by Te
June 9, 2004

Disclaimer: If they were mine, they might just have
more issues than they already do.

Spoilers: Lots of old comics. Timeline: Goes AU
at A Death in the Family, kicks off with A Lonely Place
of Dying.

Summary: Tim makes his choices consciously,
permanently, and thoroughly.

Ratings Note/Warnings: NC-17. Contains content
some readers may find disturbing.

Author's Note: "... In the philosophy of Plato, the
eidos is the immutable genuine nature of a thing,
one of the eternal, transcendent Forms apprehended
by human reason." Title found for me by the lovely

Once upon a time, Livia and I were talking about A
Death in the Family, and what sort of things might
have happened if Jason hadn't died. This isn't that
story. This is the *companion* to that story, which
I still hope Livia will write one day.

Acknowledgments: To Livia, Jack, LC, and Weirdness
Magnet for audiencing and encouragement.


Tim's known about them for a long time. Years,

He's had a lot of dreams and fantasies about how
he'd let them know, over the years. Maybe one day
Batman and Robin could rescue his school from
terrorists, or, later, Nightwing could save his whole
family from some Arkham escapee, or...

They were always pretty stupid, and he's tried his
best to forget about them as being immature -- and
embarrassing, besides -- but there was always one
part that was the same, and one part that made
him... it's hard to describe. It's always just an image:
Dick Grayson's face, smiling at Tim the way he'd done
years before.

All of that basic friendliness, that absent, easy

A hand on his shoulder.

The sense that Tim is someone worth... worth...

That part's hard, too. And irritating, besides. An
endless loop of false images and old memories
chasing themselves around Tim's mind while the
reality glares down at him and his pictures and his

While the reality looks at him like the worst of

"Mr. Grayson, I --"

"Who *are* you?"

Dick's voice is nothing like he'd imagined. It's lower
and rougher and impossible not to *feel*. It makes
sense. He's Batman now. Tim forces himself to look
him in the eye, and forces himself not to shuffle his

He's not selling anything and Wayne manor isn't on
his... his *paper* route or anything.

"My name is Tim Drake," he says. "I... maybe I
should start at the beginning."

"Kid..." The ominous note in Dick's voice shifts to
impatience, and he scrubs a hand over the stubble
on his jaw. According to Tim's own calculations, it's
extremely unlikely that Dick has gotten more than a
handful of hours of sleep in the past several days.

Because Dick is still *Nightwing*, too. "Please," Tim
says. "It will only take a moment."

He watches Dick watch him, and hopes. You were
just a kid once, too, he doesn't say. Maybe you'll
sit down and rest while I talk.

"Please," he says again, and Dick's expression
*shifts* again.

And this time there are hints of that gentle humor,
that optimism which Tim has been dreaming about
for the better part of a decade. He forces himself
to breathe something close to normally, and
manages not to choke when Dick stands up
straight and gestures toward the shadowed interior
of the house.

Though he isn't entirely sure *how* he manages to
walk inside.

He does, though, and the door clicks shut with a
heavy sound. He blinks to get used to the change
between sunlight and lamplight, and, when his
vision clears, there's an older man in front of him,
dressed in a perfect tuxedo.

He must be Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family
retainer. Tim hasn't collected much information
about him, but he looks exactly the way he
should -- neat, dignified, and calmly, subtly

"A visitor, Master Dick?"

"Yeah, Alfred." Dick's voice comes from closer
behind him than he would have guessed, and Tim
jumps before he can stop himself.

And again when Dick's hands land on his shoulders.

"This is Tim Drake, and he's got a story to tell us."

"Indeed," Alfred says, and raises an eyebrow. Tim
thinks the man's supposed to look mildly curious,
but Tim has spent several years studying
expressions in blurry newspaper photos and glossy
ones from magazines. He's been to a half dozen
society parties which included people like Bruce
Wayne, and Dick, and the Gordons.

He hasn't trusted mild expressions in a long time.
The images spin through his head, and Tim gives
up on making them stop. After all, part of the old,
old fantasies involved him doing just this: "It
started at the circus," he says, and lets himself say
it all.

To Alfred's face and to the feel of Dick behind him.
The feel of him when he starts to move, and the
movement at the corners of Tim's vision when he
starts to pace. It's a strange feeling to tell the
story now. It's strange that it *is* a story, but he
shouldn't really be surprised.

He's been telling it in his head since he was *nine*.
Maybe it isn't so strange that now, out loud, it
sounds like a lie. But it isn't. And he just...

He hears himself stuttering to a stop and takes a
breath, staring at his shoes. "You... you're probably
wondering why I chose to be here now. Why I
had to." Why he *needed* to. "And I. I didn't want
to say... I never told anyone this," Tim says, and
bites his lip.

"Why *are* you here now?" Alfred's words are
direct, but there's something almost gentle in his
tone. Something Tim wants to hold on to.

He looks at Alfred again, and tries to put
everything on his face that he doesn't know how
to say. "Because I know the last Robin -- Jason --
got hurt badly, and I know B -- Mr. Wayne is
taking care of him... somewhere, and I..." He
chances a look at Dick, and watches him hugging
himself and biting his thumbnail and feels... Tim
swallows. "You can't *be* Batman and Nightwing
at the same time. No one could. You... you're
*human*. And I'm afraid you'll... get hurt."

Even from a distance, Tim can see the way Dick
tenses up all over, and it makes him feel a little
sick. There's nothing in his life he's ever wanted less
than to make Dick look like that. He turns away
again, just in time to see... Alfred hiding a smile?

"So. You've come to our home to remind Master
Dick of the limits of human physiology?"

Tim feels himself blushing hard. Put like that... it
makes him sound like exactly the intruding
annoyance he *is*. "I just. Want to help."

"How." Dick's looking at him again. He can *feel*
it, and the only thing Tim can do is look right

And watch Dick come closer -- *stalk* closer,
almost. This close, without the glare of the
sunlight, Tim can see the shadows under Dick's
eyes, and he can *feel* all of the exhausted
motion that's just beneath the surface of Dick's

"*How* do you want to help, Tim?"

Dick looks terrifying and tired and powerful and...
he looks like everything Tim's been dreaming
about since he was a toddler. And the sound of
his name in Dick's low, dangerous voice makes
his heart beat faster. "Any way I can," he says,
and blushes harder at the breathless sound of his
*own* voice.

"Master Dick..." Alfred's voice is weirdly far away.
Tim can't quite focus on anything but Dick's eyes
and the sharp gesture he makes in Alfred's
direction without looking away from *him*.


"Batman needs a Robin," Tim says, and thinks
about trying to swallow his own tongue, about
forcing himself to fade through the floor and
into... anything but this quiet sitting room full of
objets d'art that he'd read about in magazines and
people who he'd never thought would be this

And then Dick blinks and smiles, sudden and sharp
and bright, and Tim thinks he won't have to *try*
to swallow his tongue at all. "Well. You might just
have a point, kid," Dick says, and puts his hands
on Tim's shoulders again.

He'll look away from Dick's eyes sometime in the
future, when he isn't having a heart attack. Or
maybe just when Dick looks away. "I..." He has
no idea what he wants to say.

"Come with me," Dick says.

Tim nods from somewhere behind his skin and
swallows again. He can hear Alfred sighing.

"Shall I assume a trip to the basement is in order,
Master Dick?"

"The *Cave*, Alfred." And Dick finally looks
away, letting Tim breathe again. "We're going to
the Cave."


He isn't sure what he'd expected -- mainly because
he really hadn't had much time to *form*
expectations before Dick was alternately rattling
off explanations for everything in the Cave and
asking Tim pointed questions about what sort of
skills he had.

It wasn't -- isn't -- this.

Because years of dreaming and watching and
*hoping* have nothing whatsoever to do with
the way this feels. The way...

Dick is a thorough, frenetic teacher, somehow
managing to come off as both distracted and

He talks to himself about what Tim should learn
when, and never stops *moving*, and never fails
to shoot out a hand to catch him if Tim shows
any sign of stumbling.

"You've never worked with weapons," he says,
and flips through a selection of what look like

"No." They don't really do that sort of thing in kids'
karate classes. He's doing crunches, hanging off
the chin-up bar. A part of him is quietly wondering
when this sort of thing came to feel like a relief.
He's developing something very like lingering
terror about the gymnastics equipment.

"Mm. What will you do when someone larger,
stronger, and faster aims a right hook at your

"Duck and dodge." He's up to twenty-three, and
Dick is checking something on the computers. Tim
can hear him typing, but the angle is bad.


"Move... backwards." Just because he can take a
punch doesn't mean he *should*. That wasn't a
difficult lesson to learn at all, really.

"You're against a wall, and why didn't Bruce leave
more detailed records of the *training*?"

Twenty-seven. "Block. Try... to get in a kick --"

"You *have* a weapon." And Dick's right there
again, grinning down at him.

Twenty-nine. "Uh. What kind?"

Dick grins even wider. "I have no *idea*. Let's just
assume, for now, that it's one you'll have in hand --
and which you can and absolutely should be using
at that point. That's thirty. Come jogging with me."

Tim flips down, and feels Dick cataloguing the way
he'd done it.

"Good," he says, and Tim knows it means that the
next time they're working on the gymnastics, he'll
get very specific instructions on dismounts in
between Dick telling him which books he should
be reading, and possibly asking him about what his
favorite subject is in school.

Tim smiles to himself and checks to make sure his
trainers are tied securely, and jogs up the steps
behind Dick. They spend a lot of time on the
grounds, and it's really obvious that Dick wishes
they could do more of the training outside.

The Cave is massive, and their voices echo wildly
whenever they speak too loudly, and it's
abundantly clear that Dick feels...

'Stifled' is the closest thing Tim can come to the
right word for it. Whatever it is.

He used to spend a lot of time wondering why
Dick had stopped being Robin, and he still does.
He has a lot more questions now, about a lot of
things. Before, it had all seemed so *clear*.
Gotham would be a terrible, scary place -- if it
even existed at all -- without Batman and Robin.
Gotham needs them, and so it had seemed
obvious that they would need to *be* those

Those heroes.

But Bruce Wayne is somewhere in Europe with
Jason Todd, and Tim doesn't know much more
about that than what he'd gleaned from the few
news reports. The adopted son, a terrible accident,
the best doctors, a leave of absence from Wayne

Knowing what he does, he can add a few details.
There'd been *something* going on in Ethiopia,
and Robin got hurt, and Batman...

Batman is the man running lightly and easily in front
of him. Tim has to concentrate to hear Dick's
breathing -- even and steady -- over his own.
Batman is the man who gets regular reports from
Starfire and Cyborg and the other Titans,

"You're the most serious kid I've ever *seen*."

Tim blinks, and keeps himself from stumbling over
a mild dip in the lawn. Dick is jogging backwards.
Smiling with his mouth *and* his eyes, but, as
always, there's something more there.

He's checking on Tim, and Tim will do everything in
his power to make sure Dick always sees what he
needs to.

"I was just thinking about... the Titans."

Dick smiles ruefully, turns, and jogs in place for the
few moments it takes for Tim to be at his side.
"You're wondering if I'd rather be there?"

"I -- I don't want to be in the way."

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss being with them --
being *Nightwing*."

Tim nods and focuses on keeping the pace.

"But I'd also be lying if I said I wasn't getting one
*hell* of a kick out of *this*."

