Disclaimers: Nothing here is mine.
Spoilers: AU-ized ones for various older storylines,
and also NIGHTWING: YEAR ONE.
Summary: There are parts of himself Dick doesn't like.
Ratings Note/Warnings: There's a good deal of sex here, as
well as content some readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: About a week after I posted Eidos, way back
when, Dr. Benway sent me a note saying he
couldn't figure out what Dick's motivations were. I've been
trying to write this story since then, and I'm still not sure
I've done it. Obviously, it'd be a good idea to read Eidos
The perfection of the form of a thing is its entelechy in
virtue of which it attains its fullest realization of function
(De anima, ii. 2).
Acknowledgments: Much love to LC, Betty, and Jack for
audiencing, encouragement, and many, many helpful
1. Day One
The first time Dick had worn the Robin suit -- the one that
Bruce had designed as closely to Dick's own wishes as
sanity would allow -- Dick had felt disappointingly heavy,
irritated and weighed down --
*Slowed* by the armoring over his chest. It had felt like
wearing weights, and he hadn't been able to understand
why Bruce would do such a thing to him, why *Bruce*
hadn't been able to understand.
The words had stopped themselves up in his throat, making
*that* feel just as weighted and wrong as his torso, and
then he'd watched a man die. A shoot-out, and too many
angry (or stoned) gang members for even he and Bruce
together to subdue. Just one shot, and then it was all in
flashes of horror and speed:
The smoke billowing from the fresh, small hole in the man's
chest. The second, third, and fourth shots that spun the
man around before Bruce had been able to tackle the
gunman, the gaping and ragged *absence* of the man's
back -- the visible portions of his spine.
He'd known, of course, why Bruce had armored him, but
there'd been a difference between knowing and *knowing*.
The boy, even just standing here saying words Dick knows
full well to be true, feels like a weight on his ankles, a
burden Dick had never intended to pick up, instead thrust
on him by the universe. Senseless and exhausting, an
irritant with no right to hold Dick *back* from everything
he needs to do.
But if he's honest with himself, he knows better, now.
And when Dick asks what, exactly, the boy intends to
*do* other than state the obvious...
"Batman needs a Robin."
There's fear on the boy's face, of course. Trembling in his
voice and -- almost a *smell*. He's young, and small, and
diffident, and strange, and everything Robin isn't.
Everything Dick's life wasn't supposed to be. ("What we
need, Robin, rarely bears any relation to what we want.")
There was a time when reminding himself of those words
was a comfort, a way to wedge his own old, hopeless
beliefs and needs about his relationship to Bruce against
reality until it stuck. It's still a comfort, really... even though
Bruce isn't here.
Dick feels himself smiling, and doesn't bother to try to wipe
it off his face. He'll save that effort for tonight, and... and
it makes the boy lean closer, heedless and something like
reckless -- if not, by any means, unafraid.
Close enough, he thinks, and the boy's shoulder fits well
enough against his palm as they move down the stairs.
2. Day Twelve.
There are parts of himself he doesn't like, even though
(everyone *except* Bruce) a lot of people have
complimented him on them.
He can't work with someone -- *fight* with someone --
without getting close. 'Too close' is a phrase whose
definition has been, for the most part, beyond his ability to
comprehend, but it hasn't been beyond Bruce's.
There's an urge to blame the way he'd made the Titans into
his -- other -- family ("I will never be your father, Dick.") on
being a kid, and not all that different from the kid he'd been
in the days when his friends were clowns and freaks and
whichever other lonely kids were brave enough to sneak
up to the tents for the time when Haly's was near this town
Back then, there'd been no reason for trying *not* to make
friends with everyone he could and every reason *to* do
Circuses were fragile things, and a town where they didn't
make friends was a town full of people who might --
might -- be something worse than strangers.
They'd never been burned out and they'd never lost anyone
before his parents, and they'd all planned to keep it that
And the Titans... Wally and Donna have been his friends
for so long that Dick can't even really remember a time
when they weren't. The rest came not long after that, and
they *are* his friends, and his family.
He hadn't wanted to leave them.
He should be able to hate the boy -- Tim, and it stopped
seeming strange that he was never, ever 'Timmy' right
about the time the kid *started* training.
He should be able to hate Tim for making him leave the
Titans, and the fact that he was *right* shouldn't be
enough to alleviate things. And it isn't.
There are other things which do, though, and some of it
has to be the way the boy is so *relentless* with himself,
working off one of the softest, most normal lives Dick had
ever heard of just so he can learn to tumble, and flip, and
balance, and *move*.
That last, he thinks, has to be almost entirely alien to Tim.
To a boy who'd spent the better part of four years
crouching still and small enough to watch, and record,
and know --
He's afraid of Tim, sometimes. It's just that it's precisely
the same way he'd used to be afraid of Bruce, and he
It should be different with Tim. He's not Bruce (he's
*here*) and even if he *does* reach the point where
he's street-ready, Dick can't even imagine him as a Titan.
Dick watches him dangle from the chin-up bar like the last
few seconds before a fatal drop, watches him
thoughtfully -- intelligently -- shift more of his weight to
one hand while he gets a better grip with the other
Tim lands on his feet, but forgets -- did he ever even
*learn*? -- to brace himself and falls to his hands and
But he gets right up again, and Dick is nodding and smiling
before he can even think about it.
He thinks -- he knows -- Gordon has finally noticed that
there's more change to Batman than just even more of a
tendency to lurk.
There's only so much shadows can hide, and even if Bruce
had never really figured that out --
Gordon knows. It's in his eyes, and the way Dick can pretty
much feel him cataloguing every difference between
Bruce's uniform and his own.
He feels small, and undeserving, and --
"How much are you going to tell me? Batman."
Dick has to think about it, actually, even though the roof
of Central has never been the place to gather your
thoughts. Or anything, but --
"I'll tell you everything I can," he says, and knows it's the
right answer by the way Gordon stops, and nods at him.
And lights a cigar.
Dick waits, even though there's more than enough to do in
Gotham -- *Alfred* had had to call him back from New
York. Batman would've -- *would* -- wait.
"What happened to the other one." It's less of a question
than a statement, and has far too much to do with the boy
he used to be, and the way he hadn't let Gordon save
And the way Gordon had stopped trying, after the once.
"That's not an answer."
("Master Bruce has informed me -- via telephone -- that
Master Jason is recovering. He didn't seem... able to
provide more information than that, at the time.")
"Kid." It's a challenge.
"It's all the answer I have, right now."
Gordon just smokes in silence for a long time, and Dick
wonders if he's allowed to ask about Barbara.
And what would happen if *Dick* ever did.
"The Joker," Gordon says, at last, and tosses the
half-smoked cigar over the side of the building. There's a
small, neat pile of butts in that alley which gets swept
away, once a week.
"Yes." ("I'm sure I can't say why Master Bruce didn't inform
you of his trip to Ethiopia, Master Dick. I can assure you,
however, that you were not the only one... disconcerted by
"You can tell him I'm glad he's dead. Batman."
Dick closes his eyes behind the cowl. "It's not -- it's not
official." The Voice is failing him, badly.
Gordon grunts, and turns toward the roof access door. "So
it isn't, Batman. So it isn't."
4. Day Twenty-Two.
Tim is going to be ready for more than just the conditioning
within a couple of weeks. Less.
There are a hundred -- more -- things Dick can teach him
after that. A hundred things he's starting to *itch* to teach
the kid, because he can't even look at him without seeing
He doesn't have to ask himself if it was like this for Bruce --
he *knows* it must've been. In his bones, even.
It's just that Bruce hadn't kept *records*. A few files of Dick
on the gymnastics equipment, sure, but for most of those
Dick had just been *playing*. A handful of notes to remind
himself to quiz Jason on the Gotham penal code as it
related to domestic violence, of all things.
It's useless, and he can't even remotely understand *why*.
Or, he can, but it's just a little too... much.
He knows -- Bruce had told him a thousand times in a
thousand different *ways* -- that he'd never intended to
have a partner, and so it makes sense that there wouldn't
be the kind of documentation Dick could really *use* right
about now for him.
Memories aren't enough -- not his own.
And then there's Jason.
If there should be training notes for *anyone*, they should
be there for him. The kid had been a *smoker*, of all
things, when Bruce had brought him in, and it doesn't
matter that, by the time Dick had met him, he'd been
about as hard and sleek and ready as any kid was likely to
be for this.
(Anyone not him, anyway.)
Dick's been tripping over, beating up, and taking in street
kids since he was thirteen -- he knows exactly how messed
up they are, how messed-up Jason had to have *been* --
("Yeah, honestly? It's all kind of a blur between 'tied to a
chair' and 'wearing some other dude's panties.' I'm sure it
made sense at the *time*.")
Memories aren't enough, and --
Fuck, why hasn't Bruce *called* again, yet?
He lets himself escape from Bruce's chair -- Tim already
looks more comfortable at the console than Dick thinks he'll
ever feel -- and moves to the equipment, instead. There
are a dozen different routines his entire body is itching to
do for no reason except that he *can*, but the kid is right
there, doing crunches from the bar.
There are times when he's caught the kid glaring at the
thing like he plans to melt it into slag one day, or maybe
just get Superman to do it. From the look of him --
sweating but still breathing right -- he's somewhere in the
middle of his thirty, and...
