Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.
Spoilers/Timeline: Meant to be set in some nebulous
quasi-canon sometime after the "Fresh Blood"
Summary: It's the shoes.
Ratings Note: Mostly harmless.
Author's Note: Betty asked for a snippet for this icon.
Whatever Lola wants, etc.
Part of his assignment -- it had been phrased as a favor,
and even, perhaps, meant at least partially as such, but
favors are for friends, and Tim will not be returning to
Gotham until he can at least see Bruce an ally for longer
stretches of time between...
Between the other times.
Part of his assignment was to train Batgirl in what he has
often thought of as the 'other side' of the work, what he
has -- often -- considered the *fun* side, though of course
it's just one of the ways he's different from other Robins.
There were limits -- he believes there would've been limits
to just how much pleasure Steph would've (could've,
should've) taken in this sort of thing. It would've, of course,
helped had Bruce not chosen to make his only *detection*
lesson for Stephanie into a study in humiliation --
("At least, with you, he meant it as a compliment --")
Batgirl is waiting, and this, at least, is not about detection --
Tim shifts his stance into something approaching
appropriate -- choosing to eschew the finger-on-chin thing
he'd developed, originally, for Young Justice when he'd
overheard one too many comments about his 'dead,
creepy, stare,' because, of course, it's not necessary.
She knows he's considering.
In some ways, he's making it harder on her than it had been
on him, or on any of the others -- he'd forced her to
choose the clothes herself, in a shopping trip with him that
he'd made into part of the assignment.
In Gotham, they would've had Bruce *and* Alfred for this,
They aren't in Gotham, and Batgirl hadn't questioned, and --
he is, perhaps, stalling a little.
It's the shoes.
They're strappy brown suede things which will undoubtedly
fall to pieces as soon as Batgirl needs to do *anything*
remotely, well, Batgirl-esque. That isn't the point.
They expose her neatly-trimmed toenails, and the hard
and roughened heels -- she'd been at them with some sort
of sanding tool. That isn't the point, either.
They go beautifully with the rest of the outfit -- a
professionally short brown skirt, a plain but good-quality
silk blouse, and a fitted brown jacket which, to the casual
eye, might as well have been tailored for her.
The shoes --
They aren't any of the pairs of shoes Batgirl had chosen
when they'd gone shopping, and, more to the point, if
Batgirl were to lift her right leg and expose the sole of that
shoe, there would be a scuff mark which would -- almost
certainly and to this day -- correspond brilliantly with the
scratchy wound Steph had left on the paint-job of a
motorcycle which belonged to one of her more annoying
She had only worn them once, to the best of his
They go better with the outfit than any of the other choices.
The assignment had been for Batgirl to make herself look
at least three but no more than fifteen years older,
well-educated, and like someone with a fairly well-paying
job and a certain degree of civilian responsibility --
Batgirl shifts her stance so that her left toe is tucked behind
her right heel, narrowing Tim's line of sight to something
irrelevantly small -- unless, of course, he walks to her side.
He does so -- and stops, because, of course, even the shift
Right now, she is no one who could stand up to Robin's
She's a civilian in fragile clothes. She's --
The glasses mark her as faintly myopic, and either too
underinsured or too apprehensive to spring for laser
correction surgery. Perhaps she has an astigmatism as
If he shifts just -- so --
She does, as well. The tension in her shoulders is one of
apprehension, and her ankles are strained to retain
balance -- no. She has planted her feet again. On her
cheek, below the wire frames, is a hint of color -- she isn't
And he -- is in her peripheral blind spot.
He thinks, 'I never knew you wore the same sized shoe.' He
says, aloud, "Who are you?"
"I'm a young, urban professional. A 'yuppie' without -- I
don't have quite enough money --"
"What do you do?"
"I -- work with computers."
"Good and bad -- If I wasn't familiar with computers, I'd let
you get away with that. I am."
"I'm a -- school teacher."
"You wouldn't say 'school teacher,' if you were."
"I teach children --"
"No," he says, sharply and testing --
The color gets higher, and her stance more firm. From this
vantage point, he can see the skin tighten beside her left
"I work with children. What are *you* doing out?"
And, of course, the blouse is one she had once seen on
Helena. Tim doesn't smile. "You're too wealthy."
"The shoes were a gift from her father," he says, and
ignores the heat behind his own face. "From money he
Her fists clench, her head dips, her stance is as practical as
it can be in those shoes. "They were -- the best."
"Yes," he says. But you shouldn't have worn them.
"It's irrelevant. Who are you?"
