again, I want to suck you *off*, little brother,
I want --"

It's easier than listening, it's so much --

"Stop trying to shut me *up* --"

"I'm trying to *kiss* you -- fuck --"

And it's not that Dick bounced him off the wall *hard*, it's
that he did it, and now he's staring down at Tim and --

And he doesn't know. He doesn't.

"Did you want me --"

"*Yes*, Dick --"

"No, did you want me *before*, Tim, you have to --"

The growl coming out of his throat is, at least, low enough
to make Dick *listen*. "Aren't you the one who's trying to
tell me that gender doesn't *matter*?"

And Dick actually looks *hurt*, and --

"Jesus, Nightwing, I --"

"Aren't you the one doing a damned good job of convincing
me it does, little..." Dick trails off and pulls away, and traces
Tim's cheek with his fingers. And then the damned *rune*.


"This is what you're starting to look like, to me. In my... in
my head. I'm trying... it's so hard to see you, Tim."

"I'm --"

"Don't tell me you're 'right here.' I *know* you are. I just
can't -- I don't..."

Tim catches his shoulder again, but he can't actually keep
Dick from turning away, this time.

"We should... heh. It's not like I can't *find* something for
us to do, here."

He should let go. He really. "Dick, I did. I did want you.

It makes him stiffen under Tim's hand, and... yeah. Time
to pull away.

Except for how Dick catches Tim's wrist *before* turning
back around, and then he's bouncing off the wall again, and
he's *not* asking if it's better if Dick does the hurting for
both of them -- however he fucking wanted to take that.

He's not, because this kiss is going to break him. Because
there's only a few layers of armor and fabric between his
mound and Dick's *jock*, and he's -- God, he already
*knows* how this --

He has to --

"*Robin* --"

"Nightwing, I'm -- you're going to make me come if you
don't --"

Dick's thrust *lifts* him, almost to his toes, and there's just
enough armor for it to only hurt *enough*, and Dick is
biting his lip, sucking it, grinding against him, he can't --

He --

"Then *do* it, Tim --"

"Oh *fuck* --"

"For *me*."

It isn't, actually, optional.


It really isn't as tragic to have an orgasm while suited up
anymore, especially since he *has* wet-wipes in his belt.

And if it were Bruce keeping look-out on the roof, he
wouldn't need a wipe at all.

If it was *Bruce*...

Maybe he can just track down whoever's cursing him and
piss them off enough that they go ahead and kill him.

"You okay, little brother?"

He's taking too long. He's --

"God, you're not -- did I hurt you?"

Tim blinks. "You *have* actually had sex with human
women, haven't you, Nightwing? I mean, I wasn't
hallucinating that footage, was I?"

This leads to getting slammed back against another wall,
but at least Dick is laughing this time. "Okay, I deserved

"And I deserved... this."

"Yeah. You..."

"Nightwing, *crime* --"

It shouldn't be better to kiss Dick while he's laughing. Or,
at the very least, it shouldn't *feel* this much better.

Because --

"Just let me enjoy myself before I remember to go back to
hating myself, okay?"



It's a little annoying to find the Cave empty save for the
smell of sulfur and a general atmosphere of things-one-
shouldn't-consider-too-deeply, considering the amount of
time he'd spent trying to figure out to have the 'we're not
actually exclusive, are we?' conversation with Bruce without
using any of those words -- save, perhaps, for 'actually.'

It --

He really had had every reason to believe the conversation
would go relatively well -- all things considered and in, as
ever, the interests of full disclosure.

In some ways, it's a bit surprising that they haven't already
*had* it, but --

They haven't, which means that, in Bludhaven, Dick had
almost certainly begun brooding with great vigor within
seconds of Tim starting his bike again.

At least they *had* managed to do a little work.

Making his Robin suit smell like stale fish and mysterious
alley grease just doesn't feel as justified when you're doing
it in the service of coming all over yourself, as opposed to
for the Mission, and --

And there's really no sign of Bruce, anywhere.