It's punctuated with a tackle, and Tim goes limp
and lets Dick's momentum carry them down and
*over*, until he can --

Absolutely *not* get his knees under him, because
Dick, of course, saw it coming. It feels like about a
nanosecond before Dick has him pinned to the
grass on his back. There's a light rain falling, and
Dick is smiling with a fierce, honest joy that makes
Tim's heart beat faster.

Or maybe it's just the fact that they've been training
for hours today.

"You were watching for it -- that's good. You never
know when someone is going to jump you, no
matter how careful you've been."

"You still pinned me."

"Yep. And I'll *be* pinning for years to come." Dick
leans in, rainwater sliding down his face and
dripping on Tim's. "You're doing incredibly well,
Tim. I'm proud of you. And I'm happy to teach

Tim breathes. "I... thank you." He thinks he's
probably blushing again.

Dick ruffles his hair and rolls off, lying easily in the
wet grass beside him, one arm thrown over his eyes
to block the worst of the rain. He's silent for a while,
and Tim doesn't think he's ever been so happy to be
rained on.

Now he just needs to not look cold.

"And you were right the first time, you know. I can't
stop being Batman, and I can't be Batman *and*

Tim thinks about saying something along the lines
of Dick maybe getting more sleep between patrols
and training *him*, but decides to wait for a better

"I think..." Dick sits up again, bracing himself on
one elbow and brushing the wet hair off Tim's
forehead. "Well, I think we should probably head
back inside before I wind up getting you sick, but
mostly? You're not even on active duty yet and
you're already..." Another rueful smile. "I used to
wonder, sometimes, why Bruce wanted... someone
like me around." Dick shakes his head and stands,
taking Tim's hand to help him up, too.

Dick's hands are strong and callused and exactly the
way Tim had always imagined them to be. He
squeezes Tim's hand once before letting go.

"I'd meant to get some distance work in today,
but..." Another smile. Tim thinks he'll drown in
them. "*I* could use a sprint."

And he takes off for the manor again.

Tim follows.


His parents have been traveling for just under two
weeks, now. He's got a postcard from Belize, and,
if everything goes according to schedule, they'll be
calling him tomorrow evening.

The house is as empty and quiet as it always is,
with nothing but the faint sound of Mrs. Mac
humming to herself from the laundry room. He's
been making his own breakfasts and most of his
own lunches for years, and Mrs. Mac is used to
him... wandering.

He wonders about it, a little. He's pretty sure she
assumes he's spending time at the library, or
maybe out with someone like Ives. He's never
gotten into trouble, so no one really asks.

"You're such an *independent* boy," his mother
had said, once, and hugged him. He remembers
that she'd smelled like perfume and the dust of
someplace he'd never been. She'd just gotten
home from... somewhere. He isn't sure, anymore.

His father had patted him on the head distractedly,
and gone back to talking about a dig somewhere
in Greece.

They probably wouldn't approve of what he's
doing now. What he's *training* to do. It's not like
he has a really clear image in his mind of *exactly*
how they'd react, but... well. It's pretty obvious
that they wouldn't be thrilled. But then, he couldn't
really tell them about it if he *wanted* to.

He's burned most of his files, only keeping a few
photographs that could be innocent. The one of
him and his parents with Dick and *his* parents.
A few others. Everything else he's memorized.

He thinks he should maybe feel... something about
this, about the way he's pretty much just marking
time until he can go back to the Manor for more
training. He's always early *anyway*, and he and
Alfred have worked out a system that gets him in
the house and down to the Cave without waking
Dick up.

He's probably learned more about stealth from
Alfred than he has from Dick, really. *That* makes
him feel something. A tiny conspiracy of quiet to
be warm about, because he knows Alfred will do
everything possible to make things easier for Dick,
and because Alfred seems to think that part of that
'everything' is him.

He will be. He *can* be.


Tim doesn't know how anyone could do less.

And he still has school, but school wasn't a
*challenge* before he'd wound up with a teacher
who saw nothing wrong with quizzing Tim about
various felonies while making him walk on his

The biggest challenge about school is staying
awake, and looking like... well, like he cares about
anything being thrown at him by the teachers, or
by the other kids who are, theoretically, supposed
to be his friends. He can't be honest with them,

He spends a lot of time thinking about Bruce
Wayne, and about everything Dick has and hasn't
said about him. Dick says Tim reminds him of
Bruce sometimes, and he says it when Tim is
doing something like studying case files, or trying
to focus on anything but the way Dick moves in
his *own* workouts.

And Tim thinks he gets it, a little. What this sort
of life must do to a person. All of the secrets and
lies and empty houses.

Dick says Tim's good for him, that his presence
makes things better. He says it when they're
sparring, or talking. When Tim has given up on
focusing on anything *but* Dick. Because he has
to, sometimes. Because it feels good and

He thinks Dick must have been lonely. Tim hasn't
been closer to any of the Titans than through the
lenses of his cameras, yet, but it isn't difficult to
imagine how very *different* being on a team
must've been. How necessary for someone like
Dick, who's so open and... so *open*.

And it's a mildly scary thought. That, perhaps, one
of the best ways Tim can help is to let himself be
more open in return. To let himself do what he
*wants*, and... it's the only bad thing about any
of this. He spends a lot of time and effort trying
not to be desperately obvious about his feelings,
and how much it all means to him.

He wants to be... professional about things, and
he knows he's good at it. He's an independent
boy, and that's what people like about him.

Except that maybe...

Well. It isn't as though Dick is like anyone else he
knows in *any* way.

Maybe it would be better for Dick if he *wasn't*
professional about everything, or if he wasn't
professional all the time.

Maybe it would be okay if he... let a little more

Tim swallows his last mouthful of cereal and
absently dumps the milk down the drain, rinsing the
bowl before putting it in the dishwasher. It's not full
enough to start, yet. Mrs. Mac is still singing

A twenty-two minute bike ride away, Dick is
(hopefully) still asleep, and Alfred is (probably)
doing something incredibly important to keep the
Manor running smoothly. And he wants to be there,
right now, very badly.

He has to go to school.

It won't do anyone any good if he starts going
truant. The *last* thing he needs is that kind of
attention on his movements.

It's just that he's starting to think that he finally
knows what the *first* thing he needs is.


Tim circles on the mats with Dick and tries to get
used to the feel of the staff in his hands through
gauntlets. It's only the second time he's fought
with them on, and it's still a little strange. For a
lot of reasons, really -- not least of which that,
even though the gauntlets are the only
uniform-like thing he's wearing, it all feels so much
more *real*.

He's helplessly aware of... of a lot of things.

The car, waiting to take Dick out for another
night's patrol.

The exits, and where they lead.

Gotham seems so much closer when he has the
gauntlets on, and he isn't sure *how* he feels --

He dodges, barely avoiding the blow that whistles
past his ear.

"Are you *woolgathering*?" Dick sounds shocked,
and faintly scandalized.

Tim smiles. Dick has talked about his 'scary focus'
a lot. "Sorry. Just..." He spins his staff in his
hands, and it moves exactly the way it should,

"Are they too loose?" Dick is stretching with his
own staff, doing things with his shoulders that still
look impossible, even after all these weeks.

"No, just a little hard to get used to."

"Hmm." Dick spins his staff over his knuckles,
tosses, and catches it in his other hand. "You
actually *do* tend to work better when you're
allowed to think things through, but..."

"A lot of this is physical. I know."

Dick nods. "So distract yourself. Pay more
attention to the way I'm moving, or to the
environment, or..."

"Got it. I'm ready."

"Oh *are* you?" The tease in Dick's voice is both
gentle and a little maddening.

Tim knows exactly how to distract himself from
the feel of the heavy gloves, and it just gets
easier when Dick starts to move again. He's
moving the staff in a steady, artful glide from
hand to hand, and it's all about distracting him --
in the *training* way -- from the way he's
moving counterclockwise. And from the way his
*eyes* say to watch for an attack --


Tim blocks Dick's swing with his own staff, and
thinks about whether it would be better or worse
to start training with Dick when he's wearing the
cowl. He gives Dick his side, and has to start
moving faster to *keep* just his side exposed
and --

He blocks the blow aimed toward his kidneys and
has to work not to turn automatically. He's in the
best position he *can* be in, no matter what his
body wants to do. Dick keeps going for the back
blows, and it's not the first time Tim's wished he
had just a *little* bit more flexibility in his
shoulders, because, sooner or later, these blocks
are going to get uncomfortable.

Which is the other reason why Dick's doing it this
way. He's supposed to attack. And he hasn't quite
given up on the idea of one day *surprising* Dick
with an attack, but it's not going to happen today.
The best he can manage is to look like he really
does intend to spend the whole spar blocking, like
he'd done in the beginning.

He watches for the hint of irritation in Dick's
expression and blocks -- blocks --

There. He makes the next block a weak one, so
that the force of Dick's blow sends him moving,
spinning. The kick he lands to the back of Dick's
knee is glancing, at best, but he doesn't let
himself pause, aiming his staff at Dick's fingers
and missing the first time and hitting the second.

"Nice," Dick says, and catches him on his upper
arm. Tim stutter-steps away from the next swing
and blocks hard, putting all of his weight into it,
even though it forces him to face Dick head on.

Dick's hair is hanging in his face, and his eyes
are narrow and bright. He moves easily with
Tim's advance right up until he stops, pushing
and *twisting* and mashing Tim's fingers against
his own staff.

It hurts, but not as much as it would've without
the gauntlets. He keeps his grip steady and lets
himself fence a little. It's nowhere near his
strength, and he knows it will tire him out quickly,
but a lot of the time it also feels like the best
*possible* training. When they're sparring like
this, the clack of the staves meeting falls into a
rhythm as meaningless as his own heartbeat,
and nothing exists but the way Dick is moving,
and forcing him to move. It's impossible to judge
speed or the passage of the time, because he
has to put everything he *has* into meeting
every blow with one of his own, into following,
moving, *being*.

He never feels more connected to his own body
than when Dick is making it *work* like this.

He never feels more *real*, even when he falls
for Dick's fake and has the staff knocked out of
his hand. Even then, because Dick takes one
look at him and keeps coming.

Intellectually, he knows that every hit Dick's
landing now is pulled, and he *knows* Dick
would never hurt him, but it doesn't *feel* like it.
It feels like fighting, like he's fighting *for*
something --

"That's it --"

He stumbles and hits the floor and kicks out before
he's all the way down. He catches Dick on the
shin and feels the hit thrum its way up through his
body --

"Good, keep going --"

And catches Dick's staff when it comes down
toward his chest. *Almost* catches it, but Dick rips
it away before Tim can get a good grip --

"*Use* the texturing on the gauntlets --"

And rolls to avoid another, and another, and flips
awkwardly to his feet --

"*Yes*, Tim, come on --"

They've moved toward the edge of the mats.
Close to the table, and --

"Don't stop moving --"

There. It's not the best weapon in the world, but
his math book flies pretty well, considering. He
gets to see Dick's eyes widening for a wonderful,
*thrilling* moment, and then Dick knocks the
book out of the air... and lets the other end of
his staff get close enough that Tim *can* grab it
this time.

He yanks and falls back into a kick at the same
time. Dick can either dodge the kick or hold on
to the staff --

Or let Tim hold the staff still *for* him while he
flips over Tim's head. Because he's Dick, and he
can *do* that. Tim shakes his head and holds
on to Dick's staff as best he can, knowing he'll
lose this particular game of tug of war and
knowing every second he holds on increases his
strength and stamina.

