One bright day in the middle of the night
by Te
August 29, 2006

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers: Many vague and not-so-vague references to
assorted toonverse episodes and tie-in issues.

Summary: Isn't that the way it always is? Between
fathers and children?

Alternately: Batfamily, Batfamily, and Batfamily.

Ratings Note: Sexual content which does and doesn't
dovetail with the content some readers may find
disturbing and/or crack-addled.

Author's Note: I've wanted to write some version of this
for years. It's not -- quite -- the story I originally wanted,
but I think it might be a better one... such as it is.

Acknowledgments: To Jack, Petra, and Betty for audiencing,
encouragement, helpful suggestions, the occasional
*killer* joke, and Jack found me the title, too.


The Cave is -- really fucking crowded. That's the first
thought in Tim's head, and most of the second, third,
and fourth ones, too.

He wouldn't have thought that just *doubling* their
numbers would make things -- *could* make things --
seem so crowded, but...

There it is.

Part of it's gotta be that everyone's trying to stay as far
away as *possible* from... well, from their others, but --

Tim narrows his eyes and focuses in on a patch of shadows
near the free weights -- there was *something*, and
that's -- well, they kind of *need* to have as good an idea
as possible of what's fucking going on, and --

He catches the batarang aimed at his head reflexively. And
shudders, because it's one of the ones that are sized for
*his* grip.

And, well, for... his grip. Over there. And he can't really --

"Okay, that's just freaky," he says.

His other smirks, and it feels like a mirror, or maybe like
getting his own face yanked -- he's smirking, too. "Glad
*someone* noticed."

Which -- yeah. "Heh," he says, and eyes the other in more
than just a few glimpses, and doesn't learn anything new.
It's him, only over *there*, and while Tim's in his tights
and shorts and boots, the *other's* got the tunic and
gauntlets and cape.

They both have the mask, though, which is pretty --
interesting, as these things go.

And the other is eyeing him, too.

"So how come you get the *pants*?"

Good fucking question, but -- "Well, I'm *older*. Tim."

"Robin," the other says, and it's just as much of a threat as
it should be. "And are you *sure*? That you're older, I

And that's -- another good question.


It's kind of what Dick's been telling himself for *years*
now -- before he'd left and after he'd come back --

If you live in an asylum, you're *going* to have a crazy
fucking life. And that's -- well, to be honest -- to be
completely and *totally* honest -- he doesn't mind it all
that much.

There are worse things than... this, whatever this is going
to turn out to be, and he's lived all of them and then
some -- some of them *long* before Bruce freakin' Wayne
showed up to whisk him away to his new life.

He seems healthy to himself, and, unlike the Tims over
there, he's fully dressed. He doesn't really remember buying
these jeans and the leather jacket is -- he thinks he
remembers *wanting* this jacket...

It doesn't matter. He looks like he's in *way* better shape
than the guy over there with his face all scrunched up like
no one will be able to tell with that stupid-assed 'v' mask
over his eyes --

He feels way better than his *other* looks, and there's no
reason to hang around. Let the crazy people figure it out,



"Wait," she says, to the guy -- to *Dick* -- before she can
even think to stop herself. It's not the first time she's
found herself *thinking* that to the man's -- damnably
attractive -- back, but it feels a lot more useful to say it
aloud than it does *just* to think it.

Barb can't really --

She can't really even *think* about the -- the *other*
behind her, and why in God's name had she -- they? --
ever thought those boots were anything but wildly

She can't think about it, but, at the very least, it's *way*
too soon for them to be scattering to the four winds.

Dick looks back over his shoulder -- just a little too flexible
for anyone normal -- and looks *her* up and down. "Why
should I?"

Barb crosses her arms and glares at him.

"Oh, please, Babs -- stow the librarian, will you?"

She's not going to punch him, even though her father
would almost certainly sympathize. He'd *taught* her
those punches -- no, someone had -- *Batman* -- Barb
shakes her head.

"C'mon, hurry it up, will you? The night is young and so
are --" Another look. "Well, *I* am."

Out of the corner of her eye, the others... the *others* are
grouping together *just* like children who've somehow
forgotten that Halloween is only *one* night out of the
year. "Dick," she says, lowering her voice a little for effect,
"we don't even know what just -- happened."

"Mmm... I'm guessing, we all just split into our component
bits," says the other, bright and high as a Barbie doll on
speed. "Do I get a prize, Babsy?"

She *hates* that name.

Though, to be fair, it's entirely possible that the *other*

"Sounds about right to *me*," Dick says, and starts walking
again. "Call me if you figure something useful."

Well --

"And mm, Babsy. *Nice* cardigan," the other says, smirking
like the lipstick smeared on her face makes her look like
anything *other* than just a miraculously healthy cheap
whore --

And Tim -- the Tims -- are snickering. The one who's naked
from the waist *down* is -- sidling. Up to her other. "*I*
could give you a prize..."

