Neither stars nor gods
by Te
July 1, 2007

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Many, many references to multiple
older storylines. Takes place not long after Tim's
sixteenth birthday.

Summary: This is who he is.

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content which does and
does not dovetail with the content some readers may
find to be disturbing.

Author's Note: An attempt to write something World's
Finest-esque which got decidedly away from me.

Acknowledgments: Much love to Katarik and Pixie, who
stayed with me for the long haul and helped to make
this much, much better than it would have been.


The weapons might as well have 'property of Intergang'
stamped on them, which suggests any number of
problematic things -- considering that this is a warehouse in
*Gotham* -- but also suggests that he and Batman will have
company soon.

For now...

Well, Batman hasn't given any counter-orders, so there's
absolutely no reason Tim can see for not... familiarizing
himself with at least a few of them. For instance:

On first look, this green-highlighted number is a simple
grenade launcher. However, the bore is far more reminiscent
of shoulder-mounted *missile* launchers. It's far too short
for it, but the weapons technology developed on Apokolips --
once *this* part is resting on his shoulder, something
immediately begins to detach from the thing --

A sight.

A sight which is currently letting him see some of the 'weld'
seams on Batman's cowl (to the sight's *periphery*, of
course -- he's not reckless), as well as the precise shifts of
Batman's expression.

"Knowledge is power," Tim says, not bothering with a
pretense of virtue.


"I don't suppose you have any thoughts as to where the
ammo for this thing is packed...?"

"Try not to become too attached," Batman says, shutting
another promising-looking crate and tapping his comm.
"Superman. You're needed."

And the reason why he didn't just call -- quietly, even -- will

No, it's not a mystery. Tim fiddles with the sight and --
watches Superman slow for a landing. He can restrain
himself from whistling at the thing's X-ray capabilities, but
it's a near thing.

"Yes, Robin...?"

Near enough for Batman to see it written all over him. "X-
ray," Tim says, and turns to face him. "We're taking at least
one of these home."

"Is it your birthday, already?"

It's -- *less* of a near thing to repress a shudder for that.
Company has, after all, arrived. Tim lowers the thing to his
side, lets himself wonder -- a little -- about recoil, and nods
to Superman. Clark.

"I was planning to ask why you called me, of course, but -- I
believe I'm familiar with that weapon type."

Batman grunts. "Gotham doesn't need this sort of problem."

"Certainly not," Clark says, and a brief stiffness in his posture
suggests -- gently -- a certain variety of polite
embarrassment: shameful for Metropolis' problems to
*sprawl* so. Once that's settled, he raises his eyebrows in a
request which is, unfortunately, far too clear to ignore. Tim
hands over his new friend. Clark is courteous enough to
spend a second or two scanning it at something resembling
human speed before his eyes start to glow --

Tim clears his throat.


"Robin," Batman says, "would like the opportunity to study
that particular weapon at his leisure," and Batman really
could at least *try* to sound slightly less amused.

Tim folds his arms under his cape. "Though I certainly
understand your distaste, assuming *we* were correct to
assume Apokoliptian origin...?"

"Ah -- yes," Clark says, and hands it back. "You can tell --
once you get it back to the Cave -- there are several distinct
microscopic marks which detail both area of manufacture and
'brand.' If I may ask... the other weapons?"

"Gotham doesn't have the infrastructure, Superman. We'd
like to get these to the SCU as soon as possible," Batman

The nod is slow. Everything else --

The warehouse is empty in seconds, which isn't the
impressive thing. The *impressive* thing is that neither his
nor Batman's cape flutter any more than they would if there
was a moderate breeze off the river. There is, of course, no
breeze --

Clark returns with a smile and a -- mildly -- showy brushing
of hands.

Tim doesn't have to use the weapon's sight to know that
Batman's expression is showing the beginnings of one of his
less important glowers. This is just one of the things which
solidifies their partnership. In any event, the fact that
Batman hasn't said anything else means that it's time for --
a different sort of training than the kind they still regularly
engage in at the Cave.

Because Tim is *six*teen, of course.

He smiles at Clark (for Batman), and shifts obviously --

"Yes, Robin?"

"We were planning to spend the evening tracking the source
or sources of these weapons as well as their planned
recipients. After that -- there will almost certainly be several
discrete acts of violence," Tim says, and Batman is looking
at him, but really --

"Ah. I... see?"

If Batman wanted him to do this differently, he really
should've specified. "Perhaps you'd care to join us,

Clark is tempted -- very obviously so -- to look *to* Batman.
Possibly to Bruce. Which... no, not right now.

"We would certainly appreciate it," Tim says, and tilts his
chin at an angle he's learned tends to make most of the
individuals in his acquaintance try to meet his eyes.

"It would be my pleasure, Robin."

Clark, of course, has no trouble doing just that. Tim nods
once more and turns for the door. The weapon stows
comfortably in the trunk of the car, and the fact that Bruce
is well-aware that Tim *wants* to pat it is -- reason enough
to indulge himself. Briefly.

"If you had ideas on where to start searching...?"

Clark's hand on his shoulder is proof enough that the
question is for him. Whether or not he's aware of *why*
Tim's taking point (would 'how' be a better question?), he's
experienced enough at working with all of them to leave
whatever questions he has for a better time.

Not that Batman would merit a touch in this situation. It's
just that *Clark* wouldn't merit this sort of smile -- unless
Tim's place were taken by Dick, of course.

It is -- all of it -- Batman's choice, and so Tim doesn't bother
to sharpen his smile by brushing Clark's hands away. "West
Side. Batman and I have been watching this particular
warehouse for long enough to be as sure as we can be that
it's the property -- however unofficially -- of the Burnley
Town Massive."

Behind Clark and to his left -- and just within Tim's
peripheral vision -- Batman's cape flaps in a way which
could be read as meaningless on a night with more wind.

And if he wasn't, also, Bruce.


Taking point does not, in fact, mean ignoring practicalities.
The best, most subtle -- and working with Superman does
make that sort of thing even more of a necessity than
usual -- vantage point to this particular building happens to
be one of Gotham's more picturesque gargoyles.

The thing arches narrowly, artistically, and beautifully -- in
its way -- out over the street ten stories below. It all but
screams for Batman to blend his shadows with its own,
Clark can hover, and Tim -- it's not that he can't see.

It's just that he can see better once Clark lowers one arm at
Tim's tap and Tim climbs -- on.

They've done this precisely once before, but Tim's
reasonably sure that Clark had done it with either Dick or
Jason. There is a difference between Clark's precise -- and
intimidating -- strength and control and that strength and
control applied to a Robin's need to... perch.

Some other time, he's going to ask Clark how long he can
comfortably keep two distinct muscle groups paralyzed
enough to provide the 'give' which is letting Tim remain far
more comfortable than he would be if he were on the
gargoyle. There is, of course, no sign of strain.

"There are no other buildings within a square mile which
have any areas lined with -- pure -- lead."

Alloys in bank vaults, of course. Tim nods and continues
mapping potential flight paths. They're a bit too far away to
make it anything short of potentially suicidal to have Clark
simply *throw* him there from here. Still -- it would be
something to experience.

Some other time.

"How large is the lead-lined area...?"

"Approximately fourteen by eighteen feet. A small meeting
area, perhaps."

Batman's cape flaps -- unnecessarily. Tim already knows
this protocol. "We have no way to be sure whether other
shipments have arrived. This could be storage."

"Of course," Clark says, nodding for him. "And --"

"It's also large enough for a boom tube, though not by
much...?" If Batman wants them to cover all potentialities,
then that is what Batman will *get*, even if it means
treating their guest like an idiot.

Clark's frown is... Clark has barely *enough* control over
his emotions when it comes to matters revolving around
Apokolips, which is both understandable and disturbing.
Tim would've waited -- thought and investigated more --
before calling him in.

Batman either wants him to see that particular imperfection
of Clark's up close, remember that Clark loses no appreciable
amount of control over his *powers* when... roused, or
something else, entirely.

Chances are, there will be no way to be sure until this
mission is completed -- if then.

"Sooner or later, someone is going to find a way to mask
lead-lining more effectively," Clark says, quietly and with
feeling. "Already there are certain sophisticated
holograms --"

"Boom tube," Bruce says before Clark can, yanking his ear
piece and almost certainly wincing behind the cowl.

"Hearing loss?"

"Between ten and fifteen percent," Bruce says, and the
grimace tells Tim that the pain may be affecting his

"S, are you --"

"Two individuals, species --" Clark shakes his head. "Both of
them are moving on two limbs. My JLA translator is being
effectively jammed."

"Too much E-M," Tim says, and trusts Clark to know that he
has his reasons for stating the obvious. "All right, we'll go in
together. B is on backup until he's absolutely sure he can
be -- of service," Tim says, and leaps.

His comm picks up Clark's moment of stammer, but the fact
of the matter is that the hesitation has passed within Clark's
mind almost certainly before Tim had perceived it. The safety
of his subjective time.

Tim feels horribly exposed once he's on the roof, but he
still needs to spare a moment for a prayer to the gods of
electronic equipment that he'd shut down everything quickly
enough to spare it being burned.

Everyone in this neighborhood, just about, has to be feeling
that jammer in one way or another, and, in the end --

That's enough.

If these were amateurs, he could trust that they just weren't
thinking ahead, that it was a *mistake* to blow all of their
carefully-crafted subtlety. However, they're the Massive, and
Intergang doesn't recruit amateurs. They've brought their
heavy-hitters, and the question of whether or not he should
be *here*, *directing* Superman to punch through the
roof and then directing him to stay back --

It's moot when he flies, when he scans -- the vibrating
Geiger counter on his belt is still, but there's no telling how
much lead is in this place. Best not to let *anyone* get to
anything that looks like it could hold anything more
dangerous than guns.

The lasers are, of course, faster than bullets, but a weapon
is only as good as its wielder. He's been dodging -- and
directing -- crossfires for years. Either none of *these*
weapons are especially exciting or the 'bangers haven't
been playing with them extensively --

The heavy-hitters put the emphasis on heavy, as the lead
barriers come down half-crumpled -- no, melted.

Down is still best -- for him -- and Tim has no problem
scuttling for his life, especially since once he gets his hands
on *one* of the laser-rifles, the others melt very nicely,

Tim has never been very comfortable with projectile
weapons, but a) this doesn't count, and b) his inner ten year
old is, frankly, having a -- blast.

Right up until the ugly with wings -- gold, faintly metallic --
fails to burn or even get a little melt-y. Still no buzz from his
Geiger, glowing orange eyes which make him wonder,
desperately randomly, what Bart's doing tonight --

"Superman, now, please --"

Of course, he doesn't have time to get all of that out, which
is fine, as his diction tends to suffer when people try to set
him on fire with their eyes. He'll have to warn Clark about
that sometime. Kon won't believe him until the situation
comes up --

There are still 'bangers to deal with, though at this point
none of them seem especially --

"Robin, *down* --"

Down, and there's no reason to look back -- even beyond
the flat, blade-like beam of *something* which comes very
close to giving him a terrible haircut. If Clark *can't* handle
it (both of the its), they're hamburger. As it is, the beam
cuts through the couch like brie, and turns the tracksuit of
one of the remaining 'bangers into rags.

Correction: bloody rags containing a man screaming hoarsely
enough, *quietly* enough, to indicate either shock or
incipient fatality.

This, of course, means that there's no time to spare being
gentle with the others. A part of him thinks of the next few
minutes as 'Shiva-work,' because of the simultaneous urge
to thank Bruce for every ounce of armoring in his gauntlets
and to hate him, a little, for not giving him something
sleeker and easier to use to inflict this sort of precision

Three strikes and he's done -- because he can't risk using
a fourth on the bleeding man, gun or no gun. His kick has
to do, and there's no one to stop him from finding the
crunch of the man's fingers ultimately unsatisfying.

The wound is neat, huge -- too huge. If he's not mistaken,
he's smelling the man's *liver*, among other things. It's less
than pleasant, and this man is going to die, short of a

Tim thumbs the macro on his palm-top which will call the
EMTs -- and remembers that the thing is down. Can't trust
Bruce's own --

Tim exposes himself enough to drag half of the couch over
as something like a barrier -- Clark is giving... *something*
a sunburn while also being shaken like a rag-doll.
*Precision* --

Tim applies pressure to the wound with one hand, one knee,
and one pillow -- *gently* -- and uses his radio to call it in
with the standard hostage caution. This may not be
Metropolis, but the EMTs will know to *stop* at the sight of
lasers and explosions coming out of the building and wait
for the all-clear.

In the meantime...

Better bandaging? Emergency stitches? The man's gone grey
beneath his complexion, and has given up screaming for
whispering, or perhaps prayer. The pillow is starting to...
squish. If Clark can't finish things up fast, this man is dead.

A failure, on a number of levels.

There was no sign of the jammer, but he can hope that
turning on his comm won't just burn it. He -- there's no real
choice. "B, now."

He still perceives the sound of the cape for this particular
kind of entrance as more of an absence than anything else,
but it's a welcome one. There's a shrill sound which means
Batman had started the explosive 'rangs charging before he
finished his flight, and Tim covers his head and the 'banger's
with the cape, opens his mouth --

And manages not to reel when the blasts go off, one-two-
three, and he can't help but feel that the scream beneath
him is a good sign -- for someone.

The couch is blocking his view of events, but the protocol
for this is clear: the victim comes first. Tim waits --

And waits --

It's taking too long, and it's another kind of good sign that
he's getting scared for this man -- this stranger who'd made
some seriously bad choices -- but it still feels like an eternity
before Clark is lifting him off by the back of the cape --
gentle but *quickly* -- and flying off with the man.

Tim stands, pops his ears again, checks to make sure that
Batman is as optimal as he can be -- he's checking the
vitals on the other downed 'bangers -- nods to himself and
for himself, and does his own flying.

He can hear Batman shooting his own grapple behind him.

They don't say a word until they reach the second-closest
r-point, and then --


Tim cocks his head. "If it hadn't been a boom tube, I
would've waited to get a better feel for the surroundings
and situation. Instead, the preemptive strike was necessary.
The Slab will have two new inhabitants. That victim wouldn't
have been wounded without our attack. Overall: problematic,
but workable."

Batman is silent for a long moment, very clearly testing his
certainty -- "Are you sure?"

-- and very clearly pleased with Tim's performance. "One
could hope Intergang will think more seriously about...
invasion, next time. Especially once it becomes clear that
their weapons investment is lost."

"Mm. How sure are you that we've *found* the whole of
their stash?"

Tim spreads his hands. "We know, now, that their lead-lining
protocol doesn't stand solely for Metropolis. There are no
other lead-lined buildings in Gotham."

"Which Superman has discovered."

"He had more than enough time -- and reason -- to report it
if he'd found any."

"Trusting," Batman says, pulling an energy bar from his
pocket and breaking half off for Tim.

"Generous to a fault," Tim says, and eats. "Your metabolism
simply isn't that much slower than my own, B."

The grunt is quietly non-committal.

"Anything else?"

"Should I truly be asking, at this late date, about your
emotional status, Robin...?"

He had done everything -- everything -- correctly. The fact
that Tim is absolutely sure that Batman -- Bruce? -- has
something else to say *remains* -- but Tim doesn't need
his perimeter alarms -- online and apparently functional
once more -- to let him know that Clark is approaching.

There's no place in or above Gotham where Clark wouldn't
appear utterly unsubtle.

The fact that attempting to shield a conversation from
Clark's hearing is pointless pretty much everywhere on the
planet save for the ocean floor -- and even then, the
question has simply not been fully researched, as near as
Tim can tell -- doesn't change the protocol which has
served them -- all of them -- well.

And --

There is some question, now, as to whether this particular
exercise is over, but he can't really -- no.

He doesn't *want* to stop himself from stepping slightly in
front of Bruce, and he won't stop himself from offering his
hand. This is, after all, primarily about just how *he*
handles being the ranking Bat on the scene.

"Superman," he says, "thank you."

"You're quite welcome, of course," Clark says, and clasps
Tim's forearm. "I brought the young man to Mercy General,
as I recall they have the best emergency services division
in the city...?"

Tim nods, and gives himself leave to squeeze Clark's forearm
in what could -- by some -- be considered unnecessary both
in terms of confirmation and overall message. "Was there
any word on his condition?"

Clark frowns, and his own squeeze seems restless, if not at
all perfunctory. "I'm afraid not. I -- it's clear that you did
everything in your power --"

"I'm aware of that, Superman. As you're aware that such
things rarely help," Tim says, and smiles ruefully.

Clark seems...

Well, in all honesty, he and Batman haven't been making
things especially easy on him, or even really fair. On top of
everything else, this night has been a test to see just how
much attention Clark has been paying to Gotham, and to
the two of them. 

Why use 'fortuitous' circumstances to test one person when
you can use them to test two? This, perhaps, is precisely
what Batman would be thinking, whether or not he ever
felt the need to say it. For himself, it's -- far more than
enough that Clark seems a bit stunned.

There's no good reason to let it stand, and the fact that now
isn't the time for further discussion or explanation --

"Superman, both Batman and I -- and you, I imagine -- have
a lot of work to do --"

"Ah, of course," Clark says, and starts to pull away from
their arm-clasp.

Tim doesn't let him, because 'now' is, at best, tangential to

"T-- Robin?"

"It occurred to me that I haven't yet taken you up on your
offer to visit Metropolis. Perhaps I can get back to you,
sometime, with my schedule?" It's gratifying to see
everything which suggests 'stunned' fade under something
else entirely --

"I'd like that very much. We could -- I'd enjoy speaking with
you, Robin."

"I'll try to be entertaining," he says, and lets Clark go with a

Clark's own nod seems -- irrelevant, at best, when measured
against the expression in his eyes. He goes, and the fact that
Batman has, of course, observed every moment of the
exchange says nothing at all about the *feel* of the
observation once Clark is out of visual range.

Tim looks back at Batman from over his shoulder. Everything
about Tim's body-language is as clear as he can make it --
Bruce wouldn't need Cass' abilities to know that Tim is

Or to know when he stops. Still, Tim can keep his eye-roll
internal. "Was there anywhere in particular you wanted me
to focus tonight, Batman?"

"No," Bruce says. "Though I would like to know where in the
protocols flirtation was mentioned...?"

It -- really is Bruce. Batman can't ever manage that particular
*quality* of amused. "I believe," Tim says, and pulls his
grapple, "that it was under the section involving the use of
my best judgment."

This particular grunt is committed enough, though what,
precisely, it's committed to...

It's a good question.


There are, of course, other questions entirely -- most of them
revolving around the words 'what is he *doing*?' but even
with that particular information, even knowing what it is he
needs to know --

It's a tangled thing, and that part of his mind bears a striking
resemblance to the part of his mind which is still frankly
reeling from the events of his last birthday. He is --

He's been given a new level of trust to match the new levels
of training and responsibility. He is --

One day, unless he is murdered or seriously maimed in the
interim, he's going to be wearing a different sort of uniform,

He is, perhaps, 'feeling his oats.'

Certainly, he's feeling *something* rather indefinable when
he sits in his open window, when he looks -- pointlessly --
to the sky. When --

"Clark. As it happens, I'm free right now. Though I'd
appreciate your doing your best not to wake my parents."

It's --

It's very difficult not to laugh at himself. There's something
almost ludicrously *romantic* to the image he has of
himself, seated in the window awaiting a gentleman caller
who may or may not arrive.

He's even gazing at the sky, as if for answers -- or. Well. It's
far more practical to gaze at the sky than anything else, for
all that it makes him feel more than a little ridiculous.

It's a little better once he can see that red and blue lack of
subtlety which still doesn't belong anywhere near Gotham's
sky -- night or day. Once he waves, consciously and,
hopefully, with obvious welcome.

It's better than that, of course, when he reminds himself
that it would be conspicuous to the point of active insanity to
have Clark simply hovering out there for --  however long it
took for the social niceties to pass. A controlled fall
backwards, leading to a --

A controlled fall backwards, leading *directly* to Clark
catching him, lifting him to his feet -- and brushing Tim off.

"Ah -- you look nothing like Dick when you do that. You
seemed about to -- well, I didn't think you were -- I didn't
think," Clark says, and his expression needs desperately
unfashionable glasses.

"I -- don't mind. I'm glad to know I managed to get out of
your way in a... timely fashion," Tim says, and covers the
hands on his shoulders with his own.

"You -- could consider telling me how much -- or how little --
you... mind."

"In case it wasn't obvious, I'm... feeling my way," Tim says,
and taps at Clark's hands until he moves them.

"I could describe any number of things as obvious, Tim, but
the sense of you being a novice at much of anything isn't
one of them. You, tonight --"

"Perhaps I could -- should -- provide evidence for my own
theories and beliefs," Tim says, and steps closer.


The kiss feels sudden in entirely human ways, which is, of
course its own kind of impressive. Clark had had time to
trail off and consider -- at length -- both how best to finish
the thought and how best to kiss Tim. Additionally, he'd
had the time -- how much, subjectively, does he need at
this late date? -- to modify his motions to be recognizably
clumsy, recognizably Clark --

How much of this *is* on purpose, as opposed to simply

How conscious is Clark of the manipulation...?

What is he *doing* --

"You -- Tim. I'm very confused," Clark says, and he's still
not playing -- at all -- fair.

"I... have a lot on my mind?" The laughter fits the moment
about as well as he does -- he has no *idea* what that kiss
was like beyond 'apparently neither especially wet nor

"It's." Clark sits on the windowsill, blocking out the night
with the ever-impressive degree of perfectly-formed *bulk*.
"It's all right if you only wish to speak with me. I really do --
perhaps I could take you to --"

Clark, of course, has plenty of time to stop Tim from kissing
him, which is an answer --

Which, in its turn, invites more questions. However, he can't
really fault himself for the choice not to turn them over in
his mind right *now*. The inside of Clark's mouth is as
disturbingly, intriguingly *warm* as he'd thought. His lips
are soft, but not especially giving. He has paralyzed his own
shoulders, and they feel neither human nor anything which
Tim can directly pinpoint as 'alien' under Tim's hands.

He allows himself to be kissed --

And then the feel of Clark's shoulders shifts, tenses beyond
Tim's ability to truly *quantify*, and he's cupping Tim's face
in his hands. And kissing him. This --

Slick tongue, teeth gentle in Tim's lip -- yes.

"This is what I wanted," Tim says, and leans in for another
kiss, briefer -- Clark has one hand in his hair --

"If you're sure. I don't want to take advantage. I -- Tim --"

"You should -- endeavor to ignore the distractions. I'm -- my
life has changed. Tonight was -- something of an illustration.
Kiss me again, please."

The attraction he's felt has never managed anything Tim
could consider subtlety, even with Tim's best efforts. Subtlety
requires a specific variety of partnership: Clark could never
be oblivious, as opposed to polite. Patient, in his own
innocently *naked* ways. Now, there's a depth and *scale*
to the attraction --

Bruce would very much like him to avoid situations like these,
*vulnerabilities* this obvious and this true. Between Clark's
thighs, he has the body of an athletic and scarred child. (The
part of him which must always be fair, and which often finds
very strange ways to define the word, would like him to know
that, while Bruce *is* smaller overall, the difference wouldn't
be enough to change a moment like this one, should it ever
occur.) Emotionally --

He'd like it if Clark knew that he was the first male that Tim
had ever kissed. More than that, he'd like to *tell* Clark
that, to offer him the knowledge part and parcel with his
own mouth, and the tremors in his thighs which are only
*just* severe enough for Tim to feel.

"I..." He's gasping now. Not very much, but -- still.

"Yes, Tim?" And there is, within or perhaps *beneath*
Clark's expression --

"Your impatience is... flattering. Fascinating."

"I -- I'm sorry," Clark says, and while the blinks were too
fast to discern, they can -- perhaps must -- be inferred.

"No, I. You -- I know I'm being less than helpful," Tim says,
and moves a fraction closer, *warms* too much -- *enough*.
Enough to know, if only for this moment, *precisely* what
he's doing.

"I'm not," Clark says, and runs his fingers down the back of
Tim's neck. "I am capable of patience," he says, shaving
down the edges of the obvious with sincere apology. And,
of course, the hint of breathiness in his tone.

"I just want you to know --" Everything, right *now* --
"You're not the experiment here. I -- I am."

"You..." Clark's fingers -- the feel is too light to be tapping,
too ticklish, and strangely seemingly designed to make the
palms of his hands ache. It seems of a piece with Clark's
laughter, and yet also with the not-entirely-careless
*searching* in his eyes.

"I don't know if I can actually indulge myself in this way. I'm
attempting to figure out -- are freedom and permission
stronger than habit? Fear?"

"And seducing me...?"

"Helpful," Tim says, and tugs Clark's other hand until it's on
his hip. "In any number of ways." And Clark's hand flexes,
slightly -- potential and a different sort of test. Something
sweeter, sweeter because it's more ultimately pointless...?

"I don't -- I'm not in the habit of letting myself be seduced
by -- I don't want you to be afraid of me," Clark says, and,
abruptly, there's no give to be found whatsoever. There is
no way to move as close as he wants to, right now.

"Is it better -- I'd like it to be better that I'm far more afraid
of my own reactions than I am of -- anything you'd do, or
would like to do."

Clark's response is to watch him even more closely -- to
show Tim the courtesy of watching him in ways which would
be obvious to many humans, if not most -- as he pulls Tim
*in*. "I'm sure Bruce would have something to say about --"

"Bruce -- isn't relevant. At the moment." The window is high
enough, Clark is large enough --

It's disconcerting to feel the frown building, *reaching* from
behind his face -- this is nothing he wants to frown about.
This -- heat, and what feels like the source of it. This close,
there is no visual to confirm. He lacks the sensitivity to be
able to be sure, by touch, just how *erect* Clark is --

And now he's shaking his head. "This isn't. My reactions --"

"No -- ah. Here," Clark says, and slides his hands down to
Tim's ass and pulls him even closer, tighter --

"Oh -- yes. That. God --" He's still shaking his *head* --

"Your messages aren't as mixed as one might think, Tim. I
know -- what I'm *unsure* about is whether you want this
with more than your. Your body. I --"

It's possible that Clark had planned to continue the thought,
and it's possible that Tim might've followed it -- even
followed it *better* than anything he's come up with so far.
(Warmth, *heat*.)

It is, however, ultimately implausible. This -- this kiss is too
much, expects too much -- no. The fact that he can't keep
himself from rocking his hips and sucking Clark's tongue isn't
the sort of test he's likely to be graded on, found wanting --
wanted --

It's actually surprising that it soothes nothing to jump on
Clark's lap, to straddle his thighs and feel him through his
clothes. As ever, he can smell hints of Gotham in the air
through the window, but he can also smell *himself*. Sweat
and --

"I begin to see -- oh --"

The kiss is soft but -- long, somehow. He's aware that only
seconds have passed since Clark kissed him again, but.

He tastes...

"You are," Clark says, "immensely tempting."

There's a profundity to the statement which lives -- with
something that feels almost like a metaphorical *whimsy* --
entirely apart from the fact that Tim was trying to be -- just
that. Wasn't he?

"You -- will you kiss me again, Tim?"

The heat of Clark's face against Tim's palms feels almost
poisonous, of that particular sort which sends wave after
wave of *feeling* -- "I'm --" Burning up, he thinks, feverish,
shaking somewhere deeply important and difficult to either
find or describe.

Moreso when Clark stands and lifts him, holds him -- "I don't
know -- I didn't expect this --" Clark's laugh is soft and
effectively unhindered by the way he's kissing Tim all over
his face, his throat. "Remind me -- I don't want to lay you

"You don't...?"

"Perhaps..." There's a certain degree of deliberation to the
way Clark is moving him. However, it seems less that Clark
is thinking about exactly what he's doing than that he wants
to be absolutely sure that *Tim* is absolutely sure about the
way that his legs are wrapped around Clark's waist, and
about the pressure Clark's using to hold Tim against him,
lift --

"Oh -- fuck," and Tim's shaking his head again, flexing his
thighs --

Clark's thrusting against him now, grinding -- the motion
feels --

It feels perfect, hard, satisfying, and the image Tim has of
the two of them in his mind is rather *comfortingly* obscene.
There's no ambiguity to this, which makes it all the less
comprehensible --

"Why -- why don't you want to lay me down?"

"I wasn't expecting -- I know the limits of my own control,
Tim. And you are... will you move your hips again?"

His body doesn't actually give him time to say yes, or even
to nod. This -- some part of him was apparently only waiting
for a *signal*, permission --

Laughing is -- *this* particular laughter is inappropriate. It
can't possibly belong here. He doesn't *need* permission,
anymore. Not for -- there's nothing he needs to seek
sanction for before doing, anymore. And it never had
anything to do with *sex*, not really, but --


It's still close *enough* to everything else -- all of this... he
can't possibly explain it. There's too much of it, and, of
course, too much *Bruce*. It's simply easier -- more
expedient -- to wrap his arms around Clark's neck and kiss
him again, rock against him and let him thrust and grind all
of that (inhuman) heat into him. Although --

"It's not necessary --"

"I beg to differ," Clark says, licking Tim's mouth and smiling
so broadly, sweetly --

"I meant -- would you hold me against a wall?"

"If you... yes," and the motion is too fast to track, but Tim
suspects this has more to do with the rapid loss of extended
perception than anything --

Anything --

"Is it -- like this?"

It's a victory of a sort to be able to nod, and it reminds him
of a thought -- this is --

Tim can smell his own sweat, and it's nothing like that of
exertion. It's too -- it's not acidic enough, somehow, to his
nose. There's a breadth to it, scent and feeling, a depth to
the emotion *behind* it --

He's pressed against his own bedroom wall, he can't make
himself unlock his arms from around Clark's neck -- not even
to open his pants and save himself from the mess which
*will* exist quite soon, now --

Clark's thrusts are so *slow*, and his focus even more
obvious and impressively *pure* than it had be on the
street --

"You're so -- intent, I --"

"Does it bother you, Tim?"

There's something deeply serious about the way Clark says
his name, something (Robin) which probably doesn't --
quite -- belong here, now --

Perhaps this is why he's shaking his head all the time. If he's
denying anything -- if he has anything *to* deny -- it's
simply this:

He is *exposed*, and he can't seem to stop wanting to
expose himself more, to *tell* Clark that he's only trying to
find the new boundaries, or at least decide where they
should be --

"Would you -- oh, would you tell me?"

Every time Clark says his name, and, now, apparently, every
time he *doesn't*. The seriousness of it, of what Clark is,
perhaps, *searching* for within him. Tim would like to tell
him that he barely has *any* answers, much less anything
which could be an answer to that -- that *look*.

"It's only -- you're so very *close*, Tim. You -- you can
forgive my urge to... interrogate, perhaps?"

The laughter shakes him against the wall, against the wall
of *Clark*, he --

"There is nothing you can't tell me, Tim. Nothing I wouldn't
like to hear, if only to -- oh, you've always been -- I've never
*known* you --"

"Should -- should be safer, I -- please don't *stop*, Clark --"

"Your pupils seem almost dangerously dilated, your heart-
rate is elevated, your scent is -- no, I won't stop. Come for

For --


"I'd like... you -- Clark, I -- please --"

"Are you waiting for me? You -- no, of course you are. Is it
so strange that I'd like to restrain myself around you? At
least until --"

"You -- *know* me better? *Clark* --"

"Don't," Clark says, and the kiss is over before Tim can think
about it. "Don't tell me there's nothing to know, or that you
can't -- let me *see* you. Not now."

Not anymore...? There is --

There's a thematic rightness to it which is amusing above all
other things, but he can't laugh, he can't --

"There's so much I'd like to *explain* --"

"But you can't, and that will -- I admire," Clark says, and
begins to thrust *faster*, "that you will not let that *stop*

Faster -- "oh, *fuck* --"

This -- it isn't -- he will not be Bruce, in any way, even if
(*when*) he becomes... what Bruce wants him to be,
someday. He won't ever be *Bruce*, and that's enough, at
least for now.

Clark allows himself to be pulled in for another kiss, and it's
something like a trigger within Tim, within those parts of
himself which, apparently, have been waiting for just -- this.
There are more questions now, of course, and he suspects
he won't even be able to remember them all. But --

Does he feel like Robin with Superman's tongue in his
mouth? Is it what he wanted?

How much safety is he looking for, if that *is* the thing
which is driving --

Driving --

There should be, he thinks, a state between conscious action
and reflex, something which could explain -- or at least
define -- the *motion* within him, and the need to bite
down on Clark's lip hard enough to make his own jaw
tremble rather than simply scream through the orgasm.

He --

Clark is saying something, and certainly there's a large part
of him which is incapable of assuming irrelevance just
because of the moment -- but that part has no power
whatsoever against the parts of him for which the moment
is --

It can't be 'all,' can it?

Laughter takes him out of... it, and there's something
soothing about the fact that he's both relieved and
disappointed. If this were simpler, Tim would feel entirely
out of *sorts*. His shorts feel distinctly disreputable, and
Clark's expression is all patience, hope, cheer, affection --

Tim cups Clark's face with one hand, solely because he
*can*, and, "I meant to say, earlier, that many of Bruce's
attitudes toward sexuality make a great deal more sense
than they used to."

"I -- perhaps you could offer suggestions as to how I might
improve my performance?" Clark's smile --

It is, perhaps, something like the definition of Clark that
there's a sweetness even when he's being rather *wry*. "I
realize that you understand that that *wasn't* what I meant,

"I appreciate the confirmation," Clark says, turning just
enough to kiss the heel of Tim's palm, "just the same."

"I have to ask."


"Did you intend to... eschew orgasm entirely?"

"Eschew --" Clark kisses his palm again, bites -- "My
intentions, I must admit, have become increasingly *opaque*,

"Self-awareness is important, Clark. Perhaps I could be of

"If you'd like --"

"Of course, I won't -- lie down."

"Oh --" This smile is brilliant, relieved and nakedly admiring.
"Please don't."

It feels like a variety of cheating to shift until Clark lets go --
there's actually a *question* in his eyes -- and more than
that when Tim drops to his knees.

"Tim --"

"You didn't say..." This time, shaking his head feels at least
tangentially connected to his own thoughts. Essentially, he
doesn't quite have the wherewithal to be as -- *easy* about
this as he'd like to be. As would, perhaps, suit the moment:

Tugging Clark's tights and shorts down just *feels* a lot
more possible -- and plausible -- than a 'Simon Says'

He'd like the time to just examine the feel of Clark in his
hand -- and it's entirely likely that Clark wouldn't mind
giving it to him -- but. "I'm reasonably sure, Clark, that I
didn't call you here to witness your capacity for *control*,"
Tim says, and --

It isn't that he's not grateful for the room to *think* coming
first has provided -- certainly, it's keeping him realistic
enough to keep his hand wrapped around the base of Clark's
penis for the time being. It's just that he isn't doing this
*solely* to learn more about himself.

That would be -- wasteful, among many other things, and
kissing the head of Clark's penis as wetly and openly (Steph)
as he can leads directly -- or seems to, and Tim's curiosity
about the nature of subjective time (as opposed to his
*attraction* to it) has been dwindling rapidly since Clark's
arrival --

Kissing him, this way, leads to Clark's fingers scratching and
sifting through his hair with a restlessness which is frankly
flattering. Intimidating.

Arousing -- of course.

"Ah -- if you intend to take me in your mouth --"

Clark probably didn't mean to imply an order, and it didn't
feel like one. Just --

It feels far more like a mutual imperative. Entirely workable.

"I don't -- I don't understand your *reserve*, Tim --"

That's -- incomprehensible, actually. It would be, at best,
impolite to pull off, but...

"No, of course you're not -- I mean, you are, you --" Clark
cups the back of Tim's head. It makes Tim feel rather -- he
isn't sure of the words for it.

The feeling is both entirely new and -- hindbrain-familiar.
The first time he'd smelled blood from a gut wound. The
first time he'd managed precisely the correct configuration
of limbs during a spar, the one which would allow him to
stand and *withstand* --

"You shouldn't try to tell me you're not holding back..."

It feels like a variety of promise -- and compromise -- to
tongue the slit and lower his eyelids. Slightly.

"Of course, it's -- ah. Ah. I can *feel* your reserve, but I
can't see it, or name it -- ah. Don't -- I know you don't
intend to tease --"

It certainly says *something* about him that he'd covered
his teeth before beginning, before *thinking* -- perhaps it's
more of that 'physical aptitude' which makes Bruce make so
very many *plans* --

"*Tim* --"

Yes, he thinks. He can only hope this sort of thing doesn't
become reflexive in any way, shape, or form. It's not that
he expects to have all that many sexual partners in his
lifetime, but he doesn't think it would be untoward to
expect -- even hope -- that not *all* of them will have all
the invulnerability of diamond and none of its sociopolitical

There was, of course, no way he could ever drive Clark to
extremis, but he was hoping for more than just -- having
his hair stroked.

And it's entirely possible that at least some of that is coming
through --

"Tim, you -- I'd like --" Pressure on the back of his head,
slight but rife with *potential* --

Perhaps, he thinks, it's the expression Clark can read in his

"You feel -- very --"

Clark's tremor feels sudden, dangerous; the boundaries of
Clark's self seem irrelevant, or perhaps illusory -- Tim's hand
is *shaking* --

Aptitude, strength, *preparedness*. It's not fair to Clark that
so much of Tim is currently devoted to the image of himself,
in the Cave, wiping his open mouth with the back of his

It's not --

"Oh, I need you -- not to stop," Clark says, and his hands
shake once more. "You're *lovely*..."

Clark is thickening in his mouth. It feels impossible,
terrifying --

("There is *nothing* I believe you can't do, Tim.")

It's uncomfortable -- on a number of levels -- to *do* this
with his teeth --

"I... please --"

The thrust is rewarding. This shouldn't *be* anything but
memorable. He --

Tim has lived with -- sometimes he's felt as though he were
living *on* -- fear for too long. He needs -- there is at least
some predictable part of him which wants *that* intensity,
since he has already had other sorts. This isn't going to
make him come again, and so he needs --

He *needs* to question -- thoroughly -- his need to apply
causality. He's limiting this for himself --

"I never *thought* --"

The thrusts are rhythmic, careful -- and not as gentle as they
could be.

"I'm sorry. You -- is this what you *want*?"

He honestly isn't sure. The problem has too many variables,
and thinking about them leads him off on too many tangents.
He has nothing to offer Clark, right now, but more of *this*:
His jaw is going to be -- slightly -- sore, tomorrow, and his
mouth feels more sensitive every time Clark causes him to
'kiss' his own hand. And -- he isn't at all sure how much or
how little of that he's managing to get across via his own

"You look so --" Clark's laugh seems like it's being strangled
in his own -- throat.

Tim raises an eyebrow --

"No, you look the precise variety of never-young you
always -- always -- ah, so *warm* like this --"

An interesting thought. He trusts his current ability to
*perceive* just enough to know that Clark truly is almost
*hot* in his mouth, so it must be relative -- or, perhaps,
based in Clark's own losses and limitations --

What *he's* doing, and how long he has been --

It hasn't *been* that long, but already the taste isn't strange,
though he still can't pinpoint what it is about it which seems
more alien than simply different. Whatever compounds it
contains, he's reasonably sure that none of them are
precisely addictive to humans.

He trusts Clark --

"The way you *look* at me, I -- is it new? Did I -- could I
have missed --"

Harder, this way, is actively painful, but Clark's groan is...
Tim's becoming aroused again, and it's the power as much
as it's anything else, or -- no.

It's the image of himself, and the way that his free hand
seems almost frighteningly small against Clark's hip. It's the
way Clark's holding his head still and gritting his own teeth
as he thrusts, now, over and over --

There isn't much he can do to add to this beyond simply
*staying* here, but it's perfectly comprehensible that staying
here is *enough*, now. It's -- it would probably be --

Lifting his index finger gets Clark deeper, makes Clark
*gasp* as he slips in--

Before he slips in...?

Of course Clark had felt -- perceived -- the motion, of course
he'd had the *time* to stop himself, the muscular control,
almost certainly the intellectual capacity to choose not to
*let* himself get deeper -- and that's as much of a question
as *he* can manage, and Clark --

"Yes. Please," and it's breathy, almost whispered, almost --

There's a part of him which wants -- *needs* -- to reward
Clark for begging, and it's powerful enough that it's difficult
to believe, now, that he'd planned all along to lift his middle
finger, too.

If he changed the tension in his wrist and forearm, altered
the direction -- and altitude -- of his fingers, he'd be in a
position to offer a strike which had cost him three broken
phalanges to learn. This --

This is another sort of pain, awkwardness, imperfection --
should Batman ever be imperfect? On his knees?

"Tim, may I -- would you like me to ejaculate in your

It's enough of an answer to lift his ring finger. He's brushing
the bridge of his nose with the lifted fingers and his chin
with his thumb every time, and his pinky is -- an
afterthought. Breath, of course, is now an intermittent

It's much easier to do this with flesh than it is with plastic,
though the part of him which wants to insist that his throat
was made for it is absolutely delusional.

His pinky is --

He *is* teasing now -- both of them -- and Clark's sweat
smells like -- feels like --

Strain, ozone, power --

There's too much pre-ejaculate for Tim to effectively swallow
while Clark is thrusting, and the image of himself in the Cave
is more complete now. Somehow... *somehow* it is, and
there's something emotionally soothing about yanking his
hand free entirely, grabbing himself, and squeezing.

"Faster. I -- faster?"

His moves his teeth as -- fervently -- as he can in this
position, locked open, spread, and Clark is grunting with
every thrust now, holding Tim's head with both hands --

Tim can feel Clark's fingers twining and shifting, trembling
against the back of Tim's head. If he could talk, he'd ask
Clark to come for him, to give 'it' up, to *expose* himself.

