In clamor and silence
by Te
August 8, 2005

Disclaimers: Not mine.

Spoilers: Major ones for "Hush," "War Games," and, of
course, various more current Batverse storylines. Also
includes many, many spoilers for toonverse, especially RotJ,
"Sins of the Fathers," "Never Fear," and GOTHAM

Summary: There's still just that blade-thin sliver of blue
where the kid's eyes are supposed to be.

Ratings Note/Warnings: There's sex in here, as well as
rather a lot of content some readers may find disturbing.

Author's Note: Something of a sequel/riff to both "A sense
of obligation" and Mary's "Sing for the moment."

Acknowledgments: To Mary, LC, Jack, and Betty for
audiencing and encouragement.


The kid stopped asking where -- exactly -- they were
heading for their first night back home after getting his
mask on.

It's a tie-job -- which were always kind of stupid to Jason's
mind, considering how easy it was to rip them off -- but,
well, he's willing to bet the kid had made that *particular*
design choice on purpose.

And maybe as a gift.

After all -- if they piss off someone who a) manages to
survive it, and b) sees the kid's face...

The only person with shit to worry about is Timmy Drake --
currently in the 'haven, of all places.

Whatever. They'll get there.

Tonight, though...

Well, it's not like Jason hadn't planned on this being a stop
at some point along the way. Hopefully before the man
fucked anyone else over, but since he'd been quiet, Jason
hadn't really made it a priority.

The kid makes it different, though.

Because maybe -- maybe -- Jason has a gift of his own.


The parole information had been easy enough to get --
once you knew which systems to break.

Hacking's never really been a skill of his, but Babs had
taught him the basics back when computers were
something she played with while she was waiting for
sundown and he was --

Anyway, the information was there, for anyone with the skill
and the brass to look for it. Personally, Jason's always
thought it was kind of fucked that the Arkhamites got
more protection than sex offenders.

Sure, the actual explanation was all about how vigilantism
wasn't safe for civilians, but no one's ever gonna convince
Jason that a neighborhood would need more than just a
pile of gas masks and some flamethrowers to finally get Ivy
the fuck out of Grant park.

(And how had Bruce just let her *stay* there? For *years*,
now --)

The address, when he tells the kid, doesn't get a reaction.
He didn't think it would, but it's still pretty damned
satisfying to be able to let him take point.

He likes watching the kid -- Blackbird -- fly. He likes the way
the wind does basically nothing to his hair and the way the
kid thinks that bending himself in half is a good enough way
to control his momentum.

Ass-first to the bad guys. Heh. Jason's willing to bet Bruce
didn't teach him that in the same way it's abundantly
fucking obvious he'd done nothing to stop it.

Maybe -- *maybe* -- it's something he would've been able
to pull off when he was smaller, but he doubts it. Not even
Dick could make that look as natural as the kid does.


They hit the roof and all it takes is a gesture to get the kid
to start scaling. Part of that's Bruce's training ("Your voice
is your *last* resort."), but part of it is -- should be, by
now -- something else.

Blackbird's on point, but he's following *Jason's* lead, and
he'd feel pathetic about getting off on that if this *wasn't*
almost too perfect to deal with.

He flips the glass-cutter out of his gauntlet and waits for the
kid to work his mojo on the alarms.

They're good -- and Jason is *so* less than shocked that
they're Waynetech -- but, if anything, the kid knows this
stuff better than he does. Which makes sense -- he'd been
off the street for less than six months before Jason had
found him, and, somehow, Jason doubts the kid had had
much to keep his mind off the fucking nightmares and the
life that got stolen out from under him other than

The kid nods, and Jason cuts his way in. Not too much of
a hole -- the kid's arms are still even thinner than fucking
Timmy's, and more than flexible enough for this.

Jason greases the hinges, nods, and slaps the kid's back
for good measure, gauntlet to nomex.

Inside, it's only dark until you can see the light from further
in the apartment coming in from under the door, and then
it's the same weird little magic as ever, shapes and
landmarks melting out of the darkness until they become
a mostly-neat man's bedroom.

The kid heads for the nightstand, pocketing the gun which
pretty much had to be there. Jason heads for the other,
and --


Reading glasses, a book whose title Jason would need to
use his penlight to read. He sets it down and checks for
hidden compartments, but the kid is searching the rest of
the room, just like this was *routine*.

And the truth is...

The truth is, it's okay if they miss other weapons in here.

He taps the kid in the center of his back to get him out of
the man's closet and jerks his head toward the door.

There's a stillness which means the kid is asking a question,
and really, it has to be fucking okay to have his heart
pounding for this, to *need* this as much as he'd needed
Bruce to fucking cope and say his damned name.

Jason smiles, knowing the streetlights will glare a little off
his teeth, and strokes his way down the kid's arm until
he's got his hand. It only takes a little push before it's on
the holster, and then the only reason why Jason doesn't
get pistol-whipped is because he knows *exactly* how
fast the kid's reflexes are.

Jason smiles a little wider, and jerks his head toward the
door again.

The hall is something Jason takes in between heartbeats,
between watching the kid shift between being a black
stain on the boring, normal (*wrong*) beige-ish decor
and being just another shadow.

If anything, he's better at moving silently than Jason --
but then, *he* was never trained for stealth.

Timmies, Timmies, Timmies.

And Tim only freezes for a second -- less -- after walking
into the study. And then the gun is up and he's
automatically shifting to give Jason space to take his flank.
And Harvey fucking Dent is *right* there, sitting in a
damned armchair with a newspaper, just like --

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I am," he says,
and turns.

And --

"I mean, I've been out for *months*. What took you so

His *face* --


His fucking *face* --

"*Red*, what the fuck?"