"Not much of one, by the looks of... it, kiddo, but maybe --"

"*Batgirl*," she says, and feels something tear in her mind
like tissue paper, only -- it's gone. "That's a *child* --"

The other -- the *others* all turn to look at her, and the
ones who smirk are so much better than the ones who are
*just* looking. Dick -- Dick is gone. Nightwing just looks
right through her, and Batman is already at the console.

She represses the shiver, and wishes, briefly, that she had
her Dad's gun on her hip just to *pet* it, and wonders,
maybe, if Dick hadn't had the right idea. Still. "We have to
figure this *out*," she says, and knows there's a flush
showing on her face by the way her other smirks *just*
that much wider.

"You're absolutely right, Barbara," Nightwing says, even
though it still seems as though he's looking at something --
small and vague -- just behind her back. "However, we
*also* need to patrol. Gotham's not getting any better,
and since you're not -- particularly useful, at the moment..."

She doesn't rear back, and she doesn't use any of the blunt
instruments to hand to pummel the man into behavior.
She's better than that. "Do you *really* think --"

"It's a moot point," B -- *Batman* says. "Nightwing is
correct. This... situation is just going to have to wait."

"Batman, really --"

He turns, and the look on his face -- well, it shouldn't *be*
so obvious with a cowl that makes her other's look flimsy
and pointless. He seems... appreciative. "However, I
would be grateful if you *would* look into it, in your free
time. You're welcome to use my records remotely... or to
use the computers here if you wish to stay, of course."
And he... smiles.

She can see one -- no, both -- of the Tims rolling their eyes.
Which one of them *is* Robin? She shakes it off, nods, and
watches the four of them... *them* head toward the cars --
the Tims split a second uniform between them as they go.

Her other is actually *skipping*.

Barb shakes her head one last time and goes to pull up the
codes as one of the cars and two bikes peel out. Remotely
will be *just* fine.

And she's just about to go --

"Er... excuse me?"

She doesn't jump, even though... God, she'd forgotten

It doesn't seem possible to *do* that when she does look
at him. The man is huge, of course, and, for some reason,
is wearing a very brown suit with a pale yellow shirt.


"I... I'm afraid I'm a little confused, Barbara. What's going

Oh... dear.


The basics, of course, Bruce understands. It's all a little
unreal, of course, that there should be someone running
around with his face and his -- well, everything, and also
dressing like a giant Bat, but, well.

There had *been* that business with the Mad Hatter several
years ago, and he's had some *time* to come to terms
with certain aspects of himself.

Certainly, Alfred seemed to think he should've done it years
ago, but that's neither here nor there.

It is, of course, not at *all* strange to see Nightwing,
Robin, and Batgirl... though he isn't at all *sure* why
neither Dick, Tim, nor Barbara is remotely willing to... well.
He isn't sure.

They haven't even had *dinner*, though, and that's...

Bruce frowns. It's correct that Barbara is invested in
puzzling all of this out, almost certainly with a mind to
getting things back to... well, whatever 'normal' has
come to mean, for them, but...


It seems very wrong to be all alone in this great broken
*cathedral* of a place. It's not where he belongs and, at
least, his children -- and Barbara -- are intelligent
enough to know that it's not where they belong either,
even if none of them had seemed willing to use the
perfectly adequate stairs.

He shakes his head and goes up, and stops.

Perhaps Tim would prefer something more casual than
Alfred's usual sort of meal, though he should check with
Alfred first.


Tim takes the passenger seat of the car because he gets
there first, but the other Tim had been really obnoxious --
quietly, because Nightwing was giving off "gimme an
excuse to be an asshole" vibes like crazy, but still -- about
getting to ride on Batgirl's bitch seat.

Which, now that he's thinking about it... damn.

Next time, they fight for it.

"You're quite sure *both* of you are... Robin."


"I can't use you if --"

"Oh, yeah, *that*? Yeah. He's Robin -- you saw him with
the batarang, I know," Tim says and puts his feet up on the
dash. He hasn't gotten much chance to stretch.

"And so are you. Interesting."

"Uh, hunh. Not really surprising, though."

"Hmm," Batman says, and gives the poor civilian driving a
minivan a heart attack as he swerves around to get in
front -- and, incidentally, take point from Nightwing.

"Nice one."

"I thought you might appreciate it."

Tim grins -- and feels it freeze on his face, because, really,
the *last* time Batman felt like showing off --

"Don't worry. I have no intention of getting us messily

-- it was really Bruce. Or -- somebody. Whatever. Good
enough. Tim relaxes, then relaxes deliberately, then slips
out of his restraints enough to *plant* his feet and use his
thighs to lift him off the seat and, incidentally, stretch the
fuck out of his neck.


"Yeah, Batman?" Only it's more of a punched-out breath
than anything else. God, he loves this position.

"We won't reach the r-point for at least five minutes at this

Tim uses his body to -- kind of -- nod, and waits for
whatever thing comes after that that'll make it make

And waits.

And -- "oh holy fucking *shit*," he says, and bucks hard
enough into Batman's -- fucking *gauntlet* to actually
*hurt* his neck, a little.

"I don't suppose you mind...?"

