The limits of care
by Te
November 18, 2003

Disclaimers: Not even close to mine.

Spoilers: "A Better World," and vague ones for "Metamorphosis."

Summary: Research is a very important part of life.

Ratings Note: NC-17.

Author's Note: Canon has given us the fact that Batman's kind
of a stalker, that Wally likes to go dancing, and that Wally likes
to go dancing. And with the dancing. Look, we *have* to use
that. It's a law.

Written for yuletide. Merry happy, Rivka! And thank you, shalott,
for getting the ball rolling.

Acknowledgments: To Bas, the Spike, Jack, and Livia for
audiencing. Liv and Jack also had very helpful suggestions.

Feedback: Yes, please.


Batman has spent a long time working to understand the world,
including himself and his place in it.

He knows that many of the people closest to him would find
that surprising, if not absolutely implausible -- and quite a few of
those people have good reasons to feel that way -- but.

He knows himself -- he thinks he knows himself -- about as well
as he can.

There's satisfaction in the fact that he'll almost never trip over
his own ignorance -- unless and until he has to face yet another
version of himself -- and in the fact that the people he spends
the most time with these nights (and days), his *team*, are
not nearly so... aware.

And yet, that isn't the point.

He's not doing this particular and endless form of research for
anything or anyone but himself -- the one in *this* body and
trapped in *this* universe.

The greatest satisfaction in this, as in all things, is in its essential

However, there is more to it now than he ever thought there
would be.

There is the question of Flash, and his own feelings.

Before the other universe, before his other *self*, he had looked
at his attraction with nothing more serious than a sort of rueful
amusement. It was there, and, most probably, it would pass.

He has always been aware of his... weaknesses when it comes to
a certain kind of lithe, male beauty. A certain sort of uncomplicated
joy of life.

He allows Clark his endless uninvited intimacies because it acts as
something like a check. So long as people like Clark (and oh, not
a person, never forget that, never forget) exist, so long as they
remain blithe and blithely optimistic, then the world can't possibly
be as grim as he needs to pretend it is in order to function.

As he needs to *believe* it is, at least on some level.

But people like Clark aren't nearly as rare as they could be, and
while the attraction is there...

It's nothing he can't (and hasn't) rejected.


Batman is quite sure that Clark's attraction to *him* has more to
do with his own ability to act as a check than anything else. It is,
perhaps, hypocritical to dislike that, but not all hypocrisy is wrong,
or even impractical.

And Clark...

It's more than just the discomfort in being a mirror. It's the lack
of self-awareness, the *willful* lack that Batman won't and can't
let himself believe has anything to do with the man's eternal optimism.

Though he won't let himself forget the possibility -- there's far too
much danger in that, and he will never relinquish his supply of

And yet, if anything, Flash is *more* ignorant. By most of the rules
and theories Batman has lived by over the years, that would make
him more dangerous.

More essentially *vulnerable* to the sort of forces that turn a
person -- a *hero* -- wrong.

But Batman has an easier time imagining Tim or Barbara losing
the mission than he does with the idea of *Flash* doing so.

There's a disturbing sort of safety in that, in the idea that nothing
*has* to go wrong if he would just...

He doesn't know whether to be relieved or horrified by the
undeniable *fact* of his attraction, his *desire* for the man live
and in full color. Undeniable, even if he were the sort of person to

So much *power* to it, and Batman wonders if he will ever reach
a point where he will no longer be surprised by the difference
between knowing something intellectually and knowing it in his

The other Batman had wanted Flash, perhaps more than anything
else. Which means that he, *himself* has the capacity for the
same sort of hunger.

The relevant questions:

How far has this attraction progressed, while he was unaware of it?

Is it possible to check it?

Is it *wise* to check it?

And, if not, what is he going to do about it?

Most such questions can be answered with research, or, if not
*answered*, then at least acknowledged and dealt with to the point
where repression is a viable option.

He has, of course, a set of carefully hidden and thorough dossiers
on the League. He knows when Lantern visits his old drill instructor,
and has a good idea of what happens at those times.

He has the coordinates of the patch of Arizona desert which
appears to be Hawkgirl's favorite location to practice with her
powers or, perhaps, just to blow off steam.