And Jason knows. He'd -- there *had* been fucking
whispers, it's just that there weren't *enough*. He
*knows*, but he has to cross the distance anyway, has
to rip off his gauntlet with his teeth and *touch* --

"I know," Dent says, "that was something of a surprise,
too --" And that hiss was pure pain, and Jason hears the
safety coming off Tim's gun, but Dent just freezes.

Fucking -- *one* face --

"And by the way, do you think you could remind me of
what I've done -- or failed to do -- to you or for you? I'm
afraid neither of you are -- "

"*Red*, goddammit what the *fuck* --"

Jason steps back, out of the kid's line of sight and far
enough back to look at him. At his shaking hand and
twitching *face* --

"You... you're *not* Robin," Dent says, rubbing his cheek.
"And *you're* not the other one... right? I... I don't
think --"


"It's still him, Black. I promise you, it's still..." And Jason's
voice dries up, hard and fast. There's too much. The
*only* scars Dick never talked about in more than just --

("Two-Face. A beating.")

-- fucking monosyllables and the way Bruce just kept
fucking *trying* for the guy, sending Jason out with
orders to subdue and fucking *capture* all the while
knowing -- knowing --

And Dent is smiling, with both sides of his face. "Look, it's
only fair to make sure I *know* why I'm about to get
shot by a twitchy kid in fright-makeup. Otherwise..." He
spreads his hands and stands, slowly. "We're no better
than gangsters. Right?"

("No. No one real.")


They're about five seconds from a growl, and after that...
after that...

"Jesus, I change my mind -- I'm about to get shot by a
*crazy* kid in fright makeup --"

("I know -- the damage had already been done long ago,
of course. The... the scarring just... Jay, you have to
understand that I never meant to --")

"-- all, if anyone should know from *crazy*," and Dent's
still fucking *smiling*, and --

"Ahaha. Ha Ha Heh hahahaHA --"

"Christ, kiddo, take it *easy*, you sound like --"

"Do it," Jason says.


"*Now*, Black --"

And the first gunshot is that 'silenced' crack Jason knows
so well now, softer than a handclap. Hell, Dent doesn't
even knock the chair back very far when he falls, and
barely makes more of a sound than a grunt as he grabs
his shoulder.

Not a fatal shot. Not... *some* of that has to be the fact
that the kid is still doing a really bad impression of a
goddamned speedster, but --

Dent's shifting, trying to move to a seated position,
and --

The next shot takes him in the *left* shoulder.

"Ow -- *fuck* --" The laugh is cracked and pained and

Jason grits his teeth.

"Well, now I know for *sure* it wasn't just because I --
fucking prosecuted your girlfriends or --"

"Red," and the kid's voice is soft, and quiet.

" -- just -- you have to *tell* me. So I can -- can -- oh
*God* this hurts," Dent says. "I'd -- heh -- *forgotten*."


Jason pulls his guns. Both of them. "Dent."

"Hn -- *hn* -- yeah, kid?"

"It was our father," Jason says.

Dent nods, slow. And closes his eyes.

Jason pulls the triggers.

And gets himself and the kid the fuck out of there.


It's one of the bases he's pretty sure Bruce *doesn't* know
about, yet. After all, unless you do stupid shit like let your
muscle wander in and out with armloads of weapons and
contraband -- or drag the goddamned commissioner back
to it -- it's just another part of the city.

A quiet place on one of Bruce's grids.

For now -- for tonight -- that's just fine.

Jason uses the bleach-soap on his hands to get rid of any
blowback and does the same for the kid. For...

The kid has gone zombie-boy on him, passive and silent
and basically not-fucking-here.

He can't say he doesn't *get* it. It's just...


Jason pauses in the middle of cleaning the gun the kid
*hadn't* used -- the other's already ditched -- and looks

The kid is sitting tailor-style on the floor, just far enough
away that Jason would have to get up in order to touch
him. If he's staring at anything at all, Jason can't tell.

He's good with a mask. "Yeah, Black?"

The breath the kid takes doesn't so much hitch as travel
tonelessly through an octave or two.

But it isn't laughter. That's... that's something.

"You had that planned out, didn't you? All of it. The
surprise on my face, and -- hnn."

Jason's pretty sure the little grunt is what the kid *means*
by laughter these days. Or the other way around. He's not
sure yet, though. "Black --"

"It was... first night in Gotham has to be s-special. Right,

Jason grits his teeth, and thinks about getting into it with
the kid. It's all so fucking *obvious*, and --

"I can't say... hnn." The kid looks at him, face pulling into
the smile that's a little too wide, a little too wrong.

A little too everything. "Black."

"I mean. It's the thought that counts. Right? Haheh."

Shit. "Kid --"

The kid waves him off, dismissive and exhausted at once.
"No. It's just. I used to laugh a lot before. It doesn't always
have to be... I mean. I think I should be able to do it.

Jason dumps the gun on the table and slides down onto his
knees, ignoring the flinches under the kid's skin until he can
just... squeeze them out of him like pus or something.

It's not that it works -- you can't call that
still-for-the-beating crap *working* -- but. "Yeah, kid. I had
it all planned. I was gonna say something like, 'thought
you'd appreciate the *two* of us showing up,' and --"



"'I was gonna come alone, but why not double your fun.
Or ours' would've been better."

Jason chokes a little and snorts.

"'Two bitter ex-Robins, no waiting.'"


"You said 'father,' you know."

"Yeah. I know."

The kid twists out of Jason's grip, just far enough to reach
up between them and touch Jason's face with his hard
little hand. It's cold and dry and impossible to ignore,
and --

The kiss makes Jason tense up to shove the kid back, but
it's just... it's nothing like how Bruce kissed him (them),
or how he'd kissed Bruce. It's just soft and tired and not
asking for anything, and Jason lets him do it.


