But whosoever would pluck [Reference]
by Te
July 20, 2007

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Some references to older storylines. Kicks off some months into Tim's first year as Robin.

Summary: It's hard enough being Tim.

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content which tends to dovetail neatly with the content some readers may find to be disturbing.

Author's Note: Mildred wrote some Matches Malone snippets that inspired the hell outta me, and got me thinking about *all* of Bruce's identities.

Acknowledgments: Mildred, Petra, Jack, and Pixie all held my hand through parts of this, and helped me to make it much better than it would've been.


Tim likes the subway.

He always has, really -- it's a way to be anonymous and alone while also being surrounded by others, and, while it's never very likely that everyone on a given car has important places to go and important things to do...

Well, it's always *more* possible this way than it is to find that sort of thing if Tim, say -- just as an example -- were to use his father's car service to pick him up from school every day, as opposed to having them pick him up at the end of the line. The drivers working at this time of day don't mind, and.

He does feel a little guilty about deceiving his father, especially since he's only tangentially doing it for the Mission -- getting home faster than Gotham traffic would allow for a car doesn't mean he gets to the Cave faster, since his father is usually most awake and interested in Tim's time during the afternoons -- but... he thinks he's allowed to have something for himself.

Especially something which is almost like how it had been in the 'old days,' when his life had seemed to mostly involve sneaking away from nannies and babysitters (who were always better at being house-sitters), riding his bike to the nearest train station, and diving into Gotham as far as he could get. He doesn't carry a camera around anymore, and notebooks are security risks, but still.

Sometimes it doesn't matter that it's all *real* now, or -- no.

Sometimes it's all so real that it's easy to forget that there's still another side of him, that there still *has* to be another side of him. *He* can't walk around with a utility belt under his shirt. Not -- not yet.

Anyway, it's always best when the car gets full enough that he has a choice between practicing his balance in a portion of a few of the more subtle ready-stances or being sandwiched and hanging -- vulnerable -- from the not-quite-Tim-Drake-height commuter straps. Either way, it's a challenge: the one for the skills he's been learning for the past year, the other for his ability to keep his head in situations where there really are too *many* people for comfort.

Bruce hasn't quite *scolded* him for not being as social as he could be --


That's -- they're in the dark now, and, it's going to *be* dark for at least a few minutes, but Tim had *seen* that jacket in with all the other semi-permanent disguise clothes one day when Bruce -- not Alfred, never -- had left the armoire open, and it's for Matches, of course, but --

But there's a hand on his face, now, a little oily at the fingertips, tracing his features, and -- *had* it been Matches?

Is he about to try nerve-striking Bruce?

The car lurches to the left, and if Tim had been bothering with the strap he'd be swinging, now, bumping into people. Maybe brushing the way the jacket's rough weave is brushing against the skin of his face, his arms. The hand is gone, and maybe this is just... one of those things.

Strangers on --

Well, no, not like that -- *Jesus*.

There's comfort, of a sort, in the fact that no one has stopped talking or listening to music *enough* for the high-pitched noise which actually made it out of Tim's voice to garner any attention, but -- maybe it should. He. He's pretty officially being *molested* now, big hand working Tim's penis through his clothes -- working *him* --

He's a teenager, and the fact that this feels good to enough of him that -- no. Really incredibly no.

It's not -- it *can't* be Bruce, ergo it's a good time to strike down --

And miss. *Miss*?

He tries again, both hands, two angles -- miss.

"Aw, now, don' be like that, sweetheart. Ain't like we got much time," he says --

"Matches," Tim says. And -- Bruce. But you don't break --

'Cover,' Tim thinks, and the hand is right back between his legs, holding him by the -- by the *testicles* as the other hand works on his zipper.

"You --"

"Shh, shh, you know how to be quiet, doncha?"

Accent pure dockside, diction which only seems consciously fuzzed -- blurred -- if one applies the sort of thought, the --

"Yeah, you're a real quiet boy. Know how not to call attention to yourself, like."

"I can -- Matches," he says, and it's weak, but his testicles are free again, and the hand on his face smells like garlic, a hint of vinegar -- tastes that way, too, his brain offers, but --

"You got it the first time. You *knew* you did, baby. No need to show off."

Show -- off. Show off. That's... the words make sense, of course, but there's a certain undercurrent to this, something beyond the hand wrapped tightly around Tim's penis and the fingers in his mouth.

Fucking his mouth -- Bruce.

There's something -- the last time he'd seen Bruce, Tim had been changing out of his uniform for the night while Bruce looked over the reports Tim had outlined on his palm-top. He was planning to finish those off, tonight. Had he... gotten too much in the habit of doing that?

Was this --

Is he -- slacking?

There's no way to ask, of course, and no way to be sure -- he's going to lose his balance.

"Ah, ah, ah. Better hold on, baby boy," Matches says, and slips his fingers out of Tim's mouth, grabs one of Tim's hands, and *lifts* Tim by it, up onto his toes -- he has the strap, and there's a part of him which is thinking about questioning -- questioning beyond the *questions*, but that hand is still around his penis, and Tim's internal clock wants him to know that they have -- a minute.

Maybe less. Assuming he allows -- more of this.

He's too hard. He's not Robin, here -- this is established. He's Tim Drake, who's a horny teenaged boy with a penchant for the safer ways of slumming it.

Strangers on a train, when Tim should be in a nice, clean car, newer than not, stuck in traffic but too bored to care -- something. Perhaps he hasn't been safe *enough*, smart enough --

"That's more like it. Nice and hard for me. Whatcha gonna do if I leave you like this, honey?"

Careful enough --

"Anybody ever teach you how to beg? Or are you just gonna hunt ol' Matches down like the bad guy he is...?"

("You have all the instincts of a born detective. You're here for me to teach you why that isn't enough.")

"Cat got your tongue? Or do you just miss having something worthwhile to *do* with it?"

"I don't. You want me quiet. You always --"

Another strange comfort -- he'd known he was asking to have those fingers back in his mouth, for --

The car lurches again, and he hasn't put out nearly enough pre-ejaculate to make the motion of Matches' hand on him anything but the shuddering kind of painful. He's sweating under his clothes. His mouth is full.

Thirty seconds. Twenty?

It's not that Bruce had ever told him that he didn't like to be disturbed while he was working. It's just that it had never been something which needed to be said. Unless --

Unless that's another aspect of the currently rather *murky* waters which lead to him sucking hard on Matches' fingers, thinking of Nightwing, thinking of the hand which can't really be disguised.

There's probably tanner on it, and certainly there are the lingering traces of spices -- some kind of sandwich? It's still Bruce's hand. He knows that, now. He knows what it feels like, he knows --

How many seconds?

"Tick-tock. You don' want me gettin' bored, do ya?"

The flush -- the heat of this will outlast him. He knows this --

"There you are. Just needed a little encouragement, right, baby?"

The fingers are still in his mouth when Tim balances himself, settles himself -- no, no time. He tucks himself away --

And Matches knocks his hands aside and zips him up. And pulls Tim's t-shirt out of his pants. There's going to be a stain --

He blinks away the sudden light, the smile curled across Matches' face like a slap Tim wouldn't be able to land --

When he can see, the top of Matches' head is moving through the crowd, out the door.

Tim has two more stops. Tim...

Shifting makes him -- aware of the slickness in his briefs. Not shifting doesn't alter the awareness even a little. He --

("Comfort is a luxury you can no longer afford.")

With effort, he can narrow himself down to his outward awareness. Sound, vision, scent -- focus. The man currently tucking a wallet into the pocket of his jacket has a wallet in both of the back pockets of his jeans. It doesn't take much to shift enough to bump the man just as the car moves into another lurch, and, when he falls, wallets spill from him like candy from a piñata.

The other passengers don't *quite* fall on him like wolves -- none of the injuries being inflicted seem especially dangerous -- and there is no direct reason --

Tim is in no mood to help.

The driver nods at him when he gets to street level, Tim's smile is adequate enough not to rate a second glance -- sitting down makes the mess in his pants somewhat more awful than it had seemed.

The inside of his mouth still tastes like --

Tim does not flush. He -- doesn't.


Thinking about it is complicated on a number of levels, starting with where to begin.

If he chooses the line of thought which starts with "I have always had my suspicions about Bruce, though not of the sort which other people seem to," he is limited to explanations and reasoning which *only* touch on the varying sorts of emotional wreckage which have made Bruce who he is. There is nothing of Tim in that model, beyond the gross facts of shape and physicality. While this is satisfying on a number of levels, it also tends to make him feel rather --

("If you continue to think of yourself as a replacement, you will never succeed at what I wish you to accomplish.")

-- disturbed.

On the other hand, if he starts with "I have done or said something -- or some things plural -- which called for, in one way or another, the incident on the subway," he is left fumbling with a different sort of wreckage.

It's not that he hadn't already begun to be somewhat concerned about the percentage of his sexuality he'd devoted to something which doesn't have anything to do with sex, at all, it's just that he is anything but the *first* of his kind.

Dick has been...

It wouldn't be very far beyond the bounds of this hypothetical playing field to say that Dick has been deeply encouraging, supportive, and --

("The answer, kiddo, is *always* 'adrenaline.' Even when it isn't.")

He is a teenaged boy, and he is *not* alone.

Still, it's a messy line to take. The fact that he's been entirely appropriate, that every act of physical contact not directly related to a spar has been initiated by *Bruce* --

The fact *is* that Tim has been aroused in Bruce's presence rather a lot. If not more often than not, then certainly pushing at that threshold. Adrenaline, yes. The knowledge that every strike he learned would be useful on the street, the pleasure of showing Bruce how well he'd memorized points of law, statistics, the streets of Gotham...

Showing off?

He's wanted to be perfect, and while he's learned -- the hard way, multiple times -- that perfection is something which is *designed* to be out of reach, he has tried, and striven, and --

Every smile, every touch.

Every nod of acknowledgment --

But again, he's not *alone*. Bruce is used to this sort of thing, this brand of hero-worship which can't ever be shaken when the hero in question will simply *persist* in being everything the boy in question needs him to be.

Or -- not everything. There are roles Robin plays, actions Robin *takes* that Batman can't and still be effective.

Still, the model is good enough, and the larger model -- if Tim didn't admit to a large degree of *want*, he'd be lying to himself, and thus failing to be the person -- the *hero* -- he's supposed to be...

The larger model has failings on its own, but perhaps when it's combined with the model of Bruce's darkness, Bruce's needs and everything strange (strong, fascinating) about him, everything the world has shaped him into -- no.

He can't quite make it there from here. There, after all, is semi-public sex -- molestation -- on a subway car. There is the feel of himself being forced to surrender to the basest possible...

Is Matches even supposed to *know* enough of the martial arts to block those kinds of strikes?

There's another model he can play with, of course: the question of what one does when undercover, and how being must trump -- to at least some degree -- acting, if only for --

"Where *are* you tonight, Timbo?"

-- the Mission. Tim smiles at his father, toning it down under something which should look like ruefulness. This isn't the right time to reassure the man with his overall happiness and bright outlook on life. "Sorry, I think I was... stuck. On a problem," Tim says, and focuses on his rather full plate.

"What kind of problem? Something for school?"

A good question. His father has the sort of education -- and desire to be *present* in Tim's life -- which would necessitate Tim coming up with something from school which both could reasonably be considered challenging, and something which his father *wouldn't* want to spend all night going over with him. So -- no. "Well... kind of. But not really work," and this is where he swirls his fork around, works up a blush -- he can't really do that. Staring at the plate will have to do.

"Not really... oh. Have you *met* someone?"

There's a certain bluff heartiness to his father's tone which any teenager should be allowed to find distasteful, but. But. "Well, I. I've known her for a while. It's just that... um." What?

"Sounds like somebody's little girl did some *changing* over the summer."


"Something like that," Tim says, and this, at least, is one of his own real smiles, if not a time when he'd use it. Chances are, before all is said and done and there's a Case with his name on it in the Cave, he's going to come to treasure compromises like this.

"Well, you know, it's been a pretty long time since I was in the dating game, son, but if you ever want to talk about it..."

"Thanks, Dad," Tim says, and makes a little show of actually eating the food on his plate. He doesn't *think* it's the right time to ask about the flirtation he's been picking up between his father and his father's physical therapist.

Presumably, that time will come.

For now, it's dinner, and a little time to let the food settle before he lets his father bully him a little into the home gym, and his father lets *him* help him from the chair to the various pieces of equipment.

Technically, his father is only supposed to work out when the PT is around, but he can't exactly blame the man for wanting faster results.

Tim focuses on performing about half as well as he actually can, and then it's his turn for bullying -- he needs his father to take the medication which tends to knock him right out at least as much as his father needs to take it.


Well, it's not the idea of going to the Cave that stops him -- he already has his music playing just loud enough to imply that he's either listening to it or sleeping to it, and the door to his bedroom comfortingly closed -- it's the doing it.

He catches himself somewhere between stuck and *frozen* in the middle of the tunnel, listening to the whistle of air, wondering stupidly if the draft in the wine cellar is going to raise their heating bills a noticeable amount --

No, he has work to do, if nothing else.

As it happens, Bruce is nowhere to be seen -- and neither, his genitals want him to know, is Matches -- but there are still those reports he needs to fill in. It --

It's absolutely normal for Bruce to leave his own notes in Tim's outlines, things which Bruce especially wants detail about, but still, seeing those notes there interspersed with his own shorthand is a lot -- a little too *much* like having Bruce right there, questioning him --

Or just looking at him.

Tim swallows, breathes, focuses --

("You do not know, when you begin to work on a case, which detail will prove to be the one which separates justice from injustice. You will study everything. You will *know* everything.")

And suddenly he's less in the chair than swallowed by it. It's too big, too dark, too --

He gets up, he walks, he -- takes a short run and gives his heart-rate a reason to be up, his cheeks a reason to be flushed. He is his body, and his body is this, just this, neither more nor less a part of this place than the stone, the mats, the equipment, the Case.

He doesn't need to touch the glass to know that it's warm from the light which is always on. Or -- Once, while he was living here, he'd left off tossing and turning in his bed in the manor to come down here. Bruce had been carefully rearranging the suit on the mannequin, and he'd brought the rolling worktable close. There were light bulbs there, and Tim had felt like he'd walked in on something...

Something which wasn't for him, no matter how much the Case *felt* like it was -- part of him. Not his. He'd gone back upstairs.

Here, now, the Case is back to feeling like his strength and everything he has to test his strength against. It's -- not what he wants. Not exactly. Tim stands straight and loose, ready, and calls up the face from a dozen beautiful photographs which have been scanned into the computers and destroyed, from hours of training footage, from everything he's ever heard any of his family say about him.


"Dick says you were closer to Bruce than anyone ever was, including Superman -- Clark. It's not that I have reason to doubt this, I just think I'd like to have some of your... understanding."

The Cave is silent, of course, but while the world Tim lives in isn't exactly new, it's quite full of gods and monsters. There have been times when he has... wondered, if not quite known. Felt if not seen. Something.