"Robin to Oracle."

"Yes, Bird Wonder. I absolutely meant 'Boy.'"



"I was going to ask if you knew where B was. And I'm
asking that. Because -- *Bird*?"

"Are you asking *that*...?"

Tim shakes it off. "No. No, I'm not. Where's B?"

"Hnn. Disappointing. B is playing with the big boys and
girls this evening. Apparently the individual responsible for
your predicament is a certain 'Queen of Fables.' You should
be able to find some -- updated -- information without
much difficulty."

Interesting. "How updated?"

"Well, let's see. I'm going to need a bit more literary theory
to really go with this, but you're the princess --"

"Is that necessary, Oracle?"

"Oh. Oh, it really is, *Robin*. Because the princess was
*supposed* to find herself on a quest to retrieve some sort
of amulet -- oh, I just got an update from Superman. It
really *was* a fascinum.  Hnn. Hnn. That's just a little bit

"Oracle --"

"The *fascinum* is currently attached in a very unfortunate
way to a certain Super*boy*, and I would ask why you
didn't know that already, but. You *have* been busy."

Tim pinches the bridge of his nose. "Is K -- Superboy all

"In a very *stiff* sort of seclusion, as I understand it. In
*any* event, releasing Superboy from *his* curse would --
if I'm reading this correctly, Blood *would* give notes in
Latin -- promptly turn Wonder Girl into some sort of
not-quite-ghost. And, incidentally, make the curse on you
a permanent one. Superboy would then focus on helping
Wonder Girl, and that would... Hmm."

Somehow, the 'I'm thinking' sounds are worse than the
laughter. But. "Yes, Oracle?"

"This is all *very* neat. Very clearly aimed at the Leaguers
with vulnerable -- or 'vulnerable,' as the case may be --

"And at those family members which have most to do with
one another. You were *supposed* to turn to Superboy in
your hour of need, Robin. And, judging from the footage
you've been sharing from the Tower... I have to admit the
plan has a certain elegance."

"It's designed based on... emotional entanglements. Of
course it's elegant."

"Hnn. Of course, it begs the question --"

"I came back because I needed to be re-taught, Oracle. I
wasn't even remotely street-ready."

"And you went to Batman for this?"

"I *tried* Batgirl. She kept telling me to 'stop lying.' She'd
started emphasizing her point with -- look, why don't I
just actually come *over*, because airing this amount of
drama over a comm is making... well, it's kind of making
my nipples itch."

"I'll bring the ice cream. Hnn. Oracle out."


The ice cream isn't rocky road, but Tim has never precisely
been averse to chocolate chip cookie dough.

Especially since every food product which spent an extended
amount of time in the Clocktower was gently irradiated to a
bacterial sterility.

Oracle gives him an extra head-set to listen in on the
evening's work of her operatives, and it's...

It's really a nice gesture, considering the fact that Oracle
tended to be ready, willing, and able to shut out *anyone*
who even made noises about sharing her particular burden.
Perhaps it's the concept of it as a 'burden.'

It would make sense for a woman who periodically
booby-traps the backs of her wheelchairs.

"... Oracle out. And by the way, Robin, I've finished tracing
the probable thread of magical infection."

Tim forces himself to focus on more than just the ice cream
and -- perhaps just a little -- worry. "You used an
epidemiological model?"

"Hnn. Modified," she says, smiling at him from over her
shoulder. "It was, after all, only supposed to 'infect' a specific
subset of the population."

Tim winces a little. "And if I guess that subset to be 'my
entire generation of vigilantes?'"

"Did you *want* a prize?" Oracle turns away from her
monitors and rolls to the table. And begins tossing her
escrima sticks from hand to hand. "This really is... I'm
honestly stuck on the elegance."

Tim passes the ice cream and leaves himself open for the
escrima sticks, instead. "Because it's precisely the sort of
plan you'd come up with?"