He's small, almost ridiculously so.
Possibly it's just ridiculous because Dick had been exactly
that size, almost, when he was first on the street. (How
much is the kid likely to grow? Will he fill out?) He isn't
sure. He can't imagine letting the kid out there with just a
handful of batarangs and smoke pellets. They have more
than that, now, a whole selection of things Bruce had never
let *him* use when he was Robin.
Jason had probably loved the shuriken the way most people
"You've never worked with weapons," he hears himself say,
What had Bruce been *thinking*? Dick can't... he has to.
"What will you do when someone larger, stronger, and
faster aims a right hook at your head?"
"Duck and dodge," the kid says, without thought or pause.
"Move... backwards." Tim's getting tired, and he's not even
thinking of *anything* else he could be doing.
Dick can fix that. It's just that he's not sure how. "You're
against a wall, and why didn't Bruce leave more detailed
*records*?" He bites the inside of his cheek. If he's really
doing this, he can't *let* Tim know how fucked he is in
Had that been Bruce's philosophy?
How would he have known?
"Block," Tim says, panting. "Try to... get in a kick..."
Because that's what Robins do? Tim probably has better
files than any of them, really. Maybe he should be asking
for *access*. Dick laughs at himself, to himself, and moves
close enough to let the kid see it. "You *have* a weapon,"
"Uh." Tim forces himself up again. A week ago, that
would've been twenty.
Dick's pretty sure it's twenty-nine, now.
"What kind of weapon?"
And there's something...
The boy is upside down, pushing himself for the thirty that
Dick knows -- they both know -- he'll make. He's not
smiling, and he probably doesn't have any idea why Dick
*is*. But there's still...
There's something about the look in his eyes that reminds
Dick of the way Bruce couldn't always keep from smiling a
little even when he had the cowl on, and of the first time
he'd really gotten the chance to watch Jason work without
Bruce anywhere Dick could feel him. Something which
makes him need to *move*, even more.
"I have no *idea*," he says, and watches the boy blink at
Dick's smile like it's something which manages to be both
expected and completely beyond his own experience.
"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."
The boy flips down, putting a little too much weight on his
left foot, but staying on his feet.
And then it's just a matter of *keeping* it to a jog, even
though it feels like it takes a month to get out of the Cave
and up through the manor, even though his body doesn't
care -- it never does -- that he'll be working himself to
exhaustion when the sun goes down.
He's ready *now*, and outside there's rain in the air, but
there's *air*, and there's a boy running behind and beside
him who's making it easier, a little, to keep the pace --
even though all Tim's really doing is frowning a little at
nothing Dick can see and following orders.
It's not --
He's not sure it's supposed to be that way, but it's just like
Bruce's non-existent files and the kid's own terrifying
assurance. Dick isn't *sure* what he needs to be doing,
what he needs to be *fixing*...
"I was just thinking about... the Titans."
Or if there's anything at all.
Maybe there've been two Robins because there was never
a right one. Someone serious enough -- scary enough -- to
spend more time thinking about what Dick would rather be
Had he ever felt guilty about taking Bruce away from the
Had he ever even considered it?
Maybe Robin's supposed to be someone like *this*, five
feet tall and carrying more guilt than muscle.
("Aw, man, if you hadn't gotten in the way I could've
knocked out *just* the left molars. It's been the right ones
all fucking *night*.")
Or maybe Dick's just supposed to remind the kid that he's
supposed to be having fun, too.
The tackle takes Tim by surprise enough that he can't get
his legs up in response. There's a voice which is telling
him to work that weakness until it isn't there anymore,
but, in all honesty, it's a little redundant compared to
the way Tim's beating himself up for it.
Dick laughs to himself and ruffles the kid's hair before
rolling off and letting the rain cool him down and just...
*rain* on him.
It feels like...
He's not sure he remembers the last time he was
outside -- truly *outside* -- without a mask. Or a cowl.
Maybe this is the way it's supposed to work -- a Robin to
pick up a Batman's slack.
He'd pocketed -- in the *belt* -- the permanent marker
from Alfred's things without really thinking about it beyond
the fact that his block printing wasn't enough like Bruce's
to let him get away with just the pen the man carried for
those times when wordless gifts of tied-up criminals just
weren't sufficient for the police.
The fact that Dick can use it to write various amusing -- to
him, and that's what's important -- things on the faces of
unconscious criminals is pretty much just a fact.
There are others:
The Nightwing suit looks small and feels painfully light in
his hands when he touches it before he goes out in the
Batsuit for the night.
Sometimes he forgets to touch it.
He's lost track of the number of times someone has called
He no longer has to bite his tongue to keep from correcting
them. He -- doesn't.
The plate-glass window of the electronics store has a hole
in it the size of a would-be armed robber, and is
spider-webbed with more cracks than he could count
without spending even more time right here, looking at
Without anyone left standing, he can't see how short he is,
and Alfred had designed the cowl to fit comfortably over
His reflection is alien and strange, and he can point to
where the boy -- Tim -- is sleeping, miles away in a place
with a lot of softness and curtains left open for the sunlight
which won't, actually, be around for another few hours.
It's entirely possible the boy's parents are there, too, but
more likely, they're not.
"Where are you?"
He isn't sure who he's talking to.
7. Day Forty-One.
The way Tim uses a staff -- the way he holds it, and
touches it when he has no reason to believe he's being
watched -- makes Dick feel a little blind and stupid. The
fact that he'd almost never used weaponry beyond
whatever what was to hand and/or necessary for any
given fight is no excuse whatsoever.
Tim is nothing like him, and Dick has caught himself
fantasizing -- twice -- about the sheer number of possible
weapons he could try the boy on.
There's *possibility* here he'd never have considered if
Tim had been larger, or stronger, or more than just
exceptional in his flexibility.
Dick had worried, somewhat, about what such a massive --
and massively noticeable -- change from Robin 'routine'
would do to the kid's self-esteem, but he'd frankly
underestimated the appeal of... toys.
Every time he spins his own practice staff over his fingers,
or behind his back, he can feel Tim watching him in a way
that isn't -- quite -- like all the other watching he does.
("Do you watch me sleep *every* night, Bruce?"
The *actual* staff the kid will be using is an extendable
bo, and the extension makes it longer than Tim
is tall, and Dick...
He's had to force himself to narrow his own demands on
the training time, because even now, in the middle of a
spar, he thinks he can *feel* the kid wanting to get back
to it, to holding it and spinning it and, yes, *playing*.
He'd stopped tripping over it by the second day.
Tim is having more trouble with the *gauntlets* than he is
with the staff. And while that makes sense, when Dick
thinks about it -- the boy had never had to use his hands
enough to need even the sort of gloves Dick had used to
use after a long weekend of double-matinees...
He should've known to use the texturing to hold on to his
staff -- and he barely has time to say it out loud before he
can *see* the boy telling himself the same thing. The
furrow in the brow -- Tim's gonna have wrinkles before
he's old enough to vote.
"Don't stop moving --"
It actually takes longer for his brain to register that it's a
*math book* the kid has sent flying at his head than it
does for him to knock it away. And that's... that's
He's going to give this kid so many weapons -- he'll have
to make sure the suit can *hold* --
Such good instincts to hold onto the staff. Dick *has* to
use his own momentum to flip up and over the boy's
head. It doesn't matter that the kid is going to lose this
battle of tug-o-war -- not even when he *kicks* --
Dick is going to give him the best boots he can *make*,
but for now it's enough to take the kid *down*, because
he can and because the spar's gotten -- a little -- out of
control. They're close enough to the edge of the mats
that he could injure the boy if he's not careful --
And Tim is moaning. It's not a pained sound -- he's *never*
heard the kid do more than grunt or yelp for pain. It's --
Tim's knees are up around Dick's hips, not holding on
enough to -- try to -- move Dick, or flip him, or...
Tim squeezes his eyes shut and bites his lip, and Dick
("Oh, *Bruce*, I -- oh God, I'm sorry, I'm sorry --")
He knows what this is. "Tim."
Tim bites his lip harder, and... ("I... I'll go change. I.")
God, does he ever understand. He stands as quickly as
he can, and reaches down to help the boy up. "You...
shouldn't be embarrassed."
And... at least the kid is looking at him again.
Dick grins ruefully and squeezes the boy's hand in his own.
"It used to happen to me with Bruce all the *time*."
Judging by the expression *that* gets... he's honestly not
sure whether that was the right thing to say or *not*. It's...
a surprise when Tim takes the initiative to twist his hand
away, but it's not a bad thing.
Perhaps -- perhaps -- especially because Tim is still meeting
his eyes. Dick smiles a little wider and makes a half-assed
attempt to get the kid's hair back in order before squeezing
his (lean, hard -- already) shoulder. The show he puts on
by turning away from the sight of him -- the sweats hide
less than nothing -- isn't the best, but...
"We've probably done all the training we need to today.
Why don't you hit the showers?"
He can see the boy tensing out of the corner of his eye --
maybe he *should* be trying to find him someone else he
can talk to his age?
Had anyone even talked to him about...?
"All right," Tim says, at last, and goes.
Dick lets himself breathe when he hears the water come on
in the showers, and tries to think of something else they
can do before he has to send the boy home, again, and --
He can't. He --
There are too many memories of *just* this, even *before*
Bruce had let him out on the street. Of course there were
more -- so many more -- after, but...