Dick still has that fierce, predatory grin on his
face, daring him. Urging him on. Sometimes he
thinks Dick likes the spars as much as Tim does.
Mostly he doesn't let himself think that until he's
alone, in his bed or the shower.

Not when Dick's feet stop moving long enough
to be a good target, and Tim can get in another
one of those body-shuddering kicks that aren't
nearly as hard -- as *good* as they feel. Not
when Dick steps back and yanks the staff out of
Tim's grip and tosses it with a wild, breathy
laugh and *tackles* him.

And they're still sparring, but a part of him
doesn't know that. A part of him doesn't *want* to
know that, or doesn't care, and it's getting hard to
remember that he wants to get Dick *off* him, that
this is about training, and not about the lean,
perfect muscle of Dick's body over his, about the
smell of his sweat and the way that Tim only has
to move his leg a *little* to get --

He knew he would gasp, but the moan is a shock.
A loud, breathless shock, and he *has* been
letting Dick see more of how he feels, and letting
himself *show* it, but he hadn't really meant to
go this far.

Yet, says the small and shamelessly hungry voice
in his head, and Tim does his best not to wrap
his legs around Dick's waist.

That really *is* the best he can do, because even
though Dick isn't *actually* pinning him, Tim
can't move. At all. He was half-hard when Dick
took the staves off the *wall*, and he's so hard
now it hurts. Hurts *wonderfully* where Dick is
pressed to him and all he'd have to do is move.
A little.

His hips *want* to move and Tim squeezes his
eyes shut and bites back another moan.

"Tim," Dick says, and Tim's mind wants him to
know that Dick's close enough that his breath is
almost a caress on his face. That the tone of
Dick's voice is soft and knowing and --

He bites his lip harder.

Dick moves, and Tim shivers helplessly. And
forces himself to open his eyes. Dick is smiling
ruefully, and offering his hand. Tim takes it,
and tries to decide whether it's better to hold
Dick's gaze like this or to look away. Before he
can decide, Dick squeezes his hand.

"You... shouldn't be embarrassed."

Tim blinks.

The rueful grin gets a little wider. "It used to
happen to me with Bruce all the *time*."

There is absolutely nothing he can say to that.
Nothing that wouldn't come out as an incoherent
vowel sound, anyway. He twists his hand out of
Dick's grip and balls his hands into fists at his
sides to keep from adjusting himself in his

He knows he wouldn't manage to *just* adjust
himself. Not now.

And he absolutely *can't* look away from Dick's

Dick brushes Tim's hair off his forehead, squeezes
his shoulder, and makes kind of a show out of
deliberately looking away. "We've probably done
all the training we need to today, Tim. Why don't
you hit the showers?"

Come *with* me, he doesn't say. It's not hard.
He's nowhere near ready to be that honest with
*more* than just his body. "All right."

It won't be the first time he's used the Cave
showers for this. It's just the first time that Dick
knows about it. Or, more likely, the first time he'll
be absolutely *sure* about it.

And know exactly what Tim's thinking about.

Tim decides to let himself moan out loud when
he comes.

The sound is so incredible he has to do it again.


He's getting closer; he knows it.

He won't ask for a specific date, because he knows
it doesn't work like that. But every day it seems like
there's a new and perfectly fitted portion of the
Robin suit for him to train in.

Not *the* Robin suit. *His*. Because it's different
from the ones Dick and Jason had worn, and it
makes him feel both proud and a little terrified.
He'll be a new Robin -- a better protected *and*
better armed Robin -- and if he's good enough...
people will define Robin by what *he* does.

It makes him feel as exposed as the shorts he
apparently *won't* be wearing.

Though he has to wonder, a little, if one of the
reasons he'll be so covered up is... well. Dick

He knows it's not adrenaline. He knows it's *him*.
And Tim wonders if they'll have to talk about it,
and that scares him, too, but the freedom of it is
incredible. The emotional version of the way it
feels when he's practicing with the jumplines,
sweeping over the equipment and trophies and
everything else almost too fast to be believed.

He *knows* the physics behind it, but it's
meaningless next to the *feel* of it.

And it really is the same as those times when
Dick is leaning over him, pointing out something
or other on the computers. The way the hand on
his shoulder will tense and tighten for a second
when Tim stops trying to keep his breathing
even, when he lets himself flush, even though
he's working.

He's learned a lot about how to work through

And he doesn't regret Dick knowing.

Because he can -- and has -- shown him that he
won't let his feelings get in the way and...

Well. He's been watching people his whole life. He
knows *how* to watch people, even when they're
keeping secrets, even when it's something like
this, where Tim has no practical experience.

Dick doesn't have to say anything out loud. Tim
knows Dick doesn't want to make him
uncomfortable, or lead him on. And he knows Dick
doesn't want to stop touching him. Because...

Well, he's not sure. He knows what he *wants* to
be Dick's reasons, and he knows what he
*believes* about Dick, considering the time he's
spent with him over the past several months. The
two don't, necessarily, have much in common.
Dick is the most openly, perfectly physical person
Tim's ever seen.

He doesn't have his team, and he doesn't really
have anyone *else*. Just Alfred, and him.

Tim's never had this much physical contact in his
life, and it's still shocking and intoxicating. But it's
entirely possible that Dick is *starved* for touch.

He didn't really need another reason to want to
make love to the man... but it's just another kind
of intoxicating to feel the shift behind him that
means Dick felt *that* thought, too. Or some of

Tim refocuses on the search. Tonight, Batman
will be going after a man named Michael Schmidt.
He knows -- *they* know -- that his tony little
accounting firm is just one of many fronts for the
Bellini family. Tim's just following the money trail
a little so Dick will have actual proof to give to
the police, assuming the obligatory beating
doesn't get it out of the man.

"I should introduce you to Barbara."

Batgirl, he knows. Or the woman who used to
be Batgirl. That's another story he knows more
about from the newspapers and the way things
are unspoken. "You mentioned she'd done a lot of
work with computers," he says, as lightly as he can.

Dick makes a small, non-committal noise, and Tim
feels him moving away more than he hears it.

And back again.

"She's... I think she might be working with the
Suicide Squad these days," and Dick's voice is
somewhere between bemused and distracted.

Tim nods slowly and makes a note to look into that.

"When do you have to be home?"

He shrugs. "My parents left for the Caribbean this

He feels Dick stop again, behind him. "Again? I...
do they even..." Dick's hand settles lightly on his
shoulder again.

Tim smiles back at him. "I'm a good, responsible
kid... so I get to do what I want."

Dick's expression is troubled.

"Dick... you have to admit that the way my parents
are makes things... easier."

"Kid..." Dick's hand ghosts up over his cheek
and -- yes. Back to his hair, brushing it off his

Tim wonders if he's noticed that Tim's pretty much
stopped using gel. Or, rather, if he knows *why*.

"It bothers the hell out of me that I wind up
forgetting you *have* parents more often than
not, Tim."

And there are a lot of things he could say to that,
but most of them have no place in *this* house.
He'd never met Bruce -- not the *real* Bruce,
anyway. The one who presumably never got over
the murder of his own parents, and who built a
legend based around that grief. But he wouldn't be
here if he hadn't watched *Dick's* parents die. If he
hadn't watched Dick watching it.

This house, this legacy, is built around a world
where parents mean more than fleeting hugs and
the scent of foreign dust, and if Tim thinks about it
very deeply at all, he winds up wondering why he's

More than he did in the early days, when it had
seemed like he spent more time on his ass than his

So Tim lets himself look away, and lets Dick think
whatever wrong things about the gesture he will.
He doesn't ever want to lie to Dick, but he thinks
some truths might be more trouble than they're

And the lie makes Dick rub the back of his neck,
and stay right where he is until Tim has all the
information Dick will need to let the police make
their case against Schmidt.

He can't make himself regret that.


He's started having a few more papers delivered
to the house, having only needed to say something
vague about schoolwork to explain it away, but he
couldn't quite get away with *everything*.

He has a lot of online subscriptions in Dick's name,
but he still prefers to have them in hand for those
times when he's trying to get a *real* feel for
what's going on in the streets that will be his
someday soon, and it's just one of many reasons
why he heads for the Manor as quickly as he can
after school.

When he gets there, Dick is in the kitchen, and still
in his robe. There's a bandage showing beneath
the collar, and he looks exhausted.

Tim raises an eyebrow and gets himself some juice
from the fridge to keep from just peeling the robe
back and looking for himself.

He knows Alfred did at least as good a job on
whatever injuries are hidden under there as
anyone from a hospital. It isn't really the point.

"Schmidt had some fairly impressive bodyguards.
One of them, apparently, had some demolitions

The mysterious explosion out in Bristol was
suddenly less mysterious. Tim frowns to himself.

Dick shakes his head and downs the rest of his
coffee in a swallow. "Bruises. A pretty impressive
cut on my leg. The suit took most of the damage.
Alfred took one look at it and escorted it out for a
decent burial."

"It will never be forgotten."

Dick snorts and winces, and Tim takes a step

And stops, frowning again.

Dick's turn to raise an eyebrow, and then he unties
the robe and lets it fall over the back of the chair.

He's wearing pajama bottoms and bandages, and,
for a moment, it's a little difficult to *just* catalog
the latest injuries, but he does.

There's a long, shallow cut looping down the left
side of Dick's back. It wasn't deep enough for
stitches, but there's tape residue from the bandage
that really should still be there.

"I can *feel* you frowning, kid. It came off while I
was sleeping."

He makes a non-committal noise and gets one of
Alfred's first-aid kits from the cabinet beneath the
sink. He hasn't done a lot of this, but he's *watched*
Alfred working for... any number of reasons, really.

It's just something he needs to know how to do, like
how to recognize various gang tattoos, and how to
knock someone unconscious without causing brain
damage. He pushes on the back of Dick's shoulder
until he leans forward over the table, and cleans the
cut thoroughly with peroxide.

It really *is* long, and... "did you get thrown
through a plate glass window?"


Tim shakes his head, and wonders when it'll be his
turn to be bent over a table... right. "This is going
to scar, at least a little."

Dick yawns and shifts. "I figured."

He tapes the new bandage down securely, and looks
for anything else he can do, but there really isn't. He
has to take his hands away from Dick's skin. He lets
himself touch Dick's shoulder before he lets go
entirely. "You should try to get more rest. I can train
by myself for a few hours."

Dick yawns and laughs again. "I *know* you can.
Sometimes I think you could *run* this place by
yourself. Get the papers. You'll probably see more
than I would, right now."

So he reads, and shares everything that sounds
remotely useful, and watches Dick drink coffee and
watch *him*. Alfred comes in after a while and lifts
the empty pot, looking pointedly at Dick and
equally pointedly brewing the new pot with decaf.

Tim smiles into his orange juice and keeps reading.
And... stops.

Usually, sharing the society pages is one of the nicest
things about this ritual, because, between the two of
them, they can share all sorts of really kind of
*mean* things about the people mentioned.

He's always been pretty sure that one of the reasons
his parents travel so much is to get *away* from
'their' crowd. But today there's a breathless report
from Milan, full of self-congratulation for tracking
down 'wayward socialite' Bruce Wayne, full of
oozingly false sympathy for his 'tragically maimed'
adopted son.