It's a kind of meditation to be here, like this, even though Bruce's mics and cameras are picking up absolutely everything. Maybe -- *maybe* -- because they are. He -- has nothing to hide from Bruce.

It's part of what makes it easier to know that he'd lost any right to hide he may have once had on... not the day he'd gone to Dick. The night he'd first taken to the rooftops.

"I was looking for you, you know," he says, slipping into the rhythm of silence, the feel of the Cave being --

The Cave is never truly *empty*.

"I thought, perhaps, Robin would be easier to find. What I really meant, of course, was 'easier to know,' but here I am, and I don't think I was right about that at all," he says, and puts a hand up close enough to feel the warmth of the light.

After a few minutes he feels... better, though of course he still has all of his original questions. He thinks, perhaps, he might be better situated within his own skin, or something of that sort.

"Thank you," he says, and moves back toward the console. It's the work of about twenty minutes to convert his shorthand into workable reports, even with Bruce's questions. Like this, comfortable again, he realizes that Bruce's questions simply didn't ask for much that he hadn't already been planning to detail.

He has gotten better at anticipating Batman's needs, if no one else's.

Once he's finished, it's close enough to full dark for him to suit up, and it's not excessively strange for Bruce to still not be around. It takes a great deal of time and effort to make Bruce Wayne seem real to the vast majority of Gotham's -- the world's -- population, and there have long been protocols set for Tim working alone.

It's an excuse to take the Redbird out, and he frankly doesn't need much convincing for *that*. The Redbird doesn't blend into the shadows as well as the Batmobile, but it's small enough that he can stash it in alleys not even Bruce can ease the larger car into.

After that it's -- never routine. Or, if it *does* get to be routine for people who've been doing this for years, Tim's never seen any evidence of it. Every night is different, and sometimes even the geography changes.

A half-collapsed building which was last week's handy collection of shadows in which one could watch and wait is this week's hopeful little garden. Robin does not, if at all avoidable, grind anyone's tomato plants into the dirt. Tonight's changes are smaller than that, though -- windows which have always been dark at this time of night are full of light and shapes, a vacant lot is showing the scars of construction vehicles and a handful of crates.

The purse-snatcher is no one he's seen before, but of course Tim makes a point of turning him over onto his back to get a good look at the face before moving on.

Two of the armed robbers are familiar from mug-shots, specifically the list of recent parolees no self-respecting police officer actually has the time to study as well as they do. Sometimes Batman visits parolees at their homes. Sometimes Robin visits parole officers at theirs. It's a division of labor which works quite well, though it's rarely as satisfying as being able to identify a criminal by the tattoos on his hands and wrists -- for Tim, it's often a matter of the craft and artistic style -- *before* he's beaten said criminal badly enough that removing the ski or Halloween mask is -- easy.

Something of a finishing touch -- spoiled, somewhat, by the joke the liquor store manager makes about being glad he's not all that strict about letting kids into the place. Still, it's always good to have a chance to practice his glares.

While they're nowhere near as effective as Bruce's own, Tim can't help but be gratified by how well they do work, considering what he's wearing.

After that, it's a matter of checking hot-spots, stopping in at whichever clinics Leslie *isn't* scheduled to be at tonight. Sometimes she fools all of them, and Tim has no choice but to be subjected to her contemptuous varieties of care.

("She is a valuable ally.")

Tim flinches a little, inside. The RN at this clinic is far too busy treating a nasty burn to notice, but --

There had been nothing murky at all in Bruce's comment about Leslie. It had been a rebuke, and rather more than simply a warning not too -- assume -- anything about Bruce's feelings. Tim had, at the time, been far too accustomed to Bruce sharing Tim's amusement and cynicism about various civilians. Perhaps he'd needed the slap --

Bruce is not his friend.

Both Bruce Wayne and Batman, however, are very good friends to these clinics. The former provides funding and materials. The latter provides information -- through Robin -- about the little things. Doctors with peccadilloes they may wish to atone for. Rumors of gang violence in various neighborhoods so that resources might be redistributed as needed.

Robin can also take care of most of the minor injuries and help take care of many of the larger ones.

It's a strange sort of nudity to replace his gauntlets with latex gloves, but it's hardly uncomfortable. Often there are children, and the way they look at him makes him feel as though he's made all the best choices, done all the best *things* with his life.

Tonight, there is a little girl with two long, thick braids and a nasty cut on her forehead. She had been crying profusely at the RN's attempt to clean the cut, but she seems quite taken with his chest armor -- even after Tim carefully moves the shuriken out of her reach.

"Boom boom!" she says, knocking her fist against the layers of kevlar and nomex.

"Indeed," Tim says, and nods to himself at the evidence that the topical anesthetic has numbed the girl's head enough that the stitching isn't hurting her.

"Boom boom *boom*!"

"Careful. You don't want to hurt me, do you?"

The girl's eyes are wide, her expression reaching depths of philosophical intent most adults can only manage with the help of illegal drugs. "I'm four," she says, after a long moment.

It's tempting to tell her his own age, but it would probably unduly remind the girl's somewhat bemused-looking parents that there's a vigilante repeatedly shoving a needle into their child's head. Instead, "all the best people are, you know."


"Mm," Tim says, and finishes up with one last swipe of disinfectant and turns to the parents. "Bring her back in about a week to have the stitches removed. There's probably going to be a small scar, but cocoa butter will help."

They nod at him without speaking, and the look... well, it's not the sort of look which a reassuring smile will do anything to help, in his experience. Tim nods at them, pats the little girl on the head, and heads toward the back office and the -- always -- staggeringly overworked RN. 

It's Brenda tonight, and by the look on her face, her back is acting up again. "All right?"

She grunts, sighs, looks longingly at the beat-up old chair which probably doesn't do anything *good* for her back, and settles for finding an empty place on the wall to lean against.

"I could suggest some stretches...?"

"Honey, if I could bend like you, my husband wouldn't cheat on me so damned much. How long can I keep you tonight?"

He's qualified to respond to... half of that. "I need to get back out there for at least a little while, but I could come back if you like?"

"*Do*. Dr. Thompkins has a breech birth over on ninth tonight, so you don't have to worry about getting your wrists slapped too badly," she says, slowly and deliberately straightening out her posture.

"If you roll your hips forward a little bit, it might help," he says, and tries not to think about Leslie too much, but. "And -- I understand Dr. Thompkins' concerns."

She waves a hand at him -- and rolls her hips forward. "We all *understand* her concerns, honey, but after your boss spent a little extra time in my neighborhood a few months back, it got safe enough for my kids to actually go *outside* to play. Plus, you're good with the little ones."

"I -- I enjoy it," Tim says, because he really does have to say something, and because it's true. It still feels like --

"Mm. Do us all a favor and make Batman pay to send you to medical school, all right?"

-- admitting to something he has no right to. Tim smiles. "It's a thought. And -- are things still quiet in your neighborhood? I could stop by..."

She shudders and steps away from the wall. "Listen, I know you throw yourself against gun-toting assholes all night *every* night, but that doesn't mean I need to think about it, *kid*."

Tim holds up his hands in a bit of surrender -- and gives her a different sort of smile. "I might have meant that I'd refer the matter back to Batman, you know."

"Uh, huh," she says, and crosses her arms. "Then why don't you tell *Batman* that Burnley *is* moving again -- but it's Izzy's neighborhood, not mine. And I swear if you get yourself killed, I'll bring you back *just* to let Leslie stomp all over your lily white ass."

'Izzy' is Isabel Perez, who will most probably be on duty tomorrow night, and -- he likes Brenda rather a lot. "Noted. Though I do prefer to think of myself as being rather more... colorful."

She raises her eyebrows.

"Red, gold, and green, of course," he says, slipping back into the shadows and letting them in a little, letting them carry him out the window and back into the night at the sound of Brenda's laughter.

Isabel lives to the east, and while the neighborhood is on the edges of Tim's territory for solo patrolling, it's still well enough within it for him to...

Well, not *play*, per se.

There are a few Chinese places still open, and rather too many liquor stores for it to be a nice place to live, but, of course, the dealers are worse. Most of them are Latino, but there *are* more African-American faces than he would normally expect. It's a matter of picking the right pockets of urban entrepreneurialism to disrupt -- and bruise.

It doesn't get him much in the way of information, but Tim does not miss that even the runners are armed. Cheap guns which would deserve the sewer treatment even if they weren't being used to further criminal enterprise, but -- yes, this is a neighborhood on the verge of war.

Tim pockets a few samples of the drugs being sold, passes out clinic cards to the few lingering addicts who don't seem inclined to spit or curse at him *too* much, and --


He could continue patrolling -- there's *always* something to do, but there's something about having his presence requested in the clinics. About being able to help with more than just his ability to cause pain and carefully directed chaos. It's something else Batman can't do, short of emergency situations.

Robin isn't *supposed* to belong entirely to the night, and for all that it's something he *wants*, it's also something he... should want. But.

"R to B."

"Yes." There's nothing of Matches... it's just the Voice, seeming to settle in all around him, give the darkness meaning -- focus.

"I'm wanted -- elsewhere." Is there code for this he just doesn't know yet? It doesn't seem possible, but --


"Not to the best of my intel."

There's a pause, and Tim uses it to highlight the semi-interactive street map on his palm-top -- orange for a zone which is heating up quickly. He borders the west of the zone in yellow, adds an arrow and a BTM. Black for confirmed information. He --

He waits --

"Do it."

Not long. "Noted. R out."

There are fewer children coming in with minor problems as the night gets older, but he's not here to treat *himself*, not really.

An extremely inebriated older man with a broken hand seems to think Tim is his ex-wife, however, and that's something of a highlight, especially since he rarely gets to practice his falsetto while actively in the process of providing medical care.

Most of the night he spends back in the office, organizing files he only reads when they include something about gunshot wounds.

Brenda scolds him, plies him with orange juice, and does an admirable job of suspiciously checking him over for injuries while not actually touching him.

At around one, the aftermath of a bar brawl wanders in, and they have to hop a bit. He's reasonably sure Brenda catches him nerve-striking the young couple with a surfeit of lingering belligerence, but she only clucks her tongue at him and keeps working.

When he's done, he's not really tired *enough* to explain why he also feels so good, but that's the sort of mystery Tim thinks he's allowed to keep and treasure, so long as he doesn't get lost in it.

Brenda kicks him out at ten after two, and then it's just a matter of retrieving the Redbird and not listening to its automotive blandishments. He does *not* need to take it up over ninety.

Nor does he need to create oil-slicks, fog-banks, or patches of tire-destroying caltrops in his wake. Nor does he need to stroke the dash and tell the car that she's beautiful, his only true love, and the be-all and end-all of his existence.

It's not entirely true, and there's only so much of that he can justify to himself with Bruce's bugs all over the car. He settles for reminding the Redbird that Batman doesn't love her the way he does, patting the dash a little, and heading back to the Cave.

Once there, he heads right for the main console -- Bruce isn't back yet, and he actually needs the processing speed for all the images of Isabel's neighborhood and his notes --

Well, needs it more than he doesn't.

It occurs to Tim that he's smiling a bit more than he possibly should, considering the fact that he's writing about an imminent gang war that will, even with their best efforts, almost undoubtedly include several murders. Robin is supposed to be enthusiastic, not -- not.

("You enjoy the study of abnormal psychology. In retrospect, I'm somewhat less than surprised.")

Bruce had been... it hadn't been a rebuke, then, even though the cowl had been on.

During his training but before his parents had been kidnapped by the Obeah man, there had been...

Sometimes he'd gone days at a time without ever seeing Bruce's eyes, and while *that* had felt like Batman imposing the kind of distance which was sometimes a little painful, it's not like there weren't ways to tell, and even be sure that it wasn't always Batman.

There were, well, *seams*. It had *been* Bruce prodding him a little about the fact that he was treating a topic which was directly involved in the lives -- and deaths -- of Gotham's citizenry like something which was given to him for fun. Just as it was a reminder that none of this could ever be a game.

It's just that there's a difference between the ways Bruce chose to do that sort of thing and the ways Batman did, and does. He isn't Bruce's friend, but that doesn't mean he's not allowed to want that, and to maybe dream of it a little, and --

And he's not surprised to find himself moving toward the disguise area when he's finished, and he's not surprised to find that jacket there, and he's not surprised to find a stain on one of the pockets that --

It's enough to rub his thumb against it.

He doesn't have to -- do anything else. Certainly, the fact that his heart-rate is up and he's blushing -- he's already doing quite enough. He knows nothing of the jacket's pedigree, but the stain doesn't do anything to hurt the thing's... effect.

There's something freeing about being so obvious *here* about his examination. This is its own kind of asking and -- needing. The question of whether or not he has a right to do anything of the kind may not be entirely irrelevant, but it feels that way.

Maybe it's just another of those things Bruce isn't *ready* to let him know.

Maybe it will happen again.

Being this obvious, and -- yes, *needy* --

It's another way of being Robin, perhaps. Something to make all of this even more real and True -- Robin isn't meant to be alone.

And, of course, it's another kind of freedom to strip down, change into a pair of Tim Drake's pajamas, and move, barefoot and a little chilled, through the tunnel and back into his father's house. He knows hardly any of the things he wants to know, but now he's in a place where he doesn't have to know anything more complicated than which books he'll be bringing to school in the morning, and which parts of the floor creak alarmingly between here and his bed.

He doesn't -- precisely -- think of Matches when he masturbates.

Tim Drake wouldn't.


Tim Drake would, however, accompany his father to the first gala event the man has been to since before leaving for Haiti. It's late enough in the day that his father needs the wheelchair, which doesn't do much for his mood.

It's also late enough in the day that he really should've taken more than just the anti-inflammatory for the pain, but, judging by the relative smoothness of the man's forehead, the four glasses of champagne are being some variety of helpful.

Still --

Tim leans across the table. "I know you hate it, but you should probably let me at least help you steer the chair when we leave, Dad."

Sometimes, when his father scowls, Tim wants, very badly, to look around for his mother.

"Think of it this way -- it's only because you haven't *used* the chair enough to be expert at it even when -- impaired," Tim says, and nods toward the empty flute.

"I thought you were a businessman, not a *politician*."

Tim spreads his hands and smiles at his father's frown until it starts to soften. "According to everyone here, I'm your handsome, dutiful son. It would *look* bad if I let you wheel yourself into a wall, Dad."

The frown stays right where it is for another few seconds, but, in the end, his father waves a hand and laughs a little. "Dana is going to *kill* me, tomorrow."

Tim lets the smile become a grin. "I'm hoping she videotapes the whole thing, personally," he says, leaning back and crossing his legs.

"*You* need to go out there and find some kids your own age. And maybe remember that you're allowed to have a little bubbly, yourself."

It's not his night off, so -- no. "Are you sure? I mean, this isn't exactly my crowd, Dad."

His father leans across the table and shakes a finger at him, a little. "This *crowd* is made up of your future connections, Senator Drake. Network a little," he says, and his smile is perhaps a little fuzzed around the edges, but it's still notably rueful. "Don't be shy about telling them how *brave* your old man has been in his time of trouble and pain."