He'd be polite about it, and perhaps a bit cold --

And it wouldn't be -- quite -- as rewarding as timing this
particular humming moan just well enough that it's *choked*
off with Clark's penis --

"I -- I --  Tim, I can't --"

There's nothing he *can* do other than to claw, a little, at
Clark's hip --

"I'm sorry, you -- oh, you can't *breathe* --"

-- and *bite* when Clark starts to pull out --

It's infinitely easier, he thinks, to do it *this* way. He doesn't
have to try to time his swallows if Clark simply comes down
his throat.

It doesn't feel simple on any particular level.

It --

He's going to be hyperventilating when Clark pulls off, which
doesn't really suit the way he feels, right now, but it is --
and will be -- worth it. Clark's *knees* knock against his
chest once, again -- Tim won't bruise -- and he's trying to
thrust deeper, and the sound of Tim's name is really almost
*mangled* in Clark's mouth.

"I -- so lovely," Clark says, and it's starting to be difficult to
distinguish between the heat of his palms on Tim's cheeks,
forehead, and throat and the irrational *sense* of heat
which is all about the lack of oxygen.

The increasingly desperate lack of oxygen -- no, he's not
cooling down, yet. He has time -- and the luxury to, perhaps,
wallow in the *pulse* of Clark within him, and in Clark's
soft -- *sweet* -- moans.

There are too many notes in his first gasp once Clark pulls
out, and Tim doesn't sound like anyone he actually knows
until the fourth -- possibly the fifth.

By then, of course, Clark is holding him, lifting him -- making
things easier for Tim's lungs and all but beaming the desire
to make things harder by holding him.

Tim coughs, and does it again, consciously -- his lips feel --
it's difficult to be sure whether 'oversensitized' or 'numb' is
the correct word.

Once more, and a testing hum, and -- "I need a shower,

"I -- of course," he says, "it's only --"

The kiss is another sort of test, obvious even without the
fact that Clark's eyes are open and searching his own. It's
simultaneously a shock that this is the first time he's
thought about Kon and a relief. He doesn't really --
sometimes, he imagines himself having some sort of sexual
relationship with Kon. It's always far more than simply
'pleasant,' and it always makes him wish that sexuality -- in
general -- was something optional.

It's just another one of the things which has led him to
*this* point, and, perhaps, the Tim in the Cave could never
have been *complete* without that precise blend of
ruefulness and self-loathing behind his eyes.


"I -- it's not you. At all. It really -- isn't," Tim says, and tilts
his head back to offer his own kiss-as-complex-

Whether or not it works -- Clark seems either dubious,
confused, or both -- is something for a time when he can't
feel his pubic hair pulling against the *mess* in his shorts.
Although -- hm.

"Did you want to... be some variety of *present* for my
shower, Clark...?"

That isn't it -- if it was, there'd be an entirely different sort
of smile on Clark's face and rather a lot less *shock* --

It does seem to take care of the immediate problem.


He's damp and --

Well, 'exhausted' is the word for it, complete with all
attendant guilt for putting himself in a state like this on the
night he's supposed to be resting.

It's another point in Bruce's favor, really -- sex is time-
consuming and uses up a fair amount of energy. Certainly,
Tim will think very deeply about that fact in the seconds
before the next time he asks Clark to shove him against a

Comprehensively, even.

And -- well, he hates going to sleep when his hair is wet
unless he needs to -- no.

He never needs an excuse to call Steph.

The fact that her cell rings three times before she picks up --
she's doing something, and there's always a moment, these
days, in which he has to stop himself from imagining
Spoiler. It's not that she couldn't have changed her mind that
quickly, it's just that he's known her too long, now, for her
choices to be entirely opaque.

"I *thought* it was your night off," she says, and sighs
quietly. She's -- probably sitting down. "Clean line?"

Perhaps on her bed. "Of course. And -- is the magic gone?
Am I that predictable, already...?"

"Psh. I'm *always* six moves ahead of you, Boyfriend
Wonder. I don't know how you keep forgetting."

"It's a flaw on the y chromosome, Steph. There's really
nothing that can be done."

"Mm. I suppose I'll just have to tolerate it. For now."

"Your mercy and charity are noted," Tim says, and works on
some of the more telephone-friendly stretches. A headset
would feel like far too much of a commitment to something
he can barely fathom, much less -- tolerate.

"There is no greater fulfillment than a life of *service* to the
community," she -- *intones*.

Tim snorts. "Where --"

"The quote nailed and carved and printed in about six
gazillion places at St. Augustine's. You know --"

"The place which just fired about a quarter of its nurses, yes.
How is your mother doing?"

"Thriving on righteous anger -- and breathing a little more
easily now that she knows for *sure* that she had just
enough seniority to make the cut. She's been spending a lot
of time agitating with her sisters and brothers in the union."


Steph snickers. "It's pretty adorable, actually. Her cheeks
get all flush-y and she starts ranting. I used to *dream* of
her acting -- looking -- even a *little* like that when my
Dad -- well, you know."

He does, and he knows what he's supposed to do. "So --
good or bad idea for me to bring up some of Gotham's more
famously corrupt unions in conversation the next time I'm
over for dinner?"

"Well, on the *one* hand, I'm still not over having a
boyfriend my mother actually likes, but on the other hand --
you'd look really cute blinking at her when she started hitting
the kitchen table with one of her shoes."

Tim grins and pops his back, a little. "I can understand your
dilemma. Let me know when you make a decision."

"You know it, sweetie. So what's *actually* up?"

"I've been -- making friends with certain people who have
been, in the past, only *allowed* to be allies."

"Ooh, intrigue," Steph says. "Give me a minute, I've got to
turn over on my belly and kick my feet a little. Just to
complete the picture."

"Is this where I mention that I'm waiting for my hair to dry?
It'll look terrible tomorrow if I just go to sleep like this." And
Steph's snort sounds -- a bit painful --

"Ow! You made me laugh so hard I landed on my *nipple*."

In all honesty, it always feels a little ridiculous to smile as
much -- as *widely* -- as Steph makes him want to when
he's just on the phone, but Tim knows that other people
don't really feel that way.

Also, actively trying *not* to smile would make his tone
strange -- to Steph's ears. Much better to just... go with it.
All of it.

"I didn't even get to complain about the chips in my toenail
polish. You're losing your touch, Steph."

"Toenail -- did you -- are you really --"

"*That*... unsuitable as boyfriend material? Not today. It's
not as though it'll be warm enough tomorrow for those
'kicky' little sandals I picked up last week."

And *that* is the sound of Steph smacking herself in the
face with a pillow to muffle -- giggles.

Giggles have been pretty rare since the death of her father,
and since everything he's still not supposed to know about
her run-in with the Riddler. He is absolutely allowed to bask.

"You know," she says, a little breathlessly, "I don't -- God, I
feel like I shouldn't be *laughing* when I say this, but it's
funny. I think it's funny. Um."


"It's just that I don't know how I would *handle* things if
you didn't make fun of yourself so much. Basically, I'm
getting *off* on you oppressing yourself for my benefit."

"Oh, honey," Tim purrs. "I love it when you talk liberal at

It's possible that Steph is actively spluttering, but, again, it's
muffled. "Take that back!"

"Make me."

"Get in *range*," Steph says, and Tim knows -- knows --
that the laughter and indignation are making her face
flushed, that her lower jaw is protruding just a little bit, and
that her eyes are -- flashing.

"I love you," he says.

"You *better*. Anyway. Were you going to give me details?"

"If you wanted them," he says, and if he fails at keeping the
lightness in his tone -- it's okay, for this.

It's not that it has to be, it's that it has to be in order for him
to feel anything like himself --

"I -- Steph, I think I'm having kind of an identity crisis."

"Like that dream I had where Sp -- S was macking on me
and turned my boobs eggplant?"

"I --" Lately, it's been harder to call some of the dreams he
has of the cowl 'nightmares,' or even to describe them as
frightening for more than just their implications. Not to
mention the (sleek, flexible) gauntlets -- "Exactly like that,
actually. Now that I think about it." Steph's capacity -- she's
never, truly, misunderstood him.

"Oh, hon. I -- I don't know if I can give you *advice* about
this. Or -- I can, but I don't think it'd be *good* advice."

"Honestly, Steph, I just realized that certain uniform changes
will lead to my having terrible hair for the rest of my short,
brutal, and desperately unfashionable life. I'll take what
you've got." It's a weak joke --

It's weak, and Steph's laugh is only because she loves him,
but it's what he has.

"I think -- I don't know if I'm making stupid decisions or
*not*, here. I've just -- the rules are all different."

"So... wait. Why aren't you over here, again? I mean, it's
not that I mind your habit of calling me in the middle of the
night, but -- are you sure this shouldn't be in person?"

No. He isn't. It's Friday -- Saturday morning. "Have lunch
with me tomorrow...?"

"Mm, okay. I *think* I can pencil you in," she says. "In the
meantime, here's my crappy advice. All set?"

"I'll pick you up around one, and -- always."

"You know a lot more people a lot better than I do -- people
who fuck with their own lives and, like, *selves* as a matter
of course. Talk to them as much as you can, and... well,
you're you. You're *not* going to do anything that'll ruin
your whole life, and you've already done the things that
*changed* your life."

Batman needs... except when he doesn't. "Yes, I... yes."

"I guess -- ask yourself if whatever you've done is worth it.
And if it is..."

"Keep doing it?"

"I've been trying to tell you this for *years*, boyfriend, but
I'll try it one more time: you're absolutely allowed to have
fun, *too*."

And the hell of it is... he is. Now.


He's in the Cave and, in some ways, he thinks it would
actually be easier to be naked, to be that --

He'd clearly spent far too much time growing accustomed
to -- and fond of -- the image of himself, freshly some-
degree-of-debauched, standing defiant before his partner.

His mentor.

His -- someday-not-today-*but* predecessor.

As it is, he doesn't feel particularly defiant -- or anything else,
for that matter -- in Tim Drake's not-quite-worn-enough-for-
fashion jeans and a plain green t-shirt which had a lot more
meaning during that -- in retrospect -- wonderful time
during which he could both love everything Robin meant and
*be* that. Him. All of them, in his own way, he thinks, and
gives himself a moment to truly *believe* that the Case is
looking at him. Through him.


Sitting here... he hasn't been this inefficient with the files
in -- ever. He's not here to work, and he's not here to train.
He's waiting for Bruce, and the only thing that makes that
fact any better than problematic, embarrassing, and
ridiculous, is that he'll almost certainly not have to wait --


Long. "You used to call me 'Robin' more often."

"Did I...?"

"You..." He's not going to have this conversation in any
manner other than face to face. When he turns and stands,
Bruce is watching him with Bruce Wayne's open, guileless
curiosity overlaid on Batman's wariness. "There were times
when I was sure you made it official, with me, in order to
be *able* to call me Robin."

"Did I seem so... desperate?"

Disingenuousness -- it's not *always* unattractive, nor even
always unattractive on Bruce. Right now, however... Tim
looks at the Case, pointedly, and watches Bruce's casual
stillness change into something a great deal more palatable.

"All right," Bruce says. "Is that what you wanted to talk

"Calling it 'want' seems dangerously euphemistic, Bruce."
He's not thinking, right now, about how *easy* it was to get
used to the power to set -- conversational *agendas*. "The
fact that you're -- nearly -- the only person I *can* talk to
about 'this,' now, doesn't make the prospect any less --
difficult," Tim says, and the thing is, *one* of the new
freedoms --

At this point, he has nothing to prove by keeping himself
straight and true and brave. He crosses his arms over his
chest and decides to look at the floor... no.

The floor is just the floor, cold stone and riddled with
microscopic droplets of blood, sweat, and adolescent
frustration. "Bruce --"

"A question first, please."

Tim waves a hand.

"Were you hoping Clark could provide you with some sort
of... outlet?" And that --

Well -- wow. "I -- it's not that I didn't expect that to come
up, in one way or another. But I wasn't expecting you to
just... jump right to it, Bruce."

"Good to know I'm still capable of surprising you."

"And it isn't even my birthday. Really, how novel. Bruce --"

"He's my closest friend, Tim. And you're my partner."

Yes, yes, of course, but -- "And? Are you jealous? Should I
bench you for undue emotional distress? Seriously, Bruce, I
was *hoping* that I'd get a better feel for my own sense of
self as it related to my sexuality, as well as doing a little
adolescent boundary-pushing. You can't tell me that
wasn't --"

"Yes, I'm jealous. And -- yes, perhaps, you should be
'benching' me."

" -- obvious. *What*?"

Bruce is, of course, too fast for Tim to be sure of his
intentions before he's too close for Tim to do anything but
strike at his shoulder. The hit is about sixty percent --
Bruce's right arm is swinging at his side, but the hand is
flexing normally.

"Ah -- what were you about to do, exactly?"

"Hm," Bruce says, and spares a rueful glance at his
temporarily paralyzed shoulder before lifting his free hand --
slowly, showing Tim his palm, and cupping his face.

"Jesus. Couldn't this have been just -- a particularly
inappropriate *joke*?"

"You knew," Bruce says, "that it wasn't."

"You know, I was *going* to apologize for the reflex --"

"You shouldn't --"

"I *won't*. Now. Bruce --"

"I was going to say," and Bruce's thumb is on Tim's
cheekbone, "that if I hadn't wanted to risk an attack, I
shouldn't have approached you in quite that way. Not a
lesson I ever had to teach *you*."

Bruce has never been less than encouraging about his --
caution. Bruce -- "This isn't -- there are any number of
reasons, Bruce, why this isn't what we *do*."

"There have been -- and there are. Tim, tell me how many
of your objections are pro forma."

He -- "There are too many assumptions in that statement,

"You used to trust me to deduce."

And what, exactly, was going to happen in that fantasy of
himself standing before Bruce? After he'd wiped his mouth.
After he'd displayed himself, demanded to be treated as an
equal, demanded... what? "I used to trust my deductions
about you. I -- used to have reason to do so."

The kiss is -- helpfully, and in as ironic a manner as Bruce
can manage -- telegraphed well before it lands. It's
disturbing to watch -- feel -- Bruce's arm moving so
obviously without permission and direction. Bruce's wrist is
hard, dusted with hair -- Tim knows where to press to touch
healed fractures. He doesn't. He just holds it *still*.

Bruce moves his hand from Tim's face, but -- the kiss doesn't
end so much as *change*. There's almost a kind of anger
behind it, frustration, desperation, and it's only a shock until
Tim can make himself think about something other than the
physical realities, and everything *he's* telegraphing --

Bruce didn't precisely specify which of them he was jealous
of, after all. Tim makes a point of breathing *well* when
Bruce does pull back, and --

"If you were sending a particular message with that kiss,
I'm reasonably sure I didn't catch -- all of it."

"An invitation?"

"A question?"

"I wouldn't want," Bruce says, and allows Tim to feel him
flexing life back into his arm, "to make assumptions."

The part of him which had gotten him into this -- all of it --
wants him to know that he has less than twenty seconds to
capitalize on the successful strike, if any true capitalization
is possible. The *rest* of him is kissing Bruce, holding still,
waiting for the read.

It's --

It's not, precisely, *tentative*, but it is tentative for Bruce,
unless he's been making too many of his own assumptions.
Always possible -- after all, he'd spent much of the past two
years -- not three -- developing and then working on the
belief that Bruce wanted him to be Robin more than anything
else. The kiss is also somewhat soft, even when Tim opens
his mouth for it.

He's telegraphing his own intentions, such as they are. It's
only -- fair. The first stroke of Bruce's tongue --

It's too slow, too -- he isn't being licked the right *way*,
according to some part of him which had clearly gone insane
sometime when he hadn't been paying attention. He laughs --


Bruce's *voice*. It's an honest question, and another dozen
signals all pointing in a completely -- yes, *insane* is the
word for it, and for the feel of his own fingers carding
through Bruce's hair -- it's too short to grip, and his hand
isn't quite big enough to make cupping the back of Bruce's
head entirely comfortable.

Unless, of course, he planned to use the move as leverage
to head-butt the man --

Which is something that stops being an option as soon as he

*This* kiss is still tentative, but less so. More -- Bruce is
teasing Tim's tongue with his own, or perhaps coaxing. All
right, he can -- play. No reason whatsoever not to have
*fun*, not to --

Bruce sucks his tongue the second time Tim slips it inside
Bruce's mouth -- and opens his eyes.

And pulls back.

"About your objections...?"

"No less relevant than they were before I decided to let this
happen. Partner."

"That's certainly -- fair," Bruce says, and presses his head
back against Tim's palm. Briefly.

Human warmth, human strength -- and no less *potential*
than with -- Clark. "We should talk about -- things."

"Almost certainly," Bruce says, and Tim has been
telegraphing *enough* -- Bruce isn't just watching him, he's
watching for *it*.

Which has its pros and cons. "After you start kissing me like
we've known each other for more than three -- hours."

"Hm. If you insist," Bruce says, then twists his arm out of
Tim's grip and wraps it around his waist, instead.

There's a moment -- he can't stop himself from bracing his
hands on Bruce, tensing as he's pulled in --

A moment to catch *up* to exactly what he'd just asked
for --

This kiss is -- hard, and somewhat --

The kiss is hard, messy, and disturbingly just as easy to give
as it is to get. Or perhaps he means that the other way
around. Bruce is kissing him like --

They're kissing each other like people who haven't seen
each other recently. Like -- partners? Lovers? Too much and
not enough, and Tim still isn't sure which way he means that
to go. And when he digs his nails in against Bruce's scalp,
Bruce uses his other hand to grab Tim's wrist and pin it
behind his back.

Apparently, they're done taking it easy on each other, which
is more than enough reason to rear back enough to bite
Bruce's lip, duck the next kiss, drive his heel against one of
Bruce's ankles -- no boot to protect him -- and twist out of
the hold.

Bruce raises an eyebrow. "Better?"

Tim -- wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. Heh. "To
a certain extent," he says, and, "you can't do this with

"Worse than pointless," Bruce says, and begins to circle --

"Why do you think you can do it with me?" He already
knows what Bruce is going to say --

"Who else?" And that was after Bruce's leaping attack. The
fact that neither of them are telegraphing says nothing
whatsoever about the fact that Bruce knows exactly which
dodge Tim prefers, and which dodge he prefers when he
prefers not to use the former.

He's steady enough that Bruce's ankle-grab only brings him
to his knees, though, and the stone floor isn't quite
*enough* of a dose of ice-water. Still, Bruce obliges him by
sparring them in the direction of the mats, and, by the time
Tim's left forearm is numb -- his right is screaming, a little --
from blocking, it's safe enough to take the fall which is
nothing but inevitable once he flips back onto his hands and
*tries* to continue backwards.

Bruce isn't fast enough to firm his pin before Tim can roll.

Tim isn't fast enough to get back to his feet once he's --
relatively -- clear. However, faking like he's going to try --

Bruce, of course, knows the fake well enough that Tim winds
up *thrown* back down. He's on his back, and Bruce is more
than agreeable enough to catch Tim's ankles when he kicks,
spread Tim's legs, and lower himself by the expedient of
bending Tim's knees back to his chest.

"The only reason that didn't work --"

"Is because you *know* me, Bruce. I'm aware. And I don't --

"Aw, Timmy. Don't be like that," he says, pulling his face
into --

You can't really call anything that blithely good-natured a
*rictus*, but Tim has always -- always -- wanted to.
"Bruce --"

"Other people *like* my compliments, pal."

"Other people don't, actually, get to see you naked."

"Is that what you want?"

It's -- with thought, there's nothing especially amazing about
the fact that Bruce's voice is back to being correct before his
*face* is, but -- Tim's tempted to blame adrenaline, among
other examples of traitorous neurochemistry. "For now."

"Should I hurry before you change your mind?"

A serious question, for all that Tim's ankles are currently on
Bruce's shoulders. "There's something you can do to
guarantee my... cooperation."

"Only that...?"

"It's all I can promise, given the rather pathetically small
amount of data which is available to me on the -- subject.
Are you interested?"

"What," Bruce says, and presses his thumb against Tim's
lower lip, "do you think?"

He *thinks* that a lot of questions are answered by both
that particular pressure and the way Bruce's nostrils flare --
slightly -- when Tim forces his own mouth open against the
pressure and bites the pad of Bruce's thumb. Confirmation:
Bruce *watched*. However, he needs more than that, at
the moment. "Start talking about Clark," he says, and
doesn't bother to correct for the rather wet slur.

"Hm," Bruce says, and sits back on his heels.

It eases the strain on Tim's thighs, but necessitates him
sitting up on his elbows in order to maintain every last
*fraction* of eye contact. "Start with: how much of this is
because you won't have sex with him?"

"Are you quite sure you don't have enough -- data -- to
answer that for yourself?"

Dick, and everything that has and hasn't happened for a
large number of values of 'happen.' "Pretend, for a little
while, that every word you say aloud will make me
incrementally more aroused."

"I'm far more interested -- at the moment -- in the
possibilities inherent to our... change of status."

"That sounds... reckless. Batman."

"And my name sounds like a lie in your mouth. I wonder
why," Bruce says, and waits.

And Tim... he can grant that. For all that stricter boundaries
would be easier, *Batman* doesn't stop until there have
been -- at least -- three falls. Five, for most of the past year.
Tim nods. "Fine. Bruce."

"You enjoyed yourself with Clark."

"I spent much of the evening half-convinced I'd drugged
myself on my own hormones. I plan to be a little more sure
of myself, next time."

Bruce acknowledges the answer to the not-quite-asked
question with a nod of his own. "The two of us have long
since come to... an arrangement, with regards to the matter
of our mutual attraction."

Alternately, Bruce had used -- has long *been* using --
Batman to put his foot down. Six of one -- for certain values
of half a dozen. "I have no objections to any plans you
might have to track my relationship with Clark."

"You'll even let me tell myself that my interests aren't
particularly parasitic. Too generous."

"Too trusting," Tim says, and rolls his ankles in their sockets.
"My reasons for doing so wouldn't be at all altruistic. You're
often easier to be around when you're particularly grateful
to me."

"And when I feel a need to apologize...?"

"More rare, and thus infinitely more valuable. A pearl beyond
price, and I don't plan to squander my next opportunity by
indulging myself in my own righteous indignation." It won't
be all that long until he's *seventeen*, after all.

Bruce's smile is cool, small, pleased, and -- promising. "Was
there anything else you wanted to know?"

"At the moment? No."

"Then tell me what you want."

"Cover me, for -- until I say otherwise," Tim says, and
accepts the fact that they both know that he's incapable of
thinking of specifics *beyond* that. Lack of experience is
only part of it.

The rest is the fact that he'd never imagined he could ever
be Batman's friend by any definition which could be shared
with others without *too* many raised eyebrows and
unfortunate moments of 'and now I will back away from
you slowly, Tim.' Granted, it's a very small circle of 'others' --
Clark, Superman, and, perhaps, Kal-El -- but the point

The rest is the fact that Bruce hasn't actually changed his
mode of behavior all that much -- there has always been
teasing and talk about their personal lives, always a measure
of assumed intimacy. It's just that Tim had barely been able
to understand that that was what it was, much less know
what to do with it.

He doesn't know much more *now* about what to do with it,
but responding in some measure of kind -- having the
wherewithal to *do* so -- apparently leads directly to having
one wrist pinned and the other hand encouraged to resume
its place on the back of Bruce's head.

There is, additionally, Bruce's *weight* to consider. Muscle
and --

It occurs to him, only somewhat belatedly, that unless this --
*this* -- goes horribly awry, it's extremely likely that he'll
eventually know the feel of every one of Bruce's scars
with -- all of him. There's no reason whatsoever to repress
the shiver, especially since it makes Bruce inhale deeply
enough to press him even more against the mats.

"I -- I believe I've changed -- I'd really like you to be naked."

"You gave Clark more freedom," Bruce says, and kisses him
before he can respond. This, of course, necessitates staying
outside of the *moment* enough that he can remember to
say --

"I gave Clark less information," he says, gasping and
scratching at the back of Bruce's head so Bruce can kiss him
again before his brain gets enough oxygen that it's able to
remind him that he's doing this -- *this* -- with Bruce. With
Batman --

Too late, but the sound he wants to make --

Tim isn't sure what the sound he'd wanted to make *was*,
because it winds up far too altered by the feel of Bruce
thrusting against him, releasing his wrist to brace himself
on one hand and stroke Tim's *throat* --

Clark hadn't touched him there, not with any -- intent.

Bruce has far more information.


"You've always been wonderful at keeping yourself under
control, at not allowing yourself to ever get *lost* in the
pleasures of the work."

"I'm terribly boring."

"I've always wondered if that control ever added to appeal of
the risks you do, occasionally, take," Bruce says, and the
pressure on Tim's arteries is brief, but not brief enough to
keep him from bucking his hips. "Tim --"

"Not -- that," he says, and pushes Bruce's hand away. "Not --"


He had requested -- strongly -- that Bruce not pretend he
was a stranger. Still, the image of Bruce watching him
masturbate, even though it was almost certainly always via
the surveillance cameras --

Tim's much too hard, much too *fast*, and Bruce -- "Tim --"

"Clark made me come in my pants. I'd appreciate the lack of
a repeat performance."

Bruce's response --

Tim's not sure why he was expecting *words* -- they clearly
have to spend more time getting used to each other again --
and it means that he forgets to breathe through Bruce rolling
them over until Tim's straddling him, and he *can't* breathe
once Bruce slips his hands under Tim's t-shirt and pinches
both nipples at once.

It's not hard, it's -- it's more of a surprise, or --

Tim feels himself twitching in his pants, and it's still barely
enough to get his hands to move, and both hands -- he's
shaking a little too much to get his pants open
*efficiently* --

Bruce is dragging his *thumbs* over Tim's nipples, Bruce is
watching him, touching -- watching --

And he's more than prepared to follow the motion when Tim
kneels up to shove his pants and boxer briefs down around
his thighs. "I said something about *you* stripping, Bruce --"

"Did you want me to stop what I'm doing?"

"Gamesmanship isn't optimal when Clark isn't actually
*here*, Bruce," and it's impressive enough that that comes
out coherently -- he's dripping pre-come on the shirt Bruce
wore to meet with WE *shareholders* -- and it's even more
of a shock that he'd actually managed to get his arms up
enough to break --

Not a hold. Contact. It's --

It almost doesn't matter that Bruce is unbuttoning his shirt --
Tim wants to rip it off, get closer again, touched -- he starts
unbuttoning from the bottom, gets his hands caught the
moment they meet, and -- nothing. No, a squeeze.

When he looks up, the expression in Bruce's eyes feels like --
a different variety of too much. There is no part of him which
can call responding to it by grinding down against Bruce's
hips reasonable or rational, but it's fitting just the same.
Bruce's eyes *narrow* when he does, and stay that way
when Tim does it again.

"You should -- let me go."

"Your advice is often -- wise," Bruce says, and squeezes
Tim's hands again. This feels too much like training, or
possibly like something which is going to *rewrite* his
memories of training. "And yet."

"I have no intention --"

Bruce lets him go before he can -- make up an ending to
that sentence, which means that the only appropriate action
is to reach for Bruce's pants. He would honestly like to keep
looking at Bruce, keep -- he shakes his head and tries to
make his hands *work*.

It simply isn't *that* much harder a task to perform from
this direction, even with Bruce's hands on his own again.
Not holding this time -- stroking and petting. Still
*watching*. There's sweat on the back of Tim's neck, sweat
making the t-shirt stick to him, and it's a reward of some
sort, to some*one*, to just take his own shirt off completely
once he gets the button undone.

And Bruce -- absolutely timed pulling down his own zipper
for the moment *after* the shirt is finally gone.

"Tease," he says, because it's easier than breathing.

"Punish me for it," Bruce says, and shifts, and -- it's an
obscene and very rudimentary sort of trick that the motion
makes his penis slip out of the slit in his boxers, but, at the
moment, Tim has to admit it's somewhat compelling.

"I --"

"Some other time," and Bruce wraps one hand around both
of them, squeezes --

His reflexes are good enough that he can catch himself on
his hands instead of falling *on* Bruce --

What is he *doing*?

This -- this can't possibly be --

"Tim," Bruce says. It's more of a moan, and the other
sounds are irrelevant until they resolve into a blend of Tim
trying to claw the mats with his blunt fingernails and the
pound of his own heartbeat.

They're still irrelevant. He -- the hold is just barely loose
enough to not be painful, and Tim can't actually thrust. He
feels himself shaking --

"You should -- Tim, tell me, please --"

*Fuck*. "Do it," and Tim's not sure which one was actually
spoken -- if either of them were -- until Bruce loosens his
grip enough to stroke --

Tim hears himself whimpering, clawing at the mats *more* --

"Bruce, I -- please --"

It's something of a lie that he's staring at Bruce like this.
He's not really seeing -- Bruce's eyes on him are narrow,
intent, Bruce is -- he's not watching nearly as much as he's
feeling. He's not enough -- he's not enough *himself* to
keep himself from thrusting, struggling to find Bruce's
rhythm --

Or to just make Bruce groan like that, again. He knows that
sound wasn't him -- he's stopped breathing, he's biting his
lip, he's -- Bruce's free hand --

He's sucking Bruce's thumb. His hair is in his eyes, and he's
scraping his teeth, moaning at the feel, the lack of
appreciable give (*Clark*) when he presses at the callus with
his canine. Abruptly, it seems as though he's been doing just
this for hours, and that if it stops it will kill him.

Each moment it doesn't is relief, breathless and embarrassing,
*shaming*, and he can't stop being afraid that it *will*. It's
just a quieter -- slightly -- form of begging to start going
*down* on Bruce's thumb, and there's no excuse for the spit
slicking his chin.

"Tim. This once -- let *go*."

Clark talks about his *reserve* when Tim's sucking him off.
Bruce talks about holding *back* while he's sweating and
fucking Bruce's fist, sucking at him like he's too hungry to

Tim should, he thinks, endeavor to either pick less
demanding sexual partners or alter his personality entirely.
He's aware that this will seem less feasible as soon as he
manages to stop getting lost in the fact that he's doing this
with *Bruce*, that it was this *easy*.

While the part of him hysterically pointing out that he
could've been doing this at any time isn't correct -- or even
close -- the *emotion* behind that thought is rather

There isn't *enough* thumb to swallow, even if he were
capable of ignoring the reality of the nail, and -- he's going
to come. He has seconds to decide whether he wants to
suck, bite, or pull off and shout his way through it --

"Yes. *Precisely* like that," Bruce says, and the 'like
*what*?' in his head is immediately buried in sensation,
drowned, murdered, *buried* --

He's aware of more saliva spilling out of his mouth around
Bruce's thumb before he can do more than clench and --
*spill*, and the rest comes in increments:

The slight discomfort of Bruce's nail against his palate, the
thick, slick heat of Bruce's penis, the fact that he'd just
ejaculated *on* Bruce's penis --

Tim pulls back as much as he can with Bruce's hand
wrapped around them both, pushes at Bruce's thumb with
his tongue --

"Your wish," Bruce says, and pulls his thumb out. Slowly.
He -- where to even *begin*?

"I think..."

"You have my undivided attention."

"You -- shouldn't consider it either altruism or shyness that I
don't intend to ask you how long you were waiting for this.
By which I mean: never tell me."

Bruce is silent -- and impressively (always) still, considering
the *feel* of that erection. Although... 'waiting' may be a
better descriptor than 'still.'

"As for right this moment..."

It's not that Bruce had had anything like that expression on
his face either of the times he'd felt the need to *hug* Tim.
It's just that there's a similar quality of blackly bottomless
starvation. Tim takes the opportunity -- such as it is -- to
encourage Bruce's fingers to release their grip on *his*

"I think I'd like you to masturbate for me," he says, and lets
himself blank out just a *little* in the interests of not
considering what he'd just said in any kind of depth.

"You think...?"

Bruce, of course, has no particular reason to encourage his
weaknesses. Tim tries a steady stare --

"You," Bruce says, and licks some of Tim's saliva from his
thumb, "are too concerned with the uniform you aren't
wearing for that to work."

Which is -- not *entirely* correct. "Certainly, it's a question
of uniform."

"It doesn't have to be."

The smile currently on his face -- there's nothing special
about the smile itself. Certainly, there's nothing that he's
been able to discern about either its inherent qualities or
its effects. However, the fact that, with Bruce, he has always
turned away -- at least slightly -- before offering it to some
hapless piece of furniture or patch of floor... "This isn't a
tease," he offers.

Bruce flexes, stretches beneath him enough to make it
necessary for Tim to adjust his kneeling stance. "I've often

Dangerously close to the information Bruce isn't supposed to
provide. Tim takes the hint of meets Bruce's eyes, again.
"My request?"

"Are you sure about it?"

And -- inspiration. Of a sort. "You'd rather I sucked you."

"It only seems fair," Bruce says, and lets Brucie run riot over
his features until Tim raises an eyebrow, and then he nods,
evenly. "You're more sore than you've let on."

Which means Bruce had missed it until this moment. A
function of the man's distraction, to be sure, but also -- Tim
shifts until he's on one knee, planting his other foot and
giving his thighs the stretch they've been craving for quite
some time, actually. "I've had problematic influences."

Bruce's sigh is absolutely incongruous with his erection, and,
for that matter, with much of what Tim has come to know
about the man over the years. "I'd like to see you in the suit."

Tim's seen it in dreams. Bruce has, too, of course, but --
The Robin he'd spent years crafting, building,
*becoming* --

Robin would take the opportunity to practice his stare, cold
and secure, and never a partner to *Bruce*. But that's not
someone he has to be, anymore. Not -- here.

"You will," he says, and his voice sounds hesitant to his own
ears, unsure. Testing. All of this is a test, in its own way.

Bruce sits up on his elbows, going so far as to let some of
his hair fall over his forehead.

He really is *that* beautiful. Robin is the one who wants Tim
to be braced, it's true, but Robin isn't entirely incorrect for
*this* moment.

"Perhaps I should've predicted that you'd find... this easier
with Kal."

All of it, including the freedom to engage in all sorts of
interesting experiments with his sex life. (Steph?) As to the
rest... Kal is someone he hasn't met. And he may never
*get* to meet Bruce's Kal, but -- none of that is entirely
relevant. "He follows orders far more readily than you do."

"Is this training, Tim...?"

"Training never stops," he says, more easily than he'd care
to admit -- more easily by the minute, in all honesty. There
was a time when the smile currently behind Bruce's eyes
could make his throat feel too small, his body feel too
small for all the pride and *romance* within, but --

"There is one thing I won't let you stop me from sharing,
Tim: I've been waiting for *this* since the day you informed
me, with dignity and ruthless forethought, that I had
stopped doing my job."

He hadn't known *everything* that smile meant, at the time.
"I can -- accept that."

"And," Bruce says, sitting up and cupping Tim's face with the
hand which *isn't* still wrapped around his erection. "I
appreciate your... care, with me --"

"Bruce --"

"You're being quite gentle."

Despite the hand on his face, it's almost impossible not to
look for the upbraid, the *correction* that simply isn't there.
This is -- something solely for Bruce and Tim.

For the moment.

Tim turns against the hand and licks a stripe up Bruce's palm,
then closes his eyes and does it again.


Bruce is studying him, Tim knows this, and Tim also knows
that that sort of activity almost inevitably leads to the calling
of their -- nighttime selves. Let Bruce deal with how
difficult it is to just be *one* person with him --

"I do take your point... Robin."

Tim bites the heel of Bruce's palm instead of telling him not
to call him that. That's only for the streets, now, and only
until --

"And that one, as well. And yet even you won't be able to
shake yourself free of Robin for a new identity --"

Tim only growls a little. "Are you implying that your feelings
and desires are even more inappropriate than previously

"Previously considered by *whom*?" Bruce is on his knees,
closer than -- close, and the stroke of his knuckles over
Tim's abdomen is its own kind of Shiva-work, brutal and

"Ah -- whoever is monitoring this footage, perhaps...?"

Brucie is in the derision of that noise, liquid and momentarily
tangible -- fuckable. "She knows me too well."

"No one knows you the way I do," Tim says, and Robin
wants to bite his tongue off.

Bruce can see it, of course -- and there's nothing even
resembling shame to temper the *approval* in his eyes. It
isn't even sexual -- or it shouldn't be. It --

Abruptly -- and perhaps predictably -- the stroke of Bruce's
knuckles against his abdomen isn't *enough*. Tim clasps
Bruce's forearm and reads the tension and the flex, lives in it
a little, *takes* it. "Let me see you lose control, Bruce."

"You could give me -- incentive. This --"

"This is enough, I think. You're masturbating *for* me. You'll
be ejaculating *on* me --"

"Semantics and prepositions -- Tim. You've really taken the
concept of the brain as sexual organ rather too much to
*heart*," Bruce says, and there's even *more* Brucie --

It's hardly the right sort of message to send to kiss Bruce,
but the moan is just what he wants -- more than half-
conscious, deliberate and true. He once had the dubious
pleasure of watching 'Brucie' all but devour one of the
daughters of his father's CFO at a party which didn't exactly
have that sort of dark corner.

The sort of thing the reputation is built on.

The sort of thing --

He's leading the kisses, directing them in duration, but Bruce
is controlling the depth. There's something about them
which remind him of no one but Ariana, who had always
been a little too hungry for anything he could give, and a lot
more *willing*.

Bruce is stroking himself and nuzzling Tim, licking him, deep
and wet and soft --

"Now this is more like it --"

*Brucie*, and while the shudder when Tim bites is false, the
tension is not. Bruce is stroking faster, and Tim thinks he
can pick out which of Bruce's knuckles has been broken the
most (third finger) with only the feel against his abdomen.
"You're greedy," he says, confirming it for himself with the
sound of his own voice.

"You're not *complaining*, are you --"

He blocks the coming epithet -- it may very well have been a
pet name -- with his tongue, and uses his free hand to cup
Bruce's hip. He doesn't have the leverage in this position to
pull a man of Bruce's size any closer, but he can suggest it.

And he can reward Bruce's obedience by making the kisses a
little wetter, messier --

At the party, Bruce had caught Tim's eye in the middle of his
extravagantly public performance. His expression had been,
of course, entirely ambiguous, and his hand had been on the
woman's breast.

Right now, the hand he isn't masturbating himself with is at
Tim's throat. The location is as much of a tease as anything
else. Bruce wants to take something for himself which Tim
hasn't even decided is something *he* should have. Bruce
wants this to be a mutual loss of control, but --

He has, frankly, had his turn.

Tim releases Bruce's hips and grabs for that wandering hand.
Using his thumb to jab at a pressure point isn't as effective
as it could be, but it makes Bruce choke a little into the kiss,
which has become an even messier thing. Harder to deal
with, harder to even --

He can see himself, abruptly and terribly, playing the role of
some debutante the society pages had somehow missed.
They all have a handful of false identities, of course, but Tim
is the one 'lucky' enough to be able to play comfortably and
believably with gender. In the fantasy, though -- his makeup
would be as perfect as Alfred could make it, his dress worth
a small fortune, his hair carefully styled --

And his back against a wall, as Brucie emphatically had his
way. The fact that this could happen *tomorrow* -- no. It's
the fact that he'd almost certainly enjoy every minute of it
which is killing him now, and making him lick Bruce's cheek,
his lips, his teeth --

Bruce's throat is a mistake.

"Darling, you're too cruel --"

"I thought," Tim says, scraping his teeth over tendon and
muscle, "I was being gentle."

"The ingenue is disingenuous to a fault --"

"You're taking too long to come for me... brisket."

It's a mark of how far gone Bruce is at the moment -- and
how *close* -- that the shocked amusement is eminently
visible. It's difficult to be sure whether he's reacting to that,
or to the speed and roughness of the thrusts.

Muscle of Bruce's arm under his hand, bone of Bruce's
knuckles working against him --

"I -- I'm sure I'm terribly sorry --"

"You shouldn't keep me waiting," Tim says, and perhaps it's
a function of their relationship that there is, in fact, time for
him to add something of a purr to that while looking from
under his lashes --

"I'm a cad," Bruce says -- grunts, and he's leaning in,
offering -- no.

It's a request, visible in Bruce's own under-lashes look...

It feels strange to cup Bruce's face. It feels, in all honesty,
overly *familiar*, and the strangeness comes in to how
soothing it is to follow the move up with another kiss, deep
and demanding.

If he'd kissed Clark this way, then... what?

Is he going to give himself a chance to find out -- yes, he is.

Here, with Bruce -- Bruce is moaning constantly now, and
the rhythm of his hand on his penis -- he's being far too kind.
It's not a rhythm so much as rough little jerks. There's
something of a punch for every upstroke now, and Tim can
feel Bruce painting him with pre-come, getting him wet,
trying to mark --

Tim bites Bruce's lips, each in their turn, and wishes he were
just a little bit taller. If he were, he could kneel up and loom,
just a little -- they both want that.

"If I let you see me in the suit, you're going to suck me,
Bruce --"

"I can be -- very accommodating --"

"Or perhaps I'll just bend you over the -- car," Tim says, and
it's Robin's reflex to bite back the laugh, but he doesn't
bother to wipe the remnants off his face until Bruce has
regained control of enough of himself after his orgasm to
open his eyes and *see* it on Tim's face.

"Tease," Bruce says, and Tim thinks he can taste the word in
his own mouth.

"You -- had to have seen that coming."

"It took you less than a day to masturbate in the Redbird for
the first time, Tim," he says, bringing his entirely disreputable
hand up between them and offering it. "I am only a man."

"Hm," isn't the world's best response, but it works. For one
thing, it allows him room to forget, again, that he hadn't
found Bruce's tracers and mics in the Redbird for *three*
days. Additionally, it means that he doesn't have to *wait*
before licking Bruce's fingers.

