New shape to win
by Te
April 9, 2007

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Vague references to older storylines.

Summary: He's never felt so safe.

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content which dovetails
neatly with the content some readers may find

Author's Note: Next in the Human Things That Fly
series. It probably should be read of a piece with the

Acknowledgments: To Betty and Katarik for audiencing,
encouragement, and saving me from my own
blunders. Jack and Petra also helped.


The suit Tim's wearing is new, of course. Not just new --
tailored. Mr. Pennyworth -- Alfred, though the insistence
was very quiet and rather... well, *British* -- had taken
Tim's measurements, and within two days he'd had an
entire wardrobe. Everything he could possibly need, and --

("Money, son. You just don't -- there's no reason why you
should understand what it means in this world to have not
just money, but *enough* of it, and that's why -- I know
you don't understand, son, but one day I'm going to fix that.
I promise.")

The suit fits better than he does, here -- no.

It's -- just -- a cemetery. It's Peaceful Rest -- the same one
his mother was buried in. Alfred had asked him, quietly, if
Tim would prefer to have his mother's remains moved
elsewhere, but his father had chosen this one for his mother
because of the dogwoods. There are more here than in any
of the other cemeteries in Gotham -- or Bristol -- and Tim
even has a memory (one) of his mother throwing shed
dogwood petals at his father, even though he can't
remember if they were in Grant or Robinson Park at the

Bruce's parents are buried in a much wealthier cemetery,
along with Robin Gold's -- Dick's. Jason's parents were
cremated in Florida, where they were murdered. In terms
of social class, he's reasonably sure neither Dick nor Jason...

Money, Tim thinks, almost certainly mattered less to their
parents, even though they were just as dead as Tim's own.
It would have to be that, at least in part, he thinks --
neither of them seem to feel at all out of place in their suits,
though Tim knows, now, that neither of them wear anything
of the kind on a day to day basis.

Private school uniforms are -- uniforms. Though --

Maybe -- no.

Perhaps it's a matter of materials, and sense-memory. The
materials of the uniforms they wore would be the best,
though he hasn't seen them for himself, yet --

Why doesn't Jason go to -- attend college? Is it a matter of
time constraints, or --

Jason doesn't seem very -- especially academically inclined,
but Tim had always assumed that people who could go to
college would. He's been working toward a scholarship since
he began going to school, and his father had always brought
him books he believed Tim should be reading to that end --

("What they call public education in this city -- honestly,
Timmy, you'd think we'd be past that 'separate but equal'
nonsense in this day and age. Here's the first set. Let me
know when you're done, and we'll -- we'll talk about them,
I guess, oh -- your mother was so much better at this.")

His mother had often brought him books, too, and music. He
remembers her excitement when the library put in a
listening room for people who wanted to sample things
before borrowing them, and for people who couldn't afford
their own entertainment centers. He'd much preferred the
books, though his mother --

There was something about the way she looked when she
was listening to something she really enjoyed. That part, he

Wayne Manor has two full libraries.

His mother would've -- Tim swallows and -- tries. According
to his father, his mother had been raised Presbyterian. To
the best of his knowledge, his father's religion had more to
do with Tim's mother than with anything else. That's
probably --

There's almost certainly something wrong --

Tim doesn't know what to do with this. This... intoning,
these words...

His mother hadn't wanted him to read the bible as much as
she'd wanted him to approach the text critically. His father --
perhaps his father had prayed before he was murdered.

Perhaps he'd been given that time. He would like, very
much, to go back home, and put on the sweaters he saves
for when it's really cold -- maybe the coat, too -- and all
three pairs of socks his grandmother had knitted for him
that he hadn't outgrown. And then --

Then he would sit... not on his father's bed. He would sit in
the closet, in the space behind the shoes. He keeps some of
his books there. The ones that were too worn out for the
libraries to keep. Each of the ones which still had covers cost
a dollar, and -- no. Those books are in the Manor -- manor.

He lives in the manor now. Someone else will have that
closet, if not those books. All of his possessions -- and his
father's, and those of his mother's his father had kept -- are
currently in a room of the manor which he hasn't yet seen.
Except for the books which were in the closet with his small
collection of rocks...

He hasn't collected rocks since the first time he'd read a
geology book, and learned how common some of the nicest
ones he'd had were, but -- they were still --

He's not sure if he's allowed to store a bunch of --

He's not sure if he's allowed to store a handful of rocks and
disintegrating books in either of the closets (his father had
called it Fort Timodrake, and sometimes his mother had
made little flags with her scarves) which belong only to him,
now -- or. No. They've all been very --

That's Bruce's hand on his shoulder. Bruce's insistence on
the use of his first name hadn't been very anything except,
he's beginning to suspect, *Bruce*, and neither of the
Robins have touched him like this. They both measure him
with every look, and every touch.

It's fair. Eventually, he would have picked up on the fact
that the Robins work together at least as often as they work
with Batman. They have to...

Really, Tim isn't sure whether or not they'll be able to make
him into someone -- he's fast, and he's pretty flexible and
strong for his size -- you have to be if you're going to try
following Batman and the Robins around for pict --
photographs, even if the only time you can look at them is
when there's no one else around in the library, and you can
borrow time on a computer with internet access --

He's taken the website down, of course, even though no one
had ever searched on the random number strings and found
his collection, and of course the name he'd used to reserve
the free space was fake. Bruce has all the pictures saved,
even the ones he'd just kept for the sake of being completist.
Bruce --

Bruce is squeezing his shoulder -- oh. Bruce is squeezing his
shoulder *again*, gently, and. He.

The reverend wants to know if he wants to say something.
That's... the reverend hadn't even asked his father when it
was his mother's... his mother's turn, but that had probably
been because his father had been crying so much.

He can't seem to cry unless he's alone. That's -- that's being
measured, *too* --

Tim takes a breath, and tries not to hear the horribly *solid*
sound of the rose hitting the casket, and says, "Thank you.
For -- for trying. I'm sorry I couldn't. Dad."

Robin Green -- Jason is holding his other shoulder, now, and
he has to do better. He has to do better.

"Good-bye, Dad," Tim says. "I'm going to try to --

Bruce squeezes his shoulder again, and Jason pats the other,
and Tim knows he's -- finished. That it's done.

The Robins toss their roses in, and they land close enough to
at the same time that there's only one of the horrible noises.
Bruce lets him go and crouches beside the grave before
*placing* his rose in, and Tim isn't sure what that means,
but he's grateful.

Though it's the Robins who lead him back to the car.


He doesn't sleep very well.

It's not the nightmares -- they don't help, but it's not the
nightmares. It's very --

The noise, here, is the sound of wood, stone, and age.
Chances are, the building he'd lived in with his father had
many of the same sorts of sounds, and it's just a matter of
missing the *other* noise, but...

It's a noisy sort of quiet, and the fact that he can't come up
with any better way to describe it is more than a little
stressful. Perhaps his father would've called it 'the sound of

The bedroom here which is his own hasn't been used -- he'd
asked Alfred -- by anyone but guests since the manor was
built, and there haven't really been any long-term visitors
since Bruce became the Batman. This makes sense, of
course, but it's still very strange.

Very --

He didn't sleep very well at home, either. Not once his father
started working for criminals. It's why he'd *started* going
out at night. Just -- tiring himself out, trying to make himself
feel like he *fit* more in the city. Using up energy and the
parts of his mind he didn't really know what to do with.

There are other things he could do now, but he'd already
spent a few hours today 'conditioning.' He doesn't really
want to run laps around the Cave or lifting weights --

And, technically, he's not even supposed to do much of
*that* yet. It almost feels like getting away with something
to just -- get out and move.

Sometimes it feels as though the manor is designed to
swallow all but its own sounds into itself, and it's probably
the major -- primary reason why it's already so easy to
move within it.

Of course he's free to go wherever he wants, *whenever*
he wants --

("I would like for you to come to think of this as your home,
Tim, though I understand that will take some time.")

It feels more like a museum to the dead and wealthier than
even his father had ever imagined than anything like a home.
One of the things Alfred wants him to do is to actually go
through some of the private galleries to pick things with
which to decorate his room, and --

It's not that he'd rather put up posters or anything like that,
it's just that he'd never even heard of most of the artists.
He'd never imagined he'd ever have to make himself smarter
solely to *decorate*, but -- there it is.

Perhaps he should ask to see how the Robins had decorated
their rooms. Which is...

Bruce also, he knows, wants him to be friends with them,
and they certainly don't seem -- Tim knows that when they'd
found him, he was just a potential annoyance, or maybe
even a danger. There've been pictures taken of them, and
even the occasional poorly-shot video on the news, but it's
understandable for them to want as little of that sort of thing
as possible.

While he never would've guessed that Bruce Wayne and his
adopted sons (will he want to adopt Tim, too? Is he
supposed to ask?) were Batman and the Robins, it's not like
they're recluses.

He'd seen *them* on the news all sorts of times, since
people found their lives more interesting than the kinds of
terrible things which happened every day in Gotham.

Bruce, especially...

He's going to have to watch closely to be able to understand
how he manages to seem like someone completely different
from who he's supposed to be. Everyone in Gotham "knows"
that Bruce is a playboy and not very bright. *Tim* certainly
hadn't noticed that he was also six foot three and extremely
powerful, extremely...

'Bruce Wayne' doesn't move like Batman, and that's that.

In any case, Tim starts feeling better once he reaches the
attic. There are parts of it which are even a little dusty, even
if they're still just as neat as Alfred would have them.

He hasn't quite managed to find a way to ask if there was
maybe someplace up *here* which he could make --
slightly -- less neat. He wouldn't move anything, but he
misses having a place-within-a-place, if not really a fort.
Just -- a place. Quiet because he was the only one there,
and not because he lives in a huge, empty place...

Is this what his father had wanted for them?

He doesn't know, and he's not really letting himself know
anything else. Just -- the outside of the manor is
*brickwork*, and there are so many *trees*...

Trees aren't the same as fire escapes, of course, but in some
ways they're even better. The nearest branch is a little under
four feet away from this window, but if the image in his mind
of the territory in question is right (he knows it is), then he'll
be able to move from that tree to another, and from *that*
tree to the roof.

Rooftops are their own worlds, their own roads and varieties
of... perhaps it's 'freedom' he's thinking of.

He doesn't know, and that's all right -- all he *has* to know,
right now, is that if he doesn't crouch enough on the sill, he
won't get enough spring to even *reach* that branch. He
will, in fact, make something of a mess on the ground

(Which means this is probably something he isn't allowed to
do. But --)

It would be a problem if this window was either smaller or
less sturdy, but it's neither of those things, and the
branch --

It's right there, and scratchier than he would've expected.
He should've expected it. It's *bark*, which he's read about
in all sorts of places -- and, of course there were the trees
in the parks -- even if the trees in his neighborhood
all tended to be smooth and small. Maybe next time he'll
wear a pair of the gloves Alfred (and Bruce?) had made for
him. (What will this be like with gauntlets?)

Now, it's not as comfortable as it could be to build up
enough momentum to swing up and onto the branch, but --

He knew to compensate for the springiness, if not quite
compensate enough. He has to steady himself with his hand
before he continues. Climbing, at least, is nothing
particularly new, and this tree is old enough that the
branches which will support his weight go up much higher
than he needs to.

He practices leaping -- as opposed to just moving -- from
branch to branch on the tree until he can get the hang of
staying crouched for distance, and then he moves to the
next tree. Easy.

From there, he doesn't really *have* to leap down to the
roof, as opposed to letting the branch bend enough under
his full weight to only make his drop a couple of feet.

And here --

It's not a rooftop like any of the others of his acquaintance,
and he can't get from this roof to any other, but it's *big*.
Bigger than it had felt like it would be, even though his
spatial reasoning is usually very good. Hm. He should

Not thoroughly, he (wants to save that) can do that later.
Just... get a feel. The sloping areas, the feel of the shingles
beneath the soles of these (new) sneakers. He knows,
already, that Alfred had collected all of his old clothes, too,
just as if he'd be attached to them. They're just clothes,
and he's not...

His mother, he (thinks he) remembers, had liked pretty
clothes. She'd liked to look... stylish, maybe? If he does
everything right that he needs to, he'll have the right to
wear clothes which actually mean something. Which --

It stops him, a little. He has to --

Bruce wants him to be a Robin.