Tim tips his father a salute. "You're my hero, Dad," he says, carefully --

Carefully enough that the softness in his father's eyes feels like it's going to bury him. Tim leaves the table and -- dutifully -- starts moving through the room. There are people here who have not yet had the opportunity to ooze at him about his mother's death, and it is, actually, something which Tim Drake has to deal with.

He'd gotten the opportunity to watch Bruce do something like the same thing after Jason had been killed. His eyes had been -- all wrong.

It's not bragging to say that he's reasonably sure he's doing much better at it, but he's had rather more time to practice, and to make himself ready for --

"Timmy! Nobody told me *you'd* be here," Bruce -- Brucie says. And throws an arm over Tim's shoulders. And narrowly avoids dumping a glass of champagne all over him. "Is your Dad around?"

"Hi, Bruce," Tim says, and allows himself to be yanked into an awkwardly companionable hold. Bruce has left him just enough freedom of movement that Tim can, of course, gaze up at the man and grin. "My Dad's over there," he says, vaguely gesturing for the benefit of Bruce's *impressively* vague gaze.

"Well, that's just *great*, " he says, patting Tim and swinging him around so Tim can be face to diamond choker with tonight's date. "Isn't that fabulous, Bambi?"

"*Brandy*," she says, giggling reflexively and patting Tim's cheek. "That's *wonderful*. Is he all better, then?"

"Well, he still has a lot of work to --"

"Of *course* he's all better, Bindi," he says, managing to kind of *roll* Tim out of his grasp, catch Brandy, and kiss her with a brevity which manages a certain degree of smacking extravagance in one casual move. "Can't keep a Drake down." The wink he tips Tim is no more over the top than it should be.

"We tend to be rather resourceful," Tim says, settling one hand in his pocket and reaching with his other for his own champagne flute. Ignoring the waiter's nod of acknowledgment leads smoothly into Bruce ruffling Tim's carefully un-spiked hair.

Brandy giggles again. "You're *cute*."

"Bruce taught me everything I know," and gazing up at Bruce like this may or may not be pushing it, for all that he's managed to make Brandy giggle enough, this time, that she covers her mouth --

And displays perfectly manicured fingers, as well as a ring which matches the choker beautifully. Brucie has begun handing the things out like candy, and, so far at least, the act hasn't lost its favor.

"Timmy's the absolute *best*. Alfie and I *loved* having him around," and the hand on the back of Tim's neck smells faintly of scented moisturizer. The touch says nothing about the hardness of the thing, and hardly anything of the size.

"I'm entirely housebroken, you know," Tim says, and pretends to sip the champagne. Bruce's thumb is toying with the short hairs at the back of his neck. It's --

"Oh, you *two*!"

It's only distracting if he says it is, and -- Tim makes something of a face at his champagne flute. "I expected better," he says, placing his glass on a passing tray, and --

He kind of has to spare a moment to wonder if his distaste will make his father's lack of same look like incipient alcoholism. Did he just drive DI's stocks down a point? He's not going to laugh -- it wouldn't suit the Tim Drake who is here right now.

"Don't mind me," he says to Brandy, smiling from under his lashes. "Bruce's tastes can be rather catholic, but Alfred tried to raise me better."

This giggle has nothing whatsoever to do with what he'd said, but he does get another cheek-pat out of it. She didn't understand him, but has decided to remain shallowly fond.

"He's a little *wicked*, isn't he, Brucie?"

The thumb taps him once, twice -- a message, of some sort, but Tim can't quite --

"The *only* thing wrong with him is that he just *insisted* on leaving us. Just because his father got out of the hospital! Can you *imagine*?"

"Oh," she says, drawing it out a little. This time, her hand lands above the bodice of her dress. The ring is beautiful, her hands could belong to a model, and it's time for Bruce to pay attention to something other than the small teenaged boy who doesn't like the champagne. The fascinating thing is that she's probably not at all aware of the complexities in her chosen mode of communication. Perhaps it's instinctual.

In any event, there's no reason not to start to move *away* -- he can't really spend much time doing this without wanting to, at the very least, leave realistic-*looking* bombs around -- but. The touch to the back of his neck has become a very un-Brucie *grip*.

Apparently there *was* a message --

"Oh, *dash* it, apple blossom, I'm an *idiot*."

"*Never*, Brucie, what is it?"

Yes, Brucie, *what*? Tim doesn't exactly have freedom of movement with Bruce holding on to him, this way, but there's nothing even a little suspicious -- much less exciting -- going on that he can see.

"I *just* remembered that I've had a little something for Timmy in my coat pocket for just -- *weeks*."

Decent *enough* excuse, though Brandy seems a little non-plussed.

"Would you mind terribly if I dragged him off before it's time for his *next* birthday, apricot? I'll be *right* back, I --" He lifts her hand -- not particularly accidentally sliding the back of his own hand over the... expanse of her chest -- and kisses it. "I *promise*."

His cue? Somewhat. "Bruce, you really didn't have to --"

"Oh, don't *you* start, Timmy," and the finger Brucie is waggling in his face has just a faint hint of Brandy's perfume. He hasn't turned *away* from Brandy, though. "Forgive me?"

Brandy, for her part, is actually quite excellent at recognizing cues. Her pout accentuates the shine of her lipstick, while also making her eyes seem wider and more welcoming.

Perhaps he means 'promising.'

"Well... if you're going to be *right* back, I guess I can forgive Timmy for stealing you away," she says, and bats her lashes at -- both of them. Impressive.

"I couldn't *possibly* leave *you* for very long, Bridget," Bruce says, tugging her in to kiss her cheek, pushing her away -- gently -- and never actually taking his other hand from the back of Tim's neck, though he does shift the grip slightly when he turns them toward the exits.

They're moving slowly enough that Tim should be able to pick out whatever it is that he's supposed to, but he still can't see anything of interest beyond the fact that his father appears deeply engrossed in another flute of champagne and the company of several men Tim recognizes as being major stockholders.

This is a good thing, as his father was less than pleased to find out Tim had been living with Bruce while his father had been in a coma, and remains less than pleased about the continued... acquaintance. But -- neither here nor there.


"'B...?' Some new trend I ought to know about, Timmy? Or should I call you 'T?'"

Tim doesn't shudder. That... they aren't *alone*, exactly, but there's really no one close enough to object to Bruce actually communicating with him right now -- cover.

There's always cover to consider.

"I'm -- not very fashionable, I'm afraid, Brucie."

Bruce strokes him with that thumb, keeps them moving -- "*I* think you're sharp as a tack -- but maybe I'm too old to judge?" Waggling eyebrows and a smile with more wattage than wit.

Luckily, Tim Drake is allowed to be smarter. "I -- I've never really bought in to the idea that people over eighteen are, in some way, old. Senescent."

Stroke, tap -- squeeze. Just beyond the pressure points. "Aw, Timmy," and Bruce's face seems to have the consistency of rubber, or clay. The frown is sudden and exaggerated. "It's no fun if you make me pull out a *dictionary*."

"I'm sorry, of course. I --" Are they actually going into the cloakroom? Yes, apparently, but --

"You're *clever* is what you are," Bruce says, pushing Tim inside not especially gently, and --

It's not enough to say that Bruce "lets go of his neck." He puts just enough pressure on that his fingers *slide* off the back of Tim's neck, slow and --

"I don't think I've *ever* met a boy as clever as *you*, Timmy," and once the door is closed behind them, there's no light whatsoever. "In fact, I bet you know *exactly* what I want."

Oh. Oh, he -- oh. And -- it's not that Tim had moved very far, but he's not sure 'Brucie' should be quite this expert at finding Tim with his hands. Though of course he's more than strong enough to pull Tim in *just* this way, too.

The kiss is soft, immediately wet, *soft*. It doesn't feel like Bruce is prying Tim's mouth open with his own. It feels like Bruce is licking him open, as wide as Tim can get. There's an arm around his waist, and Bruce's other hand is in his hair, and -- "Alfie and I have missed you so *much*, Timmy. It's just not the same without you."

"I --" A new model. More complex. More... had he been Brucie's lover? What -- what should he *say*?

"Baby, sweetheart, don't be this way. You're not mad at me about Britta, are you? She means *nothing* to me. Not like you."

Not like. He. Bruce's hand is on his rear, squeezing, massaging. Tim's *father* is less than three hundred yards away, and Tim is. 'Baby' sounds completely different, and. He is.

He's moaning, because Bruce's hand is more than big enough to cup one cheek *while* running one finger down the back seam of Tim's pants, pushing *in*, just a little --


"There. I know how much you liked that, Timmy. I could never *forget*."

For a moment, there's the smell of (the manor) clean sheets, the fabric softener Alfred had preferred. It's too dark in this bedroom for him to see as far as the ceiling when Tim opens his eyes, but he's not really looking for anything outside of himself, and not really feeling anything but the way his feet are planted on the bed. The way his hips are canting up, up, and the flush that seems to be spilling down his entire body as he slips one finger between his cheeks and *pushes* --

And Bruce's chuckle is low enough to almost seem heartfelt. "Careful, Timmy. I'm not at *all* sure this room is soundproof," he says and this kiss is deeper, more demanding. It's putting a curve in Tim's spine, and --

And letting Bruce -- *could* he call him Brucie? Should he? It's too hard to think about when the man's only response to Tim letting him take more of Tim's weight is to laugh into his mouth, hug him, *squeeze* --

"I *knew* you missed me, too. Why don't you show me how much?"

How? He -- somehow, they're against a wall, now -- he is. Bruce's fingers are making both Tim's shirt and his undershirt feel irrelevant and a little ridiculous. It's not that Tim's nipples are all that sensitive, it's just that apparently it's *different* when it's someone else's hands.

Bruce's -- Brucie's --

Batman's hands, or -- he doesn't know. He can't remember the exact point at which he started to get hard, and it's taking more resources than he can spare not to moan. But. "Please?"

"Ooh. Begging games? What *have* you been up to without me?"

"I -- I really don't. *Bruce* --"

"It's all right," he says, and pinches Tim's nipples hard. Too hard? Or -- "You don't *have* to tell me."

"I want to -- or. I don't -- Bruce, I don't know what --"

"I just can't *believe* you'd think I'd forget all this, Timmy. The way you looked at me from the very first *moment*..."

He'd only wanted to be used -- *useful* --

"The way you always... mm," and Bruce's tongue is just above Tim's collar, wet and warm, shivery -- "*Always* tried to give me what I wanted..."

Everything. Anything -- Bruce's hands curling into the waistband of his pants and *tugging*.

"Were you really worried that I wouldn't love you as much as I loved my other boys, Timmy? Maybe I should show *you* how much you've been missed."

"It's not. It isn't." He's doing -- this is terrible. The sheer number of cues Bruce is giving him -- Bruce has practically sketched out an entire fictional relationship for Tim to slip into. This should be *easier* than the -- *thing* in the subway car, but all he can do is stammer, blush --

And *know* that Bruce knows he's blushing. It has to be in the tone of his voice, the way he's moving --

The way he can't keep himself from reaching for his own fly --

"Allow *me*, birthday boy -- er, when *was* your birthday, anyway?"

"Um -- July --"

"Of course, of course," Bruce says, and the sound of Tim's zipper going down isn't really as loud as a -- train rumbling over *tracks*, but it can't possibly be Tim's fault that it seems that way. No. He can -- do this.

"Oh, are you -- is this going to be like -- that time at the Christmas Ball?"

For a second everything stops, everything's *silent* enough for Tim to make out the muffled sounds of the party beyond the closed door, and just -- the barest hint of Bruce's breathing.

"I -- I mean --"

"Do you have any objections?"

There are -- any number of reasonable excuses for Tim to be blinking a bit shockily at the moment, but there are none more compelling, right now, than the fact that there wasn't a *trace* of Brucie in that -- that. Tim swallows hard, shudders at the *twitch* of his moronic, desperate penis, and -- "Well, it was really kind of -- quick, don't you think?"

The laugh -- *becomes* a chuckle. It doesn't start that way.

It is, somehow, very seriously *important* that it didn't start that way, but Tim has to admit to himself that that importance fades at the sound of Bruce shifting -- and the feel of warm, damp *breath* through his briefs. "Bruce --"

"Honestly, Timmy, I don't think you can blame *me* for the speed..."

"Oh, I -- please. Please."

Bruce pats Tim's hips. "If you keep begging like that, I don't know if I'll be able to *control* my baser urges," he says, and tugs Tim's briefs down around his thighs.


Just -- it feels like there's another message in the way the backs of Bruce's fingers slide over Tim's skin, in the faint lingering hint of Brandy's perfume, and the flowery, musky *edge* to Bruce's cologne.

He's going to *smell* like Bruce, and he -- "I want. Oh --"

*Breath*. "Go on, tiger. You can tell *me*..."

Who can he tell? There can't possibly *be* anyone he could tell any of this, except, of course, for the man *inside* the man currently on his knees, the man who knows every little joke, every little half-whispered comment about Bruce Wayne and his *boys*.

"I won't tell a *soul*..."

And it's too much, too *good* a feeling. He has no experience, he's not Tim Drake, not *that* Tim Drake -- a kiss. Those are Bruce's *lips* against the head of Tim's penis, and he never would've imagined they could be so *soft*...

"Oh, don't go back to being *mean* to me, sweetheart, I just couldn't *take* it..."

Perhaps there is a kind of strength for this. A certain -- *extreme* of undercover -- "You didn't tease me so much *then*."

The -- response. The response is a series of brief, soft, *wet* kisses all over his penis. A few to his thighs -- just enough to make sure Tim knows that they're shaking.

"Don't make me *wait*, Brucie, I've been -- it's been so *long* --"

"Too long," he says, and there's something -- *something* -- there, something else, something dark and familiar enough that it's hard for Tim to focus on the wet heat around his penis --

And then, of course, that heat is everything in the world. The cloakroom seems lighter, the air in it heavier and sweeter, but that might just be himself, and the way all of him has been winnowed -- *pared* down to his penis, and the sweetness of this, the way he's barely breathing, anymore.

Bruce isn't --

The act is far less silent than Tim had vaguely imagined. There are wet sounds which speak of tongue and saliva, of the pre-come which Bruce can taste --

"You -- you know how I *taste*, now," he says, and his own voice is a low, husky shock, breathy and strange --

Weaker, in every way, than Bruce's hum around him, and the *sweet* powerful suck --

"The last..." Pain distracts him. He -- he's been banging his head against the wall. He stops, focuses -- groans and *shakes* --

Bruce *holds* his hips back against the wall --

"The last time I had you in my mouth, I -- I ejaculated without -- I didn't need --"

Another hum, another groan, and Tim doesn't know which of them uttered which. The last time he'd sucked Bruce off, he'd been kneeling on the bed in his father's house with most of his right hand in his mouth and his eyes squeezed shut. His hand had still smelled, a little, like Robin's gauntlet. Close enough.

Close --

'Close' is meaningless when considered as a function of anything save for the feel of Bruce's lips against his mound. Tim's breathing is -- wrecked. Ragged and much too loud, and it's more than enough reason to shove his fingers in his mouth and just --

Let go.