There's a part of him which is quite excited at the prospect --
and incoherent at the reality -- but, in the end, this is an act
*Tim* has been waiting for since the idea had first occurred
to the boy he was a few years ago.

The busy, moderately lonely, desperately horny at dozens of
inconvenient times --

The car had been *wonderful* --

And Bruce appears to be perfectly content to just *let* Tim
lick, which is entirely in character of the last several minutes,
if not the last several years. Not that Tim had *tested* the
boundaries he'd known (assumed?) were there, but -- still.

It's irritating that the question of when their -- internal --
relationship had changed is such an interesting one, more
than it's anything else. If he hadn't stopped being that boy,
Bruce never could've made that godawful *test* work on his
birthday. Tim's mind just wouldn't have worked the way
Bruce had wanted it -- needed it -- to.

What Bruce had wanted from that boy -- and whatever he
still does want, if only for a sticky interlude on the mats -- is,
if not entirely irrelevant, certainly not a *concern*.

Bruce has Brucie to lean on and *play* with. Tim has his
own iterations of self.

"Your tongue --"

"I won't be kind if you make any feline references, Bruce."

"Mm. Is it any wonder I'm enthralled...?"

There is no room within the Bat --

There isn't space under the Bat's *mantle* for an eye-roll,
but, for all the frustration of that fact, boundaries are always
reassuring. Tim takes a moment to suck on each of Bruce's
fingertips in turn, pushes back, and stands.

If he were taller... but he isn't. Tim lets the rueful smile onto
his face, and... "I seem to recall mentioning fairness,

"Shall I shower with you, then?"

"Briefly -- I have a lunch date."

"A lunch date. Mm," Bruce says, and stands. And raises an
eyebrow. "You're reminding me of the sort of activities I
found compelling when I was just starting --"

"Bruce. If you take this opportunity to get *paternal* with
me --"

"Yes, Tim?"

"I will hamstring you with one of my shuriken."

*That* gets him a hand on the shoulder and a squeeze --

"You're pushing it --"

"What can I say, peach pit? I'm *overcome*..."


He has his hands in his pockets when Steph opens the door,
and, while he'd schooled his expression to neutral-teenaged-
boy -- Mrs. Brown's car is in the driveway -- when Steph
opens the door, he has to smile.

Once, she'd expressed an embarrassed fondness for artificial
peach flavor, and Tim had found it necessary -- vital -- to
buy her lip gloss rife with the horrible stuff. (Tim prefers

The sun is catching on the shine. The color, such as it is, is
far too weak to show against the natural shade of Steph's

"Hi, girlfriend."

"You're not fabulous enough to call me that," she says,
grabbing a bag from beside the door and joining him on the
stoop. "Also, kiss me."

"Gladly," he says, and presses his short thumbnail against
Steph's lower lip until she opens her mouth, then slips his
tongue inside. Steph hums a laugh at his fastidiousness that
Tim came to love no more than two weeks after meeting her
and holds herself parent-nearby still.

When Tim pulls back, Steph grabs the handkerchief from
Tim's front pocket and dabs the gloss off his mouth.

And smiles into his eyes.

"So where to, hmm?"

Anywhere, everywhere... Tim snaps to it. "I was thinking
about that coffee shop with the wraps --"

"And the corner location so busy that nobody can hear
anything even with a *badass* directional mike? You really
have been intriguing," she says, and offers her hand.

Tim closes it in his own. "Well... yes," he says. "I'm going to
need at least seven ounces of iced coffee in me before I
know where to even begin talking about it, though."

Steph hums again and nods beside him. "Then you should
take this time to talk about how hot I am."

One day, Tim would like to learn how to get more of the
smile filling him up on the *outside* of his face without
looking psychotic, but one of the nice things about Steph is
that she can always tell, anyway --

"Aww, you're kinda adorable. Get to complimentin'."

"Yes, ma'am. Have I mentioned that I really like what you've
done with your hair?"

"Not enough," Steph says, grinning and walking faster.

"It makes you look like you're in your twenties, and thus
makes me feel like your boy-toy. Flattering all around,

Steph has that expression where it seems she's trying not to
sneeze, which means that what she's really trying not to do
is snort.

"Additionally," Tim says, "I've noticed that you've put on a
few pounds since your... vacation started --"

"Hey --"

"If I may, I think the proper term for this state of affairs is
that you have 'much back.'"

"Oh my God. You did -- you --"

This smile, at least, he has no trouble getting out. For
reasons he chooses not to examine very deeply, he has
never had a problem expressing 'insufferably smug.'

"When did you even have *time* to scope my ass?"

"Steph, I might be gay, but I'm still a *male* of the species."

This time, she can't hold the snort back. She makes him pay
for it by putting enough pressure on his fingers to be

"Mm. You know, ever since I met you, I've just been amazed
at the raw power you've got at your disposal --"

"Rarrr," Steph says, laughing and flexing her shoulders.

"I'm serious. Do you know how long I had to *work* just to
get that much strength in my hands?"

Steph stops them at the corner and eyes him up and down.
"You're really not as puny as you look."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Thank you." The Batsuits don't go
so far as having his name on them, but there are lifts in the
boots he'll have to spend time getting used to. Bruce hadn't
joined him in the room he'd set aside for them, but Tim had
been able to feel him watching through the closed-circuit
cameras as he'd gone over them.

Blacks and deep reds, beautiful and not as wrong as he
might've wished... not all that long ago.


"Hey, where'd you go?"

"I -- iced coffee first, please."

This squeeze is gentle. "You know, you *seem* pretty okay,
all things considered...?"

("He wants me to be more than *human* --") "I am. It's
just... there's a lot of it. I plan on using you to help me put it
in order."

"You *beast*," Steph says, stretching down and away to
pluck a bunch of wildflowers while they walk.

"I know, and -- shouldn't I be doing that?"

"If you ever gave me *flowers*, I'd know you didn't really
love me anymore. Too ordinary."

"All right." Whether or not Steph realizes just how much of
himself she's defined over the years is an interesting
question, but it will never be as interesting as Steph herself.

Instead of holding his hand, she's begun to pick through the
flowers, discarding and saving with no visible -- to Tim --
method -- ah, he's thought of another compliment.

"I also like your perfume quite a lot. Or -- is it perfume?"

If they were a different sort of boyfriend and girlfriend, this
would almost certainly be where he assumed the privileges
of his role and buried his face in a fall of her hair.

As it is, Steph looks at him with the sort of fondness which
might make another sort of boyfriend feel confined, and
Tim guesses, "the lilac shampoo and a new moisturizer?"

Steph's smile turns rueful. "Shea butter. My elbows were
starting to shred my long-sleeved shirts."

"Sounds like you're missing the healing balm of nighttime
breezes over Gotham...?"

Steph stops, and Tim does the same. The cafe is still half a
block away...

"Ah -- was that... too much?"

"I -- heh. Yes and no? Part of me can't believe what I'm
giving up, *all* I'm giving up, but..."

Tim swallows, and tries not to think about the eggplant-girl
who once socked him with a brick. "The rest?"

"Honestly, the rest of me can go hours at a time without
even thinking about it. There's a lot we didn't -- *I* didn't --
get to do when I was... you know what I'm talking about,

"Education, socialization, a future free of breaks and
contusions -- I'm only being flip because I -- I do know
what you mean."

This time, Steph's smile is as old as her hairstyle. Moreso,
and it stays that way until they make it to the cafe. They
nab the worst possible outdoor table -- it isn't even noon
and it's already in the middle of a fair amount of through-
traffic -- order their drinks and wraps -- Steph doesn't believe
him when he says that 'bacon' and 'health food' are two
separate concepts, and never will -- and then Steph settles
her elbows on the table and looks at him.

He hasn't had his coffee, but the trappings count. "When I
realized what he wanted from me --"

"And we're talking about the 'he' who's been running your
life since you could only dream about having a girlfriend like

Tim nods. "I said he wanted me to be more than human,
but that was... disingenuous. Not entirely accurate." Tim
waves a hand.

"He wants you to be *him*," Steph says, and Steph has
never been anything resembling slow when it came to him.
Still, that's not quite it, either.

"He wants me to take *over* for him, is, perhaps, the best
way to put it," he says, and gives Steph the cut-off signal.

She smiles for the waitress with her drinks, Tim nods, and
then Tim downs a healthy mouthful. The way to drink it is
to not try to think of it as 'coffee.' Coffee is what Alfred
makes. This is an overly sweet, caffeine-laden liquid dessert
which didn't require him to expend effort.

As such, it's wonderful. And Steph is looking at him like she
heard every word of that. Steph loves food in all of its
incarnations, without much in the way of critique.

For a crazy, wonderful moment, he pictures her at his side,
in the night. He'd be wearing the new suit, and she...

"Whoa, did you just get a nice breeze up your pants?"

Tim blinks, and doesn't bother to soften the smile that wants
to be on his face --

"And I *repeat*, Jesus, boyfriend, what the hell were you
just thinking?"

"Perhaps in the interest of not pushing you to places you
don't want to go," Tim says, and covers Steph's hand with
one of his own, "let's leave it at the fact that I abruptly had
an image of something which could make... *his* plans
eminently desirable."

"I don't... oh. Oh. Well -- *shit*," she says, and her hand
twitches under Tim's own.

He can feel her still it. "We don't have to -- it was just a

"A *fantasy* -- is something I'm not all that used to with
*you*, in case you hadn't noticed."

In his head, Steph's hair is long again, wild in the wind.
Impractical to the point of recklessness. He'd have to touch
so carefully to avoid having it catch on the gauntlet. There
are lipsticks she could wear in the Cave... no, he'd make a
new shade. She'd have the best equipment his money and
Bruce's could buy. And her *training* --


Right now, as at no other point in his tenure with Bruce, he
could put his foot down. He could *make* Bruce train her.
He could do it himself.

Steph spritzes him with iced tea.

He blinks again, *focuses*. "I'm sorry, but it's just -- how
long have I been... been *bitching* to you about the lack of
clear answers in my life, the lack of power to set my own
agendas, much less make my own *decisions* --"

"And is -- is that what this is? What it means?"

It's tempting to temporize, or at least hedge things a little,
but... "That's *exactly* what this is. I don't... the phrase
'ultimate sanction' was used, Steph."

"*Jesus*. And -- how long have you been holding this
back --"

Tim shakes his head. "When you were -- *he* gave me time
once I came back. Time to hate him, time to really think
about what I was taking back. And then he -- Steph, look at
me, my eyes --"

"All right, but --"

"He told me that he'd... put in an addition at the office.
When I went to see what he meant -- I already knew
there'd be a uniform, uniforms -- and I was right, and it
made it all real. *My* judgment now, Steph. My rules."

"Because he trusts you that much," she says, and sounds a
little sick.

"More than he trusts himself, in some ways. Steph, if you
wanted this, I could -- there's so much I have the *right* to
tell you now, things you've had the right to know for
*years* --"


Tim bites his lip. "I -- I'm sorry, I just -- you don't know how
much I've wanted --"

"I do know! Now, I -- and I always knew a little --" Steph
shakes her head, and looks like she wants to bolt.

Tim squeezes her hand. "Steph. Just -- I understand you
don't want to. Please, one question, okay?"

Steph nods.

"One day I might *need* this from you --"

"There'll be someone else --"

"If there isn't."

She doesn't look like she's going to run, anymore. She looks
like she's going to beat him into paste.

"Steph --"

"If you *need* me? Jesus fucking -- why the *fuck* did you
even need to *ask* that?"

Tim feels himself flushing and wants -- a little -- to be beaten
into that paste. But. "Because I know exactly what I'm
asking --"

"As if I don't?"

"Because it's that serious for me. Now."

The glare doesn't fade so much as fall apart. For a moment,
it seems like she's trying to turn it on herself, but then she
forcibly wipes it all away, and turns the hand Tim's covering
to hold it. "I'll be here."

*Yes* --

"Jesus, boyfriend, if you keep looking -- where's your

Cut to pieces by the shuriken Tim will put on her chest one
day. "I'll... try to do better," he says, and sees the waitress

He gives Steph's hand one last squeeze and pulls back. Is
this --

No, he doesn't have to ask.

It's exactly how Bruce feels when he looks at one of them.


After he drops Steph off and gets on the bus... well, the rest
of his day is pretty much wide open.

There's training he could be doing, but he knows he's not
going to feel quite right in his own skin doing that sort of
thing until sometime after patrol. Afternoons are for *Robin*,
and he --

Is getting used to this rather more quickly than not. Still,
there are more innocent-appearing things he could be doing,
and when he finds Dana watching a soap opera --

Dana's never *that* bored.

"Care to go for a run with me?"

"Oh, God, I think it's either that or kill myself," she says, and
all but leaps off the couch.


"Your *father* and I were supposed to spend the day
together, but just as I was getting the wine and making the
edibles all cute on a plate --"

"The phone rang?"

"Yes. The *phone* rang -- do you know where my headband
is? I just didn't sweat in it enough last time to make it worth

A terrible sign of the times. Tim nabs it from between couch
cushions two and three and tosses it.

Dana snatches it out of the air with one hand while using the
other to brush her hair back from her face, and really... hm.
The move wasn't as *easily* graceful as it could've been.

"When's the last time you played racquetball...?"

"Two... no, wait... oh my God, it's been over a month! I'm
becoming some kind of couch fungus, aren't I?"

Tim tilts his head to the side. "You certainly still *seem*

"That better not be a crack about the sports bra I've got on
under here, and -- I was going to make your *father* play
racquetball with me --"

"You don't think that's a little cruel?"

"He *needs* it. He showed me a picture of your grandfather,
you know," she says, standing on one leg to tie up her
running shoe. "*Jowls* run in your family, and your father
eats like he has a tapeworm."

"It could just be a compliment to your cooking --"

"Don't butter me up. You *still* can't have those disgusting
Sugar Bomb flakes in the house."

Tim rocks on his heels a little and watches her finish getting
ready. "Did you want to leave a note, just in case...?"

"Let him *worry*," she growls, and stops, and looks at him
like she'd accidentally shot his puppy.

Tim holds up his hands. "Still not a 'stepmom moment,' I

"Are you sure? I mean --" She narrows her eyes. "Wait, are
you just talking me up because you want me to keep running
interference between *you* and your father's perfectly
understandable desire to have you be part of the business?"

"I admit nothing," Tim says, as lightly as he can -- but Dana
doesn't smile back. Not even when they're out the door and

It's Dana -- however deconditioned life with Jack Drake is
causing her to become, she's still more than capable of
holding a conversation with him at a run. It can be difficult
to remember to seem strained, but she trusts him to be
the same sort of solitary athlete she always was.

Not a fungus, but not at all inclined towards teams, and --

She's still silent.


The sidewalk is filling -- Dana jinks around a sad little tree
and then hurdles a fire hydrant -- okay, time to pick up the

He gives her the lead for five minutes, and then uses just a
little of his experience to eat it back down to nothing.

It makes Dana give him an approving look, which is far
better than silence, and -- yes, he really is that manipulative.

"You were going to say something," he says.

"Was I?"

"Yes," Tim says, "because we're a model of how well
second families can work."

Dana snorts, but she doesn't slap at his arm or smile at him.

"Seriously, Dana --"

"Do you run in the mornings when you're not in bed?"

Shit. "Do you have insomnia... often?"

"I don't get enough exercise anymore. Answer the question."

"Sometimes," he says, entirely honestly. Sometimes it's even
*just* running, as opposed to running over rooftops. "It's
not -- that often." He's usually home by three.

"The reason your father can't even bribe you into his
office..." Dana shakes her head and swerves right around a
pair of obvious lovers.

Tim swerves left.

"You have a whole separate life we know nothing about.
What *we* know -- you have a 'friend' who has been in your
life since you were ten or so, and who has openly admitted
to me that most of the time you're a complete mystery. You
have a 'girlfriend' who blushes when you so much as hold
her hand."

Not all the time, and -- shit. "What do you want to know?"

Dana's laugh is brief and bitter. "Nothing, because it's clear
to me that you're more than good enough at lying -- I won't
believe anything you say."

"I spend a lot of time with Bruce Wayne. Dick Grayson and
Barbara Gordon, too."

"You -- Tim, I already told you --"

"I've been in love with Dick since I was... well, since before
I had any idea what it meant. Hero-worship, for a long time.
He's also unbelievably attractive, as you may or may not
have noticed."

"You're telling me -- you're coming out?"

Tim looks at her, and really -- everyone who knows him
knows that Tim's entirely capable of lying to anyone's face,
including Bruce's -- whether or not Bruce chooses to believe
the lie. Still, the motion is correct, proper -- something. "I've
known for quite a while."

"I... I really wish... there are *books* on how to talk to your
teenaged son --"

"That's the other thing, Dana --"


"Bruce has been more of a father to me than Jack Drake
ever has. There's his public persona, and then there's the
person he shows to -- he wanted to adopt me when Dad
was in that coma. I saw the papers."

"*Jesus*," Dana says, and stops.

Which means that it's time for him to stop, too. "So... yes,
I've been leading a double life. I know exactly how much it
would hurt Dad to know any of this -- any of it. I mean,
really, Dana -- how do you think the man would feel if I let
slip that sometimes, when I know Bruce is going to be out
late at some society party, I wait up in the manor so I can
talk to him about school, my ambitions --"

"Stop. Just -- stop."

He hadn't had very much more to -- there's only so much he
could... "It's not that --"

The slap is light and quick, but it's still a slap. If it were
nearly any one of the other people in his life, Tim would
raise an eyebrow. For Dana...

He waits.

After a moment, the wild rage in her eyes fades to
something colder, if not friendlier. "And your father doesn't
have a clue what he has instead of a son."

"If I didn't love him, he'd know everything," he says, nearly
entirely honestly.

To her credit, it makes Dana's face twist in disgust which
isn't aimed at him. "I -- I'm sorry."

"It's all right."

"No, it isn't -- don't you realize how much your father has
been *trying* to --"

"Bruce was there before he ever was," Tim says, and rubs
his cheek to erase the last bits of sting. "Was I supposed to
give him up?"

"Are you sure it's *Dick* you're in love with?"

That sort of limit, Tim thinks, is nothing he'll ever have to
concern himself with. Judging by Bruce. But -- "Your turn
for below the belt? You could've just let it lie --"

"I'm your stepmother, Tim, *not* your father's bimbo."

Tim would like to congratulate her for the point, but Tim
Drake, teenaged boy, should absolutely lower his head to
stare at the ground. "I never thought of you that way."

"Who is it you go to when you want a mother, Tim? The --
freaking police commissioner's daughter?"

"I don't have anyone like that, Dana."

"You could've, if you'd ever --"

"I've always been more inclined to hoping you'd be a friend.
I -- my mother *died*, Dana."

"Jesus, I -- go home, please."

"Dana --"

"I'm going to finish my run, and then I'm going to come
home and fix dinner, and then we're going to eat it together
and, chances are, not say one word to each other."

"If that's what you want."

"I *want* -- not to have had this conversation, Tim."

"Then I think you're starting to see my point."


He does.

Once in his bedroom, he has -- more than just a moment of
wishing this was the old house, with the tunnel cunningly
tucked behind the fake wall in the wine cellar. He probably
*could* use Bruce's input for something like this --

No, that's the Robin in him talking.

Bruce has never had anything like this, and wouldn't be the
man he is if he'd ever had the *chance* to have a fuck-up
like this.

This -- is all due to the fact that he's the kid with the

He laughs to himself, squelching it when the sound starts
getting a little too wild, boots up his system, and does this
week's version of the fancy finger-work which lets him
access this month's ghost of a server.

Rollergirl: Been a while.

Of course, even with *this* degree of security, there's no
reason to take chances.

Sarcsmjnky: I'm having something of a civilian crisis.

There's a pause during which there is a tiny sound which is
far more reminiscent of insects in the walls than of assorted
cameras shifting to take in himself, his room, his house from
the outside, and a good chunk of his neighborhood.

Sarcsmjnky: Moderate crisis, I should say, and one which
should remain entirely personal. I had other secrets to share.

Rollergirl: You've had a good run with nothing of the kind.
Perhaps it was just your turn.

And by the way, Babs, she's jealous of your status as my
*mother*. Tim reflexively hides a smile from the cameras
he knows about.

Rollergirl: Good that you're laughing. What do you need?

Sarcsmjnky: Not to be a disappointment to my family. I may
have mentioned that I lead a double-life as the little brother
portion of Bruce Wayne's extended family.

Rollergirl: I hope I'm allowed to laugh, too.

Sarcsmjnky: I can deny you nothing. Look, how do you -do-

There's another pause, and... and. Tim gives up and looks
directly at one of the cameras he's sure about, then lets as
much of what he's feeling as he can onto his face.

Rollergirl: It says a lot that you didn't just pop in one of your
comms, you realize.

Sarcsmjnky: It felt like pushing my luck.

Rollergirl: And if you choose to believe that's the whole of it,
I promise not to judge you overmuch.

Sarcsmjnky: Noted. But my question?

Rollergirl: Live with their disappointment.

It shouldn't make his stomach clench as much as it does. It --
Barbara has *more* than that with her father. She -- doesn't

Sarcsmjnky: That's it?

Rollergirl: That's it. Sometimes, if you're lucky and they're
very, very good -- you won't even be able to see it in their
eyes. Sometimes you'll forget it's there.

No, he won't. And she doesn't either.

Sarcsmjnky: What does he want from you? If I may ask.

Rollergirl: Grandkids. Work he can talk to his friends about.
A whole body which has nothing he has to blame himself
for. The usual.

Tim nods.

Rollergirl: What do they want from you?

Tim's almost sure that this is Barbara's version of being
polite more than anything else, but... it's an opening. He
doesn't have to ignore those anymore. Not from --

Not from the people in his *real* life.

Sarcsmjnky: A business-oriented, heterosexual son who
doesn't love his other family more.

Rollergirl: Is -that- what you told them?

Sarcsmjnky: Just my stepmother. And -- for the most part, I
implied an equality of -- love. I think. I hope. Shit. I was
doing my best to phrase all of it in such a way that she'd
rather die than repeat it to my father.

Rollergirl: I'm sure what you did was worthy of training
videos in circumspection.

Tim snorts. It hurts.

Sarcsmjnky: Thank you. Remind me to add it to my alternate
father's records.

Rollergirl: About that 'father' thing.

Sarcsmjnky: No. Not now. I'm signing off.

Rollergirl: Noted. Come see me when you can.

Tim signs off, stands, stretches, uses the lintel of his doorway
to do chin-ups... no. He has to make sure all of his stashes
here are as locked down as they can be.

And then he has to decide where he's moving them.

Just in case.


Patrol is as much of a relief as it ever is, especially since this
is the first night he's working his new, larger chunk of

There are new-to-him dealers to beat, prostitutes to
befriend, and muggers to maim in small, unofficially-
approved-of ways.

He gives himself three good hours in that vein, not thinking
an *inappropriate* amount about the suits which are
waiting for him, their secrets and surprises...

He hadn't even realized he was starting to find the Robin suit
dull. Perhaps it's time for a redesign -- the anticipation of the
*other* suit can't help but be a little obscene.

After the three hours, his skin feels like it's a better fit and
the run he hadn't gotten to finish with Dana is something
dim and irrelevant to his thrumming muscles.

He's not puny; he's *compact* --


One day, that voice won't be in his ear. It's inevitable. It's --
unthinkable is too strong a word. Tim taps his comm. "Go."

"R-point twenty-nine H. Five minutes."

"Noted. R out."

As sometimes happens, Batman hasn't given him enough
time to go back for his bike. It is, however, *just* enough
time for him to fly there, if he decides to treat it as an
exercise in near-suicidal speed.

At times like these, he does honestly wish he was larger, if
only for the added momentum. The fact that he'd lose the
additional speed in building *up* that momentum is
emotionally unsatisfying -- it's hardly ever spectacular when
*he* busts through a skylight or a plate glass window.

As it is, he makes it with thirty seconds to spare --

And Batman immediately grabs him, yanks him close --

And he doesn't have enough time to make a sarcastic
comment before Batman says,

"Tower. Two for transport."

Well, *hell*.

Batman's holding him too tightly for him to fall to his knees
when they get to the -- yes, it's the Tower -- but it's a near

"Batman --"

"How long before you're optimal?"

"Let me walk it out," Tim says, and twists out of the grip,
and -- doesn't hit the deck. Excellent.

"All right. Follow," he says, and Tim does.

The nice thing about JLA-grade technology is that it only
takes about twenty paces before he feels entirely connected
to his limbs again, which gives him ten paces of grace time
before he's face to chest with Wonder Woman.

Tim nods.

"Robin, it's good to see you again," she says, simultaneously
clasping his forearm and giving Batman a Look.

Other superheroes just aren't that subtle about that sort of
thing. Batman, of course, continues to the monitors without
a word, and so Tim, while extricating, offers, "my apologies,
Princess. You caught us in the middle of training. I don't
plan on getting in the way." Of whatever it is they're about
to do.

"I didn't think you would. No apologies are necessary." She
claps him on the shoulder just hard enough to make his
body armor thrum a little.

Tim uses the extra momentum to speed himself out of the
path of -- everyone, and finds a spot from which he can
view nearly every last one of the monitors. It's probably
Batman's favorite. Tim folds the cape around himself and
settles in to listen.

"Why am I here," Batman says helpfully, if not especially

"Here," Flash says, and the monitor at two o'clock is showing
an alien ship of a designation Tim can't guess at.

Bruce grunts. "How many."

"Just one, but it's capital-class at least. It could hold several
hundred thousand humans. What it *is* holding..." Flash
shrugs. "Your guess is as good as mine. It'll be within
weapons-range -- the kind of weapons *we* know about --
within ten hours. No response to the standard range of

"Assuming it can't move any faster than what we've seen."

Green Lantern snorts. "That's just the kind of Pollyanna
attitude that doesn't belong on the JLA, soldier."

Batman, of course, ignores it utterly. "Have we considered
a more personal greeting?"

"Ah, would that be me?"

Tim isn't entirely sure where Superman was, but then, he's
never actually *been* on the Tower before. There's only so
much hacked schematics can share. Perhaps predictably,
his smile for Tim is distinctly... warm.

Tim would've expected more surprise, but... Clark has had
*time* to catch on to the way things are working in Gotham
now. And Tim had, almost certainly, given him a reason to
apply himself. Tim nods to him, and --

"I've already considered flying over for a closer look and,
perhaps, some interstellar diplomacy," Clark says, "but it's
still at the kind of distance which would, ah, lessen my
effectiveness should I find myself alone out there and
needing to fight."

"I could follow in a Javelin," Wonder Woman says.

"Do it," Batman says. "Take Lantern."

"Am I *baggage*, now?"

Batman's smile belongs in an alley, or anywhere else that
smells more like decomposing food products and blood than
the technological wonder that is the Tower.

Barbara *has* to love it here --

"Kyle," Batman says, "you should endeavor to remember
that it would be a *good* thing if you wind up being
'baggage' on this trip," and then he turns, scanning all of
them at a speed which both Superman and Flash could
duplicate, but which none of them would get quite so *well*.

Really, it's beautifully done, and had been from the time
when Bruce arrived and taken a location so central it could've
been measured. All eyes are on him for a beat, another --

And Tim realizes it's a performance. Everyone in this room
knows that Batman gives the orders -- they've known it for
years. This is for his benefit. Things he needs to learn for
the future. All right.

Tim nods -- slightly -- in acknowledgment of the lesson,
watches Wonder Woman and Lantern move for the landing
bay, returns Clark's goodbye smile with one from behind his
domino, and waits for what comes next. Which --

Which is Batman turning and stalking off -- somewhere.

Tim moves to follow --

"Wait for me here, Robin."

Really. Just -- granted, they were too far away for Batman
to make his point with a touch, but would a gesture be too
much to ask for?

Flash whistles, long and low. "I never did get how Dick put
up with that."

Ah -- he understands. He's being a little too slow, still:
Batman just set Flash up very neatly for him, indeed. Tim
turns to him and smiles ruefully. "Dick can be very...

Flash spins in his chair to face him and grins. "I dunno, isn't
that one of the prerequisites for you birdboys?"

Tim shrugs, casually. "I do my best. Meditation can be very
useful, I've found."

"I -- hey. Does *he* meditate? I mean, I've known him for
years, but every time I try to picture it, the Batman in my
head starts *glaring* at me."

Tim smiles, adding a little bit of sly. "It can be rather
intimidating to watch."

"But you manage, along with everything else -- how much
warning did you get before he yanked your ass up here with

"Warning...? I know you're speaking English, Flash, but I'm
afraid I don't understand."

Flash snickers -- "Hey, you know you can call me Wally,
right? Even though I'm not actually allowed to know *your*
name -- would you tell me how that works?"

Whiplash -- but Tim's had years of *Bart*. "Thank you,
Wally. And -- frankly, it's a security measure I never entirely
agreed with. I'm not sure how much Bart shared with you,
but it nearly got Young Justice rather messily killed several
months ago."

Flash frowns -- "Was that -- are you talking about the
Darkseid thing?"

"Yes --"

A shiver. "Yeah, I never did get the full word on that. One
of your team-members got turned?"

"Secret, yes. She was... troubled, in a number of ways. It
wasn't difficult for Darkseid to get to her. We -- *I* -- left
her a large vulnerability by keeping myself apart while
calling myself her friend --"

"And by the way, I know you guys took a lot of crap --
Donna gave Dick *hell* over -- God, Donna... anyway, I just
want to know that even though you aren't together
anymore, even though things went so bad -- nothing but
respect from me. You guys were a great team, and I'm glad
at least some of you are back together as Titans."

How about respect for Bart, Wally? Tim smiles at the floor,
briefly. "I -- thank you. It means a lot, coming from you,
and --"

"Oh, don't make me feel old, please --"

"You should call me Tim," he says, and offers his hand.

"Sometimes it's weird enough just *being* on the League
now, and -- really? Tim?"

Before he can blink, naturally, Flash is there in front of him,
pumping Tim's hand and staring at his face, his body, his
face again -- too fast. "Tim Drake."

"You -- just like that?"

"You know Dick, Bruce, and Barbara. You couldn't possibly
be more of a security risk than you already are --"

Another snort.

"And, more importantly, I don't play the same kind of games
Batman does."

A rush of air, and there's a little distance between them
again. Flash is still examining him as closely as he probably
capable of doing.

Tim tilts his head and keeps the smile on his face.

"I -- wow."

"Does it seem that strange?"

"Look, it was crazy enough with Dick, and -- do you *know*
what we all had to go through before Bruce sucked it up and
*told* us?"

Tim lets the smile get wider. "I've seen the reports."

"I don't -- I'll admit that I don't know you, even to know the
kind of *Robin* you are, but I would've bet money... well. I.
Nice to meet you, Mr. Drake."

"Likewise, Mr. West." On cue, one of the shadows to their
left resolves into Batman waiting for him. "I look forward to
working with you in the future --"

Flash's grin is blinding, but nothing compared to one of
Bart's. "Yeah, uh, you, too -- do you talk like this all the

"Sometimes I content myself with staring grimly into the
night, Wally, but ah --" Tim nods toward Batman. "I believe
it's time for me to go."

"Oh, Jesus, I hate the way you always do that, Bats --"

"Noted," Batman says, cold as the earth, and begins walking
toward the teleporter.

Tim shares one more smile with Flash -- a wink would be
optimal, but the timing's all wrong -- and follows behind.

The return trip is just as awful as the first, but Batman is
there to hold him until he can steady himself.

"Your technique is impressive... Robin."

And so, no, *Bruce* is there. Tim rolls his head on his neck
and makes a point -- a small one -- of remaining within easy
reach once he can stand. "I'm going to miss you after you
die some undoubtedly gruesome death, you know."

"Perhaps you'll make some sort of memorial to me."

"Oh, I think so," Tim says, and ignores the way his stomach
keeps wanting to insist it's somewhere to the left of his body.
He knows, now, that the feeling will pass. "The screaming
nightmares will keep my memory *green*, as it were, but a
memorial would be fitting. Something subtle, tasteful."

"Of course," Bruce says, and shifts with the wind.

Tim's tights are just thin enough that when Bruce's cape
slips beneath Tim's own nerve endings spark and fire behind
his knees. "I -- can't come back with you tonight."

"Oracle mentioned... difficulties at home."

It's an invitation, small and nearly diffident. Bruce has been
admirably consistent about keeping himself from getting
between Tim and his father, if not from between Tim and
Steph. But. "It'll be easier once I'm out of high school. Once
I... I can't be who they want me to be."

"Do you want to?"

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"I believe you think you've been more obvious about your
desires with regards to this sort of thing than you actually
have," Bruce says, shifting again. The cape is gone.

"You've been letting your observational abilities slide, Bruce.
You didn't know me the last time I hoped for tangible
approval from that quarter --"


Tim blinks. "No, what?"

"You're doing too well at -- everything," Bruce says, and his
gauntlet is cold on Tim's cheek.

His breath is warm on Tim's ear.

"The fact that it seems easier, right now, to pretend this pain
is irrelevant doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do."

"You -- you've got to be kidding me, B."

"Hm..." Bruce's nose brushes, lightly, against the upper rim
of Tim's ear. "The right thing for me to do quite often has
nothing whatsoever to do with the right thing for *you*.
Keep teaching me that. Keep *showing* me."

"I --" He -- doesn't know what to say to that.

"I'm going to miss you in my bed tonight. Just as an aside."

*That* is easier to deal with, and so clearly the world has
gone completely mad. "You assume I *planned* to return?"

"I planned to do my level best to entice," Bruce says -- in
Batman's growl. And that --

The shadow they're sharing isn't deep enough for this --
none ever really could be on a *roof* -- but it's too much
not to turn, shove until they're as deep within as they can
be, and pull Bruce down by the cowl -- slippery enough that
it's difficult even with *his* gauntlets -- until Tim can kiss
him, bite -- not quite enough.

He slides one hand between them so he can push, gauntlet
to armor, armor everywhere, but the *sound* makes it
enough, scratching and whispery, and Bruce's tongue is
suckable, lickable --

Tim hears himself growl -- this *is* still inappropriate -- and
surrenders just a little more, just enough to get both hands
on Bruce's hips and *pull*. It's a relief when Bruce pushes
his hands into Tim's hair, when he can feel hair catch on the

Tim knows he's flushing, and the *heat* in his jock feels like
the sexual equivalent of a magnesium flare, sudden and

Tim pulls back --

And Bruce pulls him back for another, harder kiss. Mm. The
bite breaks the skin on his lip, but it's slight enough that Tim
doesn't taste blood. He sucks Bruce's tongue until Bruce lets
go, and then Bruce wipes Tim's mouth with the thumb of his

"Thank you," Tim says, and adjusts the gorget of his cape.
When had it gotten twisted, exactly...?

Bruce nods, and pulls on Batman with a visible stiffening.

Tim gives him a moment to suggest changes to his route.
When there's nothing, he flies.


He's not quite dreaming of Clark, having fallen asleep too
deeply too early for his body to cope. He's drifting on the
edges of things, in the corners of images:

Lying flat on the conference table in the tower --

Lying sprawled on the conference table, curling his toes
against the Bat on Bruce's chair while Clark... what?

Sucks him, perhaps --

The table's surprisingly low to belong to so many
shamelessly tall people. The angle's too awkward --

He's in the sky with Clark -- no, he'd imagined that too many
times with Kon. He doesn't ever want --

He's looking at Clark, looking his fill. An endless expanse of
golden skin, damp with sweat --

Damp with rain, and that curl is ridiculously appealing (Kon) --

He has his hands braced on the tile of the Cave's showers,
and Clark's shadow blanks him, engulfs him in the moments
before Clark slips to his knees. Out of the corner of his eye,
Bruce is striding closer, stripping as he walks. His eyes are
terrible -- perfect.

If they make him come enough times *fast* enough, he'll
regain the ability to be clever in a reasonable period of time,
and thus will be entertaining.

He could watch them kiss (Steph), touch, *learn* each other --

The door opens, and so do Tim's eyes. The hall light makes
it easy to pick out Dana's silhouette.


"I honestly don't think I expected you to be here."

"You should come in," Tim says, sitting up and debating the
wisdom of turning on his own light... he has to. The
alternative would be strange.

"So I don't wake your father and risk your secrets?" Her
voice isn't as coldly sarcastic as it could be.

Room for hope. "Among other things," Tim says, and
gestures toward his computer chair.

Dana walks in -- and closes the door behind her.

"Thank you --"

"Don't," she says, and sits down. "Just -- don't."

"All right. Did you want to talk?"

Dana's response, such as it is, is to cover her face.

"Are you..."

"I'm not a homophobe," she says, somewhat muffled by her
palm. She slides it off and looks at him. Her expression is
haggard, rough.

If she'd slept, it wasn't easy. "I'm glad to hear that. You
certainly never seemed the... type."

Dana's smile is soft and familiar. "I think I like that
compliment. I just -- I wanted you to know that I didn't
think there's anything wrong with you for that, and that I
don't want you to feel you have to hide from me. I know
your father -- I've heard him make... jokes, sometimes..."

"So have I. You've never let him get away with them, and I
appreciate that."

Dana nods. "I'm sorry you've had to deal with that. No one
should, and... I found some articles on the internet about
talking about this. Can you tell?"

Tim offers her his own smile. "I think you're doing fine."
Watch me not test you on that whole vigilante thing.

"I can -- I can understand your not wanting to... come out to
your father, but I think you're being a little unfair to him.
He's a *good* man, and a loving one -- I -- do you talk to
*Bruce* about this?"

For certain values of same. Tim nods.

Dana laughs softly. "Somehow, I never would've pegged him
as the understanding type, Tim."

"He's a good man. I think his parents must've been
wonderful people."

"Unlike yours?"

Hell. "I didn't say that --"

"No, but is it what you meant?"

Her voice is so *gentle*. "I don't -- Bruce had two sons
before he ever met me. He... he had experience, Dana. I'm
an only child, and I -- look, I don't blame my father,
anymore, and I never blamed you. It's not -- I never
thought it was your fault that I never wanted another

"That's... very honest and fair of you, I think," Dana says,
resting her palms on her thighs. She takes a deep breath.
"To be honest, I think what hurts the most, right now, is
that I really don't think it's the right time for you to..."
Dana's face crumples, briefly, before she visibly takes
control again. "When I think of the weeks your father spent
shut up in our bedroom with his *records* and that picture
of your mother..."

"I can't imagine how hard that must've been for you, Dana."

"Can't you?"

Tim shrugs again, carefully. "I've had longer to get used to

"He's doing better, now," and if it seems like she's trying to
convince herself, a little...

"He is. He loves you."

"He loves you, too, you know."

"I never doubted that, Dana. I'm just not... look, Dana, I'll
be a junior next year. Why *shouldn't* I give him at least
two more years of being *something* like the son he
actually wants?"

Dana shakes her head. "That's not the kind of decision a
sixteen year old should have to *make*, Tim."

"Even if it's the right one? What does it *tell* you that we
both know how badly he'd react if he had any inkling that I
was still friends with Bruce?"

"You can't *blame* him for not liking the man --"

"I can blame his reasons."

"I..." Dana covers her face again, and starts to shake.

Oh, no. "Dana...?"

The noises -- the noises are laughter.

Well, that's... better? "Dana?"

"When I think about the *number* of times I've wished
you'd stop being this perfectly polite little *being* and start
treating me like an actual person..."

Tim. "Heh. The only thing worse than wanting what you
don't have is getting it?"

"Something like," she says, and looks at him again. "You're
really an interesting kid, you know that?"

"I try. And -- I'll make you a deal. If things go well for a few
more months, I'll start trying to bring up the gay thing with

"The gay thing. Oh, Tim. How about bringing it up with your
poor *girlfriend*?"

His poor -- "Oh. Ah. She knows."

"She -- *what*?"

He supposes it could be considered a little strange --

"Is she your... 'beard?'"

"Well... no. I love her a lot, Dana, and she loves me. She's
straight, but she had... I think, maybe, her prior sexual
experiences might not have been... ah. Optimal," Tim says,
and flushes. It's not his secret to tell.

"Oh, I -- oh. That's -- but she's okay?"

Tim nods. "I think so. She's really excited for junior year,
starting the college hunt. That kind of thing." And I'd give a
lot to have her excited for everything I'm never going to
tell you.

"Well, I..." Dana stands up and puts her hands on her hips.
"I suppose I should be happy you're being honest with

Tim tries a rueful smile.

"Oh... you. Can I have a hug?"

"I just happen to have a few on hand," Tim says, and slips
out of bed to meet her. Dana hugs like she's never had
trouble doing anything of the kind. Even Dick's hugs can't
really compare -- Dana is capable, thankfully, of hugging
without sexual subtext.

"Are you going to stay here and sleep tonight? God, I -- are
you being *safe*?"

Absolutely. He only has sex with super*heroes*. "I'm really
not big on taking risks, especially not with my, ah..." Tim
raises both eyebrows.

Dana ruffles his hair. "All right. I -- all right. I remember
being your age, and you certainly haven't... you're more
careful than I ever *was* at your age, I think."

Tim shrugs again.

"Get some sleep, anyway, okay?"

"I will, Dana. You do the same?"

Dana nods, and smiles again, a little tightly. She looks a little
like she's going to cry, and a little like it won't be the painful
sort. He hopes not.

He's -- he has to be allowed to hope not.


Dick is in the process of making the pommel horse his bitch
when Tim gets to the Cave the next afternoon, which makes
Tim feel rather better about his decision not to just start
stripping in the study.