*Batman* wants him to be a Robin. He --

The laughter makes him jump and bite his lip hard enough
to make a noise. It's -- Jason?


He looks around the side of the chimney and -- oh. That's.
It's Jason, yes, and he's laughing, but he's laughing into
Dick's mouth. Dick is hanging upside down from another
tree by his knees and *tickling* Jason, and they're --

Well, they're kissing. And -- probably he should've realized...
that, and definitely he should pick somewhere other than
the roof to be --

"Still stalking, Timmy?"

"*What* --"

He really wants to know how Dick had managed that flip.
He'd used his *hands*, but it was too fast to be sure how,
exactly, and at least Jason could've looked up from kissing
before talking.

"Seriously, kid --"

"I wasn't. I just wanted to be on the roof. I thought -- I
assumed you were both on patrol. With... with Bruce."

They look at each other, and -- they actually don't do that
as much as Tim would think they'd have to in order to
always be so synchronized. That -- it doesn't matter.

"I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to -- I won't..."

Jason's snort is rough, but it could definitely be more mean --
Tim knows that from experience. "You won't what? Tell?
We're not exactly that kind of secret."

"Really not," Dick says, and dusts off his palms. "But how'd
you get up here? We would've noticed you coming up out of
the attic trap."

"Attic... there's a door?"

Jason grins and crosses the roof to grab Tim's arms. "Check
his hands -- he totally used the trees like I used to," he says
to Dick, and then turns back to him. "You're allowed to use
gloves. We'll make Bruce get you some good ones."

Dick shakes his head and flips up onto his hands. "Or he
could use the door -- so long as he checks to make sure the
roof isn't ocupado first."

"*Or* we could let him just keep doing it his way. Toughen
up his hands for later," Jason says, and winks at him.

Tim tugs and Jason lets go of his wrists. "I'm sorry. I really
didn't mean... I think I'd probably be -- very red if it was

Jay taps his chin -- no, wipes his finger under Tim's lip and
holds it up. Blood. "The bitten lip's suspicious. I mean, baby
bro there *is* pretty hot..."

"Jay, if you make me break off one of these perfectly good
climbing branches to beat you, I bet you'll piss me *and*
Tim off," Dick says, and flips back up onto his feet.

Right on Tim's other side. "Um -- I think I must've bitten it
hard when I was trying to avoid making a noise when you --
the first thing I heard was you laughing, Jason."

Dick sucks his teeth. "No good, trainee. You should've heard
me flipping up onto the branch."

How -- oh. He'd thought it was the wind moving the
branches, but there's no appreciable wind tonight. He
nods --

"You know, bro, if I *ever* hear you calling him a 'pleb' I'm
going to have to make you drop out of that stupid school."

"Eugh -- I didn't call him a *pleb*, Jay --"

"That was *way* too close," Jason says, and reaches out --

It must be more tickling, because Dick laughs and jogs back,
light and graceful. Sometimes, he knows, Dick just *plays*
on the equipment. He wants to be able to do that, too. But --
"'Pleb...' Short for 'plebeian...?'"

They look at him, simultaneously --

"Heh, you really don't need daylight for a blush like that,
kid," Jason says.

"Um --"

"I'm reasonably sure that most of the idiots who use the
term at Exeter wouldn't have a clue if you asked," Dick says,
and pushes a hand back through his hair. "Think 'bitchy way
to say freshman.'"

"Or pretentious. That works, too," Jason says, and reaches,
without looking, for Dick.

Dick's smile is... it's not a Robin smile, and neither is Jason's
when Dick takes Jason's hand and lets himself be pulled
close again. Dick has Jason's arm around his shoulders, and
Jason's other hand on his upper abdomen, and -- oh. "I'll
just -- where's the door you were talking about?"

"Nuh-uh," Jay says, and flicks Tim's ear -- lightly -- with his
fingers. "Why did you want to be up here? Couldn't sleep?"

It's a distraction, obviously. For all that he's almost hanging
off Jay, Dick's look is very watchful -- measuring, again.

"I -- I like rooftops."

"Join the club -- oh, wait, you already did," Dick says, and
the humor doesn't quite reach his eyes.

"I'm okay --"

"You're not," Jason says.

"And *that's* okay," Dick says, and lets himself hang a little
more so he can lean in and ruffle Tim's hair.

"Don't try lying to the orphan club, though," Jason says, and
hauls Dick back up with a shrug.

"Yeah it -- really won't work. Do you think you could talk to

Possibly -- one of them. At a time. "I just... I think I'm going
to go down to the Cave for a while. And --"

"Try to wear yourself down to exhaustion?" Dick's smile is
rueful. "Neither of us can say we haven't done that from
time to time --"

"But you're really not allowed to make it a regular thing,"
Jason says, and plucks Dick's hand out of Tim's hair. It's on
Jason's abdomen in a moment, and maybe he should just
go back the way he came -- he'll have to close the window
again anyway -- Tim decides to look at some of the nearby
trees. The one Dick had been hanging from would almost
make it too *easy* to get up here -- hm.

He can't really tell about the trees on the other side of the
house, but all of the trees *he* can see don't seem to have
been pruned much at all, at least not recently. The
scarring -- is it 'scarring' if it's on a tree? -- is grown over.

"You," Dick says, "look exactly like a not-a-Robin-yet
planning an escape."

"Oh -- I. I like to be sure of my surroundings. As much as
possible. And I was wondering about -- most of the homes
in this... neighborhood have trees which are lot neater and
less... convenient?"

"Bruce -- heh. He probably knew I'd mutiny if I couldn't get
*out* and climb back in the days when it was just Bruce,
me, and Alfred," Jason says, "and really, go ahead and use
the door. If we let you get yourself killed or hurt before you
get the go-ahead to use the acrobatics, we'd pretty much
fail at hero-ing."

"Which, unlike his grades at *school*," Dick says, and --
untangles himself, takes Tim's wrist, and tugs, "is something
Jay has always actually cared about. Come on."

Tim follows, and Dick is moving almost *insultingly* slowly --
but Jason is also trailing his hand along Dick's arm. He
doesn't move it even when they've gone far enough that
Jason's hand is on *Tim's* arm, but the touch turns into a
tapping --

When he looks over his shoulder, Jason's smiling and

Tim's not sure which joke they're supposed to be sharing.

"See, kid, we already *know* you're hiding a little firecracker
under there. We can be patient about gettin' to see him
again," Jay says, and Dick laughs.

That joke. All right. He'd just...

Tim knows there's a part of him, inside, which is wearing all
of the sweaters he doesn't need anymore, and all of the
socks, too. They know, too.

The door turns out to be set *into* the roof, and the wood
of it is finished to -- almost -- match the shingles. It's
tempting to check the seals on it to make sure it won't leak --
but this is the manor. Someone would have already thought
of that.

It opens easily, and -- no stairs, no ladder. Yes, this was
built *for* Jason, even though he preferred the trees. He
wants -- Dick doesn't seem inclined to let go of him. Tim
looks, and Dick's smile is kind of bizarrely reminiscent of the
way his mother would look at him sometimes. He --

"My father would've liked you, I think -- I."

Jason takes a breath, and --

"Oh, hey," Dick says --

He can't. "I -- please. Let me go. For... please?"

He does, immediately, and Tim knows he should be more
careful about the crouch that lets him catch hold of the
edges of the door's 'jamb,' but he's down, and he has it,
and it feels wonderful to move again, to *do* again, to
swing himself down past his own arms --

But not past his own flexibility. He lets go before he can
dislocate his shoulders, tucks fast and lets himself spin --

"Three-point landing. Nice," Dick says, from above him. "I'm
gonna make you do that until you can get it down to *one*,

"I -- all right. Good night," Tim says, and once the door
starts to close, he moves.


Of course, once in the Cave --

He doesn't doubt either Batman's or the Robins' ability to
make him pay for overextending himself, and he doesn't
intend to prove his theory (unless he has to). But there's
nothing to say he can't work on his balance and flexibility
at least a little.

(Enough. He just wants to be a little more tired.)

The beam.

The beam -- it's mathematics, physics, and he knows -- he
thinks he knows -- that if he gave himself a moment, he
could figure out exactly where he'd need to start in order to
make a jump -- vault -- onto the beam. A good one, if not

He's never done anything -- quite -- like that. His body -- it
almost feels like something he could *remember* how to
do if he just started. A brief run -- no. He knows it's out of
bounds. Still, it feels like tearing something at least
moderately important inside him when he takes the last step
beyond the point where he couldn't make a safe vault, or at
least denying himself something --

"I thought you would do it," Bruce says, and Tim thinks he
needs to find a better bad habit than biting his lip.

"I -- my better nature... prevailed?"

It's a hum more than any other sort of sound, but it feels
like a laugh. Moreso when he turns enough to see Bruce at
the foot of the stairs.

"Should I not be here now? I mean -- I know I'm supposed
to be sleeping --"

"You may have noticed, Tim, that no one in this house keeps
precisely regular hours."

True. Definitely -- the beam feels good under his hand. He
doesn't have to stroke it. "I expected... do you generally
start and end your patrols earlier this time of year?"

"Generally," Bruce says, and he's closer --

When Tim looks up, he's less than ten yards away. He
would've guessed closer than that, but sound does carry
strangely down here. He has to get used to that.

"Tim... did you want to be alone?"

Did he know about the roof? Does he know about -- of
course he does. Perhaps he thinks of the roof as their place.
One of their places...? "I was wondering if -- no, I mean. I
just -- I wanted to work off... restless energy."

"Get on the beam -- the less exciting way, please."

It's difficult not to jump, even though the beam isn't much
more than a foot shorter than he is. He's neither a basketball
player nor a metahuman, and he's also blushing again.

Once on, it seems simultaneously to be painfully narrow and
as broad as a street. Hm. He rocks on his heels. He pivots
on the pads of his feet. He closes his eyes --

"No. Open," Bruce says. "Find your focus a *different* way."

Tim nods and goes back to the rocking, the pivots. The
shoes are too new for this. He's used to -- "Assuming...
rather a lot, will I be able to break in my boots before I have
to use them... seriously?"

"Almost certainly not as much as you'd like to. And there will
be times, of course, when you'll need to be able to access
your skills without your... accessories."

Which means that he's as prepared as he can be. Bruce isn't
close enough to catch him if he falls -- he doesn't have to be
any closer than he is. He's Batman. He walks himself onto
his hands and stands that way --

"Correct your stance left -- there."

The change is immediate -- it has abruptly become obvious
that he's right-handed, and had been using that arm to
support too much of his weight. It's embarrassing --

"Walk for me," Bruce says.

"I need --"

"You don't," Bruce says, "for now."

He doesn't need a moment. He curls his fingers against the
beam and breathes as he moves, using the irrational
sensation of lightness which follows his exhale to help him
*believe* he can do this --

No, this is just another flat surface. He's over-thinking it
because he wants to impress Batman, which is idiotic on
more levels than are worth trying to count. He begins to
hand-walk to the other end of the beam, and doesn't pause
at the feel of Bruce's hand on his right calf.

He's leaning again, and the pressure lets him know by how
much. If he was moving faster, he could stop himself from
feeling the discomfort, distract himself --


He bites his lip -- he stops, and he adjusts his stance until he
can't feel Bruce's hand pressuring him upright --

"Keep breathing, Tim," he says, and it's worse, or maybe
better --

It's something he can't quite figure *out* that Bruce's voice
is just -- Bruce's voice. Maybe this isn't training? Or -- no.

All of it is training, really. It's just that it's the same kind of
training, perhaps, as the way Dick had watched him come in
through the roof door. Playful. Playful?

When he reaches the end of the beam, he's not -- he's not

"Walk back," Bruce says, quiet and... maybe it only seems

It's a challenge to bend his elbows like this, to prepare for a
spring, but he has to do it fast enough that maybe Bruce
won't realize what he's doing --

"Tim --"

Too late, he thinks, and feels himself smiling under all of his
metaphorical sweaters, because it's just air, it's just motion,
and he's been doing handsprings like this since the idea of
them first occurred to him. He's aware of Bruce's reaching
hand --

And he's aware of the man's perfect reflexes. He wouldn't be
able to *do* this if Bruce wasn't *Batman*, if he didn't know
to snatch his hand *back* before --

*Contact*, and it's wonderful, because the wood is so
springy, so -- *giving*, and he can't manage another spring,
but he can kind of do a fast walk of a cartwheel. He ends at
the center of the beam, on his toes, and the only reason
he's not smiling is that it feels --

Too hard. Too much. He looks at Bruce and -- stops.