And then he kisses the kid back, because he has to.

After a while, the kid twists the rest of the way off and
away, standing and shaking out his legs.

Jason waits.

"First night."

"For another few hours, yeah." Jason lets himself sprawl
a little before looking up into the kid's lenses. "Black."


"Yeah. And hahahehha back atcha."


Tricks to operating in Gotham, as opposed to just making
some noise:

1. Know the grid. The kid's was different than this one,
having been designed for a Batman, a Nightwing, a Batgirl
who was still Babs and a Robin, but not all that different.

It's just that this Robin's territory was closer to downtown,
this Batgirl's territory was broader -- taking over a good
third of the territory that would've been Nightwing's. She
shares that with Onyx. The rest is -- was -- Bat's.

It's easier and harder now with Bruce actually trying to do
everything himself -- without so much as an Oracle.

Less chance of running into him.

Then again, it's harder to predict where he *is* gonna be.

They waste about an hour triangulating from the scanner --
and Jason could almost kiss the man for pissing off the
cops *that* much, if it wasn't just more proof that he
needed to take a step back and let the people who could
handle shit *handle* it -- and then they go.

As near as he can tell -- and everyone else with a
scanner -- the docks, the heights, *and* the Hill are all
pretty much Bat-free tonight.

The Hill has Onyx, though, and Jason thinks he wants to
know her better before they tangle. Assassin-training he
can handle -- not knowing how much of it she *uses*, he

2. Know the cops.

It's the docks, so, unless the world has gone completely
fucking nuts, the cops are just as bad as everything else
down here. Gordon had cleaned up the detective squad
and Major Crimes, but the man had been human and not,
actually, allowed to *use* his service piece where it
would've done any good.

He mostly just watches the kid work, gratified that he
doesn't have to tell him to focus on the ones with
hood-style -- heh -- jewelry on with their uniforms, the
ones wearing shoes that the GCPD can't afford to give

There was never a lot of (enough) light out here -- if the
crooks and the sailors didn't bust up the arc-sodiums
and cameras, the cops did -- but there's still enough.

A part of him wants to see Bruce's face the first time he
gets to see *this* Tim fight. There are parts of Jason's
memory that are hazy and full of questions, things he's
still not sure about, but he's been back for long enough
to refresh most of that.

Fuck the lack of a staff -- whenever Black *isn't* fighting
like him (only quicker, rougher, and needing more strikes
to get the job done), he's fighting like *Dick*.

The *other* Tim might be Dick's 'little brother,' but anyone
with eyes would be able to see that there's no way Dick
had trained the little fucker with any degree of

*He* has more of Dick's moves than that other Tim.

3. Know when to quit.

The scanner-feed in Jason's ear puts Bruce way the fuck
over in the financial district, mixing it up with cops
and -- probably -- the damned Hatter, but there are only
so many meth labs two little birds can blow without
getting some attention.

The GCFD is already on the scene for the first two, and
the only cops left around look real.

"We've got time," the kid says.

"No. We don't."

"They're just -- fucking *cops* --"

"Babs is a cop's daughter."

The kid growls, fucking up the job he's doing on his
goddamned lipstick. "Gordon's no friend of mine."

Which is interesting. There's a story there, but Jason's
pretty sure he already knows it. No way the Joker got
offed without Gordon knowing who, what, when, where,
and why. "He supported you getting benched."

"He made a *deal*."

Jason nods. The Gordon *he* remembers had always been
kind of a ruthless sonofabitch. Still. "No good cops."

The kid is silent beside him, and then he makes a little
noise -- the creak of his boots as he folds himself into a
tighter, harder crouch.

It's the pose which always makes Jason feel like some
drunk who'd fallen asleep with a finger on the trigger,
and the next time he so much as *twitches* --


"No *cops*."

The kid turns to look at him. It's the blank, freaky look he
uses when he's playing 'Red Hood's Scary Attack Dog, or
Possibly Bitch' and it *doesn't* work on him. Not even
with the fact that the lipstick fuck-up has left the kid with
half of a clown-smile.

Just half.

And the kid doesn't lick his lips so much as let Jason see
the tip of his tongue between them.

"Are you hitting on me or threatening?"

"You never *can* tell, can you? Judging by the way you

"This *isn't* a game, you little prick --"

The knife-slash takes him in the cheek, but Jason's fast
enough to keep it from removing -- half of -- his face,
and his punch sends the kid flying.

Right off the fucking ledge. *Fuck*.

Jason's up and moving -- fucking *bleeding* -- fast enough
to see the kid flip him off before he tumbles and shoots
his grapple, flying right into a knot of Gotham's Fucking

And --

He *has* to follow, and he has to take the cops fucking
out just to save their damned *lives* -- not that (Bruce)
they'll see it that way -- and he also has to fucking
*dodge*, because the kid is going Blackbird on *his*
ass, too.

Well, he's sparred -- *and* fought -- with Dick and he
knows himself pretty well, too.

He gives the kid a slash to match his own, manages to
avoid getting shot, seizes inside when that shot spins the
kid --

And gets kicked in the head. It was just a graze, and he
has to nearly dislocate the little fucking *bastard's*
shoulder to keep the kid's strike at the cop who'd done
it from being a fatal one.

It's been a minute, maybe two, and the cops are down,
and the kid's twisted against him in a way that Jason
knows would only be uncomfortable for someone
*without* the kid's flexibility. Jason's got him by one
back-twisted arm and one normally placed one. One
good wrench, and the kid will be done.

Or possibly he'll use the blades in his boots to cripple
Jason. It's a tough call for most of the next minute,

But it's over.