Batman's got his other hand on the wheel and his eyes on
the *road* and -- "fuck, *no*, I don't -- don't -- oh *Jesus*,
yes --"

"Hmm," Batman says, and twists his hand under Tim's
shorts and tights and jock and works him like -- like they
have five minutes for Tim to get off, recover, and look
Robin-respectable again before it's time to kick a little ass.

No way the other Tim's having this much fun on the bitch


The loft is just -- all wrong.

Like walking into a part of the Cave with actual *walls*
instead of just rock, but the walls aren't an improvement
so much as a lie.

Dick kicks the sterile little coffee table a little and frowns.

It's not like he wants to spend his night shopping for
furniture, but... damn. No one could possibly expect him to
live here. How *had* he lived here?

He turns around and hits the streets, instead, and once he
angles out of the silent and depressing little warehouse
district and into *Gotham*, he feels a little better.

Just -- people, and life, and *movement*. Like the whole
city was just a really badly-organized circus, or...

He doesn't know. His father had hated cities except for
what they could give him. His *mother*, on the other hand...

Dick grins and heads toward a bar with music spilling out
into the street. Something you could dance to, just like the
story she'd always told about being danced right out of the
city (which one? He'd never known) limits and into a trailer
by a man... a lot like the man he was supposed to grow

The grin's getting some attention, though.

He can almost -- almost -- feel his father nodding in

A woman with a ponytail about as long as his own offers to
buy him a drink. A woman who could be -- but isn't -- her
buzzed-scalp twin watches him drink.

The music's in his blood already, and there's no reason not
to dance them both someplace interesting.


She doesn't, actually, hit the computer right away. She'd
forgotten that her father always, *always* tried to be home
by seven on Thursdays, no matter what she was up to, and,
well, this time he'd succeeded.

And so had *she*, of course, and it's --

His smile makes her feel as warm and safe and good as
ever, and even though their refrigerator is really profoundly
empty, there are a ton of great take-out places nearby.

They eat out of Styrofoam containers with plastic forks, and
her father gives her a beer, and they watch two terrible
sitcoms before it seems as though every channel on the
television is demanding they watch the *news*.

Her father hates the news.

"Hmph. Maybe we *should* get cable, Barb."

Barb burps behind her hand. "We never did watch those
movies you rented..." Last week. Really? What had she
been *doing*?

Her father blinks and scratches his mustache. "You sure you
have time for that, hon? I know you're busy, and, well, it
was kind of a silly idea for me to rent them, anyway --"

"It *wasn't*," she says, and it's a little too loud with just the
two of them in the house, and maybe also a little... wrong.
Or... not wrong.

Her father is frowning, just a little.

"I mean..."

"You sure you're okay? There's not anything you want to
talk about, is there? You know you can --"

"I'm *fine*, Daddy. Really." Maybe for the first time in years.

"Well, okay, then! Hitchcock or... more Hitchcock?" Her
father scratches his mustache again, a little embarrassed.
"I'm afraid I don't really know what kinds of movies you --"

"Hitchcock is just fine," Barb says, and settles herself back
against the couch.

If the others can't seem to stop -- fooling around out there,
then there's no reason *she* can't have fun, too.

She should get some popcorn from the store, tomorrow.


"Master Bruce..."

Bruce looks up from the mountain of WE paperwork he'd
apparently just been letting *grow*. "Yes, Alfred?"

"Ah, if you're -- you realize, of course, that the... others are
not likely to return for some time?"

It's after *eleven*. And while tomorrow *isn't* a school-day
for Tim... Bruce shakes his head. "I do know, Alfred. Still,
it seems as though there should be *someone* waiting up
for Tim -- for both Tims -- other than... that Batman fellow,
don't you think?"

Alfred... the expression is very curious, really. As though
the man had taken a bite of a lemon *peel* that had,
perhaps, been laced with something moderately

"Alfred? Are you all right?"

"I --" Alfred blinks rapidly. "Yes, of course, sir. I don't know
what came over me. Would you like for me to brew some

"Oh, that would be wonderful, Alfred, thanks! I *do* have
a lot to catch up on."

"Very good, sir --"

"Oh, and could you set aside some... milk and maybe
sandwiches or something for T -- the Tims? I just can't
quite *picture* the *Batman* remembering that the boys
need to *eat*."

"I -- of course -- sir..." Alfred blinks again. "Will there be...
anything else?"

"No, I don't think so," Bruce says, and smiles. "Why don't
you get some rest for a change?"

"Perhaps... perhaps I'll do that, yes."


Nightwing spends the first couple of muggings doing all the
take-down action while Batman and Batgirl watch. Tim
doesn't really get it, and neither does the other Tim, but
Batman has no problem keeping a grip on them, and Tim's
willing to just wait and see for at least a little while.

Both of them are.

He starts to get it when they come upon an armed robbery
and Nightwing just kind of *gestures* -- after *you*,
ma'am -- at Batgirl.

The grins slides onto her face like it had never left, like it
never *could*, and stays there as she swings into the
bodega whooping and kicking and kicking *ass*.

She gets the attempted rape, too, and -- yeah. It's a good
thing the boots are designed to wipe down easy, though
Batgirl doesn't seem inclined to take care of all the blood
just *yet*.