Everything. Every --

He thinks he might be moaning constantly, now, to the point where a small, struggling part of him protests. Surely he should have some other way to express himself for the feel of his scrotum being *engulfed* in Bruce's hand, squeezed gently --

It's a metaphor, Tim thinks, and then the thread is gone entirely, everything lost under the black, the stars in his eyes, and the way Bruce is *close* enough that Tim can *just* feel the man's throat working.

Swallowing him right -- down.

Tim comes back to himself at the feel of his rear hitting the floor. A part of him had honestly expected Bruce to hold him up, but -- focus, yes. That sort of thing isn't really in character for *Brucie*, is it?

But the pat on his cheek is. "The taste of you is always so *clean*, Timmy. I think you eat much too healthily for a boy your age."

"I've had... had bad influences," Tim says, and works himself up onto his knees. "I... is it my turn?"

The pat turns into a stroke, or -- it might be what was always *meant* by the word 'caress.' It makes him shiver, and it's hard to balance on his knees with his pants and briefs around his knees. The air is cold on all the *wet* of his penis.

And Bruce's zipper sounds like a bare toe drawing a line across the mats. The best kind of threat. "I've missed you, *too*, Brucie."

Something small and desperate in him, something savage and always so *cold* sings in him, *shouts* at the feel of Bruce's big hand sliding into his hair, the feel of a callus no moisturizer could fully soften scratching at his cheekbone.

It's almost anticlimactic when Bruce pulls him down into his lap, but. "You've always been so *good* to me," Tim says, and maybe something inside of him is laughing, too. Because Tim Drake has done this before, and Tim Drake knows exactly how *good* it feels to open wide and *take*. Maybe --

Maybe Tim Drake was never all that good at this, but he's still good enough to make Bruce shake, and be close enough that it's more like a tremor. He's still good *enough*.

Trying to say Bruce's name is making him drool, but so is the taste, the scent which has nothing to do with cologne and everything to do with -- Tim knows, now -- sex.

"Good -- good boy," Bruce says, low and a little thready with hunger -- *lust*.

Maybe he'd done this by the side of the pool, treading water and hoping Bruce let him breathe this time, or that Bruce would just keep holding him by the hair, showing him how to do this *right*.

Maybe Bruce had woken him out of nightmare with the feel of his body being moved and shifted into position, pushed down and filled --

Maybe Bruce had just dragged his head down into his lap in the back of the Rolls, Alfred driving them both away from Tim's school, and --

He wants *more*, and he doesn't know how to get it, doesn't know how to do more than work his mouth up and down, as quickly and smoothly as he can -- until Bruce uses his grip on Tim's hair to change the rhythm to something slower, better -- Tim wants to *feel* Bruce, to know his penis the way he knows Bruce's *hands* now... and that's the best possible reason to wrap one hand around the base of Bruce's penis and squeeze --

Stroke --

More, but it's hard to get the rhythms to synch up, to make his hand slow *down* enough to match what Bruce wants with his mouth.

"*Tim*," and it sounds -- it doesn't sound like 'Robin,' but it's not Timmy or baby or anything else, and Tim wishes he could keep himself from whining, but it has to be okay. Tim Drake isn't *strong* enough to do this without losing it at least a little.

And maybe the whine is what makes Bruce *tug* on his hair, make Tim *work* to keep his mouth on Bruce even as Tim's hand is reveling in the opportunity to stroke more of Bruce's penis --

Is Brucie allowed to growl like this? Tim's almost sure it should be a moan, rich and low and appreciative, but the growl is making all the short hairs on his body stand up, making him shudder again, *whine* again --

Again at the feel of Bruce's penis *flexing* inside his mouth --

At the grip in his hair becoming *painful* --

And then Bruce *bucks*, and Tim's kissing his fist, and it feels like a warning, but it's not enough of one for Tim to start swallowing in time to keep himself from coughing at the feel of Bruce ejaculating, salty and *slick*, into his mouth.

Tim coughs, gags a little -- and then Bruce is pushing him away and stroking his chest and throat. There isn't quite enough sense of being felt up for it to be quite *right*, but it's efficient about calming him down enough that he can stop his body from trying to inhale semen.


His tongue is slick with Bruce's *semen*, because he'd just performed fellatio in a cloakroom --

Is his father looking for him, yet?

For some reason, it's hard to make himself move. It's hard to make himself just stay *still*, too, but there's a certain relativity. Bruce doesn't say a word, even when Tim curls up a little, half-tucked into a ball but still on his hands and knees. Bruce's hand are large and warm, and Tim wants --

He isn't sure, and he isn't sure what he's *supposed* to want -- but there's a way to ask.


For a moment, Bruce's hands are absolutely still on his back. For another, his fingers curl into powerful, blunt claws --

"I --"

"Are you all right, Timmy? Should I bring you back a little champagne to clear your palate?"

The voice isn't... entirely right. Not really. Still -- it's enough to make it possible for Tim to get up on his knees, and, from there, to stand up. He squeezes the hand Bruce has on his thigh. "I'm all right, I think," he says, and pulls up his pants and briefs. He's only hard enough again that it's a little uncomfortable, as opposed to excruciating. "Though if anyone gets close enough to smell my breath..."

He can't see Bruce, but he can feel him standing close. He can smell him. "That, Timmy, is what inferior champagne is *for*," and the hands on him seem *full* of that low-grade, shallow, greedy affection.

It's just that they're also making him look a lot more respectable. And Tim's hair is thin enough to fall back into place without much more effort than pushing a hand through it.

Brucie probably looks rakish. Tousled -- Tim winces and squeezes himself through his pants.

Bruce -- chuckles. "See what happens when you don't come visit often enough?"

The pat on his rear -- lingers. "I'll try to do better, Brucie."

"Good *boy*," he says, and the hand moves. And -- Tim doesn't need the sudden light from the door to know that Bruce moves, too. He doesn't close the door all the way behind him when he's gone, which is nice.

It gives Tim a chance to start getting used to the light again.


The puzzle has new pieces, new -- shapes. It's entirely possible -- even probable -- that Tim shouldn't be considering them in the middle of his patrol, but, well, it *is* the middle.

The break is mandatory, and the confluence of streetlight and Redbird has created a rather impressive shadow just large enough for Tim to crouch within and lurk. He has -- time.

And the puzzle...

It's not that he can honestly say that he has any idea why this is happening with Bruce, it's just that the part of him which *isn't* precisely okay with the fact that it's happening at all doesn't seem to be able to offer very many coherent objections.

Granted, there's some concern over the fact that he feels quite this... positively toward the encounter, but it might not have anything to do with the fact that the act was with Bruce 'Brucie' Wayne, as opposed to... well. *Would* he do this with Matches again?

How much choice is he assuming he'd have? Those missed *strikes* --

This could be... well. It's not entirely his *fault* that Bruce hadn't been as conscientious as he might've been about staying in character. Whether or not he's supposed to be doing anything of the kind, Tim really can't *help* but consider -- deeply -- the little things.

A certain familiar tone, a quality of touch, a moment of hesitation. It's not wrong that part of him -- *much* of him -- is looking for the man inside and *finding* him. It --

It can't be wrong to be happy about that. Bruce is -- Bruce, and this isn't just a line across the mats, this is every time Bruce's eyebrows have gone up in mild surprise at a choice Tim has made during a spar. This is a gauntlet on his shoulder, squeezing hard enough for the sense of pressure to make it through the armor.

And -- maybe it shouldn't be. Probably it shouldn't be. Maybe definitely -- but.

This is also a shadow which is a little too full. This is the scour of wind on his face and the sense of *becoming* something more than himself, something sharper, some variety of deadly, something which can be launched, directed -- altered and *moved* with just one gesture of a gauntleted hand. And --

While it seems naive -- he thinks that's the word he means -- to give any credence to the idea that Bruce is simply making him ready for all of the 'real thing' -- he's not sure he can give the man who hesitated just that powerfully, just that *arousingly* -- *that* much credit... there almost has to be some measure of *training* in there, too, doesn't there?


He is Batman's partner, but he is Bruce's student. He -- it's not the other way around. He's not perfect, yet, and maybe he never *will* be, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

There is much Tim simply doesn't understand, yet, and he has to admit that there's nothing quite like sexuality to highlight the rest.

And really -- really. Tim has long since been accustomed to the way his body -- his *everything* -- responds to the opportunity to be taught.

*Next* time -- assuming there is a next time --

Assuming he has any right to assume --

Next time, Tim will be ready.

He tucks the empty wrapper of his energy bar in his pocket, practices the art of moving unnoticeably to move out of his crouch, and starts to climb up to the nearest rooftop. It's just high enough to give him momentum should he choose to use a jumpline to move, and that means it's an excellent vantage point.

This is useful, as it sometimes seems that there are more people in this neighborhood involved in the drug trade than there are civilians. Innocents. This is an illusion, of course -- Tim doesn't always, or even often, manage to convince the neighborhood businessmen to choose new lines of work -- but it's the way he feels, just the same.

The last time he'd been here -- a little over a week ago -- he'd spent nearly two hours *carefully* destroying a section of a drug trade, moving as quietly and as quickly as he could so as not to alert his later targets.

The tack seems to have worked, in as much as it could. There are three corners entirely lacking in dealers that Tim can see. On one of them, two small children are playing. It's late for that -- very late -- but the children have the supervision of two women who don't appear to be consuming anything stronger than soda. The only thing missing, really, is a police officer walking this beat.

Bruce Wayne had presented local politicians with a great deal of money -- and pressure -- to push through a community policing bill, and Gotham *is* hiring more officers, but it's going to take time to see any of the new officers on the street, much less to see any effects. No, there is more than enough for him to do here.

And doing it --

In the Cave, there is footage of Jason moving powerfully, suicidally *fast* through the air. It's from Bruce's cowl-cam, and is thus a bit jerky, a bit... hectic, in some ways...

Right now, he wants to fly just that way, to let the wind take his cape and turn it into golden wings.

Right now, he wants to be a little more *free*, but there's enough satisfaction in using as much stealth as possible, once more. Robin is no one's nightmare, but this can change. Every broken cheekbone and shattered foot feels like progress, just as every time he doesn't break a collarbone or dislocate a kneecap feels like a cheat -- no.

There is other footage he wishes to emulate, *passion* to tamp down hard on at the spatter of blood on his cheek. It's not a cheat to avoid giving in to that, it's a *promise*. Batman, Tim thinks, and moves on, quiet and -- yes, quick.

He'd taught himself how to run with the cape closed, to hold himself in a space of small darkness. His next target sees him coming *just* soon enough to give Tim his wide eyes and curses before Tim strikes --

Again. Again.

Down, and there is another.

Another --

Another, and -- it's not a matter of comfort zones, really. It's just that he's left a trail of bodies behind him, zip-stripped and covered with evidence which will only lead to usefully long incarceration if the right judges are working. The sort of judges which, Tim knows, Bruce feels somewhat paradoxically honor-bound *not* to vote for.

("We are not the law.")

His father raises money for most of them --

Tim is not precisely looking forward to being old enough to make that sort of choice, and it's entirely possible he won't live that long -- no. It's not Robin to think that way. Robin isn't allowed to --

He is *only* Robin here, now, and he needs another rooftop, and a further plan of attack. He needs -- more.


He's not quite sure Dick had planned this, but, if he had, he'd done it perfectly. Dana had already called in to the rehabilitation center to inform them that she'd be giving his father an extra *three* hours, and, while his father had taken the time to give Tim the most perfect *sheepish* look Tim has ever seen...

His father is well and truly occupied. He'd barely called a greeting over his shoulder when Tim had opened the door and Dick had walked in, and now...

Well, Dick is *here*, in his bedroom, filling Tim's CD player with half a dozen bands which Dick had read about. Which made Dick think of him, because, once, Tim had mentioned that he didn't *only* use music to cover the sounds of whatever he was doing in his bedroom. And --

"I actually listened to this one at my place the other day, kiddo. The lyrics are incomprehensible even *with* the liner notes, the lead singer sounds like he's being -- gently -- strangled, and the musicians are all a bit narcoleptic."

Tim settles back against the pillows, folding his arms behind his head. "You know me too well."

"No such animal, and --" When Dick looks at him, the expression on his face is a fascinating mix of rueful and stern. "You realize, the other five CDs contain actual music."

"If you say so."

"Music made by -- musicians. Who know what music *is*," Dick says, and gets a little more stern.

"Music all over the place?"

And then the stern crumbles like a thin skim of ice, and Dick is smiling at him as if Tim had done something amazing and rare.

"Dick --"

The mattress creaks alarmingly when Dick throws himself at Tim with only slightly less enthusiasm than he'd show during a spar. Tim's breath is gone, just that fast, which he used to think would make it less satisfying for Dick to tickle him, but Tim now has several instances of proof that it does no such thing.

Most of the time, Tim doesn't feel especially self-conscious about being as small as he is, but he thinks it would be nice to be big enough that it isn't this *easy* for Dick to hold both of his wrists in one hand while he uses the other to torture Tim into a flushed, squirming mess.

Still, it makes Dick smile at him rather a lot.

Eventually, he's allowed to breathe again. "Dick. You're making it difficult to appreciate the music."

Dick makes a face and runs his fingers much too lightly over Tim's ribs. "You can't appreciate this, Tim --"

"I beg to differ --"

"You're *enduring* it, little brother," Dick says, squeezing Tim's wrists and tapping him on the nose. "There's a difference, you know."

"If you're sure --"

"Oh, a lot. A lot sure," and Dick lets Tim's wrists go and rolls off to lie beside him. "You gotta trust me -- I'm *older*."

Like Bruce? No, he doesn't get to say things like that around Dick. It always leads to the kinds of expressions Tim hates, full of suspicion and sadness. But -- hm. "I think it's working better with Bruce."

"Oh, hey -- really?" And Dick rolls onto his side and lays a hand flat on Tim's chest. Pushes, strokes, pushes *more* -- "You know, you're just like him in a lot of ways. That *has* to help."

"Hm, I... well." For a moment, there's a confused kind of guilt running through Tim, because he'd let Dick think that he didn't understand Bruce, that he wasn't always having fun -- even though Bruce had been having sex with him for almost a year, all over the manor, the pool, his bed -- Tim shakes off the rather startling compelling 'memory,' and looks at Dick, who is now frowning a little.

"That didn't *look* like better."

"Sorry, no, I was... um. I just remembered something I left out of one of my reports."

Dick pushes again, and Tim doesn't bend his knees up and plant his feet.

Not even a little.

"Then what? Did he do something? Say something? Mention that he needed you as much as we both *know* he did? You kind of have to spill here, just in case the atonal wonders over there are distracting you."

Tim shifts a little, breathes deeply when Dick lets him. "You have to listen for the complexities --"


"Okay, he kind of -- well, it was kind of just like that. I think I'm getting better at undercover. At *getting* it." And Dick --

That's a grin which Tim has had some time to learn how to guard against, but not really enough. Tim honestly *used* to think that he *wanted* that time, and that ability, but now he really isn't so sure. It's -- a very nice grin.