He thinks it's over. He --

The kid scrubs blood and lipstick against Jason's chest
and twists himself into even more of a pretzel to smile up
at him. Not with his mouth. Just... he'd taken the time
to flip the lenses up.

"Fucking *what*?"

"First night. *Red*."

Jason shoves the kid away and watches blood fly from the
graze on the kid's arm.

The scanner-feed in his ear is repeating 'officer down' way
too fucking much, and there's no way Bruce will be able
to ignore that.

Or, for that matter, Jason beating the living *shit* out of
someone he might -- *might* -- think is Tim for just
long enough for things to get complicated.

They stare at each other for another second. Another.

Jason goes for one of his guns, and the kid goes for his.

Jason gets the shot off first, though he's pretty sure that
when he's calm enough to check there'll be a piece of his
goddamned ear missing. At least it was silenced.

And the kid is staring at the tranq dart in his chest like he's
never seen anything like it before.

"You... *fucker*."

Jason closes and grabs the kid's hands when he goes for
the block he won't need.

"Red -- fucker --"

He presses the plunger down to give the kid the optional
second dose and waits.

"I could've *killed* you."

"And you still might. Yeah. I get it, asshole."


"Fucking *trust* me, okay?"

The kid slumps before he can say anything else, and Jason
slings him over his shoulder.

Even with the armor, he's still a lot lighter than even the
other Tim.

Jason zip-strips the kid's wrists to keep them locked
together around his waist once he's on the bike.


"Come back."

Jason does, terrified and *pissed* that his body (mind?
Soul?) had decided to pick *now* to go out on him again,
and --

"Easy. I'm behaving."

And opens his eyes to find the kid straddling his waist,
staring down at him and frowning. "How long?"

"Too," the kid says, and shifts like he's going to move.
He doesn't, though. Right.

"You gonna tell me what the *fuck* that was?"

The kid's fingers curl against his chest for a moment before
moving to his face. There's a bandage there Jason doesn't
remember and... he tries a yawn. Stitches. Fuck.

The kid's mouth twitches in what's almost certainly a
smirk. This time. "You *did* say something about missing
your scars."

Jason backhands the kid on his own fresh bandage. Just
hard enough for it not to be a slap. "Tell me what the
fuck that was, kid."

The kid rubs his jaw and watches him through those eyes
which are only blue when you realize how often the kid's
pupils are *this* close to hopelessly blown. And the blood
blooming under the kid's bandage says he hadn't managed
to stitch himself.

"Talk, asshole."


Jesus. "You could've *mentioned* how badly that fucked
you up *before* I had to push you off a goddamned roof."

"That's not -- hnn."


"First, don't look at me like you're gonna shoot me unless
you're gonna *do* it. Otherwise I *will* kill you next time.
Or some time."

Like when he's already mostly dead? "Fine. Talk."

The kid rolls his head around his neck a little, making his
spine pop audibly. "He killed Dick. In my universe."

"Jesus. *Dick*?"

A mouth-twitch. "Electrocution. I had to bring him back.
My hands. My mouth." He makes a little heart-pump

"Was he...?"

"Oh. Hnn. He was just fucking fine. Kicking ass, taking
names. And when I mentioned how freaked I was about
how B-Bruce had just kind of left me *to* bring him back
while he went running after Two-Face. Haheh. Hnn."


"He told me to stop being a little bitch. He may -- hnn ha
heh hnn -- have mentioned something about this --"
Another little gesture. "Not being a game." The kid
shrugs. "What can I say? I'm sensitive."

Right. Okay. Fine. "Before or after he didn't let you kill any
goddamned fucking cops?"

"It wasn't -- Jason --"

That last is as strangled as it should be, with his fist around
the kid's skinny neck. "I'm not *Dick* either, asshole. Not
yours. Not mine."

Jason would call the look in the boy's eyes 'murderous' if
he didn't already know that when the kid *is* about to kill
someone, everything shuts down but the hectic smile in his
blown, fucked-up eyes. This is just pissed.


The kid lets his tongue slip out between his lips again and
nods. And grabs Jason's wrist with both hands.

"Maybe I'm not fucking *ready* to let go."

"If you don't, I'm gonna --" The kid coughs, and the hectic
light is right there.

Jason tightens his grip.

The kid jerks, and Jason has enough time to wonder if
the kid's knees aren't folded *enough* to keep him from
doing something vicious with his legs, but...

The kid just jerks again, shudders, coughs, and --


Holy. "You just came. You -- Jesus fucking *Christ*,
Black --"

The kid uses his surprise to push his hands off and
squeezes himself through his shorts. "I know, I know.
Don't look at you like I'm gonna kill you unless I plan on
doing it. Sorry."

"You --"

"Also? Thanks."

"-- fucking --"

"I -- hnn. Needed that."

" -- *asshole*."


The kid insists on stitching his own face up, even though
the result -- even *with* the kid using a mirror, which,
frankly, he pretty much never does, for anything -- winds
up looking like an old horror movie.

The kid doesn't, actually, *require* any more scars,
especially one that'll pretty much pull his whole face -- a
little -- out of true. But.

Then again?

Maybe he does.

He lets Jason wash it, though.

That's something.


Trick thirty-seven thousand and twelve for working with
an actual, honest-to-fucking-God, not-sane partner in
Gotham, who also happens to be from an entirely alternate

Don't fucking forget fucking *Catwoman*.

Jason's fast enough to knock the kid's aim out of true, but
only barely. *He'd* been busy retrieving the evidence he
didn't care to leave behind after their last little encounter
with Gotham's night life, trusting the kid not to wander
off too far.

The fuck of it is -- he *hadn't*.