A 'chance' meeting at a rehabilitation center, and
Tim can see it. He can almost *feel* it. Bruce
slipping out of Jason's room for just a moment to
find this... this *reporter*.

"What is it?"

Tim swallows. "It's. They found Bruce."

Dick's laugh is humorless. "Was he lost?"

"Apparently. He... I..."

Dick snags the newspaper out of his hands with
one easy move, and Tim waits. And waits.

If Dick's read the blurb once, he's read it four times
by the time he folds the paper neatly and puts it
down again. The surface of his expression is
unreadable. Beneath...

"You know, it took Alfred weeks to get the full
extent of Jason's injuries out of him. We still don't...
I'm still not sure." Dick sighs, and scrubs a hand
over his face. "We know he lost an eye."

There were never very many pictures of Jason --
not where *he* could get to them. He has -- had --
more blurry shots of Jason as *Robin*. He can't
quite imagine it, what it must mean to them all.
But it still makes him sick inside. He wouldn't be
here if Jason hadn't been hurt.

He wouldn't... he isn't sure if he ever wants to meet
him or not. He swallows again, and tastes bile.

"What... what's he like?"

"Jason?" Dick smiles at him. "I wanted to beat him
senseless when I first met him, but it didn't really
have anything to do with *him*." There's a faraway
look in Dick's eyes. "Two years ago -- almost three,
now -- I hated him for wearing the suit I thought
would always be mine. And now I'm pretending to
be Batman and training someone *else* to wear it."

"You're not pretending." He can't make it come out
lightly. Not at all. And the faraway look is gone, just
like that.

"Tim. You... you haven't met Bruce. You don't
know --"

"I know you're Batman. To everyone out there you
saved last night, and the night before. To everyone
who's in *prison* now because of you. To *me*."

Dick exhales, and Tim slips his hands beneath the
table so he can clench them into fists. "I'm not --"

"You *are*. You... I'd do *anything* for you, Dick.
Because of what you do and because of who you
are. Bruce is taking care of... Bruce needs to be
where he is right now."

The smile slips back on Dick's face, familiar and
almost right. "And I need to be here?"

With me. Tim feels himself flushing and watches
Dick see it. Watches Dick *know*.

"Tim..." Dick reaches out, but this time his hand
doesn't quite make it to Tim's face before falling
away again. "We haven't really talked about...

Tim unclenches one of his hands and brings it up
between them. "Don't. I'll make it easy. It's not a
crush. And I can wait as long as I have to."

"You're so *young*."

Tim forces himself to keep his breathing steady
and raises an eyebrow again. "How old were you
when you started being Robin?" And how old were
you when you started wanting Bruce? Was *that*
a crush? He doesn't say it.

He doesn't *have* to say it. Because Bruce is all
over this house the way Jason's all over the Cave,
and all over all the ways Dick is training him.

"And the fact that I'm in love with you has nothing
to do with the fact that, to me, you will *always*
be Batman."

It feels like an exit line. It probably should be -- but
he think he's allowed to have this. The look of
shock and dawning realization on Dick's face that
may or may *not* have as much to do with Tim as
he wants it to.

It's still beautiful, and, right now, it's his.

After a moment, Tim goes and gets himself more
orange juice, and pours Dick some decaf. When he
hands it to him, Dick grabs his wrist, and holds his
gaze for a long moment.

Breathing is hard again, just that fast.

"You've been Robin to me for months, Tim."

He can't keep himself from gasping, a little. "But I'm
not ready."

"You're ready to love me, but not put on the suit? I
feel like that should seem more insane than it does."
Dick smiles ruefully and rubs Tim's wrist with his
thumb. "No, you're *not* ready for the streets -- not
yet. But Robin is more than that. You know that."

It isn't a question, nor should it be.

If Robin wasn't more than that, Bruce might be
here right now and... and he doesn't know what.
Tim nods, a little jerkily, and wonders how long he'll
have to wait. When Dick lets him go, he sits down
to drink his juice, and can't really taste anything but
his own need.

It doesn't matter. "I still think you should get more

Dick laughs. "You're probably right. I'll head up
when I'm done convincing myself that I shouldn't
have Raven show up at that reporter's house and
scare him to death. Just let me -- Alfred. What is

Tim looks up, and Alfred's in the doorway, and he
looks.... "What happened?"

"Master Timothy... it's your parents. I... they appear
to have been abducted. It's on the news right

And it is. On every channel. Because the video is
explicit enough to have just a few things censored
out, and because his father is Jack Drake. He can
feel Dick beside him, and Alfred just behind. He's
going to have to call Mrs. Mac. Or... something.

He should be home. He already is.

"I'm going to get them back, Tim."

"I want to go with you," he says, even though he
already knows what the answer will be.


"I know it isn't a good idea," he says, and changes
the channel just in time to see the backhanded slap
send his father's head to the side. Again. "But I still
want to."

Dick's hand is firm -- *hard* -- on his shoulder,
and Tim looks around to see him suited up. He
hadn't realized Dick was changing. "I'll get them
back," Dick says again, and then Alfred is taking
the remote out of Tim's hands.


The hospital smells like all hospitals do -- cheap
disinfectant, a million different kinds of plastic, and
the faintly, disturbingly animal scent of what's most
probably old blood. Dick's told him about the
hospitals in poorer neighborhoods. How the only
real difference is the noise, and the time you spend

This, of course, is the best hospital in the Gotham

The funny thing --

It's not really funny, at all.

The *strange* thing is that he isn't really surprised
to be here, or that his father is in *there*, or that
his mother is...

The morgue isn't exactly labeled on the helpful,
brightly-colored directories, but it doesn't take
much effort to discern the shape of the building,
and make educated guesses about the areas of
the hospital which aren't on the map. Unless he's
missed his estimation, his mother's body is
approximately three hundred yards north-east, and
six floors down.

Wrongful death -- an autopsy will be done.

A very embarrassed official had waited with Tim
and Mrs. Mac outside his father's room until Tim
had pointed out that he was, in fact, the only
family member likely to show up, and the next of
kin besides. Sooner or later, a social worker will
be arriving to make Tim's life that much more
exciting. He feels the corner of his mouth twitching
and isn't sure if he's going to cry or not.

He probably should. His mother is dead. When your
mother dies, you... you do a lot of things.

And that's the part of this that isn't funny at all,
except for how it is. His mother is dead and none of
the doctors have been able to say anything remotely
hopeful about his father's chances to recover, or
even whether or not he's brain-live, at this point.

He makes a note to do more research on poisons.
He really knows distressingly little.

He hasn't seen Dick, not yet.

He *knows* Dick, and he's probably back at the
Manor right now, hating himself. Blaming himself
for this. No, there's no probably about it. If *he*
would blame himself, Dick would surely... Tim
frowns to himself. He should be there. Alfred can
only do so much, and there are a lot of reasons
why Batman needs a Robin.

He should.

The only thing he can do here is watch Mrs. Mac
cry very, very quietly and very, very steadily and
wonder when someone is going to try to take him
somewhere for his own good, and...

And wonder what happened. *How* it happened,
because he has a fairly good image of everything
in his head. Corrupted ritual, greed, insanity. It
could've happened right here, in Gotham. That's
probably why the image is only a fair one. His
mind keeps wanting to replace the so-called
Obeah Man with some Arkham multiple-escapee,
or maybe just a gangster of one kind or another.

Because it goes right back to why this is so very,
very not funny.

When he'd dozed off this afternoon, he'd dreamed
of Wayne Manor, or something like it. It had looked
just like it always did, right up until he walked in the
front door and into warm, welcoming darkness. Like
a huge, soft mouth. Like the hidden levels of sleep.

He belongs now.

He just has to get there.

"Oh, Timothy, I just don't know what we're going
to *do*."

Eventually. "It will be all right, Mrs. Mac."

"I was reading about this, what they do with... with
*orphans*. Oh, and your *friends*."

The hug is strong and faintly damp. He feels like a
dry twig. "I'm not an orphan," he says, and pulls
away when it seems like it won't be too offensive.
It isn't *her* fault.

He thinks it might not be anyone's fault, really,
except for his own. He's Robin now -- officially
very, very soon, he thinks -- and Robin isn't
supposed to have parents. It's the way this works.

Robin has... he wants, very badly, to go home.

He hopes Alfred is taking care of Dick. Except that
it doesn't seem like that's happening, because
even before he can make out the voices, he
recognizes the clipped, regular cadence of Alfred's

And another man's.

And... Dick's.

Tim swallows, and sits up straight, reflexively. Dick
is wearing a dark suit that Tim hasn't ever seen
before -- although he doesn't actually see Dick in
formal clothes very often. He looks neat and serious
and secure, right up until you look at his eyes. Or
maybe just until Tim does.

The hurt there is as unsurprising as everything else,
and he freezes in the doorway.

Alfred and the other man -- cheap suit, harried
expression, distracted focus on Tim: social worker --
continue walking, and Tim stands to greet them. And
it really doesn't take long.

Bruce Wayne *had* been a member of a number
of the same clubs as his father. By extension, so
had Dick. Their families *had* known (of) each other
for quite some time. Dick *is*, by far, the closest
thing Tim has to family right now... and no one
needs to know more than that.

Tim knows exactly how to be well-spoken and
convincing on command. He's known how to do
that for years.

It still takes much too long, and for a while he has
to struggle to hear the beeps of his father's monitor
over the voices, and then he has to struggle to
*stop*, because he has to be just the right degree
of serious. He has to be good. Eventually, Alfred
pulls Mrs. Mac aside, and Tim focuses on not
standing as close to Dick as he wants to.

The final handshake from the social worker is firm
and brief, and Tim focuses on that to avoid
hearing the sympathy words too clearly.

He can hear his father's monitors very clearly
again, and he really wants to go home. And sleep

He's never, actually, slept at the Manor. He
doesn't know what the beds will feel like. Maybe
he doesn't want to sleep, at all. Maybe he just
wants to --


He shoots Dick a look, because his voice is too
raw, too *much* for this, but then he sees... they're
alone. Alfred has taken Mrs. Mac somewhere, and
his father may not have a mind. His father. His
mother is --

Dick's hand lands on his shoulder lightly, hesitantly.
"I wasn't... I spent all day looking for someone... for

"I don't have any."

"I know." Dick sounds like he's going to cry, and
Tim hugs him hard, burying his face against his
chest and getting held right back. "I know. I just...
oh God, Tim, I'm so --"

"Please don't. Please."

Dick pets his hair. "I tried --"

"I know," Tim says and tries to drown in the heat
of him. The smell of him. "You're my family now,"
he tries, and Dick makes a low, strangled sound.

"It's... you shouldn't be with me. I -- I failed, and
I don't --"

Tim squeezes his eyes shut and holds on tighter.
"Please, Dick, I *need* you. Don't let me go."

And Dick tenses in his arms, and Tim feels his
stomach *lurch*, but then Dick shudders, once.
And breathes.

And strokes Tim's back.

"I won't. I... won't let you go," he whispers into
Tim's hair.


He's doesn't know when Alfred aired this bedroom
out. He isn't sure he *wants* to know.

It's enough -- more -- that watching the way Alfred
and Dick have behaved around each other for the
last several hours had told him just which of them
had set things in motion to get Tim to *be* here.

He has an image of Alfred doing everything short of
carrying Dick to get him to the hospital, and... he
isn't sure whether it makes him feel loved or

He isn't sure of much, right now.