They're checking each other out. Making *sure*.

He looks over at the other Tim just in time to catch the little

Their turn, next.

It's a gang using prostitutes as drug-runners, which is
disappointing -- the gangs who *do* that are almost always
the ones who use nearly as much as they sell -- but it can't
actually be *boring*.

They tumble in together. The other Tim takes left, he takes
right, and there are just enough *smart* bangers to drive
them in to the center, back to back and moving, *doing*.
He drops into a sweep just as the other Tim does a
roundhouse kick over his head, and then they switch, and
switch again, and the place is starting to burn all around
them, but they do the job -- and having the other Tim
means that it's *easy* to carry out all the unconscious
people, even the big useless guys.

They slap palms after dropping the last on the pile, shoot
their grapples together, and tumble onto the r-point rooftop
together, panting just a little, one after the other after the

"Fuck, that was awesome," he -- no, the other Tim says,
and Nightwing steps out of a shadow to glare.

"Showy. Destructive."

Because, of course, Nightwing doesn't need to use sentences
or anything like that. He can feel the other Tim rolling his
eyes, or maybe it's him.

"Effective and *fun*," Batgirl says, "so pull the escrima stick

One of them makes a little choked noise, and both of them
work on looking good and Robin-ly.

"Batgirl --"

"Quiet," Batman says, soft and final and kind of purring,
too, and it makes Tim's dick twitch. "You are, of course,
both correct."

Nightwing doesn't snarl with his mouth so much as he does
with his whole body. "There was no reason to let the fire
get out of control -- not with two of them."

"No, there wasn't. Save, of course, for the fact that the
building was already condemned, but not scheduled for a
desperately necessary demolition for another six months.
People could've been -- *would've* been -- hurt if we'd
simply driven the gang out."

Hunh. Cool. Tim crosses -- both of them cross their arms
over their chest and do not say 'nyah' to Daddywing.

"Neither of them were aware of that, Batman."

"And both of them got the job done, Nightwing," Batman
says, with a really serious edge of 'and that's final.'

Nightwing just kind of... *looks* at Batman, and Batman
looks back, and... hunh. It's hard to say. He checks to see
if Batgirl maybe has another opinion, but she's just kind of
perched on the balustrade. Looking for something to *do*.

They play the next one -- *their* next one -- an armed
robbery, a little straighter.

Nightwing doesn't say a word, after.

Batgirl tickles the backs of their necks with her gauntlets.

It's Batman's turn, next.


The bed is boring -- blue sheets, what a shock -- but it's a

Ponytail and the not-twin fit just fine, and so does he.

After, not-twin pulls a flask out of her suitcase of a purse.

Ponytail pulls a vibrator out of hers.

All *he* has to offer is the escrima sticks Nightwing keeps
in a panel behind the headboard, but the girls don't really


There's no dishes to do, save for rinsing out the beer bottles
for recycling. Barb does that, and shakes her father awake
so he'll go to bed.

The files are waiting for her, but...

But it feels kind of wonderful to just crawl into bed in the
pajamas she hasn't worn in -- she doesn't know how long.

She'd gotten into the habit of just falling into bed in a
t-shirt and panties, and not doing *that* until dawn --
assuming it was still early enough not to just crash at the
manor like some homeless person.

And, sure, the bed is kind of frilly and ridiculous -- the
whole *room* is -- but her father had picked it all out for
her himself, and that's good enough for *her*.

She'd left school after her sophomore year. There's not...

It wouldn't exactly be *hard* to finish her criminal justice
degree, especially since there's yet another message on
her answering machine from Mr. Evans at the Gotham
Public Library all but begging her to come back.

There's just -- there's this whole *life* for her, and maybe
it's not one *some* people would find exciting, but that
doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good one -- a *worthwhile*

Her father --

If she told him she was even *thinking* of going back to

Barb shakes her head and sits up in the bed, hugging her
knees. She remembers feeling small and awkward --

She remembers feeling small and girly and too *small* --

Five years ago, she was too small for the police academy,
but the rules are different, now, and it's not like she
wouldn't be *good* at it --

Five years ago, she'd cried herself to sleep more than once
because she couldn't be a police officer like her father, like
the best man in the *world*, but even then, she'd also felt
a little...

Like something was freeing up inside her, like there was
room to do other things, *be* other things -- especially
since no one really wanted who she *was*.

That's different now, too.

Five years ago, she'd been a child who thought playing
dress-up and fighting bad guys under her father's *nose*
was a good idea, a chance to get back at -- everyone. Or

It would be wrong to tell herself she didn't *understand*
that... that *creature* in her cowl and her lipstick and her
stupid little heels (her father had bought her heels exactly
*once*, and then -- she knows -- only on the decidedly
questionable advice of one of his female officers) and her
stupid little attitude problem.

She *does* understand.

But Batgirl is just another kind of trap.

Isn't she?


He doesn't hear the boys come in, but he *sees* the bike --
Batgirl's -- peeling out again. Bruce doesn't know where
Dick has gone, and he's quite sure that the Batman is
lurking somewhere in his big, blast-scarred shrine to
obsessive-compulsive behavior, but...