("Man, Dick, I... you *know* what it's like. You're all
fired-up, you can smell your own blood and everyone's
you'd fucked up on the street, and your skin is just --
fucking *raw*, and getting naked doesn't *help* --")
And your own hand isn't good enough, can't be good
enough, not when Bruce is right there -- when he's
It *has* to be good enough, though. And it always is.
(Jason's eyes, narrow and a little too distant, a little too
surprised. "Does it...? I mean... yeah. Yeah, of course.")
Tim moans from the shower and Dick covers his eyes with
And shivers when the boy does it again.
8. Day Sixty.
The boots aren't right -- no.
The boots are, actually, perfect. They will be, right up until
Tim grows out of them.
The boy lacks the balance and flexibility, at this point, for
Dick to feel like he can get away with giving him anything
with a steel toe. Jason had been much better with his feet.
And at this point...
He isn't sure how Tim feels about wearing the parts of the
suit he's been given. It's just one of the many things the
boy is *quiet* about, almost frustratingly so.
For Dick, there's something almost bleak about watching
the boy pull the boots on for the first time, watching him
flex the toes and -- almost -- stumble when he first feels
the weight of the steel in the heel.
"Back-kicks," the boy says, in the same voice he uses for
"Let me see you just run in them. For now."
The voice which comes out of his mouth is closer to the
Voice than to anything else, but the boy seems to take it
as just... normal.
There's nothing here -- in this neighborhood -- which needs
a Batman. There almost never is, though Dick remembers
the party at *that* house -- mansion -- which Ivy had
crashed, and the man who'd used to own the mansion two
blocks southeast had been laundering money for the
Burnley Town Massive, once.
The last time he'd checked the file, he was still at a Club
Fed out west.
He has never been in this house. Or maybe it's just that not
*enough* of him had been there.
Or too much.
It shouldn't feel easy -- routine, almost -- to check the
windows until he finds the one belonging to the boy's
It's not a surprise that it's empty, and dark.
The housekeeper lives on the first floor. She's left the
stereo on, but her snores are steady and audible over the
quiet wail of folk music.
And the boy's room...
He hasn't had the opportunity to watch the boy sleep --
not even once.
He can't decide whether to take it now -- it feels like
something Batman should have -- or to tap enough to
wake him, or just...
The time it would take to disable the Drakes' security
system is entirely negligible, especially when considered
against the time Dick had taken just to get *out* here.
He could be inside, soon enough.
Soon enough, he'll need to be accustomed to the boy in
moonlight, to the sight of him...
He's already so pale.
Dick is taking -- has taken -- the boy's days away from him.
He'll have the nights, too -- that's already been...
'Agreed' seems too small for what this is. Before he lets the
boy out on the street, he'll give Tim the oath Bruce had
given to him and Babs and Jason in turn, of course, but...
that isn't what this about. Not quite.
Dick presses his gauntleted hand to the pristine expanse of
glass in the boy's window, turning it just enough to avoid
scratching the window with the gauntlet's spikes.
If he shifts, just enough, he can see the way the shadow
of his hand falls across the bed.
The boy looks so small. He has no weapons here.
10. Day Eighty-Two.
The files on the computer have been nearly entirely
re-organized according to a system designed for Dick's
A system *Tim* had designed, without being asked.
Dick hadn't even suggested it, really, though he's willing
to bet that, at one point or another, he had complained
aloud about the fact that Bruce's system seemed to have
more to do with the man's own personality -- tangled
and sprawling -- than with any logic *Dick* could come
The kid's system is just better, and even though he doesn't
want to, he can't help imagining what Bruce's reaction to it
If he'd have to run his hands over the console the way Dick
does on those post-patrol mornings, just to make himself
believe that the thing is still his -- or anyone's other than
And this -- it's just background, and the sort of thing which
would be easy enough for Dick to track down for himself
while the boy did something else. More flexibility work,
or perhaps just grapple work along the Cave's stalactites.
It had been a surprise that the boy didn't automatically
take to that -- certainly, Bruce had had to make it a reward
for his performing other tasks well, and there had been
nights (not enough, not really, not --) when *all* he'd
done with Jason was fly.
Would he ever be able to...?
Dick closes his eyes and isn't exactly surprised to find,
when he opens them, that he has a hand on the back of
Tim's neck. It's become too much of a habit, and says too
much about his own needs, besides.
And every time Dick showers, now -- even in the manor --
there's the memory of the boy's echoing moans. He's not
sure what he's going to do when they're actually showering
together, if it's something he should be adjusting himself --
themselves -- to, now.
It's not like he can't understand why Bruce hadn't put his
thoughts about *that* in the files, but there has to be
something the man had learned, something he *knew*
about how to thoroughly ignore...
The press -- subtle and *almost* accidental -- of Tim's
neck against his fingers. Encouragement.
Acknowledgment of what they both know the boy wants
There's a part of himself which is, maybe, always going to
be a little sulky, a little...
There's an image of himself, in his head. He's scrawny and
small, and his eyes are so wide no mask would cover them.
It's the look he would've had if he'd ever let Jason have
*that* conversation with him. It's why he never had.
And Jason had never forced him.
Is he awake now? Does he have anyone to talk to who
Does Tim have anyone to talk to who isn't *him*? Where
are the boy's *parents*?
He catches himself stroking the back of the boy's neck and
stops with an effort, tensing his own hand to keep from
"Dick... you have to admit that the way my parents are
makes things... easier."
It shouldn't *be* easy. He shouldn't be able to... "Kid..." If
he keeps his hand like this he'll give himself a cramp. He
touches the boy's hair, instead, surprised anew by the lack
The kid used to use enough to make his hair feel like
plastic. Probably the amount of sweating he'd made the
boy do had changed his mind about it. Or else he's just
looking for something more industrial-strength. Maybe
Alfred is brewing some up as they speak. But.
"It bothers the *hell* out of me that I keep forgetting you
*have* parents, Tim." They're an empty room, a colder
space in a house which shouldn't be...
In Tim's home.
Tim, for his part, isn't even looking at him. And Dick
It has to be a sore point for him. It *has* to be. He's seen
the way Tim looks at the postcards -- *postcards* -- the
Drakes send periodically, and.
Would he even be here if they'd been more (like *his*
parents) there for him?
What kind of debt does Dick owe these people?
And Tim looks down at the keyboard and doesn't say a
word, and Dick feels like the worst kind of --
("Do you... I mean, you have to wonder why he does it.
*How* he does it, you know? Because there are the kids --
the *teenagers* -- we save from certain fuck-up, and then
there's... us. I mean... how the hell does he make that --
that fucking *distinction*? What makes me -- us -- so...
If Tim has no one else, he has Dick. And Alfred.
Dick strokes the back of the boy's neck as lightly as he
The signal hadn't come on, tonight, but sometimes he goes
to Central just the same. It's not something he thinks
Bruce ever did, and it's something he probably has no right
But somehow, Gordon always seems to know when he's
going to do it. There's the minute or so for Dick to
refamiliarize himself with the shadows and check the wires
for the signal, and then the door opens, and before he
even has the chance to get himself to stop tensing --
He wishes to God the man wouldn't call him that, that he
didn't have to. "Commissioner."
"Anything I need to know?"
They both know there isn't. Not really, but...
Dick stays in his crouch behind the signal, watching
Gordon move toward the ledge, watching him light his
cigar, and --
"You know, you really should quit."
Gordon coughs, softly. From here, Dick can -- just -- see
the twitch of the man's mustache. "You sound just like a
kid I used to know."
It's a rebuke, but not a harsh one. And... there is, actually,
something he needs to tell the man. Something important,
even beyond... everything else.
And it isn't something he can do from the shadows.
When Dick joins the man on the edge, he gets a raised
eyebrow. The cigar smells like the inside of Gordon's
office, like his childhood, like a thousand -- more -- nights
of knowing that the only reason he had any right to be
there was the mask on his face. And, almost certainly, the
fact that he was Batman's partner, and someone who
never needed a hand on his shoulder or anything else
Because Dick hadn't been a child.
"Spit it out, Batman."
"I'm training a... partner."
"A Robin," Gordon says, and it isn't a question.
Dick forces himself not to respond to it, and, after a
moment, Gordon nods slowly.
"Is -- he? -- any good?" And this is only a question because
it can't -- quite -- be an invitation.
"He's better. Professional."
Jim grunts and takes another drag on his cigar. "I can't say
I didn't see it coming."
It would've been nice if someone had told *him*.
"You must miss... the others, a great deal."
"Yes." And... he shouldn't say it. He shouldn't. He has no
*right* -- "Especially Batgirl. In some ways."
Gordon tenses once, all over, and Dick seriously considers
trying to aim his head at the pile of butts in the alley. He
has no right whatsoever. "I --"
Dick nods, and focuses on the night apart from the island
of Central. And waits, helpless not to hear the strain in the
man's lungs every time he inhales. There's a pointless,
childish need for Tim to be here, at his side, if only to say
the things he isn't allowed.
"It's my... understanding -- as far as these things go -- that
you might meet Batgirl again, someday soon. In a way."
Dick swallows back everything he wants to say to that,
everything he knows -- that *Babs* has to know Gordon
knows -- and squeezes his eyes shut behind the cowl.