There's no plausible deniability in summer -- he's already
wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

Additionally, Bruce is nowhere to be found, despite the fact
that he's supposed to fly Tim out to San Francisco in about
ten minutes.

Tim had had *plans* for those ten minutes -- 'show me
something you'd like to see me do with... Kal,' just as an
example -- but he's more than just a horny teenaged boy.

Additionally, Dick on a pommel horse is more proof of a
benevolent godhead than anything Themyscira could toss
out as an example. To a casual observer, Tim thinks, it
would look like Dick was training hard, pushing himself,

However, there isn't a single line on his forehead as he
twists and flies in those ruthlessly controlled arcs, and, on
the next handstand --

Yes, he really did wave to Tim with his *toes* just before
sending his legs whipping around again.

Tim grins. "Hello to you, too. I take it you're my ride?"

"With the amount of notice Bruce gave me," Dick says,
grunting, "I'm tempted to have you take the plane to SF
yourself, little brother," and then, in a move Tim wouldn't
be able to duplicate on his very best day, Dick twists,
somehow *rolls* into the air, and dismounts. "Even if you
did lose your mind again and decide to let Bart fly it."

Tim crosses his arms. "The longer we let him go without
responsibilities, the longer he'll remain a child."

"He's *two* --"

"He's -- virtually -- fifteen. And his powers seem to be
increasing as quickly as his intellect. He has too much
power --"

"I can agree with you *there*," Dick says, wiping his hands
on a towel.

"If Wally won't take him in hand, then I *will*."

Dick blinks at him. "Er."

Oh... there is just no way in hell that Bruce has told Dick
anything about the new Bat order.

("Keep *showing* me.")

Well, the cameras are running. "Ah -- Dick. That probably
came out a bit --"

"Bat? Why, *yes*, Timbo, it did." Dick shakes his head and
grins. "Is it time for me to kidnap you for a weekend of bad
movies, junk food, and me chasing you around and around
the couch until you sit still and let me cuddle?"

It's certainly been a while. And what he can *have*, now,
what he can *do* --

No, it would be a mistake to shove his relationship with Dick
in the same pile as his other relationships. What's between
them has nothing to do with the Bat. Except when it has
everything to do with it -- their relationship is confusing. He'll
stick with that for now, and worry about his reactions to
Dick stepping closer, bearing down on him with all of that
beauty, that *grace* --

"For that matter, you're sixteen. As your big brother, it's
probably about time I get you drunk. Because we're *us*, it
will take one beer apiece, and then we'll act stupid for a few
hours and -- hey, can I dress you up?"

-- that *insanity*. "Dick -- have you *spoken* with Wally
lately, by any chance?"

Dick gives him a look. "You know I did. He called me from
the *Tower* to all but speed-babble at me about *you*.
You really blew his mind, and --" Dick crosses his arms, too.
"What exactly *do* you plan to do with Bart?"

Tim spreads his hands. "Help him be what he wants to be.
What he *will* be."

"Just like what you've been doing with Superboy, and --
anyone else?"

"I haven't managed much in the way of... inroads, with
Wonder Girl. Then again, Wonder *Woman* is hardly
slacking in that regard."

"Unlike Wally, who you... sounded out? Started labeling for
one of your little mental boxes? Did you start plotting world
domination *without* me, little brother?"

"Perish the thought," Tim says, and -- if he's honest with
himself, he never really expected Bruce to do the talking for
him. It's his own fault for not planning the conversation for
himself -- "Dick, I -- I know what my future is going to look

The expression is distinctly confused. "O-kay... care to clue
me in?"

In response, Tim heads for the uniforms. If he spares a
glance for how huge and shadowy Bruce's uniforms are --
they make their *own* shadows -- then he's going to feel
too *small* for this.

He moves through them, instead, holding on to the feel of
Dick at his back -- could there be anything better?

How long before the part of him which answers that question
with a hungry growl for *Robin* gets too large for him to
contain? A question for Bruce, perhaps -- though Tim doubts
he'll get any useful answers. And --

"Hey, that's -- how new is that palm-lock?"

"I --"

"And it's coded to *you* -- Tim, what?"

"Easier, I think, just to... show you," and the door opens,
and the uniforms are right -- there's another new one. The
same deep reds, but instead of black, there are charcoal


"I -- he decided to give me -- more warning," Tim says, and

"More than he gave me..." Dick's voice is a little on the
dreamy side as he touches the cowls.

The newest cowl is full-face, presumably --

"Is he trying to hide your -- well, okay, you haven't had
puppy fat in --"

"*Ever* --"

"A year or two," Dick says, shaking his head. "It's a good
plan -- if you're going to grow a lantern jaw, you'd better
start soon."

"I choose to believe he was thinking of some of the
practicalities --"

"Tim," Dick says, and there's nothing dreamy in his voice,
anymore. He taps one of the cowls twice. "How long have
you known?"

"That's -- kind of complicated --"

"Not good enough," Dick says, and it's not the Nightwing
voice, but it's Dick, and it's him. That sort of thing has
never been precisely necessary.

Tim clears his throat. "The first time he mentioned it -- not
long after the quake --"

"The *hell* -- you were --"

"Fourteen. I didn't -- it wasn't that I didn't believe him. I
think I told myself that he was... exhausted. Or something.
It got a lot more real after my last birthday. It's -- well, it's

"*Obviously* -- Tim, what -- can you tell me what that
conversation was like? I mean, you know how it went --"

"I know, with you, it wasn't so much a conversation as it was
Bruce presenting you with a uniform and the blatant fact of
his *need*," Tim says, harder than he means to. "I -- ah.
He planned this. He's *been* planning this --"

"Because I wasn't --"

"Because there was nothing in you which wanted it," Tim
says, quickly and carefully. "He pushed me -- no. Once I
really let myself think about it --"

"You *want* this? I -- *no*," Dick says, grabbing Tim and
hauling him away from the suits. "You can't *tell* me that,"
he says, and his eyes are wild. You -- I just haven't been
*away* from you for that long --"

The door slides shut, hiding -- those suits aren't really hidden.
They're waiting.

"Tim, you've always had something *in* you which was
more like Bruce than anything... anything I could *do* --"

"I always appreciated you trying --"

"But you've *said* you don't want to do this for the rest of
your life, that it wasn't you, that you weren't going to --"

"I won't be Bruce, Dick. I..." Tim twists away -- no. It's Dick.
Infinitely better to shift *within* the grip, stay close, stay
open, make him watch you. Know you. "You know me."

"Do I?"

Dick *has* always gotten along with Dana. "I don't have to
do it his way, and I won't."

"You -- are you about to break into *song*? This -- doing it --"

"I hadn't planned on it, Dick, Jesus -- look, why *shouldn't* I
use the time to plan, to make things as good as they can
possibly be --"

"Make a good impression on the *League*, train the kids
who happen to be your *age* into machines --"

"Dick, are you mad at me or are you mad at Bruce?"

And it's not that Dick raises his hand or anything like that --
by the time he did, it would, of course, be far too late -- it's
all in his eyes, in the shifting, mobile tension of his body.

You're beautiful when you're angry, Dick, he absolutely does
*not* say.

"You are -- what are you trying to *pull* with me?"

Maybe he should've. "I'm going to need you, Dick."

"What --"

"Exactly what I just said. I won't be able to do it on my own --"

"You shouldn't --"

"And I don't *intend* to do it on my own. That -- that's what
all of this is about. Everything I'm doing. Everything I've
*been* doing since before I even... made up my mind."

And just that fast, the anger is gone -- vanished into
something more like dismay, if anything like that could be
*quiet*. "You were doing it with Young Justice. You --"

"I was trying, yes. They were too young."

"What about you?"

If it were Bruce, Tim would point out that 'young' had always
been useless, if not *always* irrelevant. Bruce made
provisions for that sort of thing, in his own way -- and of
course there never could be a conversation like that with

"What about college, your girlfriend, everything --"

"Was being a Titan a hobby for you?"

"Of course -- Jesus, it wasn't just a *training* ground for
me, either -- Tim, you were supposed to make them your
friends, your family -- you *know* what I've wanted for

"You're my brother, and my friend, and my ally. I don't -- I
don't foresee any of that changing."

"That simple?"

Tim spreads his hands again. "Why not?"

"Why... did you ask *Bruce* that question?"

"Has he *ever* had anything resembling a sensible answer
for that, Dick? And, in any event -- I don't *have* to. Not

"I..." Dick laughs, softly and easily. "I still remember the
days when it hardly seemed like you trusted yourself at all --"

"Batman trusts me, Dick. I -- it's the sort of thing which can
make a person rather... secure. If you think about it."

"That --" Dick shakes his head -- *again*.

"*Dick*," Tim says, and it isn't... it really isn't his Robin

Dick stares at him. "You've been hiding that."

"I -- it's more that I never felt a need to use it. Would you
honestly be *happier* if I was... falling all over myself with
*woe* because Batman *believes* in me this much? That
he sees in me everything I've worked for, everything I've --
I've *done* to myself, everything I believe in --"

"And that I don't?"

"It stopped being about *you* when you flat-out *told* him
you weren't right for the job, Dick, and stop pretending you
don't know that. You're better than that. You've *always*
been better than that."

"And now you're..." Dick's laugh is breathless and sharp.
"You don't just want this *enough*, you want it *bad*. I
didn't think -- I never would've *believed* that... is it the

"Yes. Over *myself*," Tim says, and turns his back on Dick.
He -- there are things to pack for the weekend, now that he
isn't bothering to use the stashes at his father's house,

"What happens when --"

"Don't you think we should table this discussion for another
time, Dick?"

"What *happens*, little brother, when the novelty of running
your own life palls? Who do you control then?"

Batman, turning his eyes and his simple, human *strength*
on the most powerful individuals within parsecs, and
*knowing* they dance to his tune -- no. "Megalomania isn't
my kink, Dick. It's really just a hobby."

"You're so fucking *glib* --"

Tim spins back, biting back a growl and forcing his body out
of a ready stance. "I refuse to stand here listening to you
act like it's a crime against -- fucking God and *nature* that
I'm being myself, and that I'm *enjoying* myself. I have
*certainty* now, and I finally get to put my ideas and plans
into motion, finally get to have a *life* --"

"You had *two* --"

"Yes. Bruce's and my father's. I've been a good little boy
and an adequate little Robin, and --"

"Now you're done with all of that? What the hell --"

"I was *made* for this. Do you know how hard it is to pull
on the Robin suit now? Do you know how hard it is to try
to -- *please*, Dick, I'm just asking you to support me!"

"I -- Jesus, Timmy, I just want you to be *happy*."

He -- he does. He always has.

He always -- and.

And it's not his fault that Tim's been lying to him for three
solid years about just what that entails. Shit. Just -- *shit*.
Tim drops his pack, and crosses his arms -- no. Too easy to
hold himself that way. Tim fists his hands at his sides --
"You always took my word for it when I said something
about adrenaline whenever you cuddled me into one of
those pesky erections."

"I -- the hell. Tim?"

"You always let me pretend that I hated to be touched, that
I was -- doing you a *favor* --"

"You... oh. God. Tim, you're not, we don't --"

"You're my brother, yes. And my very good friend. Steph's
my best friend, and the Case and I always got on quite
well, but there was never anyone like *you*, Dick," Tim
says, and takes a step forward.

Dick takes a step back.

The smile -- no, this smile has to be bitten back. There are
always rules. "It's okay, Dick. I realized a while ago that I
was just never going to be the one for you. Maybe if we
were a little closer in age, or if I was a different sort of
person... heh. But see, Dick, that's the thing. I -- do you

"Tim... no. What -- tell me?"

"There's never been anything I've wanted more, never
anything that could make me *happier* than even getting
close to being the kind of man you could love. Strong and
sure, focused and dedicated, ruthless and -- perhaps -- not
*quite* cold..."

"Oh... God." Dick isn't really blinking very much, anymore.

"You see, I was doing everything in my power to *become*
that long before I ever decided to seek you out. And I think
I'm getting the hang of it, now."

For a long moment, Dick only stares at him, but it's -- better.
It's the sort of stare he could get from any of them (Cass,
of course, would be faster). It's checking him, reading him --

"That's right," Tim says, and spreads his arms. "Look at me.
Know me. It's all I've ever really wanted."


"Well... certain automobiles. The occasional bit of extra steel
in a gauntlet." To watch you sleep without a monitor in the
way. "For you to trust me."

"I've always --"

"Then keep doing it. And -- give me the benefit of the doubt
that I know what I'm doing. The same way you did when
you asked Bruce to take me on."

Dick's laugh is choked, but honest. "It seemed like a good
idea at the time...?"

Tim smiles back. "It was the best thing that ever happened
to me. Even when it was also the worst."

"You love him, now, don't you? The way I was always -- oh.
Jesus. You... *really*?"

Less than a minute ago, it had been a *good* thing that
Dick was reading him like a good Bat should. "Ah -- it's new."

"As in, since the last time I actually laid eyes on either of

Tim shrugs, as non-threateningly as he can. "You're better
than that."

Dick nods. "Is it..."

He doesn't finish, and really -- it's impossible to tell, right
now, if the question would've been one Dick would actually
*want* an answer to or not. "'Is it...?'"

"It's *because* you made the choice you did," Dick says.
And it's not a question, but --

"I think that has a fair amount to do with it, yes. Judging
by -- yes." Judging by Bruce's reactions to some of Tim's
more... assertive moments.

Dick blushes, blinking fast, and Tim wonders... in for a

"It seemed to also be a reaction to... I think it was about a
month ago when you last... suggested that I spend some
time with Clark."

Dick bites his lip, looks at Tim *hard* for a long moment --
and then crosses the distance between them, takes Tim's
hand in his own, and pulls them over to the mats. "Sit with
me for a minute, here, little brother."

"I --" The way Dick flies the plane, he still won't be late. "I
can do that," he says and sits down tailor-style.

"You have to know what this looks like. What it *sounds*

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also -- celebrating."

Dick nods, chews on his lip a little more -- "And it was
certainly me who told you that Clark never has a problem
keeping things light."

Tim nods back. "There are -- there are a lot of things the
Robin I was just couldn't have, Dick. Too many secrets, too
much necessary circumspection --"

"I never got that. I -- well, that's what Wally was talking
about, really --"

"I know you didn't, but... youngest pays for the mistakes of
everybody else, Dick. You know that."

"I still don't --"

"Whether or not the youngest in question entirely agrees
about the definition *of* 'mistake.'"

Dick nods and waves a hand, stipulating a degree of
mollification. "I honestly... you're not a late bloomer at all,
are you? You were just... repressing?"

"Something else you let me -- I didn't seem to have a choice
in the matter. I always appreciated that you let me pretend."

"You're making my balls hurt. Seriously. What about Steph?"

Tim takes a breath. "I got distracted in the middle of talking
to her about it, in all honesty. I --"

"*Distracted*? Uh... is this where I call bullshit?"

"Absolutely not, Dick. I -- I was thinking about the new
uniforms, and wondering if Steph *really* planned to stay
retired, and... ah. I got an image. A really, really -- the
image --" In a Robin suit, the night could see her laugh after
breaking someone's teeth. Her cheek would be rosy with
flush and cold, *red* with blood spatter -- her teeth --
"Ah... are you getting what I'm saying here, Dick? Because
when I try to think about it too much, I..." Tim waves a
hand between them.

"You'd want her to be *Robin*?"

"Someone has to be. And she would be... you've never really
worked with her. You have no *idea* what I could do with
her --"

"I think I know what you *want* to do -- Jesus, I thought
you'd never... Tim, you're going to have to give me *time*
to deal with all of this."

Tim nods, waves his hand again. "I know, I know. I'm giving
you a lot to deal with, and I really *don't* expect you to just
be on board with me right away. But I also never want to
keep secrets from you anymore, Dick. And if it's okay with
you... I never will again," he says, and --

It's not something Robin would ever do to reach for Dick's
hand. Robin always had to *wait* for Dick to think of things
like that, for Dick to want to, but...

Dick's hand is warm, and strong, and as beautiful as ever.
Bruce's hands are all about blunt power -- you have to
*know* him to know how deft they are. Clark's hands are
alien heat and impossible perfection. Tim takes -- he *gives*
himself a moment to watch Dick's fingers twine with his
own, to let himself feel it.

It's security and belonging, among a dozen other things he
just --


"I also know that, at some point, I started getting a little
addicted to *not* having what I wanted," Tim says to the
join of their fingers, and squeezes. "Self-denial is a powerful
drug in its own way."

"And so is letting go of it," Dick says, pushing up on Tim's
chin with the fingers of his other hand. "Don't -- don't get

"Mm. Well. Maybe a little. Sometimes --"

"Tim --"

"A joke," Tim says, and tugs until Dick lets go of his hand.
"I make those, from time to time. *Trust* me, Dick. I'm
not -- nothing is going to keep me from the future I can
*taste*, right now." Not even you. "Not even the opportunity
to *do* something with all of those pesky erections."

Dick snorts and pats his cheek. "And you can stop making
them sound like an infestation any time now, 'k?"

"Erections in the walls, skittering over the floor, getting in
your hair --" Tim dodges the first head-thwap, gets skimmed
by the second, rolls --

He probably shouldn't have so many good associations with
being caught by the ankle and dragged, but the same was
true a week ago. He laughs, claws at the mats uselessly,
and bucks enough to ruin Dick's grip.

This time he *tucks* before he rolls and gets a little farther,
making it to his feet before Dick is coming for him with a
grin and a body that's too much of a weapon to burden it
with any of the toys currently too far away for Tim to use --
not that he ever would, short of an emergency.

As such, it's a brief spar -- long enough for Tim to try out a
few of the foot blocks Batgirl had taught him and for Dick to
show him how they're *really* done. After that he falls back
on the tried, true, familiar -- and, all right, just a little Shiva.

Just enough to give him the *time* to show Dick the back-
flip Tim hadn't realized he'd perfected until he'd caught
himself using it to avoid a gun-shot.

Dick whistles --

Tim smiles --

And Dick takes him down in four moves almost too fast to
catch. Tim snickers. "You could've at least given me time to
take a bow. That was *showy* for me."

"Not my fault you're still too slow -- and." Dick frowns and
pokes him on the nose.


"You weren't fully in the game. It's been a while -- do I get
to know what you're planning right now?"

"I -- honestly? I mean, yes, but --"

Dick's smile is rueful and warm and kissable -- no. He's
never going to have anything like the *strength* to play
that game with Dick, even if the fact that Dick can *see*
it --

That kind of open speculation in Dick's eyes could very well
kill him.

"I do want to know, little brother. Don't protect me."

Someone needs to protect Tim from his own penis. "I was
thinking about -- when you grabbed my ankle. Ah -- I've
got positive connotations for that."

"When I -- heh. *Really*," Dick says, shifting to a wrist pin
apparently without *thinking* about it --

"Dick...? Could you...?"

Dick blinks. "Oh -- heh. Sorry. Kinda," and that's a wink Tim
has spent a fair amount of time... well.

"You know, Dick, I'm going to look forward to having *fun*
thinking inappropriate thoughts about you."

"I feel so *objectified* --"

"You should probably find some way to punish me."

Dick snorts and -- kisses him on the nose.

Tim makes a note to remember to keep things dialed back a
little more than that --

"Too much?"

Or not. Tim smiles. "Let me get back to you after I spend a
weekend *not* making use of my new ultimate sanction to
get laid."

Dick snorts and lets him up. "Deal."


As predicted, Dick gets Tim to the Tower on time. The fact
that he'd gotten accustomed to being there early... well.

"So where were you? I know you weren't fighting crime this
early -- I checked the weather in Gotham and it's even
warmer and clearer than it is out here, you're usually here
sooner and Kon brought a new game for the GameStation
and I think he's ticked that you weren't here to play it and
when are you bringing another car," Bart says, braking a
courteous three feet beyond the 'wake barrier' for Tim's
cape and catching up.

There were pauses in there, by certain definitions of same,
but... "Excited?"

"Grife, sorry, reflex." Bart shakes himself all over and then
mumbles something too fast to be sure of, moves his --
arms? -- Ah.

"You're trying meditation," Tim says, letting as much
approval as he can into his voice.

"Seemed worth a try. How much of the babble did you catch?"

"All of it," Tim says, and smiles. "I was spending some time
with Nightwing. We had... a fair amount to catch up on. I'll
make sure to give Kon some gaming time, if he isn't off with
Cassie too much. And I haven't decided yet about the car."

"Mm, all right. Hey, we never really talked about Kon and

"Were we supposed to?"

Bart's smile is far too quick for the amount of sly avidity in
it. "Had to try."

"If you say so. I spoke to Wally yesterday --"

"I don't wanna talk about it," Bart says, and in the moments
during which Tim takes in the spoken information, a blur
suggests Bart moving around him in a rigidly controlled
square some unknowable number of times.

"Had to try," Tim says, and palms open the door to his
room. "Briefing in fifteen?"

"Nn -- probably twenty. Starfire and Cyborg are arguing
about something in his room."

Tim nods, and lifts his arm from the door jamb --
unnecessary invitation. A newer addiction.


"Yes," Tim says, and then watches the curtains and
bedspread ripple and fly in Bart's wake, and again barely a
moment later as he straightens them back into something
which could very possibly be their exact original position.
Hm. "Using your memory powers is becoming instinctive."

"It's like," Bart says, screwing up his face in thought and
shifting through a dozen positions on Tim's bed before
settling for laying down on his belly in a manner which
leaves a great deal of room for Tim to join him.

"Tell me," Tim says, and does so. The pose is somewhat
new -- back not-entirely-straight against the headboard, legs
straight against the mattress, hips canted just enough to
provide an angle for him to rest his folded hands. Thus far,
he's only used it with Bart --

"You always look like -- some kind of dozing reptile when
you do that. Only in an attractive way."

"I'm examining the pose's effects on various subjects," Tim
says, and smiles.

"Oh -- but didn't you just ruin the experiment?"

"I may also be testing the effects of honesty, Bart."

"You -- I was telling you how the memory thing feels."

"Yes. For something other than rote memorization of text,
images, etc."

"It's like -- it's like having cake in my pocket."

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"It's like I'm wearing pants with a huge number of pockets,
Tim, and I'm constantly filling and emptying them, and if
you *asked* me what was in all the pockets at any given
time, I could probably tell you, but that doesn't mean I was
thinking about them."

Interesting. "And one of those pockets has cake."

"*Delicious* cake," Bart says, rolling on to his back, then
back onto his stomach, then --

There's a sound, but at speed it's impossible to quantify
beyond 'potentially interrogative or angry hum,' and Bart's
moving around the room -- gone. Tim waits.

"Better example," he says, holding up a candy jar with a red
bow around it which almost certainly came from Smallville
by way of Kon's room.

"I'm listening," Tim says, and crosses his legs at the ankle.

"There are cherry candies in here, and they're your favorite,
and you can even see a lot of them, but --" Bart shakes the

Tim can hear several individual candies crack, but the jar
itself seems fine. Bart had tested the sturdiness on his way
back. "Mm-hm."

"You're not thinking about it when you reach in, and maybe
you get a peach or lemon, instead, but *maybe* you get
the cherry you wanted in the first place --"

"And it's delicious," Tim says.

"You're making fun, but that's okay, because *I* know that
*you* know that I put everything back in place in here
and --" Gone.

Tim waits.

"-- back in Kon's room, too," Bart says. "And I can do that --
anytime I want."

"So long as you think about it."

"Nn... yes, there's that. I don't quite know how to keep it at
the top of things in there."

"Your brain is a powerful computational tool, Bart, but you've
been providing endless amounts of input --"

"My processing speed can *handle* it," he says, tugging on
Tim's boots, stopping, and then all but flinging himself back
on the bed -- and into a mirror of Tim's position. "I don't
think this is comfortable."

"I get a little stretch for my lower back. Old injuries," Tim
says, and pulls his legs up one at a time to readjust his boots.

"Sorry. I -- I *do* have the processing speed, don't I?"

"You do. But you don't have all the... hm. Software."

"Oh -- no. Is this another wisdom-experience blah blah --"

"The experience which forever makes it impossible to
*forget* that you have that power at your disposal, which
makes you need it so badly that a part of you is always just
a little afraid of losing it, could very well happen tomorrow,
Bart. It could happen before I finish... talking."

Bart's shudder moves the entire bed, but it's not an
uncomfortable sort of thing. Still --


"That was... 'be careful what you wish for.' Wasn't it?"

"Did it seem that way...?" Disingenuousness still works on
Bart, sometimes.

"No, I -- yes. Yes, it did, because you made it sound... I've
already had bad things happen which made me... there
are *already* some powers that have -- fear attached to

"Your ability to make scouts."

"Yeah. I don't want to be afraid of my powers. Or for them.
Or --"

"You chose this life, Bart," Tim says, and puts a little more
warning into his voice than he would for most others.

"I know that -- and I told you it's not like I would change it,
don't treat me like --"

"You're always going to be younger than me. There's a
difference between treating someone like a child and
offering the benefit of, yes, experience," Tim says and
closes his eyes behind the domino.

"You... you're doing everything you can to look casual, so
that means you're really not, so that means you're teaching
me --"

"Of course."

"And teaching me to recognize it, get used to it -- training,"
Bart says, sitting up and patting an impossible rhythm on his
knees -- a perfect segue.

"You're either going to start learning how to use every last
one of your scars, or you're going to die young. You might
do both. But -- I'd prefer the former."

"I feel so loved."

Another Bart would've stuck his tongue out. Tim doesn't do
*this* Bart the disservice of calling him on the change. "You
should. You're one of the most powerful beings on the
planet, Bart. I'm hardly going to let you... languish."

"That sounds more like using me than loving me, and I don't
care if you already know it, you really need to be *sure*
you know how creepy that is before you throw that kind of
thing around anymore, because there are people who
won't react as well as I do."

Tim rolls his head on his neck. "Do you think I don't trust
you, Bart?"

"That's not the point. You were treating me like *your* kid,
or your toy or weapon or something --"

"And you like it."

"Of course I like it, you're *you*, but --  but you wouldn't
have done it this way with someone else. You're using the
creepiness to make it more real for me, to make me feel
special because you can *be* creepy with me, because
I'm therefore not like everyone else."


"Therefore I'd listen to you even more, and get better even
faster, you fucking manipulative bastard."

Tim snorts, swings his legs off the bed, and stands. "What
does it say about you that I'm your friend?"

"It says I'm *crazy*," Bart says, joining him. "Friends don't
treat each other like this, Tim. Friends play with each other
and tell things to each other straight --"

"And let each other get themselves into trouble, hurt or
maimed or killed... no, Bart," Tim says, and squeezes his
shoulder. "If you want to be my friend, you're going to have
to get used to the fact that I'm never not going to do
everything in my power to make you the best you can be."

"For my sake? I don't *think* so --"

"For your sake as it relates to my own," and Tim smiles his
way through the door back into the hall. "I'm needy."

"Five minutes ago I was still sure lots of things would've
been better if you'd been more honest with all of us back in
Young Justice."

Interesting. "Now?"

"I think we would've run away."

You would've come back. "It's possible, but then, I wasn't
quite like this back then."

"Yeah? What's changed?"

"My ambition, for the most part," Tim says, glancing to the
side long enough to note that it's *not* just his upper
body -- Bart's lower body is vibrating at a low enough
frequency to avoid so much as making the carpet kick up
dust. "Your control is getting better by the day."

"Yeah, I -- what ambitions?"

"I can't talk about that just now. But you'll find out," Tim
says, and spies Kon going for one of the back seats in the
briefing room.

His shirt is only half-tucked in, and his hair looks like a bird's
nest. Cassie, at a glance, looks perfect, and is fooling no
one in the entire tower. Circumspection is a game for two.

"Mm," Tim says, and squeezes Bart's shoulder one more
time before letting go. "I think I'll sit with Kon."

"You do that. I'll see how many questions I can get out
before Cassie slaps me. Hey, what technique do you use on
Kon, anyway?"

Tim smiles. "Why don't you see if you can figure it out?"

Bart pushes off with a smile of his own -- conspiratorial and
not lacking entirely in leer. Tim climbs the steps and sits
down next to Kon.

"The *one* time I get here on time, and where are you?"

"Making it easier for you to spend time with your girlfriend."

"Aw, shit, man, I *got* all the lipstick."

Tim smirks. "You're sure about that?"

"I... oh, *asshole*," Kon says, and swats Tim on the
shoulder. "Hey, I saw you with Bart. Did he tell you I
brought Angelknight III with me?"

"He *might* have mentioned you being in need of a cold,
frosty can of whup-ass," Tim says, and pulls his notebook
out of his belt.

"You *wish*," Kon says, sitting back.

Below the level of the desk, his t-shirt rides up enough to
offer a slanting bar's worth of golden, flawless skin over
soft-edged muscle which has never needed the human
sorts of maintenance.

Below and to the left, Cassie's hand whistles through the
space Bart's head had been located not long before.

Tim settles in for a good weekend.


It turns out to be a quiet enough day -- bureaucracy having
brought the transport of new Alcatraz prisoners to a grinding
halt. There's nothing more ridiculous than a handful of
superheroes waiting around for civilians to make phone calls
before they can *do* anything, so they all spend a fair
amount of time doing as many things as they can find to do
in San Francisco and the surrounding area.

Tim wouldn't have thought this was the case, but it
actually *is* less ridiculous for those same superheroes to
play soccer with ten year old girls than to simply go back to
waiting around once every purse snatcher has had his life
flash before his eyes and every kitten is retrieved from every

A good day.

Dinner was a staggering amount of pizza donated by the
employees of a local travel agency Kon and Beast Boy had
saved from one of their inevitable escapees the week before
last. The pizza was quite good -- Tim has a pleasant hint of
basil lingering in his mouth, and --

In all likelihood, he should probably still be on the couch with
Kon, choking his bloodstream with trans-fats and blunting
his brain cells with sitcoms and cartoons which appear to be
made by people who've been 'hot-boxing' for the past three
years straight, but --

He'd given Kon an hour, and *taken* two more. The simple
fact of the matter -- and one he should have predicted -- is
that sexuality is something which feeds on itself without
anything resembling consumption.

Kon has always been physically affectionate -- if not as
naturally effusive (with him) as Dick, and spending hours
around that --

The scent of ozone and clean, male sweat, the curve of his
ear, his smiling mouth --

Kon is always so *happy* to see him, and never precisely
unlikely to throw an arm over Tim's shoulders and keep it
there for minutes at a time. Hours --

He'd decided years ago to deflect and ignore every 'signal'
Kon sent, and it hadn't really ever had *much* to do with
Bruce's wholesale disapproval. Kon is *young*, cheerful and
blithe -- beautiful, yes, tempting of *course*, and he'd
make *Steph* want to bench him until he'd spent a few
years learning how not to stick one's hand in an open flame.

The third time he'd caught himself a half-second from asking
Kon back to his room to 'look over some of the games he'd
downloaded onto his laptop,' Tim decided to call it a night. \
And --

"You were distracted again," Clark says, gently inquisitive.

There are other, better options. "I have to be honest with
you, Clark," Tim says, turning over in the almost ludicrously
soft bed which came free of charge with the room Peter
Scrittoruomo -- nice to have 'the Penman' out of 'jail' for the
moment -- rented for both of them here in Saskatoon.

"I'm all ears, of course."

It's Clark, and so the blatantly sexual hunger behind his eyes
is actually making him seem more innocent. It could just be
the lumberjack-casual gear he's rocking, though -- even the
criminal element of Metropolis is a wee bit too wholesome
for Tim's tastes. Tim tugs at some of the seeming acres of
plaid. "My reasons for calling you weren't... pure of intent."

"Oh, I -- that's a good thing to hear. In a number of ways."

Tim smiles. "Nor were they pure of, hmm... derivation,

"Well, that's -- hm... am I a replacement, Tim?"

The solemnity is reminiscent of the clergy. The fact that the
hunger hasn't changed one iota is just fodder for a handful
of new role-play fantasies. Tim grins a little wider and shifts
until he can straddle Clark, cup his face, map his cheekbones
with his thumbs.

"I don't look very good in t-shirts, I'm afraid."

He should, perhaps, not still be smiling, but Clark's heat is
radiating through every bit of clothing between them, and...
mm. "The replacement factor doesn't move far beyond the
question of," Tim says, pushing his face against Clark's
throat and breathing. "Scent."

"It can be difficult to draw distinctions of that sort --"

"Not for me."

"You sound -- hm, quite sure," Clark says, cupping Tim's
obliques and stroking down, down --

Nicely telegraphed this way, it's easy to shift enough to make
sure Clark's hands find his ass.


"Clark, if I only wanted you to ease the... pressure of my
attraction to Kon-El, this would've been happening months
ago. Years."

Clark's squeeze is placed so perfectly that it's almost
impossible to tell how hard it is until Tim tries and fails to
shift again.


"You and Bruce... your relationship has changed."

"Significantly," Tim says, scraping his short nails over the
crinkled corners of Clark's eyes. It's like scratching at a
warm statue, perhaps especially when they crinkle more for
Clark's rueful smile.

"I don't suppose you could offer a little more than that...?"

Tim cocks his head a bit showily. "How much more do you
honestly need?"

Clark blinks -- "oh, I -- really didn't mean the, ah --" He licks
his lips.

Tim licks his own. Clark is really very... a statue, yes.
Sculpted by a *lover*. "Not the sex?"

"Ah... beautiful," Clark says, kissing him with a slow care
which has far less to do with gentleness than it does with
examination. It's in his eyes -- open, of course -- and the
level of *search* within them.

Tim closes his own, deliberately, and tilts his head until he
can force the kiss deeper and wetter. Clark's moan makes
Tim spasm and press closer, scrape his teeth on lips and
tongue --

And Clark strokes his way up Tim's back with one hand until
he can cup the back of Tim's head and tilt him backwards, a
little. It's Tim's turn to moan into the kiss, and he has no
compunctions whatsoever about doing so. It's even better
to reach back and brace himself on his hands, to break the
kiss and tilt his head back, to give Clark his throat --

"Oh, you -- of course, I'd be honored to listen to anything,
anything at all you'd like to tell me," he says, and his tongue
is wet, powerful pressure just to the side of Tim's Adam's
apple, more on his suprasternal notch --

"Mm, that's -- that's good to know --"

"I would also be honored to taste you... oh, everywhere,"
Clark says, impressively managing to meld breezy politeness
with lust.

"Also --"

"Oh, please do tell me," and Clark squeezes Tim's ass and
scrapes his teeth lightly enough over one of the tendons in
Tim's throat that Tim spasms again -- "Careful, carefully --"

And for a moment he's being held by air, but then he's flat
on his back on the bed, and Clark is lifting Tim's head,
kissing him, tilting his head back, kissing him more, tugging
lightly at Tim's bland, civilian clothes --

"Tell me everything, anything, any one thing, I -- I have to
*know* you," Clark says, looking up, looking *earnest*.

Tim licks his lips again. "He watched every minute of the two
of us having sex in my bedroom."

"Every --" Clark's eyes flare with shock, arousal, and *fire*,
and Tim knows that even if Clark had watched everything
Tim had done with Bruce; he hadn't listened. "Oh, my. Was
he -- was he very --"

"He told me he was jealous. He chose to specify neither
object nor subject of that jealousy," Tim says, and, "let me
sit up, Clark. I want to take off my clothes."

"If you... would you mind if I helped?"

"Yes. But only if you didn't also remove your own," Tim says,
and wonders about the effects of subjective time when taken
as a function of his brief pause. He doesn't, especially, want
to tease.

"You're much more confident. I'm pleased," Clark says, and
in the space of the blink -- probably much less -- he's entirely
naked, golden, massive, beautiful.

Tim hums, giving himself permission to ignore whatever
Clark had actually said for the far better *sport* of running
his fingers over Clark's shoulders, pectorals, deltoids and
biceps --

"Tim, that's --"

Tim tastes the crease of Clark's elbow, finding a salt he can't
name and flesh the texture of... not marble, or any other
kind of stone, and yet also nothing unnatural or fabricated.

It's unlike anything else, and it's making his hands clumsy at
his fly, but Clark is right there to help, pulling him up to pull
Tim's shirt over his head, deftly opening Tim's pants, and
then the air has him, again --

And then his pants and shorts are gone. Naked, he feels
larger, somehow, or perhaps simply more than just the fact
of his body. He wants to stand, loom, stretch himself out --

"The way you smiled at me in the Tower, Clark..."

"I hope I wasn't too familiar," Clark says, and traces the lines
of Tim's calf muscles, nodding before bending one of Tim's
knees up and back in a manner which seems more
experimental than... immediate.

"It made me imagine lying..." Tim pushes against Clark's
hold on his heel until he lets go, and then Tim lets himself
sprawl, a little, on the really quite impressively large bed.
"Like this, on the conference table..."

Clark covers him, cupping Tim's shoulders and squeezing,
stroking down his arms. "I'm scandalized. And thrilled. Tim,
could you... what *is* it, now, between you and Bruce?"

Excellent question. Bruce... hm. He'll have to remember to
check Bruce's reports about the ship incident. He's been
distracted. "Are you worried that I'm... cheating? Or that
you are?"

When Clark meets his eyes, Tim feels his age for what feels
like the first time in the better part of a year. There's a
complexity there he has no part of.

"Hm. You're making *me* jealous, Clark."

Complexity blinked away, replaced with the sort of open
appreciation which could stand as the foundation for a dozen
Robins' self-esteem. Tim strokes Clark's shins with his toes.
"Tim, I -- Bruce and I have known each other for --"

"I know," he says, waving a hand. "I'm not really especially,
ah -- interested in... I'm very young, Clark," Tim says, and

"Your whole life ahead of you, the world your -- oh, I really
would like to taste you."

Tim spreads his legs.

Immediately, he's very happy he hadn't tried to respond to
that with words. Clark's mouth is a *furnace* around Tim's
erection, and without Clark's hands on his hips --

Tim is jumping in his skin, twisting and writhing -- he braces
his hands on the mattress --

He digs his nails in against the duvet, pushing himself up --
"Clark, you -- oh, *God* --"

"Too much?"

"Yes," Tim says, and rips one of his hands away from the
blanket to shove it into Clark's hair and *pull*.

"Oh. Oh, Tim."

"To be specific, it's the heat. The power. You -- give it to me,
Clark. Now."

"Just... your penis?"

It feels like the smile on his face *cut* its way out. "Show
me -- oh, show me everything. I'll tell you when to stop --"

Clark's eyes flare again -- Kal...?

"Show me what you think about when you think about me
with Bruce."

"Tim --"

"*Now*," Tim says, and "P -- *please*, oh -- *fuck* --"

Tim knocks himself in the face with his own fist -- the one
*not* in Clark's hair -- and bites down. It doesn't do a thing
to stop the sounds from shoving themselves out of his chest,
his body --

Clark's tongue is a laser on his penis, a whip, a knife of
boiling water -- it's hard and wet, wet and *slick*, and
hotter than -- he'd thought he'd gotten used to it, a little,
from the kisses, but --

No, he hadn't. It's more, it's deeper and -- gone.

Tim growls around the side of his hand and bucks, feeling
spit and pre-come spatter his abdomen, staring at the
genteel-y water-stained ceiling -- growling, yes. He wants
more, this is... this is air, fire, a *fight* -- this is Robin or
Batman, this is --

What he'd asked for.

The laugh makes him clench, makes Clark almost *slap* at
him with his tongue, his -- it's too *fast*, and his scalp feels
like nothing human, nothing *earthly*. It's like a stretch of
alien ground, plants and --

Tim can't *think*, and the sounds are getting higher, louder,
more -- "*No*," he says, and a part of him is a little
impressed that he was capable of reacting that fast to the
loss of all that wonderful heat. The rest of him is ready to
*maim* something. "Clark --"

"I'm sorry, but I think you should -- turn over," Clark says,
and for a moment Tim can only stare. Clark's mouth isn't at
all swollen, of course, but it's red, and wet. Open.

Clark wants to *taste* him. "And if I'd prefer you...
continuing," Tim says, breathing exactly as hard as he
should. He can give himself *leave* for this --

"Oh, we can... but I thought you wanted what I thought
about when... well," and Clark raises both eyebrows and
smiles -- yes, wet and *red*.

"You look obscene."

"You look perfect, Tim, I -- please? If you don't like it..."

He'd known, of course, what Clark wanted to do, *why*
Clark wanted him on his stomach, but, suddenly, it feels like
*all* of him knows. Tim can feel himself flushing. He's --
he's hardly ever thought of this.

He'd never really thought someone would actually *want*
to -- that this would be something requested, as opposed
to bandied over some perhaps unrealistically casual
discussion of kinks and curiosities...

"I... Clark."

"I want to pleasure you very badly, Tim. You... oh, Bruce
must be so *proud* of you."

Laughter is, of course a relief. It makes his penis bob a little,
and the air is cool and soothing -- no, too cold. He grabs
himself and squeezes, closes his eyes -- *breathes*.


"Yes," he says, squeezing himself one more time and turning
over. Clark has already made him sweat enough that the air
is almost cold on his back, but Clark's hands are warm,
smooth and soothing, gentle -- too gentle. "But don't make
me wait."

And then there's air -- a pillow beneath him -- breath at the
base of his spine -- Clark's tongue at the bundle of nerves
Tim knows eight different non-permanent ways to destabilize.
None of them involved the tongue of an amorous Kryptonian,
and Tim has begun -- very recently -- to consider this a
deficiency --

"Oh," he says, because he can't help it, because Clark has
spread him wide -- Tim thinks about the last time he'd
showered, about how he must look, about what would be in
Bruce's eyes if he could see this --

Would Bruce want this? Is that what Clark thinks?

And how, precisely, would he know?

