Some months later...


He wasn't expecting a honeymoon period, and he
didn't get one. For every skel who was shocked
enough by a dark-haired boy in red, yellow, and green
sweeping out of the sky, there were another three
who saved whatever shock they felt for when they
ran out of bullets.

There's a certain kind of rightness to that, a

Robin hasn't been a *name* for a long, long time.
Robin is a title, and a duty, and an honor.

And the world's best excuse for paying for frustration
with other people's blood.

There's also a *satisfaction* to it, and that one's
harder to explain. He just knows when he feels it.

When he...

There are people in this world, and there are animals.
He's reasonably sure his definitions are somewhat
different from Bruce's own, but they're the same
where it counts.

Sometimes, there's every reason in the world for him
to use his bo like the potentially lethal
weapon it is until the animal is weakened enough --
*tenderized* enough -- for him to use his still pathetic
fists for what he wants to.

What he *needs* to.

And every reason includes Bruce, of course. His eyes
on him through the plausible deniability of the cowl,
his want and his need and his terribly perfect

He hadn't paid enough attention to Evan Grimes.

Nobody really expects the dealer in a posh private
school to be *connected*, not really. They get their
drugs the way all the rich White kids of the type do --
huddled in scared little packs with a fist full of money
for the bangers and a nice, fast car to get them the
hell out of the 'hood when the deal is done.

He hadn't paid enough attention to Evan Grimes,
and --

Nobody expects a kid like that to have a Dad who
has a cousin with a far less innocuous last name and
a garage full of the big new unapproved-by-the-FDA
*thing*. And a great fondness for the little second
cousin with the admirably entrepreneurial *spirit*.

He hadn't paid enough attention to Evan Grimes, and
now -- *now*.

Not even Batman had expected it. Really and for
true, and Tim hadn't paid enough *attention* and the
night that started with the cops pulling Eleanor's body
out of a Dumpster --

Pulling her -- and she was *naked*, and thin, and her
mouth was full of --

He feels Evan's broken front teeth slice a hot, sweet
line over his knuckles and he's *now*, he's *now*,
he's not in the morgue, and the coroner isn't, *isn't*
telling them about the fact that there was semen in
the vomit.

He's in the now, and Evan is moaning like the pathetic
little --

He's not even screaming anymore.

He pauses with his arm raised.

Normally, when this sort of thing happens, when he's
back in the now and the little raped boy is good and
dead, or maybe the slashed up prostitute, or maybe
the Eleanor, Eleanor, Eleanor should've always been
Ellie should've --

Normally, when this sort of thing happens, he doesn't
make Bruce catch his wrist before he throws the
punch that will drive the animal's nose back into his
brain. There's no need for it; the point is made. For
both of them.

For the *satisfaction*.

He throws the punch.

Bruce catches him, and holds him. The grip is tight,
and Tim is in the now with his pulse racing fast
enough that Bruce probably feels it, anyway. Even
through their gauntlets.


"I'm fine."

If he says it again, Bruce will believe him, and let go.
He bites his lip and watches his own sweat patter
down into the broken mess of Evan Grimes' face.
He's probably too far gone for it to sting.

And Bruce says, "Are you?"

And Tim says "Yes," *and* flexes his arm in Bruce's

Bruce hauls him up, and looks at him with Batman's
blank, white eyes and Bruce's soft mouth. "Go

And... he can't play the game, anymore. He can't
fight it. He goes.

Bruce had wanted to give him a sweet little --
armored -- car to match his sweet little armored suit,
but the bike feels even more right than usual,
tonight. It hums between his legs in a rhythm he
knows to the bone, and it gets him home, to the
Cave, where he needs to be.

He gets the cape off, and the gauntlets.

He makes it to the Case before he drops to his knees,
and he shifts and sways until the shadows fall just

I fucked up, he tells Jason. I didn't pay attention.
Paying attention is what I *do*, and I fucked up.

Jason doesn't say anything. He's probably just
jealous that he didn't get to throw any punches.

He manages to stop laughing before Bruce gets
back. Just in time for Tim to recognize the cocoa
on the tray as proof that Alfred had been and gone

Sometime that wasn't the now.

He stares at the cocoa.

"If you throw it anywhere important, I'll be angry."

The fact that this laugh has a very distinct starting
and ending point will be reassuring sometime later.
He's positive about that. He has charts.



Bruce pushes the tray aside and crouches beside him,
and grabs his right wrist and uncurls the fist.

And then the left.

He lays Tim's hands flat against the Case, and both of
them just look at the ruin of his knuckles for a while.
And then Bruce says,

"Tell me what you need."

"Tell me about Jason," he says. "Just... something.
Something I don't know. Anything. I just. I need."

Bruce exhales and pulls Tim's right hand away from
the Case. There's a print. He has to --

Bruce's breath is hot and damp on his knuckles. So
soothing it makes him *wince*. "Bruce --"

"He worked alone quite a bit. More than you."

Tim nods and stares at the hand print. It would be
on Jason's shin.

"He came home one night -- one *morning* -- just like
this. Just like you."

Tim closes his eyes.

"He'd just been playing. Looking for muggers. He liked


"When he was tossing the one who'd been foolish
enough to put up a fight in a Dumpster, he found a
little girl."


"He died before I could find the killer for him, and
you weren't here. Not yet." Bruce's lips brush against
his knuckles. "I couldn't give him to Jason."

Bruce would've given the killer to *him*.

"But I could..."

The gasp sounds like a sob, but Bruce's tongue doesn't
stop moving over his knuckles, one by one. So Tim
gasps again.

"His blood tasted the same as yours. So... so *full*."

"Oh --"

"I laid him down on the mats. When I kissed him, he
bit my tongue."

Bruce's tongue slips between his fingers, thick and
wet and hot.

"So he tasted my blood, too."

He opens his eyes, and watches the ghostly reflection
of Bruce licking his fingertips, his palm. The reflection
of his own shivers. "More."

"I stripped him. I tasted him -- I tasted him
everywhere. Until my tongue stopped leaving bloody
streaks on his skin."


"He shivered. Just like you."

Tim's hands spasm, on the Case and in Bruce's hand,
and the pain is shocking enough to make him cry out.
He won't be throwing *any* punches for a while.
He --

"He said my name, and I loved him. I loved him as
best I could, until I honestly believed I'd never forget
the taste of him. That I'd never forget..." The kiss to
Tim's wrist starts softly and stays that way, Bruce's
tongue flicking over his pulse-point over and over

Soft and endless.

Soft and --

He's moving, and a part of him is shocked. He didn't
think he could.

"He said my name," Bruce says, and Tim's hands are
clumsy and *aching*, but he's watched Bruce change
enough times that he can get *enough* of the armor
off, and push Bruce's jock out of the way.

He can't taste anything, at first, but the acid tears
trapped at the back of his throat. So he sucks

"And," Bruce's hand settle on his scalp, cracking the
gel and *pressing*. "He did this, too."

The first rush of pre-come on his tongue makes him
moan, makes him fuck his mouth on Bruce's dick,
makes him...


He can't taste his own tears, anymore. He can't taste
anything but Bruce.

"So beautiful..."

He can't feel anything but real and perfect.

"Oh, Tim..."

Perfectly in step --

"*Jay* --"

-- in another boy's footprints.

other end.