He won't bite his lip again, he *won't*, but Bruce's
expression is so flat, except for what's behind Bruce's eyes.

"I -- I'm sorry --"

"Your better nature has limits," Bruce says, and whatever is
behind Bruce's eyes gets bigger. Louder, or -- Tim doesn't

"I --" Tim shakes his head and bends down to get back on
his hands --

"Dick and Jason will be pleased."

What about you? Tim -- Tim doesn't ask.


He's not supposed to be stalking in the manor, even though
the Robins -- and probably Bruce -- expect it from him.

Still, he really wants to talk to them -- to Dick and Jason --
but they're so... together. It's not that they haven't been
welcoming -- even urging -- it's just that --

It's not their *fault*, but Tim just wants to leave them
*alone*. They have so much -- they remind him, a little, of
the way his parents were. When his mother wasn't too tired,
when being tired didn't make her too angry, or maybe angry
at the way it made his father look so *hopeless* --

He isn't sure of it, exactly -- he probably hasn't read nearly
enough of the right sorts of books for it -- but it's never
seemed wrong to just be absent, in one way or another,
when everything was going *well* for his parents. When
they could smile at each other, and laugh about college --

(Why wouldn't Jason want to go to college, if it was like the
way his parents talked about it? Of course --

Tim understands nostalgia, and that college can't have been
as much fun, as *rewarding* as his parents spoke about. It
certainly couldn't have been that way all the time --)

Anyway, it can't be wrong to not want to interrupt.

Most of the time, when Dick goes to school, Jason also goes.
Either he drops Dick off and spends the day being Jason
Todd, adopted son of Bruce Wayne in Gotham, or he drops
Dick off and then does...

Tim honestly isn't sure, beyond the fact that he knows Jason
enjoys being Jason Todd much more than Bruce seems to
enjoy being Bruce Wayne.

In any event, Jason had said something at breakfast about
wanting to spend more time working in the Cave today,
which means Tim just has to wait near the garages to catch
him -- just for a minute. When he's *between* errands,
and --

"Ah, there you are, Master Timothy."

"You -- Alfred." One day, Alfred is going to teach him how
he moves so quietly in *those* shoes. The floor is *stone*
out here --

And Alfred is smiling as if he knows exactly what Tim is
thinking. It's a *small* smile, but -- "You have a lot of
experience with people creeping around the manor trying to
be invisible... right?"

"That may very well be a reasonable assumption to make,
young sir, but it truly isn't my place to speculate. If I could
have a moment of your time?"

Tim stands up from his crouch behind the Bentley. "Of
course. I -- yes."

"Master Bruce has decided that the time has come for him to
re-enter wider society. The decision, however, was a difficult

The image of Alfred beating Bruce about the head and
shoulders with some large, solid antiquity can't possibly be
literal, but it feels that way, just the same. "Yes?"

"I have found that this sort of... transition is easier if Master
Bruce has suitable companionship, and it occurred to me
that *you* have yet to make your -- if I may -- debut."

He probably doesn't mean that Tim has to wear a dress.
That was a *joke*, and also... well. Tim doesn't look at the
floor. The responses to that variety of shyness have been
less than encouraging. "I'm not... I still don't feel I've really
mastered the... social graces which would presumably be

"Curiously enough, neither Master Jason nor Master Dick
have ever felt that particular lack to be very much of a
handicap. Just the same, I would, of course, be at your
disposal should you wish to practice."

There are pictures -- any number of them -- of Jason being --
vividly -- crass. For the cameras and for the reputation of
Jason Todd. Is that what he's supposed to do? Or should he
be more like Dick, with the perfect -- and perfectly,
noticeably fake -- smiles, the inescapable sense of some
shallow variety of 'tragedy...' Dick, in those pictures, tends
to be just to the side of and behind Bruce, who would have
an actual debutante on his arm...?

"It is merely something for you to consider, Master Timothy.
I will await your thoughts with patience," Alfred says, and
his nod is closer to a bow which is just -- not quite visible.

Tim nods back, feeling only *slightly* like a fraud, but it
doesn't really fade enough for him to know what to do with
himself by the time Jason pulls back in.

His hair is growing out from the fire -- much closer to its
original length -- but he's still spiking it extravagantly. The
effect when the helmet comes off is kind of...

It's actually kind of wild. He's wearing lipstick to go with the
eyeliner today, which means that he'd at least taken the
helmet off for a few minutes after dropping Dick off. Tim
really doesn't have any idea what *he's* supposed to do for
school, although -- hm.

Perhaps the 'Tim Drake' who'll go out with 'Wayne' is the
same one who'll be attending Exeter next fall. For now,
though, he steps out from behind the Bentley --

"Ooh, you're getting better at that," he says, and shrugs off
the jacket. "I was guessing the Rolls."

The jacket is part of it -- *it* -- too. Jason hardly ever wears
it, and yet it's almost *elegantly* worn. It *looks* like the
favorite item of clothing for someone who's a real -- and
loud -- person.

Someone who isn't Robin, but --

"I was hoping to do better than *that*, but Alfred... I'm
feeling a little confused about -- something. Jason."

"*Something*, hunh?" Jason looks at his gloves, flexes his
hands in them, and doesn't take them off before crossing the
distance between them. "Which something?"

"Alfred wants..." He watches the way Jason hops up on the
trunk of the Bentley, and, no, that was Jason, not Jason
Todd. "I think Alfred wants me to go to some... event, with

Jason nods and lifts his hands, palm down. "Into every Bat-
life, a little society bullshit must fall," he says, and mimes
the raindrops with his fingers.

"I'm not really -- I don't know how to *do* that. Alfred's
been helping me with the silverware thing, even though we
don't -- you don't seem to bother with that --"

"Heh. I *caught* that we. You're getting more comfortable
around here -- admit it," Jason says, and kicks Tim lightly
with the inside edge of his boot. "You didn't even try to
avoid that."

It's -- he -- "I might've just learned that it was pointless to
*try*, Jason."

Jason snickers, rocks back -- and the move that ends with
his gloved hand in Tim's hair, that hand *pulling* --

Too fast to track, too *sudden*, and Jason's glove is cool
and gentle on Tim's scalp despite the grip being one -- if he
tries to move, it won't be gentle.

"Jason --"

"So what, exactly," Jason says, and uses his free hand to tap
Tim on the nose, "did you want to know that had to wait
until Dick wasn't around?"

"I --" Everyone in the manor is *better* than he is, at
everything. Absolutely -- everything. "A few things," he says.

Jason nods, every suspicion confirmed, and lets go. "Okay,
I'll answer anything you want to know -- assuming I can --
but you have to make me a deal."

Tim runs his hands back through his hair. "Okay."

"God, you're trusting," Jason says, and, "no, no, I like that --
it *works* on you. Here's what you're going to do for me:
Alfred picked out the basics for you in terms of your clothes,
and you haven't made a peep about it. But -- you can't just
blend anymore. You -- gotta get a gimmick."

"A -- gimmick?"

Jason grins and spreads his hands, making an imaginary
movie screen, or maybe a catwalk or something. "You're
Bruce *Wayne's* ward, and a) everybody's already
wondering where he found you and *why*, and b) the
quieter you are around the stupid assholes you're *going*
to have to deal with sooner or later, the more questions they

It... makes sense. "You want to... help me make up a 'Tim

"Uh, huh," Jason says. "The clothes, the look... the attitude.
Like, right now, you're standing there fantasizing about
having diction and vocabulary like Alfred, and that's fine --
it's kinda cute -- but it's you, and *you* don't get to play
outside with the assholes."

"Well, I -- I don't actually *want* to play with assholes."

"There ya go. But there's someone who kind of *looks* like
you who does. You're gonna help me figure out who that is."

Tim nods, slowly. That's -- it's *part* of what he wanted.
"Like -- that jacket."

"Exactly like the jacket. One of the rousties back in my
*other* life had one just like it -- spent *all* his money on
it, and was constantly begging for more out of one side of
his mouth and pissing on the people who gave with the
other. *He* -- would've loved the assholes who get to take
me skiing next weekend -- until I beg off to spend the
weekend banging twins who don't actually exist."

"Interesting. You're thinking I could come up with a persona
based on someone I knew?"

Jason shrugs. "You're a watcher. I know that if you put your
mind to it you'll remember something. And every time you
need to -- heh -- find your character, you can touch the
jacket -- or whatever it'll be for you."

Tim nods, and -- "Different... from the makeup you wear?"

Jason grins. "If there's not a *little* of you in the character
you make up, you'll go bugfuck *quickly*. But there's time
for that. What did *you* want to know?"

"I was wondering... well, you and Dick like being on the
roof together."

"*I* like being everywhere with Dick, but yeah, he digs the
roof. Aaand... you want your own roof-time, right?"

Tim nods. "It's... I... you know I'm not allowed to do any of
the things I used to do until I'm better trained, and I... I
thought maybe we could... schedule?"

Jason's smile is a little... rueful, and also twisted into
something which feels like being cheerfully helpless.

"Or -- we don't have to, of course --"

"You really don't feel comfortable around me and Dick when
we're together, do you?"

"No! I mean, you're both -- and it's not like I -- I know that
you wouldn't mind if I went up there when you were
there --"

"But you need to be alone, sometimes?"

"Alfred... Alfred keeps finding little things he needs to talk
to me about when I sit in my closet."

Jason's laugh is a brief explosion of air. "I -- you sit in your

"I like -- small spaces. There are enough clothes and shoes
and other things... well, there could be more, I guess -- but.
Yes," Tim says, and he isn't sure what to do with his hands
or -- his self, and he wants --

"Hey -- do a handstand for me," Jason says, and it's not
quite the Green voice, but it's close. And he didn't *say* Tim
couldn't flip backwards to do it and -- the floor is cool and
level and grainy, scratchy and soothing on his fingertips.
"Thank you."

"No problem. It's totally training -- especially since you're
still leaning a little... there ya go."

He's getting more strength in his left side -- he's getting
more strength *everywhere* than he ever thought he
would. He tries a push-up --

He's got it, but his body is being very clear about how he
won't be able to do more than five without starting to
shake. He *hates* the strength training kind of a lot, but
he's grateful for it.

"You're a lot like Dick in some ways, you know," Jason says,
and slips down off the car to walk around Tim. "Except that
you always *think* before you move, which is good and
bad. It's why all of us like to surprise you into doing things."

Tim nods, listening to his hair brush against the floor, and...
wait. "Sometimes -- I mean, Bruce does that when we're
training, yes, but sometimes he lets me think, too."

Jason makes a small, non-committal sound, and --

"Is that *one* hand you have around my ankles?"

"I'm a big boy," Jason says, and the laugh doesn't go all the
way through his voice. It's hard --

It's hard to concentrate on it with Jason making (him) his
stance better, perfect -- pulling him into it --

"You know, I bet Bruce at least thought about hiding in
closets in his day," Jason says, slow and... hm.

"You don't sound as casual as..." Tim's out of air. He hasn't
been breathing right --

"As what?"

He hasn't been breathing right, and Jason's just been letting
him make the mistake.

"C'mon, keep walking," he says, and --

It's a good training technique, Tim thinks, but suddenly the
'gimmick' training is a lot scarier a prospect.

"And keep talking," Jason says, and emphasizes himself with
a yank on Tim's ankles.

His hand doesn't go all the way around Tim's ankles, but it's
still... exactly as intimidating as Jason wants it to be. All
right. "It was Bruce's decision entirely to... take me in.
Wasn't it?"

"Yep," Jason says. "I would've pushed to have him find you
a nice -- *actual* -- family with no ties to anything which
could ever fuck up your life. Turn right," he says.

Tim tries to make his turn as close to ninety degrees as
possible -- and the pressure on his ankles tells him that he'd
*almost* made it.