Oracle gives him what can only be described as a Look, but
does eventually laugh. "Yes. If you'd asked me a month
ago who the first person you'd go to in time of extreme
 emotional --"

"It was never especially extreme. This sort of thing
happens --"

"-- distress, in time of confusion which directly impacts on
your identity and *sexuality*..."

"-- all the -- right. Fine. I get it. But you do realize Superboy
and I have never --"

Oracle waves him off. "All the better. Seduction. Intrigue.
Mystery to catch your attention and -- correct me if I'm
wrong, but wouldn't Superboy do nasty things to kittens to
get the opportunity to help *you*, for once?"

Tim narrows his eyes. "I don't suppose you'll give me
access to your dossiers if I start wearing gold earrings...?"

Oracle steeples her fingers. And smiles. "We'll have to
discuss the uniform, of course --"

"Oracle --"

"I don't suppose I *could* convince you to save Superboy
from the world's most evil erection with the power of
your... friendship?"


She snickers and shoves the ice cream back across the
table. "Bruce has been keeping you... kept for weeks.
I've had time to store this sort of thing *up*, Boy George

"Oh, that's just... that's awful." Tim tosses back the sticks
and eats more ice cream.

"Speaking of Bruce."

"I don't suppose you've heard..."

Oracle's whistle is actually even more tooth-disintegrating
un-synthesized. "You really do have it bad."

Of *course* she was listening. "I don't -- look, I'm almost
certainly going to be menstrual soon. Can't we blame it on

"Well, you *are* putting a hurting on the ice cream. Would
you bark like a dog for a chocolate bar...?"

Tim narrows his eyes again. "Even I know that doesn't --"

"About *Bruce*."

Tim sighs. "What do you want to know that you don't

"*Tell* me it isn't killing you that this woman's -- creature's --
plans fell apart because she didn't factor in Bruce's
heterosexuality. I won't believe you, but you should still tell
me, anyway. I'll need current voice-prints for you if the
League can't make the so-called Queen give your family
jewels back."

"Well, I..." Tim gives up and laughs. "I have to admit, I was
a bit surprised myself."

"This is what I'm saying, Robin. For want of a *nail* -- "

"Or of a nailing. As the case may be."

Oracle snickers and shoves the sticks back up her sleeves.
"Indeed. This entire plan -- this thing which could've, and
perhaps should've destroyed a generation of heroes -- was
almost completely based on the assumption that Batman
keeps you Robins around for large amounts of *gay* sex.
It's *beautiful*."

Tim thinks about the sheer number of *comments* he's
received over the years, from supervillains *and* other
vigilantes... "All right. I'm with you, Oracle. It's pretty much
the culmination of my existence."

Oracle leans back in her chair, and her smile is just like the
few pictures he'd had of her before... everything.

Tim wonders if Birds get to see it more often.


Of course, the other failing -- is heterosexuality a failing? --
the Queen of Fables hadn't precisely been counting on is

Or, well, the lack of communication.

Twenty minutes after Oracle first noted that the Leaguers --
all of them -- were back on the grid, Bruce still hasn't
called. None of them have, though the fact that he's still --

He doesn't hit the floor, quite.

The table catches his head, and then he can catch the rest
of himself.

The rest of...

"Ooh. Was that a good disturbingly meaty thud or a bad

"I -- have a penis." His *voice* --

"It's not too late to consider a sex change, you know --"

"Oracle. Please. I need --" He doesn't. He isn't sure --

Oracle is fast, and strong, and helps him sit upright, and
doesn't make any comments about the fact that he can't
seem to make himself drag his hand out of his tights. Tim
blinks, and... well, mostly he blinks.

"Do you need coffee?"

Yes. No. "I -- I'm not. I don't." Tim takes a deep breath and
squeezes his eyes shut. "I think I should state, for the
record, that I'm reasonably sure I'm in perfect physical
health right now."