He finds the boys in Tim's -- *their* -- bedroom. Their hair
is damp and their cheeks look terribly wind-burned --

It's after *three*, and they're already asleep -- they
*should* be asleep, of course, but it feels like a cheat. Like
the Batman had... taken something, though he isn't sure
what it is.

Of course these boys are Robin -- they couldn't ever be
simply children, or the Batman wouldn't have...

It's just that there ought to be *something* he can do, if
only to let them understand that they don't truly *need* to
go out there every night and just *fling* themselves on
the world's problems.

He can give them so *much*, if they just...

Bruce frowns to himself and strokes their hair, bending over
the bed --

He can't tell which of them woke up first. Perhaps it was

"B -- Bruce," the one sleeping on the left says.

"Hi," says the other, and they both smile.

And *reach* for him.

And that's wonderful, of course, even though they should be
sleeping. He sweeps them both into a hug, squeezing
tighter when he feels hands digging into his sides -- both
of them.

One of them grunts against his chest, the other hums,
and -- maybe it will be all right. Tim is -- *they* are -- his
sons, and he realizes that he's done a terrible job, but
there's no reason that that has to continue --

There's a strange tickle on his neck, and another at his
waist, but really, the boys both need haircuts and at least
one of them needs something of a manicure, and the hug
is --

The hug has moved to his pants.

The hug is trying to move *inside* his pants --

"Oh dear, boys, what are you --"

"Mmm, you smell like Batman --"

"-- only, you know, *not* --"


"Right --"

"-- here --"

It takes a moment to disentangle himself without injuring
them, and involves him falling off the bed and onto the
*floor*, and also scooting backwards because the boys
seem inclined toward *pouncing* --

Bruce scrabbles to his feet, pulls his clothes back in order,
and glares. "That's *very* inappropriate, Tims!"

They stare at him.

They -- oh my. "Has -- has the Batman been... oh, boys, is
he *hurting* you?"

The Tim on the left blinks. The other coughs.

"Please, you have to tell me, because we can --"

"No," they say, together. "Nothing like that."

"We just --"

"-- it seemed like --"

"-- you smell so *good*, Bruce --"

"-- Dad. I mean, Bruce. Um. *Ow* --"

The one on the right has elbowed the one on the left in the
ribs, and that's -- well, now they're kind of... fighting in a
manner both horrifying and obviously *trained*, and it
would be rankest cowardice not to break it up.

He grabs them both by the shoulders -- challenging while
holding one's hips firmly out of range -- and tugs until
they stop. They're mussed and glaring at each other.

"*Boys*. That's inappropriate, as well. You need your
sleep, and you're -- you're *brothers*."

That makes them blink at each other and stare at him.

Perhaps... perhaps some family counseling would be in
order. Leslie would know.


Dick wakes up sticky, sore, and alone -- well, these things
are relative.

"What. Did you do."

*Nightwing* is glaring down at him like the world's worst
roommate. Dick rolls his eyes, stretches, and gets out of
bed. Might as well take a shower.

"Dick --"

"Jesus, figure it *out*, Nightwing."

"I was hoping you'd give me reason to believe my
conclusions were entirely too pessimistic. I -- did you even
*know* her? No -- *them*."

Heh. Dick grins over his shoulder. "Thoroughly."

"That's unacceptable --"

"No," Dick says, and turns the water on. "What's
unacceptable is you letting it fucking *atrophy*."

Nightwing follows him, just as grim as -- heh. Of course.

"Look, here's how I see it -- are you paying attention?"

"I'm all ears."

Right. Dick snorts and steps in the shower, hissing a little
when the water hits the scratch marks. And the bite
marks. "Mm. Anyway, there's nothing to stop you --
*either* of us -- from doing our own thing. If you want, I'll
grab some cash out of the account and get my *own*


Dick soaps himself up and wonders what this city is like
during the *day*.


"Yes, Analwing?"

"It occurs to me that this -- situation is, quite possibly, the
best possible way to protect my secret identity."

Or something. Not that he wants to be seen in public with
a guy who seems to think it's a good idea to dress like a
damned figure skater. "Sure, whatever, go with that --"

"Keep your nose clean."

Dick snorts so hard it's a good thing he doesn't have his face
in the *spray*, really. He tips Nightwing a salute and starts
in on his hair.

Sometime between the first and second lather, Nightwing

He wouldn't think the guy *could* find a way to blend in
when the sun was actually out, but it's not like he actually
cares or anything.


She wakes up with an embarrassing sound that gets
muffled by the *gauntlet* over her mouth.

The --


Barb glares and considers biting, but, well, the material of
the gauntlet is far sturdier than it looks -- no thanks to
Batgirl herself, of course.

The -- the *creature* grins at her and shifts, smelling like
smoke and blood and God only knows what else.

Her suit is actually *torn* in a few places, and her hair
looks exactly as dirty as it should. She's -- crouched over
Barb like an *animal*.

"I don't have a place to stay. Babsy." The smile on her
face -- is even worse when she licks her teeth.