Jesus, he hadn't even *bothered* to give the kid the skinny
on the East side situation, because Catwoman probably --
*probably* -- won't have too much to say about the way
Jason works.

Or she wouldn't have, if the kid hadn't just come real
damned close to taking her head off.

"Red, goddammit --"

"Red?" Selina's voice is a breathless little growl from the
shadows she's sunk into. "That's *real* cute."

"Apologies. The kid isn't from around here."

"And that's why if you didn't have a hold on him he'd be
trying to kill me again."

"Where he's from..." Jason takes a breath, and makes a
pretty damned well-educated guess, if he does say so
himself. "You're part of the problem."

Nothing but silence. Jason knows about the whip, and the
shuriken, and the fucking *skills*, and he has no idea what
she's pulling back there.

And the kid is either calmed the fuck down or waiting for
Jason to let his guard down. Jason -- carefully -- rearranges
his grip so that he's got the kid's arms behind his back with
one hand. He yanks on the kid's hair with the other.

"Maybe you should buy a leash," growls Selina.

"Yeah, but that would just be *positive* reinforcement for
Blackbird, here..."

The kid doesn't say a word. Jason tugs again, and squeezes
the kid's wrists gently. It's an attempt to *will* the kid to
pay attention, but he's honestly not sure if it's working or
*not*. Still.

"I know you've got a light on you, Catwoman. Use it."


The kid hisses between his teeth -- Jason has yet to see
the kid go out in daylight without shades of some kind --
but he doesn't stiffen or --

"Holy. I. *Hood*, what --"

"Not from around here. Like I said."

Selina's laugh is all *Selina*, hoarse and a little older than
the body would make you guess. "And you thought it was
a good idea to bring him *back* with you?"

Jason squeezes the kid's wrists again. "Yeah. I did."

She steps out of the shadows, finally, and when she stops,
her stance is pure violence that just isn't happening yet.
"Hood. I know who you are."


"And I *know* what you're trying to do. Some of it,
anyway. You've kept away from me and mine --"

"Always the plan."

"-- but this? Don't even fucking try to tell me you don't
know what this is going to do to *him*."

"Not even close to the reason why," he says, just a little
surprised to find out it's true. But only a little, when you
get right down to it.

And Selina stares into him hard for a moment before
looking at the kid again, reaching out until she can --
almost -- touch him. And then she drops her hand again.
"I guess not."

"Are we good?"

Selina sighs, twisting a little until Jason can hear her back
pop. "*That* one's got the Joker all over him, but it's not
like I ever got along all that well with the other, so..."

Interesting. Even fucking *Shiva* liked the other Tim well
enough to have spent the past few years casually killing
off most of the players with a hard-on for the kid.

"'Blackbird,' is it?"

Jason relaxes his grip on the kid's hair enough for him to

"I'm not your enemy. Yet. Though..." The smile on her
face is tight and cold. "That *was* you with Dent, right?
The two of you."

Jason doesn't bother saying a word.

This time, she doesn't bother to stop before stroking --
scratching -- a line over the kid's face. "I won't say you
didn't have to do that."


"But then again... *I* won't have to."

They both know *Jason* knows that, so it's not worth a
response. Especially since they both know which way
Selina will jump -- if it comes to that.

When it comes to that.

He watches her walk -- slow and an excellent impression
of casual -- toward the ledge, back to them with that same
nice little sway that's probably been kicking off puberty for
teen sidekicks for the better part of the last decade.

And then she pauses.



"If this is supposed to be a better place for your little
Blackbird... you might consider *letting* it be."

She's gone before he has to try to come up with a
response. Thankfully.

He lets go of the kid's arms, but not his hair.

It doesn't faze him, as near as Jason can tell. The gun gets
holstered again, and the kid stretches his arms just like
Jason *couldn't* rip off most of his fucking 'do with one
good yank.


"She's... different."

Jason sighs. "Kind of my point."

"No, I mean..." The kid reaches up to brush Jason's hand
out of his hair. Finally. "Calmer. Steadier. Something. I'm
not sure."

"Yeah, well... maybe fucking Batman is *different* for

The expression on the kid's face is somewhere between
shocked and sickened. "What about B -- Batgirl?"

Jason blinks. "Yeah, I... don't tell me. Please."


He does think about it.

He doesn't exactly have League connections -- other than
the whole 'call Clark's name and see what happens' thing
which had always felt a little like that Candyman game,
only freakier -- but he knows that all it would take to get
in touch with Babs is encouraging the kid to try to hack
her systems.

He'd wake up with Huntress' boot in his damned mouth,
while Canary simultaneously beat the shit out of the kid
and bitched him out for the makeup.

The kid is never, ever going to stop making him pay for
the eyeliner.

He *could* call for help, with this, and the costs... he'd
fucking deal with the costs.

Because he can't say he doesn't understand what had
made the *other* Bats in the kid's universe put him
away. If he's honest with himself, it's a little fucked up
that the kid had to actually kill someone before they did.

As opposed to just *trying* real hard and -- yeah. He
can see it. He has no fucking clue which Clayface the
kid had tried to ice, but it doesn't really matter. If you
*didn't* have a few years worth of training and
experience at stopping killers, you wouldn't be able to
do a goddamned thing with the kid.

One day -- and he can see this so fucking clearly it hurts
a little -- the kid is going to get himself a rifle and some
explosives and turn Arkham into his own personal carny

It's not that he can't understand the urge -- Gotham would
start looking like Metropolis within six fucking months --
it's just...

There's a disconnect there that he can't quite touch, and
that he's nowhere near to understanding.

A space between the violence Jason understands with
every part of himself he can still feel -- every part of himself
that feels *more* every time he goes *out* with the kid --
and that -- that *thing*.