His files on Clark are as extensive as he can make them -- and there
is something of a game in that. Clark knows he has them, and is
terribly annoyed and frustrated by their existence. Clark will never,
ever do anything about them. Or even say anything.

Sometimes Batman worries about his more adolescent tendencies, but
really, he thinks that Dick would approve, were they to actually talk
about them. He *knows* Tim would.

The file on Flash is no more or less complete than the others. His name,
a recent photo, his schooling history, a surprisingly small collection of
ex-girlfriends. No ex-boyfriends.

None that he's turned up *yet*.

The process of discovering Wallace (always Wally to friends,
acquaintances, and even a great deal of strangers) West had been,
perhaps, a bit too brief.

After getting enough information to be sure that Flash was no one
but who he said he was, the urgency to study the man had been

There were still the other members of the League, and... it was

Fast, to be sure. Stronger than most.

But utterly lacking in either the kind of power or the kind of ambition --
however banked -- that makes Superman such a terrifying potential

There is a part of Batman that wants to chide for the neglect of his
duties, but intellectually he knows he did no such thing.

Gathering more information about Flash would've been, at the time,

Wanting more information *now* is... perhaps more proof than he
(wants) truly needs.

Still, there is a process to these things. Or rather, there *should* be a
process to them to avoid any amount of awkwardness and simple,
human fuck-ups.

And so he listens as Flash describes the latest dance club of his choice.
As he tries and fails to get Lantern to join him.

He watches from a security camera as they leave the Tower, Flash
lounging with casual comfort in Lantern's force-bubble.

And, after a discreet stretch of time, he follows.


There are times when he wonders about the changes they've all,
together and separately, wrought on the world.

There are looks of surprise when Batman lands the Javelin on the
invitingly flat roof of a Central City skyscraper, but no one does
more than wave.

Should he decide to wait here for longer than it will take to secure the
ship, he will undoubtedly be able to watch couples, and perhaps
even a few families -- it's not that late -- arrange themselves beside
the Javelin for pictures.

He doubts that would happen if he stayed somewhere he could be
*seen*, but the possibility is there: Central City is not Gotham.

And the people in this universe fear him no more than they should.

Something to remember, perhaps.

Something to hold on to, against the irritation of finger-print
smudges on the plane's finish.

He doesn't stay.

He has a name, and a vague impression of the place being near the

He goes, surprising nothing more ominous than a clutch of dozing
pigeons, and setting his hooks on bricks and man-made out-croppings
that would be embarrassed by the very presence of Gotham-style


He doesn't particularly care for having meta-humans within Gotham,
even those with whom he works. The necessity will undoubtedly
arise one day, and Batman will do his best to push that day back as
far as possible.


He wonders what they would see in Gotham. If they would find the
darkness oppressive, and the smells and noise offensive.

He smiles to himself, just a little.

There is an image in his mind of a more-manic-than-usual Flash
zipping around the parks and the alleyways, gathering litter for
proper disposal.

It's rather nonsensical, but surprisingly easy to *believe*.

If Flash were bored enough, or if, perhaps, Diana made some
comment about cleanliness... It could happen.

He hopes he would be there if it did, if only just to watch the man in

And no, there is no denying his attraction. The smile fades from his
face as he heads to the southwestern part of the city.

There is still some chance that it's mild, that his *other's* was built
more on loss and grief of the sort he hasn't yet known than
anything else.

Questions to answer.

He swings high, lets go, and lands on the warehouse roof. Dust
puffs up under his heels.

It hasn't rained here in several days.

The sky-light is even more neglected, impossible to see through.
There's a terrible creak when he eases one panel open, even with the
addition of lubricant to the hinges.

But, when he looks through...

He's looking down at a catwalk that's been just as ignored as
everything else up here. Beyond and below are a crowd of dancers,
and the music blasts its way out like a hot, damp wind.

Batman jumps down and in, noting the creak and swing of the catwalk
half-absently. It's sturdy enough for tonight, and for his purposes,
but... there is an inescapable image in his mind of some particularly
bass-heavy song shaking the whole thing loose.

Tomorrow morning, Bruce will instruct one of his more discreet
companies to purchase the building. Repairs will be made.

He moves to the edge, and takes out his binoculars.

Adjusts them to their second-mildest setting, and it takes less than a
minute to find Flash among all the others.