Oracle laughs and brushes Tim's hair off his forehead.
"You're allowed to be shocky for at least another fifteen
minutes or so before I start slapping you around. Also,
cheer up -- that pimple that was forming from your PMS is
all gone."

"I was getting a --" He doesn't care about the pimple. He...
"There's something I have to ask you, Oracle. Barbara."

She squeezes his shoulder. "I'm listening."

Tim opens his eyes, but... he really can't look at anything
but the few splashes of melted ice cream his collapse had
left on the table. He wants... he wants to eat ice cream
with Oracle again, sometime. Is he still --

"Pretend it's a dirty bandage, kid. Rip it *off* --"

"Does gender matter?"

She hisses between her teeth. "Ah, so it was a dirty bandage
over a *festering* wound."

"I'm serious. I -- you know where I was tonight, and --"

"Tim." The hand on his jaw is hard, bare, and --

And the runes are gone, too. And... and he can, actually,
meet Barbara's eyes. "I know the answer, already. I just --"

"It would be nice if Dick were right all along, wouldn't it? It
would be..." Barbara laughs, and it's not entirely without
humor. "It would mean that I wouldn't be sleeping alone
tonight, certainly."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Because Black Canary isn't on
assignment at the moment?"

Barbara narrows her eyes. "You give me *your* dossiers,
and maybe we can see about slackening the requirements
for membership in the Birds."


The hell of it is, he can't actually go home yet.

No reputable physician -- certainly not one paid for by the
Wayne Foundation Vocational Training Program located in
San Francisco, California -- would release someone with
even a 'mild' case of 'meningitis' after anything less than
two weeks. Still...

"My test results are looking good, Dana."

"Oh, that's wonderful -- I wish your father was home. He's
going to kick himself for going to the grocery store *now*.
He's been worried sick, of course."

("Shh, Timmy, it's okay. You know your Daddy loves you.")
"I know," Tim says, pulling a smile onto his face so it can
also be in his voice. "I can't wait to get home."


Home is...

Home has always been kind of a problematic concept, if
he's honest with himself.

Still, this close to dawn, he needs to hole up *somewhere*,

And he thinks if he goes back to the Clocktower, he'll
probably do something even more humiliating. Or say

Bruce isn't in the Cave when he gets back, but that makes it
easier to shower, and to...

There are several full-length mirrors.

The biggest surprise is that he doesn't feel strange. He
doesn't *look* strange to himself. It's still...

It's still him, just as if the last few weeks had been an
extended undercover assignment, as opposed to... whatever
they were.

He pulls on a robe and heads upstairs, and...

And no, he isn't actually surprised to find Bruce in his room,
holding *that* dress.

"You did pick that one out yourself, didn't you?"


Tim leans in the doorway and crosses his arms under his --
he crosses his arms over his chest. "I should've known
Alfred wouldn't mention any one particular outfit if it
wasn't... special."


"Bruce, were you planning on looking at me?"

Bruce stiffens on cue, and takes a deep shuddering breath.
And looks at him.

Tim opens his robe and lets it fall.

Bruce doesn't close his eyes, but he also doesn't come any

Tim nods, picks up the robe, and heads for the bed. "I need
to get some sleep."

"All right," Bruce says, and starts walking toward the door.
*With* the --

"Were you planning to take the dress *with* you?"

Bruce pauses, and looks back at him over his shoulder.
"Did you want to keep it?"

And there it is. The strangeness, the wrongness, the *pain*.
Everything, right there, because... "Yeah." His voice is
messed-up again. "I do, actually." He's allowed to close his

Especially when he can hear Bruce moving closer, the sound
of fabric on fabric, the --

The feel of Bruce's hand on his face.

And his hard, warm mouth on Tim's forehead. "I wish --"


Bruce's hand tightens for a moment. "You will never stop
being enchanting."

"I said *don't*."

Bruce is good enough to close the door with slightly more
force than necessary. It's an excellent cue to open his eyes

And he will.