Now that he's here, and has a bedroom, and no
one will try to make him leave...

It's a little surprising. He'd spent much of his time
at the hospital trying to figure out what to do,
trying to *focus* enough to do the thinking, and
he really hadn't gotten any farther than 'get back

The pajamas he's wearing are brand new, and fit
as well as the bits and pieces of Robin suit waiting
for him in the Cave.

The bed itself is massive, of course, and just
looks -- and feels -- even bigger now that he's in
it. There's a half-empty mug of cocoa on the
bedside table, and when he moves his hand over
it, he can tell that it's still warm. He doesn't want
anymore, but it had been part of the bargain.

He could skip dinner if he drank all the cocoa. He
has another image in his mind involving Alfred
creeping in at four a.m. to shove food down his
throat if he doesn't. Tim feels his face twist into
something like a smile, and picks up the cocoa,
downing it and trying to ignore the knot in his
stomach and mostly failing.

He sets the mug down again and curls around
himself, pulling his knees up to his chest and
wrapping his arms around them.

He wishes he was in the Cave.

He thinks, maybe, a part of him imagined sleeping
on the gurney down there, but that couldn't really
happen. Not with Alfred, and not with *Dick*. He
wonders who this room used to belong to.

It isn't Dick's old room, because that's still perfectly
preserved down the hall. Dick had told him once
that he didn't sleep there not because he was
afraid of changing it, but because he was afraid of
it changing *him*.

Tim likes to go in there sometimes, when he gets
in early enough that Dick is definitely still
sleeping. He used to have the same poster over
*his* bed, until one of the times his mother had
been home long enough to notice it, and the
dates on it. She'd convinced his father that it was
really too morbid. He was angry with her for a
long time about that, and now she's dead.

He triangulates it in his head and... yes. Between
twelve and thirteen miles south-southwest,
perhaps four stories down.

He wonders if they'll arrange for an open casket.
No, not they. It will almost certainly be Alfred. Tim
hugs himself a little tighter, and when he sees the
light shift enough that the door is obviously
open -- the hinges are too well-oiled to make a
sound -- he can't really make himself let go.

He knows it's Dick because he doesn't say a word,
and everything he's not saying crowds outward,
radiating from his skin like the heat Tim can feel
when he sits down.

"I'm not going to ask you if you're all right," Dick
says, and brushes his hair back from his forehead.

The poison caused seizures and paralysis, at least
according the handful of doctors' reports Tim had
been able to get his hands on. Was it possible to...
fix an expression set *before* rigor?

He doesn't know enough about corpses, either.

He doesn't know if his mother hurt, or was scared
when she died. He --

"I'm just going to ask you what you need."

He can see it very clearly. What her face must be --
*might* be like right now. Twisted into a -- into
a --

Dick's hand slides into his hair, and tightens. "Tim."

He looks up, and Dick's eyes are red-rimmed and
bleak. He hadn't spent a lot of time wondering
what those first few nights must've been like for
Dick here, in this house. He hadn't really had the
capacity to *ask* himself a question like that.

But he does now, and he is. Wondering.

He catches Dick's wrist in his hand, absently
checking his pulse (fast, steady), and tugs until
Dick's hand brushes across his face, down to his
chest. When it's over his heart, he presses it flat,
and holds it there.

His mother --

"Tim, please. Let --"

"Make me stop thinking. For a little while."

Dick makes a sound like he's been hit. "I... I

Tim curls his hands around Dick's own. "Please."

And for a long time, there's nothing. Just the heat
of Dick's hand making his heart beat faster the
way it always does, and the tension all through
him that he knows will be painful if he doesn't
*unfold* a little bit, and the knowledge that he

And then Dick's other hand is on his face, turning
and tilting it until they're facing each other.

"Please," Tim says again, because he *has* to, and
watches Dick swallow, and feels Dick's hand spasm,
just a little, against his chest.

And then Dick laughs, and strokes Tim's cheek with
his thumb. "I don't know why I'm pretending I
wouldn't give you anything," he says, leaning in
close. "That I wouldn't love it," he whispers against
Tim's mouth, and kisses him softly.

"Oh --"

"Like I love you."

And this kiss isn't soft at all. It drives him right down
on his back, and how had he ever thought it would
be hard to unfold himself? His thighs fit perfectly
around Dick's waist, and his body feels like it was
made to hold Dick's weight.

Dick cups Tim's face with both hands, tilting it up
and making the kiss deeper. Wetter. Dick tastes
like coffee, and Tim wonders if he tastes like
chocolate. If Dick likes it, and that's why he's
licking Tim's mouth like this, so slowly and
thoroughly. Tim's heart beats faster, and it takes
long moments to remember how to breathe
through his nose, and he almost wishes he

Because sooner or later, Dick is going to *stop*
kissing him, and he'd rather be dazed for that, or
maybe unconscious.

He moans into Dick's mouth and tries to make
the kiss faster, or at least last longer, and Dick
shifts and grinds down against him with a sort of
distracted *purpose* and sucks on Tim's tongue
before pulling out of the kiss and breathing
against his face.

"One day, I want you to tell me exactly what you

"Dick --"

"But right now I'm just going to make love to you,
and if there's anything you don't want me to do...
if you want me to stop --"

He moans and arches up for another kiss, and Dick
hums into his mouth and cups the back of his
head, rolling onto his side and pulling until Tim
follows. His head is resting against Dick's arm, and
Dick's other hand is stroking his thigh, up and
down, teasing at the waistband of the pajama pants
and slipping back down again.

He pulls away again, but doesn't say anything else,
just sucks on Tim's lower lip, and bites it, and
sucks again. Tim tries to get more kisses, and Dick
gives them to him, shoving his tongue *deep* into
Tim's mouth and tightening his hand Tim's hair.
And pushing his thigh between Tim's own and --

It's too much. It's a dozen different fantasies at
once, and it makes Tim seize up inside. Because
maybe this is what Dick was thinking when Tim
went to 'shower,' or maybe this was just what
Dick was thinking *Tim* was thinking, what he
wanted, what he *needed*.

And he did -- he *does*. He hears himself
whimpering into Dick's mouth and he's forgotten
everything Dick's taught him about grace. He
knows exactly how good it would feel if he could
just work out a rhythm against Dick's thigh, but
his hips are jerking roughly, unevenly, and even
though Dick has a hand on Tim's hip, he's not
really holding on.

"*Dick*," and he can't figure out what else to say,
but it doesn't really matter, because the hand in
his hair *tugs*, forcing his head back so far it
almost hurts, and then Dick's mouth is on his
throat. Hot and wet, slick with spit and moving
across what feels like every sensitive place he

He wishes -- he wants --

"Oh God *please* --" Dick *sucking* on his throat,
hard along the collar-line, and Tim can't decide if
it's the feeling or the fact that Dick is very clearly
not marking him anywhere most people would see
that's making him crazy. It's both; it has to be --
because Dick is someone Tim thinks must know
everything about the body, and because Dick is
*Batman*... which means he knows even more.

Has to know it, maybe even more than he has to
make Tim moan and beg.

His hips jerk and shake, forcing his dick to drag
over Dick's thigh in uneven thrusts, and then Dick's
rolling them over again and kneeling up. The tie is
gone before Tim can even make his hands work
enough to reach for Dick, and Tim tugs Dick's
shirt out of his waistband and works on the lower
buttons while Dick shoulders off his jacket and
works on the top ones.

Dick's done nearly before Tim has even begun,
and he drops the shirt over the side of the bed
without looking away, maybe without blinking.
Dick pulls his t-shirt over his head and Tim wants
that skin on his own so badly he can *taste* it.
He can --

Sit up and lean in and wrap his arms around
Dick's waist again, sucking hard on the small,
pink-brown nipple and --

"Tim, yes --"

He likes it, he likes the way it feels, and his hands
are in Tim's hair again, holding him there. Holding
him close.

Tim moans against Dick's chest because there
are so many things he wants to say, because he'd
have to stop licking Dick's nipples to do it, and he
just can't. He doesn't have to.

Dick knows. Everything Tim wants, everything Tim
needs, everything Tim *is*, and it isn't the first
time Tim's felt naked and overwhelmed, and he
hopes it won't be the last.

He slips one hand from around Dick's back and
pushes it between them. The sparse hair on Dick's
stomach scratches and tickles his fingertips and
he wants to feel it on the rest of him. Right now.
It seems bizarre and faintly wrong that he
*hasn't*, that he's dressed now, even though he's
only wearing pajamas. He tugs awkwardly on
his top and Dick makes a small sound and tugs
on his hair until Tim pulls back and...

Dick is staring down at where Tim's pulling on his
own shirt and *kneading* Tim's scalp and every
breath he takes is visible, beautiful. Tim can't
stop *looking* at him, because he's used to the
way Dick looks when he moves, but not when
he's moving like *this*, when every shift and flex
of muscle is because of something Dick's doing to

Or something he's about to do.

"I shouldn't want you naked," he says, and his
voice is low and faintly hurt.

"I want you to. I --" Tim swallows and forces
himself to look away so he can concentrate on his
buttons. He's looking down, and so when Dick
reaches to help, all he can see is Dick's hands, and
how much bigger they are than his own, and how
much *steadier* they are than his own.

Even though they aren't steady at all. Not really.
There's a faint tremor -- it just doesn't *stop*
Dick from being able to open Tim's shirt. Tim
starts to shrug it off and freezes with it midway
off his arms, because Dick is petting him. His
hands are warm and rough and all *over* Tim's
chest, and it feels so good Tim's shaking.

"Are you scared?" Dick's hands pause on him, palms
flat to his nipples.


Dick sighs and strokes up to Tim's face, tilting it up
again and making Tim look at him. "Please don't lie
to me. I won't... you don't have to pretend."

"I'm not afraid of *you*, Dick." He's afraid of getting
lost, of forgetting everything he... wants to forget.
Tim smiles and cups Dick's wrists. "I didn't... I didn't
think you'd feel so good."

And for a moment Dick looks like Batman, serious
and *dark*, and his hands tighten on Tim's face.
"Tim," he says, and *pulls* him into another kiss,
lifting and moving him until Tim's spread over his
lap, and shoving Tim's shirt down and off.

Tim wraps his arms around Dick's neck and moans
into his mouth, louder when Dick's hands settle on
his hips and pull him even closer. They're both still
half-dressed, but Tim can *feel* how hard Dick is
and he can't stop moving into it. And then *Dick*
starts moving him, *grinding* Tim against him in
hard little circles and Tim can't focus on kissing

He can't do anything but groan into Dick's mouth
and cling to his neck and *shake*.

Dick pulls out of the kiss and licks Tim's mouth.

"The sounds you're making..."

"I can't stop, I -- oh God --"

Dick bucks against him, and again, and again for
every grind. "I like them." The smile on his face is
sharp and hungry. "You're making me so hard,
Tim --"

And he thinks he might be screaming, but it
doesn't matter because he's *also* coming. Right
in his brand new pajamas, and Dick's hands are
*tight* on his hips and --

"Oh, Tim..."

Still thrusting against him, still holding him, and
Tim's still *hard*. He clutches Dick tighter and
buries his face against his neck and moans. His
pajamas are sticky and *wet* against him and
he can *feel* the soft, low sounds Dick is making.
Feel them in his *mouth*, and he doesn't ever
want this to stop.