Permanently blown pupils and the fact that there's still a
lot of food the kid doesn't -- can't -- digest. The *poison*
in him, and --

And even that's too easy.

There's something wrong with the kid, something Jason
can *feel* even with the kid the next best thing to
comatose next to him, something that makes Jason
think -- know -- that he isn't half as scared of the little
fucker as he should be. Whether or not he'd be able to
win if they ever really -- *really* -- got into it.

It's not about dying -- maybe it can't be, for people like

It's just that Jason's pretty sure it's *also* not about
whatever the Joker had done to the kid.

Not entirely.

Which is why he also *doesn't* understand why they'd put
the kid in some damned hospital. What the hell *good*
could it have done?

Didn't they *get* that Robin was the only leash they ever
*could* put on someone like that? Had they really just
been thinking about the *kid's* safety? It's something he
could buy from a Jim Gordon -- any Jim Gordon. A cop is
a cop, even if it's a good one.

But Bruce --

Jason stops, and almost has to laugh at himself. It's been
a long damned time since he ever thought Bruce should
know better about anything.

Especially about the people he fucked.

Jason shifts enough in the bed that the kid will wake up if
he wants to.

He doesn't, apparently, so Jason just scrubs at the night's
last few traces of lipstick until they're mostly gone and the
kid's skin -- still way too pale, still way too sensitive -- is
back to normal. Maybe a little raw.

"Hnnnhaheh. Batman..."

Jason closes his eyes, and chooses not to think about
what's in the kid's dreams.


Trick this-is-never-gonna-fucking-stop for operating in

Decide -- early -- what you're going to do when the cops
are so pissed that even *after* you save a couple of them
from a street-gang carrying guns with Penguin's stamp all
over them  -- and if fucking *Timmy* doesn't stop pissing
around with the goddamned Titans and put a stop to this
shit in the 'haven, he's going to have to make a detour --
they try to kill your ass.

Because they will, as Nightwing could tell the rest of them.

If he wasn't still pissing around trying to be *bad*, of all

And Jason knows that's going to last for about ten seconds
longer than it'll take Bruce to reach out and grab the
bastard, whether or *not* the rumors about Tarantula
and Blockbuster are true.

The rules are different for some people, and they always
have been.

Still, that's not his problem.

His problem --

His problem is that the only reason the kid's bleeding from
the goddamned neck is that tonight's GCPD bright spark
had picked up one of the 'bangers pieces instead of his
own before he started shooting, and armor-piercing
bullets are now, have been, and will always be a pain in
Jason's goddamned ass.

Unless, of course, he ever gets a shot at Deathstroke or
one of the others. Cheshire, maybe. *That* might just
make him change his mind.

For now, it's enough to know that he'd lost about ten tons
of the five tons of credibility he'd had with the kid about
taking it easy on the cops.

And that he's rapidly losing count of the number of scars on
the kid's body he's responsible for -- after all, the kid
could've iced *both* cops in the time it had taken for the
spark to get off his shot and --

And it doesn't matter, because the kid isn't fighting him
right now, and he isn't doing that silently-being-a-whackjob
thing, either.

He's just breathing with a soft little whine at the end of
every exhale.

"That bad?"


Jason freezes with the packet of disinfectant wipes
half-opened in his hand. He'd *planned* on doing this
right here in the alley -- there's *enough* light for a
patch-job which'll hold until they're back home -- but.

He holds onto the wipes and grabs his penlight, biting back
the reflexive urge to wince at it's narrow, regular, and
*obvious* brightness. It's only a beacon *if* someone
decides to pay close attention to the area half a mile
northeast of where the cops had been, which shouldn't --
*shouldn't* -- happen for a while.

And with the light on, it's bloody, but it's still just a graze.
Probably less severe than the one the kid had taken on
the arm, even. And yeah, the back of the neck *is* a
fucking sensitive area, but --


Jason slips the penlight between his teeth and places his
freed hand against the kid's back. "Easy."


"Jesus, kid, *what* --"


Jason jams the side of his hand into the kid's mouth,
biting down hard on the penlight when *he* gets bitten.

He's a little -- more than a little -- fucking desperate now,
but that's not going to help him figure out what it is *this*
time, so he needs to just --

He breathes, and looks closer, leaning in enough that the
kid would be feeling the heat from his light -- if it gave off

Blood. Half-cauterized flesh. More blood -- damn.

Jason works one of the wipes out of the pack and lets
the rest hit the ground. He'll retrieve it later. Now he
just has to --

*Not* scream when the kid bites him even harder, even
though it's even money, at this point, whether one of the
bones in his thumb will snap before the kid breaks a tooth.
At least the gauntlet is some protection, and.

"Black, what the fuck is in your *neck*?"

The headshake is violent, and Jason shoves a thigh
between the kid's legs just to be on the safe side before
wiping away more blood. It's...

It's a damned *chip*, and there are fucking *wires* --

There's a part of him which is screaming -- really *fucking*
loudly -- that this is the best excuse he could ever have to
dump the kid on (Leslie) a doctor, on anyone with clean
hands and tools that were made for this, as opposed to
for hurting people and pissing Bruce off.

It's just that the screams aren't half as loud as the rest of
him, because maybe *this* is the problem. Maybe --
maybe it will --

And anyway, if the kid weren't busy trying to gnaw off
Jason's damned thumb he'd probably *appreciate* using
the damned -- *he* had never called them 'hoodarangs,'
not even in his fucking head --

"This is -- fuck, this is gonna *suck*, all right?"

Moans around his thumb. Just -- *moans*.

It's just a flap of skin covering it, really. The burn would've
hidden the scar. A burn he hadn't paid any attention to
because he *knew* the kid had gotten Joker-style
shock-treatment, and anyway...