"You're going to weave through the cars with me, and
you're going to stay perpendicular to the floor. Keep

Breathing, too. "You... you think he was wrong?"

"I think his reasoning wasn't the same as mine would've
been if I was looking at you like a prospect as opposed to
like a kid with shitty luck."

Which... "You... you *would've* been able to see me as a

Jason laughs and *squeezes* Tim's ankles. "Kid, if you
hadn't tried to climb away from us, you could've made that
chase go on for a *while*. Dick and I don't see that too

"I -- had to. My shoes -- I kept slipping. I knew I could keep
my balance better -- anyway." The cars are huge things
from this position, teasing and almost sort of grasping. If he
touches one, he loses.

"If you're ever in a situation like that on the street, unless
you *know* the person after you can't climb, you *keep*
running. You're small, you're fast, and you've got a good
chance of slipping through a space small enough to keep
you from getting beat."

The cars want him to fail -- he's getting too much blood --
oxygen -- or not enough? "I -- noted."

"Stop," Jason says, once they're clear of both the Bentley
and the Benz. "Okay, up on one hand. Your *left* --"

He can -- he can't do that. He can... maybe if --

"*Now*," and that's almost a *bark*, and Tim's hand is up
and pointed to the side just that fast.

Before he can think, of course. And -- it's not that bad. His
wrist is starting to make ominous sounds, and his shoulder
is starting to *feel* ominous --

"Unlock your elbow -- that's dangerous," Jason says.

He does --

And if Jason wasn't strong enough and fast enough to catch
him around the thighs with his other arm, Tim would've had
a head injury. If he was lucky.

"I -- sorry, I --"

"Not bad," Jason says, and squeezes him once before setting
Tim down. "And now you know exactly how much pressure
you were putting on your elbow and shoulder."

It's a little queasy-making to think about, actually. Tim
nods -- Tim stops nodding. Whoa.

"Heh. Yeah, take a minute before getting up again, why
don't you? Not that it won't be funny if you fall over, of

Also noted. "I... what is it that you aren't telling me about
Bruce, Jason? He's been really... I. I feel really comfortable
around him."

The look on Jason's face -- when Tim can focus on just one
of him -- is. It's skeptical and something *else*, and Tim
can't be sure what.

"You did say you'd answer --"

"I did," Jason says, and turns away. He strips off his gloves
and tosses them at the shelf over the peg where the jacket
is hanging. That -- it's probably part of what makes the
thing so weathered.

The garage -- *this* garage -- isn't as climate-controlled as
some of the others.

And Jason's move was just distraction. Perhaps an
*instinctual* sort of distraction, because Jason's body
language has more to do with tension and -- honest --
discomfort than anything else.

But -- he has to know. "Jason --"

"You really don't know, do you? Heh. Why don't you tell me
your *suspicions*, kid. Let's see how sheltered you managed
to *stay* while you were running around rooftops all night."

Sheltered, that's -- "I. He's attracted to me. That's -- you
think he's attracted to me?"

"And yet, you actually sound surprised --"

"You --" Bruce. "The 'sheltered' was kind of. A give-away.
You -- you think he wants to have sex with me?"

Jason's smile... Jason is showing his teeth.

"You do. You... oh. He doesn't... he doesn't really want me
to be Robin, at all."

"Whoa -- no. That is *not* what I said. I -- shit," Jason says,
dropping into a crouch, and catching Tim's wrists --

He'd been backing away. He'd been... he'd been an *idiot*.
He's not good enough, he couldn't ever be -- but. But
maybe. "Do you think? Did I make him..."

"*You* didn't do anything --"

"I know. I mean, I -- I should've been --"

"Fuck, you -- stop thinking like a pro with low self-esteem.
We get enough of that out *there*, and you're not -- fuck,"
Jason says. "Look -- first and foremost -- he'd be *happiest*
if you were Robin Red *and* -- you're not just here because
he wants you, okay?"

"But --"

"You're *not*. Just. Here. Because he wants you. If it was
like that -- Dick and I would've been gone *years* ago if it
was anything -- if Bruce could *be* anything like that. And
you know that."

"I -- Jason, you just said --"

"I know what I just said and I know how I said it. Look, the
fact that I *get* Bruce doesn't mean that I'm ever going to
be completely... he's fucked up, okay? His parents get killed,
some bright bulb decides it'll be just fine to have him raised
by a guy who used to be a damned *spy* who also just
happens to be the *extremely* uptight butler --"

"Spy --?"

"Later. He's fucked up, okay? And somehow -- I got here
because Bruce picked me *up*. He fed me, he bought me
clothes, and he kept looking at me so loud I finally put the
moves on -- and that was that. For years."

Jason... Jason and Bruce, Batman and *Robin*, but that's --
that's not what he --

"It's all different in your head. I know it. And we let things
stay that way, because it's not like..." Jason squeezes Tim's
wrists and shakes his head. "It's not okay, what he wants.
Not to me. But I love him, and he will never so much as --
he won't do a *thing* unless you start it, and -- and I just
couldn't keep quiet. That's on me. Not on you."

"He... he likes me. I mean -- I knew he liked. I. I don't know
what I'm supposed to say, Jason."

"I don't know, either, honestly. He *likes* you, so he likes
playing with you. If it was up to him, it'd take years to get
you street-ready, instead of maybe..." Jason squints a little,
squeezes his wrists again, and, "maybe another eight or
nine months, depending on how fast you keep filling out.
And I'm saying... it's not like..." Jason sighs and drops Tim's

"You -- you're warning me. Aren't you?"

Jason looks at him from under his lashes. "Does it count as
a warning if I'm just telling you not to freak out the first time
he says your name like -- like a damned *blessing*?"

"I... I like the way he. Says my name."

"Or -- okay, so maybe I'm late. You -- so you've been
heading down to the Cave pretty much every time Dick and
I have been on the roof?"

"Well -- I thought maybe you just didn't like... being in the
manor when you were... when you were."

Jason pinches his nose between his fingers. There are
scars... all over his hands.

Just -- all over.

"Dick gets stir-crazy this time of year. We actually spend
more time inside when it's summer... I don't know. He has
this thing about cold air and making out. It's probably one
of the reasons why we don't lose efficiency on the streets
when it's cold, come to think about it," Jason says, and
laughs quietly.

"It -- it would make sense. You're certainly a lot more --
covered. Or. I'm guessing."

"And you like the way he says your name."

He does. Blessing? He's not sure. "It's -- it's one of the
things which made me feel... comfortable. Welcome."

"He's glad you're here."

"I -- I know that, I think."

Jason nods. "You do, and now you know it *more*. I think --
you just also need to know that it never has to be anything
but what it already is."

And that it *could* be more -- or. No, he doesn't think
Jason wants him to think that way. "Because he'll just...
enjoy having me around?"

"Like he enjoys having me around, and having Dick around --
no, not with Dick, please stop looking like that now. Please."

Tim blinks. "It did seem like a reasonable assumption,

"Yes, but no. Really no. Really -- *no*," Jason says, and
snickers. "Come on," he says, and grabs Tim's hand. "I
wanna see you on the weights. And Bruce should be going
into the office pretty soon, so we can keep talking."

Tim lets himself be pulled to his feet. "Isn't the Cave

"This *garage* is bugged. Every inch of this *property* is
bugged, kid -- but it's the thought that counts."


He's in the car with Bruce now, and it's difficult to look at
him. It's...

It's hard to see him without (at least) hearing Jason -- he's
blushing too much. He's too aware of his own body as
something --

There was really no one who went to his school that he
could think of, that way --

(No one seems to find it strange that he just -- stopped
going to school upon moving into the manor. Of course,
he'll be attending Exeter, and he supposes it's possible that
people just assume he's being prepared for that --

It's a question he would ask, *and* something he would
assume without further information than his name listed with
Dick's and Jason's nearly every time Bruce's is, even though
he hasn't, yet, made an Appearance -- perhaps, instead, they
think of grief, and -- his father's criminal past has always
been a matter of public record, but now it's very public...
what happens if someone connects him to Two-Face?)

There was no one, and masturbation has always been very
solitary for him, quiet and quietly necessary, and having his
own bathroom has even removed the feelings of
*embarrassment* --

("Well, I -- I think that's about everything you need to know
about... it, son. Oh, I wish your mother was here. Not that
you'd probably want to talk about it with her -- or -- *did*
you have any other questions?")

This is...

This isn't embarrassment, not really. It's just -- awareness
(Bruce isn't touching him, anywhere), and a lot of questions.
For example: He knows that Bruce saw at least some of his
attempt to escape from the Robins, and that he has those
moments of physical competence to apply to his thoughts
of Tim --

Does Bruce think about him? More than to just... is it just a

He's caught himself *watching* Bruce, looking for that thing
which Jason is sure is there -- he's not entirely sure if Jason
is *right*. Just... he's not very strong, yet, and his stamina
is so *low* compared to the Robins. He's not... exciting to
look at, or be around. He doesn't.

It doesn't feel very relaxing to be around Bruce anymore
(Tim misses --) and, while a part of Tim thinks that that *is*
exactly what Jason had wanted, the rest is sure that Jason
hadn't wanted it to be...

Jason cares about Bruce, and it's obvious, and it's not -- it
feels *wrong* that Bruce's reactions -- responses -- to him
are more about training than anything else, now. Even
though it's plausible that it's just because he's improving too
slowly with Dick and Jason --

"Are you all right, Tim?"

They're not training, or anything like it. They're in one of the
*cars*, on the way to Wayne Enterprises -- ostensibly
because Tim wanted to see that part of Bruce's life -- and
that's not a WE *voice*. "Your voice," he says, and his own
voice sounds small and a little choked.

"I... does it bother you?"

Well -- *no*, but. "I just -- I thought you'd be using one of
your other voices," Tim says, and has another moment of
awareness: he's looking at his own knees, as opposed to
anywhere *near* --


There, it's -- there. That voice, and -- it's probably not the
right voice for Bruce to use, either, but it's not Batman's
voice. It's safer for this moment, or -- better. Tim smiles at
Bruce, because he wants to, and because Jason's been
teaching him -- effectively -- about ways to make body
language... effective.

Still, Bruce seems almost... wary isn't the word. 'Cautious' is
better -- 'careful,' maybe.

(He still isn't touching Tim, anywhere.)

And when they arrive...

Well, in as much as he *had* planned this, he'd planned to
be -- quiet. Reserved. Of course he needs to be introduced
to Bruce's executive assistant, and of course to Lucius Fox.
This -- this is a large part of what he wanted, in all honesty.
When it comes to his children, Bruce Wayne is allowed to be
less flighty, less useless, and less other than himself.

In fact, he *has* to be, and while Tim doesn't really trust
himself about reading people all the time -- not the people
he lives with, anyway -- he's reasonably sure Bruce feels
more relaxed once Tim is shaking Fox's hand, and accepting
his condolences with both reserve and gratitude.

There's space -- reason -- for Bruce's hand on his shoulder,
and they're not training. He shouldn't smile, and so he
doesn't. And he doesn't have to, because Bruce is --

Bruce has to know, has to have *felt* Tim relaxing -- it's not
Bruce's fault that Tim knows, now, that there's something
else here, that there's possibility and awkwardness.

Just like how it's not Jason's fault that Tim had to know.

It feels like --

He blushes when he closes the door to Bruce's office which
Bruce had left *open*, but he does it.

"Tim, you --"

"No," he says, because it's the Bat voice again, and because
Bruce hadn't been looking at him. "I'm sorry, but -- no."

For a moment, Tim's sure he's gone too far -- Bruce isn't
*looking* -- but, eventually, Bruce *does* nod, and walks
to his chair, and when he sits down --

Well, he *could* spin his chair around to face the massive
windows, but he doesn't.

Tim sits on one of the other chairs. "I could -- I don't want
to --"

"Jason," Bruce says, and folds his hands on the desk. "He
told me he'd spoken to you. I -- I would've guessed he'd
done so, by your own... I don't want you to be
uncomfortable, Tim --"

Tim nods. "So -- please -- don't stop... 'being yourself
around me,' probably sounds stupid, because it's not like --
it's not as though I know you very well, but I miss. I miss

Bruce stares at him.