He's thinking about anything -- the car, the fact that this is
entirely legal in Canada at his age, he's --

"Clark -- *Clark* --"

Clark's *tongue* only seemed impossibly hot on Tim's penis.
Here, like this --

"Almost -- don't stop, but that's almost *painful* --"

More *breath*, dammit --

"Clark, come *on* -- ohnn --"

Hot muscle, and the slick flutter of it at his hole, just inside --
it feels like Tim's whole body is spasming, and there's no
relief once he digs his fingers into the duvet again, no relief
at the feel of his toes scrabbling for... for *purchase*, no --

Oh --

His jaw drops at the slick slide of penetration, and there's no
way to classify the sound which comes out of him. It's --


This, at least, is knowable as a whimper, just as he can be
known as something softened, weakened -- all but
tenderized. It's too much, and if Clark stops, this time, Tim
isn't going to be very polite at all.

The feelings are diffuse, difficult -- and then *sharp*. He's
marking the shape of Clark's tongue with the inside of
himself, the weight and seeming *heft* of the thing, a
muscle so powerful -- "You... *yes*," Tim says, half-growls.

He wants to hang his head and pant. He wants to throw his
head back and scream yes, and again *yes* --

There's no way whatsoever to translate the *words* Clark is
muttering, *slurring* into him. They may not even be
English, or any *human* language --

He spasms again, jerks -- the noise coming out of him --
and the knowledge, sudden and inescapable: Clark has done
this to *Dick*. The images are powerful, quick, much too
quick -- Tim needs something more substantial to *grip*,
some way to impose his will, or the fact that he's still
capable, above the waist, of motion or --

"Clark, I -- I think -- faster, or --"

More slurring, mutters -- incontrovertibly appreciative -- the
hands on his hips squeeze, stroke, and Clark's thumbs easily
pull him wider. The stretch on the thin skin of his cleft is
burning him, making him sweat and twitch, shift, and Clark's
tongue is a wet piston, driving him *on*.

Rocking his hips to Clark's rhythm isn't actually -- it's too
fast for that, and he feels as graceless as the thirteen year
old he used to be, and it's not *good* enough that way.

Tim stills himself -- tries to still himself --

"Hold me still, Clark --"

The moan pours through him, fountains through him -- Tim
knows he's flushing all over now, sweating again, panting --
he's lost the precise shape of Clark's tongue, but not its

Or -- no. He's getting the shape in flashes: rippling
longitudes, flat latitudes -- the implacable stab of the tip,
the -- the *point*. Clark's tongue is a weapon, and Tim has
deliberately let down every guard.

This, perhaps, is the emotional basis for Clark's pleasure in
the act. The part of Tim which is still, to some professional
extent, Robin would never have done such a thing willingly --
could never have *risked* it.

The part of him which needs only his own skin to *be*, to
have and to *take* -- is doing just that.

Tim sets his teeth and tries to writhe, tests Clark's hold --
and is held, perfectly. He couldn't do any better with
leverage and the years of training: Tim can't move his hips
at all, nor can he hurt himself trying to do so.

"You're gentle, Clark, perfect, strong --" Tim groans *with*
Clark, shivers at the vibrations --

And knows, with perfect clarity, that this will make him
come. If he lets it.

If he --

If he does nothing but *take* this for however long his body
needs to find its own rhythm for it, to peel back the layers
of mild embarrassment and shock to find the core of pleasure
currently sitting at the base of his spine and hooking itself,
moment by moment, into the place where Tim's balls meet
his -- intellect, perhaps.

His soul...?

He could become dangerously poetic for this. Tim could --
he's lost *control*, and he wonders if he'll ever reach a point
where that, too, isn't something he needs to peel past, beat
*back* before he can truly fall *into* something -- no.

He's safe here, and Clark is a professional -- warm, obvious
smiles or not.

This is --

"*Yes*," he says again, as much testing as affirming -- "Oh --
*yes* --" And that time it comes out hissed, spat. Tim can't
begin to quantify the flush on his face or the liquid
*pleasure* radiating out from Clark's attentions, pushing
through him --

Oh, yes.

"Make me come, Clark," he says, an accident of breath
saving him from a stutter as Clark begins to move too fast
for Tim's mind to credit, much less quantify. Tim's elbows
collapse beneath him and the duvet fails to tear in Tim's

It tastes like fabric, lightly of dust, mundane. Clark is
*ruthless*, and Tim wants to reward him for it with
everything he has.

The prosaic and the fabulous, meeting perfectly, meshing in
him -- *for* him, and Tim can't quite --

It feels like a betrayal to reach back for his penis, even
though he can't quite scrabble up onto his knees, much
less --

Some part of him had underestimated the *clumsiness* of
this pleasure, the -- would he be like this if he had Steph
with him?

Oh, yes -- *with* him, and for a moment not even Clark's
humming moan can touch the image of her in tights like his
own, tangled in tights like his own, the curve of her ass not
quite rosy, blotched with patches of heat --

Could he make her growl like this?

Would her eyes *flash* if he called her Robin the next time
he kissed her? He's not even -- he never would've
thought --

"Clark, you -- you're making me want *everything* --"

And then *Clark's* hand is lifting him, curling around --

"Oh -- fuck, you -- you're so --"

"I have to --"

And the amazing thing is that *this* feeling lingers behind
itself, beyond Tim's freedom from Clark's touch. "Oh -- just
*do* it --"

And again, the fact that he'd known what he was asking for
is air, irrelevancy, *nothing* against the blunt, hot touch of
Clark's finger -- thumb? and the sharp sense of burning,
penetration --

Tim coughs, screams -- white-out --

The clench and flex --

It's painful, and Tim's screaming with it, for it, *more* --
this could carry him away, carry him -- yes, *beyond* --
and it feels like he's dying, confused and enervated, the
feel of something almost arterial --

"*Clark* --"

And it's just another sensory puzzle that his own voice was
muffled, something to be examined later, another time,
another *life*, just as he'll do something about his reaching,
spasming hand -- Clark isn't touching him just now -- when
*had* he pulled out? And then there's the fact that Tim's
not sure if he still has toes.

"Nn," Tim says, and gives Clark the benefit of the doubt --
he's a very brilliant man; he can translate, and -- mm. There
he is. Kissing the backs of Tim's shoulders, the slight hollow
of Tim's spine.

"Was that all right...?"

"Very much so," Tim says, then takes a deep breath,
steadies, and trusts his muscles to do what they were
trained to do before leaping over the metaphorical ledge
labeled 'concerted, non-spastic movement.' Happily, nothing
more untoward happens than Tim finding himself on his
back, looking up at a Clark...

'Smug' is too small a word for the expression on his face,
with far too many implications of pettiness. 'Satisfaction' is
much better.

"Don't get me wrong, Clark," Tim says, and uses the
placement of those broad, barn-beam shoulders to stretch
his legs up --


All right, it's not much of a stretch, and there's nothing of
training about digging *in* against those shoulders with his
toes --

"Ah -- excuse me for a moment," Clark says, catching Tim's
feet and kissing them in turn.

"You're excused," Tim says, and bends his completely un-
offended feet back to *really* stretch them --

"Remarkable --"

"Please," Tim says, and raises an eyebrow. "You're
accustomed to Dick."

"Well, I -- does he talk about... often?"

Which means Clark had overheard Dick talking about 'it' at
least once. Tim smiles. "Dick can be very insistent. And --"

"True, ah -- I only meant, before, that your body language
never suggests the degree of flexibility you *do* have,"
Clark says, raising his eyebrows in a question --

Tim nods --

And Clark cups his ankles gently and fans Tim's legs out to
the sides.

"Enjoying yourself, Clark...?"

"Immeasurably," he says, and this time he doesn't ask
before moving Tim -- up into his arms, over his lap. "I really
can't... quantification would be... small, for a moment like
this -- would you kiss me again?"

A moment's wriggle -- perhaps exaggerated a *touch* --
and Tim cups Clark's face, adjusts the angle --

"I really do enjoy the way -- yes, that's -- mmm."

It would be bad form to hold Clark by the ears, but Tim
doubts Clark would mind. There has to be a certain very
specific *strain* to being Superman, just as there is for
Batman and the parts of him which are incontrovertibly

The pleasure Tim takes from directing this, from tasting the
musk of himself, smelling himself -- Tim shivers, focuses --

There's a different brand of 'too much' for this, to being the
person -- no, it's Clark -- to being one of the *people* who
can be allowed to push him, demand of him --

It's honestly staggering before Tim considers the pleasure
he's giving *Clark*, before he -- Clark is Clark, and thus
feels no noticeable need whatsoever to hide it. He's vocal,
reactive -- no, responsive, stroking Tim everywhere he can
reach and moving Tim to reach other places --

And, impressively, managing not to *interrupt* Tim's agenda
with this kiss. It feels dangerous to kiss a man who'd just
been doing --

But Clark's mouth is, actually, rather suspiciously *clear*-
seeming, as if he'd taken one of the moments Tim had spent
being -- *spent* to rinse his mouth out. There's nothing
astringent, no hints of mouthwash, but, of course Clark
could very well have shoved his face into a waterfall and
dried himself off with a flight in the time it had taken Tim to
remember that he was more than just the thrumming
pleasure at the base of his spine. Clark -- is a very careful

Tim smiles, kisses Clark with it, through it, pulls back --

"Again, oh -- please."

"Of course --"

"I like that, Tim. I like -- it almost seems as if you were
hiding from me, before, and I think you can understand how
that sensation seems -- terribly rare."

"Mm," Tim agrees, letting Robin celebrate a bit, nuzzle --
Robin has always wanted to *be* kissed, but Robin can wait,
Robin has debts to pay -- to both of them.

Tim settles himself into a program of licking Clark's teeth,
learning the sharpness -- his tongue simply isn't sensitive
enough to distinguish between the solidity of a Kryptonian's
teeth and those of (Steph) a human's --

Something to consider, and really, what accident of evolution,
what secret of the physical universe decided on thirty-two?

"Your thoroughness --"

"Shh," Tim says, stroking Clark's cheekbones, teasing the
underside of Clark's tongue. "Let me."

"Always. It's only -- I never would've -- mm -- guessed --"

"That is, of course," Tim says, and breathes Clark's exhale
deeply -- *sweet* -- "how I planned it."

"I'm very interested in your plans. Your -- hmm, you could...
again, you could tell me anything --"

"Because you want to know me."

"It seems... reasonable?" And the question in Clark's voice is
poignantly hilarious, being as how it almost certainly has
more to do with the fact that Tim is moving away from Clark,
extricating himself --

Tim lies back beside Clark -- the stains on the ceiling suggest
sheep, or perhaps hummocks which had developed into
ambulatory sorts of things... Tim reaches for Clark's hand
and places it on his own chest --

"Ah. I don't suppose I could use this opportunity to simply...
hold you close?"

"Know me with your skin?"

"I'm not... very picky," Clark says, settling in beside and
stroking Tim's chest, playing a soundless melody on his

Perhaps Tim has been somewhat unfair. He hasn't exactly
given them time to... well. "I was thinking..."


"Perhaps we could go out to dinner sometime? I know your
responsibilities -- 'legion' doesn't really cover it --"

"Oh, I'd like that quite a lot. Do you... well, how do you feel
about vegetarian cuisine?"

Tim smiles at Clark out of the corner of his eye. "My
stepmother is a physical therapist. I think I can handle it for
the sake of your company."

Clark's smile is broad, all-encompassing -- another way to
be cradled in those impossible arms. For now, though, Clark
is still only stroking Tim's chest. "I'm really very happy --"

"Despite my lack of... sharing?"

"No, oh -- you've shared quite a lot. The fact that I'd like
more is... well."

Hm. "You're counting on your capabilities as an investigative
reporter to get me to give up the goods over tofu pad thai,
aren't you?"

"Oh, are you fond of Thai food?"

The innocence is brilliant, unassailable, kissably false -- Tim
takes advantage and uses Clark's remarkable degree of
*receptiveness* -- 'responsive' has stopped being adequate --
to urge him up, over. He's kissing in the shadows again,
albeit only those created by the simple majesty of Clark --

Would he appreciate Clark so much if he were Dick's size?
It's simultaneously difficult to credit and screamingly obvious
that he *wouldn't*. Best to just enjoy what he *has* -- and
stroke down Clark's arm until he reaches Clark's hand and
can clasp it, urge it, bend his own arm back until his
knuckles are brushing the pillow and Clark's fingers are
sliding, ticklish on the thin skin of Tim's inner wrist.

"Oh, Tim. Should I...?"

He hasn't decided. But -- "Show me how it feels."

Clark's grip is as gentle as it can be -- right up until Tim tries
to move.



"I am, of course, learning my own sexuality as we go, but...
yes, I think so. Stop hovering. I'd like to feel your erection --
oh, yes, that's --"

Tim rears up for another kiss, harder, more *direct* --
though he has to resist the urge to fuck Clark's mouth with
his tongue. He isn't quite ready to ask for that in any of
the various ways the part of him which is providing a host
of images would suggest.

"I am... part of me is waiting for the rest to catch up with
the fact that you were my *first*, Clark --"

A kiss, quick and light -- wet. And more pressure on his wrist.

"Mm. You don't find that as... affecting as I would've

"You've given me quite a lot of time, subjectively, to...
consider it," Clark says, and presses his hips against Tim a
little harder. "Dream about it, fantasize about what I
might've done, what you would've let me do..."

"I'm lying down now, Clark."

"Yes --"

"You're covering me. Holding me down."

"Oh, that's... somehow when you say *that*..."

Tim smiles. "I'm reassured, really. What do you want?"

"I --"

"Or -- what did you want *then*?"

"To question you *remorselessly*, in all honesty, Tim --"

He could probably hold the laugh in if he tried, but that
would require desire.

"Perhaps with my hand around your penis."

"Blunt. Lacking in finesse -- mm," Tim says, and there's
nothing he doesn't want to share about sucking Clark's
tongue, really. Perhaps he'll know it better the next time
Clark chooses to use it to fuck him, and he'll be able to tease
the individual sensations apart, analyze them, encourage
some over others --

"If you had suggestions as to how I could better my
performance? Perhaps some degree of training... I'm really
a very fast learner," Clark says, licking Tim's mouth, his
cheek, the space just below where Tim trims off his
sideburns -- interesting to both hear and feel the rasp --

"You could try asking specific questions..."

"Oh, I -- will you tell -- talk to Bruce about this?"

"Almost certainly. I'm intrigued by the jealousy he admits to
and am curious to see if there's any to which he hasn't."

"Of course, that's -- hmm, entirely reasonable. The skin of
your abdomen..."


"Much softer than I would have... of course, you're always
very well-armored there. Dick has -- ah. Many more scars --"

"I'm a growing boy."

"You're mocking me --"

"Perhaps your tastes, but not --"

"*I'm* jealous," Clark says, squeezing Tim's wrist in
emphasis. "I... there have been times, over the years, when
some... whim or impulse, if Bruce could ever have such --"

"I'm reminding you of him."

"When he's been... playful," Clark says, frowning,
frustrated --

"If it... helps, at all, I have yet to become anything
resembling sure about when these moods will take him --
ah, oh, that's... grind again --"

"You have the option, the chance -- surely he's not so
opaque when he kisses you."

("Darling.") "Clark, he -- finds other ways. But you shouldn't
consider it opacity, per se. All of it is -- him."

"I remember, with perfect clarity, the sight of him pulling on
a gauntlet in the moments before touching you."

"The innocence of childhood," Tim says, twisting his arm
until Clark -- *frowns* and lets go. "I'm not going anywhere."

"I'm being too -- is there a word for this?" For a moment,
Clark looks almost pleading. And then there's no 'almost'
about it.

"He has to be careful."

"Around *me*?"

You, Dick, Steph -- "I --"

"You have to understand me, Tim," he says, flexing his
hands and -- not squeezing Tim's shoulders or hips. His
expression is earnest, troubled, earnestly troubled --

Tim catches those hands and tugs until the statue agrees to
be led -- perhaps seduced -- into touching Tim again, into
finding those few moments where even the armoring on
Robin's torso hadn't been enough protection.

"Your memories are written all over your flesh --"

"Some of them," Tim says. "What do I have to understand?"

"He used to have to be careful around you, too. I want to
know how that *changed*."

"You -- haven't guessed."

"Tim, don't -- not for this. Please," Clark says, pulling Tim
close once more -- Superman is in the detail of an ignored
erection. Clark is in the brilliant smile when Tim shivers at
its renewed touch. Kal is...

Where? "There are Batsuits in my size, Clark. Eight of them,
when last I checked."

"You... oh. I always thought Dick would..."

Tim raises his eyebrows. "Did you? Really?"

"Of course, Dick wouldn't have *wanted* it, but -- it never
seemed like something for which desire could be a...
consideration," Clark says, stroking Tim's back more quickly,
warming him -- whether or not that was the intention.

"Want isn't one of the primary considerations, but... it helps."

"Hm." Clark shifts until he can grab both of Tim's wrists and

Tim lets his eyes narrow.

"Helps, you say... in a number of ways? Do you feel more
free now? Does -- does Bruce?"

"Yes. Yes. And -- I think. If I were in Bruce's position, I think
I'd probably feel significantly more -- relaxed." There were,
in fact, a handful of new-to-him files Bruce had previously
managed to hide, if possibly not from Oracle. A JLA mission
against an opponent who played on dreams, fantasies... the
idea of Bruce *retiring*...

"Is he -- you don't think he's going to -- does he plan to

"Perhaps a week after he *dies*, Clark, but --" Clark's
expression is terrible. "I'm sorry. It's the sort of thing Bruce
and I can joke about now."

"I... perhaps it's... I don't judge," Clark says, rubbing Tim's
wrists with his thumbs. "But... if you say he seems relaxed.
Do you think...?"

"I certainly don't plan on discouraging it, so long as neither
of you -- hm," Tim says, having surprised himself with a
blush. "Like organic produce, I spoil quickly, it seems."

"That's really a terrible lie propagated by agribusiness
interests --"

"How would you prefer to come for me, Clark?"

"I -- must I choose?"

"Quickly," Tim says, deciding *not* to soften it with either
smile or eyebrow raise. "I'd like to be back to the Tower
before my absence is noticed by people other than Cyborg,
who believes in keeping confidences." The result...

He thinks, perhaps, he might have secured an even better --
less ambiguous -- result if he'd left things at 'quickly,' but
this --

Clark's eyes aren't rimmed with red so much as they seem to
burn behind themselves. Clark's expression is a -- *yes* --
complex blend of anger, affront, hunger and stubbornness,
something which makes all of those things *seem* like
simply another variety of lust.

A *specific* variety of lust.

"Tell me something... Kal." It's a guess, but...

"If I can," he says, shifting and -- somehow making the
scent of himself rise, grow oppressive in the room which
now seems much smaller. The *power*.

"If I penetrated you, would you be able to retain control?"

It's quick -- perhaps predictably -- but Tim is *almost*
positive Clark's nostrils had flared -- repressing the shiver
*feels* far too Robin for this room and for *this* man, but
it's not particularly lacking in Bat.

"Answer the question --"

"You're assuming it's what I want."

"It's what I want, Kal. As such, it's*precisely* what you want.
What you've *wanted*," Tim says, and the voice is still in
beta, of course, but he's had years to learn the tone. There
have been nights when not even unconsciousness could
allow him to not *live* in the tone.

A glance -- purposeful, arrogant -- shows that the tip of
Clark's penis is slick and a bit shiny with moisture. Tim looks
back into Clark's eyes.

"Well, Kal...?"

"I --" Clark rests his hands on Tim's shoulders and squeezes --
shakes, for just a moment --

Tim offers a smile he'd last seen used in order to encourage
a young man to confess to every crime he could remember --

"Oh, God, Tim, you --" Clark squeezes again and *yanks* his
hands back. "I can't do this. I can't -- you're not --"

Tim catches Clark's hands with his own. "You should let me,"
he says. "You have to realize --"

"That you're *practicing*, I -- no, that's not fair, I'm sorry,
I --"

"Well, I..." Tim laughs. "I was just going to say that I didn't
mind. Certainly I didn't plan on spending much of my future
having *sex* as Batman." (Steph --)

"I... I'm sorry, but there was something. I don't think you
were being completely honest."

All of those super-senses. Tim shakes his head and smiles.
"I was thinking about -- Robin."

For a moment, Clark's eyes are almost comically wide, but --
"Ah. Ah. Erm. I have to say that I... I do believe I can
understand, and yet -- "

Tim pushes his fingers between Clark's own, tugs their
hands down, turns his wrists, and strokes Clark's penis with
his knuckles.

"And yet, somehow, I find myself -- distracted."

"If I can't give you Bruce..." Tim shrugs, and lets the
motion's follow-through interrupt his rhythm.

"It's just -- I haven't gotten enough of *you*, Tim --"


"At all, I -- please."

"If there's something in particular I could *do*..."

"You -- you shouldn't *tease*," Clark says, voice rumbling,
and the pressure on Tim's fingers is painful, dangerous --

"Clark --"

"You can't -- I *don't* have the control for you to penetrate
me, but that's -- touch me. Talk to me. Don't -- don't stop,
this time, don't anticipate me, don't --"

"Be myself?" There's a wordless, *animal* satisfaction to
taking Clark in both hands, though it could simply be the
way it *looks* -- all overlapping fingers and dark skin and
increasingly slick *shine* --

"Tim, who *are* you?"

"Is this -- where I assume the attraction was only ever
physical --"

"Don't joke like that, please, I -- you've always been so
reserved, so cautious and mm -- stroke me --"

"Of course," Tim says, and watches Clark's expressions until
they become too fast to follow, until he closes his eyes --

"I've only wanted --I thought I could make -- oh, Tim, I
thought I could make things easier for you, softer, or --"

"I've never wanted *soft*, Clark --"

And when Clark opens his eyes, this time, there's no blue at
all, and the space between them is distinctly *hotter*.

"Oh. Kal," Tim says, and the smile on his own face -- the
Robin in him doesn't want to claim it, but --

It doesn't have to.

Tim squeezes harder.


The roof of the Tower is cool beneath Tim's tights -- he
hasn't given it enough time to build up warmth from
reflected sunlight -- but the day itself is as bright as anything
San Francisco has to offer, even though it's barely after ten.
It will be uncomfortably warm and muggy by the time they
have anything to do -- short of interesting emergencies, of
course -- and Tim had felt... something.

He's honestly not sure what.

The roof had called him, but not the way the skyline of
Gotham -- and even parts of Bludhaven -- does, and he
honestly isn't sure what he's doing. He could be training,
he could be meditating, but he's not.

Every now and again, Bart builds something up here to play
with and examine, to learn and memorize with his fingers,
but Bart, when Tim had checked, was sleeping the way he
always does -- like a child with an impossible fever, drugged
and absent.

Even his dreams are difficult to watch. A certain strain which
could only make sense to people who move slowly, perhaps.

He's... some part of him is restless, Tim thinks, in a way
which has nothing to do with sleep. He'd gotten a solid four
hours and -- again, short of interesting emergencies --
everything is in line with his getting a nap later this
afternoon. For all the solitude the other Titans allow him
here, *none* of them so much as try to bother him while
he's napping.

It seems to be a blend of that assumed-fellow-feeling -- one
must make *sure* Robin is fully rested, as Batman certainly
won't -- and something a bit darker. That which Bart fears
about him as much as he likes. Tim is not a part of this team.

Not as much -- Dick would be --

"Man, it's morning," Kon says, landing in front of Tim and
saving Tim from sunshine, as he has done since the time
Tim mentioned that he did, in fact, burn easily. "Why aren't
you sleeping like a good little Bat?"

He's about to ask the same -- almost -- question, but the
flash of red above -- "Flying with Cassie?"

Kon's smile is soft and wide. "She'd never really been to
Hawaii, she... I got to show her some places."

Tim smiles back. "Mm."

"Man, I don't know what it is -- I totally got major points
just for *liking pretty places*. How does that work, do you

Tim rolls to his feet, shifting to keep all of himself in Kon's
shadow --

"Man, I love the way you do that. Heh, sure your cape can
stand the radiation?"

"Space-age polymers, Kon. They could very well be more
advanced than... you," Tim says, and smiles.

"Asshole. Anyway. What *are* you doing up here?"


Kon rolls his eyes. "If it wouldn't strain something important
in your balls, dude," he says, and punches Tim's shoulder.

"I'm thinking about my place in the world, and, in microcosm,
my place on this team."

Kon blinks fast and takes a step back, before -- *closing* on
Tim and grabbing his shoulders. "Hey, no, we *talked* about
this. You're here for the long haul."

Technically, that's not what they talked about at all, but...
"I'm not talking about quitting, Kon. I just don't quite feel...
there are a lot of things changing now in Gotham, for me. I
might not be able to be around as much. Or I might be able
to be around even *more*. It's -- difficult to explain," Tim
says, smiling a little at the uncomplicated happiness on
Kon's face.

"More? Seriously? What -- how's *that* work with the Big
Bad Bat?"

"More trust means more responsibility and more freedom,"
Tim says. "I -- kind of have to leave it at that."

"But -- more? Like you could maybe  come out to Smallville,

There's something not quite -- right in Kon's voice, but -- "I
could see myself zip-stripping a cow or two," Tim says.
"I'm not -- sure of *much*, but, yes. More choices. You
could also -- you've never, actually, been to my house, you

Kon is -- well, he's staring, and while subjective time is a
small, laughable thing when it comes to the two of *them*,
as opposed to, say, Tim and *Bart* -- it still gives Tim quite
a lot of time to consider -- and reject -- the idea of
presenting Conner Kent to Dana as his gay lover.

Far too many variables to be anything like prudent. Of
course, if he just lets Dana *assume*...

"You -- are you serious?"

"You know who I am, and I'm reasonably sure that I could
pass you off as someone from school, or perhaps you could
be doing an internship in Gotham for the summer..." Tim
shrugs. "There are possibilities."

"Well, yeah there are possibilities, but -- possibilities you
*want* --"

"Kon, I've always wanted them," he says, and doesn't think
about golden skin, or the handful of minute patches which
are paler -- scar tissue which may or may not disappear
entirely as Kon becomes more powerful.

More powerful by the second, here in this crumbling

"The fact that I didn't have the same options before..." Tim
shrugs. "That was before. I think I'd like to see what it
would be like to have more than one friend who can see
me without my mask almost whenever I want."

Kon's smile --

If Tim had his mask off now, it would probably be somewhat
problematic. His face -- his *emotions* are giving him a
choice between lustful avidity and the desire to turn his face.

"Hey, who's the other friend?"

"My girlfriend," Tim says.

"She exists? Like, and is an actual human or humanoid girl?"

"She used to be the Spoiler, if you've heard of her. She's
currently retired. I'm hoping to convince her... well. Anyway,
that's about everything I'm thinking about," Tim says. Just
about. In a way.

"So... uh. Wow."

"Kind of wow, yeah."

"I just... it's kind of.. uh," Kon says, shaking his head and
flying up slowly, just until the point where, if he flew any
higher, he'd be exposing Tim to sunlight once more.


"Man, I -- I used to dream a little about you saying stuff --
*acting* like you actually wanted to be my -- our friend, as
opposed to --"

"I've always given everything I could, Kon. I understand that
that's... difficult to credit," Tim says to the scuffed toes of
Kon's boots. He's backlit far too much to try meeting his
eyes -- a mistake all sorts of people tend to make with

"You've always been *older*," Kon says. "Like, not just than
me and Bart. Older than everyone, even Cissie. And that's
not all of it, but I don't know... it's just hard to know you."

"Kon --"

"And I know you don't want it to be that way --"

"Technically, sometimes I do. But -- ah, no. Not with you, or

Kon bites his lip and -- well, that's a stare. Watchful, perhaps
somewhat worried... Tim isn't sure.


"I just --" Kon shrugs, shoving his thumbs in the waistband
of his jeans and rocking on his heels, a little. "Not to get
too deep or anything, here, but -- you've been hard to know,
hard to hold onto, hard to -- *anything* for basically every
single day of my life. You're freaking me out, a little."

"So... that's a 'no' on foosball in my basement this Tuesday?"

"Heh, I -- don't get me wrong, I -- crap, look at me being
the suckass friend."

This hurt -- it's worse for the surprise of it. Tim swallows,
and winces because Kon was watching *just* close enough
to see it --

"Shit, Tim, don't, I mean, I just -- I probably just need a
little time? I mean, you've always been there for me, and I'd
just -- I'd *love* to be there for you --"

"But I'm 'freaking you out.'"

"It's not -- oh, Jesus, I fucking suck -- it is in *no way* your
fault that I didn't believe you any of the times when you
said or hinted that you actually did -- care."

"We can be weekend friends, too, Kon. There's nothing
wrong with --"

"Weekend --" Kon spirals up into flight and slams back down,
punching the roof hard enough to leave a crack. "I am not
that kind of -- I'm not --"

"But I've been *your* weekend friend, Kon," Tim says, tilting
his head. "Isn't that what you're saying?"

"No -- *yes*, but --"

Tim holds out a hand.

"Okay, I'm stopped. I'm... Jesus, Tim, you don't know how
much -- how much time I spend looking *forward* to seeing
you, hanging out with you, listening to you crack your little
asshole *jokes*..."

But you still think of me as Robin, for a set of definitions
which require my being masked in any number of small and
large ways.

"Just -- do I get to have time to *cope* with this?"

"I..." It's definitely something that *this* smile is another of
the ones, lately, which he can do nothing to hold back. He's
baring his teeth. "Did you think I would force myself on you,

Kon, for his part, hasn't looked quite this miserable in a very
long time. Tim never -- he's never wanted that.

He steps back, catching Kon's hand when he reaches. "It's
all right --"

"It's *not*. I'm -- I don't even know what I'm *doing*
here --"

"You're being honest with me, just like I'm being honest with
you --"

"You're my *best* friend, Tim!"

And you're afraid of me. And not in that fun way, either --
Tim is not going to laugh. "Nothing you've said is going to
change the way I feel about you, or about me being on the
team, or... it's all right, Kon," he says, and squeezes Kon's

"Jesus, just -- are you *sure*? I don't know how you can
even -- I'm an *asshole* --"

"*Nothing* is going to change the way I feel about you. And,
to be honest, Kon? I've always worked better at a distance."

"And in the fucking shadows, and I'm supposed to be
dragging you *out*, but I just need one thing, one little
damned *thing* --"

"Kon," he says, and he's never wanted this voice for Kon,
but the effect of pure command is instant and -- frankly
needful, at the moment.

Kon is still, staring at him, fists at his sides -- waiting. Ready.
And this... Kon may question Tim's orders, but he will never,
ever question Tim's right to give them. In the end...

In the end, *that* is what he will need from Kon in the
future. As to what he needs now...

"Why don't we change the subject?"

Kon should be looking more wary than pained, but it's a
start. "I'm listening. I promise. I really --"

Ignore it. "Are you any closer to pinpointing how you feel in
the moments before your X-ray vision kicks in?"

"Hunh? My -- oh, I -- well, there are a couple of things I've
noticed, but Tim --"

"Show me," Tim says, clear and cold, and... cold. There's a
sour taste in his mouth at the sight of Kon's honest and
always, always open *relief*, but --

There are things to do.


Tim can feel something inside himself stretching and
breathing as soon as he steps on the plane. Something
reaching, perhaps, to fill a space made up of shadows and
ruthlessly obsessive care. This has been, if he's honest with
himself, the truth since the *first* time Bruce had come to
pick him up from the Tower.

In the past, Tim had spent a significant amount of time
doing his best to *hide* that from Bruce -- the Titans,
including their stress, belonged to *him* -- but Tim has to

"Can you take the controls, or do you need someone to
rub your temples?"

There's something to be said for the dry, chilly *brace* of a
Bruce entirely allowed to acknowledge that Tim isn't feeling
optimal. "I'll take both, I think," Tim says, stowing his pack
and taking the co-pilot's seat which had been, in fact,
designed to fit the contours of his body and the vagaries of
his posture. "Perhaps an oiled dancing boy or two, as well.
Did you bring any?"

"Not this time, I'm afraid," Bruce says, pulling back the cowl
and standing -- not entirely gracefully. Hm... shoulder injury?

"Did you dislocate it again?"

"Yes," Bruce says, stripping out of the upper armor and --
ah. He'd gotten the tape tangled.

"You really should consider letting me help with that," Tim
says, and takes them up a little higher than commercial

"You're busy," Bruce says, and...

There's a very particular smile in his voice, and it's one which
absolutely invites a certain kind of discourse. "You know,
*every* time you've let me stitch you, tape you, or bandage
you I've wound up with an erection. All of that tension as I
waited for you to grunt or sigh --"

"Or, perhaps, for my breathing to hitch, just once, as I
stoically ignored the pain?"

"Mm. Later, I'd soothe your fevered brow with cool, damp
cloths and smile winningly as you told me how much you
needed me," Tim says, and toes off his boots.

"I'm waiting for the part in this narrative when you swoon
in my arms," Bruce says, and -- yes, *grunts* as he tapes
himself again.

"Well -- there are *different* narratives which start with you
gassing me --"

"It was only twice," and there is a certain degree of *protest*
there which is just a little irresistible.

"Certainly, I can only *remember* twice --"

"I have not yet begun to use Rohypnol, Tim," Bruce says,
and takes his chair again. And puts one foot up on the

Which is... mm.

Perhaps it's a little ridiculous to find the move *that*
fascinating, considering... everything else, but... the tendency
to develop connotations is an inevitable side effect of
training one's memory (something he has not yet decided
how -- or whether -- to express to Bart):

A Bruce offering decidedly casual body-language is a Bruce
entirely in the mood to *play*. And all of their games have
changed --

"When you went off the grid in the early hours of Saturday

And Bruce hadn't bothered to replace his upper body armor.
"Do you really need to ask, Bruce?"

"Well, I just don't know, cream cake. How do you want to
define *need*...?"

Tim bites the tip of his tongue. "As something with at least
as many fatal -- or at least horribly painful -- connotations as
that voice. My darling fruit bat."

"Hnn. A bit on the nose, don't you think?"

Tim snorts and does a routine instrument check. "It was
either that or 'sweat-dumpling.' No, I don't know, either -- I
think my training in this sort of thing has been woefully
deficient." And the invitation there --


-- is well-taken. Accepted, and --

Bruce's expression, when Tim actually turns his head to look,
is far too sharp to be described as 'warm,' just as the prickles
under Tim's skin are far too widespread for him to describe
himself as 'intrigued.'

"Tell me something, Tim..."


"Did you let Clark make you scream?"

Forewarned is not, always, forearmed. Tim's ears are burning,
and there's an interesting ache in his insteps, and, of course,
the jock is becoming tragic. "Clark's kisses can be... quite

If Bruce were wearing the upper part of the suit, the sound,
Tim thinks, would be that of armor creaking, shifting, and
settling. Oddly, the minute sound of skin on leather as Bruce
*shifts* is not quite as satisfying.

Tim has become accustomed to the... battishly tectonic.
And --

"You enjoyed that."

Tim frowns, slightly -- he will not soon become inured to the
opportunity to be *obvious* around Bruce -- "You sound

Bruce's raised eyebrow is an illustration of arch. "You've
been -- I don't believe 'reveling' is too strong a word -- in
your assumptions of new control."

"'Assumptions,' Bruce?"

It's actually a bit intimidating to watch Bruce lower his eyes
and smile -- "You're drawing your lines in fascinating places.
It has been... hmm. Rather compelling to watch."

And that isn't... "I think it's less that I'm drawing lines than --
firming traceries. Applying my own stamp, as it were."

"Mm," Bruce says, irritatingly non-committal. It would
probably be a bit infuriating without his continued pose.

Tim decides to focus on flying the plane --

"I would be very interested in hearing how that... stamp
applied to your allies among the Titans."

That's not... Tim sighs, internally. "I have yet to decide
whether or not it's worth it to put myself in a leadership
position solely to make things easier on myself with regards
to... interpersonal matters."

"They aren't your peers."

Robin would dearly like to ask, as acidly as possible, whose
*fault* that is, but Tim doesn't think Robin would like the
answer very much. "In the end, it would be easiest for me if
Cyborg were to take over. Starfire isn't the leader the Titans
need -- not these Titans, anyway. Tamaranian teenagers
have far more responsibilities and expectations placed on
them than even... well. You know all of this."

"Some, yes. Dick's reports during the relevant time period
left something to be desired," Bruce says, shifting -- no.
Bruce is working his right knee in the joint, incidentally
flexing thighs, calf...

Tim feels no compunction about laughing at himself for that
sort of thing --

"You believe Cyborg would be a better leader for your

"I'm feeling selfish with my time," Tim says, and -- it's
interesting. At this point in his life, it's a rare occasion when
he actually has the chance to examine the shape of one of
his own... 'lies' isn't entirely accurate. It's a half-truth, and
it's very nicely formed. Believable -- "I don't want to be their
leader. If I'd ever thought about it very deeply, I never
would have."

"I..." Bruce stops, crosses his legs, steeples his fingers, and

"You make me tempted to try that pose, myself."

Bruce's smile glances off the corner of his mouth. "You do it
unconsciously when patrol has left you exhausted, but you
still feel the need to peruse the reports."

"I -- the fingers, as well?"

"Since you were fourteen," Bruce says, fond and -- ("Bruce
must be so *proud* of you --")

Tim makes a face. "I suppose I'll have to take your word for

"I'd certainly *appreciate* it --"

"Stop," Tim says. "Bruce, seriously, I think this is where you
explain to me, in your own inimitable way, that despite
everything I've observed, you've found a way to remain
friends with the League as it is embodied by people other
than Clark and Wonder Woman. And that --"

"Perhaps, someday, you'll meet a young person with
everything you've ever wanted for yourself, everything
you've ever struggled to make yourself become for the suit,
for the Mission, for the *calling* --"

"And then I'll ruin his and/or her life?"

Bruce's smile is far more of a stare than a glance, this time.
"Perhaps you'll even make him -- or her -- love you a little
for it. It eases the self-loathing."

Tim snorts and toggles the autopilot, standing and starting
to strip. "Does it? Really?"

The move Bruce uses to forcibly close the distance between
them -- and force Tim into a straddle of his lap -- isn't
especially showy or deft, but it's effective. "You're my

"I'm a little small for that --"

"Not at high noon," Bruce says, kissing him quickly, lightly --

"If you tell me I'm your sunshine --"

"How would we define light without shadows? How would
we come to appreciate it?" Bruce's hands settle on Tim's
hips, spread and test, cup, squeeze.

It's worth a sigh -- more than the words. Less, however, than
the freedom to examine Bruce's torso with his fingers, to
learn the feel of all that hair he may or may not live long
enough to grow for himself --

The texture wouldn't be the same, and, of course, there's no
chance whatsoever that his hands would enjoy it quite this
much, that he'd respond so *powerfully* -- it's Bruce,
content to be molested by --

"Your *shadow*, you say," and Tim presses the centers of
his palms against Bruce's nipples -- no. They're the most
sensitive parts of his hands, but they aren't sensitive
*enough*. He leans in to use his tongue --

"I've cut you -- ah, free," Bruce says, and strokes a quick,
strong hand through Tim's hair. "You're going to patrol on
your own, more and more --"

"Nothing new to that --"

"You're going to, perhaps --"

Tim kisses him, shaking his head -- it's terribly inefficient.
This matters less at the hint of stubble rasping over Tim's
lip -- Bruce's mustache always starts growing in first -- and
matters less than that when Bruce stops Tim with his

Worth stopping for, as -- 'always' implies, somehow, that
this has lasted between them as long as --

As --

As it feels like it has. Tim hears himself grunt, and accepts it
as all the warning he's likely to get for the growl which he
does nothing to stop when he pulls out of the kiss to --
'batten' wouldn't be an inappropriate word -- focus on
Bruce's throat.

Keep talking, he thinks. He wants to feel the rumbling
vibration of it with his lips, he wants -- hell. Pushing off again
feels terribly unfair -- and several different varieties of
painfully *stupid* -- but.

He really has to know.

"Bruce -- elaborate, please."

"Am I making you unsure?" The hand on his face -- Bruce's
fingertips retain, slightly, the residual softness which they
only ever have in the first hour after he removes the
gauntlets. The skin around several of Tim's scars seems to
waken in sense-memory --

There remains no sign of *consumption* with regards to
Tim's sexuality, save as the term relates to modesty,
practicality, and decorum. "You're making me impatient," Tim
says and pictures Bruce wholly naked, spread and sprawled,
waiting -- *available*.

"Your acceptance is my freedom as well, Tim. Once you
become -- better acquainted with more members of the
League than the ones to whom you're sexually attracted --"

Tim presses his mouth against Bruce's throat --

"Once more of them *understand* --"

Tim scrapes his teeth --

"Is it so strange that I imagine -- *desire*, Tim -- the
eventual opportunity to be better known, better
understood --"

"I'll be the mystery," Tim says, and thinks he can feel his
taste buds respond, open, *something* at the advent of new
sweat, Bruce's *desire* --

"Of course -- of course, you'll do it with a smile, an open
hand, a tease of invitation -- hn," Bruce says, staring openly
as Tim stands again, curling his hands against the arms of
the chair as Tim pushes down shorts and tights --

Watching, with all the weight of the Bat and everything
else Bruce *contains* as Tim eases the jock aside and
down --

"You'll make them believe they know you."

Kon -- "Or that they know as much of me as they can...

Bruce nods an approval which is almost blithe, and Tim
can't --

"It's not that easy for me. I want -- there's so much more I
*want*, Bruce."

"I can't give that to you, Tim. You've always known that."

He -- he has. "Sit forward, please."