He's not quite in the center of things, and he's not moving there,

He is nothing but himself, in a way he doesn't think even John can
manage without the suit. Clark certainly can't.

There is nothing in his mode of dress to make a spectacle of him --
and part of him is surprised by that. Wally is wearing faded jeans
just on the edge of tightness. He's wearing a plain, white

The ubiquitous flashing lights shine redly on a handsome face
shiny with sweat, and paint a deeper shade of crimson into the
red hair. Into the sparse, curling hairs under his arms when he
raises them.

He looks even younger than he acts. Or... older in a way that
has nothing to do with the physical.

He dances like it's never occurred to him that people spend
time and effort learning *how*.

He smiles, smiles endlessly, moving with a grace that appears
entirely accidental, and that never actually lasts very long
before devolving into cheerful -- *abandoned* -- ridiculousness.

Batman believes Tim refers to that particular dance as
"The Fountain."

He feels himself smiling, and it feels... hard on his face. Wet,
somehow, and inescapable. He does not want to look away.

Wally is, of course, tireless. Partners come and go and come
again, all women -- though Batman has his suspicions about the
tall redhead in green. Wally doesn't stop, *never* stops,
dancing his way to the bar for bottled water and spilling a large
amount of it all over his t-shirt as he dances back.

The lights make careful study difficult, but there are cues. The
barest outline beneath the wet shirt suggests a hardened nipple.
The shine of sweat suggests a flush. The smile is no more and
no less than what Batman is accustomed to from the months
of their... acquaintance.

Batman hasn't come to any conclusions. A part of his mind
tries to remind him that extensive research is always a good
idea, if not always, precisely, necessary, but it's the same part
that tried to give Batman reasons for watching Dick long after
the boy was grown and strong and as safe as he could be.

Not a trustworthy part.

Not a part worth much of anything, as far as Batman can tell.

Except, of course, for the way its terminal obviousness allows
the rest of his mind to clamor for reason.

He grits his teeth.

He should leave.

But... the music is slower, now. Still nothing Bruce would willingly
dance to (except for with Selina, oh Selina... no.) , and *Wally*
tries to leave the floor.

Still smiling, even when a tall, dark woman with glittery streaks on
her face like war paint catches him by the shoulders and spins him
back around. He can't make out her expression, and certainly
not whatever it is that she's saying, but it... stops Wally in his

He seems... uncomfortable isn't the word, or at least not the only
word, and in any event, it doesn't last.

He lets the woman lead him into a slow, upright grind, and
there's a very visible moment where Wally... stops.
Still moving, but no longer... playing?

There's a new and fascinating liquidity to his movement (when he
makes love) and when the woman throws her head back, Wally

Not all the way, but the woman pushes a hand into his hair and
tugs him down. When they turn, Batman can see Wally press a
kiss to the woman's neck that must be so *gentle*, even with the
motion of his hips, even with the way his arms are tight around
the woman's waist.

And this, certainly, is something he didn't know before. But it's
also something that... Batman knows himself. And some
knowledge, some *images* are far more difficult than others to
forget, or even to set aside to the parts of his mind reserved for
the unimportant.

His hand wants to move, wants to trace *that* part of his cowl,
where Wally's mouth would be pressed if he were the one...

Batman forces his eyes closed.


And the music changes again. Even slower, even more... explicit.
No lyrics necessary, and Batman can appreciate the musicians in
question recognizing that fact. It's all bass and percussion and
heat far beyond the limits of mere innuendo. He opens his eyes.

The woman still has her hand in Wally's hair. His hips move in small,
tight, *light* circles, and Batman wonders how much he knows
about what he's doing. He can see the woman, and the way she's
moving, the way she's *offering*. She would not mind less subtlety,
less care. He wonders if Wally's politeness (caution?) makes it
better for her. More... maddening.

Batman breathes, half-absently. He thinks he should be able to
smell it, the arousal between them a taste in the air. All he can
smell is sweat, dust, and several varieties of spilled alcohol.

And there's a man moving up behind Flash.

Not at all menacing, and almost certainly drunk. Just... happy.
Mindlessly, easily sexual.

The man looks too much like Dick for comfort, and Batman allows
himself long moments to catalog the differences for the sake of his
own sanity. The jaw is too strong, the hair isn't long enough. The
muscles, obvious beneath the man's own tight shirt, are the sort
that owe more to the gym than to actual effort.