"And I don't -- have to be here, if you don't want me to be
here, but I couldn't figure out how to say that to... the
person in the -- I couldn't figure out how to say that at

"You came here to -- you thought we could spend time
together more easily *here*?"

No. Sort of. "It's more," Tim says, and he isn't sure why he's
standing until he lays his palms flat on the desk. The broad,
level, sturdy --

It's possible, he thinks, that he's going to wind up with an
unhealthy affection for all things *wood*. It's not that the
surface of the desk is particularly springy when he flips up
onto it -- and onto his hands -- but there's a sense of
potential to it just the same.

Something --

Something which at least used to be just as alive as he is,
just as much a part of things larger, more important --

"I'm eventually going to need that particular folder, Tim,"
Bruce says, and it's the same smile in his voice as the one
which made the Cave home, well before anything else was.

Bruce -- likes him. And it doesn't have to be anything, and
it doesn't have to be -- complicated. Tim opens it, skims the
first page -- it's a financial report written as though the
person it's meant to reach (Bruce Wayne) is a barely
functional idiot -- and moves to the next. "You have other

"Perhaps I should just have you summarize them for me."

"I'm not sure I could use smaller words -- Bruce, you might
have to ease back on the act for your CFO," Tim says, and
flips to the *next* page. "He appears to be edging perilously
close to 'money good, Wayne rich.'"

"Hm. You could be right, but Davis is both scrupulously
honest and has become very skilled at this sort of thing,"
Bruce says, and hands Tim the next folder. "His introductory
Economics textbooks have become something of a sensation
for their accessibility."

It's difficult to laugh upside down, which is more than
enough reason to tuck the new folder to his chest, bend his
legs until his feet rest on the top of Bruce's chair, bend his --
right -- arm, and use the spring to get him to a standing

This folder is full of updates from the Research and
Development division, and so the language is marginally less
insulting -- though that could be because the individual
department heads aren't quite as skilled at writing. Or --

"Do you visit R&D often, Bruce?"

"As often as I can reasonably get away with. WE does
everything in its power to attract -- and keep -- the best
minds," Bruce says, and turns the chair slightly toward his

Tim bends his knees --

Just in time for Bruce to *spin* the chair in the opposite
direction --

-- to sign a paper with a flourish. The back of Bruce's chair
is nearly as wide as the beam, though less springy than...
cushy. His ankles can handle it, though it's possible that it
would be even easier, in some ways, if he used his hands.

He'll have to consider it.


He's come to sleep better, here, but really only in the
afternoons. After Dick is home, and Bruce is -- assuming he
ever went in to WE. The manor is quiet in the afternoon,
but it's the quiet of everyone -- including, usually, Alfred --
being asleep.

It's a little like being in a particularly polite sort of vampire
novel, though Tim can't really imagine sharing that thought.

Well. Maybe with Bruce. It's -- Tim thinks it's the kind of
amusing which works for him.

It's comfortable, and warm, the way it was comfortable and
warm when his Dad stayed home at night, or came home
early enough to lay his coat over Tim's blankets.

It had been awful, at first, to see the sealed bags that Alfred
had packed all of Tim's father's clothes into, but now,
whenever he wants to, he can just go into the storage area
beyond the West library -- the whole of the library is as
climate-controlled as the Cave -- and open one of the bags...

His father never really cared for cologne. It's just him, and
when Tim had deliberately left a couple of his old stones on
the floor among the boxes...

Well, when he'd come back a few days later, they were right
where he'd left them. Verdict: closets no, storage areas yes.

He lets himself yawn on the way back to his room, just --
adding a small noise to the rest. Or a small silence. There's
no one out -- it's a very *Bat* variety of late, and so he
starts stripping off in the hall.

Which leads to feeling very weird and very naked in just his
t-shirt and chinos -- Dick's lying on his bed. "Hey, kiddo."


Dick sits up and pats the bed next to him. The smile on his
face makes him look, honestly, older than Bruce. If not older
than Alfred.

"Did I... is there something wrong?"

"Ooh, points for *almost* avoiding the assumption that you
were in trouble. Points for *me*, I mean. Come on, sit

He does, tailor-style, which makes Dick smile kind of
privately before he turns to do the same.

And then he just... looks at Tim. For kind of a while.

Tim looks back. And -- he can't quite keep himself from

"You know, my inner thirteen year old is kind of jealous
about that, kiddo."

Jealous...? "The... my yawning?"

Dick's smile is quiet and sly. "I'd been training with Bruce
and Jay for *months* before I could *make* myself stick to
their sleep-schedule. It still feels weird, sometimes."

"I -- it doesn't seem like it would be very comfortable for a
morning person to live here, no."

"Am I a morning person? Really? I -- okay, so I *am*
crankier when it gets late -- a morning person? God."

Part of that -- *part* -- is Dick being honest. The rest is a
joke for him to share. It's easy, once Dick looks at him
again. Dick almost never winks, but there's something
behind his eyes which *feels* like a wink.

"So... listen. I want to apologize to you, and --" Dick holds
up a hand. "And you're going to think I don't have anything
to apologize for, but bear with me, okay?"

"All -- all right."

"I'd gotten really used to it just being... the two-of-us-plus-
Bruce, and... well, I know Jay talked to you about how
Bruce's motives for taking you in were less than pure as the
driven snow."

Tim frowns. "He really hasn't --"

"Done anything. I know. But it was *weird* living here and
knowing about him and Jason, and it didn't get less weird
once it started being *me* and Jason. Does that make any

Not in any way which Tim really feels like he can *apply* to
himself, but... he nods. It does. Enough.

"So then you come along, and everything that's always
weirded me out about Bruce gets the volume turned way
up -- I never used to like *thinking* about the guy he was
under the cowl, and I hated having to do it. And I can't put
my finger on the ways I've been taking it out on you, but --
I know I have."

"You... well, you only seem to enjoy being around me when
Jason's there, too. That's --that's one of the ways."

Dick raises an eyebrow -- and then starts to laugh. It starts
somewhere around his ribcage, and it seems like it will be
huge when it finally gets to his mouth --

It isn't huge, really. Most of it is still (waiting for Jason)
inside him. But some of it's for him, too. Tim smiles --

"I actually really like that one smile of yours. I think you'll
have the same look on your face the first time you manage
to make one of the home-made explosives Bruce will be
teaching you about sooner or later."

Explosives? Chemistry... in the fall, he's going to be going to
a school with well-stocked science labs, but the Cave --
oh --

"Ha! I knew it. No way you get near the pretty, shiny
chemicals until you can give me a six minute mile *after* a
session on the rings."

-- oh. Tim frowns.

"Ah-ah-ah -- pouting will make me add the uneven bars."

He likes the uneven bars --

"*And* a spar where you can *only* use the aikido -- and
none of your gymnastics. With *Jason*."

Tim winces --

"God, you're like a little emotion machine. Where's my
quarters," Dick says, and pretends to pat himself down.

Tim laughs --

And Dick pulls Tim's hand away from his mouth. "There you
are," he says. "And there we are. Yeah?"

Tim nods. "I'm okay, you know. You don't -- you haven't
been mean to me, or even really weird around me. It's not
like I'm... a social animal."

"No, but it's also not like you put up a fight if someone
actually tries to hang out with you, either," Dick says, and
squeezes Tim's hand before letting go. "And that's... I wish
that was really why I was here."

"It isn't?"

"Jay told me 'Tim Drake' is pretty much all set to hit the

Tim nods. Tim Drake is going to be, sly, pompous,
*pretentious*, and have a tendency to say mean, cutting
things not quite under his breath. He may actually own an
ascot, he's absolutely sure that his money makes him
superior to *everyone*  -- "He's pretty insufferable, if I do
say so myself. Did you want," he says, and lets himself
fall -- carefully casual -- on one elbow, "a demonstration?"

When Dick winces, his entire face actually seems smaller.

Tim grins. "Nice, right? I think his touchstone will be the
painfully expensive clove cigarettes he's constantly stealing
from Jason. They smell so powerful I won't even have to
take more than a puff or two."

"Eugh. I can't even *touch* Jason when he's wearing that
jacket. It *reeks* of those fucking things -- but yeah, he
will absolutely work. It's just -- you haven't said very much
about your father, you know."

Dad. "I know. I know I haven't... I really can't."

"Every time you... Jay's told me that every time you bring
up your Dad, almost, it's about money, and we're both kind
of wondering... well."

"You -- you think 'Tim Drake' is based on my *Dad*? No,
he... it's. His parents -- my grandparents -- I met them
*once* before they died. They referred to me as 'her urchin.'
They hated my mother for not being rich and -- well. *They*
would've liked 'Tim Drake' a lot," he says, and he can -- he
can almost *smell* his grandfather's cologne, and if it
wasn't so out of fashion, 'Tim Drake' would wear it.

"So you're not... working out lingering issues with your
father in a really scarily unhealthy way -- okay! We can deal
with that."

"That's... what you wanted to talk about?"

Dick leans back on his hands and shrugs. "It made Jay kind
of queasy to think about it. We'd both be here -- but Jay
told me you like it when it's one-on-one best, and also it's
long past my turn."

"I --" Tim frowns. "Your turn to deal with me?"

Dick's smile is another private one, but it's a privacy which
has room -- a lot of it -- for him. "It's what brothers are for,

Oh. He -- "Brothers."

"One of *us*, even if me and Jay are still trying to figure
out how that works. I know Bruce is working up to asking
you if you want to be adopted -- but that's just the paper
thing. Hey -- what *happened* to your grandparents'
money when they died?"

"They donated it all to the business school my Dad dropped
out of. First one, then the other. Every penny."

"They sound pretty -- priceless," Dick says. "Your Dad
must've felt --"

"Helpless. Backed into a corner. Like a failure. Frightened --
other things, too. Not all the time, but..." Tim frowns.

"Hey, we can talk about it or I can pick something else or --
I can go. It's up to you," Dick says, and unfolds one leg
enough to prod lightly at Tim's knee with his foot. "Okay?"

No. Maybe. "I'm... I'm going to say something," Tim says to
Dick's foot, "and I don't want to ever say it again. So --
you're welcome to tell Jay, or Bruce. Because... all right?"

"I'm listening."

"I spend a lot of time -- I guess all of you have -- studying
abnormal psychology and various psychiatric problems. And
I -- I didn't really need the books to tell me that my Dad
was... really *depressed*." Dick only wears socks when he's
in the boots, or dressed-up as 'Dick Grayson.' It's never too
cold in here. It's --

It's never too cold.

"Sometimes I think that my father knew that Two-Face
would either kill him or have him killed for what he did. And
that at least a part of him was okay with that."

"Shit, Tim --"

"Just once, okay? *Once*," he says, and he knows the tone
of his voice belongs in an alley, but he doesn't -- he can't
care right now. "He wanted to do something important, and
even though all of Two-Face's men would have been safe
*and* rich -- we know, they were due to get their money
even if Two-Face didn't get a cent."

"And they were all given time to get their loved ones out, if
they had any, yeah --"

"So even though he knew it would get him killed, and maybe
get *me* killed, too -- even though he would lose his chance
to *ever* make money from Gotham's -- Gotham's
*fucking* criminals, even though it would ruin everything,
he got to die a hero. And that's -- that's the only part I want
to think about. Okay?"

Dick is *searching* him with his eyes when Tim looks up,
but he nods.

"I didn't have the perfect families you and Jason had, but
that's okay. And -- I can use it. Some of it, anyway," he
says, in as much of Marlon Timothy Drake's voice as he can
manage, and goes back to lounging. A little.

"You... you're really going to enjoy stabbing people with that
little act, aren't you?"

"Well," he -- possibly it's almost a drawl. "I don't have the
bone structure for eyeliner, now *do* I...?"

"I --" The laugh that bursts out maybe wasn't ever supposed
to belong to *him* -- but he likes it.

And Dick doesn't seem upset to give it to him.


As it happens, there's only so much he has to do, this time,
in order to be 'Tim Drake' for this particular party.

Tim Drake is bored -- put-upon by the dreadfully dull
responsibilities of wealth. As far as Bruce's official date
knows, Tim Drake may actually be deaf --

"Try not to take it personally, darling, Tim's had a *very*
difficult time of it," Bruce says, in a number of different
ways to various people who then titter -- sympathetically, of
course -- at Tim's sneer.