He can hear Gordon shifting beside him and, when he
opens his eyes, Gordon is meeting them. And the look in
*his* eyes is something almost helpless, and entirely
awful. "I have nothing for you tonight, Batman."
Dick nods, slow and sure as he can, and leaps.
There's no one to protect when Dick finds the bomb too
late to disarm it, no one to pull faster, harder as he moves,
as he *runs*.
There's nothing he need do beyond pull the cape over
himself as best he can, and the only falls he breaks with
his body are those of stone and glass.
He's bleeding, and he's too *pissed* -- at himself and
Gotham's newest not-mad-enough-for-Arkham bomber --
And, in the end, there's no one to appreciate (mediate?)
the look he feels on his face when he finally takes the
13. Day Ninety-One.
It had felt like a victory not to stop by the boy's home after
he'd finished his patrol, to just go straight back to the Cave
and let Alfred cluck and mutter over his new wounds, to
watch him treat the uniform like particularly loathsome
trash, without Tim there to appreciate -- add to -- the
man's positively inspired levels of sarcasm.
It had felt like a victory.
It's another that he's only checked his calendars -- internal
and not -- twice to make sure it's a Saturday, and it's
another that when the boy enters the kitchen -- quiet,
easy, and right on time -- that Dick only takes another
scalding sip of coffee.
He mutters something he hopes works as explanation for
the state of himself and ignores, as best he can, the
vicious scrape of his robe against the wounds on his back.
There wasn't nearly as much padding there as there was
in the chest, and it feels obscene and necessary to wonder
if he shouldn't *fix* that.
It's been much too long since he'd been able to return *to*
someone after a fight.
He hasn't spoken to Kory in...
He doesn't know how long. He's afraid to ask.
"Do you have any burns?"
Dick shakes his head and tosses the rest of the coffee back.
"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," Tim...
That was really kind of an *intonation*, and it *had*
seemed right for Tim not to be there last night, but it
He shouldn't be surprised.
Gordon, apparently, wouldn't have been. Dick snorts to
himself, forgetting the fresh stitches, and winces much
He can see the boy moving toward him and he can see
the boy *stopping*. It takes a moment to figure out why
he could possibly think he should, but...
The boy is staring at the floor. There's so much they
haven't talked about. Dick clears his throat and opens his
robe, letting it fall over the back of the chair. He's wearing
pajama bottoms, for God's sake. The kid --
Tim is moving again, having apparently received whatever
permission it was he needed.
And Dick can barely feel Tim's fingers on his skin, but he
can't *not* feel his frown. It's not a surprise when the
boy goes to retrieve one of Alfred's first-aid kits to repair
the bandage Dick had failed to take care of.
It's just... something that has to happen. Something right
for them, maybe, and this moment.
Dick lets his head fall forward and closes his eyes,
reflexively biting back a grunt at the feel of the
It only takes a moment, really -- he hadn't broken the
stitches, just lost the bandage -- and Tim is nothing if not
'Efficient' probably isn't a good enough word for it -- for
*this*. Especially since the boy touches his shoulder for
no reason at all when he's finished. It's all Dick can do
not to cover it with his own, not to *hold* it there, warm
against the mild morning chill of the kitchen.
Wanted and wanting.
He yawns and fakes a laugh, instead, sending Tim after
the papers. This is something he'd never really done with
Bruce. It's not that he *didn't* read the papers whenever
he got the chance, it's just that he'd almost never
managed to get to them before Bruce did, himself.
And then it was always kind of a test -- how many
important things would he miss?
Tim reads the newspapers precisely like someone who'd
spent the better part of the last several years scouring
them for whatever information he couldn't get for himself,
scrambling over rooftops with a camera and a notebook.
After a while, Alfred joins them for long enough to dump
the rest of the caffeinated coffee down the drain and share
a not-especially-secretive-but-very-conspiratorial smile
with Tim before brewing decaf.
He really does get the point, and it's not like he can be
irritated. Not with Tim here, not *now*.
Listening to the kid rip on the people mentioned in the
society pages is one of the more comprehensible shameful
joys of his existence, and he wouldn't give it up for
Except that the sharp little smirk fades off Tim's face while
he watches and...
It's Bruce, of course.
Someone had to find the man, and it's just their fucking
*life* that it would be some damned *reporter*. He
He can't *not* see it, especially since the alternative is
reading the awful little blurb again. 'Tragically maimed --'
God, Jason. *Bruce*.
It doesn't make any sense. It *can't*, and not just because
Jason -- *Jason* -- is maybe the only guy Dick had ever
met who moves anything like he does, like it's something
he has to do, like there's nothing he *lives* for more than
the ability to use his body until it makes him drop.
("Are you seriously *pulling* your punches? With *me*?")
And he'd made Jason pay for that, for everything he'd said
and everything Dick wouldn't *let* him say --
("Yeah, *that's* better. Give it to me, *Nightwing*.")
Sparring with him until they were just moving together,
moving until -- until --
Tim is looking at him. He has to... he has to say
And he does, even though he wouldn't be able to say with
any certainty *what* had come out of his mouth.
And the look on Tim's face is bleak, and cautious, and
doesn't tell him anything at all. "What... what's he like?"
Except for how it does. "Jason?" He smiles, and... the kid
really does deserve an answer, and a real one. "I wanted
to beat him senseless when I first met him, but it didn't
really have anything to do with *him*."
("Wait -- you're saying your Dad used to start brawls with
the townies for *kicks*? Oh God, that's fucking
"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."
For some reason, *that* makes Tim's eyes narrow in
something almost a glare. "You're *not * pretending."
Oh. "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."
There's one hell of a temptation to point out that Tim had
rarely used that many words at one time... *ever*, but...
"And I need to be right here?"
That was -- that had to be the wrong thing. That's --
*everything*, and the kid is blushing right up to his
"Tim..." Dick can see himself reaching for the boy, but it
takes an effort to stop it before he touches Tim's face.
"We haven't really talked about... this."
And he's expecting the boy to look away, or maybe blush
even more, but he just pulls one hand out from under the
table and lays it flat. Next to Dick's own. "Don't. I'll make it
easy. It's not a crush. And I can wait as long as I have to."
It's like ("And it *has* to be enough, Jason, it can't be
anything else.") being punched, or possibly just drowned.
He doesn't... he doesn't have anything like the coherence
"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."
This. He doesn't remember feeling as *sure* as Tim looks,
even though he must've been.
Even though Bruce had to have seen just that look on
Dick's face and done... nothing. No. Not nothing.
Dick lets himself grab the boy's wrist, lets himself feel the
race of his pulse and -- yes. He lets himself drown, a
little, in the wide open acceptance in the boy's eyes. "You've
been Robin to me for months."
Tim's gasp makes Dick squeeze harder. "But I'm not ready."
And that's so... so *Tim*. I watch you sleep, sometimes, he
doesn't say, and smiles. "You're ready to love me, but not
put on the suit? I feel like that should seem more insane
than it does." Or maybe it shouldn't. The words are too
hard for this, too limited. It's so much better just to give
himself -- both of them -- the brush of his thumb over the
wrist he can't wait to see in a gauntlet. In the night. "No,
you're *not* ready for the streets -- not yet. But Robin is
more than that. You know that."
And Dick holds on until Tim nods at him.
There are no car sounds, no *street* sounds this far away
There's nothing but insects and nature-sounds to fill the
There's nothing --
He breathes into the woman's -- her name is Janet,
*Janet* -- mouth again, and again.
The man is drooling beside her, but his pulse is steady --
But his eyes are open, and there are *insects* and -- God,
it was poison, he has to...
He has to --
He gets the man -- *Jack*, Jack *Drake* -- over his
shoulder and crouches, carefully. He'd made a promise.
Janet is too heavy.
She's Tim's *mother*, and he'd made a *promise* --
He can't --
15. Day Ninety-Four.
It took time and effort to get into these files -- a lot more
security than just voice-command -- but that's only fitting.
He's reasonably sure Bruce had had them much the same,
even though Dick had never looked at them, himself.
Not back then.
It's everything about their lives away from the Cave,
everything about their friends and family members and
associates who *don't* have code names.
They're all very, very short.
Including the file Tim had added for himself, which is
even... even shorter now.
(He hadn't been able to close their eyes. He hadn't been
able to accompany the helicopter to the hospital. He hadn't
been able to do anything but call Alfred with the news
before Tim could hear it from the goddamned *television*.)
It's up to him to update the file, and he does it, making a
point of re-saving twice, in the hope that the boy will look
at the revision date before he does anything else.
Tim Drake is the only child of Janet Drake (deceased) and
Jack Drake (comatose, intensive care). He has no living
grandparents, and both Janet and Jack were only children,
The paternal grandfather had an estranged brother who had
died without reproducing. The maternal grandmother died
of what was, probably, cervical cancer (records inconclusive)
after giving birth to Janet.
He trusts Tim's records implicitly, and more than his own.
In his own file, there's a meticulously researched genealogy
which is an exact copy of the one Harry Haly had sent to
him from Sarasota for Dick's eighteenth birthday. He'd
never given it to Bruce, he'd never shown it to anyone
save for Kory, who had recommended he burn it in the
memory of everyone who'd gone before him, and in
honor of his new families.
He hadn't been precisely surprised to find it here, and...
He trusts Tim's records, and his research skills, and his
But he has to keep looking, just the same.