"Anyway," Tim says, and doesn't actually bite his lip so much as shift a little more under Dick's hand, "anyway, I think he likes the way I can stay in character, or something like that."

The grin becomes a little sharper. "Has he thrown 'Matches' at you, yet? Because I swear that guy could drive a saint a little nuts."

What variety of 'thrown' is Dick talking about? "I -- yeah. 'Matches' caught me coming home from school the other day. And --"

"*Right* into the deep end. At least I only had to deal with that guy when I was being Robin," Dick says, shaking his head and looking at Tim like...

Tim isn't quite sure, actually. There's pride in there, and that's always *just* like being perfectly warm and perfectly *held*, but Tim kind of thinks it has more to do with Robin than it does with him. Still -- "At the very least, I think I'm now pretty -- braced. To deal with Matches in a mission context."

"Mm. Watch out for the hands, though. Always so *oily*. The tanner is better than it used to be, though. Matches ruined one of my old capes with that crap."

Stains, and -- mm. No. Not -- now. "Serves Bruce right, I'd think," Tim says, and shifting *this* time leads to Dick pinning Tim's legs with one of his own and *patting* Tim's chest. "I wasn't planning to go anywhere."

"Hm? Oh, I know. I'm just basking a little, kiddo -- last time we talked about Bruce you looked like you were gonna *cry* from frustration."

"I only cry for tendon injuries, Dick. You know that."

Dick's laugh is brief, heartfelt, and not at all complete until the pin becomes a hug which requires most of their bodies. It's not something Tim can be sure he deserves -- Dick is the most affectionate person Tim has ever met -- but...

No, no buts. He's lying to Dick, even if it's a 'better' lie than all the talking about adrenaline. It still feels like he's being all of himself, like he's giving Dick everything he can --

He doesn't know.

"This is nice -- this is pretty great, actually," Dick says, and squeezes him. "But you're not telling me everything." And there's something like a sigh *under* Dick's words, attached somewhat tangentially to all the Nightwing-ish warning. And --

There are things Tim could say. Questions he could ask about -- just as an example -- how affectionate Matches was with him. How Dick feels about cloakrooms. When -- if ever -- to stop blaming adrenaline --


It's just that he doesn't really want to, and -- he *has* to admit this -- the lack of desire doesn't have very much at all to do with the fact that he's reasonably sure that Dick would... disapprove. Strongly. Rather, it's that Tim wants it for himself, the way he can never really have *Robin* for himself. Tim turns his head enough to smile ruefully at Dick. "I'm sorry."

"Then spill it, little brother," Dick says, and squeezes with just his legs.

"I like it. I like the disguises, the -- playing." This. "Maybe more than I should."

Dick's frown is skeptical and its own kind of frustrated. "You're allowed to have fun. It's in the charter."

One of the other things in the charter is that he's allowed to... snuggle. Get close -- closer than. Dick never smells like cologne, but the jacket he'd worn on his bike was leather. There's also two hours worth of sweat in his hair from the helmet, clean and salt.

"Yeah, I -- you're so well-trained," and Dick squeezes with his arms, and bumps Tim's forehead lightly with his chin.

"I try. And I -- I know about the fun thing, really."

"Of course you do. The only thing is, little brother, is that you have to be careful not to make all the lying so complicated that you can't get out of it --"

"I -- yes." Growls. Pauses.

"And you have to make sure you have someone you can be honest with, all the time."

Hm. All the... time? It's not that that sounds especially strange... or. It's not that it *should* sound especially strange. If he was honest with Bruce all the time, he'd never shut up about being afraid, feeling alone, wanting more -- being *afraid*.

Dick grinds a little with his chin. "Where'd you go?"

"Deep into my tender, secret heart, Dick. I'd thank you to give me some privacy," Tim says, and grinds back a little.

Tim thinks it would probably look *less* suspicious -- assuming Dana left his father with enough energy to make it up the stairs -- if Dick wasn't laughing silently, rocking and moving against him, holding him close -- and letting him go in order to sit up and back against the headboard.

Tim follows his cue --

"Oh, hey, you didn't have to move. I *liked* you there."

So had he, but. "I probably would've --" cast aspersions on adrenaline -- "dozed off pretty soon."

"What's that you say? Not getting enough sleep? Tim, kiddo, *what* have I been telling you?"

Tim grins a little and closes his eyes. "I learned it by watching you, Dick. I learned it by watching you."

Dick's response is to drop him faster than Tim can track the moves he'd used to do it. In the end, he's mostly comfortable with his head on Dick's thigh and curled in on himself.

"Dick --"

"Nap," he says, and drums his fingers lightly on Tim's head. "I mean it. I'll keep an ear out for your Dad."

It's -- doable. More than, especially since the mention of being tired was enough to make his body convinced that he *is* tired. Well, perhaps it's more like his body *remembering* that he's tired.

Either way, Dick's thigh is an excellent pillow, and there's something more than a little appealing about the chance to sleep *near* Dick, if not with him.

Tim waves a hand to indicate surrender, gets it caught and squeezed, and closes his eyes.


The address Bruce gives him over the comm is nearly exactly at the center of the orange zone he'd left for Bruce to peruse. There's no attendant order to get there, but there wouldn't have to be even if the address meant nothing to him.

He's miles away, but only a block from the Redbird -- and it's late enough that Tim can really let her out to play. He cuts the standard 'five blocks from the R-point' to two, parks, and moves.

Bruce's cape is a black-on-indigo flag, and Tim uses a line to climb to get as much speed as possible. Once he's crouched within the shadow Bruce is using, he waits, watches --

And realizes that the building they're both looking at is *also* centered far too well for anything like comfort. It had been a crack house the last time Tim looked, but now there's an ominous silence, and an even more ominous amount of light from within. "How many?"

"Between twelve and fifteen BTM... associates, all noticeably armed. At least three automatic weapons."

Ouch. "They're moving on the Kings."

"As you predicted."

Robin nods, and doesn't flush. "I would've given it another week."

When Bruce drops into a crouch, armor creaks and shifts loudly enough for it to feel as though there's another person with them.

Someone reckless and a little rude --

"Before or after you crippled this arm of the Kings for them?"

Tim raises an eyebrow, but doesn't bother to turn enough to take it easy on Bruce's peripheral vision. "I don't play favorites."

"And you don't push very hard at the boundaries I've given you, either," Bruce says, and there's something like a stutter on the other side of what he's saying, though Tim supposes it's possible that it's merely a non sequitur.

For certain small, sad values of possible. But. "We're not letting them out of that building."

Bruce doesn't say anything, and -- there is something always, always wonderful about the times Bruce chooses to teach.

"Considering BTM's 'training' methods, tear gas will lead to at least half of the gunmen opening up with their weapons..." Tim frowns. "Move in quietly, take out at least two of them a piece, use the flash-bangs. Disorientation and blindness is better than pain and rage."

Bruce's grunt is non-committal, but Tim's already in flight, wincing and *needing* at the sound of Bruce's cape in the wind, at the brief scuff of his boots on the sidewalk as he lands, at the no-sound of his gauntlet on the spike he'd marked this building with when it *was* only another crack house.

This close the smell of urine, excrement, and burnt bleach is overpowering and welcome -- no one is as aware and awake as they should be when they're trying not to gag.

Somewhat surprisingly, there's no one guarding the door. The Massive is usually a lot more cautious about that sort of thing, as well as inclined to take the opportunity of having a large, dangerous looking man to advertise both power and wealth. Jason had kept a collection of broken gold teeth. Tim has his memories.

Still, it's possible -- even probable -- that they wouldn't have wanted to advertise tonight even a little bit.

And the lack of an outside guard makes things... neater. The smell gets significantly worse once he's inside (by the feel, Batman is moving behind him and just to the side, widening the space between them with every step), but Bruce had taught him how to deal with one's eyes watering behind a domino quite some time ago.

It's a question of will as much as anything else, but also one of memory -- the body's desire to produce tears has nothing, ultimately, on the fact that the Massive is too cautious to not have guards within the building, on the fact that there is a target *there* with no time to move before Tim strikes. And strikes.

In the end, the biggest issue is that the Massive has brought out only their heavy-hitters. It's challenging to take down people who are more than a foot taller and at least fifty pounds heavier than one with soundless subtlety. Tim manages the first time, but the second guard's pristine -- of course -- work boots thump and bang a little on the rotting wood floor.

Shifting --

The scrape of a chair or other piece of furniture within the room with all the lights and *most* of their targets --

"What the *fuck*?"

Boom-boom, thinks Tim, and it's difficult to be sure whether his flash-bangs go off just before or just after Bruce's, but it doesn't really matter. There's a *burn* in the air, now, curses and stumbling bodies. The protocol is quite simple -- move in and be *convincing* about the need for everyone who isn't either him or Batman to hit the floor and stay there.

There's no real tactical reason to finish off his targets with a split-kick, but it feels both right and satisfying, especially when one of the two shows just *enough* inclination toward staying on his feet that it's worth it -- and reasonable -- for Tim to finish him with a punch to *that* point of his jaw.

After that, Bruce silently hands him several extra zip-strips to replenish his diminished supply, and looks at one of the many BTM faces Tim recognizes from mug-shots until the mouth on that face opens and provides the information they need.

'The fix,' such as it is, had been in for one of the Kings' more dangerous lieutenants, but the GCPD had managed to ferret out the bribery plot on their own. He was going to have a fair trial, and after that he'd be going to jail for the rest of his life.

Reorganization is weakness, and the Massive was -- is -- hungry. The inevitable result of them having turned whole stretches of Gotham into DMZs.

Bruce finishes the talker with a nerve-strike, nods to Tim, and then leaves. Tim checks to make sure everyone's snoozing safely on their sides, thinks seriously about taking the guns back in the Redbird to be safely destroyed or kept for training purposes...

No, it's a roll of the dice. The prosecutor might get them introduced as evidence -- with the right/wrong judge -- and one or two of these men might spend enough time away from Gotham for there to be improvement. And it's moot -- enough. The protocol for a situation in which the dispatcher can immediately send out a couple of cars for one of their calls is that all the evidence stays. Batman believes in hope.

Robin should, too, and so Tim leaves everything where it is and takes his own exit, trusting in the police to understand what it means that there were this many known Massive members in *this* neighborhood. Hope.

And flight, if only just enough to make sure this neighborhood is still mostly as quiet as he'd left it last night before heading back to the Redbird. It's getting close to time for him to call it a night, but he would be vastly surprised if there wasn't something else he could find to do in the neighborhood Bruce had called him away from.

The code to open the car is just as complicated as he could make it and still be able to both memorize the thing and use it at speed --

He's quick enough to avoid hitting the roof of the Redbird with his face, but he'd only managed to get one hand fully braced. The other arm is twisted between his body and the car. His legs, however --

Are being forcibly spread -- lifted -- by the much longer, larger leg between his own. If that move had been any faster or more powerfully delivered, Tim would be at least somewhat out of the game, as opposed to simply rather aware of the shape of his armored jock, and everything it can do to him.

"You weren't paying attention, Robin."

Bruce -- Batman. Perhaps he means 'for him.' But. "You're right. It was wrong of me to make assumptions about your plans for the evening," Tim says, and begins the slow, careful process of moving his trapped hand to his belt --

Tim's cheek doesn't quite *bounce* against the roof of the Redbird, but it's a near thing. And his trapped arm is now the arm bent up behind his back. He can do this stretch, but it isn't altogether pleasant. "No," Batman says --

And Tim's nodding for the voice, sliding against the Redbird's last wax finish -- stopping. "I had to try."

"Your instincts were good. The execution, however, needs work. Plant your feet."

Spread, like this?


Apparently so. Tim follows orders, and -- Robin has a touch of wind-burn -- the flush won't matter too very much. Not as much as the gasp he's too slow to catch when Bruce --

When Batman removes Tim's belt faster and more efficiently than Tim has ever managed. A part of him wants him to know that it's not entirely his fault -- the belt had been the last piece of the uniform he was given, the point at which this -- some of it, if not all -- became real.

Batman places it next to Tim's face on the Redbird. The soft, hollow clunks -- a part of him wants to know they're gratuitous. Batman is fully capable of placing the belt down silently. This is -- for his benefit. In a way.

Perhaps to see if Tim can keep himself from gasping again.

He can't. His cape winds up folded beside the belt --

"Do I need to gag you?"

The taste of garlic on his tongue. The taste of -- semen. Robin is strong, and brave, and steadfast. Robin is also entirely realistic. "Your gauntlet. Please."

Without Batman's hands on him, Tim is... more free to move than he would otherwise be. He takes the opportunity to roll some of the tension out of his neck and brace the hand he has on the car more comfortably. He leaves the other between his shoulder blades.

There's a reward, of sorts, for this, in the way it means he can feel the slight textural shift between the plain areas of the chest armor and the stylized bat. Or perhaps the reward is in the way Batman is leaning enough of his weight on Tim that shifting even a little -- enough to *stretch* toward the gauntlet -- is enough to make the car rock on its suspension.

Batman doesn't need to be this close. Robin would be... restless. Offended?

"I - know how to stay put."

The grunt is non-committal. The gauntlet, when it's finally in his mouth, is cool and slick --

And more than enough to muffle Robin when Batman surprises him with a slap to the rear. The fact that Tim is almost entirely sure that Batman is going to strip him at least a little affects none of the dangerously negative emotions Robin is currently feeling with regards to his jock. He doesn't shift on his feet.

Moving now would make him look like -- Robin knows how to stay *still*, even when Batman's fingers -- gauntleted and not -- are moving between his skin and the waistbands of his shorts and tights.

Robin isn't thinking of heat, of sweetness or the rough slide of Bruce's palm. Robin is focused on the coolness of the air on his rear, and the somewhat ridiculous bob and dangle of his genitals. Robin has had several nightmares along these lines, but knows that it's all right, that it could never happen, that the nightmares only count if you don't wake up hungry.

Tim bites down on the gauntlet, working his jaw a little, because the gauntlets have much less give than they appear to. They are designed for Bruce's strength, the raw power in the hands touching him, stroking, testing his muscle and, perhaps, his ability to force himself to stop trembling --

Force himself to stay still --

Force himself not to *feel* this as much as he wants to, as he *can*, because Batman had known everything he needed to before this moment. Everything from Tim's physicality to his willingness -- no. He keeps forgetting. This is for Robin.

He stills himself again, and begins to regulate his breathing. It's somewhat difficult to catch the right rhythm without being able to use his mouth for the exhales, but Robin has meditated in chains while hanging upside down. Batman needs --

The way Batman squeezes his hips isn't entirely perfect -- there's too much *heat* where his other gauntlet ought to be -- but this is Robin's... fault.

For all that Robin is Batman's partner and thus necessary, he changes the way Batman operates. He shifts the parameters of every mission, and necessitates -- yes -- exception. Heat is a small thing in this regard, if perhaps not so small as the delicate trace of those bare fingers in the bowl of Robin's hip.

Robin -- Robin knows how to *breathe*.