It's the perfect set-up for a night of allowing himself to be
cornered by a parade of young women -- the ages range
from slightly younger than Dick to slightly older than Jason --
all of whom seem convinced that the best way to wind up on
either Dick's, Jason's, *or* Bruce's 'list' is to pump him for
information about his father.

"The man was a criminal," Tim Drake says. "Leave *me* out
of it."

Or --

"Well, it all *did* have a certain excitement, don't get me
wrong, but on the whole -- somewhat ridiculously

Or --

"Do you *really* think it will come up at Exeter all that
often? How dull."

It's interesting -- none of them seem to notice that 'Tim
Drake' is probably at least a little too old. It's just that it's
also -- all of it -- a particular variety of sickening. They all
assume that his father had spent his life trying to get rich,
to be like them, and they're all correct.

The fact that he has no doubt that his parents would view at
least ninety percent of the people at this party -- including
both Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake -- as being worthless
excuses for humanity --

("He was," his mother says, and unwinds the scarf from
around her head with a flourish, "an utter waste of skin.")

He knows his father wanted him to have this -- the clothes,
the food, the possibility -- and he knows --

He will never *not* be able to know what his father was
willing to do to even get a little closer to this, and he will
never not be able to know that, ultimately, his father
would've thought all of it was worth it. Even, perhaps, the
bruises under Tim's tuxedo.

He could happily injure every person in this room, at least
to a minor extent.

"So what *are* your brothers doing tonight?"

Patrolling, because someone has to. This -- this has to be
worse than the charity events. The woman's name is
Madison, and it only takes a moment to place her on the
spreadsheet he's been holding in his mind. Just before
Christmas last year, she was high enough to make a semi-
serious attempt to sexually assault Dick in a coatroom.

Flirting, to a rather greater degree than the fingers on his

Jason had once kissed her for the paparazzi. "Because I care
about them," Tim says, "I can only hope the answer to that
question is 'something interesting.'"

"Oh, you're *bad*."

"Terrible," he says, too shortly. He's losing the thread.
"Excuse me," he says, and walks as casually as he can until
he catches a glimpse of broad shoulders and a sense of
tension which doesn't belong.

He's too short to follow Bruce easily through this -- they'd
arrived late, but not late enough to avoid the crush. The
latest arrivals are, nearly to an individual, restless, high on
various substances, hungry and searching --

"Oh, *Timmy*, there you are --"

He throws up a hand -- loosely, easily, *remember* --

"Oh, he's a *bitch*," whoever it was says, and a part of him
is pleased, satisfied. The laughter is shallowly intrigued and
perfect. He's doing this right, even though he's looking for
an escape, even though he's rapidly becoming desperate --

"-- say his father was involved with the *Joker* --"

He can't do this. He can't --

"Whoa there, tiger," says the man with his hand on Tim's
shoulder whose fingers will not, not be broken tonight --

Because it's Bruce. His face is twisted and worked into a
configuration which suggests mild inebriation and high good
cheer. His eyes look like Tim's own feel. There's a response
needed here, there's something Tim Drake would *do* if
Bruce Wayne became proprietary.

The eyebrow he raises really isn't enough, but when he tries
to sneer he feels himself shaking. Just *inside*, but --

That particular nod combined with the look in Bruce's eyes
means 'go,' and Tim turns his exhale into something which
might, in the crush and the noise, be heard as a frustrated --
annoyed -- huff. He manages not to use Bruce Wayne's
casual push into an excuse to *move*, but that's the end of

He ignores the voices calling his name and uses the memory
of this building's blueprints to find the -- empty -- freight

It takes him just behind the area where the drivers are
gathered, most of whom are doing an excellent job of
ruining whatever night-vision they have by smoking. Tim
finds a pillar to hide behind -- undecorated cement, cool
and scratchy -- and wonders if Tim Drake has panic

Fits of drama?


It feels right *enough* to just lean, and cross one foot over
the other, and close his eyes. He doesn't know what look is
on his face, and, until he does, he absolutely can't go
back --

"You were wonderful."


Bruce is -- he must've used one of the staircases. There's
nothing of him showing in these shadows, and his voice was
pitched low enough to carry barely farther -- there, the
white of his shirt, followed by the whites of his eyes. If he
had a weapon --

No, it's not Bruce Tim wants to hurt.

"I --"

"You'll signal me, next time, when you need to go," Bruce
says, and rests his fingers just beneath Tim's left eye.

"Yes. I -- all right." Is he crying? Tim Drake doesn't love
anything enough to cry. Or maybe he just doesn't remember

"You were doing so well, Tim, that I --"

"I was sickening. I -- I feel sick. I think. Emotionally."

"I've already called for the car," Bruce says, and strokes
down over Tim's cheek, down the side of his throat.

Bruce's hand is on his shoulder, and his other hand could
be, and Tim doesn't kiss him. He -- "You should... has it
been enough time? I can -- if I just take a few more
minutes --"

"It will be assumed that I need to take care of you, or that
I'm using you as an excuse to have sex with whichever
debutante is most difficult to find. Perhaps one of the
servers. It's enough."

"If you're sure." It's difficult to see his face -- the lighting
isn't the best. This place is full of shadows, and they've
taken most of Bruce's face away. What's left is a twitch at
the corner of his mouth and skin pulling taut beneath his
eye, where Bruce had touched *him*.

Had he been smiling?

Tim reaches up, and Bruce doesn't catch his hand. The skin
on Bruce's face feels thin and warm. "I -- I need to."

"You'll go straight to the bars when we get home," Bruce
says, and, "you'll work quickly, but safely. You -- everything
is easier with a partner. Rely on me, more."

"I do --"

"This, too, is the work," Bruce says, and tugs Tim's hand
away from his face by the wrist.

"I understand that. I didn't think -- they were all so -- Jason
finds humor in telling truth in all the lies, and Dick does, too,
but I don't think I enjoy it quite as much."

"The truths in question were, perhaps, closer to home than
the ones Jason and Dick were considering -- your breathing,

Tim Drake isn't fast, or flexible. Tim Drake isn't getting
better every day, and -- their arms are between them,
shadowed and ambiguous and blocked from view. No one
can see him twisting his arm until Bruce lets go, and no one
can see him grabbing Bruce's hand -- contact. Bruce's hands
have been moisturized to within an inch of their lives, they're
warm, they're hard enough to spring from -- if he planned
to move.

"You'll be all right, Tim --"

"I know. But. I can't kiss you -- I mean. I just." Tim
squeezes Bruce's hand and -- Bruce is closer, or perhaps
simply breathing more deeply. He's warm, and the rest of
the world is -- he's been colder, but it's not warm. He wants
to press his face to Bruce's chest so badly that it's a surprise
that he hasn't. He --

"Tim. We -- not here."

"I know, Bruce. This is good enough. You... smell very nice,
despite the cologne."

"Hm. The feeling is mutual," he says. "I'm backing away, but
I won't let go."

"All right."

The contact -- it's only enough because he knows it has to
be, and because he knows it isn't enough for Bruce. It --

"It doesn't... it doesn't have to be the bars, does it?"

"No, Tim."


Still, when they get home, he goes down to the Cave. It
was... it was an order, or part of one, and Bruce *follows*,
taking Tim's jacket and tie and leaving Tim's shoes and
socks where he lets them fall. 

(And Bruce had let go of his hand in the car.)

There are two images in his head for this:

The first is of himself as a non-specific primate, moving and
swinging, hungry and hungry for more of what feels like it
*should* be instinct, even though of course he knows it's

The second is of himself as -- Red. Perhaps for his blush.
His cape, and all the highlights of his suit -- he doesn't have
to wear it. It's here in the Cave, somewhere in the Cave,
and this could be the moment right before Bruce decides
he's ready.

This is the moment before he's anything, even himself, and
everything he is and everything he wants is in this routine.
Speed and power, grace and stretch -- *play*, he thinks,
because it's what Bruce wants.

Surely, he thinks, Bruce has to know that this *is* play?
Or -- no. This is more serious than just using his own shifts
in weight to spin Bruce's chair, or deliberately
misunderstanding an order, or -- anything. This is what
would make him sound stupid if he tried to say it. This is the
part of himself which feels -- missing. Other-focused.

This is the calm he doesn't have when Bruce isn't touching
him. This is now, here, and when Bruce doesn't touch him
even after his dismount --

"Why won't you?"

"There are -- are you sure it's not a matter of you not
wishing to be alone?"

Normally, Tim leaves enough space between them that he
doesn't have to crane his neck. Maybe that's the problem?
"That's what I'm talking about --"

"It isn't, but it's very tempting to pretend," Bruce says, and
rests the pad of his thumb in Tim's suprasternal notch.
"Come to bed with me?"

"Oh -- not here?"

"Everywhere," Bruce says. "But first there."

It's --

It shouldn't feel as sudden as it does, even though he'd
honestly expected an explanation, or at least the lack of it.
Perhaps he was never supposed to head for the Cave after
everything was (finally) spoken, or perhaps Bruce stopped
holding his hand because that wasn't something to do while
Alfred was right there.

It feels, to him, as though there'd been a definite -- and
emotional -- break between holding Bruce's hand and feeling
the ghost of Bruce's thumb at the base of his throat, but, it's
possible that it doesn't feel that way to Bruce.

Which would make his time on the bars... some variety of
foreplay? A tease?

He'd wanted it to be a *message*, only -- he stops at the
base of the stairs, and Bruce turns, and there's no moment
between that movement and the one which ends with
Bruce's hands on his face. "Tell me," Bruce says.

"Was I... teasing?"

Bruce's smile is too soft for the Cave, too open, and Tim
reaches up to squeeze his wrists.

"I don't want to tease. I just --"

"I'm the wrong person to ask, I think," Bruce says, and shifts
until he's holding Tim's hands in his own. Covering them
with his own. "As an example, while I'm reasonably sure
Jason would find the discussion, at best, disturbing, I remain
convinced that you *should* ask Jason."

"He's been very -- he *has* already told me that if I have
questions about sex I should either ask him or Dick. But I
think that was supposed to be more about the clinical...

"Almost certainly. Just the same," Bruce says, and lets go.
"He has a fair amount of practical experience and the
wisdom that comes with it. I have only my desires," he says,
and walks up a step.

Tim can do nearly half of them on his hands, now, but only
if he desperately needs to wear himself down. "You could
tell me -- you *should* tell me what you want."

For some reason, Bruce shoots his cuffs and stares at his
own wrists, turning them back and forth and smiling. It's a
private smile, but not in an unfriendly way.

"Bruce --"

"Yes," he says, and says it again by the way he takes Tim's
hand. Just one, this time, and the urge to run up the stairs...
Tim Drake never runs, and it's all the more reason to, even
though Bruce's light, easy jog makes him feel slightly
ridiculous. Or maybe --

("You -- your mother always worried that you didn't have
enough *fun*, son.")

He does, he thinks. It's -- mixed with all the other things he
has to have, now, but it's there, just the same, and Bruce's
answering smile is nothing like his father's *or* his mother's
when Tim grins. It's --

Bruce is his friend. His quiet, serious friend -- he'd always
wanted one, if only for the chance to be the louder one, to
let himself do everything he's ever wanted, or even thought
of. Bruce is the anchor which makes it safe to...

Fly, perhaps. Or something like it.

Tim Drake has never twisted free of a hand solely to run,
fast and faster, and the carpeting is a different sort of
springy beneath his hands, soft and soothing everywhere
he isn't quite callused yet --

One handspring --

The ceilings are so high and his strength has increased so
*much* -- it's a little dangerous to come down on his hands
again, but he never locks his elbows, anymore, and --

Two --

His body knows he doesn't have quite *enough* for a third,
but he has plenty to end in a tumble which brings him --
just *past* Bruce's door. No -- nearly a foot. "I should've
held onto your hand for slightly longer. Necessary drag," he
says to Bruce from over his shoulder and breathes.

He feels -- better than he had at the party, though of course
that's not difficult. He's used himself for something fun,
something *good*, and now he's going to do it again. He
turns to Bruce entirely, and his face feels perfect in the
smile, and it keeps feeling perfect when he meets Bruce's

It's *there*. That -- something else, something playful and
hungry. He wants to tell Bruce that he understands hunger --
no. More than that. He wants to tell Bruce that hunger is
always better than sickness, that hunger is all about need,
and that he likes being needed.