He has to...
There has to be *someone*...
"The car is ready, Master Dick."
Alfred is entirely visible out of the corner of Dick's eye. He's
tugging on the driving gloves and he's --
"Young Master Tim would surely appreciate your presence
at the hospital, and you're going to need to dress."
He's -- he's in bandages and shorts. He has to. He's moving,
before he thinks about it, and he catches Alfred's nod,
and -- sits down again. No. He *has* to find --
"Master Dick --"
"He has no *family*, Alfred! There's -- I have to find --"
He's stopped by the fall of Alfred's hand on his shoulder,
even though he knows that's exactly what the gesture is
supposed to do. Every touch of Alfred's has a purpose.
Just like Bruce. Dick grits his teeth. "I don't have anything
I can give him, Alfred. I just. I *failed* --"
Dick bites his lip to hold back a gasp. "*Alfred* --"
"Once, not *especially* long ago, a young boy wanted to
know why he was so often left alone by the man who had
claimed a desire to be his friend."
("It's a *nice* house, Alfred, it's just so... big!") "I..."
"I have come to believe that this boy never -- quite --
accepted my explanation for how such a thing could
occur... despite all said boy's protestations to the
"I. I was never..."
"Good enough, Master Dick? Or perhaps that's too mild a
criticism for your years of mediocrity and inadequacy.
Perhaps you believe you failed him, just as you believe
you failed *this* young man."
Dick squeezes his eyes shut -- and opens them again at
the memory of a fly crawling over Jack Drake's blind,
staring eye. "Alfred --"
"Perhaps, Master Dick, it has all been some amusingly
vivid drug-induced hallucination, starting from the
sketches and measurements Master Bruce had left for a
particularly *sized* Batsuit and going on, from there, to
the boy who is surely not desperate to see anyone as
lowly and worthless as yourself."
Dick curls his hands into fists. "I... I tried to do... I followed
*protocol*, Alfred. Everything Bruce t-taught me... about
hostage situations, and --"
"I tried to -- I can't think of *anything* I did that Bruce
wouldn't, or anything I didn't do that Bruce *would* and I
still -- I still --"
"*Dick*," Alfred says, and sighs, and reaches to gather
him up and out of the chair. "I will not waste my breath
on asking you not to brood on might-have-beens, but I
believe it's fair to remind you that Master *Tim* is surely
not doing anything of the kind, just now."
"He... he's all alone, Alfred."
"And will remain so... until we arrive."
The smell of the hospital makes his skin crawl, but Alfred's
brisk, even pace is easy enough to follow, easy enough to
As opposed to the way everything *about* this place
makes Dick feel exhausted and old and helpless. There's
a social worker walking with them, now, and --
He hadn't even noticed that they'd made it to the family
area. He hadn't noticed anything, at all, he'd been
Tim is there, watching him even before Dick can --
*squaring his shoulders* as if this is some kind of
Something else for Batman to demand from the boy who
will only be Robin if he does everything possible right.
There are a thousand things he wants to -- *needs* to --
say, but none of that can happen until they manage to
get rid of the social worker, and... God, Tim's
Did *she* have anyone?
What was she going to do for work?
There's... there's nothing Dick can *do* here, and the only
thing keeping him from (running, *escaping*) leaving is the
fact that Tim...
Tim is there. Dick needs to...
There's so *much*.
He manages to focus enough to understand the words
'guardianship' and 'court appearance' and 'signature,' and
he scrawls his name on paperwork blindly, helplessly.
Tim is staring at the door to his father's room, and it takes
much, much too long for them -- all of them, including
Alfred -- to leave him alone with the boy.
The look Tim gives him is shocked, and wary, and -- God,
he *deserves* it.
He just. He has to try to *apologize*.
It's just that Tim won't let him. He's... the boy is in his arms,
holding on so tight Dick can feel the pressure of all his new
strength. He's going to be so good. Dick can't --
He can't not hold him right back, and stroke his... his hair.
Tim's coming home with him, and the brightness of it --
he's wanted it for so long that it's become reflex to tamp
the desire *down*, and nothing -- nothing could be more
wrong now. He has to *remember* that.
"You shouldn't be with me, Tim."
He grunts, helplessly. Tim is holding him even tighter
"I -- I failed, and I don't --"
"Please, Dick, I *need* you. Don't let me go."
And he feels himself tensing, all over. This is nothing for a
place like this, this isn't -- they shouldn't --
It shouldn't feel so *right* to pull Tim so hard against his
body that he can feel the breath leaving the boy's own.
Tim needs him.
Dick strokes his back and holds on.
Once upon a time, and not really all that long ago, he'd
spent a night in the middle of a massive, soft bed which
smelled a little like flowers, if flowers were inherently male,
in some way.
He'd spent the night with his knees pulled up to his chest
and his eyes wide open and staring, because he'd been
unable to cry anymore, and because a part of him kept
expecting the shadows to vomit out something awful,
something even worse than the image, behind his eyelids,
of the way his mother's arm had been bent back in the
wrongest possible way.
And then he'd spent another night that way, and another
after that, and another after that.
There's a part of him which probably won't ever forgive
Bruce for that, even though most of him understands the
time and work the man was putting in to track down the
men who'd been responsible for his parents' death. Which
was the right thing to do -- for *Batman* to do.
But Batman has already brought the man who had hurt
Tim so badly, so *fundamentally*, to justice.
And he isn't... he isn't Bruce. He'll never be Bruce.
There's more than enough room for him on the bed, of
course. He's reasonably sure some of the mattresses in
Wayne Manor are smaller than kings, but he hasn't actually
found any yet.
It's more of a vague and fervent sort of hope than a
surety, really, and --
And none of this means anything next to the chance -- the
*right* -- to brush Tim's faintly sweaty hair back from his
forehead. He can do -- he *wants* to do -- so much more
than that, but he has to remember that Tim isn't him.
Not really. Not... not quite.
"I'm not going to ask you if you're all right," he says, and
keeps stroking the boy's hair.
He's still, and staring. It's entirely right that there's no
response whatsoever to that.
"I'm just going to ask you what you need," and he... he
tries to wait, and manages for a time.
Before he has to slide his hand *into* the boy's hair and
tug, just a little. "Tim."
The boy looks up, and -- it's hard. It's so damned hard. It's
everything he'd seen in his own face those first few days --
and beyond, and everything Alfred had tried, in his own
way, to assure him had once been in Bruce's own.
But it's not either of them. It's --
Tim catches Dick's wrist in his hand, pulling it down between
them and pressing his fingers against Dick's pulse for a
moment before he holds it -- *presses* it -- against his
He's not. He -- "Tim, please. Let --"
"Make me stop thinking. For a little while."
Dick hears himself gasp, hears himself. It can't...
"Please," Tim says, and curls his fingers around Dick's
It can't possibly... he can't... it's not supposed to *be* like
this. Everything he and Bruce were to each other and
everything they weren't, because they *couldn't* be.
Except. Except that Jason had proven that wrong, hadn't
he? Wasn't that always the problem, the -- the fucking
*elephant* in the drawing room that he's spent the better
part of the last few years trying to ignore? Not even.
Real elephants didn't put *up* with being ignored. Dick
laughs to himself, and uses the hand Tim isn't holding to
stroke the boy's cheek.
It doesn't matter that it can't possibly be this easy...
because, in the end, it is.
"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 kisses Tim gently, holding himself back from feeling
anything but the way the boy has bitten his lips a little
"Like I love you."
There's nothing else to say -- not with his mouth, anyway.
Not when he can -- when he *has* to kiss the boy the way
he wants to, has to...
He has to *show* Tim, and make him believe.
He'd had so little to believe in, for such a long -- no.
None of that belongs *here*, because the boy is a --
practiced -- loose-limbed sprawl beneath him, because he's
arching into every kiss, opening for every sweep of Dick's
His body feels like it was made to hold Dick's weight, and
his mouth tastes like Alfred's cocoa. His cheeks *fit* in the
palms of his hands, and Dick knows, with a moment's fear
and honesty, that he'll be touching the boy like this as
much as he's allowed. Covering him and --
And kissing him harder, more.
There's an excuse for this -- Tim *wants* to be driven out
of his head -- but he doesn't need one.
He doesn't need anything but what he already has, and the
way the boy moans when Dick grinds down, experimentally,
is all the confirmation he could ever need.
He's going to --
He's going to make love to the boy, and he'll... he'll *stop*
if Tim needs him to, but 'stopping' is nothing any Robin
would ever need.
He cups the back of Tim's head and rolls them onto their
sides, kissing Tim again to distract from the way he's
stroking Tim's thigh and --
No. Not that, either. He pulls out of the kiss and sucks
the boy's lower lip, instead, biting a little and curling his
fingers under Tim's waistband with a light enough touch
to be ticklish -- *noticeable*.
The only thing Tim does is lean closer for more of the
deeper sort of kisses, and it's so...
It's so *perfect*. He has to... it's maybe too fast, too
*much* to hold Tim's hip still enough that he can work
his thigh between the boy's own, but the boy starts
thrusting almost immediately, whimpering into Dick's
mouth and calling his name.
Dick feels his hand spasm in Tim's hair, watches himself
pulling the boy's head back, and he doesn't know --
The boy's throat is slim and pale, unscarred and so smooth
beneath Dick's mouth, under his tongue, and the rhythm
the boy is using on his thigh is no rhythm at all, and it just
gets more disjointed with every scrape of Dick's teeth.