Not Dick.

When he comes back to himself, the man and the woman have
Wally pressed firmly between them.

There's something like the end of a laugh on Wally's face, and it
fades into something just a little darker as he turns away from the
man and back to the woman.

Her hands are hidden between Wally's back and the other man's

His hands are hidden between Wally's belly and her breasts.

And... it's hard to read Wally's expressions, but he doesn't think
the man can lie with his body.

Their thighs are tangling, and every hint of grace the man had
ever showed is here, in this moment.

He moves like sex is something inevitable, and necessary for life.

His mouth is open, but he doesn't seem to be saying anything at

The woman leans in to whisper in Wally's ear, and something she
says makes him stop. Both she and the other man continue to
move, continue to *touch*, but Wally is still.

Batman can feel the moment stretch like a hot, thin wire in his belly,
and the plastic of his binoculars creaks in his grip.

But then Wally laughs and pushes back against the man -- perhaps
just a little too hard for humanity.

Walks at normal speed until he's off the dance floor, and his exit
from there is too fast to see.

Batman is moving before he can entirely think about his actions,
even though there is nothing in him that feels a fight coming on.

He rappels down from the roof and has just enough time to wonder
if the man had run home, and if he would follow him, when a
sharp, shaky exhale catches his attention from the alley.

Batman moves in from the back, and there he is.

His hands are braced against at shoulder-height, his forehead
bumping -- lightly -- against the wall.

"Well, *that* was pretty much the opposite of all things smooth."

He's clearly speaking to himself.

There's something about this, this moment, that gives Batman a
twinge of *private*, the way most things just don't. He tends to
treasure those feelings, but Wally...

Reaches down.

Adjusts himself in his jeans.

Groans aloud.

And he can *feel* it, the relief and frustration of it. He doesn't know
how long he's been hard, and the uniform is designed for
concealment, not comfort.

He can feel himself biting his lip in the same absent, unimportant way
that he can feel himself moving closer.

Reaching out.

The first touch of Wally's erection through his jeans makes Batman
bite down so hard he can taste blood. The *heat* of it, and --

"Whoa, hey! Not-with-strangers, remember?"

Batman inhales sharply and leans in close enough to see the dark
smear of lipstick on Wally's ear. "I'm not a stranger."

And Wally gasps, jerks all over. Gets harder.

"Batman... is that --"

"*Yes*." And he isn't sure how he managed words, and he knows
he's had no time whatsoever to modulate his tone, no *control*,

It's terrifying. He knew so little.

He knew *nothing*.

But Wally's shudder is nothing like 'no,' and Wally's hand covers his


"You. I... Batman -- *God* --"

He tugs Wally's head back and kisses him hard. *Takes* a kiss, and
there's a ghost of salt in the taste of his mouth, but mostly it's just

Open and awkward and messy and Wally's hips are pushing against
his hand, urging him on.

A fleeting moment to remember that Wally's suit has a turtleneck,
and Batman... surrenders.

Slides his bitten lips all over Wally's throat and sucks when he
shudders. Bites when he shoves himself hard against him.

"Fuck. *Fuck*, you have to --"

He works Wally's jeans open, brushing aside the man's ineffectual help,
and takes him in hand. Long, thick, soft-over-hard in that same
quiet miracle of biology. Harder as he strokes.

"Batman, fuck --" And Wally's head slams down against his shoulder,
body a lithe arch of absolute trust and desire. Batman can't stop
himself from pulling the man's hips back against his own and doesn't

Wally's ass feels even better than it looks, all muscle and generous
curve, and Wally's cock slicks his fist with pre-come and thrusts,

"Didn't know I didn't... oh please *faster* --"

Batman slides his free hand over Wally's chest, shirt damp with
sweat and water, and Batman wants his gloves off for this.

Wants to *feel* it, and just the thought of what it would be like,
what it *could* be like --

"I want you," he says, and there's no time to curse himself for the
obviousness, because Wally makes a noise somewhere between a
laugh and a moan and clutches at the arm around his chest.

His grip is hard and implacable. "Yeah, I. God please..."

Batman strokes faster, sliding his thumb in quick little circles around
the leaking tip, and Wally shakes in his arms and doesn't let go.