And Robin can prove this despite the loss of touch, and despite regaining it with the cool and slippery addition of lubricant. Robin doesn't *flinch*, and he never squeezes his eyes shut like this. He doesn't whimper or shake, even though he's afraid, and he doesn't --

He doesn't --

Grinding his teeth is better, because he can't decide if the feeling inside is burning or freezing him and because he has enough of himself, of Robin, to know that the question is going to become moot very quickly. The *bare* hand is on his penis, slick but not as cool --

Not cool enough to let him --

No one and nothing is holding Tim still, and the fact that he'd demanded just that degree of trust is going to betray him. He should be laughing at himself, holding on, but he can't even make himself hold his breath enough to keep the sounds from leaking out from around the gauntlet.

Perhaps through the gauntlet --

He has to be Robin, here, because that's what Bruce wants from him, and it's what Batman needs, but being Tim is hard enough. Batman's gauntleted finger inside him is *smoother* than his own has ever been, and could ever be. It's -- unreal, huge, *strange*, and trying to get away from it just means thrusting into Bruce's fist. Over and over.


Perhaps it's his punishment? Something like the gently electrified boundaries of the gauntlet Batman had made him run twice a day for months. Something designed to teach him, perhaps, guide him into what he must do before he's ready for...

Something, and it doesn't matter that he can't quite take the thought to any kind of conclusion, much less a natural one. He stills his hips, breathes deep, and focuses on the motion of the finger inside him. It's really quite gentle, seeming more to follow the contours of the inside of his body than to simply force a way for itself.

It's almost -- conceivable as a test, or a certain variety of *push*. A reminder that there is frankly little he can't -- Robin can't -- *take* if he just puts his mind to it. Accepts --


He can't quite stop himself from rising to his toes and shuddering at the sound of that voice, surrounding him like always, making the alley into another Cave, another -- Robin shakes his head, stops -- nods.

"Don't. You..."

There's confusion in the voice, but that isn't all of it. There's need, and that means he's not doing this right, that he hasn't --

"T -- *Robin*. Please --"

That's not -- that's --


It's all *wrong*, and it's going to -- he can't stop his body from reacting. Tim can *feel* the flush spilling down his chest, feel the slight stretch of his thighs making them shake -- hear himself groan around the gauntlet in his mouth --


*No*, he thinks, and he can keep himself from trying to yell it around the gauntlet in his mouth, but he's shaking his head again, trying to pull away -- groaning again because of the grip Batman -- *Bruce* has on his erection. Tim rises on his toes again, tries --

Pushes back and immediately has to thrust forward again --

Back and he can't make himself keep the arm up behind his back, but he can keep from balling it into a fist --

"Don't -- *show* me," Bruce says, too loud and too obvious, too much for *this*, even when he releases Tim's penis to catch Tim's *fist* -- had he been hitting the *Redbird*? -- and squeeze it, hold it still, hold Tim between the burn and slide and the utter lack of deniability --.

Slick, hot inside, and Tim should be smarter than this, *better* than just the too-aroused teenaged boy caught between two extremes of -- of --

Somewhere, in the mess of his memory there's a moment of release without orgasm, the thought of Bruce's *hands* on him, and how it was, in fact, exactly what he wanted. Without the gauntlets, without anything but themselves, and all the power and *skill*.

That Tim was on a bed, and more than half-convinced he would *never* wear the uniform.

Some other Tim was already in *Bruce's* bed, or perhaps kneeling on the floor beside it --

Or kneeling in an alley just beyond the range of a flyblown streetlight, wondering if maybe Matches would take Tim to his favorite sandwich place after... after --

Here, now, there is only the terrible knowledge that, if he screams once Bruce stops teasing with that other finger and pushes in, he will disappoint no one but himself.

If he drools on himself while he's begging around the gauntlet, Bruce will not shove it any deeper into his mouth.

If he can't stop himself from shaking when Bruce releases his hand and starts stroking him again --

Bruce moves closer, covering him with a shadow neither of them deserve, and the angle of the thrusts shift, becoming both more painful and better, more *direct*. Bruce is *fucking* him, now, and if there's anything more he needs from Tim, he knows exactly how to get it.

How to take it, or perhaps just how to make Tim reach for it, himself. There had been a chance, a moment when he could've been something other than himself, when he could've had Robin, been him, been *perfect* --

The anger is a part of this, Tim thinks, something else to coil at the back of his throat and the base of his spine, to make him work himself faster, harder, make it *hurt* more so that it will last -- no, he can't do that. He -- he *can't*. This is just an alley, and he is weakened, vulnerable --

It feels so *good*.

Better when Bruce gives his penis a rolling, slick-sliding twist, when the fingers inside him, still, flex -- open him, because Bruce wants --

Bruce needs --

His eyes are squeezed shut and his hips feel like they've been oiled, like he's only ever just *touched* their maximum efficiency. For this, all he has to do is move, and it's just.

It's only a fact that he also has to sob around the gauntlet in his mouth and beg wordlessly, endlessly, shudder at the feel of hot, damp breath on his neck, and all of the shadows he could ever wish for --

Bruce, he thinks, and has a moment where it feels like he's lost all physical *coherency*, and then he's spasming, adrenaline, Dick --

He's spattering the *car*, Bruce, himself. His knees buckle and he --

Caught, but the loss of Bruce's hand around his penis is too soon and too much, and he has just enough of himself back to flush even harder at the sound he makes. If he could just stop *begging* --

But that's as likely as him somehow being able to find his breath even with Bruce's mouth against his ear. The way he's holding them, Tim can't feel the cowl at all.

And he can't smell it over -- everything. Bruce --


Not -- not in that *voice*. Tim doesn't shake his head again. He just -- breathes.

And isn't sure whether or not he's grateful for that when Bruce pulls out. It forces Tim onto his toes again, makes something in him complain, *fear* -- no. The physical realities -- if not all of the physics -- are clear. He's as relaxed as he could possibly be. Tim braces himself against the car, finds balance on his spread, shaking legs again, and waits.

Waits --

Soft, somewhat fabric-intensive sounds -- Bruce is cleaning his hands. His gauntlet and his hand --

Tim didn't need dreams to know the sound of that gauntlet sliding down over the armor of his back, but he has them. The sound of it on his skin -- he shouldn't be shivering again. This isn't -- the way it's supposed to be. Or --

He wasn't at all prepared for the move that ends with him staggering, *backed* against the car -- slickness. His -- Tim jerks forward, stops -- is *stopped* by the wall of Batman. The trappings.

Bruce takes the gauntlet out of his mouth and strokes Tim's lips, presses lightly against the somewhat pained corners --

Tim isn't sure who the kiss belongs to, and it isn't entirely possible to be sure who started it, for all that Tim's arms are trapped between their bodies and he's unsteady on his toes. It feels like Bruce is trying to tell him something with the kiss, but Tim doesn't think it's an explanation.

More than anything else, it feels like a kiss for missed chances, or for memories which would fall apart like wet tissue paper if examined too closely. Tim thinks he must have always wanted this -- it's the best and most complete explanation he's likely to *get* -- but he isn't sure if it was supposed to be this way -- no.

He already knows it wasn't supposed to be this way, he's just forgetting again. Losing again at the feel of Bruce's tongue teasing and driving his own, and it's not --

It's all right, he thinks, to do this. It's too good for it not to be, and too easy, especially when Bruce lets Tim shift enough to free his arms, to wrap them around Bruce's neck and feel the cowl with the insides of his elbows and the small patches of bicep which are exposed *enough* by both uniform and angle.

This -- this is all right, because they both know enough about who they are, and they both want it, and --

And the car is the only thing which keeps him from falling when Bruce backs -- shoves himself away.

"B -- Batman --"

The thing is -- he *is* fast enough to catch the man between the moment of the grapple being pulled and the moment of flight. It's just that there is no question in his mind that he isn't supposed to be fast enough, at all. Not like this. Not now.

Tim watches Bruce fly, but not for long.

He has to fix his clothes.

And finish his patrol.


The Cave showers --

He's not, actually, more filthy than he's ever been in his life, and he doesn't feel that way, not really. Perhaps if Matches had come out around the edges earlier instead of Bruce.

Perhaps -- that slap? Spank. It was a spank, and while the question of just how Bruce would choose to discipline a disobedient partner is an interesting one, it's never been especially relevant. He's not that sort of Robin.

As always for moments like this -- when he's *here* -- Tim tries the sort of meditation which he would never try to explain or justify to Bruce. It's a question of being open, seeking -- could Jason ever really leave here for long? It doesn't seem possible -- it seems even more impossible than *wrong* -- but he has to admit to himself -- again -- that he can't be sure that what he's feeling is more than just wishful thinking.

And --

He's clean, and he's gone another night without any injury more severe than the slight strains he could reasonably sleep himself out of, assuming he doesn't do the stretches which are quite possibly the closest he comes to religion.

That's a lie. His *religion* is --

It's just that there's no one here to *see* the lie but the ghosts and/or the wishful thinking. Bruce...

He thinks he's closer to understanding, now --

Another lie.

Tim towels off, breathes, and tries again on his way to the mats.

He understands very well, now, and probably at least as much as it's possible to understand without actually living inside Bruce's mind. Tim has been reserved and polite. As unobtrusive as he could possibly manage. He hasn't always been successful with that program, however. He has reached out, offered himself, deliberately assumed privacy no one in his position could ever have.

He will probably never know, for sure, if he'd ever called out any of Bruce's names while he touched himself here, while he worked himself for the physical release he'd needed to underline the intellectual and emotional.

He has thus managed to be both obvious and coy, and while he would not call himself disingenuous, it's possible -- possible -- that Bruce would.

He is not Bruce's friend.

Bruce is a lonely, gravely *injured* man. The fact that his grieving process was endangering a major metropolis doesn't change the fact that it had been rather rudely interrupted. If Bruce was never Jason's lover, he almost certainly still misses him that way. If Bruce had never particularly wanted to be *Dick's* friend, he still misses him *that* way. If he'd never wanted Tim in his life at all... well.

This is only the beginning, of course, and much could be theorized -- with probably quite a respectable degree of accuracy -- about what sort of man would respond to these and all of the other stressors this way, but, in the end, it's no more nor less than a vulnerability which, if not controlled, could be exploited by... whom?

There is no guarantee that simply staying here for long enough will force Bruce to come back while he *is* here.

Tim finishes his stretches, changes into pajamas, and walks through the tunnel.


Weekends have become somewhat complicated things. When both of his parents were still alive -- and whether or not they were home -- weekends were always wholly his own. Tim Drake still has a collection of amateur photographs of various Gotham cityscapes.

On the whole, they are flat, dull things, being as how they were only ever designed to help him increase his speed and skill with the various expensive cameras his parents had purchased for him, and to give a cover to a too-poorly realized identity he'd hardly realized he'd needed.

If he had it to do again, he would've presented at least a few of these photos to his parents, eyes shining with pride and the hope that pride would be returned. It would've made things more clear within his own mind, in a lot of ways.

Of course, then he'd know for sure which of these photos had been his mother's favorite, and he'd have to study every minute detail of it to see if he could see what she had seen, and he would --

It wouldn't have been better to do it that way. 'Neater' is not better.

Still, looking at the photographs the way he's doing now -- he has brought his albums to the sitting room -- means that he can duck much of his father's attention in a manner which doesn't drive the man to... try harder.

"You really loved photography for a while, didn't you, kiddo?"

Much harder. Tim smiles ruefully. "I was never very good at it."

"I think your mother had all the art in this family," he says, shaking the newspaper and folding it. A bad sign -- no.

Just a sign. "I tried -- there was a book we had to read in school. I don't really remember anything about it except for a line about 'finding the beauty in everyday or even ugly' things. It was... something to do," Tim says, and turns another page.

"Well, Gotham sure had plenty of ugly. Still does."

Tim nods. He doesn't -- arguing is dangerous. The photo on this page is of a man so engrossed in his cell phone conversation that he doesn't notice that he's being urinated on by a small dog with fur with the dull, grey sheen of long neglect. The photo manages to be woefully clichéd, poorly composed, *and* full of problematic implications about Tim's character.

Why hadn't he given the man a heads-up? He might've at least bought a street-corner hotdog for the dog. Would his mother have liked it?

Would she have gotten far enough into the album to see it?

"You don't... ah." His father clears his throat, and shifts a little restlessly on his chair.

Tim moves enough that he can have a good view of the man without being too obvious about it. There's no sign of pain, but his father *has* gotten a lot better at hiding it. The skill is something Tim can admire. The motivation... needs work. And if *he* brings up the issue of pain, the man is likely to skip a dose out of pure bloody-mindedness. But. "Dad...?"

"Oh... it's really nothing."

A lie. Tim raises an eyebrow.

When his father looks at him... Tim doesn't know what to do with expression. It seems lost, somehow, and like there's something Tim can do to help.


"You stopped with the photography after your mother died, didn't you, son?"

Some months before. Now, of course, he photographs crime scenes. If his composition has improved at all, he doesn't want to know. "I... close to that time, yes. Why?"

His father folds his hands in his lap, opens his mouth, closes it again, and seems about to stand -- Tim puts up his hands.

"It wasn't -- exactly the same time, Dad. I was starting to lose interest, and..." Honestly, if there's not a body -- or some part of a body -- on the other side of the lens, Tim feels a bit out of sorts. "You think she wouldn't have liked it."

The smile Tim receives has all the affectionate smugness of age and assumed experience. "You know, son, there are times when I catch myself wondering if I really knew your mother, at all, but I still know that she'd hate to see you stop doing anything which ever gave you pleasure."

Whether or not there's still pleasure to be had in the act? Tim supposes it's not utterly impossible. She had, after all, remained married to his father.

"I mean -- look at it this way. What were you planning to do today?"

Go to the manor, by way of the front door. Just to... see. "Nothing much? I mean, I planned to walk around the city, a little. Later."

His father claps his hands on his thighs as if Tim has offered the answer to a difficult puzzle. "You see? That's what I mean. You might as well take one of your cameras *with* you, get a little more use out of them, *capture* this city you love so much."

Tim makes a face and closes the album. "Would it make you stop talking about making us move someplace else?"

"Who knows? Maybe you'll capture the innate, heartbreaking beauty of our fair city, son, and change my mind for all time."

Tim laughs, despite himself. "Mental note: No more photos of dead pigeons."

His father grins and stands up, absently wiping the palms of his hands on his trousers.

He's sweating, which means he *was* in pain the whole time. Best not to mention it until he already has the bottle in his hand, but that really was an *impressive* performance. And --

"Wait, Tim. Did you just say *more* photos of dead pigeons?"

Tim offers his father the album. "I was trying for avant-garde, Dad. Wanna see?"

His father sort of... flaps both hands at Tim and moves closer to the door, which leads to the hall, which, in its turn, leads to the bathroom and its medicine cabinet. "That's really all right, son --"

"Are you sure? I mean, a fresh pair of eyes might awaken my slumbering artistic temperament." You could do it for *Mom*, he doesn't say. He'd never say. He *couldn't* say, not to any of the people in his life. Or... perhaps Bruce, in a certain mood, but Tim would have to be certain *of* the mood, and --

Dick can't possibly be right about being honest all the time with at least one person.