"Oh God *please* --"
*More*, even though he has to be careful, even though
he *can't* mark Tim everywhere the boy's throat begs
for a harder touch, a *better* touch.
He's too beautiful like this, too perfect. He's...
He makes Dick *feel* perfect, and this position isn't good
enough, anymore. He rolls Tim onto his back again and
pushes *down*, just for a moment --
He wants --
He growls to himself and hauls the boy (so *light*) up onto
his knees, and Dick's skin feels raw and it doesn't matter
that being naked wouldn't help. Tim is *helping* him, or
trying to, and the temptation to let him do it at his own
pace is nothing against the *need*.
He gets his shirts up and off, *away*, and reaches --
And stops, because Tim is leaning in to lick his nipple,
suck it and wrap his arms around Dick's chest and
*moan*. *God* --
"Tim, yes --" That's it, that's *perfect*, *he's* perfect, and
he remembers, intellectually, having doubts about having
this boy be his Robin, and his partner, but it's a dream
It's the flimsy ludicrousness of the Nightwing suit and the
idea that this bed could belong to anyone but Tim. He
drives his fingers into the boy's hair and holds on, and it
makes Tim moan for him, makes him struggle --
No, he's only working a hand between them, touching
him in yet another way he'd never dared to touch Bruce,
even if he'd dreamed.
Had Jason really been so much braver? Was *that* the
difference? Had he made Bruce feel brave, too? Is that the
word for this, now, with Tim?
He doesn't know, and it's too late to ask.
And Tim is...
God, he's *not* fearless, his hands are shaking on his
pajama top, and -- he's trying to take it *off*. And Dick
can't stop staring. Can't... he can't even call this a shiver.
It's too much, it's all over him. It *hurts*, because he's
not touching yet, not helping, not --
"I shouldn't want you naked," and the sound of his voice
comes directly from too many dreams, too many
apologies. If anything, he should want Tim in his
*uniform* for this, unfinished as it is, and --
"I want you to, Dick. I --"
Tim doesn't finish, but he doesn't have to. He's so... his
hands are *shaking*, and Dick's own aren't much better.
Underneath the pajamas, there's only skin, only...
No scars, no *marks* for this, to prove and make this
*right*. Even before he'd become Bruce's Robin -- as
opposed to his mother's -- he'd had... he'd been...
And Tim won't stop *shaking*.
Dick stops stroking, laying his hands flat to the boy's skin.
"Are you scared?"
"No," Tim says, even and sure, even though Dick doesn't
*have* to move his hands to pet the boy, at this point.
That, too, is perfect for this. He would've been scared,
too, he thinks.
He sighs, and strokes up to Tim's face again, cups his
cheek again. "Please don't lie to me. I won't..." What?
What wouldn't he do, exactly? Dick shakes his head. "You
don't have to pretend."
And Tim's eyes go wide and strangely *shocked*. "I'm
not afraid of *you*, Dick. I just... I didn't think you'd feel so
good," he says, touching Dick's wrist and --
*Smiling*. Smiling, just like... no.
It's nothing like how he would've smiled, because there's
no part of him which would've been capable of being Robin
at this moment, of trusting and *offering* without a single
reservation, and Dick has to admit that in the same way he
has to admit that he has never felt more like Batman, more
like the truth of something...
Something greater and stranger and darker, something that
belongs in all of this room's shadows, if only to pull Tim
"Tim," he says, and it's the only warning he can give before
he pulls the boy in for another kiss, before he has to spread
Tim over his lap and shove the boy's shirt *off*.
And Tim just wraps his arms around Dick again and holds
on, pushing against Dick's erection and -- it's not good
Dick grabs his hips and moves him the *right* way,
dragging the boy in hard little circles until Tim can't even
kiss him awkwardly anymore, as opposed to groaning into
his mouth while *Dick* kisses.
"The sounds you're making..." They're so *dangerous*, so
wrong for a bedroom, as opposed to the car, the Cave, the
"I can't stop, I --"
It sounds too much like the beginnings of an apology, and
Dick thrusts against the boy to cut it off, harder for every
grind. "I like them," he says, willing Tim to believe him,
even if he doesn't understand. "You're making me so hard,
And Dick can't decide whether he's more in love with the
way the boy shudders in his arms or the way he cries
*out*, because Tim has finally, *finally* come for him
close enough that Dick can *smell* it.
He's so right. "Oh, Tim..."
He's expecting a slump, or at least -- something which
would tell him to slow *down*, but all Tim does is push
his hot, damp face against Dick's chest and cling tighter.
He doesn't have the words for this, even though he's sure
something foolish and true is coming out of his mouth.
There *are* no words, but that's never been the important
thing between Batman and Robin. Not when all he has to
do is stroke down the boy's back and tug at his waistband
in suggestion and have it taken as an *order* -- Tim
kissing him, quick and soft and brave before bracing
himself on the bed and shoving the pants down and off.
*Skin*. So much, so soft, so *smooth*, and Dick hears
himself moaning more useless words, more --
And if he isn't careful, he'll *take* the boy, tonight, and
Not for the first time.
He lays Tim down again and strips the boy's pants off,
touching him as little as he can before kneeling back up
and off the bed to deal with the rest of his *own* clothes.
There's an image of himself in his mind, coming to the
boy naked and ready, and the fact that he knows, now,
how Tim would take that is going to kill him.
Better just to crawl back onto the bed and over the boy,
to bend his elbows enough that he can drag his erection
up over Tim's thigh, and --
The boy is clutching at the sheets. "Don't," he says and
settles himself enough to pull Tim's hands back up to
his own neck. "Touch *me*," he says, and smiles into
The clutch he gets in response goes beyond gratifying to
*needful*, and Dick kisses Tim again, *again*, and pulls
away enough to drag his fingers through the come on the
Impossibly sexy and finally *marked*, if only
impermanently, and Dick braces himself on one elbow
and licks at his fingers, sucks them and watches the boy
watching *him*, feels him surge and *want* --
"I'm going to suck you," he says, and he can't make his
tone into anything but flatly factual, not when it makes
Tim's hands flex and *jerk* in Dick's hair, when the sounds
coming out of him *are* almost perfect for a bed, and for
this kind of nakedness: soft and endless and needy, and
then louder when Dick takes him into his mouth, all the
way *in*, because waiting would be unfair to both of
And it doesn't matter if it's an excuse or not.
He tastes -- he *feels* --
Dick hums around the boy and feels him get harder, hotter,
and just a little *bigger*. It's better when Tim pulls his
knees up, better than that when he spreads just as wide as
Dick has taught him, when he bucks his hips for Dick, when
he doesn't stop *begging*, as if having this isn't enough.
And it isn't.
It can't be.
Dick narrows his eyes in concentration and sucks harder,
slipping his hands down and beneath the boy's ass to cup
him there, *squeeze* him there and stroke him and --
Tim comes in his mouth, gasping painfully and shuddering.
*More*, Dick thinks, and crawls back up the boy's body
again, stroking his sides and his arms until he can
disentangle Tim's hands from his hair and press them back
into the bed, until he can hold Tim *down* for this kiss,
until he can make the boy taste how perfect he is.
Until he can *thrust* against him, because it's almost
exactly what he wants, and because the boy's *skin* --
"Is this --" What you wanted from me? Is it as right for
you? He can't *finish*. "God, *Tim*..."
And the boy wraps his legs around Dick's waist *tight*,
digging in with his heels. He doesn't *need* to finish.
"You like this. You *want* me to --"
"Don't stop. I -- I want you to come."
Dick laughs, helpless and happier than he's been in longer
than he can remember right now. He won't ever stop.
17. Day One Hundred Fifty-One.
It's too good with the boy, now.
Too close to everything he never knew he needed, and
never imagined he could want. It's...
It's *dangerous*, and he wonders, sometimes, if Bruce
hadn't felt just this way with Jason, if not with him -- this
uncontrollable urge to *wonder* at all the things he'd
taught the boy, and all the things he doesn't need to.
The boy is going to be the best detective in the world one
day, and as for the rest...
He knows Tim thinks it's just insecurity on his part -- and
Dick would be lying if he said that *wasn't* playing a role.
There *is* only so much he knows, and it's not a very
funny joke at all that he'd probably be more qualified at
training a metahuman than a boy like Tim.
He'd been doing just that for the better part of five years,
after all, and this...
The boy is brilliant, calculating, and shows hints of
precision-calibrated *viciousness* when Dick goads him
into it -- one way or another.
There's a part of him which is fully aware that the boy is
trying to get him to respond to Lucius' increasingly
desperate pleas for help, but more (too much more?) of
him is *here*, in this moment, fighting harder than he
ever would've thought he'd *have* to just to keep Tim
from taking the fight.
Just to keep himself from *touching*, because they're here,
now, and the boy is in the *suit*, and he's...
His own is just a few yards away, but Tim is better than he
He's never needed the cowl to see him as anyone but
Batman. *His* Batman.
It seems criminal *not* to send the boy to people like Black
Canary, or Richard Dragon, or... hell, he could probably
think of a few supervillains who could make this boy into
something even more dangerously wonderful than he
already is, for the right deal.