"Oh. Oh you're gonna make me come..."

Batman thrusts hard and *squeezes*, and Wally groans much,
much too loud for an alley.

And comes all over his fist and the wall.

His breaths are too long, too *low* to be classified as panting, and
he shakes with nothing like fear, or even exhaustion.

Pure, raw energy.

In his hands.

And Batman knows he should leave, let go, *something*. Or... the
truth is he doesn't know *what* he should do. There is want, and
there is hunger, and there is a ball-crawling sensation of the ground
falling out from beneath him that is powerless against his lust.

"Mmph. Batman. Jesus..."

And Wally pulls out of his grasp with easy carelessness. Buttons his
jeans and turns around, leaning against the wall and... smiling.

"You're not going to actually tell me what brought this on, are you?"

Even in the shadows, Wally is something bright, vivid and human
and inescapable. He brushes the hair out of his face with absent
grace, and Batman doesn't know what to say. "I..."

"Yeah, why am I even asking?"

And then there are hands on his shoulders, and Wally pulls him in
for a kiss, messy and wet and --

"Hey, you *do* kiss, right? Like... after --"

Batman buries his hands in Wally's hair and kisses him *hard*. And
it's difficult to keep the kiss neat -- Wally *moves* -- and then it's
simply impossible.

There's a part of his mind that's working very hard to get a handle
on the *feel* of it: Wally's tongue tracing the edges of the cowl,
Wally's hands squeezing his shoulders, Wally's mouth playing a slick
and easy game of tag with his own.

But most of him...

God, he can lose himself in this.

Nothing remotely neat, nothing *controlled*, and if there's a part of
him keeping an eye on the mouth of the alley, then he can only be

"God, you..." But Wally doesn't finish the thought.

Slips his hands under the cape and pulls them both off-balance, and
Wally hits the wall hard, but doesn't stop kissing. Doesn't stop

And a part of him wonders about the dancing, if this is what it took
to make Wally lose control, but...

Control is rapidly becoming irrelevant.

Batman pulls back just enough to bury his face against Wally's
throat and sucks a hard kiss over his pulse point.

"Oh. Oh *yeah* --"

And Wally is almost *clawing* at him, tugging at the uniform and
pushing his throat against Batman's face, and he *knows* it has to
hurt. Wally isn't Clark, there are limits, but.

He tastes like sweat and he moves like...

So *raw*.

Batman grabs Wally's arms, and feels their *bareness* even through
the gloves, and it should be ridiculous -- he knew what Wally was and
wasn't wearing -- but he can't keep himself from squeezing, pushing,

"Oh my *God*, Batman. Just... oh God are you gonna fuck me?"

Something like breaking, like the shattering of a champagne flute
viewed from beyond soundproofed glass. He hears himself growl, and
Wally's hands are on the cowl, slipping over the material that
Waynetech will never actually market, fingers stroking up the points
of his ears.

"You are so fucking *sexy*, man, and I really want to get you naked,
get this fucking *mask* off, but..." A kiss, hard and hungry and
quick. "I don't wanna wait."

Hands squeezing his ass, sliding around to cup him through the tights,
and Batman has no *words* for this.

And he doesn't try to pretend he does.

Spins Wally back around until he's braced against the wall and tugs
the jeans back down again, down *more*, until he can stroke the
man's ass and -- gloves.

He pulls them off with his teeth, and almost, *almost* loses the
sound of Wally's gasp under the sound of his own.

"Fuck. *Fuck* --"

There's a light dusting of hair, almost downy, almost meaningless
against the feel of hot skin and hard muscle.

Batman licks the back of Wally's neck.

Does it again when the man shudders and slides his thumb into the
cleft of his ass, and Wally makes a wordless *noise*, open and loud
and needy and Batman can't decide whether he wants to cover his
mouth or...

Make him do it again.

"Christ, do you even have. Uh..."

He can't help but smile. There are benefits to being... practical.

It's hard to slick his fingers with one hand, but he doesn't want to
let go. He doesn't think he *can*.

Wally's laughing and pushing back against him, jerking at the cool
touch of the lubricant and Batman accidentally swipes a streak
over the meat of his ass.

"You're... the best boy scout *ever*."

And this time he has to laugh with Wally, has to slide *in*, and he
meant to start with one finger, but two makes Wally...