For now, Tim waves the album in the air, a little, and pretends to lunge it at his father's back like a sword.

His father, for his part, laughs his way down the hall and toward chemical relief. Tim... relaxes, indulging himself by stroking a hand over the cover of the album. His father had just given him -- and all but demanded Tim take -- the day to himself.

It would be premature -- and perhaps in poor taste -- to hope the act is a sign of things to come, but there is no question that this sort of behavior from his father would make more of his life... neater. Tim Drake, teenager-about-town, amateur photographer, and professional rich boy isn't inclined toward spending his precious weekends at *home*, after all, and...

Perhaps it would make his father some variety of happy.


There are several particularly *acute* varieties of frustration inherent to allowing his father to call a car for him, waiting for that car to arrive, and allowing that car to take him *away* from Bristol, but, well.

He has the first camera his father had ever given him hanging around his neck. It still looks massive against him -- like some malignant plastic tumor -- but Tim is pleasantly surprised that he's gained in strength enough to keep from feeling as though it was in the process of sawing his neck from his body.

Tim Drake has things to do, and he's going to document every bit of it. The fact that there won't, precisely, be a test later means nothing. There are expectations, and so he forces himself to catch a train to a part of the city even further away from where he (needs) actually wants to be, and then he walks.

A street performer dressed entirely in shades of plum. Pigeons bursting into flight. A young woman thin and oddly featured enough to be a model, and that same woman offering a certain obscene gesture. Mounted police officers, and then just their horses.

A fleet of taxis.

Every dog he sees.

What moves Tim Drake? It's not a question which needs an answer immediately, but he's going to have to come up with one, soon. His theory, at the moment, is that it's going to boil down to that which is strange and alien to Tim Drake. Poverty and struggle, despair -- except that Tim Drake is also supposed to be, however idly, looking for things which would put Gotham in a better light for his father.

Most of what this means is that Tim forces himself not to photograph the suspiciously odiferous 'bundle of rags' in that alley, as opposed to being as subtle as possible about mentioning to a nearby police officer that he thought he'd seen someone fall down and not get up again. He then does his best to fade into the crowd and to hope that the death turns out to be from natural causes.

If it's a murder, he'd missed a prime opportunity to examine a potential crime scene. They *never* get to those when they're still fresh -- no.

Beauty. He's looking for beauty, and not the sort attached to the half-nude road workers. These pictures are going to be for his father, and -- no.

In the end, he surrenders to the failure of his own imagination and heads for Robinson Park, where there are any number of flowers in bloom, children playing, and lovers loving. He avoids shooting the condom wrappers, empty liquor bottles, scraped knees, crying faces --

He'd always done better at this sort of thing in the night. He'd -- he'd rarely had to *try*. The details and detritus of all the human tragedies neither they nor the police are *enough* for were mostly shadowed, if not entirely obscured. The shadows themselves spill in an endless variety of curves and angles, hint at meaning and the truths within. The lights --

He's heard them described as jewels, as lesser stars, as all sorts of things, really, but for Tim they were always themselves -- *lights* in their thousands and thousands, spilling out over a dark and problematic world as far as the eye could see -- depending on the vantage point. Sometimes the lives behind those lights flicker and sometimes they die, but they were always there, and they always would be there.

Humanity as a whole is too greedy, too *alive* to have it any other way. *This* is his definition of hope, if not, necessarily, the only one that matters. In the day, it's hard to forget that sugar rots teeth and dirties the hands.

In the night, every moment of sweetness is -- something. He's not sure, but he has the look and feel of hundreds of nights in his head, and he hopes they never go -- especially since, between his father and Batman, it will almost certainly never be politic to take *those* pictures.

He'd always been careful to avoid archiving the photos he'd taken of Batman, both Robins, and eventually Nightwing, of course. It's just that he'd also been careful with the photos taken to fill out the roll (to develop the *good* ones as fast as possible, of course). There are no photos in his albums taken after nine-thirty in the evening, whatever the season.

There are almost always ways to tell, given the patience to look for them --

His last shot is an entirely unremarkable photo of a dog -- a border collie, this time -- leaping to catch a bright red Frisbee. If he's very lucky, he'd caught a bit of the expensive townhouses bordering on the park. If not, everything will be a blur save for the bit which could be found -- absolutely anywhere.

Tim Drake is, at this point in his life, woefully banal.

It's entirely possible that this will turn out to be the best possible way for Tim Drake to *be*. Banality would sink deeply beneath his father's radar -- the man had, after all, remained married to Tim's mother -- and thus leave Tim several different varieties of 'free.' The fact Tim doesn't want to be anything of the kind is, most probably, the sort of adolescent rebellion *Robin* can't afford to allow Tim to indulge in --

Tim knows where he needs to go.

Once he's off the subway, it only takes a small amount of carefully broad and teenaged charm -- and a twenty -- to convince today's driver to drop him off well beyond any of the sightlines from his father's house. The man has his orders -- and a policy book full of dire warnings about where they are and aren't to drop minors off -- but it's not like he'd asked the man to take him anywhere exciting.

The hint that Tim is involved with some other wealthy teenager his father disapproved of had probably gone further than the cash, actually. Something to consider.

It *is* a bit dangerous to walk up to the front door of the manor -- Tim would be visible from one of the guest bedrooms in his father's house -- but Alfred doesn't make him wait.

"Master Timothy, your presence does much to improve the afternoon."

And that -- that's actually going a little far. For Alfred. "I'm glad," Tim says, raising an eyebrow and walking in the door. "And it would be fair to say that my arrival improves the afternoon for me."

"Indeed, young sir?"

The tone does quite a bit, all things considered, to make the question rather more rhetorical than not, but this is true for most of Alfred's questions. Whether it's because the man had spent most of the past thirty years with Bruce, or whether Bruce had picked up his rather imposingly *solid* disdain for questions due to years of being quietly trained to view them as entirely optional...

A question for another day.

"I haven't been able to spend time with Bruce, just lately," he says, and because it's Alfred, he doesn't need to stress the name.

Alfred takes Tim's jacket. "A worthy ambition, I'm sure."

If not, of course, always a realistic one. Right. Tim smiles at Alfred -- and feels it freeze on his face, a little. Alfred knows everything -- Alfred *always* knows everything -- but Tim had never really considered living a life in which that basic fact of existence would ever be... uncomfortable. He clears his throat.

Alfred raises an eyebrow and pats the jacket currently folded over one forearm. Once. "Master Timothy? Are you quite all right?"

Ten minutes after Dick had brought him to the manor for the very first time, Tim had known that trying to read Alfred for any cues or clues save for the ones he fully intended you to have was useless. Worse than useless, as the activity tended to lead to you standing there feeling like an idiot and starting to sweat. "I -- I just needed to talk to him, I think." And for just a moment, there's something in Alfred's eyes which seems almost gentle --

"The question of 'need' is a difficult one, young sir, as the definition has never been inclined to hold itself *still*. I can only hope that the answers you find are more satisfactory than not."

The gentleness is gone even before Alfred finishes speaking, leaving only the welcome which still seems to be a little *much* and a willingness to be -- of service. Tim nods, swallows, and heads toward the study --

And discovers, perhaps somewhat belatedly, that he's forgotten everything he's planned to say. He *had* made plans, hadn't he?

Very belatedly -- Bruce is *in* the study, wearing Bruce Wayne's clothes and Bruce's face. He's -- reading. Sitting there, reading, just as if -- who is Tim supposed to be here, exactly?

"Sit down," Bruce says, and -- takes a breath. His hand seems a little too still on the book -- "Please."

Tim does, in one of the wing chairs which isn't quite *directly* across from Bruce's own, and -- he isn't sure how he feels -- *what* he's feeling. Something. Something about the book in Bruce's hands, about being in another chair built to Bruce's scale, about being here, as opposed to anywhere else. Another Tim had, perhaps, fallen asleep right here, naked and curled and full of hot cocoa, biscuits, the sense of having been desired.

Tim Drake always smiles when he blushes, and it's always more confident than he feels, but this does not mean he *isn't* confident.

Bruce hasn't turned another page.

"The library is nicer," Tim says, and drums his fingers on the arms of the chair.

"Nicer." The incredulous humor -- the *intellect* -- in Bruce's tone doesn't really suit the effect Tim's going for, but then -- neither does Tim's own pose.

He shifts in the chair enough to dangle one leg over the arm -- no, both. Definitely both. That done, he rests his head on one fist and lets his legs kick. "More sunlight. You're looking pretty pale."

That -- is absolutely horror in Bruce's eyes, blended with shock and... other things Timmy Drake wouldn't be able to name. He wouldn't care, either.

"We could go out by the pool. It's warm enough," Tim says, and rolls his tongue around in his mouth. And uses his free hand to toy, a little, with the fly of his chinos.

"Tim. Stop." And --

The order has no place here, and no effect on the boy who probably got rather thoroughly 'comforted' his second or third night here -- if possibly not the first. Tim makes a face. "I only really like the Daddy stuff when we're in bed, Bruce --"

And perhaps it's the thought, the *question* -- what would this be like in a bed? It's certainly distracting enough to explain -- if not excuse -- how Bruce could have him by the collar, out of the chair, and against the wall without Tim being able to do more than grab at Bruce's fist with both hands.

"*Seriously*, Bruce, all work and no play is making you a little scary --"

"I wasn't -- working. Tim," he says, and he *had* been holding Tim up on his toes, but Tim doesn't drop onto the balls of his feet just because Bruce lets him go.

There's too much -- potential, here. Much too much to just let it go -- especially with Bruce's hands on his face. "No? I might've been able to forgive *that*, Bruce. It's the having fun without me that's -- really gonna make me put my foot down," he says, wrapping his arms around Bruce's neck and nudging at the outside of Bruce's right thigh with his knee.

Bruce shakes his head, opens his mouth -- "I did this."

"Not *recently* you haven't. C'mon, *Brucie*. Play with me."

And the look in Bruce's eyes -- for a moment, Tim's that variety of scared which he's actually started to get used to. The kind of scared he's started to *like*, because it's all bound up, now, with Bruce's hands, Bruce's taste, with everything Bruce knows how to *do* to him. Timmy Drake, he thinks, would feel it, too.

"Mm, yeah. I haven't come all *day*," he says, because Timmy Drake knows how to say those things, because Brucie likes his boys a little dirty, a lot grateful --

And apparently backed against a wall and out of *reach*.

"Bruce --"

"And if --" Bruce squeezes Tim's wrists and drops them emphatically. "If I don't wish to play?"

The thing is, that would actually be an erection-cripplingly *good* question -- if it wasn't phrased as a question. There's something in Bruce's eyes, right now, which feels exactly like the *something* behind Tim's own. Tim doesn't have a name for it, and he isn't sure if he wants to.

He thinks, maybe, it would take something away from it, and thus make things like this more difficult:

"Oh," Tim says, hugging himself and staring down at the floor between their feet. "I -- I didn't recognize you without the mustache."

Bruce -- grunts like he's been hit.

"I guess you kind of have to look... I mean, in a place like this..." The blush isn't exactly on cue, but it's good to know that if he ever really *needs* a blush, then thinking about *Matches* will bring one up. He still has to fake the shiver, and that's easier with his hands balled into loose, ineffectual fists at his sides. "What should I do?"

"What do you..." Bruce's eyes almost seem to flare, the thing behind them too hot for the color, or -- "I think *that* all depends on what you *want*, baby boy."

The voice redefines obscenity, even without jacket, stink, or stains. "Oh, I." Tim bites his lip. He doesn't know exactly who this is, but the things his body wants from him right now aren't exactly making the person difficult to reach. "I'm not sure. I thought you'd maybe. Tell me?"

Bruce's hand is on his face again, but it's neither gentle nor particularly deft. His fingers catch and pull at Tim's hair and the heel of his palm is pushing Tim's mouth out of true.

"I'll do. I'll do what you want."

"You need somebody to give you orders, hunh? Not one single independent thought in that pretty little head?"

"I..." Tim bites his lip again, and lets the pressure of Bruce's hand -- Matches'-almost hand -- drag it back out from between his teeth again. This time, the shiver comes more easily. "I just want to be *good*," he says, and probably that should've been quieter -- *smaller* -- but the way it comes out makes Bruce tighten his grip a little more --

Makes him grab Tim by the *penis* --

"Oh -- oh, you can make me good, can't you?"

"I can make you anything I want," and the fact that the voice is all wrong *is* a warning --

It's just not enough of one for his penis, which wants Tim to know that it's cold and alone and *tortured* without Bruce's hand -- Tim clenches his jaw and forces himself to relax, shift. "Then do it," he says, and folds his arms under the cape which isn't there.

"Are you worth it?" And Bruce's expression doesn't change as much as it hardens into *more* of itself, which means... maybe...

Something different. Something wider, wilder, *and* gentler. Tim spreads his legs into a more open stance and smiles just as widely as he can. "I'll show you I can, Bruce! I'll *make* you believe in me!"

And perhaps the expression on Bruce's face had gotten *too* hard, because it seems to shatter and change --

Tim can't tell, but it's possible he would've been able to if Bruce hadn't kissed him this hard, this --

This *much*, lifting Tim against his body, cupping Tim's ass and pulling him close, closer --

Tim can't breathe, and it only gets better, *more*, when he spreads widely enough to hold Bruce's waist with his thighs, *throw* his arms around Bruce's neck, and kiss back with all the enthusiasm he can manage. Tim would like this to be slower, deeper and harder, but it's almost enough when moaning into the kiss makes Bruce start to walk with him, carry him --

Tim can't quite tell by the feel, but the *room* they have suggests they're on the couch. He can confirm this when Bruce pulls back, but it's not especially satisfying.

"Did I do something wrong, Bruce? I -- you *know* I'll do better! I'll do everything, anything --"

He'll be stopped by fingers on his mouth, tracing the lines of it. Maybe more stopped by the open *speculation* on Bruce's face, and the way Tim can see that his breathing has gotten a little rough, a little hungry. "Will you," Bruce says, and the hand which isn't on his mouth is on Tim's shoulder. It feels --

It feels a little like being held down and a little like just being *felt*, like maybe Tim's shoulders are more than just adequately muscled. Like there's more *substance* there, or...


Or maybe *exactly* like there is. He honestly isn't sure about the expression -- Tim doesn't get very many opportunities to practice expressions which fall on the continuum between 'smirk' and 'sneer' -- but. "Stop breaking my balls, Bruce. You know what I want. And you *know* what I can give you."

And the hand on Tim's face -- shakes.

"I --"

They both moan when Bruce slips his thumb in Tim's mouth.

They both know everything it can *mean*, and Tim wonders if this is what Dick feels like when Tim jokes with him, if this is what family means for other people -- no, it can't be that. Or -- maybe it can? Tim isn't sure, but it feels so warm, so right. Those kisses in the alley, the dark of that cloakroom.