"Dick," Tim says, and it's a demand to focus -- on
something other than the way Dick has slipped his hand
inside the boy's gauntlet, on something other than the
race in his pulse which matches his own.
It's a pointless demand, and Dick kisses Tim hard, tickling
the roof of his mouth with his tongue until Tim shivers
and moans. And then for just a little while longer.
He's everything Dick *needs*, and the fact that he'll be
going out again tonight without him...
Dick reaches, helplessly, for the 'R' on the boy's chest
and runs his fingers over it. It's sharper -- in every way,
because it's actually a removable shuriken, because
Dick *couldn't* resist -- than his own.
Just the way it should be.
Tim is watchful and so very, very patient.
So much more than he could ever be.
"One week," he says, because it's the best compromise he
can make, and feels himself aching, a little, at the way the
And it's perfect, in so many ways, that they're each exactly
as sure about this as the other.
He pulls Tim into his arms and kisses his forehead. The
childish part of him doesn't want to say anything else,
doesn't want there to be a world beyond what they'll be
doing together in a week and what they'll be doing
together as soon as he can make himself spit this *out*.
More compromise, and if he can't hate himself for thinking
of the boy's father -- his *father* that way, then maybe
Batman was always supposed to be frightening to
But he can be Dick now, for this, *just* Dick -- even if it's
an effort. The doctors he'd found had had a lot of success
at working with apparently vegetative patients, and this...
This had been his *failure*.
And Tim... he's not angry about Dick calling in the doctors.
He's not... especially happy, either, from what Dick can
see -- he knows the boy well enough now to recognize a
fake smile when he sees one. They're the ones which
show teeth. And...
It's probable that the boy just doesn't want to get his own
hopes up about his father's chances. The last time *Dick*
had seen the man, he'd seemed almost withered. Shrinking
as Dick watched, as though Dick had maybe done more
than just (take) train his son and fail to save the man's wife
and health. The doctors Dick had found had been the first
ones to even *talk* about Jack's chances to wake up, and
they haven't even examined the man, yet.
No, it *has* to be Tim being brave about it, trying to
please him, again, by putting a smile on his face and trying
to act hopeful.
Even if a selfish -- and increasingly familiar -- part of Dick
wants the boy's failure at this to mean something which
has nothing to do with his father at all, as opposed to
It doesn't matter that even when both of Tim's parents
were alive and healthy he'd never -- really -- had to go
without the boy in his life.
Dick's gotten accustomed to much, much more.
18. Night one.
It's exactly what it should be, in every way.
Robin is flying, heedless and strong, drawing the eye and...
and Dick honestly isn't sure what the people who see him
think. He barely knows what he thinks *himself*, and it's
been -- he checks his watch -- nearly three hours.
In the early days, Bruce had only let him out for four hours
at a time if it could possibly be managed, and he's going to
try, very hard, to do the same.
Even Jason had had a curfew, after all... whether or not he
ever paid *attention* to it.
It's just that the night has been broken into
battle/flight/battle. He *plans* to swing by Central at least
once -- he knows Gordon has to know, by now, that
there's finally a Robin in Gotham again, and he owes the
They all owe the man way too much for him *not* to.
But it feels, a little, as though it would be a *sacrifice* to
The boy makes a soft, apparently helpless cry into the
comm -- into Dick's *ear* -- every time his momentum
takes him high into the air, with nothing to check his
ascent but physics and sky.
Every punch, every kick, every staff-hit and block the boy
has used on muggers and gang members is one *he's*
taught him, and...
He hadn't been wrong about the viciousness. Robin has
been perfectly, *purely* careful about not leading with
his heels, but he's already knocked several teeth out
simply by aiming his flights *directly* at the faces of
It doesn't surprise him that the boy picks the things up
when they can be easily retrieved -- he'd spent much of
today in Jason's bedroom, after all, and...
They all kept trophies, each in their own way.
And it's perfectly, brilliantly Tim that he would keep them
for the Robins who'd come before him, if not for himself.
Dick follows at a distance too far for comfort and just close
enough to make his point -- for the *boy*. Like this, in
motion, there's something like an invisible tether between
them, something which coils at the base of Dick's spine
and makes every moment they're not back-to-back into
torture, which makes him want to slow the boy
But it's not about that, anymore.
Not when letting him have his head is so...
The boy's exhilaration is *infectious*, more so than it
would be, perhaps, if it weren't so obviously *leashed*. He
wants to *ask*, he wants to *know* how the boy's doing,
to hear it or see it in whatever Tim's body will do in
response to the question.
It's not enough just to see the smile spread relentlessly
across the boy's face, to see the gleam of moonlight on
the boy's even, white teeth. It's not enough and it's
More than that, paradoxically, when he's forced to turn his
back on the boy in order to more effectively question a
dealer. The skin between his shoulder blades *crawls* --
he has his back to the *mouth* of an alley -- but he also
has *Robin*, and the skeletal clack of the staff's
extension -- and the hollow *thok* of the thing impacting
with the skull of a very, very unlucky drug-dealer settles
Dick right back into his skin.
There's a part of him which is screaming about how
*long* it's been, even though it's really the very first
There's a part of him which wants to tell him that he's
home, now, and that everything...
Everything is in the way the boy smiles at him, lenses
shining in the smile neither of them can fully show on the
street, when Dick *gives* himself the right to rest a hand
on the boy's shoulder before pointing up and to the east.
There are no words, and the city is
screaming-yelling-*living* for them.
Or maybe that's just the pound of blood in his ears when
he gives himself leave to *truly* fly for the first time since
he'd been Nightwing, releasing the jump-line much too
soon for anything like practicality and exactly on time for
the useless double-somersault which turns Tim's waiting
glance into a stare.
It's -- it's too *much*.
"I can *feel* how excited you are," he says, needlessly,
excusing himself with the relative privacy of this rooftop.
"I..." Tim's blush starts somewhere beneath his deep
green domino and spills down -- and up.
It's enough an excuse to grip both the boy's shoulders in
his gauntlets and *squeeze*, because he won't let the
boy apologize. Not for this, and not for *anything* else.
He'd *forgotten*. "I used to feel just like you do, you
The boy closes his mouth and cocks his head to the side,
just so. "Used to?"
Dick laughs and squeezes his shoulders harder. "The way
I feel right *now*." He leans in closer, knowing the smile
on his face is closer, right now, to the ones he uses to
make criminals frightened than anything else. He doesn't
care. "And you know why. Don't you, Robin?"
"Batman," the boy says. It sounds like "please."
Dick shivers. One step closer and he could -- no. There are
other rooftops for this. Better. "I never thought having
someone call me that would... right." The boy is going to
miss his curfew tonight. For now, though, he takes a
deliberate step back. "Come on, Boy Wonder, we have
There's a sound in the night which has nothing to do with
Gotham, a hum of the sort which sounds like it could
become a scream of the air. It's a sound which doesn't
anything to do with *earth*, when he thinks about it.
Dick grins in anticipation. "Wait right here a second."
Tim looks a question at him, but focuses as soon as Dick
nods vaguely over his left shoulder.
He moves to stand beside and just a little in front of the
boy, instead, so he can greet Clark face to face.
"Superman! What can we do for you?" It's all he can do
not to *stress* the 'we,' though Clark can probably hear
it in his voice, just the same.
The boy is almost certainly blinking behind the mask --
the tension in his cheeks would tell Dick that, even if the
way he wasn't very, very casually shifting in an attempt
to stand behind Dick didn't. Dick keeps his hand on the
boy's shoulder, though. This is something --
"Well," Clark says, "you can introduce me to your Robin,
for a start."
Yes. *His* Robin.
Dick smiles back at Tim, because he can. "Of course.
Superman, meet Robin. Robin, keep breathing."
The last time the boy had blushed like that, Dick had been
making him say, aloud, everything he wanted Dick to do
to him. It's almost enough to make him ("Remember Dick,
he *isn't* human.") jealous, in all honesty.
And the boy offers his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you,
Clark almost *grins* when he takes Tim's hand. "You, too,
Robin. I haven't seen you around before."
"I... it's my first night."
No, it's *the* first night. But he can make Tim understand
that later, he thinks. He knows.
Clark just keeps smiling at the boy. "Then I picked a great
time to visit," he says, before raising an eyebrow at Dick.
"Or did I?"
He knows he did, of course. Just like he knows, full well,
that there hadn't been a Robin on Gotham's streets for
months before tonight. The important question isn't why
he's playing it this way, but why the *timing*. Dick puts
an easy smile on his face. "It's always good to see you,"
he says, and wonders if the universe awards Batmen
points for being unhelpful.
And the smile on Clark's face fades into something both
fond and a little strange... until Dick remembers the way
it had been when the person who'd made their third was
Bruce. "B -- er. The *first* Batman --"
Dick snorts and shakes his head a little. "He knows," he
says, and lets himself ruffle the boy's hair. "*Believe* me
when I say he knows. He knew our secret identities
before we knew he *existed*." And he's willing to bet
he'd known Clark's, too. And probably those of the rest of
It was just the sort of thing his Robin excelled at, after
He watches Clark watch Tim -- stare at and probably
*into* the boy, and -- "Another detective? Bruce must be
Easy, Dick thinks, even though he isn't sure who he's
thinking it *for*. He lets his hand slide back down to Tim's
neck and squeezes. "Actually..."