His parents never wanted him to need anything, and they
never wanted to need *him*. They did, though, and he
*does*, and there's no way not to telegraph this move, but
he doesn't really care. Jumping *on* Bruce --

It's new. It's definitely new, but of course Bruce wasn't
*physically* surprised. He has Tim by the waist, and it's
very obvious that he's kind of... well, huge. "Will you kiss

"In a moment," Bruce says, and carries Tim inside his
bedroom, and closes the door, and kisses him.

He's holding Tim high enough that Tim has to bend down
for it, which is something he's never really imagined. By his
own calculations, he's never going to be as tall as Jason. He
*might* make it to where Dick is now --

He wants a deeper (better) kiss, something along the line of
the ways the Robins kiss each other, and he's not at all sure
how to *get* it. It's somewhat frustrating, especially since
Bruce seems content to just hold him up here and kiss him
lightly --

This is going to make him feel -- wrong. Restless. It's going
to make him feel trapped in this *room*, and make him
need to move in ways which wouldn't precisely be conducive
to -- well, much of anything beyond movement for the sake
of movement.

He bites his lip --

The kiss changes, very fast and very *thoroughly* -- he
would've thought that it would hurt more to transfer his
lower lip from between his teeth to between *Bruce's*, but
the sound Bruce makes...

It's possible that the hum of it is soothing, or at least
numbing, and --

Like this, 'possible' includes licking Bruce's mouth, his front
teeth --

"Tim," Bruce says, and he sounds both pleased and a little
stunned. This is, perhaps, what Jason had meant by 'like a
blessing,' but he would've thought it would be more
disturbing. Bruce's tongue in his mouth seems almost
impossibly mobile, or maybe more muscular than it should,
but the combination of sensations just feels like -- hm.

Maybe those moments just *before* he touches himself,
when he almost can't think of his body as anything *other*
than something sexual, something meant for and explicitly
*designed* for sex -- oh.

"I think -- I think I'm going to feel somewhat lonely the next
time I shower, Bruce --"

Bruce is *opening* Tim's mouth with his tongue, making a
space for himself, or perhaps just making *Tim* more open.
It feels necessary to dig his knees in against Bruce's sides,
and he'd like to know if Bruce feels the same way about the
way his right hand is moving along Tim's back and down to
his rear, over it, squeezing --

When the world starts changing out of the corners of Tim's
eyes, he realizes that he's a) had his eyes *open* for some
indeterminate period of time, and b) that he's rapidly losing
the ability to think clearly. The *world* isn't moving; Bruce
is moving him. And.

Tim tightens his hands on Bruce's shoulders and tries to
push into the kiss. The kiss is really a little too aggressive
for him to do anything with his tongue other than *feel* --
taste -- but he still wants more from it. Maybe -- maybe he
needs more and just doesn't know it, yet.

Tim doesn't have the context for this, yet, but it seems fair
to assume that Bruce will be of as much assistance as he
can --

Like this, he can't precisely cover his mouth when he laughs,
but he also doesn't want to. Bruce can -- he wants to know
if Bruce likes the way it *feels* to be laughed into, against --
*with*, because Bruce's hum can't be anything other than
laughter. It makes Tim's tongue feel funny -- amusing,
even -- and it makes the rest of him feel overly warm.

His skin is prickling, and he's still wearing most of an
excellently-tailored tuxedo. Bruce, of course, is wearing
even more of one, and while Tim knows that it's irrational
to believe that skin-contact would make him feel more
comfortable --

Is it a trick the mind plays? Or --

No, it can't possibly be something the *mind* has anything
to do with -- certainly not the forebrain. It's something like
a hormonal conspiracy, he thinks, triggered by the stroke of
Bruce's tongue and escalated by the -- really quite minor --
shifts in relative position which occur when Bruce sits down
at the foot of the bed and lowers Tim down to his thighs.

By the illusion that he's spreading his legs wider now (he
should be) --

By the *loss* of Bruce's hands on himself --

"Oh, no," he says, and *then* realizes that Bruce was only
removing his tie. And that Bruce has now stopped. "I meant --
I didn't realize you were."

"I don't have to, Tim," he says. "I -- in truth, I meant --"

There's very little planning behind this kiss, only --

It's a question, Tim thinks, of proximity and suggestion. This
close, he can smell the odd sort of neutrality to Bruce's
tuxedo, and the cologne, *and* Bruce. This close -- he has
so many points of *contact*, so much he can affect simply
by moving or not moving --

Additionally, Bruce's lips were moving.

Tim knows -- still, though knowledge seems increasingly a
*temporary* sort of thing -- that Bruce was only speaking to
him, that they were, in fact, in the middle of a conversation
-- however brief --

There's faint stubble beneath his palms, scratchy and thicker
than the hair on Bruce's head -- this is something, abruptly,
which he needs to be sure of with his body, with his *hands*,
and --

He didn't *mean* to jump, and certainly not so much that
he broke the kiss, but Bruce *moaned* --

"Tim. Are you all right?"

Yes. Yes, he is. Just -- "It sounded -- sometimes I moan.
Like that."

"May I listen?"

Lonely in the -- he doesn't *have* to be lonely in the shower.
He isn't sure what he looks like, right now, but he wouldn't
be very surprised if he bore a striking resemblance -- in
terms of expression -- to that particular caveperson who first
discovered that food *changed* when it was applied --
directly or indirectly -- to the hot, sparking, painful yellow
and orange thing.

"You look," Bruce says, and strokes three fingers over Tim's
forehead, cheeks, and mouth. "Happy. Excited."

"Pleasantly surprised," he says. "Also -- I -- yes. On the
listening. If you think you'd enjoy it --"

"I do," Bruce says. "I'm also enjoying the feel of your hands
in my hair."

Tim tugs.

"Perhaps -- I think, perhaps, you should tell me what *you*
want, Tim."

Contact -- *This*. And -- he can understand wanting more
specificity, but he's not sure how much he can manage,
considering the fact that he's already moving in for another
kiss. This time, Bruce stays -- perfectly -- still. His eyes are
open, and Tim is being measured, or perhaps simply
searched. It makes it harder to just kiss Bruce. It makes
him want to *move*, and prove something, express
something with something more meaningful than words. It

He thinks the kisses might be annoying, or at least less than
optimal. He -- he's not being very fast *or* thorough, but
everything on and about Bruce is large, and this includes
his mouth. It's -- it feels *important* to kiss as much of
Bruce's mouth as possible, to do it in sections, to map it --
yes. That's the word he's looking for. This is a kind of
cartography, and his lips have never seemed more *useful*.

It's interesting that it feels almost daring to move away from
Bruce's mouth to his chin, to his cheek and forehead, but it's
less interesting than the *feel*. These planes, these slopes,
these angles and curves -- the softness and *thin-ness* of
Bruce's eyelids --

"Tim, you..."

Breath against his throat, and Bruce's hands are moving on
him, again. It doesn't feel like being mapped. It feels like
Bruce already knew everything about Tim's geography, and
is merely -- revisiting. It's --

It's easy to *imagine* it, that every time Bruce looked at him
or touched him he was *learning* something, memorizing it
and integrating it into a whole, like maybe Tim is just
another street-corner or rooftop, or --

No, not like that. The way Bruce is moving him is a question,
yes, time and space for objection -- or the suggestion of
something different -- it's just that it's also only itself. Bruce
*moving* him, touching him for no reason that has anything
to do with training, and learning the way Tim looks when it's

The sounds Tim makes. (He's breathing badly, and there
are -- notes, which come out when he exhales too hard.)

Bruce's scent is stronger when Tim's on his back. This is...
this is something which wants another kind of movement,
and the images of himself -- the sense memories of
himself -- in the shower are becoming somewhat worn. He's
never really done anything like the way he wants to move,
now. This:

It feels somehow instinctual to turn over onto his front and
bury his face in the duvet, though he thinks the thought
ought to have more of the (distant) past to it, because he's
already done it. He's already *doing* it, because it's the best
way to be *surrounded* by the scent. Bruce is making it
worse --

Bruce is making it better, more, by the way he's stroking
Tim's back again. Even with the cologne on his wrists, he's
still just working more of his own scent into Tim's shirt. It's
sweat, of course. Sweat, oils, and particles of dead skin, the
human slough of renewal, and how much of it is being
transferred between them. Bruce, however, is *bigger*, and
this is his bed, and not even Alfred is capable of enough
sterilization to make this anything other than himself --
*barely* restrained by anything with his own mind -- from
rolling around like an animal *in* Bruce.

As much of him as he can *get* to -- He flips onto his back
again, instead, and Bruce's hands don't stop. Bruce's
hands --

Bruce hasn't lost the need to blink, but the look in his eyes
makes that fact seem like the worst -- most limited and
limiting -- kind of lie.

Bruce is still touching him, still stroking him, still -- watching.
Tim wants to map Bruce's hands with the skin of his
abdomen, with his face and the backs of his thighs, with his
nipples and his cock. If he's blushing, now, it can't possibly
be anything meaningful, because it doesn't make Bruce

"Oh," Tim thinks, or possibly says --

No, it was a thought, because the sounds he's making don't
seem to feel a need to be constrained by the alphabet he
knows -- or, for that matter, by his physical abilities. He
might not be able to speak very much at all, tomorrow, and
he doesn't --

He absolutely doesn't care, because he can't put a *word*,
or even a phrase, to the sight of Bruce undoing his bowtie
with one hand and the *feel* of him touching Tim's throat.
The whole of it, length and -- and shape, he.

"Here," Bruce says, and presses his thumb to the
suprasternal notch -- again. "This is a touch you enjoy."

"I haven't -- I like all of them. So far."

"But this is the only touch so far which makes your eyes
narrow, and your abdomen tense."

"It's -- it doesn't have an ambiguity. I already know that I'll
almost certainly never need to strike someone there or near
there, because it's so dangerous. It makes it easier to
consider it... I can't consider it anything but sexual, from

"Then perhaps I should strive to be more clear," Bruce says,
and begins to unbutton Tim's shirt. It's really too late to...
of course it will be sent to be laundered by a professional,
and of course that professional will be used to worse things
than sweat and cologne, but.

Bruce is moving much too *slowly*.

There's probably something Alfred could -- *would* -- say
about stripping out of this particular shirt and this particular
pair of pants like they're workout clothes --

He'd *treated* them like workout clothes already. That's --
that's why, perhaps, he's here now, why Bruce's hands are
huge and *warm* on his skin, irritatingly diffuse where he's
still covered by a t-shirt, by the boxer briefs --

"Tim --"

"Just -- I need -- I. Don't tell me what I don't have to do,"
he says, and wants to apologize for his tone, which is -- it
speaks *well* for him, almost certainly. Good breeding.
Good --

He's laughing before he can do anything of the kind, of
course. The inside of his own mind and the trail of
gooseflesh marking the path of Bruce's fingers -- no. Marking
the trails he hasn't *made* yet. He can be touched so many
*places*, now, and he can keep himself from yanking at
Bruce's shirt, but he can't keep himself from pressing close,
rubbing and -- yes, kissing.

More of those, he wants -- he needs more of those, now,
and Bruce is cupping the back of Tim's head with one hand
and Tim's rear with the other, squeezing -- no. Bruce is
pulling him closer, which is perfect. He wants -- he gives up
the kissing for it and scrapes his cheek against Bruce's
instead, and does it again because the first time wasn't
scratchy enough -- "Bruce, everywhere, I want --"

"If I -- a moment," Bruce says, grabbing his hips and lifting
Tim away, which is terrible, but he's still capable of parsing
the motions into a part of a larger reality which doesn't
involve *contact*, and so he can see that Bruce is working
on his fly, and he can recognize that this is something he
*wants*, even though he's too untouched right now.

Even though -- he's pulling on Bruce's *hair* again, and he
honestly doesn't mean to do it, and it's the wrong sort of
reinforcement when it gets him another kiss, just as it's
absolutely right when Bruce frees his cock, and strokes it
*once* --

So --

It's not beautiful. This -- this tableau is something other,
something different, something which makes him scream,
a little, when Bruce takes both of their cocks in one hand
and squeezes --

Tim holds himself *upright* by Bruce's hair --

And then he doesn't have to, because he's on his back
again -- no.