"Mm," Bruce says, doing so and tapping the fingers of one
hand on the catches on the codpiece. "Your wish..."

Tim drops to his knees and takes the hint -- possibly the first
several hints. Bare, Bruce is a wealth of textures,
importunate memories of shower-glimpses and the stitching
of the wound which became this particular scar -- the one
against Tim's tongue.

"Did this part come before or after the swooning...?"

"After," Tim says, and inhales. "After always had the cachet
of deniability," and Tim retrieves the lubricant from his
belt --

The spread of Bruce's legs isn't the same quality of heat as
Kal's eyes, but the effects, he thinks, are not dissimilar.
Whatever Bruce had been doing which required him to be
suited-up during the day had taken long enough -- the
*smell* of him...

And when Tim remembers that it's a good idea -- for this
sort of thing -- to occasionally meet one's partner's eyes --
Bruce is resting one elbow on the arm of the chair, and
resting his cheek on his thumb and index finger.

His expression has something of a quirk.


"Don't," he says, "let me stop you."

"Noted," Tim says, and decides to glove only his right hand.
His left has more sensitivity, and, as such, is far better
suited to being wrapped around Bruce. He feels, of course,
completely different than Clark -- almost jarringly vulnerable.
The skin is soft -- Bruce is no statue.

There is, perhaps, an unfairness in here. Within the brush
and slide of the head of Bruce's penis against his mouth,
there's a claim Tim is staking without regard for... whom?

The shape of it: The pleasure he feels when the rhythm of
Bruce's breathing stutters as Tim slides his right index finger
inside is not quantitatively different from the pleasure of
Kal slipping Clark's leash, but -- and never mind the terrible
puns -- there's a greater depth to it, intellectually.

He's changing -- has changed -- something fundamental for
Bruce. He is the object and the subject, his is the power to
grant not just pleasure, but acceptance and validation.

Bruce's shadow, and pleased -- yes, very -- to be so, but he's
nothing Clark has asked for, nothing Clark's reason and self-
actualization has any reason to accept. Clark's invitations
and flirtations were meant for the ghost Tim built with
Robin's face, not for the individual --

The fact that Clark *likes* it, likes him and wants more of
him -- if Tim were in Clark's place, he would actually be
more than a little resentful; Tim already wants (hungers for)
too many things he can't have, why should he have to deal
with *more*?

He *knows* he's made Clark want more and different things,
just as he knows -- as Bruce has been so good, so
*generous* about letting him know -- that he has simply
validated desires old enough within Bruce to be comfortable.

Tim has, he thinks (and kisses, and thrusts, and kisses again),
been taking at least some of this -- and 'this' contains so
*much* -- for granted. He can be grateful to Kon for putting
him in his place, for rejecting Tim's overtures as something
distasteful and dark --

"Clark has never rejected you," Tim blurts, shaking his head
and kissing the head again, again. The slit isn't precisely
anything Tim could term 'soft' against the tip of his tongue,
and 'vulnerability' is a term which is rapidly losing meaning
due to repetition within Tim's mind -- Bruce is so *hot*

"He's quite -- accepting," Bruce says, and rolls his hips, up,
up again, forward --

Tim crooks his finger --

"Are you feeling a lack of -- of challenge?"

"I want *Kon*," Tim says, shaking his head -- Clark would
be even hotter inside. He'd feel dangerous, he hadn't had
the control to *let* Tim -- "I want him back. I want him
the way I haven't been able to --"

"The clone --"

Petty to choose *that* moment to give Bruce two fingers,
especially since Bruce's groan isn't contrite in the least --

"You want this, with him...?"

No. Yes -- no.

"No, it would be easier if you... if you did. Mm. Wouldn't it?"

Maybe. "He's very... loyal," Tim says, leaning in to take the
head of Bruce's penis in his mouth, push against it with the
flat of his tongue, stroke, think about doing this with Kon --

No, it would be *to* him, now, and maybe then, too. Kon's
eyes are the blue of slate, and Tim doesn't know, yet, if
they'd seem to change as they widened, if Kon would close
his eyes or shake his head in denial --

Tim would make him feel wonderful and terrible, make him
a cheater, make him into the worst thing a Kon could ever
be -- *dis*loyal, and, no, Tim has never wanted that.

Bruce's hands in his hair are lazy things, less gentle than
casual. Bruce has followed Tim beyond the point at which
there are -- or could be -- questions of transgression. Bruce
is pressure in his mouth, potential, power...

Bruce is the comfortingly solid and *present* definition of
Tim's hunger, right now, safer than anything -- he will never
surprise Bruce especially deeply, and he will certainly never
'freak' Bruce in any way but, perhaps, the colloquial -- hmm.

"Sit back," he says, and Bruce does without question -- if
not without a sharp smile for what is, undeniably, Tim being
a tease. His mouth hardly feels used at all, and -- there's
nothing special about the way Bruce's fingers drag over his
scalp, and nothing but the fact of Bruce himself to explain
why the feel makes him shiver, why the anticipation of
those fingertips on his forehead make him need to pull back,
rear, kneel up to catch those fingers in his mouth --

Remember his own fingers, and the fact that he's slowed to
a laziness of his own -- an arrhythmic rocking thrust inside
Bruce, less making a space for himself than running around
something already made -- he's slacking terribly --

Bruce's fingertips taste like the gauntlets, still --

Tim wishes he were in the suit, one of the new ones, but it's
not because it would make any of this any *easier*.

"You're terribly unfocused," Bruce says, more than a hint of
true concern under the growling *plum* of a Brucie
corrupted by both Bat and man.

Tim shakes his head, not in denial, pulls out, ditches the
glove, and sits back, bracing himself on his hands. "It was a
difficult weekend."

"What can I do?"

Tim knows how to answer that question -- honestly, even --
but -- "I'm not sure if I want to be that honest with you right
now." For all the comfort of it being Bruce here, with him,
there is a part of it which has less to do with Bruce himself
than with the years he'd spent hiding as much of himself as
he could, of being *Robin's* shadow --

"Would it help," Bruce says, and drops to his knees in a
broad and rather generous straddle -- the points of contact
are as minimal as they can be --

And then, somehow, Bruce's left hand is around Tim's throat
and his right is pressed to Tim's cheek. "Perhaps I should've
seen that coming."

"Treasure this rapidly dwindling time in which I'm capable of
surprising you, Tim," Bruce says, squeezing even as his tone
and word choices seem to *war* with themselves. "It will
pass all too quickly."

Like consciousness? No, Bruce isn't, actually, cutting off all
of his air as opposed to -- hm. Making a rather excessively
manual point. "I don't recall giving you permission for this."

"Is it making you focus?"

"I -- this sort of thing has never been especially *social* for
me, Bruce. You're going to make me feel increasingly inner-
focused --"

"But aroused enough to stop tearing at yourself for not being
a good *friend*."

"I -- to be fair, I was doing less tearing than hiding from the
truth -- I'm not going to be a good friend to anyone,
anymore --"

*Had* he meant that to be a request for a squeeze? Difficult
to say, or -- perhaps just difficult to be *sure*. Bruce is
lifting him, slightly, just enough to make the pressure on
Tim's palms diffuse and difficult to hold on to -- he doesn't
want to scratch at the floor of the plane with his fingernails.

"I don't want to be lonely, Bruce."

"Then don't."

"'If my friendships are falling apart, make stronger ones...?'"

"Certainly," Bruce says, and pulls Tim closer. By the throat.
"It seems like the sort of advice someone who cares about
you would offer."

He'd have something to say to that, Tim thinks, if the
pressure hadn't increased enough to be -- exciting.

The kiss is slow and... more gentle than his skin wants to
believe in, at the moment. There's always a little sensory
confusion when he cuts off his air, a few moments of
deadened arms and enervated hands, the odd moment of
being convinced that dozens of tiny pins are pricking his
cheeks and forehead, that he's warm and safe and will
never be cold again.

He knows, right now, that this is the softest kiss Bruce has
ever given him -- he can see it in the lines of Bruce's face.
It's just that his skin is confused and -- confused and warm,
thrilled -- his lips are oversensitized, his tongue is clumsy
against Bruce's own, and the kiss --

It doesn't stop, nothing -- he's so *warm*, and it's all right
to claw at the floor a little, isn't it? There's nothing to stop
him from doing so, no shame and no pride. There's power
here, and it belongs to him for as long as he can't breathe.

Or -- that's not quite correct, somehow, but it also doesn't
matter. The kiss has broken into several smaller ones,
dusted over his prickling cheeks, his irrelevant forehead...

He'd known, of course, that if he ever let someone do this
*for* him it would be different than the exercises in control
he'd engaged in on his own, than the occasional pressure
he'd place against his throat -- the abnormally high
placement of the soap dish in the Cave's showers --

*Cold* and Tim knows he's breathing again, that Bruce has
eased the pressure if not the emotional force of his touch,
his *will* that Tim be focused, if not, apparently, entirely

He laughs out the last of his gasped air -- he'd known it
would be the last the moment he *did* laugh, that it would
*provoke* -- he looks at Bruce, offers everything behind his
eyes -- even the parts he's not sure about.

He could never have this with -- no, it doesn't bear
consideration. Bruce's hand feels wider than his throat is
long, Bruce's power is and has always been too impressive
to ignore, or even allow oneself to be distracted from.

He has another several moments before the rush of returned
feeling in his limbs fades again, and Bruce is right *here*,
slick within and without -- he shouldn't have tossed the
glove. His hands are shaking as he clutches, as he reaches
and *thrusts*, but --

"*Yes*, Tim --"

Bruce is aroused *enough*, perhaps, for grace to not be a
concern, or perhaps, for Tim's clumsiness to be part of the
appeal. The attraction --

A brief, coughing heave lets him know that he's pushing
against Bruce's hand, trying to reach -- he wants another
kiss. He needs it to help him define his own skin again, to
move past the warmth -- and flooding, twitching *heat* at
his crotch -- to something like physical reason.

"Should I kiss you again?"

The sound he makes is brief, breathy and surprising -- he
hadn't thought he could. He tries again, deeper in his chest,
and the vibration trips something within him. His hands
spasm, forget what they're doing, and this moan is too long
and desperate to be intentional.

"Do you really think you *deserve* it...?"

A goad, designed to push Tim past both the pleasure of this
moment and any lingering useless doubts and moments of
depression -- heh. Tim twists his head, pulls *back* -- and
Bruce releases him.

"Yes, Tim?"

"Should I try this the next time you make a brooding ass out
of yourself?"

There is no *direct* physical danger when Bruce's eyes
widen and flare, but that's the sort of overly literal thinking
which leads to the worst sort of specious arguments. Better
to, yes, focus on what he's doing with his hands. It's more
difficult in this position -- it's putting strain on an old break
in his wrist -- but that's not really a *bad* thing.

It makes him put some *thought* into it, as well as into the
return of something closer to control than to any definition
of grace. With two fingers inside and his other hand
wrapped around the base of Bruce's penis, he has all the
*incentive* for control he needs --

And more than that when Bruce leans back and braces
himself on his hands, watching Tim until he stops, until
the expression in his eyes grows distant, complex --

"When you finally let Clark do this to you, Bruce..."

The groan is soft, sharp -- brief.

"He's such a *good* friend to you. So," Tim says, twisting
with the fingers of one hand and *squeezing* with the
other, "so very *patient*."


"He's been waiting for you. He wants to know what *I* did
to get past the barrier of your -- excuse for a
*personality* --"

Bruce's smile is bright, impossibly *happy*, and Tim isn't
sure about the part of himself which feels the need to
respond to it with a growl, the part of him moving only in
response to Bruce, becoming the darkness the man wants
so badly to *shed*. It --

It's neither the place *nor* the time, but Bruce doesn't fight
him when Tim lets go of his erection in favor of pushing
Bruce back, covering him --

"I -- reiterate: *Don't* let me stop you."

The word in his mind is *no*, over and over. He's better
than the need crawling around the base of his spine, than
the clumsy, scrabbling -- and ultimately abortive -- search
for the lube he's trying with his free hand. He's better than
the driving *punch* of his thrusts, and than the half-assed
excuse for preparation.

But --

Why *had* he taken off his clothes if not for this? Why
hadn't he just -- Tim shakes his head, mouths something
incomprehensible even to himself, and groans, helpless and
loud when Bruce pulls his knees up and just -- offers.

Still, even now, there's a part of Tim which knows he'll
*want* to remember this later, even if it's just a shallow
memory of the sequence of events. It's not strong enough,
though. As far as most of him is concerned, there's a
moment in which he's torturing himself by keeping his
*fingers* inside Bruce, and then there's a moment when
he's rising up, guiding himself --

He's inside, gasping and growling, holding on to the floor to
keep himself from flying into a thousand pieces and using
his other hand to press down on *Bruce's* throat.

It feels wonderful, and he's more grateful for that than he'll
ever have the words for -- there is at least one small,
wonderful thing which feels nearly as good as finally being
*inside* Bruce, buried deep, held and warmed and

There had to be -- something --

"*Tim* --"

"Don't -- don't say my name --"

"Tim," Bruce says, and laughs, moans, *clenches* --

"*Fuck* you --"

The height difference is too much -- he can't kiss Bruce the
way he wants to, he can't *bite* Bruce in all the places he
wants to, he can't do anything but thrust, over and over --
Bruce is so *tight*, and, somewhere, this *act* is in the
process of murdering Superman all over again.

But --

Oh, he *wants* Clark to see this, to know this about both of
them. He wants Clark to have perfect clarity about what he
hadn't gotten to have. What he hadn't gotten to *feel* --
no, that's not -- he wants *Kon* to know, and to never
know --

"No control, no -- Bruce, *please* --"

"Don't -- stop --"

It's more of a scream than a growl, and the hopeless
realization that there was more behind this, that he
wasn't thrusting as hard as he could, that he wasn't
striving as *much* as he could to get deeper, get more --

"Beautiful, *hungry* boy," Bruce says, and catches him by
the throat again --

He loses the rhythm, slips out too far, struggles and moans --

And Bruce reaches between them with his free hand and
makes it right again, gets Tim in -- why had he ever thought
*not* hating Bruce would be easier? Love is too limited, or
perhaps too small for what lives inside him. Hate could
hold all of this feeling, this need to punish as much as
pleasure -- Tim bites Bruce's nipple and screams again --

It's too *good*, and he's never not going to know that. This
will always be a part of him, and the only thing Tim can do
is *plead* with his eyes and every shaky moan the feel of
Bruce's body forces out of him.

He can't --

He tries, one last time, to find something like an *answer*
for this in Bruce's eyes, but all he can see is the wild
wreckage of himself, and then sight becomes irrelevant,
sound becomes too simple --

Everything is the *feel*, and Tim falls into it, hungry and
desperate and finally, terribly, *free*.

After, there's nothing but the scent of them both burning
Tim from the inside out, and the lack of optimal
positioning -- why hadn't he gotten Bruce on his *knees*?

"Oh -- God," Tim says. "I -- can I --"

"It's all right," Bruce says, and there are too many rough
edges on his voice for it to be comfortable -- ah. Bruce is
still hard.

Tim pulls out, remembering to go slow, and shifts back,
down -- "Just -- do me -- my throat..."

It feels like kindness when Bruce grabs him by the back of
his head, and it feels better than that, *safer*, when Tim
opens his mouth and takes Bruce in, and in -- in until Tim
can swallow --

The lack of air is a blow of sense-memory -- Bruce's hand
on his throat, Bruce's -- he's never going to choke himself in
the shower, again. The first time it's not enough would kill
him. Sex is a *weakness*, and how he'd ever doubted that
is beyond him.

He's already shaking again, already scrabbling at Bruce's
hips just as if Bruce *isn't* as deep as Tim can take him, as
deep as he can go. He *feels* like a shadow, flat and light.
Bruce's grip on him is solid, but Bruce's hands are more
capable than others -- Bruce has been holding shadows
since he was eight years old.

Tim is --

The repletion is the problem, the sense of satisfaction
hovering at the base of his spine, aching to *dissipate*. It
feels too good, he wants it too much, and he wants it gone.
Years of fantasies, and almost none of them had included
being the one who -- he can't. Bruce has a good *enough*
grip, and so Tim can fuck himself on Bruce's penis with

Down, up, down, faster --

"You can't -- ah, Tim -- you can't take it back --"

Moan for that, for Bruce, let himself *drool*...

"I won't *let* you," Bruce says, tugging on Tim's hair --

Let his eyes water, too. He won't cry -- he can't, not for this,
but -- just to let it happen --

"You're -- hmm. Delightful in a number of ways, but never
more than when you're all of yourself --"

No --

"Your hunger, your -- Tim, your encompassing *need* --"

But if he's hungry this way, he can't ever lose control of
himself, he can't ever --

"You have to know that part of yourself, too, Tim... mm...
know it the way *I* do..."

Know it and -- Bruce -- what does Bruce *feel*?

Does he really want the answer? Not -- not *now*, Tim
thinks, twisting to try for even more depth, less breath --
the perfection of brutality, he thinks. *That's* what he
wants, even more than the gently *possessive* stroke of
Bruce's fingers over his cheekbones, the press behind
Tim's ears, the tickling touch at the back of Tim's neck --

"I --" Bruce groans and stops breathing. Stops entirely, and
Tim wants the gauntlets for this, wants to be able to *grip*
at the sweat-slick hips instead of just clawing at them --

Bruce shudders --

*Now*, Tim thinks, and Bruce comes for him, hot on the
back of his tongue, hotter *and* more diffuse once Tim
swallows again, and keeps swallowing until Bruce's hips
jerk and his hands spasm -- hypersensitivity.

Tim pulls off slowly, hoping for another shudder --

"Cruel," Bruce says, a laugh in his voice which, perhaps,
*should* belong to Brucie.

The fact that it doesn't is a puzzle to hold on to, something
with which Tim can content himself now that he's lost the
world's best excuse not to talk.

"Does it truly seem so terrible that you could want to --"

"Devour? I'm -- trying very hard *not* to be you, Bruce."

"Would you believe me if I told you that you were doing an
excellent job?" Bruce strokes over his own mound with both
hands, smoothing down the dark, thick hair.

It's an illusion that the move makes the overall scent of the
air change -- Tim isn't *that* close, at the moment -- but a
very believable one. Bruce is... Bruce, and neither more nor
less *present* once he stands, once he reaches down to
pull Tim up --

("This way. I'll show you.")

Tim shudders.

"You're not me, Tim. There are any number of people in the
world who find themselves --"

"Don't --"

"Again, zucchini flower: *overcome*."

"Zucchini -- I..." Tim rolls his lower jaw, stops, bites his
tongue, the inside of his cheek -- Bruce's thumb when it
pushes, rude and sudden between Tim's swollen lips.

"Mm. Which of us is going to check to make sure we're still


Dinner with his parents is a mostly silent affair, but
comfortable. Dana's sweats suggest that she'd found time
for a good workout before cooking the wild salmon and
pilaf, and his father's eyes are the good sort of distracted.

His father doesn't talk about it -- predictably -- but Tim has
been checking: they've built up enough of a nest-egg that
there's room for his father to start playing around with the
stock market again.

There are columns of numbers behind his father's eyes, and,
with him married to Dana, at least, that's a good sign. Tim
has too many memories of his mother's sense of affront and
neglect to be anything but relieved by having a stepmother
this independent.

More to the point, she has mentioned absolutely nothing
about their little talks beyond asking him if he'd enjoyed
himself at Bruce's vocational study program over the
weekend, and that is... relieving. Comfortable. Comfortable

"Long night with the financial pages planned tonight, Dad?"


Tim waits, smiling gently, easily... *carefully*.

"Oh, I'm -- I've just been sitting here like a *lump*, haven't
I?" His father laughs, dabbing at himself with a napkin.

"More like a busy computer, I think," Dana says, smiling
across the table at Tim, *encouraging* at him with a sort of
soft-edged desperation.

"Mm," Tim says. "Better not burn out your motherboard
thinking about IPOs, Dad," he says, and wipes his fingers on
his own napkin.

His father actually blushes a little, looking down at his mostly
full plate. "Some company I am! I'm sorry, it's just... it's
been too long since I've had the *freedom* to play like this.
I hardly felt like myself without it."

Money, and all the ways it moves. It's something Tim feels a
little guiltily uncomfortable about -- he's been 'well-off' since
he was born, solely because money and the *business* of
money are his father's life and focus. By rights, he should be
doing his part to *keep* their family wealthy, and to provide
for another generation --

How will he tell his father that he never plans to father a
child? For that matter -- which of them does Bruce plan to
saddle with Wayne Enterprises?

Tim keeps the smile on his face with an act of will and
reaches over to pat his father's hand. "Dana and I understand,
Dad. It's kind of a modern-day hunter-gatherer thing. You
venture out into the wilds of a depressed economy looking
for enough money-mammoths to get us through the long,
cold winter."

Dana laughs, throaty and bright. "I think we should find
some nice furs for your father, Tim."

"Chinchilla loin cloths and knives made from the bones of
financial advisors."

"One through his nose, maybe?"

Tim grins, and pretends to bend and stalk the platter of
asparagus at the center of the table.

When he glances, his father is smiling at both of them, eyes
narrow and expression satisfied.

He had also stalked the wild world to bring a family together,
and, to all appearances, had succeeded. He could resent his
father without much difficulty, even if he ignores the first
thirteen years of his life. The man had made a promise to
be there for him, and to be his father.

And then he'd just *let* Tim lie to him a hundred times a
day, every day, for years. Fathers are supposed to be better
than that, of course. It would be *incredibly* easy to resent

All Tim would have to do is abdicate responsibility for his
actions, inactions, and *feelings*, and pretend he'd ever
wanted to be a good son to anyone but Bruce, and
sometimes, in other ways, to Alfred.

Tim keeps a portion of the smile on his face throughout
dinner, and then watches one full iteration of the local
television news with his parents. His father mocks it steadily,
and Tim laughs at his jokes and tries to be *patient*. When
it's over, though...

"Okay, I think I'm heading out for the evening," he says,
standing up.

"All right, son, have fun," his father says at the same time
Dana says, "oh, do you have to?"

"Now, Dana, he's a sixteen year old boy who spends his
precious summer weekends in *school*. It could be
*dangerous* to keep him away from Steph too long," he
says, and waggles his eyebrows.

Dutifully, Tim gives him the universally-teenaged "Dad!" and
receives a wink for his trouble.

Dana is frowning, somewhat, though... hm.


"Oh, I... where *did* you plan on going tonight?"

"Dana, really, we've talked about this," his father said,
plastering a rather paterfamilias-esque frown over honest
concern. The simple fact of the matter is that his father's
attempt to be 'stern' with Tim -- the boarding school fiasco --
had wounded the man far more than it had 'chastened' Tim.

And then, of course, there'd been the loss of most of the
family fortune.

His father's strategy, such as it is, is to let Tim be as *free*
as possible, in the hopes that he won't lose Tim entirely. The
attitude has always been far too useful for Tim to try to ease
the stress of it for his parents, but... well. "It's okay, Dad. I
*am* planning to go see Steph later. But first I'm heading
over to Barbara's."

"Barbara... Barbara Gordon," Dana says, nodding at him less
in shared confirmation than a private one. Does she still
wonder if Barbara is replacing Dana in his motherly

Should he contrive some sort of meeting...? It would
certainly remove all lingering sense that Dana was failing as
a maternal figure in Tim's life. *Alfred* would be more
dangerous for that.

"Hm, isn't she... is that the police commissioner's daughter?
The one in the wheelchair?"

Does his father think she has spinal injury cooties? No, wait,
it's not that. Tim is a sixteen year old boy. A wheelchair-
bound woman approaching thirty is not high on the list of
people that boy would care to spend time with, short of --
ah. "She's a systems analyst, and -- well." Tim can't blush
on command, but there are certain ways to smile while
ducking one's head which *suggest* a blush to most

He's seen Bruce do it countless times -- and he's been
assured in any number of ways that his version, at least,
isn't horrifying.

"She's also a pretty serious gamer," Tim says, and shoves
his hands in his back pockets. And -- why not? "She also
tutors Cass Cain, one of the 'quake refugees. She's a friend,"
Tim says, carefully a bit awkward, a bit embarrassed. "They
both are."

His father smiles and raises his eyebrows again -- the waggle
is muted, but that's for Dana's benefit.

Tim pulls out the pseudo-blush again.

"Lots of ladies in your life these days, son. You should be
careful -- that kind of thing can come back to bite you. Right,

Dana's smile is, at best, a little sickly, but it's there. This is
a performance designed for two people, after all. "You
should definitely... your father and I both like Steph quite a
lot, you know."

"Of course we do! But Tim's a young man, now. I've always
thought he was a little too serious --"


"I know, I know," he says, and tips Tim an obvious wink.
"You have fun tonight. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"I won't, Dad," Tim says, and heads for the door up to his
room and the pack that travels with Tim Drake everywhere
he goes. He'll be taking the back door, so as to reduce the
steps which will take him to where his bike is stashed. It's
been *days* -- too long. "Later, Dana."

Dana smiles, troubled but earnest, and gives him a little
wave --

-- and contrives to be taking out the trash when Tim walks
out the back door. "That really is my itinerary, Dana."

"I believed you. It's just..." She rests her hands on the edge
of the can, curling her fingers in. "I wasn't sure if I should."

"I don't -- I don't have a boyfriend, you know." The degree
to which that *feels* entirely honest comes close to rocking
Tim on his feet, a little.

"That's not it! I -- all right, that's part of it. Is there
anything..." There's something of a plea in her expression,
but Tim...

It's nothing he can guess at. "Dana...?"

"I don't think 'casual' is the right word for how you are
about... about Stephanie's problems, but you're certainly...
is there something I should know? Are *you* okay?"

He... "I -- ah. No one really..." Now, *that* is a blush. "I
think I know what you're asking, Dana, and I -- no. I mean,
yes, I'm okay. No, what you're thinking... really didn't
happen." Not for hours and -- "You *are* thinking about
Bruce, right?"

"Should I be thinking about *Dick*?"

"Really, *really* no," Tim says, lifting his hands and very
much not thinking about perfect hands or nose-kisses.

"Okay. Just -- okay," Dana says, taking a deep breath and
smiling. "It's something that pops up a terrifying amount on
those websites I was talking about, once you follow a few

"Ah -- I hope you won't mind when I start wiping your cache
and browser history on a regular basis. Just in case."

"Your father doesn't snoop on *me*, Tim. He doesn't --
snoop on either of us," she says, and the frown is back, and
her hands are restless on the can until she pulls them back
to her sides.

"He trusts me, Dana. And if some of that trust is based on a
lie..." Tim shrugs. "I love and respect him a lot more for that
trust than I would if he went back to trying to monitor my
every move and relationship. I'm not a child anymore," he

It's a bit on the dangerous side -- it's a sentence most often
*spoken* by children -- but it's also something which, he
thinks, Dana would *miss* if it were absent.

"And I'm fully aware that that's kind of a loaded statement,
but --"

"Did he miss out on your childhood, Tim?"

Extravagantly so. "I -- I think he did, yes."

"Are you..." Dana crosses her arms over her chest. It's a
warm night, but she looks distinctly cold. "How much are
you just *marking time*, here, with us?"

"I -- don't think of it that way."


Not all the time. "No," Tim says, and gives himself room to
glance toward the door. His father will be looking for Dana
soon, assuming he hadn't just taken the opportunity to jump
online, himself. "I have two families -- one of which I don't
get to spend much time around during the school year. I
don't -- I'm not playing favorites, here."

It's just that he gets more of... *more* from one family than
he does from the other. Or... he wouldn't call what he has
with Bruce especially familial. It's just that it could be. If he
allowed it.

"Anyway --"

"Is it true what the papers say? That Barbara Gordon is
Dick's girlfriend? How does that work? For you, I mean."

It's perfectly teenaged to be a little impatient, so Tim lets
some of the restless energy make him shift on his feet.
"They've been good friends for years -- before they started
dating. I got to be her friend, too. We get along really well,"
he says, and watches her start to pace.

"Because of the gaming...?"

"She's also taught me a lot about computers in general."
And she's probably listening to this conversation, if not
actively watching it.

"So, you have a girlfriend even though you're gay --"

"Could you maybe say that a little more quietly...?"

Dana's frown is stubborn and -- stubborn. And then she
clearly *forces* herself to stop moving and relax. "I
don't *like* the idea of you being so comfortable with
having a secret life, Tim!"

Too casual to put his hands in his pockets? Maybe not
for this moment. "It's not your life, Dana."

"'And, anyway, you're not my mother?'"

"Your issue, not mine --"

"You're not going to let me win this one, are you? You're not
going to -- to give an *inch*."

He can't. Never again. "I -- I haven't gotten to spend time
with Barbara in -- weeks. I miss her. I miss -- it's not like
they follow me out west when I'm in San Francisco, Dana.
The fact that Bruce's name is on the program -- it has less
than nothing to do with him, beyond the fact that he made
a point of making sure there was a place there for me. And,
again, during the school year --"

"No, that's -- I started noticing an empty *bed* during the
school year, Tim, don't try to *snow* me --"

"A few hours, here and there, in the middle of the night --"

"More. We both know it's *more*."

Tim scrubs a hand back through his hair and thinks about
cutting it short, shorter than he's ever had it, cowl-friendly --
"What do you want from me?"

Dana puts her hands on her hips. "Because once you know
you'll do your level best to make me *think* I have it?"

"We'd both be happier."

"How can it be so *difficult* for you to even pay lip service
to the idea of being your father's son? *Our* son."

That's exactly what he's doing. "You're asking me to rewrite
my formative years into something they can never be --"

"I think... oh, Tim," Dana says, shaking her head. "I think
I'd like you better if you could just hate me. Both of us. If
you could just make it *clear*, instead of pretending that
this, all of it, is just some kind of fait accompli."

("You've always been so reserved --") "I don't hate either of
you. I -- I don't know how to say it to make you believe

"You don't hate us, you just want us to stay in our neat little
places until you have the time for us. That's -- *that's* it,
isn't it? You were honestly expecting to shut me up with
your little confessions, or at least push me away... what
*taught* you to be like this, Tim? How can you treat your
relationships so *casually*?"

Tim closes his eyes, and... no, he can't stop thinking about
it. Now isn't the time for it, even if he could.

"For God's sake, let it *out*, Tim --"

"I do," Tim says, and makes a point of meeting her eyes.
"Elsewhere, and in my own ways. This isn't an After-school
Special, Dana, and I'm not some wounded little boy. I
have --" No, not responsibilities. Not that definition of future.

Not here. And Dana is angry at him, but mostly she's just...
'wounded' probably *is* the word for it.

"That came out wrong --"

Dana starts to open her mouth --

"And *don't* tell me that I really meant it that way. There
are a lot of people who deserve some variety of hurt in this
world, but you're not one of them. Whether or *not* my
father is -- it's beside the point. I'm not made that way. I'm
not... do you think I want *revenge* or something? Have I
really come off that *small*, Dana?"

"I don't *trust* who you 'come off' as, Tim. You..." She's
not pacing again, but she's moving, restless -- "You've done
nothing this past week to tell me I should --"

"I'm being *honest* with you --"

"You're a stranger, Tim, and whether or *not* you have the
*time* to deal with it, it's my job to *fix* that."

Honest. He's standing here, cool and calm and comforting,
being -- now isn't the time to *laugh*, either. Because
Dana -- Dana Winters-Drake ought to have a child of her
own. "I disagree."

Dana drops her arms to her sides again, slowly and
deliberately. "Tough. *Shit*."

Tim raises an eyebrow -- no. Tim nods, also slowly. He can't
quite *manage* deliberation at the moment. "I think if you
were my age, I'd probably wish you were my friend."

"If you were my age, I'd punch you in the *face* -- oh,
*shit*, Tim, I didn't --"

This time, the eyebrow is *just* right. "I usually prefer it
when Steph slaps me around, but if you think it would make
us closer --"

"Oh, for the love of --" Dana's laugh is strangled and *loud*.

If his father is going to come looking... no, he won't. He
never does. "She especially likes those little 'thwaps' to the
back of my head. After, we go for coffee."

When Dana's hand does land on him -- it takes a detour by
way of Dana smacking herself in the face -- it's on his
shoulder. "You're not going to win, you know."

Yes, he will. Just as soon as he finds a way to make Dana
believe *she* has. He has no choice in the matter. "If you
say so," Tim says, and smiles at her... it's as real as he can

"I *do* say so, and -- don't stay out too late."

"Actually, if her mother doesn't mind, I was planning to
come back here with Steph and catch a late movie or two."

"Mm," she says, and tilts her head to the side. "You're a lot
more believable -- in every way -- when you don't instantly
have the perfect thing to say ready to throw at me, you

"All right, Dana. You've caught me. Steph and I planned to
dress up like supervillains, rob a bank, and light out for the

"Try again."

Really...? Tim smiles, and knows it's one of the real ones he
keeps behind his face by the way Dana shudders.
"Sometimes I'm confused around her. I'm less likely to try
to push further than a handful of chaste kisses if she's in
*our* house."

"That... I don't know how anything that *honest* could feel
like so much of a *lie*, Tim."

"Maybe you should try to start trusting the person I am, as
opposed to either the person you *thought* I was or the
person you want me to be."

"You're sixteen --"

"And, as you point out, I had a somewhat difficult childhood.
I don't have... I care a lot about Ives, but when you get
right down to it, he's too *young* for me. Steph isn't -- her
life was too hard. You're not, but you're also not interested
in being my friend, as opposed to my mother. Let me be.
Just... keep trying to do it."

"It'll get easier...?"

Tim spreads his hands... and glances up toward the window
of his father's and Dana's bedroom. "Let me go."


"Then let me go see my friends."

Dana nods, frowning again. "All right."

Tim starts to walk --

"What would you have done if I'd said no?"

Tim blows out a breath and thinks about the patrol he's not
doing tonight, about the one he'd have to bench himself
from because of his... *emotional* state... "Like you said,
Dana, I'm *six*teen. And I have a history of running away.
The police..." He looks back at her from over her shoulder.
"My way is better for all of us."

"I -- go," she says.

Tim does.


When faced with the incontrovertible fact of Cass' honestly
superior physical abilities...

It isn't that Bruce had thrown up his hands in surrender; it's
that Bruce decided to bring in a better, *different* mind.
Oracle has all of the first Batgirl's memories and experiences,
of course, and she had the time, footage, and skill to use
all of *their* experiences to create a training area which can
pit them all against the strongest and strangest of all their
opponents -- in virtual form.

There are a lot of reasons why Tim prefers the Bane protocol,
but tonight it boils down to a few salient facts:

One: Barbara knows him well enough that she'd called up
that program without him saying a word, or even mentioning
that he'd *wanted* her virtual training room. Tim needs
that, right now.

Two: Bane had been his failure, too. Not as much as
Bruce's -- Tim likes to think he's a bit more sane than that,
considering the fact that Bruce had all but gassed him to
keep him out of the fight -- but still his own. Robin is
supposed to be there for Batman -- *especially* when
Batman is stupid enough to try to go it alone. He needs the
redress, too. And --

Three: At this point, he's gone up against the man in this
form enough times that he can take him out without
anything but his own martial arts abilities and a handful of
shuriken for all of his Venom tubes. There wouldn't be
nearly as much *satisfaction* in battling opponents for
whom he needs his staff, or any of his other toys -- not
even the ones he'd made himself. He needs --

"Ooh, that strike looked *personal*." Oracle's voice,
Barbara's humor -- "Or maybe that's just because you may
have just sterilized him."

"ZPG," Tim says, and uses a heel kick which is simply too
vicious for most of the opponents he meets on the streets.
"It's the way of the future."

"I have some sewing scissors stashed away somewhere if
you'd like to do your part...?"

"I think a simple vasectomy would do it," and Tim moves for
the finishing strike, using the heel of his palm to give virtual
Bane vision problems for life, as opposed to driving the
bones of his nose up into his brain.

It wouldn't do to develop bad habits.

The grid appears as the hulking mass of unconscious bastard
at his feet disappears, and Tim dances on his feet like
(Batgirl the first, when playful -- judging by footage Barbara
may or may *not* know Bruce has collected) a boxer. "Give
me another. Dealer's choice."

"You're too kind," Oracle says.

"I try --" And then Mr. Fun does his level best to break Tim's

He's faster than anyone who looks that much like a soft,
quiet accountant has any right to be, and Tim starts the --

He can't really call it a 'spar.' No one he spars with would
let him run and *move* quite this much.

Mr. Fun, unlike the members of Tim's very dangerous family,
knows that Tim has to go through him to get anywhere --
and, by all reports, is confident in his ability to wear Tim

He may be right -- Tim hasn't had the exceedingly dubious
pleasure, but he'd stopped *Dick's* heart. Robin's protocol
for this sort of thing is to get the hell away while calling for

His protocol, now...

Well. Why shouldn't he write it right now?

A relatively unknown opponent, extremely high degree of
martial arts ability, no sign of conscience, nothing known
about emotional limits --

Shiva draws a line on the false stone of Oracle's grid with
one toe --

And Shiva doesn't wait. Shiva knows that every bone in her
body is no more or less expendable than a weapon, Shiva
knows that speed is only a weapon for the weapon who
uses it best --

And Tim knows that quarter is a luxury for amateurs. It's
dangerous to use this *much* of himself for blocks, and
Robin isn't built for closing (Jason), anymore, but *he* is.
He's bone and muscle, weapon and holster, and, as such,
doesn't need to count the strikes he makes or *takes*.
The pain is irrelevant

There is only this moment:

His heel impacting with instep, the spring back, the return
to bring his knee to another man's sternum and his elbow
to another man's skull in the breathless no-time before his
knee meets that man's chin. Back, and for a different
opponent there would be time to examine his work. This
one gains a shattered cheekbone from Tim's heel -- and
another from his toe in the moment of spin --

"Robin --"

"No," he says and strikes high at Mr. Fun's throat --

He tries to strike, but the virtual man is gone, and so is the
stone, the shadows --

He doesn't growl. "Oracle."

"You've been saving those moves."

"Not all of them. A few of the strikes have saved my life --
give me another," he says, and waits, humming under the
skin, *hungry* --

"You could consider talking to me."

"Take a look at the footage from outside my house
approximately one point five hours ago," Tim says, clenching
his fists -- no. He needs to stay loose. Oracle never gives --

"Wrong moves. Not -- not for you," Cass says -- Batgirl says,
cutting off the perfect angles of the grid with the shadow of
her body.

Spar, he says, with all of himself. And, perhaps, a touch of
'let me show you.'

Batgirl nods, cowl a potential weapon swinging around her
throat until she pulls it forward. Tim bows in
acknowledgment -- and moves into one of Bruce's least
*power*-intensive ready-stances.

It's not as perfect a statement as he can make, but, well, the
protocol is a work in progress, and Cass' pause before she
takes her own ready-stance is as good a start as any he can
make. And this --

He can't wear her out and he can't beat her down. She's
going to wipe the floor with him, and that's going to be the
case for at least the next couple of years. However, the
spar when it comes is a conversation he's been meaning to
have with her -- several of them.

Shiva's speed and a fraction of Dick's flexibility. Bruce's
precision and Helena's rage. Steph's raw determination and
Cass' own placid simplicity. I am any of you, he says. I am
all of you, because I've been watching for all of my life.

I'm afraid of you, but I won't stop.

I can't stop, he says, when one of Cass' punches sends him
flying far enough to make one of Dick's back-flips worth-
while. There was more power behind the punch than
punishment, of course -- he's done nothing to piss Cass off --
and the landing he makes lets him sweep --

She leaps --

Tim twists, rolls, tumbles --

Cass foot comes down hard -- and purposefully -- just to the
*left* of Tim's head, and, when he springs to his feet, he
pulls his staff. The smile on his face is hectic and awful and
false -- Robin likes your pain! -- and Tim *goes* for Cass as
she recoils.

This is a game, he says, and her dubiousness is apparent in
the way she doesn't quite kick his footwork to stumbling

This isn't me, he says, and brings the staff down -- again --
again -- missing her, marking her in the spaces on the
grid --

And he loves her so much when she knocks the staff away
entirely he isn't sure which parts of his body are saying it,
but it doesn't matter -- she *sees*, and she's telling him
with every strike, every --

It's all very *straightforward*, here -- speed, grace, and
ruthlessness. She's throwing every strike he knows and
every strike *she* knows he knows, but that he'd forgotten.
His body hadn't forgotten it, arms and knees and feet.

She's slamming him all over the room, is he sure, is he

And when he laughs, she sweeps his feet out from under
him and --

The only word for it is 'pounces.' And pulls back her cowl
again. The expression on her face is searching, pleased --
so *pleased* --

"This is new," she says, and it feels so much like *Dick* that
Tim has to laugh a little.

"Yes and no," he says --

"This is *new*," she says, and it's almost certainly the Cass
variant of an exclamation point to clap him on the sternum
with the gentled cup of her palm.

"It's new," he agrees, and focuses on breathing. *This* is
what he'd needed. This is --

"The Bat," she says, using her palm to stroke a flat plane
across Tim's chest, erasing, rewriting... Tim nods.

"Pretty much," he says, for the benefit of Oracle's recording.
For himself.

Cass makes a small humming sound and searches him again,
frowning at something in Tim's eyes -- or perhaps the lines
of his forehead. "You're not happy. All-happy."

The things he can't have. The *family* he can't have --

Cass slaps her own chest and glares. Tim had probably been
sending beams of 'I'm lonely,' or something even worse,
but --

"I want more," he says, and rolls his head to better watch
Oracle's approaching wheels. Barbara's.