"I haven't met him," Tim says, taking the initiative Dick
hadn't, actually, planned to encourage.
But then... that was what Robin was *for*. "We haven't
seen him since..." Everything. The end. The -- "Well."
Clark nods, not quite *at* either of them. "I have," he
says, as if it's nothing at all.
Dick rubs the back of Tim's neck and waits. *Waits*.
"... but I don't know how much I could tell you that you
don't already know."
*Everything*, dammit -- "How is he?" Dick asks. "Both of
Tim presses back against his thumb, just a little. It's a
move Dick has learned is almost entirely unconscious.
Habitual now, if not instinctual. Learned Robin behavior.
And Clark is clearly doing his best to include the boy in this,
and in the softly friendly rueful smile, but he's about as
good at that as Bruce was. When he starts to speak, again,
his eyes never leave Dick, at all. "Bruce was always
protective of his Robins. Of... well, you remember. I had to
enlist the help of your Commissioner Gordon in order to
meet *you*, and as for Jason..."
There's something about Clark's sigh which feels wildly
inappropriate now -- *reaching*, or maybe even grasping.
It had never felt that way before.
"He was sleeping when I arrived, and Bruce didn't exactly
let me stay long."
It should be frustrating -- and it is. It's just that it also
feels correct in a way perfectly in tune with the sweetly
familiar touch of the short hairs on the back of Tim's
neck. Still. "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 --"
It's an effort not to nod with impractical satisfaction. He
pours that, too, into the touch on the boy's neck.
" -- 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."
("Yeah, okay, you've got the face *and* the rack, but I?
Got the *legs*")
Dick bites the inside of his cheek and stares at the corner
of the roof. He isn't sure if he wants to talk to Barbara --
about this -- or not. He knows every word in his
vocabulary would have to be wrong. His. His *leg* --
Clark sighs, and Dick feels his skin crawling under the suit.
"His eye --"
"We know," Tim says, cutting Clark off and letting Dick
breathe again, a little. Dick squeezes the back of the boy's
neck *again*, and he knows how ridiculous it's getting.
It's just that he can't stop.
Clark nods, focusing hard on Dick in the way Dick knows
means he's just pulling attention away from the way he's
using his other senses to read Tim just that much harder.
"As for Bruce..."
A year ago -- six *months* ago -- Dick would've been able
to laugh, a little, at the sigh in Clark's voice. He knows the
smile on his face, now, is pathetic in comparison. "It's hard
Clark smiles back, rueful and gentle. "I've known him for a
long time. I've never..." Clark frowns down at his boots
and Dick braces himself as best he can.
When Clark looks like that, he's *always* about to say
something terrible and bald in that way Dick had never
been able to *explain* to the man.
"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 different."
It's Batman and Robin, and maybe the fact that he'd been
Robin *first* was just an accident, or another 'joke' from
a universe which thinks it's funny to make clowns the
most monstrous creatures imaginable. "Bruce is very close
Clark nods at that, accepting it the way...
There *was* a part of Dick which remembers that the
closeness is something Clark shouldn't just accept, not
since Dick wouldn't ever be Robin again, but that part of
him really was kind of childish, and selfish, besides. And
anyway... the closeness *is* for him again. Just not in
any way he would've guessed.
"I asked him when he was coming back. I -- the JLA could
use him, and I know you and Alfred must --"
"He's not coming back," Dick says, and forces himself to
only close his eyes behind the cowl for a *moment*.
Clark seems honestly surprised. "I... he didn't say..."
"Whatever happened in Ethiopia..." ("You can tell him I'm
glad he's dead. Batman.") Dick shakes his head and forces
himself to let go of Tim's neck. He needs to...
There are things that can be known (or understood, or
forgotten) in Gotham which can't be anywhere else -- or
for *anyone* else. Not even the Titans. And not
He pulls his voice and self into something like the man
Clark still expects him to be. "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..." It's not, actually,
very difficult to hug himself. Even though this suit isn't
really forgiving of that sort of thing.
And Tim... the boy is right there at his side again, arms
folded beneath his cape and eminently, perfectly available.
For anything Dick might need.
Clark frowns. "I... I think it would be a bad idea to give up
If Tim were a different sort of Robin, he would've said
something in response to that, something loud and brash
and, perhaps, a little young. But he's Dick's Robin, and all
he does is move that last step closer.
Dick smiles for no one, really, but himself, and cups the
boy's shoulder in his gauntlet. "I haven't given up hope at
And... that was enough of an invitation to be a *challenge*,
really, but it's still hard not to tighten his hand on Tim's
shoulder when Clark very deliberately, very obviously turns
his attention on the boy.
"No," Clark says. "No, I suppose you haven't." The smile on
his face, now, is for Tim alone. "And you know you were
supposed to call me 'Clark.' Both of you."
The wary skepticism on the boy's face is so wonderful Dick
can't help smiling, even though it means he doesn't have
the focus to wave a good-bye to Clark before he's gone.
It doesn't matter.
The first night is for Batman and Robin.
The study is actually a terrible place to think. For the sake
of disguise, the grandfather clock is entirely functional, and
of the sort which is just a little too loud for anyone sane to
actually *want* to examine it very closely. Dick is
reasonably sure he's never had a coherent thought in this
room in his life, and he's not -- likely -- to start now.
It's a good place to wait, though, as he's waiting now.
Alfred has already brought the tea.
After he's come to refill Dick's cup, it will be -- almost --
time for him to go to the hospital.
To bring Tim *home* and away from... from.
The man is awake, and talking, and, apparently, has
suffered no ill mental effects, and --
And. Dick only visited his parents' grave when Bruce had
wanted him to come along. It wasn't... it wasn't something
they *did*, in the circus. You left the bodies of the dead
where they fell, and you carried their memories with you,
everywhere you went.
Especially when you went places they'd never had the
chance to go. He'd never really understood why Bruce
thought his way was better, though he has to admit that
it had *started* to make a little sense after Bruce had
Somewhere in the Tower, wherever Roy and Kory and the
others had stored his things after he'd made it clear that
he wouldn't be back, there's a Robin suit which would
still fit him perfectly, after all, and --
And he should be happy that the man is alive. That Tim's
*father* is alive. It's something Bruce had never
managed to do for either himself or Jason, after all. It is,
perhaps, the best thing any Batman could ever *hope* to
A balance, perhaps, for the fact that Batman had finally,
deliberately, taken a life.
Dick listens to the clock aggressively tick away the seconds
and the minutes before he'll have the boy back again (for
how long, this time?) before Batman will mean something
more than empty balance in a large, well-appointed, and
When Alfred returns, Dick evens his breathing and waits for
Alfred to refill his cup. This is.... this is what it is.
"Young Master Tim's father seems to be recovering apace.
The... accepted wisdom seems to be that the physicians
expect to be able to discharge the man in a matter of
"That's wonderful, Alfred."
Alfred doesn't bother to respond to his tone with anything
but a sniff. "Of course, the Drakes' former residence is in
no shape whatsoever for the needs of a man recently
awakened from a comatose state."
Dick nods absently, listening to the teapot scratch lightly
against his cup and -- stops. Alfred doesn't scrape the
"The young woman Master Lucius found to manage the
Drakes' finances these past several months is, of course,
quite excellent, but I could not help but remember that
our -- tragically -- recently-deceased neighbor had
already done quite a bit of renovation on *his* home in
the aftermath of that terrible car accident. You
remember, of course."
Not even remotely. But. "Are you going to be suggesting
they move next *door*, Alfred?"
Alfred whips a cloth from inside his sleeve and wipes an
invisible speck of dust -- or, perhaps, a microscopic
smudge -- from the corner of the tea tray. "One must
always strive to ease the path of one's fellow man, Master
"You..." Dick reaches out and squeezes Alfred's wrist
through his jacket -- lightly enough not to wrinkle it.
Alfred raises an eyebrow at the touch, but there's a smile
at the corner of his mouth. "My pleasure, Master Dick."
He watches the man leave, straining to hear his passage
until it's simply beyond him, and then waiting the obligatory
three minutes -- or so -- until he can hear the car start.
Alfred is taking the Rolls today.
And Tim will be home soon.
Dick leans back in his big, uncomfortable chair and drinks
his tea, and listens to the clock tick away the daylight.
Far too slowly.
Notes: I could probably go on at length about the sorts of
things which led to this story -- and to "Eidos" in the first
place -- but, in the end, it comes down to several lingering
questions in my mind:
1. If Bruce is really the be-all and end-all of who Dick
wants to be, is Batman the same thing?
2. What if Dick was forced/'forced' into the Batsuit
before things like "Knightfall" ever had the chance to
3. What sorts of things would Dick be thinking -- and not
thinking -- in a world where he knew, however 'unofficially,'
that Bruce and Jason were having sex?
3a. What sort of *assumptions* would Dick make about
their relationship, especially if Jason never told him
3b. "Little Wing," dammit. NW:YO broke my head.
4. In a world where Alfred has no *Bruce* to focus on,
wouldn't he automatically give the lion's share of his
terrifying brand of affection to Dick? What does that
4a. Batman 480, now and forever. No questions there,
just my continuing state of "!!!"
5. Is there anything which would ever stop Dick from
thinking of himself as Robin, if only in his secret heart?
5a. Would it really be a good thing if he did?