He doesn't stop laughing, just moans and *writhes* through it,
fucking himself back on Batman's fingers once, again, then too fast
to separate individual motions.

Batman squeezes Wally's hip *hard*, but it's not to hold him still.

He wants to *feel* this, every second. He wants --

"Come on... oh fuck come *on* --"

Batman bites down on Wally's shoulder, tasting cotton and skin,
and takes himself out. His own touch is maddening, frustrating, and
there's a point where a part of him is sure *not* being inside Wally is
the most painful torture imaginable.

There is no ground beneath him.

And he thrusts his way *in*, sharp little pushes that force helpless
little grunts out of Wally, that make his eyes want to roll back in his

He won't let them.

Control is...

Control is being able to *see* this, even while the feel is burning him
to ash.

So tight, and inhumanly *hot*, and not slick enough, but Wally
snakes one hand back to Batman's hip and *yanks* him in.

"Oh *fuck*."

And Batman can't hold back a groan and barely remembers to try.

"I can feel. Oh man I can feel your *cape* --"

A glance and he can see the thing moving, shifting to brush against
Wally's spread legs. Slide over his bare hip.


He wants to hold Wally's hips. He wants to touch -- God,
everywhere -- but.

There are ways to do things. Even this.

He tugs Wally's hand off his hip and places it back against the wall.

Covers Wally's hands with his own and leans *in*.

The cape covers everything, hides Wally from view. Everything but
the back of his head and the sides of his sweat-flushed face when he
shakes his head.

Negation and encouragement.


"Unh. Yeah, just... fuck, *move*." Hands curling into fists beneath
Batman's own and he can't hold back any longer, can't even consider

Pulls out until just the head of his cock is snugged within Wally and
*drives* back in, forcing Wally onto his toes --

"*Fuck* --"

And then out again, and he can't decide if it's the friction or the heat
or the *closeness*, intimacy that has no place in sex, and he wants
to laugh at himself for that and he wants to *hold* Wally to him and
he wants *more*. "Bend. Bend your knees."

Wally does without a moment's hesitation, crying out at the new
angle and slamming back against him. "You feel -- Batman --"

"Yes." And it's almost *hissed*, and no, he could never ask Wally to
be quiet. He has to hear everything. "Wally... *talk* --"

Half-broken giggle. "Jesus Christ, what do you want me to --"

Batman lets his hips *move*, and it's the kind of snap and roll that
his body doesn't ever want to end.

"Oh fuck. Fuck, how do you know my *name*?"

"I followed you. Watched you."

"Fucking *stalker* don't stop --"

"Can't --"

"God, *faster* --"

And Batman squeezes Wally's hands hard, too hard, and obeys.

"So good --"

*Heat* --

"Hard -- fuck -- I'm hard again --"

Sweat and skin, so much *skin* --

"Oh *God* --"

Batman bites down hard, thrusting in one last time and coming.

"Jesus. You --"

Slips out, automatically hiding a stagger and biting his lip again at the
sound Wally makes.

Spins him around.

Drops to his knees and swallows him, mind flaring at the taste and
dissolving at the feel. He wants to choke himself on this, wants to lose
his breath and his caution and everything else, but Wally's hands are
on the cowl again --

"I can't believe I'm holding your *ears* --"

And it's too much not to make this good, not to make Wally moan
and *fuck* his way into his throat.

"I can't -- ah -- I can't --"

Batman looks up and he knows Wally can *feel* him looking, even
with the mask.


And then Wally throws his head back and *jerks*, coming again
and yelling at the sky.

Batman doesn't want to move.

Wally strokes a shaky hand over his face. Under his chin.

"Get... come on, get up."

And they're eye to eye, Wally searching his face for...

He doesn't know what.

Kissing is easier, even rumpled and itching with the need for *more*.

Wally bites his lip. Sucks on it.

Pushes him back.

"Come back to my place."

Batman blinks.

"Don't say no."

"All right."

And Wally's smile is something between sly and rueful. "Don't worry. I
won't make you talk."

There's a voice in his head wondering what happens if he *wants* to.

There's a voice in his head screaming and screaming, incoherent with

Control is something to be treasured.

Adaptability is, perhaps, something far greater.

He doesn't feel weak at all.