"You... God, Tim..." And Dick strokes up his back
with one hand and down again, pausing at the
waistband to his pajamas. He's breathing is fast
and uneven, and when Tim presses his lips to
Dick's pulse-point, he can feel how fast *that* is,

He braces his knees on the bed and reaches back,
squeezing Dick's hand and fumbling to push the
pajamas down, and Dick groans and shoves them
down himself.

"Tim... oh God..." Dick cups his ass and squeezes
and --

"*Please* --"

"I -- God. Wait. Just wait..." And he pushes him
*away*, laying him down on the bed again, but
it's okay. He's only pulling off Tim's pajamas the
rest of the way and --


Taking off his belt, and opening his pants and
slipping off the bed for just long enough to kick
everything off before crawling back on. Naked
and *perfect* and Tim moans and moans again
at the hot, slick feel of the head of Dick's dick
dragging over his thigh.

"Dick --"

"Don't," he says, and Tim has no idea what he's
talking about until he feels Dick's hands on his
own, where he has them digging into the sheets.

"I --"

"Touch *me*," he says, smiling, and pulls Tim's
hands back up to his own neck.

Always. He *always* wants -- and Dick is kissing
him again before he can say it, bracing himself
over him on one hand and sliding the other
between them, drawing light, random patterns in
the come on Tim's abdomen.

"So sexy," he whispers, and Tim groans and slips
his hands into Dick's thick, shaggy hair, tugging a

His lips feel swollen and a little sore and he --

Doesn't care at all and has to *bite* them,
because Dick brings his sticky fingers up to his
mouth and starts sucking them *clean*. Dick's
sucking Tim's *come* off his fingers, and he
knows exactly what that tastes like.

"*Dick* --"

"Mmm," and Dick slides his fingers out slowly and
licks his lips. "I'm going to suck you."

Tim's hands spasm in Dick's hair, and he isn't
sure *what* sounds he's making, and Dick kisses
him softly and *keeps* kissing him. His chin, his
throat, all the way down his chest, and then he's
*licking* Tim's abdomen and -- and his dick --

"You taste so good, Tim..."

And he can't keep his hips still, not even when
Dick cups them again. And *not* when Dick
swallows him, all the way down, thumbs pressed
hard to the hollows of Tim's hips and lips pressed
to his mound.

It's -- he can't --

"Dick, *please* --"

Humming around him, making him harder, making
him *need* even more than he already does. He
thought there'd be a limit, that he'd reach a point
where he couldn't want Dick more than he already
did, but he knows that was stupid, now.

Now Dick is sucking him and *watching* him,
eyes clear and blue and full of so much heat he
can't *think*. "Please," he says again, and he
doesn't know what he's asking for.

It makes Dick's eyes narrow, makes him suck
*harder*, and Tim arches into it helplessly,
planting his feet and spreading as wide as he can,
as wide as Dick's taught him, and Dick moans
around him and --

"Please -- *please* --"

He's pulling Dick's hair. He knows he must be,
because it feels so good and he can't *stop*. So
thick and *soft* in his hands, and Dick's mouth
so wet and hot and *good* around him, and Tim
knows he'll do anything to have this. To *keep*
having this.

And Dick moves his hands back to cup his ass
again, to stroke and squeeze him, and Tim throws
his head back and tries and fails to scream. He
comes gasping, and Dick swallows and swallows
and *holds* him.

Even when he pulls off and moves, he doesn't
stop touching Tim, just slides his hands back up
Tim's body, up his sides and his arms until he
can tug Tim's hands out of his hair and press them
back against the bed, twining them with his own
and leaning in for another kiss.

Dick's tongue is slick with Tim's come and Tim can't
stop sucking it. He wants to taste Dick, too, but he
can't make himself move, or even try to. Especially
not when Dick lowers himself on top of him and
starts to rock.

"Is this -- God, Tim..."

He wraps his legs around Dick's waist again and
holds on tight, digging in a little with his heels.

"You like this. You want me to --"

"Don't stop. I -- I want you to come..."

Dick's laugh is cracked and throaty. "Not a problem.
Not -- oh, your skin's so *smooth* --"

Tim gasps and squeezes Dick's hands, and Dick
stares down at him, lips parted and hair hanging
over his eyes. He usually keeps it shoved back,
and the cowl presses it to his scalp, and Tim's
thought about suggesting he cut it, but he doesn't
think he'll ever actually say that out loud.

"Oh, Tim -- Tim..."

"I love you." There are other things to say. A
million of them, and they're all the same, because
even though his memory is good enough that he
knows he'll *never* forget the way Dick looks
right now, with his eyes so wide and *full*, he
also knows he'll never stop *wanting* to see it.

And wanting Dick to tighten his hands around his
own so much it hurts, wanting to hear Dick's soft,
rhythmic groans every time he thrusts, wanting
to *feel* it. Dick so hot and hard for *him*,
holding him down and -- and *using* him --

"Please don't stop, Dick, please don't ever --"

"I won't, oh God, Tim, I --" And Dick thrusts
*hard* against him and comes, splashing hot on
Tim's chest and stomach and shaking, just a

And he stays like that for long moments, breathing
hard and only gradually loosening his grip on Tim's

He doesn't let go, though.

Tim watches Dick's face and tries and fails to make
himself unwind his legs from around Dick's waist.
The best he can do is not *tighten* them when
Dick looks at him again.

"I should let you sleep."

"Stay. You can -- I won't --" Tim bites his lip and
looks away, and doesn't clutch at Dick's hand
when he pulls it away from his own.

But Dick just strokes his face. "As long as you
want me to. You..." He sighs and shifts, leaning in
and kissing Tim's jaw, and cheek, and forehead.
Pushing his hair back and smiling at him.

When Tim breathes in, all he can smell -- all he
can *taste* -- is Dick and sex.

It's even better when Dick reaches over him and
turns off the bedside lamp.

Tim pushes his face against Dick's throat and
closes his eyes.


His training is nearly all physical these days. It has
been for a while -- Dick seems to think that he's
been ready *intellectually* for quite some time --
but the focus is narrowing more and more.

He seems to have a hit a limit with the gymnastics,
and most of the time he's just on the equipment to
practice the moves and routines he already knows
by heart. To stay sharp.

The strength and stamina training has also moved
into maintenance levels. For the most part, his life
as Robin-to-be is focused on doing the background
work Dick needs to be Batman -- he's just *better*
on the computers -- and... sparring.

It feels like cheating. It feels --

Dick knocks him on his ass nine times out of every
ten, and he has just as many new and healing
bruises now as he did when he *started*, but it's
so good that Tim isn't sure how he'll keep from
grinning his head off when he's actually fighting

Beating them, Dick assures him.

"Are you *sure* you don't want to get more
training from someone else?"

When he isn't very, very clearly doubting his own
abilities as a teacher. Tim smiles ruefully to
himself and spins the staff through an arc that
allows him to keep his back and shoulders as
limber as possible.

"I just think --" The shuriken fly at Tim's face.

He knocks five away with the staff and dodges the
sixth. "Yes?"

Dick frowns to himself and makes a 'come on'
gesture, blocking and moving quickly, *liquidly*
around Tim's attacks. "You're good. You're *very*
good. But --"

Tim catches Dick on the foot and keeps moving
while Dick backflips out of the way and --
dammit -- towards more throwing weapons.
"Bruce -- Batman -- trained *you*."

"I don't know everything he did -- if you aim
closer to the base of the knife, you can control
its back-flight."

"Got it." He fakes a blow at Dick's left knee, another
to his right shoulder, and *forces* himself to fake
the looks-like-it-would-be-perfect headshot, going
for Dick's ribs and -- getting blocked. "He
doesn't -- didn't -- know everything *you* do."

"Faster, move. The staff isn't your --" Dick ducks
easily under the batarang and grins.

"It isn't my *only* weapon."

"It sure as hell isn't, kid. Lose it." And Dick's voice
is all business and his eyes are anything but.

Tim tosses the staff and gets his right hand back
fast enough to block Dick's first hit. The second
lands hard, and Tim twists away from the third.
He gets his left down for more batarangs and gets
them knocked away before he even gets them
fully out of the belt, but he gets off a toss with
the right, scattering slingshot pellets on the ground
and dancing back fast.

Dick launches himself *over* the pellets, but Tim
has enough time that the tackle doesn't hit square.
He's spun instead of dropped, and he gets in a
good chop to Dick's back.

If he had better reach, it would be a kidney blow.
He doesn't, yet, and the follow-through of Dick's
pounce leads right into a somersault. He follows,
and Dick's kick jars the hell out of his arm even
through the gauntlet.

"Staff lost or broken?"

"Broken," Dick says, and Tim blocks another kick
with his numbing right arm and knows he won't
manage a third.

"It's a really *good* staff."

Another grin. "Best material Waynetech can
provide without having clue one about what
they're making it *for* -- how bad is the arm?"

"Find out," he says, and makes a point of throwing
a punch with the bad arm. One he *knows* won't
hit. "How's that going?"

"I think I will," Dick says, and Tim doesn't need to
be psychic, or even that *good*, to know that the
lion's share of Dick's next blows will be to his
weakened right side.

So he attacks. Gets in as close as he can to
minimize the reach disadvantage and pays for it
with two shin-kicks and too many body-shots to

"Good instincts," Dick says, and Tim barely
manages to dodge a head-butt that would take him
out of the game. "And Lucius has taken to making
polite inquiries about whether he can have Bruce
shot. I can't say I blame him."

Tim manages to knee Dick in the thigh and tries to
keep his breathing steady. "You haven't told Lucius
that you have power of attorney."

"I'm planning to avoid that as long as possible,"
Dick says, and slips easily away from a punch. "I
don't *want* it."

You didn't want to be Batman, either, he doesn't
say, and manages to get another batarang out of
his belt. And *barely* manages to move before
Dick can knock it away again. "WE can do a lot
of good," he tries.

"So can *we*," Dick says, dodging Tim's slash
and pinning his arm.

Tim tries for another punch and Dick catches his
wrist and squeezes. And looks at him.

They've been training for hours, sparring for
most of it, and Tim's dick is heavy and hard
behind the armored jock. Nearly as impossible to
ignore as the heat in Dick's eyes.


"Later. I --" The kiss is wild and fast and wet and
perfect, and Tim moans into it, pushing as close
as he can with his arms trapped and held.

The kiss is also much too brief.

"*Later*," Dick says and lets go, stroking Tim's
chest and pushing gently.

And then just stroking the 'R.' His expression shifts
to one of open calculation, even though the heat
never leaves it entirely. Tim raises an eyebrow.

"One week."

Tim can't keep his breathing steady anymore, and
he doesn't try. "Are you --"

"I'm just as sure as you are," and Dick's smile is
rueful. "The training won't stop -- it *never* stops,
not really, but..."

Tim catches Dick's hand before he can pull it away.
And holds Dick's gaze until its steady again. Dick
squeezes his hand and leans in to kiss his forehead
lightly. And then wraps his arms around him.

Tim's almost sure the hug is more for Dick's benefit
than his own, but one, he really doesn't mind, and

"I spoke to some doctors out west."


"Your father," Dick says, and hugs him tighter.


"I don't want to get your hopes up, Tim, but...
they've worked with a lot of patients who've been
in comas, and. I. I know I should've asked first,
but --"

"It's okay."