It's so fucking easy to *picture* Bruce rushing the kid to
fucking Leslie, who would've just put fucking burn-salve
on it and worked on the more obvious *shit*.

Jason ditches his knife and goes for the kid's Bowie,
instead. He needs the control the handle will give him for
this, just enough to -- *there*. One edge pried up, and it
hurts to just drop the Bowie with everything else, but it's
not like he *has* two hands right now.

He pulls off his gauntlet with his teeth and fights back the
urge to see his own hand as too big, too wrong, too --

It's not about that, and it's not about *anything* but the
fact that he can *grab* --

Screaming now, the kid is --

-- and fucking -- fucking *pull*.

Slow. Just. Yeah.

He *will* get the kid checked out. He'll break into Gotham
General and use their damned CAT scan equipment himself,
if he has to. It's just that he can't, right now. It's just --

The wires -- purple and *fucking* green, of course -- come
out easy enough, though, so easy Jason feels everything
he's eaten in the past week try to force its way out
through his sinuses and maybe even his fucking *pores*.
And the kid is screaming, and moaning, and --


Or. Not...

Jason forces himself to tuck the bloody scrap of metal in
a pocket rather than just crushing it between his fingers
and tugs, a little, at the grip the kid still has on his other

"I'm gonna need it back, Black." He can feel the kid's
knees shaking to either side of Jason's thigh, but.

He's solid. Solid enough.

And he lets go.

Jason flexes his hand, winces to himself, and shakes it out.
Nothing broken.

He strokes -- wipes, really -- his good hand down the kid's
back and gives him a little push. Just enough to say that
he's letting go. Then he backs off a step.

The kid's breathing is rapid, but there's no whine anymore.

"Talk to me, Black."

"It's so. Quiet."

Jason closes his eyes and just lets himself stay that way
for a while.

"So... hnn."

"Let's get you field-standard, Black."

The kid braces himself on the wall, and bends his head
forward, and waits.


Having the chip is as good a way as any to avoid trying to
figure out how the kid actually *is* just by staring.

He knows it won't do any good -- he *knows* it. He won't
know *anything* about what he'd done last night until he
can see the kid in action, see him freak or not.

And maybe -- probably -- he's never gonna know. Who's
to say he won't be perfectly solid and normal -- enough --
for six damned months before deciding to napalm
City Hall or something?

Still, the fact that the kid has just been moving around
their place all day without making those creepy laughing
sounds -- the fact that he'd slept, all morning, with only
one damned nightmare...

He can't begrudge himself -- much -- the fact that he's

"You... seriously performed brain surgery on me last

"Technically, only the wires were *in* your brain, kid."

And when they'd finally gotten back here and Jason could
*seriously* disinfect the kid, there'd been the tiniest little
scratches on the kid's skull from where the chip had...

"Anyway, judging by that scar on your forehead, you've
had worse." Kind of.

"Mm. Bruce knocked me against the inside of a subway car

Jason turns the chip over under the microscope and tries
to see it as more than just, well, a *chip*. It's not really
working all that well. "Yeah, he always did like it rough."

"Hnn. No, he was drugged, at the time. Scarecrow."

Jason nods, and -- stops. "*That* was your first time with

"After," the kid says.

And Jason can't. He turns to look, and the kid is right
where Jason expected him to be, half-crouched on the table
beside him, arms...

The arms aren't right. They *should* be resting on the kid's
thighs -- as opposed to kind of wound together between his

"Are you okay?" One day, he's going to be able to ask that
question without feeling like he *should* be getting

"I miss him."

And that would be the other, *other* reason why Jason has
no intention of crossing paths with Bruce, just yet. The kid's
too fucking raw. He makes Jason feel raw just by *being*
there --

"I mean." The kid cocks his head to the side. "It's so quiet

"You." Jason stares at the kid, and stares, and --

"I'm sure I'll get over it, though. After I kill him again."

Well. That's... kind of --

"I miss Bruce, too, of course."

"*Black* --"

The kid doesn't turn so much as let his head swing down
and around until he's facing Jason again. "You're hot when
you're scared of me. Red."

If the kid was anyone else -- and maybe if *Jason* were
anyone else -- there'd be a smirk on the kid's face and
then Jason would kick the shit out of him, and then...

Because it would be a joke. And -- the thing about crazy
people -- honest-to-fucking-God, don't-fuck-with-this crazy
people -- is that it's generally a bad idea to lie to them. In
Jason's experience, anyway.

"I must be the sexiest vigilante on the damned planet,
then, hunh?"

It's also a bad idea to move, unless you're planning to
*move* when they -- just for an example, decide it would
be a good idea to crawl across the table --

-- and Jason pushes the microscope aside --

-- and into your lap.


The kid shrugs, and wraps his arms around Jason's neck.
"You're even hotter when you're not."

This time -- this time Jason's almost *sure* the kid is
asking him to buy it. It's just that this is as much of a lie as
the whole 'it's just a joke' thing.


"It's not the word you mean, right? 'Hotter.'"

Dead-eyed stare. There's so much *black* in the kid's
eyes, and it's not even the goddamned color, not even
("The pupil is, interestingly, simply another aperture in
the body.") the fact that the kid's eyes are telling him --
*telling* him -- that there's a hole where a person should

"Tell me."

"Fuck me."

Jason slides his hands up over the kid's back, feeling every
scar as he goes, feeling -- yes, *fuck* -- the way the kid
*snakes* himself a little, so that he's pressing back against
Jason's hands and *forward* against Jason's crotch.