"He's had a taste of the sweet life and he's gotten *greedy*,"
Barbara says, and the angle's all wrong for Tim to be able to
see the gesture which makes Cass release him and stand,
but the results are obvious and kind of excruciating -- Cass
had, perhaps predictably, been using her body to hit
pressure points which block pain. He's going to be a bruise
under his clothes, tomorrow.

Still, better to start stretching now than to wait until he's a
*rigid* bruise. And -- well, there's something almost
ridiculously soothing about doing this sort of thing in the
Clocktower, as opposed to the Cave. The criteria this
audience uses to judge him is quite simply *different*, and
the lack of sexuality is reminding him of parts of himself he
can, actually, still use.

Maybe he should start visiting the Watchtower more often,
as well -- there are all sorts of people there around whom
he can trust his genitals entirely.

"I don't understand the sex part," Cass says as Tim lays his
torso flat between his spread legs.

Barbara snorts. "Oh, yes, Batboy. *Do* elaborate."

Right. And -- if he'd had any doubts about whether he was
overestimating the fondness in Barbara's voice for the sake
of his fragile ego, he has Cass right here being quite calm
about everything except, perhaps, for the fact of his
discomfort --

"I know -- sex is private for you," Cass says, and when Tim
looks, everything about her screams patient curiosity.

Tim spins himself into a comfortable sitting position and rests
his abused wrists on his knees -- gently. Barbara's expression
is nearly an exact replica of the way Bruce was looking at him
in the moments before Tim took his penis into his mouth.

It's not at all accidental.

Well. "Well," he says, "it's like this: my relationship with
Bruce -- and Superman, for that matter -- is contaminated
with sexuality."

Cass makes a face. "Not a disease. Just -- a part of
everything else."

"I'm not that enlightened," Tim says, and "yet," when Cass
looks tempted to hit him in a non-conversational way.

"You should practice."

"Oh, I..." Barbara's laugh is soft and pleased. "I think he's
working on it. *How* much time have you spent around
either of them *without* having sex recently?"

Entire *minutes*, he thinks --

And Cass smiles at him. Or, perhaps, at the laughter in his
head. "Better," she says, and stretches her quads in that
same standing position -- one, two.

If he tried to do that right now, he'd fall over and -- almost
certainly -- pull something (increasingly) desperately
important in his groin.

Cass sticks her tongue out at him, smiles again, and then
walks away without another word. There's almost certainly
some part of her which is saying 'patrol,' but, then again,
she might just be assuming that Tim understands her -- and
her motivations -- at least as well as he thinks he does.

The *Bat*, yes, and it's a club to which -- for Cass -- he's
belonged only peripherally, being as how he's always needed
to do his level best to at least *seem* a lot more... avian.
And, hm.

"Yes, Wonder-less?"

Tim reaches forward to hug his knees -- and stretch a little
of the screaming out of his back. "Be honest: how
convincing have I been as Robin?"

Barbara folds her hands in her lap. "Is it that kind of

"I haven't decided yet, actually," Tim says, holding the
stretch for another beat, two, three -- up. "Humor me -- it's
a tangential thought about my relationship with Batgirl."

"The one which, prior to this evening, was mostly made up
of grim, silent professionalism and the fact that none of us
were ever supposed to notice that neither of you tried very
often to meet each other's eyes."

"Yes, that one," Tim says, rolling to his feet and letting
Barbara lead them into the less gladiatorial areas of her
home. "It's a serious question."

"Yes, I know, and -- you had your moments. Spray-painting
taggers, mocking supervillains, the occasional awful pun."

"Never especially *inspired*, though."

"You were playing a role," Barbara says, giving him a push
toward her snack-filled kitchen before heading back to her
main computers. "Someone had to do it -- and still does.
The fact that it was never who you *were*..." Barbara

There's a hurt for that within him, if he can find it. If nothing
else, there's the sense of *failure*. Gotham -- and several
parts of the world -- needed a Robin then and needs a Robin
now. He's a placeholder. A failure. A... failure?

"Picking scabs?"

"Testing scars," Tim says, catching himself reaching for the
dried fruit instead of the potato chips. Damn. Well, he could
use the vitamins.

"They'll still be there if you don't poke them," Barbara says,
rifling through a handful of headsets. "I promise."

"I think I'm allowed a bit of testing."

"Mm. You've never needed anyone to teach you to brood.
I'll feel no compunction siccing Cass on you repeatedly if it
becomes too acute."

"Noted," Tim says, tosses a handful of fruit in his mouth,
and takes a slow wander around. There are fewer half-
dismantled computers around than there were the last time
he was here, and the gaming area is almost suspiciously
pristine. "You *were* waiting for me."

"Hm. Too bad you got here too late to take advantage," she
says, and on the largest monitor the perspective is of the
ground hurtling to meet the camera --

Lift and flight. The grace of it could easily be Dick, but the
view is of Gotham. Tim looks over the internal schedule in
his head, fills it in with landmarks... Cass will be patrolling
the edges of Tim's own territory tonight, of course, but
she'll also be taking some of Bruce's.

There are, as ever, certain areas which could dearly use a
woman's touch.

And this is all cutting into the time he means to spend with
Steph. He has to... there's something he needs to heal there,
something he needs to...

He has to make her believe it's all okay, that *they're* okay,
even if she never suits up (for him) again --

"Where are you?"

"The suburbs," Tim says, and moves to join her near the
monitors, dropping into a crouch at her feet. "I've got some
Steph-time coming to me."

Barbara makes a non-committal sound.

"This is where you fill me in on the reasons why the Birds
dumped her."

Barbara doesn't say anything, and... yes, there are unwritten
rules for this. If he wants to know, he *should* be asking
Steph. But that's not part of his agenda, and... sanction
goes everywhere.

"Tell me," he says, and doesn't bother to do anything to
soften his tone.

More silence, a few moments' worth of typing --

Tim waits.

"It's like *that*, is it?" She doesn't say 'even with me?' She
doesn't have to.

"For this. For now," and he's aware that temporizing doesn't
help his case, but --

"Too much like Helena. She didn't especially want control
over her power -- there's too much in her which is too
attached to being strong, as opposed to being effective.
This made training her an exercise in *beating* her, and
this led to her being emotionally ineffective with regards to
her ability to follow orders."

"She needs, badly, to understand that competent, entirely
trustworthy women aren't as rare as they could be."

"Are you making excuses for her?"

"No. You couldn't give her the training she needs."

"Ah," Barbara says, and switches the view to Bruce's mask-
cam. There's no sound, but the expression on the young
man's face -- and the sweat -- suggests a gathering of
information via the use of pain and intimidation. "You think
you can."

"I know where to start."

"Do you know where it ends?"

The smile on Tim's face is, perhaps, wasted on Barbara's
left wheel. He looks up enough to share it. "Oh, yes."

"That fast. No doubts."

"I know what I need, Barbara. What I *will* need. And I'll
have both Bruce's and your own failures to guide me. And
Steph's, of course -- one of the benefits of my position."

"Tim, I caught more than a little of your weekend at the
Tower. You already know what it means to have friends in
a subordinate role --"

"And I already have years of experience being her equal.
Not even you will get to have all of *Tim*, Barbara. Oracle.
But she could. She *will*."

"And the fact that she might not want anything of the kind?"

Tim rocks on his heels, holds stretches at heel and toe.
"Bruce gave her a taste."

"A taste of failure, maybe --"

"Did you know she's the reason why the Riddler's been out
of commission this last little while? She pumped him for
information, broke him, and left him --"

"That doesn't sound especially heroic."

"No, it doesn't," Tim says, and stands. "*That* is why she
retired herself. Once she trusts her own instincts again..."

"You were using deadly tactics on my Mr. Fun. Just what
sort of Batman do you intend to *be*, Tim?"

"One who gets things done," he says, and holds up his
hands at the trouble lurking behind Barbara's glasses. "The
act of teaching Steph control will help me teach myself...
not to be tempted. None of you can give that to me, since
I know I'll never hurt you. Steph..."

"You want to teach her the hurt you've been living with for
three years."

Tim sighs, and wonders at the feeling of warmth within him,
the sense of... family. He leans in and kisses Barbara on the
cheek, and shifts until his lips are near her ear. "How am I
doing now, Oracle? Does it feel real?"

She shivers, jabbing him just *beneath* the solar plexus
with an escrima stick.

Tim smiles, taking another bruise. "*This*... is me."

Barbara shakes her head. "I'd be a happier person if I were
more surprised."

"But then you wouldn't be the woman I love," Tim says,
and clasps his hands before his heart.

"I *will* electrocute you if you refer to me as any variety of
flowering plant, fruit, or dessert."

"Mm. Noted, internet-bunny."


Mrs. Brown's car isn't in the driveway when Tim arrives, and
while that isn't the best excuse in the world for climbing the
side of her house -- it's the *suburbs* -- it's certainly *an*

And it feels like a good one, like some variety of *fate* when
he looks in Steph's window and finds her curled on her side
on the bed, asleep. The curves and lines and shadows --
and lack thereof -- tell him she's wearing a t-shirt and the
sheet, and --

And the way his shadow falls over the bed hides the reach
of his own hand. Steph only puts her air conditioner in the
window when she can't avoid the heat with biofeedback
exercises anymore, and so it's easy to climb in her window,
easy to pad up to the bed and just -- watch.

He doesn't get *enough* of this. Twice, maybe three times
(it was only twice) since she's had the baby, and never since
he'd finally come to comprehend one of the dozens --
hundreds -- of facets to his need for her. The fact that it's
only been days is as irrelevant as the pain alternately fading
and spiking all over his body from the climb.

She's right here, and she's beautiful, and, if she's dreaming,
it's something peaceful -- if not sweet. Tim kneels by the
head of the bed, and just... watches. She *is* dreaming --
eyes moving rapidly behind their lids, faintly bluish-tinged...

Her lips are soft and slack, and her color as pale as she ever
gets in summer -- she's too relaxed to flush. He reaches,
again, and touches her cheek. She's never been any more
wind-burned there than the rest of her face, but if she wore
a domino...

Tim would have to find her skin-care products, probably
sweeter-smelling than the ones he and Bruce use to keep
themselves from always looking like the aftermath of a ski-
trip. Steph hates -- despises -- 'girliness,' but she loves to
smell sweet, as opposed to merely clean.

There are a hundred kisses he remembers as much for the
scent of inferior armor and sweat-faded flowers as for any
other reason. (Her mouth has always, always been lush and

In some ways, it feels like he's looking at her for the first
*time*, seeing her as someone more than just the sum of
her individual parts. More than her broader-than-his
shoulders, more than the power in her arms, than the
*staggering* power in her thighs -- he doesn't touch.

She -- she's Stephanie Brown, yes and of course, but she's
also the woman who knows him, the girl who laughs at him
when he needs it, *pushes* him when he needs it.

She's the one who never lets him *hide* from himself, and
he wants to promise her that he never will again, that she
can always *save* him...

"Steph," he says, meaning for it to be loud enough to wake
her, but when it comes out it's barely a breath. She hums,
shifting and turning on to her back. She's still asleep, but
less so. And, while her movements are slow, she's still
managing to kick the sheet out of its tangle around her legs.
She'll be able to *move* if he --

If he needs her to.

With the sheet gone, with her shirt rucked -- he doesn't
stare and he doesn't touch. It's enough to be able to see
the great planes of muscle beneath her slightly rounded
belly, to know that her thighs are still --

The scent of her --

Tim covers her with the sheet, watches her shift closer to
being wakeful, and --

"Steph," he says again, in an *actual* voice --

"What -- boyfriend?"

"The one and only," he says, and pushes his traitorous hands
into the pockets of his chinos.

"Are... are you seriously just standing there over my bed --
*looming* there, in the dark, watching -- Jesus, you've
seriously been there for a *while*, haven't you?"

"Not long."

"No, totally -- I was *dreaming*..." Steph sits up and shakes
her hair out.

Dreaming of him? Tim doesn't push her hair back behind her
ears, and... he's not very hard. Whether or not this is
something to be thankful for...

"I was dreaming of the cape, I think," Steph says, frowning.
"Seriously, how long?"

"A few minutes," Tim says, and curls the fingers of one hand
against his own thigh. He wants to know if Steph would be
so *easy* with her own near-nudity if Tim hadn't been so...
He's been blind. "I wasn't expecting you to be quite so
deeply asleep this early."

"Yeah, well, I've gotten kind of good at acting like a human
being in the past few weeks --"

"Steph, will you -- would you mind if I sat down?"

She snorts, rubbing the sleep from her eyes before giving
him the smile of 'if you weren't so cute you'd be *pathetic*.'
"When do I *ever*?"

He sits, turning until he can plant one foot and let his other
thigh kind of -- it's something of a splay.

"By the by, you're creeping my shit out more by the second.
You could quit it anytime and get to your point --"

"I've been thinking about you for -- days."

Steph scoots back against the headboard, pulling her knees
up -- "Whoops. Uh. Sorry about the flash-job --"

"I don't mind."

"You don't -- *what*? Who are you and what have you done
with my freaky-in-different-ways gay boyfriend?"

Tim stares at his own hands, thinks... no. It's more like
trying to search for a thought. He *can't* really look
beyond the dozens of images and fantasies and
*possibilities* of Steph at his side. He -- *wants*.

"Tim --"

It isn't entirely surprising that he can stop her with a look.
He doesn't *know* exactly what expression is on his face,
but he has a few guesses.

And Steph's blush is... promising.

Too promising. Not *enough* -- "Come back to my place
with me? We can --"

"What do you -- do you even know what you want from me
right now? Because, honestly honey, you *look* like your
*dick* led you here."

Not entirely inaccurate. "I'm sorry if it's -- offensive," Tim
says, and moves to stand --

And it's a question -- a very good one -- would he have
simply backed away if he hadn't known Steph would catch
him this way? If he hadn't been able to *feel* the calluses
on her fingers catching at the hairs on his arm in the
seconds before the feeling was real? He can't -- he doesn't
want to manipulate *this*.

"Steph. You should know --"

"That you *want* me, all of a sudden?" Steph's snort is
rough and entirely lacking in self-consciousness.

"There's not a 'girly' bone in your body, in case I haven't
mentioned that," he says, and --

"Is *that* the explanation? I don't shave my legs for a few
days and you get all crotchular on me?"

-- perhaps it would have been better to avoid non-sequiturs.
Tim shakes his head. "That wasn't -- it wasn't what I was
trying to say," he says, remembering to look at her, to give
her his eyes before he remembers that she doesn't want
them. "Sorry --"


"I need you. And it's not -- it doesn't have to have anything
to do with sex. I just... wanted to be near you." Smell you,
touch you.

"We can do near."

Tim knows his smile is weak, but --

"Shit, just -- come here," she says, reaching, and it's
surprisingly easy just to hold her and be held. Or... of
course they have embraced, and even spent time on both
of their beds holding each other.

It's different now, and while it's tempting to place a
significant portion of the blame for that difference on the
dark blonde hair brushing and scratching quietly against
Tim's chinos, on the scent of her that he can't -- quite --
reach --

"You're really taking Spooky's plans for you to heart," she
says, and the lightness is false, but the hope in her voice

"Not -- they aren't just *his* plans, anymore."

The noise she makes -- it's kind of a laughing sigh.
Something with more notes than comfort. "I know that. I
knew that."

"I love you."

"I know that, too," she says, squeezing Tim's shoulder and
stroking his arm, fast and... he isn't sure if it's meant to be
soothing. "And -- I know what you really want."

"You've always known me. It's... I don't get that very much,
at all."

"It's what good girlfriends do, you know."

"Mm. And partners," Tim says, turning just enough to brush
his nose against the hinge of her jaw. "Steph."

"So... are you gonna tell me who unlocked your big, scary
sex-door? Because... you didn't get to *be* this without

When he'd met her, her walls had been full of posters of
superheroes. It would've been possible just to point, but...
"I think you can guess at least... part of the answer."

Steph's laugh is small and choked, and -- she kisses him,
hard and quick --

"Steph --"

"I -- pretend I never asked. That's not. Um."

Her blush is deep and reminiscent of every time Tim had
pushed the 'oppressing himself for Steph's amusement'
thing a little too far. "It's okay --"

"I don't -- I don't think I want to know. That. I --"

He shifts and -- doesn't straddle her. There are limits to how
far he'll push, right now. Still he can cup her face, feel the
soft, downy skin... he gives her one of Clark's kisses, slow
and hungry, and watches the flutter of her eyelashes, the
way they tease him with hints of shock and lust beyond it --

He pulls back.

"All right?"

"I -- sure, I --" This laugh is wilder. "I've wanted you -- you
know how long I've wanted you."

Tim nods. "I'm still the same," he says, and tightens his grip
on her face enough to be a little dangerous, if he didn't know
just where to press.

Steph's flush is sudden and deep, almost -- it seems as if the
part of her which is shy, which is still capable of *shying* is
taking over, getting stronger.

"I'm still *me*," he says --

"That doesn't mean there isn't more of you. I used to wonder
who you gave this to. It's just like the *first* time you kissed
me --"

Bruce had kissed him this way, soft and *strained*, holding
himself back --

"Show me," she says, low and brave -- fearless.

Covering her feels wrong, or perhaps just incomplete. There
should be capes here to hide the facts of them, the bald
truth of Tim's straddle and the sweat at the base of Steph's
throat. The kiss isn't enough, his *shadow* isn't enough --

He doesn't want it to be enough. If he can just stay
*smaller* than she is, if he can just live in her brightness --
Tim flips them, throwing out a leg to keep them from
tumbling to the floor, reaching --

The sweat is on his fingertips now --

She bites his fingers, licks --

"Let me taste you," he says, and something within him
reaches and *becomes* at the feel of her thighs tightening
on him, and that makes it easier to tug his fingers out of her
mouth and suck them into his own.

"Oh, man, you totally suck dick, don't you," she says,
shaking her head, tossing her hair.

Tim raises an eyebrow and pushes his own fingers deeper --

"You realize I don't have one of those? I mean, you checked
at some point, right?"

He winks, pulls out, and -- it's not a strike. It's just a move
she doesn't know, yet, and it ends with his slick fingers
nestled in the crease between her thigh and her abdomen.

"Oh -- fuck, I --"

It's warm, slick with sweat on top of his own saliva --

"I -- that feels --"

It's sensitive, and Tim uses that, watching her face, her
eyes as he strokes, crooks his finger, pushes down the slim
little 'tunnel' until he can feel her hair. "Did you want me to
check? I should probably be sure."

"I... your hands -- fuck," she says, rearing back. "I'm --"

He follows her -- he has to.

"Oh --"

Her scalp is just starting to get damp with sweat when he
pushes with his fingers, uses another somewhat dangerous
hold --

"Tim --"

The kiss, this time, is one of his own. He doesn't think
there's much *poetry* in it, but Steph has a great deal of
Cass' ability to *read* -- Steph spent most of her childhood
learning to know every twitch of a terrible man's temper --
and he knows, through all of himself, that *she* knows.

Robin always --

Steph is moaning for him, spreading her thighs in the
straddle, offering --

"Oh fuck --"

The first touch is confusing, slick and hot and *soft*, and
Tim thinks about giving himself time to *learn* this, to
guess beyond diagrams and anatomy, but Steph's moans
are getting louder, the kiss hungrier --

And Tim's fingers find something small and *firm* in the
same moment that Steph catches Tim's tongue between her
lips and presses. It's -- it's not -- he tries a flutter, and
Steph's thrust makes him lose his place, entirely.

"Wait --"

"*No*," Steph says, and shoves him back enough to reach
between them, to catch Tim's wrist in her hand and *guide*.
"It's -- too long, just -- I'll take care of the tricky stuff, you
just --"

She rises, pushes at his hand --

"In me, please just -- I never thought --"

"Neither did I," Tim says, and thinks about heat, wet, the
twist of Steph's mouth -- he kisses her, twisting his fingers,
and the sound she makes into his mouth is predatory and
harsh -- a bird, he thinks, though one more of the sea than
land. Steph would probably lose *all* desire for this if he
said one word of that aloud, and it's as good a reason as
any to nudge her face aside and lean in to lick her throat,
to kiss her there where the night's never touched her.

Where it never *will* -- the gorget he gives her will be as
firm and invulnerable as he can make it -- and he thinks he
understands Barbara's surprise at his confidence, but he still
can't shake it.

This is -- this is sex, of course, but it's more than that. It's --
"I love you," he says, spells against her skin with his tongue.
He can smell her, taste her as a function of microscopic
particles, heat and damp, the tangle of their hands as she
pleasures herself, too --

The best he can do for warning is to squeeze her shoulder
before he pushes, but the sprawl of her over her own bed
is too beautiful, too *much*, and she doesn't look away
from his eyes as she spreads her legs, lifts her hips --

His hand looks pale and small and harsh against the flush
and curve of her thigh, and his other hand is obscene as
its fingers twist and thrust, reach -- "I love you," he says,
and the expression on her face is almost hurt.

He thinks he's dreading her next words at least a little, but,
when she opens her mouth, it's just another of those
sounds, desperate and sweet, *loud* -- Tim is sweating,
too, but it doesn't seem possible that she'd be able to smell
him over the scent of herself. She's too... she's always been

"Your strength, your courage... I want you so *badly*," he
says, and gasps at the feel of her tightening around him.
How would it feel...?

Would he be able to give her more than just the uncontrolled
*fact* of his desire?

"I never want to hurt you, I -- I only want --"

"Batman," she says, panting and shaking her head, trying to
plant her feet, calling him on his *lie* --

No, he won't let her move away, not from this. The press of
his fingers into the flesh of her hip looks wrong, or at least
too obvious, and he doesn't really have the leverage in this
position to keep her there, he'd need both *hands* --

But she gasps, shakes as if he could hold her there or
*anywhere*, and it makes him feel as large as he, perhaps,
should be. It makes him need to rear up on his knees, twist
his wrist, his fingers, *take* her this way --

"Oh, oh *shit*," and at first it seems the spasms around
Tim's fingers are rhythmic, or at least deliberate, but there
are too many of them, and he can see even more fluid
slipping out around his fingers, making him...

She seems even more *ready* for him than she had before,
but she's... she's *Steph*, and she's not... he isn't --

Tim bites the inside of his lower lip and forces himself to
settle for flexing his hand, a little. Slowly. Just... "I want...
*Steph* --"

She clenches around him even harder, body jerking, and
she's beautiful, she's perfect and -- *perfect*. Moreso in
some ways when she knocks Tim's hands away from herself,
when she scrambles back and to her feet.

Her knees are shaking, but she's more than capable of
ignoring them, of pacing and working herself until they're
still, until she can unclench one of her fists and push her
fingers through her wild and damp hair.

Every flex of the muscles of her lower body is as visible as
the sleek wetness of her inner thighs -- a tease of potential
and a *tease*. Everything he can teach her. Every thing
she'll take from *him*, when she can't take it from anyone
else -- even Cass.

She could be -- his. "Are you all right?"

She flips him off, casual and absent. "I just came my
*brains* out --"

"Not what I asked."

The expression on her face... had Dick ever looked at Bruce
that way? Jason? It's a variety of pleading he frankly isn't
sure about, a demand for him to both have the answers to
a dozen wordless questions and to keep them to himself.

"If it's better... I can wait. Or go. Or --"

"No," she says, quick and serious. "Just... you stay right
there. For a minute."

Tim nods, waiting for her to be -- mostly -- turned before
giving himself a somewhat vicious squeeze --

"Yeah, I get that, too. I -- wow," she says, flushing again.
Laughing again. "This is all I had to do? Make you push past
all the Robin-does-this and Robin-*is*-that bullshit until
you could see... your own fucking *potential*?"

Tim takes a moment to think about it, shifting until he can
sit with his back to the cheap pseudo-wood of her
headboard. If he pushes too hard at the thing, he could
break it in half. If he's ever inside her, on this bed, he'll
punch it to splinters. "In all honesty, Steph -- the world
looks brand new."

"And you're all raw with it, right now. Little baby Batman,
bouncing through the fucking suburbs --"

"It's amazing what you can find there, if you look."

"Do you ever wonder if the right part of you is doing the
looking? You -- you know what I did. You know what they
all *say* about me."

"Maybe it's your turn to see potential," Tim says, catching
himself rubbing at his abdomen and -- not stopping.

Steph stares at his hand, at the window -- no, the night.
For a moment, she rises gracefully onto the balls of her
feet, flexes her shoulders --

"Yes," Tim says. And -- "Please."

"Not tonight, I have a terror-ache," she says, curling her
hands into fists.

"I won't... I don't think I can let you go."

"I never -- you never have to. *You* don't. You just..."

"I want *all* of you. Just like... you've always wanted all of

"Even when I didn't know what that was even *about*,"
Steph says, shaking her head again and moving to yank the
curtains closed --

"Leave them open --"

"Take a -- a fucking *pill*," Steph says, but she doesn't touch
the curtains.

"Come here."

"Eat me."

"Come *here*," Tim says, and the smile on his face --

He knows it through Steph's own, and through the way her
expression cycles through fondness and fear to something
which *validates* everything running through Tim, now.

It's the same thing which lets him flip them when she comes
to him, lets him cover her again and just stay there this time.
He pushes her wrists against the bed and she shows him
how much he *can't* pin her that way -- "I'll make you more
than just strong." I'll show you *Jason* --

"Why -- you never did it before. You could've done it --"

"I didn't have those kinds of choices. I do, now. Do you trust

"I -- you know I do. You're the only one --"

He kisses her. It's not that he wants to stop her, really -- it's
a more complicated question than that. Letting her say those
things doesn't make them any more real, but it makes them
more -- immediate.

It's going to be months, at least, before Steph is both ready
to be *really* trained by him and is eager enough for it to
not think about the opinions of everyone else -- no, not

"Batgirl will understand," Tim says, licking the slightly
squared-off edges of her jaw.

"She -- oh, no, it's your turn --"

"It feels like it's been my turn since I met you," Tim says,
shifting to a better pin when Steph tries to move him --

"No, not like --" The shudder is brief and more than enough
to make Tim *move* --

"Sorry --"

"Heh. Got you," she says, and flicks Tim's nose.

It's not... it's not as much of an invitation as it would be
with someone else. Steph still needs him to be this variety
of gullible. "So you did. What do you plan on doing about --
it. Oh,'" he says, and can't stop himself from pushing
against her palm.

"I -- I don't think I ever really imagined you'd feel this

Robin. "Steph --"

"I -- yes and *absolutely*," she says, and she's a little
clumsy opening his fly, but Tim isn't sure it would feel this
perfect if she wasn't. There's her previous sexual experience
and then there's *this*, and the fact that she's giving him
her happiness, her trust, and something much larger than
that, much *more* in the feel of her hand wrapped around
his erection. "Yeah?"

He nods, because doing more would be too much, and
saying more --

He can hear the whisper of her hair on her shoulders, the
click of her teeth coming together, the *slide* of his skin
against her fingers and the palm of her hand.

He can't -- he doesn't think he can *watch* this. It's too
physical, somehow, too raw for the parts of himself which
honestly do make more sense now than they ever have
before. His body is a messy, needy thing when taken
beyond the realm of the Mission --

"C'mon, boyfriend, open your eyes for me -- oh," she says,
and maybe she sees it, too.

Maybe that's what's making her blush so hard, making her
lose the rhythm of her simple, hard stroke.

"God, I -- is this enough? I could --"

"More would be... too much. Right now," he says, and
wonders at the impulse -- instinct? -- to grab her by the
hair and pull her into another kiss. There has to be... this
can't be entirely *comfortable*, and she's shaking again,
a little --

And she's found her rhythm again.

This... if he doesn't have to think of how he looks, right
now --

If he's allowed to focus on her, on all of that relentlessness
brought to bear on his pleasure, on the act of *pleasing*
him --

"God, you -- Tim, I... the way you look like this, like there's
nothing you'd rather... some time you're going to have to let
me *taste* you," she says, tongue flickering over her upper
lip, pink over rose, flush -- he has to touch her.

He has to -- he tilts her face up just enough to let him stare
something which could be, in some other universe, his fill.
He touches her mouth with her thumbs, presses, strokes --
stops. He doesn't want to pull her expression out of true.

He wants *all* of it, just as he wants more of the heat and
friction -- her hands have always been so *strong* -- more
of the *feeling*. This simply isn't the same act as he's been
doing for himself since the glimpse of Dick's first Nightwing
uniform had tripped things, for him, from theory into

It's deeper, more personal. It's the two of them, and the
sweat on the back of Tim's neck, and the way Steph's hair is
curling at her scalp, and the way that Tim isn't even sure
when the watershed moment *was*.

The fact that he's barely had a week to get to know the new
and formerly repressed parts of himself doesn't mean that
Steph was waiting for him, after all. Steph has always been --

"Hey, how's this?" And her thumb is pressed beneath the
head of Tim's erection, and the sounds Tim is making are
harsh, loud things, growling up from out of his chest,
making him hotter, need more, sweat more --

This is some variety of all of himself, and perhaps the closest
he'll ever come to making it a reality. There's a comfort in
Steph's avidity, in the fact that nothing he can do will make
her happier than to just fall into this like he's already doing.

It feels like every thrust of his hips is making her eyes
brighter, making her feel something, or remember
something, or *learn* something sharp and true and perfect.

I'm yours, he thinks, and Steph isn't Cass, but Tim knows
she can read it on his skin, on the perfect slide of his penis
against both her calluses and her small skin-moments of

"You -- you'll never be alone, Steph. I promise you."

"You -- *Tim* --"

She squeezes, hard --

Tim closes his eyes.


It's still early when Steph pulls out her Spoiler uniform and
tells him -- politely and firmly -- to leave her alone, so Tim
calls home and tells his father that none of the 'ladies' in his
life were all that interested in too *much* of his company,
and that he plans to drown his sorrow in pizza and
Hollywood flops at the dollar theater.

His father, while typing, wishes him better luck next time,
and probably doesn't even register the sound of Dana's
breathing on the other line.

There are three Bat-stashes within a ten minute ride with
uniforms which either fit perfectly or well enough for a patrol,
but there's a very large part of him which has become more
invested in the idea of having nights off than he ever
would've thought possible.

Tim thinks, perhaps, that other teenagers might feel this way
in the summers before they go to college.

Or maybe it's something completely different.

He swings by the Cave for long enough to fill a few pages
of his sketch-pad with ideas for a newer, sleeker, and --
perhaps -- somewhat darker Robin suit in the reds and
blacks Bruce had chosen for version something-he-doesn't-
want-to-think-about point zero of the desperately tempting
Batsuits waiting for him, and then goes upstairs.

Alfred plies him with tea and a not-as-humiliating-as-it-could-
be game of chess, but doesn't seem inclined toward
conversation, so Tim leaves again. He's not entirely sure
how Alfred feels about the new order, but Tim thinks he can

For all that Alfred has spent most of the past twenty years
hoping Bruce would find another way to live his life, it can't
feel entirely *good* to know that Bruce is in the process of
giving that life to *Tim* -- or to know that Tim is taking it
with a smile.

("A tease of invitation...")

Yes, that, he thinks, and heads back down to the Cave. He
spends a few moments deciding where *best* to leave the
sketch-pad -- he wants Bruce to see it sometime after he
finishes the night's reports, but before he showers -- calls
up feeds from the mask-cams --

And stops himself from calling up those feeds. He doesn't
need to tempt himself more than he already has. He settles
for also leaving Bruce a sketch of several different R-shuriken
designed for hands which are slightly larger than his own
and takes the bike north until he hits someplace which
seems quite rural until you take a deep breath and,
depending on the wind, catch hints of either Gotham,
Bludhaven, Newark, or all three at once.

Still, it's the thought that counts. Tim parks the bike in a
small stand of trees he'd first marked as someplace potentially
useful nearly two years ago, stashes his helmet, and then
looks to the skies.

"Clark," he says, and waits.

Not long --

"If you're running away from home, Tim, I feel it's my duty
to at least make sure you get a good meal."

Clark is in his usual toes-down hover, coming in slow and
pausing just below the point at which Tim would have to
crane like a supplicant to meet his eyes. However, he's
wearing a simple white dress shirt and suit pants of a
better quality than anything Clark Kent is allowed to touch.
Tim isn't disreputable in his chinos and solid-colored t-shirt
(until one takes a deep breath around him), but... "Mm. I
don't think we'd... match, if we were to go out."

"Perhaps we could order in," Clark says, offering his hand
and the sort of flight --

It would have to be somewhat slow to compensate for the
lack of cape to wrap around Tim's exposed skin. Unless, of
course, Clark has simply folded the cape in some super-
unobtrusive manner "Perhaps," Tim says, and reaches up
to take Clark's hand.

It's more of a gesture than a practical motion, of course --
Clark has to dive in enough to catch Tim's sides, wrap him,
hold him -- "You smell wonderful," he says, and lifts off
slowly enough for Tim to feel it --

And then there's speed, darkness, and the sense of moving
too fast for *air* --

But, of course, it doesn't last long enough to become
problematic. When Clark lets him down and unwraps him,
the air is right there to breathe -- and be puzzled by. This is
a city -- the top of one of the taller buildings *in* a city --
but not one Tim can place even with this excellent aerial
view. The scents are all wrong, as well -- different spices.
A different quality of *heat*... Tim smiles.

"You did mention a fondness for Thai cooking," Clark says,
and reaches to push a lock of Tim's hair back in place. "I
could let my nose lead us somewhere... appropriate?"

"I think I'd prefer 'private' to 'appropriate,' Clark."

"Ah, well... we could have that, too," Clark says. "There's a
hotel --"

What does it mean -- what does it feel like to constantly
*let* oneself be interrupted? Clark may not have seen the
thought form in Tim's head, but he'd certainly seen every
move which led to Tim reaching up to cup Clark's face, touch
the smooth inhumanity of his mouth, roll up onto his toes --

For that matter -- where does the line get drawn? A person
as surprised as Clark had decided to let himself appear
would never recover fast enough to be holding Tim quite
this perfectly before Tim can even taste his breath. Tim
hums, resolves to consider it some other, lonelier time. If
they're in Bangkok, that's the Chao Praya river feeding the
breeze rippling around Tim's ankles. There are boat tours
they could take, dozens of different foods to try, and --

"You'd give me this, wouldn't you? Without a thought."

"This...?" Clark's thumb is brushing Tim's lower lip, asking
several different fascinating questions, answering others.

"Do you think of yourself as my lover, Clark?"

"Should I not?" The pressure on his mouth is only very
slightly less -- according to Tim's not-very-super perceptions.
A hint of loss more than loss itself, and another hint which
has more to do with the fact that Clark is rather too
*present*, in every possible way, for Tim to lose.

So long as they share a planet... Clark is -- predictably --
more open, more *entirely* present, than Tim could ever
be. Certainly more than Tim has consciously *tried* to be.
"I'd honestly thought I was being much more -- frustrating
than that."

"Is frustration a reason to deny oneself?"

"You tell me... Kal."

The words -- Bruce has recordings, of course. As of yet,
there are none with video as well as the audio, but Tim had
been expressly *given* those recordings to study along
with everything else in Bruce's files on the League. Years
ago. As such, it only takes a handful of syllables to be
*sure* of what he's hearing, as opposed to simply thinking
he's hearing it.

It's just that he can't begin to translate. "I asked for that,"
he says, dipping his chin in minute acknowledgment
between -- equals. The fact that Tim's blushing is an
irritating irrelevancy -- he hates not being able to
communicate, should it ever become necessary.

Ariana hadn't *wanted* to teach him Russian -- and Clark
is speaking again. Kal is.

"I'm sorry, but I really don't have any idea..."

Clark's smile is warm, inviting enough to make Tim realize
that he had, at some point, taken a step back, and that
this is something more than worth remedy. Still, when
Clark *speaks*, it's more Kryptonian, and it's incredibly
tempting to discount the expression.

How would he know what invitation --

"And, of course, I could teach you."

-- sounded like? And now, of course, the vast majority of
Tim's component parts want him to know that he's an
imbecile. Clark is, in himself, the purest form of invitation
there is, he thinks, and allows Clark the freedom to see
every nanometer of Tim's rueful smile without having to
reach for it in one way or another. "You could."

"I could, and I would... well," Clark says, and raises a hand
at human speed, but the touch -- touches? -- are too light
and fast for anything like that description. "Perhaps I'm
simply trying to discover how you define 'soft' and 'hard.'"

"You make me feel rather more mysterious than I care for."
After all, he's not even *trying* --

"I would think you'd find that -- satisfying," Clark says,
and --

It feels like living -- existing -- between time and something
wordless -- and more nebulous than 'space' -- to blink and
find himself on a riverbank. The scent here is of fish, decay,
and approaching rain. When Tim looks toward the city --
northeast -- he can't be at all sure which building they'd
been on. Hm. "Low-flying plane?"

"Ah -- I believe we'd set off an alarm," Clark says, and he
sounds no more distracted than he looks: his attention
appears to be devoted to the soil, in which, to be fair, many
plants Tim can't begin to identify are growing.

"There's no place on the planet which is alien to you, is

"Hm...? No, I --" Clark's smile is soft and the faintest bit wry.
"I travel quite a bit. We could go... somewhere else?"

"I haven't been to Tibet in months," Tim says -- and holds up
a hand. "You don't have to... I can't possibly be more
impressed, Clark."

"But you could be... hmm," Clark says, and the wind he kicks
up isn't particularly dangerous, but it's enough to chase away
mosquitoes. "You could be more... interested?"

"Clark --"

"You don't have to drive me to -- distraction. You... this
could be all right," he says, and it's several different varieties
of question and request -- rarely have the two felt so

"Or," Tim says, and takes Clark's hand again, squeezing it
and holding on. He really *doesn't* mean to be so... "We
could continue figuring it out as we go along."

"Hmm," Clark says again, moving close, breathing against
his ear -- Barbara --

"Does she... is she your lover?"

Ah, no. He's smelling -- probably sensing in more ways than
Tim can quite imagine -- Steph. "The word is too small. I
think you can understand that. And -- you'd have to know
me better for me to believe you were jealous."

"I could just be curious," and Clark's mouth is hard and
perfect behind Tim's ear, Clark's fingers are covering his
eyes --

And when Tim takes a breath, the world flips over, and does
it again at the next: ozone, newspaper ink, snuck cigarettes,
the same expensive perfume Bruce had dabbed behind Tim's
ears for the last drag assignment.

He doesn't need to open his eyes to know that the world is
about to rewrite itself in tasteful reds and blues and a view
of the City of Tomorrow.

"I don't belong here," Tim says, stepping away from the feel
of Clark's lingering wake mussing his hair, and just --
stepping *away*.

"I've been to your home --"

"You've been to both of my -- that's not the point, Clark. I --"
Photos on the wall, but not many. A shelf of journalism
awards -- two. The faint, lingering stench of burnt hair -- hm.
"Do you have to 'shave' every day?"

"Lois enjoys the rugged look but -- ah. My stubble cut her
hand. Once. Tim, I'd like to have you be a part of my
life --"

"The feeling is more than simply mutual," he says, and
wonders, helplessly, what concession Clark had to make in
order to have the right to place one of the wedding
pictures *precisely* at the center of the mantelpiece. It's
not really Lois' style.

"Is it? How much of me do you want?"

The sound of a refrigerator door closing, and a -- burrito,
cold and decidedly vegetarian. And really -- "If I eat six
beans will Gotham grow cold and sere without me every

"Sere, I -- you don't think it would be rather sunnier...?"

Tim takes a bite, meaning only to make a point -- mm.

"One of the few things I'm capable of preparing with any
degree of competence," Clark says, and his smile is more
warm and pleased than Tim would've been able to credit
for such a shoddy compliment.

Perhaps it's the fact that he'd finished the thing -- he hasn't
eaten in hours, and there had been no Thai food. And it had
really been quite good. "What -- what do you want me to
say, Clark?" Moving around is a mistake, but he can't quite
stop himself.

Lois Lane also wears the same shade of *lipstick* as the
society zombie Tim's been working on -- he's so very *lucky*
to still have the build for playing a woman -- for the better
part of six months. Tim twists the tube, closes it, tucks it
away -- stops. He taps his fingers on the edge of the sink,
catches the breeze from Metropolis proper -- more fish,
less... character?

He doesn't belong in this city. No part of him does. The
bedroom is almost a cliché, with an invisible line of cluttered
to *not* drawn down the center of the room on a diagonal.

It smells more like Lois in here, though the cigarettes are
gone entirely. Another compromise? "Clark."

"I... I never thought I'd see someone moving through my
apartment as if it were a crime scene. There's a certain
degree of awful fascination, Tim."

"The only thing dying here is -- me," he finishes, weakly.
"Somewhere else. Anywhere else."

"Can you understand," Clark says, catching him, wrapping
him --

Breath and a sense of impossible movement, ridiculous
speed -- he is not, actually, leaving all of his internal organs
for Lois to trip over. He's just getting used to this feeling
enough for him to be struck by the illusory.*Breath* -- and
the world is pale, sterile-seeming, not entirely earthly --

"You see, Tim, it actually seems as though your desires with
regards to myself are really rather limited."

Ah. Well. "The fact that I don't want to make love to you in
the bed you share with the woman you married --"

"Would you make love to me in St -- Spoiler's bed?"

And how *much* had he listened to? Watched? But, in the
end -- "If it was something she wanted --"


Tim smiles. "I won't ask how quickly you can get us there,

"And if Lois demanded to share...?"

"You honestly believe we'd get along?"

"No. You're very -- hm." Clark says, and -- "excuse me."