Dick squeezes him again and pulls back just enough
to look Tim in the eye.

He hasn't really thought about it. Not as much as
he could. He visits after school, and tells his father's
body secrets he never would've been able to tell
the man, and then he goes home.

Alfred *drives* him home, because Alfred always
seems to know when Tim has decided to visit.

Probably because those are the days he doesn't
just head straight back to the Manor. And Dick is
searching his face, and Tim thinks he knows what
Dick's looking for. Dick wants him to be happy.

"Thank you," he says, and smiles.

He *is* happy.


He loves flying.

It's the first thing he noticed, and the thing he keeps
coming back to. For all the work he'd done with
the jumplines in the Cave, it's absolutely *nothing*
compared to how it feels when he's outside.

When it's *real*.

The grapple sounds different when it hits brick. It
sounds different when it hits different *kinds* of
brick. And the air carries the echoes differently
depending on fast the wind is blowing, and
whether or not the streets are packed with
buildings, and whether there are other sounds.

Or a lot of sounds.

He has to work to keep from grinning constantly,
and he isn't even remotely close to complete success.
Not when his momentum carries him fast and low
over a crowd of teenagers, not when it carries him
*right* into a mugger's face.

Dick follows close when he's not guiding, a shadow
among shadows, and he'd actually *forgotten* how
much he loved watching Dick work. He'd only had
a few blurry photos and grainy tapes, and then he'd
had the training, but *this*...

Tim's suit catches the eye, the *attention*, and then
Dick sweeps in from above and it doesn't matter.
Not their knives, or their guns, or their raw

Dick always leaves him one or two, but it's
abundantly clear that he *is* leaving them for him.

He doesn't know how Dick ever thought he could be
anyone *but* Batman.

He doesn't think he'll ever be able to stop being

*Batman's* Robin.

He grins again, helplessly, and scatters a
double-handful of vials in the sewers. A quick glance
over his shoulder shows him Dick with one of the
dealers -- the one they'd left conscious -- up
against the wall. Lifted up on his toes with Dick's
gauntlet around his neck.

He can't hear everything Dick's saying -- the
Batman voice is in a much lower register than
Dick's own, and the sound doesn't carry unless Dick
wants it to -- but he doesn't really need to.

Information. They deal in it as much as they do in
fear, and superstition, and heavily-stylized

He bites back yet another smile and focuses on
watching Dick's back, as opposed to focusing on
the wind on his face, and the way the domino
blocks it all out, the way it feels to be out *here*,
in the night. *Part* of the night, and --

He catches motion out of the corner of his eye and
strikes without thinking. The staff makes a small,
clear *thok* sound on the dealer's skull, and he
goes right back to sleep.

Tim hears Dick pause in whatever he's saying to
the other, but it's only for a moment.

He *really* has to get it together.

It seems like it would be *easier* if there were
more people around to hit, but --

Dick's hand on his shoulder, pointing up. There's a
hint of a smile on his face, and Tim grins right back.

And keeps grinning, because he's *flying*.
*Again*, and when he looks over his shoulder,
Dick's dealer is zip-stripped and has 'Arrest Me'
written on his forehead in permanent marker, and
when he looks forward again, Dick is swinging high
and hard.

Too hard, and he worries for just long enough to
see Dick let go of the jumpline and turn a double
somersault. The cape swings and flares wide for a
second, blotting out the city lights.

His landing is even better than Tim's perfectly
normal one, of course, and by the time Tim tucks
his grapple-gun away, Dick is moving back towards
him and grinning.

"I can *feel* how excited you are!"

Tim blushes and looks at the roof. "I --"

Dick claps his hands on his shoulders and shakes
him a little. "Don't you *dare* be embarrassed. It's
*wonderful*, Robin."

Robin. Every time Dick calls him that his heart
beats faster. He looks up again, and the white-out
lenses on Dick's cowl gleam in the streetlights,
making his expression wilder. Exhilarated.

"God, I'd *forgotten*..." Dick squeezes. "I used
to feel just like you do, you know."

Tim thinks of that double-somersault and smiles.
"Used to?"

"Well, I..." Dick laughs, short and honest, and
squeezes Tim's shoulders again. "All right. The
way I feel right *now*." Dick leans in closer,
and his smile is narrow and sharp *and* happy.
"And you know why. Don't you, Robin?"

"Batman," he says, and his voice is low and needy
to his own ears.

Dick shivers. "I never thought having someone
call me that would... right." He lets go and takes a
deliberate step back. The wind has a strange
humming sound. "Come on, Boy Wonder. We have
to -- wait right here a second."

Tim blinks, and he's about to ask, but there's a
blue and red blur headed straight for them, and
Dick sets one hand back on his shoulder, lightly
and *almost* casually. There's a smile on his face,
and the blur resolves into...

"Superman! What can we do for you?"

Superman's landing is soft and strangely quiet,
considering the speed at which he was moving.
Tim thinks about the files Bruce had left behind.
"The sort of power that's only comprehensible in
its details and symptoms." He blinks again, glad
for his mask, and thinks about shifting to be a
little *behind* Dick.

But Dick's hand is still on his shoulder, and
Superman is looking right *at* him. X-ray vision,
he thinks, and, Superman has a very wide,
white smile. Tim's not entirely sure what *he's*
supposed to do.

"Well, you can introduce me to your Robin, for a

*His* Robin. Tim probably shouldn't already like

Dick smiles over his shoulder at Tim and gestures.
"Of course. Superman, meet Robin. Robin, keep

Tim blushes hard and offers his hand. "It's a
pleasure to meet you, Superman."

Superman smiles even wider. His hand is hard and
warm, even through Tim's gauntlet, but the
handshake itself is very gentle. ("Surprising,
admirable control.") "You, too, Robin. I haven't
seen you around before."

"I... it's my first night."

"Then I picked a great time to visit." He raises an
eyebrow at Dick. "Or did I?"

Dick smiles easily. "It's always good to see you."

Superman looks like he's thinking about hugging
Dick. "B -- er. The *first* Batman --"

Dick laughs. "He knows. *Believe* me when I
say he knows." Dick ruffles his hair. "He knew our
secret identities before we knew he *existed*."

The look Superman gives him is still friendly, but
shrewd. Perhaps it's the one he uses when he's
being Clark Kent, investigative journalist. "Another
detective? Bruce must be proud."

Dick's hand slides to the back of Tim's neck and
tightens. "Actually..."

"I haven't met him," Tim says.

Clark frowns, but he doesn't look surprised. "I have
to say I was afraid of that."

Dick sighs. "We haven't seen him since... well."

Clark nods, slowly. "I have, but I don't think there's
much I could tell you that you don't already know."

"How is he? Both of them."

Tim doesn't think Dick knows he's rubbing the back
of his neck with his gauntleted thumb. It's cool
and ticklish and it's not the only reason he's having
a hard time standing still.

Superman's smile is rueful and aimed at both of
them, but is clearly for Dick. "Bruce was always
protective of his Robins. Of... well, you remember.
I had to enlist the help your Commissioner Gordon
in order to meet *you*, and as for Jason..." Clark
sighs. "He was sleeping when I arrived, and Bruce
didn't exactly let me stay long."

"Did he... how *is* he?"

"As far as I can tell, he seems to be recovering
well. I managed to find one of his physical
therapists. One who didn't mind not being precisely
ethical -- I'm sure Bruce has had her fired by
now -- and she said he'll have full use of both of
his arms and his left leg eventually. The right,
they're still not entirely sure about."

Tim watches Dick stare at the roof from the corner
of his eye, and thinks about the footage he used
to have of Jason flying. He was broad, and heavily
muscled, even though he wasn't that much older
than Tim.

"His eye --"

"We know," Tim says, so Dick doesn't have to.
Dick squeezes the back of his neck.

Superman nods again, and looks at Dick so closely
that Tim wonders if he's using the X-ray vision on
him. The way he'd probably used it on the door to
Jason's room. "As for Bruce..."

"It's hard to say?" Dick says, and gives Superman
a small, humorless smile.

Superman gives it right back. "I've known him for
a long time. I've never..." Superman frowns at his
boots for a moment. "His number one priority right
now is taking care of Jason. And I think it would
be the same if it were you, Dick, but... it's also

"Bruce is very close to Jason," Dick says.

Not for the first time, Tim wonders *how* close.
Batman needs a Robin. And Superman is nodding.

"I asked him when he was planning to come back.
I -- the JLA could use him, and I know you and
Alfred must --"

"He's not coming back," Dick says. His thumb is
very still on the back of Tim's neck.

"I... he didn't say --"

"Whatever happened in Ethiopia..." Dick shakes
his head and finally lets go of Tim. Tim watches
Dick pace, and watches Superman watching. "I
think I gave up on getting the whole story about
that months ago. No one's seen or heard
anything about the Joker and..."

Tim watches Dick hug himself and wishes
Superman would leave. And then he moves close
to Dick anyway, folding his hands beneath his
cape to keep from reaching out.

"I... I think it would be a bad idea to give up
hope, Dick."

It's interesting. He's far enough away from
Superman that he can feel the chill in the air again.
He hadn't realized he'd *stopped* feeling it. It's an
excellent reason to move that last half-step closer to
Dick, especially when his hand settles on Tim's
shoulder again.

"I haven't given up hope at all, Superman," Dick
says, and strokes Tim's shoulder once, again.

Tim looks at Superman, and for a moment he's
absolutely *sure* he's looking right through the
mask, and he does his best to school his expression
to blankness.

"No. No, I suppose you haven't." And Superman
smiles again. "And you know you're supposed to
call me 'Clark.'" He gives Tim another one of those
shrewdly friendly looks. "Both of you."

Tim feels Dick smiling at him, and watches
Superman lift off. Clark.


"Hey," Dick says. "You okay?"

Are *you*? But he won't ask that just yet. Later.
He smiles instead. "Did Bruce really make him go
through Commissioner Gordon before he could
meet you?"

Dick grins back. "I'm pretty sure Bruce was
assuming he *wouldn't*."

"Hm. It's always a mistake to underestimate

Dick snorts. "Well, we wouldn't want to make
*mistakes*. C'mon kid, let's go ruin someone's

Dick shoots his line and Tim lets himself watch
him fly. Just for a moment.

And then he flies, too.


The doctors say his father must have woken up
somewhere between four and five a.m. At that
point, he and Dick had been in the warehouse
district. Still on patrol.

Which could've been problematic, but, in cases
like these, the unspoken protocol is to wait for
several hours. False awakenings are fairly

This one wasn't.

His father had woken up, and lain there in the
semi-darkness, confused and trying to reach the
call button. This isn't speculation -- the
confusion was entirely to do with waking up in
a strange bed with his last clear memory being
of falling down. In Haiti. By all accounts, his
mind is clear.

His body... there are still a great deal of
questions. The physical therapists had been
called in as soon as his father was stable, and
they had worked diligently to keep the atrophy
of his muscles from being too severe.

No one is entirely sure how much of the paralysis
will fade over time.

He's sleeping now. Again.

A part of Tim's attention is focused securely on
the EEG, but his father's brain activity appears to
be perfectly normal.

Dick would be sitting right next to him if Tim
hadn't asked for time alone. As it is, Tim can
*feel* him just outside the door. Feel him
moving, waiting, hoping.

"He wants you to get better, Dad."