And the way the kid's mouth falls open just a little --
just --

It had to be fucking *obscene* for Bruce to fuck his
mouth. He's so damned *small* --

But he's not doing this. Not -- not fucking *yet*. He forces
himself to focus on the kid's eyes again and grabs him by
the back of the neck --

"Ow -- *fuck* --"

-- and reaches down between them until he can get hold
of the kid's balls through his boxers. Until he can

"Sonofa*bitch* --"

"Like this *won't* get you off anyway. *Eventually* --"

"Red --"

"*Tim*," he says, deliberate as he can, and watches the
pain-and-fuck haze fade out of the kid's eyes. Yeah. *Yes*.
"Tell. Me."

"It's *better* when you're not scared, okay? *Better*."

"Jesus, Black -- *Tim* --"

"It doesn't..." And Tim's fingers are digging hard into
Jason's shoulders. "It doesn't *fucking* matter that you're
supposed to be scared, that you *should* be scared, that
I'm just like -- just like --"

"You're *not*, Tim, I fucking --"

"It doesn't *matter*, Red! It's just *better* when you
aren't. That's all. That's it. Okay?"

Jason bites the inside of his lower lip. "I --"


There's still just that blade-thin sliver of blue where the
kid's eyes are supposed to be, there's still that fucking
*hole*, and it's still...

"Red, please. I -- I need --"

It's still fucking perfect to finally kiss the kid, to finally do
it the *right* way -- one hand in the kid's hair and the
other *right* on the back of the kid's neck. He's keeping
it there for now, it can fucking *stay* there for now,
because --

Because the kid is moving for both of them, rocking and
grinding and *bucking* against Jason because it's been
too long.

Long enough. Maybe.

He yanks the kid's hair until he tilts his head back, letting
his teeth drag down over the kid's chin until he can get to
his neck.

He wants to do everything Bruce had done to the kid, even
if it's only because trying to *avoid* everything would
just lead to them cuddling some more, and that's...

That's different, and it's not here. It's not *now*, with the
kid's skinny little hips pounding against him until Jason's
not sure if he's glad or *not* that he's going commando
under his jeans. It's better when he bites the kid under the
jaw, when he can get all those fucked-up little Joker-scars
wet and red and something like *alive* again, when the
kid is nothing but human and between Jason's *teeth*.

And it's better than that when the rhythm of the kid's hips
goes ragged -- just that fast, just like *this*.

Someday, he's actually going to *ask* the kid how old he
is, but not right *now*.

There are short little fingernails digging into his shoulders,
*clawing* at his shoulders, and the kid is just --

"Red -- *Red* oh God not yet --"

He bites down *harder* and scratches a little at the kid's
scalp with his fingers, and --

"Oh *fuck*, Red --"

And he can feel the heat of the kid's orgasm between them,
hot and damp against his abdomen, over the waistband of
his jeans. He can *feel* it, and he can feel the bunch and
flex of all the tension in the kid coming just hadn't
*touched* and he wants this to be in a fucking *bed*, and
he doesn't think either of them could handle that, just yet.

There's a part of him which knows they should've just done
this on Dent's floor, or at least on his roof, no matter
*how* fucked they were at the time.

There's a part of him which knows that he's gonna want to
*move* out of this base after they do this, because --

"Red. More. Just --"

"I've got you, Black. I'm gonna give you --"

"*Red* --"

"Everything, I swear, just --"

Hitting the floor knocks the breath out of both of them, but
the kid barely even gasps in another before he's curling his
legs up around Jason's waist. And Jason --

He wants to push them up onto his shoulders and he
wants to roll the kid fucking *over* and --

"Black," he says, and stays as still as he can while those
fucked-up eyes roll back down and *look* at him, into
him, fucking through him -- he shudders.

The kid closes his eyes, and starts to turn.

"I *like* being scared, you stupid little prick," he says, and
getting one fist around the kid's throat is apparently
enough of a surprise to make him loosen his death-grip
on Jason's waist.

And *that's* enough to let him rip the kid's sticky shorts
the fuck out of his way and get a *hand* on him. The kid's
dick is just like any other, hard and soft and sleek and
*hot*, pumping right into his fist every time Jason

"I *like* it, dammit --"

And the kid's mouth falls open again, just -- *open* --

"You're gonna suck me --"

The kid actually tries to *nod*.

"I -- *Black* --"

Come in his fist, come on *him*, and it's a fucking good
thing he's *not* planning on fucking the kid up the ass
right now, because he can actually feel --

He can feel the damned *vibration* of his zipper going
down. He can feel every draft in their whole warehouse
and the feverish -- almost *sick* -- heat of the kid's skin,
of his face when Jason uses his clean hand to get a hold
of his cheek, he can feel the *slickness* of the kid's come
over his own dick --

He can feel --

His back hitting the floor and the kid's nails on his hips,
the kid's fingers, quick and insinuating between his own
on his dick, the kid's hot breath and hotter *tongue* --

"*Do* it, Black --"

And the killing vibration of Black's moan around him --

And the ridges of Black's palate over the head of his dick --

And --

Inside -- so *warm* --

Jason shoves one fist in his own mouth and the other back
into the kid's hair, groaning at the scrape of his teeth and
the unbelievable intensity of the kid's fucking spikes --

Oh, he can feel --

Coming is a knock on the head and fucking white-out and
the kid swallows him down like fucking candy.

And doesn't pull off until Jason yanks.


He's so raw he can't fucking *think* straight --


He's so *raw*.


The makeup is different -- it is every night, now.

Tonight, for no reason Jason could ever fucking dream of
deciphering (he knows), there are angular eyebrows drawn
*over* the kid's mask and a couple of comma-things on
his cheeks. From a distance, if you squinted, it would
probably look like he's smiling.

There's nothing else -- not even any lipstick.

Which is fine.

He hates the taste, anyway.


.As well as once green.