There's no way to tell exactly what part of the Fortress he's
in. Bruce's records simply aren't *that* detailed, and what
detail is there focuses on the AI's ability to shape and
reshape the interior at the whim of Kal-El. At the moment,
the AI doesn't seem inclined to be explicitly welcoming,
which is probably for the best -- Tim would very much like
time to *prepare* for any sort of interface the AI might
offer, as well as some rudimentary linguistics --

"I'm sorry --"

"It's all right," Tim says, folding his arms under a cape which
isn't there and pulling on a stance which suggests both that
he knows everything he needs to know about his
surroundings and that he disapproves of most of it in a
manner which can only be expiated with violence.

"Oh, that's very -- don't do that."

"How about just the superciliousness?"

"That one did seem more -- hrm. You," Clark says, and his
eyebrows are asking a very mild question -- perhaps if the
comment was 'all right.'

"I'm not sure anyone would feel especially intimidated by
the possibility of my delivering a brutal barrage of cutting

"If I may ask --"

"Of course."

Clark's smile is broad and quick. "But -- why this... now?"

"If you're going to insist on treating me like a dark and
forbidding mystery..." Tim trails off into a smile of gratitude
for the set-up. It's only polite.

"Touché. Perhaps you could... I believe I feel a need to start

"Oh, yes?"

"Mm, I -- yes," Clark says, standing straight and -- almost --
formally enough to look as though they're working. "I've
been keeping some fruits I've picked from -- oh, various
places -- I've been keeping them here to test the stasis
boxes, if you're at all interested?"

Strawberries, currants, cherries and assorted things Tim
can't name, mercifully *quiet* companionship, and the
opportunity to examine the stasis boxes himself -- the
things kept in the larger boxes are slightly withered, those
kept in the smaller boxes strangely cold -- deliciously
*crisp* --

It's a more relaxing evening all around, especially when
some whim Tim can't even begin to guess at makes Clark
order the AI to make strangely comfortable robes in his size,
and a sort of couch -- also in Tim's size -- which, despite its
colorlessness, manages a degree of the sybaritic which Tim
can't help but be amused by.

Clark's couch is in comfortable reaching distance and it's...
nice. Pleasurable. Uncomplicated.

"I could never -- I never even bothered trying to imagine
anything like this with Bruce."

Mostly uncomplicated. Tim discards the stone of --
something -- in a receptacle with a moderately disturbing
'swallowing' mechanism and rolls -- 'deliciously' is a good
word -- onto his stomach. If anything, the couch is more
comfortable this way. "I can imagine it," he says, and
plucks lightly at his robe. "With a few alterations."

"You don't think it seems too... indolent?"

"I'm quite sure Bruce is -- to some extent -- quite pleased
to know that his program of making people believe that he
is who he -- seems to be -- by *choice* has been so

"I -- are you *sure* you know him as well as all that? No
one can play a role every minute of every day, Tim."

He knows Bruce like nightmares and pain, blood and
satisfaction -- the curl of the tongue away from something
bitter. "The trick is the insertion of... judicious amounts of
the truth. He *is* a vicious, violent bastard in a lot of
ways -- just as he is a moderately *insane* overbred

"And a heartless *machine*," Clark says, frowning at any of
dozens of memories the other side of which has almost
certainly been dutifully recorded in the computers. And...

"You should... I really think you should try *again*, Clark.
Keep trying. The world according to Bruce is a different place
than it used to be."

"Because of -- the choice you made."

Tim smiles. "He's called me his 'freedom,' among other

"I... I heard."

And he still hasn't tried to touch Tim's throat. It's hard to
decide whether to be impressed or a little non-plussed. But.
"Then you can see some of what I'm talking about, at

"I'm... I have to admit that I find your relationship with
Bruce... the glimpses I've taken... I. It's not very... easy to


"I don't -- you were in the *sky*, Tim, and there was no
one actually *flying* that plane, and I really don't think it's
beyond the pale for -- you're mocking me," Clark says,
reaching over to cup the edge of Tim's couch, dig his fingers
in -- "Tim..."

Tim kisses Clark's fingers and rubs a good portion of his
smile over them, bites his knuckles, one at a time -- "Yes,

"Hm. You... really can't stay long at all, can you?"

In Gotham, it's nearly two in the morning, according to Tim's
internal clock. So long as he's there for breakfast, his father
will be fine. Dana, on the other hand, will be looking for him.
"I probably should get back before long, yes."

Clark says something in Kryptonian -- one of the words
might be the one for the particular robes he's wearing. And
so, as a guess,

"Are they very flattering on me?"

Apparently, he was close enough. Clark's smile is warm on a
number of different levels. "Very," he says, and brushes the
back of his hand over Tim's cheek. "And Lois will probably
be home before too much longer... I'd love to continue this
another time, Tim."

"As would I. For now..."

'For now' is a kiss which takes them higher than the ceiling
in this area seemed to be when last Tim checked. It *is* the
sort of kiss he'd imagined with Kon, but the place is all
wrong for that. Right for this.

The brush of the robe against Clark's clothes seems almost
electric -- it has a *note* to it which suggests that neither of
them are wearing fabrics designed on earth, for all that
Clark's only *seem* different in terms of their relative
stylishness. They were made here.

Tim starts to pull away from the kiss -- Clark follows, nips,
sucks on Tim's lower lip, looks at him with eyes both
pleading and unapologetic -- all right.

The fact that Clark had *planned* to bring him back here
doesn't have to be a topic for discussion right this moment.

Tim wraps his arms around Clark's neck and holds on.


There's an e-mail from Bruce waiting for him when he gets
back -- Clark had brought him right back to his bike without
being asked, smiled in a way which made it intriguingly
obvious that he was thinking about Dick, and flown off into
the night -- and Tim spends a moment wondering if the
silent, flashing alarm is too much for that sort of thing.

He's used to having parents who'd never wonder what that
was about, much less try to look -- and wind up becoming
deeply suspicious when they hit the layers of security -- yes,
he'll kill it and find some other way to make sure he's aware
of Bruce's rare little missives as soon as possible.

For the moment, he simply disables the thing, takes a
moment to listen for (Dana) either of his parents moving too
close to make opening his mail practical -- he's fine.

And he has mail from Barbara, too.

Have increased surveillance on your step-problem. How
much good this will do either of us is beyond my ken, at the
moment. Don't go too far with S without talking to B -- if he
chooses to be uncommunicative, ask him about hidden

One hopes it goes without saying that you'll do nothing of
the kind if he -does- behave.

Hidden...? Does Bruce have Cases for his parents,
somewhere? That has to be going a little far, even for him,
and why would that have anything to do with Steph? Ah --
it wouldn't. It would, actually, be entirely in-character for
Bruce to have a memorial for *Jason* which was only for
himself, just as it would be in-character for him to one day
choose to share it with at least one of them.

The one of them who keeps more of the world's secrets than
anyone save, perhaps, Clark and the Martian Manhunter.

Well... Barbara's right enough, in her way -- there's probably
no possible way to talk about his plans for Steph with Bruce
*without* talking about Jason, even if the man had never
made any comparisons, himself. Perhaps the universe
needed them to share a 'type,' along with everything else.
He sends Barbara a 'noted' and opens the next mail.

Sketches received and perused. Your perspective-work
is showing some improvement, but could use more. I
suggest you practice on other designs.

Abruptly, it's more than a little tempting to send Bruce
something for himself which brings back the deep blues and
softer greys of the uniform Tim first threw himself into
being *worthy* enough to stand beside.

He has... it's perhaps going a little far to classify those
memories as simply 'good' -- or simply anything -- but Bruce
put far too much of his own pain and frustration into the
darker Batsuit he's been wearing since just after Dick's brief
stint as Batman. There's too much *hardness* there for
Bruce, and Tim has always felt the suit made it too easy for
the man to... forget himself.

*Let* me be the shadow, he thinks, and shivers to himself --
not unpleasurably. And reads more.

I agree with the... protocol you designed for N without
much in the way of reservation. However, if you didn't
predict that N would wish to discuss it further with you, I'll
be deeply disappointed.

*Really*. If the cowl was on when Bruce had written this,
Tim will *eat* it. As for the words themselves... Without Tim
to get most of *it* out there, Bruce would've certainly tried
to handle everything with Dick in one brief, awful excuse for
a conversation. This, of course, would have all but destroyed
any chance they had to make it work. This is a responsibility
it's simply *better* for him to take...

Which is not to say that a somewhat morbid part of himself
*isn't* desperately curious to see the footage of the
doubtlessly, painfully abortive conversation which Bruce and
Dick must *have* had sometime when he was otherwise

Your other protocols remain intriguing to examine, even
at a distance. I look forward to further discussion of

A decision for the silence of this house: Is it better to stare
at one's computer screen while blushing somewhat furiously,
knowing that Oracle's -- and Batman's -- cameras are
catching every nuance of one's expression, or is it better to
simply delete the messages and move around pretending to
be... unmoved.

Which would be more appreciated by his rarefied audience?

How much does he care to be appreciated right now, when
the last power-nap he'd taken at the Tower feels like something
which happened in another life?

He shakes it off internally, clears the server, stands and --

His window is marked, however invisibly, with kisses shared
with Clark. No one has ever shared this bed with him, but
Steph has sat on it any number of times when Tim's father
had been doing his best to bribe Tim with privacy and a
rather shallow variety of trust.

To the best of his knowledge, neither Bruce nor Batman have
ever changed *this* bedroom into a place of deep shadows
and questionable desires... would he feel the need to sneak
back to the Cave if Dana hadn't instituted a program of
stepmotherly stalking?

And -- all right, 'stalking' might be too harsh a word for it.
Others might simply call it *parenting*, in all honesty -- and
they'd have a point. He's definitely going to get more rest
tonight than he would if he actually felt free enough to
follow his more Bruce-related whims.

That's -- a good thing. It's just not one which can be allowed
to continue. Tim strips down to his shorts, heads for the
hamper, and -- pauses. He'd assumed Clark's abilities were
exaggerating the extent to which Tim smelled like the part
of the evening he'd spent with Steph, but, now that's he's
mostly naked again...

Perhaps a shower is in order. Or -- perhaps not.

The bed of a teenager probably should be at least a
somewhat odiferous place, and he wouldn't mind...

Clark had done a very good job of *not* winding him up,
and Tim is reasonably sure that at least some of that effect --
the lack thereof -- was to Clark's purposes.

("I believe I feel a need to start over.") It had been no more
and no less than a 'makeout session,' similar in any number
of ways to dozens of interludes with Steph -- *that* was
definitely purposeful -- but all of the scents from *that* are
in the robes which are either waiting for him to pull them
on again or have been efficiently recycled into a temporary
wall, or perhaps into the Kryptonian version of skylights.

Steph is all over his skin, now, and while the biological
mechanics of shared scent are a bit distasteful, it wouldn't
be *amiss* to leave it on his bed, for *this* bed to feel as
home-like as a temporary couch, or the hard floor of a

Tim smiles to himself and deliberately buries his face into
the crumpled fabric of his shirt.

Are you watching, Bruce...?

How many of my protocols have you let yourself be aware
of? Or is that not part of your 'freedom?'

He dumps everything but the shirt. That, he takes to bed
with him. It's not that he particularly wants Steph in this
bed -- there is no place he wants her more than the Cave --

What *had* she done with her Spoiler suit tonight? How will
she react when he starts to bug her more... thoroughly?
Will she understand the way Tim always had? Will she resent

Will she let him put the suit in the Cave when the time
comes to give her a new one, or will she see it as too

I love you, he thinks, *tries* as he buries his face in their
mingled scents again. I'll show you that's enough.

Tim closes his eyes and drifts on images of flight too pure to
belong to memory, or even to fantasy. He's not sleeping
deeply enough for the bed to feel like her back pressed to
his own, and twisting just reminds his body of Cass. Show
you everything, he thinks, and the images change to Cass
and Steph sparring, to Steph using moves straight out of
Bruce's footage of Jason -- power and *hunger* --

He pulls a laugh out of the memory of Steph's first
experience with a real jumpline, overlays it on punches, kicks,
the flex of muscle, joy --

He evens his breathing out and sleeps, holding onto what he
imagines Steph's fingers will sound like against his cowl until
he has to admit that he simply doesn't know.


It's a little after eleven when the doorbell rings, and Dana
has her hands full of breakfast dishes and his father is his
father, so Tim gets to be the one to open the door to a Dick
with two boxes of donuts and a smile which makes the
doorframe seem small.

An eyebrow raise can't really dampen it, but it does make
Dick shuffle the boxes to one arm for the sole purpose of
ruffling his hair --

"It's too *early* for you to give me looks like that."

"If you say so. And um... Dick?"

"Hmm? Oh, why am I here. Yes, well -- Babs mentioned,"
Dick says, lowering his voice but showing no signs of
removing his hand from Tim's hair. "I'm kind of your alibi,
these days...?"

Ah. "In a way. Big brother."

"I can *work* with 'in a way,'" Dick says, gently pushing
past him. "And if you're tempted to complain, *little* brother,
then you should try to hold on to the fact that I'm about to
make you look very, very good."

"Um --"

"Hello the house," Dick calls, winks at Tim from over his
shoulder, and sets the boxes down on the coffee table.

"Who -- oh, Dick! Hello! I wasn't expecting you," Dana says,
wiping her hands on a towel and giving Tim a look which is
an interesting blend of stepmother consternation and

Dick's smile shifts her focus, though -- Tim would've bet Dick
couldn't do that on *purpose* -- and she winds up ignoring
Tim in favor of hugging Dick.

"It's nice to see you, too, Dana! I have to admit, though,
that I'm here on little brother's request."

What -- no, it's a cue. Tim pulls some embarrassment over
his features --

"Really?" There are definitely parts of Dana which aren't
snowed, but --

"Yeah, I -- I actually told him that I *couldn't* make it today,
but I got to switch shifts with one of my buddies on the
force..." Dick shrugs, continuing to shower Dana and the
universe with *that* smile. "He's right -- it has been too long
since I've been over for a visit."

And Dana melts visibly and obviously. "Oh, you -- I wouldn't
want to interrupt your schedule. I can only imagine how
stressful things are for you in Bludhaven," she says, and
there are points of color high on her cheeks.

Chances are, she's still trying to fight *it*. It's Tim's turn.
"Well," Tim says, quietly enough to drag some of her
attention away from Dick -- and not alert his still-absent
father, "you made some good points about my habit of
keeping myself... too much to myself."

"Did I. I mean --" Dana shakes her head a little. "Dick, why
don't you sit down while I go track down Tim's father?"

Dick tips her a salute -- and manages to look only
*significantly* more graceful than any human has a right to
when he slips her a donut from one of the boxes.

"Oh, I really couldn't --"

"Ah, ah, ah -- it's organic. There's a new little pastry
*boutique* thing not too far from my place."

"Well... organic? Really?"

Dick crosses his heart. And smiles again.

This time, Dana actually *blushes* -- and then leaves them
in the living room.

Dick turns the grin on him and then pats the couch beside
him. Tim shakes his head and succumbs to the inevitable --
proximity, points of contact, and *Dick*.

"How am I doing so far?"

"Terrifyingly. She's going to need to spend at least the next
week convincing herself that she's *really* only attracted to
my father," Tim says, and steals a cream-filled with

"Ouch. Too much?"

"No, I think it's just about perfect, considering the mess I'm
in. Keep it up -- it's really pretty entertaining when it's not
aimed at *me*."

"I'm *sure* I don't know what you're talking about, Timbo,"
and while it isn't strictly necessary for Dick to all but *hug*
Tim in his efforts to reach around and grab a donut for
himself, it's also Dick. The definition of 'necessary' will
remain shifting and strange for at least as long as Dick is
right *here*.

And Dick, of course, leaves one arm over Tim's shoulders
once he has his donut.

"Hero worship? Really?"

Tim elbows Dick lightly -- he can hear footsteps.

"I mean, I could've bought that when you were all young
and fresh and new -- possibly *nubile* --"

"Dick, I'm going to --"

"Going to what, son? He's just gotten here," his father says,
smiling at Dick and shaking his hand.

The fact that Dick has to let Tim go to do the shaking, and
that he immediately puts his arm *back* -- is just a fact.

"Nice to see you again, Mr. Drake. Oh, hey, I never got to
thank you for those Knights tickets you gave me and Tim --
we had a lot of fun that night."

They actually had -- it's just that the fun in question had
been on the streets of the 'haven. Still --

His father looks almost happy enough to *join* them on the
couch, but he thankfully settles for one of the chairs
opposite. "Oh, I'm glad. And I could probably rustle up some
more if you let me know what your work schedule is like."

"Will do," Dick says, and turns back to Dana. "So what have
you been up to lately? Tim mentioned something about not
enough racquetball...?"

"Oh, well..." She probably doesn't even realize that she's
smiling at Tim's father with absently *solid* affection. "It
can be difficult to get *certain people* interested in leaving
the house for more than just *work*," she says, and pats
Tim's father's knee.

"Well, *that* was never a problem with Bruce," Dick says,
raising his eyebrows to encourage Tim's father to laugh.

"No, I guess not!"

Tim settles back on the couch and just... watches the show.
To Dana's credit -- and as a credit to Tim's brand new Dana-
related fears and suspicions -- it doesn't take long before she
starts trying to catch his eye, trying to *commiserate* with
him over Dick, who is, of course, incredibly attractive.

Staggeringly so as he starts sharing carefully-chosen
anecdotes about his duties on the police force.

He's entirely capable of making it all sound very exciting,
very *manly* in ways which are directly attached to
definitions of 'normal' which 'Tim Drake' should be finding
both fascinating and frustrating. And so, for Dana's benefit,
he lets himself *really* look, from time to time.

Lets himself focus for a daring-with-his-father-right-*there*
moment on the line of Dick's jaw, on the stubble which has
never cut anyone's hand, on the corner of Dick's mouth,
pulled into smile after grin after smile.

And when he checks back with Dana --

She looks honestly, openly shocked behind the polite and
friendly smile on her face. Tim's give her a rueful smile on
his own, and settles back into looking more *platonically*

Dick's performance is, after all, *just* that impressive --

And so, of course, the only thing for it is for them to have a
quick lunch together and let Dick keep talking, keep *being*.
Dick is a good influence, and his father gets to feel as though
he's a part of it -- he has, after all, done everything in his
power to encourage the relationship, and Tim can't even
imagine how *good* it looks once Dick switches from being
entertaining to *coaxing* Tim to be entertaining, himself.

Dick doesn't hang on his words, but there is everything filial
and parent-pleasing about the way he grins at Tim's jokes
and peppers his constant degree of proximity with hair-
ruffles and affectionate squeezes.

Dick Grayson had a more public persona than Jason Todd
ever did, and so it must seem some degree of natural for
*Tim* to be Dick's younger brother, his friend and not-quite
protégé: Tim -- of course! -- will never decide to throw over
his wealthy upbringing for a job quite so honorable-for-a-
*different*-class as that of a police officer --

"But I have to admit, Dick," his father says, leaning across
the table a little. "I always wondered how that *worked*.
How *did* old Brucie react when you told him you were
joining the force?"

Yes, Dick, *how*.... no. Now's really not the time for that

"Dad," he says -- not quite the full bleat of a teenager
suffering from acute embarrassment. "Uh... there are other
things we can talk about?"

"Oh -- I. Hm," his father says, and rubs at his upper lip. "A
bit too... close to home?"

Dick gives Tim a smile which is only slightly too personal
and real for the moment -- the public nature of it is actually
rather helpful -- and then turns back to Tim's father. "I'm
afraid he really doesn't approve."

"Oh, that's -- that must be terrible," Dana says, leaning in.

Dick holds up his hands. "I can understand where he's
coming from -- I took on a lot of other responsibilities a bit
more, well -- 'closer to home' is a good way to put it --
before I joined, and he has his doubts about whether I can
keep everything in stride."

That's -- not really right. "Dick, I really do think it's more
that Bruce worries about you."

"Does he think I can't take care of myself, little brother...?"

Dangerous on far too many levels than a lunch date with the
Drakes-in-toto can withstand -- judging by the uncomfortable
look on his father's face and the dangerously *attentive*
look on Dana's. "You know that's not what it is at all," Tim
says, being as serious as the warning signs in his own head
will let him, and hoping it's not too much of a --

"Well," Dick says, smiling *behind* his eyes, "you do spend
more time with him these days than I do."

-- mistake. Shit. He glances at his father --

"Really, Tim? You hadn't mentioned you'd been to visit," his
father says, and there's something Tim doesn't like at all
waking up behind *his* eyes.

Tim twists his foot as much as he can without moving his
leg obviously, just enough to brush against Dick's own.

"Oh, well..." Dick laughs. "In a lot of ways Bruce and I have
been... well..."


That was Dana, and when Tim glances, she's -- she's
*helping*. That was an incredibly useful cue, and Tim
frankly grabs at it, resting a hand on Dick's shoulder and
daring to look just a bit soulful.

Dick's shoulder tenses under his hand, but his smile for Tim's
father is soft and gentle and perfect. "In a lot of ways, Bruce
and I have been at odds since even before I dropped out of
college. Most of the time it isn't... particularly tragic, but
when we disagree, it can get a bit fraught."

His father sits back. "Well, I have to admit that my
relationship with Tim, here, hasn't always been smooth."

"That's the way it is between fathers and sons, sometimes,"
Dick says, and the smile might as well be carved onto his
face. "At least, that's what someone once told me."

And, after that, it's light, casual and easy. When they're done
eating, Tim decides it would be far more than simply politic
to help Dana with the dishes. And --

"Thank you."

"I'm not sure I want to be thanked for that," she says,
shaking her head. "I'm not built for conspiracies, Tim."

"I know. I really -- I really do know that, Dana. But you also
have more information than I gave you, now."

"You're -- running *interference* between Bruce Wayne and
his adopted son? How is *that* appropriate?"

Adopted -- it never stops being strange how *many* people
just forget about Jason, entirely. Even though it's pretty
much completely horrible when they *don't*. Tim starts the
water running -- nice and loud. "Sometimes I run
interference, yes. But my relationships with Bruce and Dick
aren't exactly dependent on their relationship to each other.
I'm not... I'm really not a martyr."

"But some part of you really does get off on being able to
help them with their problems, right?"

"I -- I'm not sure I'd put it *that* way --"

Dana snorts. "Of course you wouldn't. You're too polite.
Except, of course, when you're threatening to cut off all ties
to us."

Tim plunges his hands into the dishwater and flexes his
hands into fists once, twice -- "I don't think of it as a
threat... but it's true that I'm not going to let you -- either
of you -- run my life."

Dana's sigh is quiet enough that it almost disappears under
the burst of his father's laughter from the living room.

"It's also true that I'm here, Dana. Listening."

"It's not right that you're driving me into a compromise. You
know that, right?"

Tim looks back over his shoulder. "It's what we have."

Dana leans back against the kitchen island, gripping the
edge. "I didn't check on you last night."

Tim nods and turns back to the dishes.

"And you already know.... your father is never going to so
much as crack open your door unless -- unless we have a
*fire* or something --"

"I'd appreciate it if we didn't have to test that theory."

Dana's laugh sounds more than a little painful. "I have to
admit -- it was just one of the things I've sat up considering.
But it suits your *purposes* to have us both sleeping
peacefully every night --"

"It would mean I didn't have to worry about you getting

"Maybe you should worry, Tim."

Tim rinses his hands, dries them and the strip of counter in
front of the sink, turns around, and uses the counter to
mirror her pose. "I'm not going to get my girlfriend pregnant.
I neither drink nor take drugs. When I *am* sexually active,
I play it safe. My GPA hasn't slipped beneath a four-point-oh
since you've known me --"

"You're the perfect teenager in each and every way," she
says, low and just a little savage.

Tim shrugs. "It suits my purposes."

"And if it didn't?"

"I... I can't actually imagine that. I don't want to hurt
*anyone* -- including myself."

"I know there's more you're not telling me, Tim."

"Dana --"

"Stop. I also know that you're never going to tell me what it
is. I'll have to figure it out, and then... and then, I don't
know," she says, and laughs again. "I think the worst part
about this feeling is that I'm ninety-nine percent sure that
when I *do* figure out what it is, I'll agree with you about
keeping it quiet. Just like I agree about the rest. You're
protecting me, or you think you are, or you're protecting
yourself *from* me --"

"I'm just living my life, Dana."

Dana nods, but it's clear she doesn't agree. "Have fun with
Dick today," she says, and starts for the door.

"Dana, I -- I have to ask."


"What are you going to do the next time you don't find me
in my bed?"

Dana's smile is sharp and makes her look far older than she
actually is. "I was thinking of calling up 'old Brucie' and
giving him a piece of my mind."

Which... that's entirely doable, with Oracle's help, though
the images it calls up -- he can *see* Bruce suited up and
all but *bleeding* Brucie over the comm... "I'll tell him you
said 'hi' the next time I see him."

"Do that," she says, and leaves him there.

Tim finishes straightening the kitchen with just enough time
to spare -- once he catches a glimpse of Dick's boots out of
the corner of his eye -- to duck and twist away from what
would've been a truly irritating noogie.

"Oh, I think you need to accept your fate, little brother," Dick
says, and Tim is, abruptly, being stalked a bit.

"You know, Dick, the kitchen is the most dangerous place in
the home."

"I thought that was the bathroom," and Dick fakes going for
him from the left side of the island.

If Tim makes a break for it, they're going to make a mess.
"Actually, that's only the case when the house isn't *mine*,"
Tim says, and pulls three knives from the block.

Dick snorts and falls back -- into a juggling stance. "Try me."

"Oh, Dick, I almost forgot..."

His father's voice. Tim shoves the knives back in place --

And Dick catches him in a headlock. "Yes, Mr. Drake?"

"Oh, I -- looks like he's got you there, son, and -- haven't I
told you to call me Jack, yet?"

Dick grins. Tim can't see it from this angle, but he's
absolutely sure that he's feeling it. "You might've, Mr. D --
Jack. I can get distracted pretty easily," Dick says, and --
yes, that's a noogie.

Tim listens to them sharing a laugh, and considers and
rejects several different moves which would free him -- but
would also be entirely too obvious about entirely the wrong
sort of thing. He settles for a long-suffering sigh --

"Whoops," Dick says, and lets him go. "See what I mean
about the distraction?" And catches Tim again -- this time
with just an arm around Tim's shoulders. And a yank.

Tim stops himself from smacking face-first into Dick's chest
with a hand -- and, perhaps, just the *suggestion* of a
strike --

"Hey, no *tickling*," Dick says, shifting for a better grip --

It's probably a little too *good* of Tim Drake to drop into a
crouch to avoid the clutches of Officer Grayson, but --
whatever works. He stands once he's on the other side of
the island again, contrives to take a deep breath, and --
"You were saying, Dad?"

"You know, I honestly don't have the foggiest *idea*
anymore, Tim, boys..." His father shakes his head. "Why
don't you two get going before you demolish my house,

"We can *do* that," Dick says, grinning and reaching to
shake his father's hand again. "Thanks for lunch."

"Thanks for stopping by," he says, and smiles past Dick's
shoulder at Tim. "Don't have *too* much fun, now."

"I promise to do my best to restrain your son, Jack," Dick
says, easing back into range and fake-launching a tickle-

The fact that Tim manages to resist the urge to back-flip up
onto the counter and pelt Dick with cooking implements is
something he deserves recognition for from someone,

They make it to Dick's bike without further incident -- beyond
Dick managing to stretch behind himself, turn his arm, and
tickle the base of Tim's spine, anyway -- and hit the road.

At which point Tim decides that it would be a good idea to
ask where they're going.

Dick laughs through the radio. "I think Dick Grayson and Tim
Drake are going to a batting cage and maybe to get some
cheesesteaks, ogle pretty girls -- is it *just* your Dad who
believes I'll get you to do that?"

"Yes, though I've thoroughly confused the issue with regards
to Steph for Dana, so it's still a safe *enough* cover story."

"Are you going to tell *me* what the deal is with you and

"I... I'd rather not talk about it too much. Things are still...
we haven't spoken, yet, about whether the incredible night
we just had was as uncomplicatedly incredible for her."

"Incredible... Jesus, little brother."

"My mind's still a little blown, too, actually. All I really had to
do was start thinking about... all of her, as opposed to..."


"It's difficult to put into words." Other than 'Robin,' but Tim
isn't sure how well that will fly, right now -- what *had* Dick
talked about with Bruce, beyond Tim's family issues? -- and
he's not inclined to test it. "Paraphrasing the beautiful,
wonderful, strong, sexy young woman in question..."

Dick laughs and jinks the bike a little. "I'm listening."

"She seemed to feel that I had to get past some of my own
issues first."

"Which only took you a few years to do."

"Steph's patience is kind of legendary, now that I think
about it."

Dick presses back against him. "I bet she thought she had
something worth waiting for."

"It's acceptable to make me blush while I'm wearing a
helmet, Dick, but it's still not *preferred*."

"Oh, really."

That sounds --

"You know, I spoke to Clark the other night..."

-- dangerous. "Did you."

Dick snickers. "That's good, little brother -- and now that we
know for *sure* your balls have dropped, it shouldn't be too
much longer before you have the depth to pull that *off*."

"Respect is the foundation of healthy relationships, Dick --"

"Uh, huh --"

"Of course, you'd have no way to *know* that..."

"See, and the funny thing is that you think I'll just *forget*
this the next time I have you someplace with *mats* -- and
hey, look what road we just happen to be on?"

Tim blinks -- "We're going to the Cave?"

"Maybe I just wanted to see you in your natural habitat,"
Dick says, and there's still a smile under his voice, but it's
not quite a grin, anymore.

"I have to admit that the Cave sounds pretty relaxing after
this morning."

"I think I'd probably go pretty crazy if I had to lie to my
parents all the time..."

It's an invitation, and kind of a rare one. "I know I'm lucky --
I know exactly how lucky I *am*, but sometimes I catch
myself thinking about how *good* it will feel not to live
with them, not to have to check in every day, not to have
to *pretend*, for at least some part of every day... there
are times when I've thought you were the lucky one."

Dick shakes his head and picks up speed. "They might not
outlive you, Tim. When they're gone, you'll hate yourself
for every one of those thoughts. Take it from the orphan."

"I know that, too."

"I -- from anyone else, I'd call bullshit. But you really do get
it, in your own little way, don't you?"

"Bruce thinks I could grow another two to three inches, you
know --"

"Still being serious, okay?"

"Okay," Tim says, and squeezes a bit of extra
acknowledgment. "I'm doing my best to make choices now
that I believe I'll be able to live with in the future, Dick. And
that includes everything from deliberately putting a wall
between myself and my stepmother that I know she can
*see* to, well. Talking with you. Being with you, in this

"What way is that? Just... brothers?"

"I think we're pretty good at it."

"Heh. And it's even an act we can take on the road -- but
tell me something, kiddo."

"If I can."

"Oh, you absolutely can. If you try to get out of it..."

"There are always the mats. I hear you." And Dick pulls up
the manor's drive and parks. Tim backs off the bike, ditches
his helmet, and watches Dick pull off his own. By Tim's
estimate, they have no more than two minutes before Alfred
opens the door --

"How would you have 'handled' me if I wasn't dating Babs?"

Which, of course, means that Dick has a full one hundred
and twenty seconds to stare an answer out of him.

"You have to know... heh." Dick's smile isn't cold, but isn't
exactly comforting, either.

"Dick --"

"I *know* you know how *I* would've reacted if I'd known
what Babs *told* me you told Dana."

"I -- she -- how *much* did she tell you?"

Dick looks him up and down, deliberately. "Played me the
whole recording. I think she felt it would improve my
performance, today."

She would.

"The thing is, little brother -- I know you better than your
stepmother does," Dick says, tossing his helmet from hand
to hand. "I *know* you were being honest. About that,
anyway. About me."

Tensing up now would be a mistake on a number of levels.
Staying loose is -- difficult. "Dick --"

"What I'm wondering is how much you're still holding back.
How much you *could* be pushing --"

"If I didn't love and respect both you and the woman
*you've* been in love with for well over half the time I've
been alive?" To Dick's credit, *that* gets a blush out of him,
but --

"Tell me? Please."

"I think I'm..." Afraid to love you any more than I already do.
Deeply disinclined toward the kind of complications you
bring -- "Dick, I wouldn't want it in any way other than the
physical. I don't get to have very many things which are...
simple." And *that* --

Gets him a smile.

"Was that the right answer?"

"That sounded a lot like the second -- not the first --
thousand or so times Babs rejected me, kiddo. The ground's
solid beneath my feet again," he says, tapping his foot on
the asphalt.

It's okay, so long as Tim doesn't *need* Dick as much as
Dick's rather impressive instincts are suggesting. Tim... likes
things the way they are. "Noted," Tim says and catches the
door opening out of the corner of his eye. "Coming?"

"Actually, no," Dick says, waving to Alfred and getting a nod
in return. "My shift starts in forty-five minutes -- I really did
switch off with a friend."

"Then thanks for the ride -- and the snow job, earlier."

Dick -- blows him a kiss.

Tim snorts and waves, and watches Dick drive off -- and pull
his helmet on *after* the bike's already in motion, of course.
He turns and -- possibly Dick is contagious -- gives Alfred a
little bow.

"The degree to which all of you are ignorant of even the
most basic formalities could make a man weep, Master
Timothy," he says, and manages, somehow, to make it
*obvious* that the door is open and waiting for him without
moving a muscle.

"You could blame my upbringing."

Alfred -- even to call it a sniff would be gross exaggeration.

Tim jogs inside and forces himself not to slow down. The
foyer is incredibly dim after the sunlight, but he'd still be
able to see if there were any appreciable changes --
confidence is sometimes even more important than caution.
Still, he doesn't intend to outrun Alfred. "My visit wasn't
precisely scheduled..."

"You'll be able to find Master Bruce downstairs, young sir, if
such is indeed your intent."

Is it...? Right this moment? Tim stops. "Actually, I..."

There is no eyebrow raise which could ever match Alfred's.

Tim smiles in acknowledgment of a known master. "We
haven't talked about the... fallout from my birthday."

For what feels like a small eternity, Alfred is as still as
stone -- no, more. Stone can be moved. One of the first
things he had learned about Alfred -- and thus about this
*life* -- is that Alfred never says aloud more than a fraction
of what he's thinking.

He expects more than that from the people in his life, and
he will not accept less. But Tim thinks he might need this.
"Alfred --"

"It would not be... untoward for me to say that I am grateful
for the latitude you've allowed Master Bruce."

There is, still, a part of him growling -- screaming -- on a
rooftop, stripping down and needing to *run*, but that
part... "It's not just latitude for *him* --"

"I would, of course, understand a lack of trust, young sir --"

"No, that's -- not what I meant. I'm giving myself... 'latitude,'
as well."

"Are you?"

And that's -- a lot more skeptical than Tim would've
expected. Tim waits.

After a moment, Alfred folds his hands in front of himself.
"There may come a time, young sir, when what you now
consider freedom seems rather more reminiscent of a cage."

Well. "I've come to understand that that sort of situation can
be much improved by the company one keeps, Alfred."

"As you say."

Tim wants -- more than that. But it might be too much to ask
from someone who has given his entire life to another man's
towering obsession. Tim takes it for what it is -- he doesn't
think he has a *right*, somehow, to the sadness in Alfred's
eyes -- and turns to head for the study.

His vision has adjusted to the dimness.

He finds Bruce in the casual remnants of Bruce Wayne's
business clothing -- no jacket, no tie, no shoes or socks. He
has one ankle resting on the knee of the other leg, and he's
working with his sketchpad.

There's a somewhat loopy urge to get his own sketchpad to
take in the image, but Tim will never be an artist. And the
other urge is -- easier, on a number of levels.

Tim cups Bruce's shoulders and leans over to examine the
work -- and to put a satisfying degree of *pressure* on
those shoulders. It's him, in what appears to be something
similar to one of the newer, *darker* Robin suits Tim had
suggested. An attractive placeholder so that Tim won't feel
too... wrong in the time before he puts on another suit
entirely. The Robin on the page is perched on one of the
gargoyles -- hm. "The Aparo building?"

"In somewhat better repair," Bruce says, taking a moment to
sketch in suggestions of the sort of perfectly-maintained
balustrade which is hell on the grapple-guns.

"How did I get up there?"

"Perhaps a friend dropped you off," Bruce says, and begins
to detail Tim's uniform. False buckles on the chest, material
that follows the lines of his shoulders rather than augmenting
in any way. Rather distinctly less padding all around -- which
means less armor.

"Have I been reminding you of Nightwing?"

"Once, fourteen months ago, at approximately nine-thirty-
seven p.m. When I introduced you to Doctor Funtinas."

He didn't laugh then and he's not going to laugh *now*,
but -- yes, it's a near thing. "Adolescent hormones. They'll
pass," Tim says, and doesn't quite touch the sleek lines of
the uniform being born under Bruce's pencil. Very sleek.
"Assuming I live that long."

"Always a dangerous assumption to make," and Bruce frowns
for a moment before returning to the gauntlets and adding
spikes -- straight, not curved.

"How much give?"

"Somewhat more than a blade."

Another weapon. His forearm blocks are going to be
dangerous. More dangerous. "About the hairstyle...?"
Brushed forward. Short, but not as short as Tim had

"Whimsy," Bruce says, and turns to the rather jagged --
feathery -- cape. And the press of Tim's lips to Bruce's
forehead doesn't bring so much as a pause.

Not until after he's detailed the feet enough to make it clear
that there's still no steel whatsoever in the toe. The tabi
remain, which somehow manages to be both disappointing
and reassuring. Tim rubs his cheek against Bruce's temple.

"If someone had told me you were capable of the sort of
performance you gave Barbara with her Fun program..."

"You've seen me use nearly all of the moves in question.
And -- my usual opponent doesn't require the use of more
than one or two at the most."

"Assassin's moves."

Tim pulls back and stands straight.

Bruce turns the chair in order to face him, placing the
sketchpad on the console.

"Dick taught me a great deal about body-memory, and
allowing the rhythms to carry you as much as the

"He wasn't the only one."

"No, he wasn't," Tim says, and pauses. "Do you have a
problem with how I chose to handle the program?"

"Only with the last move. At best, you would've had to hope
he moved just enough that you would break your own
fingers, as opposed to -- simply -- murdering him."

"Not something I would do on the street."

"Body-memory," Bruce says, and folds his hands in his lap,
"cannot always be made to... care about intent."

(Shiva, bleeding and still at his feet.) Tim nods to concede
the point. "Next time, I'll let the program punish me until I
can come up with a better solution."

"I never doubted it. Tell me about Stephanie."

"Passionate. Dangerously violent. Unshakably moral. Poorly
educated. Determined. Impatient. Ruthless with herself.
Intolerant in a number of ways. Untrainable -- with one
exception," Tim says, opening his stance a little and crossing
his arms over his chest.

"And you think you can give her all the training she needs?"

"No. I think I can give her all the training she needs in order
to become... attractive."

"She won't thank you for it, Tim. She's not... the type," Bruce
says. And that's --

"I honestly thought I'd have to work much harder for that
concession, Bruce," Tim says, and tilts his head to the side.
"Or do I mean confession?"

"You've never -- explicitly -- accused me of treating her

"I've never accused you of treating anyone fairly. However,
it's true that I think that, in this instance, your emotions
impeded both your judgment and the overall Mission."

"Your own emotions being, of course, unimpeachable."

I don't have your weaknesses, Bruce. "I know I'll love her
even when she hates me so much she won't be able to look
at me. And it won't make me hurt her any less."

"You'll lose her."

Never. *Steph* will always know who he is, under any mask.
"Maybe. But the Bat won't." The line will never be sharp
enough to cut *him* in two --

"That can be exceedingly poor comfort, Tim. I would think
your last weekend with the Titans would've made that clear."

"Half-measures won't do any of us any good --"

"Put it on."

Tim raises an eyebrow.

Bruce's smile flares large behind his face, undeniable.

He moves, crossing to the mats and beyond, around trophies
whose stories are all known to him -- if most at a distance --
beyond equipment on which he's sweat and bled, and
sometimes cried --

The surprising thing is that it doesn't feel especially different
to put the suit on. The movements are essentially the same,
the feel no different than the first few times he'd put the
Robin suit on and wondered if he'd ever learn to *move* in
that much armor.

Of course, that just means there's even more of it in this
suit, but he can't unlearn experience -- he already knows
he'll be able to move in this, if not as intoxicatingly *freely*
as he'll be able to in the Robin suit Bruce is designing to his
specifications --

He's going to have to spend a large amount of time with the
boots. It's only an extra inch and a half in height, but the
physical *surprise* in Tim's instep is letting him know that
that can be quite a lot, indeed.

The gauntlets feel tight and immobile until he flexes, and
then they feel like a better, stronger fist.

The cowl --

The cowl feels like it's going to choke him, drown him, hold
him down -- the cowl feels like a rather heavy and ridiculous
hat. His peripheral vision isn't quite as good as it is in a
domino, but the way the armor creaks when he turns his
head back and forth...

The suit is a statement in nightmare colors and the
comfortingly unnatural scent of armor. Tim feels like a small,
efficient tank as he stretches and moves. As he stalks back
into the Cave proper, he waits to feel only like himself --

"Batman," Bruce says, and the smile curls with the lazy
satisfaction of a predator at the corners of his mouth.

"Bruce," Tim says, raising his (heavier) arm and crooking his

Bruce comes to him, walking around him slowly and not --
quite -- touching.

Tim feels watched. He feels examined and studied and
known, understood beyond his own capacity for
understanding. He is larger than himself, once more.

But --

Tim knows, without a doubt, that he will grow.


The Self Affirms Herself
Neither stars nor gods can guide me
A law unto myself
And a self apart
I move in the shadow of the great guillotine
That rhythmically does its work
On heads remaining unbowed.

    -Rita Mae Brown

.As far as she desires.