He's on top of Bruce, and his body doesn't wait for the rest
of him. Tim feels softness and knows that he has fisted his
hands in the duvet and planted his knees to either side of
Bruce's thighs. Intellectually, he --

He recognizes --

It would almost certainly be better, more *focused* if he
could restrain himself to grinding and thrusting with his hips,
but he can't. He's moving *on* Bruce, skin and hair and
scars, skin and muscle, skin and heat, *skin* --

"Yes, Tim. You -- don't stop, please."

He's scraping his teeth on Bruce's chest, he's tasting the
sweat on Bruce's nipple, and on Bruce's other nipple, he --

If he *were* in the shower, the orgasm would've put him
on his knees. He's already on his knees, but now he's
shaking and making coughing sounds against Bruce's
chest -- had he screamed again? It hurts, it's too much, and
he can't stop himself from *moving* --

And Bruce rolls them over again and kisses him. He tastes
different now, or maybe just *stronger*, and if Tim were to
steal enough room to confirm his suspicion that what he
was feeling was Bruce's knuckles dragging and slipping
through the come on his abdomen as he stroked himself,
he wouldn't be able to *feel* it.

Tim wraps his arms around Bruce's neck instead. "Is there --
should I...?"

"Just -- just this, Tim. Please -- I -- only this."

Tim nods, and pulls his knees up, and moves as little as he
can. It's just that he wants those knuckles on him
everywhere. He's nowhere near ready to *spar* with Bruce,
but he suspects it might drive him to orgasm right there on
the mats. He --

Just -- all of that *power*, and it's everywhere in Bruce, on
Bruce. The flex of Bruce's shoulder beneath his arm, the
sight of Bruce's other forearm out of the corner of his eye,
and the *potential* of those knuckles.

"Tim. If you'd like --"

"Yes --"

"I don't -- I don't have to ejaculate -- on you."

That -- he'd *said* 'just this,' and Tim doesn't want to make
this bad for him, or -- he just -- He squirms to reach
between them. He only wants to touch the head of Bruce's
cock, to see if it feels the same. To --

"Oh. *Tim* --"

"Please, Bruce, I -- let me, please --"

"Your touch --"

The next word, whatever it was going to be, is lost under a
breathy grunt, and Tim's hand -- Bruce comes on Tim's hand
and abdomen, shaking and --

Tim tightens the grip he has on the back of Bruce's neck. He
wants to give -- support, or . He's supposed to lean on
Bruce, but Bruce is also supposed to lean on him. Bruce is
*shaking* --

"Bruce, are you --"

The kiss is immediate and it feels like it will bruise him,
stretch him open with no possibility --

The kiss makes him feel like something which can be torn
or broken, something which can be *changed* by this, as
opposed to just briefly affected. He's going to be hard again
soon, and he doesn't know if he can --

Of course it's only the second time tonight, but the
description seems inadequate, especially once Bruce makes
the kiss both softer and deeper. It's hot between them,
sticky and slick, and Bruce's cock is a weight on him,
something to be considered above and apart from the rest
of his muscular solidity. He needs to *breathe*.

He needs to breathe, he thinks, and scratches at Bruce's
shoulders --

The thrust *moves* him on the bed, and the duvet feels like
it's only *deceptively* soft, scratchy on drying sweat -- he
wants to *move* again. He wants to change this, and he
isn't sure if he *can*. Still --

Bruce moves when he pushes.

Bruce moves too *far* when he pushes. Bruce is only just
beside him, it's true, but Tim had only wanted air. It's --
he'd needed air, and that doesn't seem fair at all. It takes
much too *long* to get enough that he feels qualified to
move again, and by then Bruce's body language has
changed to something...

Even naked, even sticky, he no longer looks like someone
who could -- or would -- *move* Tim with a thrust. He's
staring at the ceiling, and he's not... it doesn't seem like
Bruce is thinking about him, anymore. It.

"Should I go, Bruce?"

Bruce is silent and -- a different sort of still. It's more tense,
and this -- Tim understands, of course, that he can't always
feel comfortable around Bruce. He understands that no one
ever wants someone around every minute -- he likes to be
alone sometimes, too. And so he moves --

And Bruce's arm is a *wall* in front of his chest. Of course
he could move to the side, still -- or. If Bruce really wanted
him to stay where he was, there'd be nothing he could do
about it. And Bruce hasn't actually said -- anything.

It's just that the hairs on his forearm are ticklish against
Tim's chest, and --

"I didn't intend to do that," Bruce says, finally. "I..."

Tim curls his hands around Bruce's arm and just -- holds it.
He squeezes it, and some of the tension in it relaxes -- but
it's back immediately when he shifts his torso. "I'm not --
I just wasn't comfortable in this position."

"If you could -- I would appreciate it if you lay back down,"
Bruce says, and the motion of his arm back down to his
side seems jerky, and somewhat unwilling.

Tim nods, and does it, and now they're both staring at the
ceiling. It -- "Sometimes I find it easier to say what I want
to say -- and not say what I don't want to say -- if I'm
doing... something."

"I've noticed. We've all -- I didn't mean to do that, Tim.
Certainly -- I thought, perhaps, I could limit myself to the
taste of your mouth."

"We really didn't -- we didn't go especially far, Bruce --"

"You may not be aware -- you began to struggle when I was
last kissing you --"

"I needed air --"

"And I wondered, to myself, how long it would take before
you stopped fighting."

Sometime... sometime before he lost consciousness. Just...
if Bruce wanted to that badly -- if he was that hungry --

He *is* that hungry, and Tim wants to help with that. He --
he knows he *can*, even if he really just wants to relax for
a little while, maybe practice more, maybe just -- think
about all of this until it's a whole in his mind. Until he can
put it back together *into* a whole, after first examining
every piece of it. Still --

"I don't mind."

"I tied myself when Jason and I first began making love,
because I couldn't trust my reactions. I... I believed I had
more control, now."

Tim... he -- "You tied -- to the bed?"

"Alfred would've been cross if I broke a chair," Bruce says,
and turns to smile at him with his eyes. "Even this you
tolerate. You take it in and make it into something with
which you can live...?"

Tim sits up again, making a point to telegraph his
movements *loudly*, and rests his hand on Bruce's chest.
"I can't change it. I -- I like being your friend. You..." I think
you need me, Tim doesn't say. That's not the whole of it,

It's -- Bruce is used to partnerships, used to needing them
and leaning on them --

Bruce is never going to get himself killed because he thinks
he knows better than his... partners. Than *Tim*. He's
never felt so safe. "I like being your friend," he says, again,
and curls his fingers against Bruce's chest.

Bruce stares at him, and measures him, and Tim watches
him through it.

After a while, Bruce covers Tim's hand with his own.

He doesn't stop watching.


He nearly turns around when he sees that the door to the
roof is open -- it's a signal -- but the part of him which wants
him to do it, which wants him to do anything *but* leap for
the faintly tilted jamb and swing until he can get the
momentum to get his feet up between his hands is the part
which doesn't get to make decisions, anymore.

It's not that the part of him which is honestly shy -- and
perhaps *more* than a little antisocial -- is wrong, it's just
that it has no place here.

When Dick and Jason see it, they assume something's
wrong. When Bruce sees it, he assumes *he's* wrong. None
of these things would be terrible in and of themselves, save
that they affect the way Tim's treated. They change the
spaces into which he can move without friction. They -- limit

And so, even when he hears Dick's only-for-Jason laugh, he
makes a point of moving faster across the roof until he can
*see* it.

Jason has something small and round in his hands -- it's lip
gloss, and he's in the process of applying it to Dick.

"Do you have any *idea* how much this says about you? I
mean, if I told Mama about this, she'd *beat* you."

"She'd *try*," Jason says, "now hold still. I want a *perfect*
gloss-mark on my dick --"

"Or possibly I *should* try another time," Tim says. It
doesn't come out *quite* as lightly as he wants it to, but it
comes *out*, and so does the smile which is meant to go
with it. It's not *particularly* sly, but it's more than just
friendly. Now he just has to make himself wait for them to
deal with the fact that they were too distracted -- and he
was too good -- for them to hear him coming.

He taps his fingers on the roof.

"Ah -- wow. Does he get points for that, baby bro? I think
he gets points."

"Maybe one," Dick says, planting his hands on the roof,
lifting himself, and turning so he can face Tim and Jason at

Making a circle. "I think I should get one point for each of
you," Tim says, lofty and a little Tim Drake --

"Ohh, I kinda hate that guy," Dick says, "seriously, put him
*away* --"

"Don't be *like* that, baby," Jason Todd says, and lets his
knees fall into a lazily casual sprawl. "If you don't let people
be themselves --"

"Oh for --" Dick blows out a breath -- and Dick Grayson
makes it a sigh. "I just don't know why you both expect me
to be able to *tolerate* this sort of thing. There are so
many things on my mind..."

It's *hard* not to grin, but... Tim Drake would rather smirk.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I step on your pain? You really should
be more careful with it."

Jason Todd claps and whistles -- "Oh, you're *good*,

Dick Grayson gives them both withering looks, and turns his
head to stare into the darkness. Or perhaps infinity.

And Tim -- really can't. Laughing makes the roof of the
manor smaller, especially when Dick hugs himself and sighs
again. Quietly.

"Oh *God*, baby bro, stop, stop --"

"Why stop, Jason? Why *go*? Why --" Dick catches the
small container of lip gloss without looking. "*Cheater*," he
says, rolling to his feet, rocking on the edge, and then
bounding back until he can rest his knees on Jason's
shoulders and use the top of Jason's head as a drum.

Jason's hair has grown out nearly completely, and it's...
growing *out*. "Why don't you stay blond? Wouldn't it fit
the persona?"

"Only if black was my natural color, kiddo," he says,
knocking back against Dick until Dick loses his balance
*just* enough to be caught and pulled into Jason's lap.
"Also, don't listen to Dick. That wasn't cheating, that was

"I never doubted it," Tim says, and just... watches. The idea
that they might have met even if Bruce had restrained
himself enough to keep from picking Jason up isn't an
impossible one, but it *is* more than a little implausible. It
makes Tim feel like part of them, at least as much as this
play. He's part of the same thing they are, which is -- has
to be -- wonderful.

Even if that boils down to being... something like the
tangible projection of another man's needs.

"You know," Jason says, and never stops reapplying the lip
gloss, "the fact that you're actually mellower now that you're
letting Bruce mack on you is pretty scary."

"Agreed," Dick says, and bites Jason's fingers. And shakes
them between his teeth. And growls.

"I assumed you'd both think so, but... I don't care," Tim
says, and sits back on his hands.

Dick snorts.

Jason looks at him with his eyebrows raised. "You don't

Tim shakes his head.

"Just like that. No more looking at us like we're just one
wrong comment from beating you up and locking you up
somewhere dark--"

"Not to mention covering his mouth like he's afraid he'll
*infect* us with a laugh," Dick says, and pops Jason's
fingers back in his mouth.

"That, and also there -- well, you're actually not allowed to
stop trying to creep around us. That's filed under

"Okay," Tim says. He doesn't really think he *could* stop
that, anyway. It's a little reflexive.

"Just --" Jason shakes his head, laughing. "It feels like this
is one you get to save, doesn't it?"

Tim looks back over his shoulder. Several yards away, the
door's propped open, and that part of the manor doesn't
smell like anyone's home. He knows which parts do, though,
and that makes it okay that they're both looking at him. He
smiles, and nods. "I already did once. Additionally, I saved
the two of you. And Gotham. Possibly parts of Metropolis."

Dick bites Jason's fingers one more time, lets go of them,
and stands up. "Well, since *little* brother here is such hot

"We should probably let him melt the roof on his own,"
Jason says, and lets Dick haul him to his feet.

"We wouldn't want to be rude, after all," Dick says.

"It would certainly be unbecoming," Tim says, and lies back
on the roof. It isn't long before he can't hear the others
anymore, and he closes his eyes.

Like this, the slope of the roof is hardly noticeable. If he
works at the lie a little, it could be just as flat as a city
rooftop, and he could be just a tumbling run from --

Anywhere. Somewhere else.

He's home now, though.