"So what *did* you tell Wayne?"

Tim snorts, a little, and settles down on the balustrade next
to Steph. She has sandwiches, he has Zesti-Ade. Tomorrow,
they'll switch off. "It was something like The Crying Game,
actually. Though he didn't vomit."

Steph snickers.

"At least, I don't *think* he did..."

Steph laughs so hard she sprays a few crumbs.

It's easier to think of it as being a joke, especially if he can
watch Steph laugh.

"So you never *did* do him...?"

Tim pulls on a smirk. "I didn't say *that*. I just... well. It
wasn't that hard to make him think he'd just imagined my...
accessories. As it were."

Steph shakes her head and punches him in the arm. "You're

"You might be right."

"Also it's completely wrong that *I* didn't get to check
your merchandise, Boy-Again Wonder."

Tim smiles. "Next time."

"Uh, huh."

"And you were going to tell me something about Batgirl...?"

"Um... yeah. About that..."


The nice thing about continuing to stay in the Manor -- for
at least another week, anyway -- is that he doesn't really
have to always head straight for the Cave after patrol.

If he times it correctly, not even the brightness of his
uniform can stand up to the woods leading up to the east
wing in the last hour or so before dawn.

If he skips his night-vision lenses, it becomes an exercise in
speed, memory, dexterity, and instinct.

It can help make up for a patrol where he didn't -- quite --
exhaust himself enough. Especially if he eschews a line to
simply *climb* the walls to his bedroom. By the time he
gets there, he's shaking and just tired enough that he can
honestly imagine that the process of showering and
slipping his uniform into that *particular* dumbwaiter in
the wall will actually get him to the point where sleep is an

He's wrong, of course. But it was a nice thought. And...

And Bruce isn't back yet, and Alfred is doing that thing
where his door is closed and he's pretending that he's
actually asleep, and...

And it's not like he'll be able to do this when he goes back

The dress fits.

It's not perfect, of course. It gaps at the bodice.

However, the fact that it's a shift, and that his inner woman
hadn't been particularly well-padded... it's not obvious at
the hips. The right underwear, the right accessories to call
attention away from his *lack* of accessories...

It could work. It could --

"Oh, no, I thought you were -- you. Oh."

He hadn't heard Dick coming. Tim looks himself in the eye
in the mirror until he's absolutely sure he isn't going to
blush. "Everything's fine under the hood, Dick. I promise."

"You're just..." Dick joins him in front of the mirror and
smiles at Tim's reflection. It's an inviting sort of smile -- it's
Dick, it always is -- but it's also cautious. And then he
laughs. "Why don't you tell me what you're doing, little

Tim tugs at the bodice to keep himself from trying to press
it flat. "Having a moment?"

Dick's in uniform, except for the mask. He must've come in
through the window. It's --

Tim catches himself smoothing the dress down over his
hips and stops. "Dick, I don't think this is the best... time."

There are hands on his shoulders now. "It's all right, you
know. Of course you'd need some time to adjust --"

"What if it's not just 'adjusting,' Dick?"

"-- and you... I should've listened to you. I should've
believed you when you said you and Bruce would just
*stop*, but I -- what?"

Tim closes his eyes, and concentrates, and... there. If he
just... loosens his throat a little, maybe... "What if," he says,
in a different voice, "it's not just adjusting?"

Dick tightens his grip on Tim's shoulders. "Is this -- you
miss being a woman, Tim?"

Does he? "I'm not sure, honestly," he says, deliberately
keeping his voice... different. "I don't think I ever really
thought of myself as a woman, as opposed to..." He's
smoothing down the dress again. "I'm not sure." He tries
it in his own voice: "I'm not sure."

The touch shifts into a gentle stroke down his arms, though
Tim is reasonably sure it's a function of Dick not wanting
to abuse him with the texturing on his gauntlets. "Or maybe
you just like dressing in pretty clothes?"