"I'm a -- the word that's furniture and also me and also
someone very powerful and maybe more rich and maybe
It takes a moment -- but, in the end, it *had* been more
efficient to give her a list of jobs and titles to remember,
to walk with her downtown, and then take her back to
where he had a brightly-colored graph with different length
bars representing different average incomes. "Secretary.
Close. You're an executive assistant."
She cocks her head and narrows her eyes in an entirely
different -- younger -- way.
"No," she says, and "wait," and --
He watches --
"Don't look," she says, sad and serious, but it's too late.
Her hands are on her hips, and if she had longer (blonde,
heavy) hair it would fall over her collarbone and chest,
and her eyebrow is up, and her mouth is curled, pursed,
"Don't *look* --"
He hates. He *hates* her --
"Please, I -- I have to --"
"Say it," he says, and swallows the growl, and she --
"I'm a jumped-up secretary who is -- who's probably
having sex -- screwing the married boss and I have. More
money than self-respect."
And then, of course, she is. Most of her weight is on one
foot, the better to let the other scuff toe-first at the ground
like a woman who wants to be a girl who wants to be a
Her fists are still curled, but uselessly now, braced against
hips given the illusion of broadness by the cock of them.
Her smile is a loose smirk which --
"You need make-up," he says.
"Well, *yeah* --"
He throws a hand up between them, and she's herself
again, loose-limbed and rumpled -- the jacket had ridden up
with her pose. Tim nods. "And --"
"Padded brassiere. Padded brassiere?"
"Yes, but not until we find one you can move in," he says,
and turns away, and breathes, and breathes.
"I -- we. Spar?"
Perhaps they could drug themselves up first, wreck a good
chunk of the city, half-drown themselves, and then hug.
"I've printed out a -- kind of improvisational script for this
character. When you've memorized it, or if you need more
help with the language and concepts, you can return --"
If it were anyone else -- including, at this point, *Bruce*,
because the man's forgotten how to touch him with the
gauntlets on -- it would be a hand on his shoulder. Perhaps
one hand for each.
It's Batgirl, and so the hand is placed, palm flat, just
between his shoulderblades. It's the part of his body which
tends to be most tense and uncomfortable after extended
periods of time around her.
The ungauntleted warmth of it isn't a help.
"I said 'no,'" he says, and. He knows she heard him the
"She left the shoes in -- my Cave. After your date. She told
me -- she showed me. She made me be her and showed
me how you danced. And then we switched, and when
you smiled at her, she kissed you. And then her body said
a lot of... loud and surprise non-words. And I gave her --
When he considers it, he knows which ones they were. The
arch-supports were much too good for simple cross-
trainers of the sort she could've afforded.
He'd assumed they'd come from Oracle, or, perhaps, the
And, when he can make himself do so, he presses back
against her hand, hard and steady.
"Welcome," she says, and gives him leave to assume it's
meant entirely in response to his thanks.
It's all about the way she doesn't curl her fingers *in*
before pulling her hand -- He catches her wrist before he
can think about it in more than just the movements
required. The stretch, speed, and strength of grip --
"I'm waiting," she says, slow and clear and just hopeful
enough that he has to grip harder to keep from saying
something worse than what he already is.
His hands, his shoulders, the back of his neck -- everything,
of course. Everything.
"Once -- she kissed me without saying a word first, and I let
her, and I let her -- and you held her so tightly you could
feel her ribs creak. Not just hear." And then Tim lets go,
and crosses his arms under his cape.
After several moments, there's the distinct and unnecessary
sound of the wind from the open window ruffling papers
that hadn't yet been tucked away.
After another, his apartment is empty.
The folds in the skirt speak of an Alfred who had not yet
fully explained the use of hangers, the blouse is laid out
over the back of the couch in shameless question, the
glasses are in their case.
The shoes, of course, are just as Steph had left them for the
hour in the restaurant when she'd kicked them off and
hidden them under the tablecloth -- the right is turned on
its side, the left is turned just so -- the open toe winking a
bit beneath the casually placed closing strap.
Tim puts the other clothes away and leaves the shoes, and
restocks his belt for patrol, and ignores the shoes, and
removes and replaces his mask more firmly, and steps past
the shoes to the window, and --
And the t-shirt from the bottom of the box will lose the scent
of Steph's favorite fabric softener now that it's out of the
oversized evidence baggie, and she almost certainly
wouldn't have worn it with the shoes --
And it's wonderful on his couch.
Especially once he opens his bedroom door -- just a crack.
She's not in there, of course, and she won't ever be.