And this is her problem how, exactly...?

"Of course, I could just go ask *Daddy* nicely --"

Barb shoves the creature *off* her -- and there are
gauntleted fingers held taut and still against her neck, just
like that.

She can't -- she doesn't really remember what that move
*is*, but the look on Batgirl's face fills in *enough* of the

Barb doesn't shudder. "Fine," she says, and doesn't try to
scoot away. Much. "You smell awful. Get cleaned up and
there's -- there are places in the Breyfogle Avenue branch
of the library where you can... bed down, or whatever you
need to do. Why aren't you just back in the *Cave*?"

Batgirl wrinkles her nose. "Too fucking *quiet*," she says.
"And Batman didn't want to play --"

"Please don't share -- and *not* my problem. Just get out
of *here*."

"Aww, Babsy! We can play -- you can be my baby sister and
we can paint our *toenails* and..."

The hand on her breast is just... just. She can't even...
"What's *wrong* with you?"

The last word comes out wrong -- Batgirl is playing with her
*nipple*. And she's also just --

Barb has never, ever been fond of the sound of *snickers*,
no matter who they were aimed at. The weapons of an
unsubtle mind, and just -- "Move. Your. Hand."

"Like *this*...?" And now Batgirl is *tugging* at her nipple --

And then she's on the floor, because Batgirl might be Batgirl,
but *Barb* learned how to fight from the entire tenth

Though her knuckles feel broken, now. All of them.
Ow. She's going to have to do better -- not that she has
time before Batgirl has her by the throat.

Dammit, they're going to wake up her *father*.

"So... just to be clear, was that foreplay or just you being

"Go. With. The latter."

Batgirl stares at her for a moment, *studies* her like she's
the bizarre creature on the bed -- and then she snickers.
"This has *got* to be the best thing that ever happened to
me," she says, and kisses Barb on the mouth before
shoving her back against the headboard and uncoiling
herself from the mattress.

"Glad to hear it. Really."

Batgirl grins back over her shoulder and perches in the open
window. "Later, Babsy!"

Maybe she'll trip on one of those ridiculous heels and snap
her spine.

Barb gives up on sleep and takes a shower.


It's just dirty pool to make Tim go places before eight in
the morning on a Saturday, but he has to admit that it's a
good strategy.

He's still barely fighting back snores when they get where
they're going, and the other Tim isn't really fighting much
at all. This is the only possible way that Bruce could've
gotten them to the freaking Serenity Hills Family Therapy
center -- there *are* no hills in Gotham, and there's even
less fucking serenity -- and Bruce totally knows it.

Just -- Bruce!

Tugging at his *tie* and keeping Alfred between himself
and, well, them. Both of them.

"You've got to be shitting me," the other says, and edges
back toward the car.

Alfred closes the door.

"Language, Tim, and -- oh. We're going to have to pick
another name for... one of you," Bruce says, and tugs on
his tie again. "For now, at least. Though they seemed to
be willing to believe that I'd discovered a long lost twin...
anyway. Which one of you wants a different name, and
what will it be?"

"You -- you sound like you're asking us about flavors of
*ice* cream," Tim says, and edges toward the other side
of the car.

"He should be Dexter," the other says, out of *nowhere*.

"*What* --"

"You're always going *right*."

Bruce blinks and kind of *yanks* his tie -- Bruce *dresses*
right -- "D-Dexter? Wouldn't that make you... sinister?"

The other smiles. "Not *really*, Dad."

And now *Alfred* is edging away, and Bruce looks a little
like maybe the other is perfecting those hypnosis
techniques Batman had been teaching him -- them --
whichever -- on him --

And the other reaches back with one fist, and points one
finger out of it.

Then two -- oh, yeah.

Three and they *break*, left and right -- of course -- and
Alfred's way too slow, but Bruce totally isn't. *Damn*.

The other is *that* close to getting snatched, and -- and
it doesn't seem like --

Tim isn't sure how it'll *work* if they're separate. He's
slowing down even though he hasn't told his legs anything
of the *kind* -- wait.

"Tim! *Up*!"

The other leaps for a streetlight, and he does, too, and the
good thing about it being this damned early in the morning
is that the only people on the street not them are people
from the clinic in ratty-tatty looking robes smoking
cigarettes and looking drugged. No one will believe them.

Bruce is strong and fit, but he *can't* climb in those shoes --
Batman could, of course, but it doesn't matter.

From the lights, they can grab for window ledges, lintels,
brick-work -- up and up and *up*.

"Boys, please! We can work all of this *out*!"

"See you later, Dad!" the other shouts.

Or maybe it was him. Hard to tell with the echoes.


The trick is to find a neighborhood where people *live*,
because it's way too early on a Saturday to get *anything*
from anywhere else.

He finds a street-market full of women and children,
tired-looking and a little strange. Or -- they don't seem
strange. It's just that it's the kind of scene that feels like
it should be out in the open, dust beneath your feet and
sun beating down. There's too much plastic here, and too
much glass and metal and finished stone. It's --

His father would've hated it, and his mother... Dick isn't

It's just a lot of *missing*, a lot of *out of place*, and
maybe that's why he winds up buying a handful of apples
just to juggle them, just to toss them to the wild-eyed and
too-dirty-for-cities kids he can see on the edges --

"Mommy, look --!"