Tim smiles. "No, I already had that part figured out. We
don't get to go undercover nearly enough, Dick."

Dick snorts, and he sounds a little shocked. "I -- *about*
those hidden depths of yours, Tim --"

"I have fewer, now."

Dick blinks at Tim's reflection. "Did you just make a vagina

"It just -- it slipped out."

Dick laughs into his hair and... wraps his arms around Tim's
waist. "Is this okay?"

"I'm... I'm technically on the rebound, Dick."

Dick squeezes him. "Yeah, I'm completely okay with the fact
that I didn't buy it when you tried to make it sound like
*you* would be fine with it just ending."

Tim frowns at the carpeting in front of the mirror. At... his
toenail polish is starting to chip abominably. "It's not even
*about* Bruce --"

"Tim --"

"Not entirely. It's... it was comfortable. *I* was comfortable.
Bruce has an incredibly twisted sense of humor, you know?"

Dick nuzzles him a little with his chin. "And so do you. I
can't believe you were calling yourself Janet *Haywood* --"

"And there were other things. You saw me on the street. I
was *better* --"

"You were *different*. You'd lost a step with your
staff-work --"

"And you know I would've gotten it back."

Dick sighs into his hair. "Have you tried those moves with
this body? Wait, who am I kidding. You did before you went
out on the street. Did you really lose them just like *that*?"

"Well... no. But they're harder."

Dick squeezes him. "You know I can help with that. You
know I'd *love* to help with that. I haven't gotten a chance
to help with your training a fraction as much as I wanted
to --"


"Tell me?"

"How can you say gender doesn't matter? How can you -- I
mean, I know you *live* like that. *Species* doesn't matter
with you --"

"Babs *said* you'd never gotten together with Superboy,
but -- is that really why?"

"No, but..." Tim shakes his head. "Give me a second?"

Dick nods, digging his chin against Tim's scalp gently. He
really isn't showing any signs of letting go.

"I just -- it does matter. I love Steph so much... I love her
more than just about anyone, and I don't think I'm ever
going to be able to *make* love to her."

Dick winces in the mirror.

"And she knows it, and she knows that *I* know she knows,
and we just keep dancing around it, and you know? I bet
she'd have a *lot* of fun getting turned into a guy --
especially if the entire League didn't have to go into battle
to get her vagina *back* -- and I'd love it, too. Right up
until I had to hate myself, because it would be like... like
cheating on her. I don't know."

"Is that what you... does it feel like Bruce was cheating on

Yes. Fucking *yes*, and -- "I don't know --"

"Tim," Dick says, and this squeeze is kind of a warning.

"*Yes*, all right? I just -- he knew he wouldn't... he *said*
he was attracted to me as a guy, and he *said* it wasn't
enough, and I knew it, I knew it, but I still -- I..."

Dick shifts until he has one hand splayed beneath the
breasts Tim doesn't have, and then he drags it down,
pressing the dress flat against Tim's skin, and --

He doesn't stop at Tim's waist. "Dick --"

"Did you think I wouldn't understand *that*, Tim? Did you
think I wouldn't get not being able to stop with Bruce even
though you *knew* better?"

Well... really not.

"God, at least you have the excuse of having actually
*gotten* somewhere with the man. I -- Jesus. I *know*
gender matters. It's just that it's never made any sense to
me. Even if you'd explained it all to me in nice small words
when I was fifteen or so, even if you explained it in pictures
with a fucking ASL translator helping things along..." Dick

"You still would've tried."

"And it still would've hurt when it didn't work. When he
wouldn't look at me the way he looked at *Selina Kyle*."

And that... it's probably not the best thing in the world that
that *stops* Tim, and makes him look at himself again,
and --

"Uh. The resemblance is really shallow? I mean... you had...
you were." Dick bites his lip at Tim's reflection. "Is it okay
if I laugh right now? I mean, I promise I won't... cackle...
or anything."