Bruce knows what he wants and how long he's wanted it, Bruce knows what Tim can do and what he's willing to do. Bruce knows everything and knows him, and he's still *here*, covering Tim, looming over him, pressing inside --

Tim moans again --

"I -- I do know," Bruce says, squeezing Tim's shoulder and starting to thrust -- slow and hard -- with his thumb. "It's only that I've never been sure that I've had any right."

There's a moment when Tim can't -- *can't* -- believe that it matters, but then he remembers that there's actually two of them, and that Bruce believes in things Tim has never, ever seen. Bruce could show his father the beauty in Gotham. Bruce *knows*, in his heart, that Gotham doesn't need the dark to *be* beautiful.

"You've never asked me for anything," he says, shaking his head, and --

It's not that Bruce's voice is soft, it's just that the anger doesn't match the force of his thumb, and every other emotion isn't enough for the look in his eyes, the way he's not seeing anyone at all -- no.

Bruce is looking at *Tim*, now, and it feels like he's falling into his own skin, or maybe being shoved there. His shoulders and thighs are lean, his fingers are digging into the couch to keep themselves from *reaching* for Bruce, and the smile on his face -- is nonexistent. Even when considered against the thumb in his mouth.

"Bruce," he tries, slurring it out between thrusts, *trying* -- and Bruce doesn't move his hand even a little when Tim grabs it and tugs.

"I understand -- I think I understand now. All of the things I was looking for with you and all of the things I couldn't *see*... And I think that if I spend one more moment pretending that all of -- this was a search for understanding, I'll have to ask Alfred to load his shotgun."

Which... it's not as though Tim can't relate. He tugs again, and this time Bruce pulls back. Tim licks his lips, breathes -- "I think you have the right if I say you do, Bruce."

"Are you sure?"

A joke, or -- perhaps a laugh in words, rather than simply sounds. The boy Tim was for Matches is, now that he considers it, the boy Tim *was* a little over a week ago. But only to a certain extent. And -- "I like the memories I have now. I like that you never left me alone when I was living here. That you touched me, had me -- that I wasn't alone."

"Tim --"

"I like them *better*, Bruce," Tim says, and tilts his head up until he can rub his mouth and cheek over Bruce's knuckles. "And I think you do, too."

"No, you *know* I do," Bruce says, pressing hard against Tim's cheek before twisting the grip enough to pin Tim's wrist back against the couch. "Just as I know that you enjoy certain kinds of vulnerability and -- ruthlessness."

"Competence. Acceptance. I don't care, Bruce, I really just want -- everything I can get."

Bruce squeezes Tim's wrist, leans in, *breathes* against Tim's mouth.

Tim arches up toward the kiss he can *feel* --

"And if I still want more?"

"You always do," Tim says, and *takes* the kiss for his own.

All of his own.


Tim's only marginally awake when the hand lands on the back of his neck, which means that he'd seriously underestimated how positively his body would respond to sleeping in a bed -- his own old one -- with Bruce after sex.

He'd ordered his body to wake him up at seven, after all, and --

"Seven-fifteen," Bruce says, and rolls Tim over onto his back. Tim rubs his eyes and rolls his hips to work the slight kink out of his back. He hadn't gone to sleep so much as he'd passed out, and that always leads to poor positioning.

"Fifteen whole minutes, Bruce?"

"I was feeling," he says, cupping Tim's hips, squeezing, and then *pulling* Tim further down the bed, "greedy."

"I didn't call. I need to be home by eight."

"I'm intrigued by the fact that you gave yourself an hour."

Bruce, Tim thinks, and considers. The humor, the intellect, a hint -- perhaps more, with those hands still on Tim's hips -- of command. The tendency to loom in ways which encourage this bedroom's shadows to gather and linger.

*Bruce* is holding on to him.

*Bruce* had been the one to... to. Those *fingers* inside him. Again, but. "Are you... averse to intercourse?"

Bruce's smile narrows his eyes and hardens his mouth.

It isn't quite *instinctual* to grab his penis, but Tim has to do it, anyway.

"Hm," Bruce says, and kisses the head, licks and mouths -- stops. "Are you worried about the... integrity of your 'memories?'"

The first time Bruce had -- had *fucked* Tim-and-Timmy-Drake, it had been in the library. Tim had been bent over the reading table closest to the windows, and a bar of sunlight had warmed his back. After, Bruce-or-maybe-Brucie had patted and stroked him, and left him alone to pick up the pieces and *feel* them, one by one. "They're very good memories."

Bruce's look is deliberately slow and thorough. It seems to have less to do with making sure Tim is aware of the examination than it does with making Tim squirm and shift -- not much.

Those hands are still on his hips, and Bruce --

"Perhaps you'll reminisce with me sometime."

"If you think... you'd enjoy it," Tim says, and tries to view his erection as a problem which can be solved, as opposed to the very important part of him which Bruce is very importantly close to. "I -- Bruce."

"Yes," he says, and his voice makes it seem like Tim had said much more than simply a name, but --

He's being slow. He can forgive himself for it to a certain degree -- Bruce is over him again, still as naked as he'd been in the moments between Tim letting Bruce push his head off Bruce's penis and Tim lying back and passing out --

Bruce is over him and moving, grinding down with his hips, pressing Tim to the bed, and yes, Tim had been slow -- of course it's more than just a name. If it wasn't, it wouldn't feel this good to call it out, and it wouldn't feel the same to dig his fingers in against Bruce's shoulders and use every *bit* of that leverage to thrust up, grind up, get *more* --

"What was it like, the last time we did this, Tim?"

Oh, that's -- "Ah -- against a wall. Wait, no, I was standing on -- on something --"

"I bent my knees, of course," and Bruce kisses Tim's forehead, his cheek --

"And you -- I couldn't get -- get the rhythm, please, more --"

"Hm, you begged. I pressed a finger inside you --"

"I need -- I needed -- oh God --"

Bruce keeps himself braced on one hand and grabs Tim's hip again with the other, holds Tim still and just --

Hair -- scars and sweat --

Tim can't breathe without breathing *Bruce* --

"I begged you to *fuck* me, Bruce -- ah --"

Bruce is biting Tim's ear, moving faster, holding him -- moving *harder* --

"*Please* --"

"I told you," Bruce says, and *licks* Tim's ear, "to be patient."

And Tim knows that he'd wrapped his legs around Bruce's waist then, that Brucie had been more than strong enough to hold him up that way, just as Bruce is more than strong enough that Tim can't get *more* from doing it now. But also --

It *is* more, this way. It's -- shameless and obvious. He doesn't need to see himself to *feel* himself, and the way he's begging for everything now like he'd begged then. The slap of Bruce's scrotum against his own is the best possible kind of punishment, and --

"I kept -- I kept begging, you know --"

"You never, ever, stopped," Bruce says, rolling them --

Holding Tim steady on his knees --

Wrapping his *fist* around them both --

"I -- fuck -- *please* --"

"Did I -- hn. Did I tell you what a good boy you were? I can't remember..."

Tim thinks he might've cursed again, but then he isn't really thinking at all, as opposed to trying to hold on *enough* with his knees not to fall over, off the bed, and maybe off the edge of the world. Light behind his eyes and darkness everywhere else, warm -- "Good," he says, and thinks about saying 'fuck' just one more time, but -- no. The moment has passed.

He moans a little at the feel of Bruce letting him go, opens his eyes --

"Fuck," he says, blinking, and -- and he has neither memory nor 'memory' to brace himself on for the sight of Bruce just... jerking himself *off*. Or -- of course he'd been doing just that a moment ago, as well, but it's really quite --

It's very *different* when Tim's not also in the process of having *sex* with Bruce, he thinks. He hadn't ever expected to have anything like the use of his mind while Bruce did something like this. The blush Tim thought he'd skip entirely this time is all over his face, now, and --

Bruce's penis is so *slick*, and --

And the only thought which is converting itself into language is --

"Fuck," Tim says, again, and tries shaking his head to clear it --

*That* only leads to Tim missing whatever it was which made Bruce groan, move them *both* with a roll of his hips -- Tim opens his eyes and keeps them open, and the choice between looking at Bruce's face and looking at his working hand, his penis...

Too hard, too much, and the place on his chest where Bruce's semen will hit him assuming neither of them move feels like it's burning, or -- sparking, needing. Something. "Bruce," Tim says, and it feels like a victory --


It feels like a victory because it is one. And it's another to be able to steady himself enough to *just* cover Bruce's hand with his own. He's not twining in, he's not guiding, he's just... riding the motion, a little --

"When -- when did you learn the -- rhythm I prefer. Tim."

"In the car -- the Rolls, that is. You were on the phone with some socialite. I knew you'd touch her in some way you wouldn't be touching me -- no, wait, that's not correct --"

"Tim," Bruce says, almost -- almost moans, and Tim can feel Bruce's hand tighten -- it seems almost brutal --

And the first spurt of semen is *exactly* on target, making Tim gasp and forget what feels like any number of desperately important things. It's not very much semen, and it seems a little unfair when combined with the fact that Bruce's expression is already clearing -- "More," Tim says, and tries to convince himself that it's marginally better than 'fuck.'


Tim frowns and moves out of the straddle so he can sit on his heels. And run a hand through the mess on his chest and stomach. There's something so pointed about it. So much -- "I think I prefer being at least mostly naked for sex."

"Mm. It's true that all of those times when you were wearing only your pajamas when we started wound up being -- ultimately -- neater," and Bruce helpfully moves Tim's sticky hand up to Tim's mouth.

Tim licks his hand clean and wonders how real all the memories can become before he ought to consider himself delusional --

There's something about the expression on Bruce's face which boils down to 'more real than they are now.'

Tim nods in acknowledgment and moves off the bed -- stops. "I need a reasonable excuse for my hair to be wet when I get home."

"If your father is any more amenable to my presence in your life than he was the last time you mentioned it... we could've met for a game of racquetball at my club."

Tim thinks, rubs slick-sticky fingers together -- *actually* thinks. "I think I'll just avoid getting my hair wet." And hope it doesn't smell *too* much like sweat, large amounts of sex, and the manor.

When he steps out of the shower, Bruce is there with towels and kisses -- three, to be precise. None of them are very long, but all of them are telling things, deep and hard enough to make Tim worry about what his mouth will look like.

"Hm," Bruce says, pulling back. "You've already left."

"Soonest begun," Tim says, drying off as efficiently as he can and dressing in the clothes which Bruce had brought in from the bedroom. "You make a deeply problematic valet, by the way."


Bruce isn't touching him, but that doesn't change anything about the way his *gaze* feels. Yes, deeply problematic. Once Tim's dressed, he turns to look at his hair in the mirror -- and winces.

"You still have some of your... product in the cabinet, Tim," Bruce says, and leans back against the door.

He really is planning to stay *right* there, and --

And the smile on his face when Tim looks could double as an illustration of 'I know exactly what you're thinking, and it amuses me.' All right. Tim begins working his hair back into something like shape. "This is still better than the time you *came* in my hair, Brucie."

"An *accident*, duckling. You said you'd *forgiven* me."

"Forgiving isn't forgetting. You don't know how much time I *spend* making my hair look this good."

"You must think me a thoughtless cad."

"Mm," Timmy Drake says, rather too blatantly to be truly non-committal. And his hair -- well, the spikes are going to list a bit, but if he looks too perfect after a long day in the city, it would be suspicious.

"All better, sweetheart?"

I love you, Tim thinks, and -- and it's terrible to be looking in the mirror when he thinks it. Wrong and terrible, and he can see it, all over himself. And he can't make it go away, either.


Tim closes his eyes and washes his hands. He doesn't open them when Bruce moves behind Tim and cups his shoulders. He doesn't -- he breathes, and wonders if it would be worse to apologize. Wouldn't it just -- call attention?

Bruce's breath is on his ear again --

Tim shivers --

"Relax, baby boy," Matches says, squeezing Tim's shoulders just a little too hard. "I know *all* about this kinda thing. You just gotta ride it, is all."

"I -- oh." Oh.

"Yeah. You let ol' Matches show you how."

He can do that. He can -- Tim opens his eyes. They still look a little too wide and maybe a little too *soft*, but with Matches' face hidden except for the sharp edge of a smile and Matches' hands sliding down Tim's chest... it works.

There's a certain symmetry, or -- something.

Tim nods, slower and more hesitant than he feels, and takes the kiss to the back of his neck for the promise it is. After a moment, Bruce lets him go, and -- and there's really nothing more to be said, if he's going to be able to make himself go home at all.

The tunnel is no good for this -- he really can't just *be* in the house. Not without *knowing* that his father is either asleep or not at all inclined to wonder about Tim's presence. Today, Tim had been *sent* out into the world, therefore it makes more sense to take one of the manor's service entrances, slip into the minuscule patch of woods behind and shared between the properties, and walk into *his* house by -- an entirely different service entrance.

This is the one which will get the ramp, once his father admits to a few salient facts about his physical limits.

As expected, he finds his father waiting for him in the sitting room. He's going through one of Tim's albums, and starts a little guiltily when Tim deliberately scuffs a foot on the floor.

"Oh, Tim -- I didn't hear you come in!"

Tim smiles and raises his hands. "Sorry. I didn't want to wake you in case you'd crashed early, Dad."

"Not *just* yet," he says. "I thought I'd take a look at some of your older work?"

Tim nods -- thinks about it. He should probably be embarrassed. Tim Drake *cares*. "Oh, I -- did you like any of them?"

"Of course I did! I mean, I'm no art critic, but I thought you had some really *thoughtful* photos in there. Although." His father frowns a little sternly. "I thought you were kidding about the dead pigeons."

"It was just a phase, I promise," Tim says, sitting down on the couch and taking the camera from around his neck. He sets it on the table.

His father beams at the thing like it's Tim's long lost sibling. "So...? Did you get any good shots out there, today? You were gone long enough..."

He'd been gone too long, apparently. "I won't really know until I develop them, but... yeah, I think I made a little progress today," Tim says, and lets himself look almost as... satisfied as he feels.

His father claps him on the shoulder and squeezes. "I knew you could do it if you set your mind to it, son."

Tim ducks his head for a blush that isn't there -- just enough for his smile to be visible. "Thanks for pushing me, Dad. I really -- thanks."

"You're welcome, son. It's what I'm here for."

Tim smiles a little wider, looking up into his father's eyes, and --

For just a moment, he can see it all. The first time his father had taken Tim to work with him, and how he'd laughed when Tim had spilled juice over the executive vice-president. The time when his father and mother had fought like cats and dogs over whether or not they should try going to another circus. He remembers his mother winning, and they'd gone to... it would've been an amusement park. There were a lot of rides he was too short for, but the day had been sunny and warm and his parents had spent the day apologizing to each other.

Meaning it. He remembers when they took him with him to Cannes, to Madrid, to Morocco, to Sydney. He remembers his father putting a camera in his hand, and holding it steady so Tim could take just the picture he wanted. It's as clear as -- as anything, and it's so close he can taste it.


Tim sits back, closes his eyes, and tells his father about the time he'd spent at the park.

If he times it right, he'll run out of things to say just *after* it's time for his father to take his medicine --

And then Tim will have the night.


.We do not spare.