And he doesn't know where that came from, save that it
had to come from one of the cleaner faces.

One of the --

Everything is eyes and open mouths and *rightness*, all at
once, and that's how he knows he's walking on his hands,
how he knows he's making his feet wobble and kick a little --

"Oh, is he gonna *fall*?!"

Really not, but he makes his way to the dashed line -- good
of them to block off traffic like this -- and pretends he's on
a *line*, not a beam, nothing so steady --

"Oh -- oh, look!"

One arm out and up -- the toddler is small enough that he
can chuck him under the chin, and drop the last apple
into his overlarge sweater --

"Mommy, mommy --"

And it's just as it should be. They're making a space for
him, making a *stage*. He wobbles and wavers and they --

-- gasp when he flips to his feet, and down to his hands,
and to his feet again. He spins and grins and does it from
the back, and he couldn't have planned it better if he
tried -- a really very excitable woman tosses her groceries
in the air, and he's not really *perfect* at juggling with
his shins and feet --

But it's not like bunches of celery and a couple of eggplants
are all *that* challenging.

"Wow, look --!"

"Oh my God, *look*!"

Yes, just -- *yes* --

And the woman isn't so good that she catches the veggies
when he kicks them -- lightly -- back, but her kids jump
and reach for them like *gifts*.

The applause is perfect, the coins and bills kind of
irrelevant -- the vendor with the worst-quality fruit had had
the fattest fanny-pack, as ever, and his jacket has a
*lot* of full pockets.

He gathers it up -- most of it, you always have to leave a
little, always have to be a little careful about cities,
which'll eat *you* if you're too greedy -- and bows, and
smiles, and winks at the woman with the -- slightly --
bruised eggplant and slips away and gone and --


The alley reeks of rotting vegetables and the unwashed
flesh of whichever poor bastard was sleeping here last
night, and he can't even --

That isn't why he can't breathe.

He covers his mouth to stifle the laughter -- gotta keep the
*mystery*, right, Dad? Can't disappoint the -- the fucking
*townies* --

"Any time you're ready, kid -- I'd *love* a minute of your

The knife taped to his arm isn't really -- it's one of
Nightwing's fucking *kitchen* knives, of all things, and
maybe he could've hung around the freaking *Bat*cave a
*little* longer --

And then the face that belongs to that voice slips out of the
shadows, and Dick grins. Because -- of course. Of *course*.
Bruce Wayne can't ever do *anything* by -- heh -- halves.

"What can I do for you, Matches?"


It's not that spiking her windowsill with nails will really stop --
the goddamned *Batgirl* from invading, but it makes Barb
feel better, even though it does cut into the time she'd
*planned* to spend shopping and picking up paperwork
from various local colleges.

She remembers --

Sometimes, her father wouldn't get home from work until
long after Barb had gone to bed and gone to sleep. There
were so many nights when she woke up -- *almost* woke
up -- to the smell of cigar smoke and other things, outside
things, *police* things.

Her father would sort of half-sit, half-perch on the little pink
chair (just *her* size) next to Barb's bed and talk, quietly,
about how Gotham was no place for a little girl, or anyone
else, but there were good schools. *Great* schools, some
of them even affordable, and how she'd always, always
have the best.

She had, of course -- her father never lied about
*anything* -- but somehow she'd just started forgetting to
take it, to *have* it.

And it's not better that her father understood, that he kind
of sort of *knew*, as much as he could ever let himself...
no. It wasn't better then, even though she told herself it
was, and it's surely not better *now*.

There's a great deal at the Foodiemart on deli meats, and
she splurges on a platter they were just finishing up for
display when she gets there.

It only takes twenty minutes to get to Central at this time
of day, and her father is *beaming* even before he sees
the food.

She can't really tell what Bullock is saying -- most of a
roast-beef mini-sandwich is pouched in the man's jaw like
a particularly large and healthful block of tobacco -- but
Renee grins at her.

"Your Dad always *said* you were the best kid in the
world," she says, and Barb doesn't blush or anything,
because her father's already doing that thing where he's
pretending not to look worried, and also because she
*really* needs to talk to Renee about the academy.
And --

Why wait?

She sits on the old and ripped up suspect-chair by Renee's
desk and pretends to just be eating her own ham
sandwich until her father's phone rings and he slips back
into the office.

"So what can I do for you, Barbara?"

Renee is brilliant, of course. Barb covers Renee's hand with
her own. "Barb, really -- I prefer it, and my father always
speaks so highly of you."

That makes *Renee* blush, which is just... well. It *is*.

"I wanted... to talk to you about something, actually."

"Sure thing... Barb," she says, and grins at her.

She has remarkably pretty eyes, now that Barb thinks about
it. All... dark and big and intelligent. "Renee, I... well, I
know you're busy. What time do you think you'll be getting
off tonight? I know your shift ends with my father's, but..."