His father is still on respirator, and will be for at
least a little while longer. His breathing is loud,
even, and faintly disturbing.

"For me," he whispers. "Because he wants me to
be happy."

His father is very thin. It's noticeable even with
the sheets and blankets covering him to the
neck. His hair has much more grey than it did
the last time Tim saw him before he left for the
Caribbean with his mother.

His mother is approximately seventeen miles to
the west, with an angel over her head.

"I don't know what I want."

It's a terrible thought, or at least it should be.
He's devoted much of the past year to becoming
Robin, and Robin is all about helping people.
*Saving* people. Saving other people's mothers
and fathers.

He should be happy about this.

And he is. It's just...

He's *also* devoted a great deal of time to
coming to terms with the 'fact' that his father was
just an empty shell, lost to him in some theoretical
afterlife, and hopefully with his mother. And so
the *fact* that he was actually trapped in this
body the entire time is horrible, and the *fact*
that he's not, anymore, is wonderful.

He's happy.

He's just terrified, too.

Sooner or later, his father is going to get out of
here. Maybe he'll be walking, probably he won't.
But he *will* get out, and then he'll go home,
and they'll call Mrs. Mac back from Ireland, or
maybe there'll be someone else.

And he'll expect Tim to go with him.

And Tim will...

Well. He'll have to go.

He'll be fourteen soon, but fourteen isn't
eighteen, or even sixteen. And he's reasonably
sure even *asking* to stay with Dick at Wayne
Manor -- even looking like he *wants* to ask --
will raise the sort of questions that *can't* be
spoken out loud.

Even if they don't have anything to do with the
fact that Tim Drake's perfect, pristine bedroom
at the manor hasn't been slept in for weeks.

Not since the fact that it's closer to the Cave
than Dick's own had briefly become vitally
important. Tim smiles to himself, and stops
when the beeping of the EEG gets erratic. He
watches the graph being drawn and... breathes

The patterns are suggestive of REM sleep. His
father is dreaming.

Perhaps of Tim's mother.

He's not sure if his father knows she's dead, yet.
He's going to have to tell him. He's...

He and his father have never been close. Alfred
has been far more of a parent than either of
them *ever* were. And yet. Tim's not...
unmoved when he looks at him. He's not just
a stranger.

He's the man who ruffled his hair, and brought
him gifts from strange places. Artifacts that
should have, by rights, been in museums. He's
the man who always smelled faintly of cologne,
and he's the man who'd insisted on taking him
to the circus, even though his mother had
thought he'd been too young.

"You gave me this," he whispers to the jerky,
rhythmic rise and fall of his father's chest.

Even though he'd never meant to. Even though
he'd almost certainly want to take it away, if he
knew. And for a moment Tim feels queasy, hot
prickles of not-quite-sweat all over his skin.

There are studies showing that people who
wake up from comas often remember a *lot*
of what was said and done around them when
they *were* in the coma.

How much *had* he said?

Tim balls his hands into fists, and tries not to
think. Tries to meditate, the way Dick had taught
him. He needs a clear head for this. He needs
to have a clear head by the time his father
wakes up again. He...

The footsteps outside the door get louder, and
louder, and *louder* before pausing. Clack,
clack, clack stop. He knows those footsteps,
he knows that *rhythm*, but it still feels
ominous. He's being irrational.

He swallows around the pound of his heart and
waits for Alfred to join him.

And then waits for him to speak.

His father is still dreaming.

"I'm afraid you've missed your chance at the
execrable pap this institution chooses to refer
to as 'lunch,' young sir."

Tim feels the corner of his mouth twitch. "I'll
find a way to survive."

"Indeed. You could, of course, come home for
a little while...? An hour or two, perhaps."

"I should stay."

Alfred makes a non-committal noise.

Tim watches his father breathe.

"It would not be especially outré for one to feel...
conflicted, in a situation like this one."

Tim nods, and crosses his arms over his chest.
And listens to Alfred sigh.

"I have not mentioned this -- for any number of
reasons, really -- but you remind me quite a bit
of Master Bruce."

"When he was young?"

"A year ago," Alfred says, and there's a dry, quiet
smile in his voice.

Tim blinks, and files it away with everything else
he doesn't quite understand about the man who
wore the Batsuit first. Alfred shifts beside him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Tim can see him
brushing what would probably turn out to be a
microscopic bit of lint from his lapel.

"I mention it now because I've found myself
considering the nature of self-sacrifice. There is,
I believe, a certain seductiveness to martyrdom.
The sort of thing that would appeal to the heart
of a kind, noble young man." Alfred looks down
at him, and the dry little smile is lurking at the
corner of his mouth. "Or that of an older one, for
that matter."

"I'm not sure what you mean."

Alfred raises an eyebrow. "Hm. Just this, Master
Timothy: there are any number of ways in which
one can sacrifice oneself for the good of another.
I think you've learned quite a bit about those
ways which prove... mutually beneficial for both
people involved."

"I..." Tim feels himself blushing. "It's not a sacrifice.
Not... it's not."

Alfred makes another non-committal sound and,
mercifully, turns his attention back to Tim's father.
"Be that as it may, the fact remains that you --
neither of you -- *had* to choose to allow your
relationship to... progress as it has. You simply
chose the path which, I presume, is most
agreeable to you both. The path which I daresay
has allowed both of you to get the *most* out of
the relationship."

Tim wonders if there's a subtle way in which he
could start doing their laundry, and tries not to
swallow his tongue.

"The fact remains that you do not, necessarily,
have to choose a path with your father which
would be entirely... unsatisfactory."

"I... he's not going to let me stay with you,

"Perhaps not." Alfred looks at him again, and his
eyes are dark and clear and very, very sharp.
"However, you have proven to be quite a
resourceful young man over the course of our
acquaintance. I do not doubt that you, should
you put your mind to it, could find another path

"And you will not be alone."

Tim swallows. "I think... I think Dick might think
I'd be better *off* with my father."

Alfred's smile is just as sharp as his eyes. "I have
a great *deal* of experience at guiding young
men away from... questionable ideas. Why, I
seem to recall a time when *one* young man
in particular found himself mired in the absurd
idea that another young man wouldn't, in his
time of need, prefer his company."

"I knew you had a hand in that."

"Hm. I've always found you to be a wonderfully
perceptive young man, Master Timothy." Alfred sets
his hat on his hand, and tilts the brim just so. "Now
then. There is but little the two of us can do about
any of this at the moment, and so I find I must
recommend that you do your level best not to
brood about it overmuch."

Tim smiles, helplessly. "I'll try."

Alfred heads for the door, and pauses with his
hand on the knob. "Know that I have no intention
of losing your presence in our lives, Master
Timothy. There has been entirely too much of
*that* sort of thing already."

"I... thank you, Alfred."

Alfred smiles back at him over his shoulder, and
nods. "We live to serve."


The tunnel still smells of the construction materials
used to build it, and the drafts from the Cave make
his heart seize up with the smell of home whenever
he unlocks the hidden door in the basement.


The tunnel connects Wayne Manor to his father's
house perfectly. Technically, theoretically, it's all
one exceptionally large and oddly designed
building. Tim tells himself this a lot.

Mostly at times like these, when they're all in the
living room. He, his father, and his father's nurse.

She's the latest live-in, and will probably be the
last. His father's health is improving by the day,
and the physical therapist -- the Winters woman --
sends glowing reports.

Cheryl's still needed, though. His father can usually
only manage one meal a day completely on his
own, and by the evening his hands tend to be
unsteady enough that he needs help to do things
like drink his tea.

He doesn't want Tim's help. Tim has...

It's one of the things he feels more than a little
guilty about. Being with Dick has taught him a lot
about the benefits of occasionally showing your
feelings in ways others can't help but pick up on,
and he'd made a conscious decision to show his
discomfort at helping his father with this sort of

Combined with his father's own pride...

He relies on Cheryl -- and Ted before her, and
Enid before *him* -- to help him with the little
things, while Tim pretends not to notice, and
occasionally shows discomfort.

It's not really a lie. His father had been a vigorous,
*healthy* man. The man he'd looked up to for a
long, long time. It *is* uncomfortable to see him
like this, even though he's getting healthier by the

It's just petty, and nothing he'd normally do if the
choice were entirely his own, and perhaps more
than a little beneath him.

It's also convenient.

More often than not, it's his father who sends him
to spend time with the 'friends' Tim is, presumably
too embarrassed to bring home.

More often than not, he can feel his *father's*
discomfort when they do spend time together like
this, all of them ostensibly watching the news,
none of them watching each other. He's afraid of
doing something clumsy, or embarrassing.

It's interesting and terrible.

He's not entirely sure whether it would *work* this
way if their relationship had been better before the
Obeah Man, or even if it had been his mother
who'd survived instead. Because his father had
*also* once been the sort of man who was far
more concerned with getting what he wanted
when he wanted it than with anyone else's
feelings -- including those of his son.

He isn't, anymore. He has made it abundantly
clear that he wants nothing more than for things
to improve between them, that the thing he
regrets *most* is his... neglect of Tim
throughout Tim's childhood.

He wants Tim to be happy.

And Tim is using that.

He doesn't get to spend the night at the Manor
anymore -- not unless his father is doing one of
his periodic overnights at the rehabilitation
center -- but he spends a great deal more time
there than *here*.

There, or on the streets of Gotham with Dick at
his side.

His life has changed very, very little.

And while his father's health *is* improving, to
the point where it's possible that the weakness
and paralysis will be entirely gone one day...

Tim's not worried. Not about *that*.

He's studied a great deal of psychology for his
work as Robin, and, while his father is no
Arkhamite, he's also far more human than they
are. The careful awkwardness, the distance
he's cultivated, the assumptions he's allowed his
father to make about the sort of person he is... all
of it is lingering. *Will* linger. What Tim began the
first time he allowed himself to frown when his
father reached for his hand, the first time he let
a conversation his father started end in
uncomfortable silence...

Even when his father is healthy again, he almost
certainly won't have any degree of *confidence*
about what he can and can't do about their

He won't...

His father won't be in his way.

He swallows, quietly, and tries to pay attention
to the talking heads. It's the half-hour allotted
for 'in-depth' reporting, which means there
won't be any breathless reports or blurry footage
of himself or Dick that he'll have to be careful
not to react to.

Sometimes, he wonders what things could be
like in this house, this unofficial wing of Wayne
Manor, if he hadn't...

If he'd taken his father's heartfelt promise to
*be* a father to him, and allowed himself to
hope for it, to *try* for it. Chances are, the
tunnel would've been built, anyway. Alfred is
very determined, even if Dick *still* believes
Tim has a chance to make it work with his

Chances are, he'd still be Robin. He'd just have
a little less time, and a *lot* less freedom. He
wouldn't be able to have that time with Dick
when neither of them are being anything but
themselves. Those moments that *already*
feel stolen.

He'd have to give that *up*, to at least some
extent, and... he can't. He *can't*.

Dick isn't his father, and neither is Alfred. They're
both so much more than that, *infinitely* more,
and have been nearly from the beginning.

In the end, he'd be choosing to give up a sure
thing in his relationships with them, in their
honest, open *care* for him for...

For a man who was never his father in more
than name.

Jack Drake wants Tim in his life. He might even
*need* Tim, a little.

But Gotham needs him more.

And *Tim* needs the other side of that quiet,
drafty tunnel.

In the end, it isn't a difficult choice at all.