Tim gives up and snorts. "Me-fucking-ow, Dick. Jesus."

"Did you and Bruce ever --"

No. Tim pulls a smirk onto his face. "Do you really want to

Dick turns away from the mirror to look at him, and... Tim
turns and looks up. Dick's expression manages to be rueful
and sharp at once and, "yeah, actually. I do."

Tim shakes his head. "No. It wasn't... I didn't have to be
anyone but. Myself." Tim closes his eyes. "He wasn't
cheating on me at all."

"I know --"

"And that just makes it harder."

"I know, little brother. I know."


"So, what you're saying is that if you *had* come to see
what was going on with me --"

"Or if you'd come to see what was going on with me, Kon."

"Yeah. If we had, we could've, like, fucked the entire

Tim tilts his head back enough to let the breeze off the bay
lift his hair off his forehead. It's unseasonably warm today.
"Think of it as the dark magic equivalent of 'the gift that
keeps on giving.'"



Kon crosses his arms over his chest and frowns at the Bay.
"But I just... the only reason *I* didn't go running to you
for help is that Clark was totally there to lock me down and
throw magic users at me, and then, like, put me through
probe-a-palooza at the Fortress."

"And the only reason I didn't call you is because it didn't
even occur to me to do *anything* before I was street-ready
again. I just... you have no idea how rarely I went
*anywhere* I didn't have to back when I was first in
training. The first thing Batman taught me was how to be
terrified, pretty much all the time."

And Tim can feel Kon giving him a *look*. "You know that's
pretty fucked-up, right?"

"It's the kind of fucked-up that saved all of us. Unless you
really think I *wouldn't* have tried to help you with your
magic-related priapism?"

Kon blushes hard. "Well, actually --"


"Ease off, man," Kon says, putting his hands up. "I know
you totally would've tried, but you just made it sound like
you would've *tried*," he says, gesturing. "And can I just
say that it's gonna take at least another month before I stop
being terrified whenever --"

"Kon, I would've."

" -- I pop wood. Uh?"

"I'm gay, Kon," Tim says, and forces himself to actually
*look* at his friend. "I'd say something about how I always
figured you knew, and that's not a complete lie, but
mostly... well. I would've tried."

"So... you're not just gay, you're gay for *me*."

"Among others, yes."

"Among... uh?"

Tim smiles, and punches Kon in the shoulder. "It was for
the best that we were idiots who didn't call each other.
That's all I'm saying."

Kon looks at him. "Is it okay if I totally stick with 'uh' for a

Tim smiles a little wider. "Absolutely."


Dick's apartment really isn't big enough for two people.

Then again, there are two factors which need to be

The first is, of course, that he's going to be going back
home to his parents the day after tomorrow, with a deeply
realistic -- and thus mostly incomprehensible -- bill of
health from a brand new San Francisco clinic which Oracle
had endowed with money re-appropriated from six different

The second is that it's Dick, and so it's entirely possible that
the manor wouldn't be big enough.

Right now, there's approximately four feet of entirely open
couch-space next to them, and it will remain open until
Dick decides it's time for them to lie down, as opposed to
merely cuddling upright.

Tim honestly has no idea which movie they're supposedly
watching, but the popcorn is good, and Dick has been
stroking Tim's chest for the better part of an hour.

His training bra isn't quite perfect -- it's store-bought --
but Dick's hand on it is.

"I'm thinking about becoming a Bird of Prey," Tim says, the
next time there's a commercial break.

Dick's hand stills, calluses catching at the lace. And then it
starts again. "Well... you *are* already a Robin, little
brother. Right?"

It comes out a lot more -- no. It comes out exactly as
seriously as it should. "Yes."

"Then really, I guess it was only a matter of time," Dick
says, and uses his free hand to feed Tim another few
kernels of popcorn. "Robins are surprisingly dangerous,
after all."

Tim smiles and closes his eyes.


.To play with wine and love.