Renee's grin turns rueful. "Well, hon, that's just it -- my
shift ends *with* your Dad's, but if you want to meet
me for a coffee or something later... um." She's blushing
even harder now, for some reason -- oh. Oh.

Well... oh. "I think that'd be wonderful, Renee," she says,
and gives her hand a squeeze. "Do you have my cell


The therapist Leslie recommended turns out to be a very
personable young woman, and obviously quite intelligent.

And sympathetic over his... inability to get the boys to come
*with* him.

Of course they were probably embarrassed about the
whole... incident. He really shouldn't have just sprung this
whole thing on them. They'd... well, of course, they'd been
living with him for quite some time, but they'd been
*alone* for quite some time before that.

And even when they weren't alone....

Yes, well, these things are understandable. He just has to
make sure that the boundaries are *clear*, and also...

Also get them to come with him.

"Do you think..."

"Yes, Mr. Wayne?"

"Oh, please, Dr. Withers, call me Bruce --"

"Bruce, then."

"Yes, I -- I was wondering... I mean, I don't mean to
suggest that I would attempt to bribe my own children, of
course, but... well. Maybe if I suggest -- in a boundaries-
friendly manner -- that if they don't... flee quite so
vigorously, I would also take them to a ball game? Of
some sort?" What sports *do* they like? Do they like sports?

The doctor pats his hand. "Often we have to make... well,
often we can't be as subtle as we might prefer in the
interests of improving family relationships."

"Oh -- yes! That's it, *precisely*. Maybe... I've been looking
at getting them dogs, too. Do you think...?"

"One step at a time, Mr. -- Bruce."

"Of course."


It takes longer to get back home to the Cave than it would
if they weren't staying under the radar -- just because
Alfred can't follow them on *foot* doesn't mean he isn't
ready, willing, and able to use the car as, like, a freaking
hunting hound.

Still, though, they get there, one after the other down the
chute that only *looks* like an outflow pipe over the cliff.

The other tumbles to a stop by the Two-Face trophies, he
aims himself more toward the equipment, which is why he
*gets* stopped by Batman's leg and boot.

"*Ow* --"

Batman grunts, and it's kind of a loud grunt for the hit, but --

"Holy -- *damn*," the other says, and Tim kind of has to

It's not like he *hadn't* spent a fair amount of time trying
to figure out how Batman plus Batgirl would look, and
certainly the whole 'Batgirl bent over a vaulting horse' thing
had been a favorite, but -- holy fucking *damn*.

And he'd already *gotten* a taste --

He catches the batarang before it would've dented his skull.
"Easy, jackass-other-Tim --"

"How come you didn't *tell* me this one was fun?"

Tim snickers and lets himself fall backward -- from this
angle, he can *see* Batman's dick sliding right *in* --

"Just --"

"No, really, you gotta --"

"Robins. *Quiet*," Batman says, and it's really impressively
coherent, considering the fact that Batgirl's reaching back to
*claw* at his hip and ass --

"-- see this," Tim says, *quietly*, and then the other is
crawling up beside him --


"Uh, hunh."

It's a really *good* view of a *really* good show until
Batman starts moving faster and Batgirl starts *belting*
out these growling little *screams*, and Tim reaches --

And the other Tim reaches --

And they pause, because, well, they'd both reached a little
*too* far.



"Whichever," one of them says, because --

Because it's fucking *good*.


It's a crappy little apartment in the kind of neighborhood
that's too crowded and poor and *hungry* to ever shut up.

There's music in three different languages Dick can discern
leaking through the walls and spilling into the open window,
and the staircase leading up here couldn't seem to decide
whether it wanted to smell like cabbage or deep-friend

All that and it's obvious -- really obvious, but still -- that
Matches hasn't been here that long, and it *still* feels a
thousand times closer to *home* than that sterile little
shrine to Swedish minimalism he'd left back in the
warehouse district.

"Get comfy, kid. Mi casa, etcetera."

Dick grins and throws himself back on a couch that was
new sometime when his parents were still alive. "Gotta

Matches grins and rolls the match from the right corner of
his mouth to the left. "Not something a little stronger?"

"Only if you have designs on my *virtue*, Matches."

"Uh, hunh," he says, leaning back against the wall and
eyeing Dick *really* obviously.

The color of the paintjob is only a fraction as awful as any
one of the colors of the man's jacket.

"Now correct me if I'm *wrong*, kid, but if that's not a wad
of ill-gotten filthy, *filthy* lucre in the inside left pocket of
that jacket..."

"And it bothers you?"

Matches takes the little namesake out from between his
teeth and rolls it between two big, blunt fingers. "Oh, yeah,
kid. I'm *worried* about the state of this nation's youth."

"Hunh," Dick says, and throws his feet up on the cracked
and scarred little coffee table. "Good thing I'm not that
young, then."

The look he gets this time is even more obvious, even...
*more*. It kind of makes Dick want to grab for himself
and squeeze, but...

He *isn't* a kid.

The match goes back in -- with a flash of teeth.

"So... what can I do for you?"

"You oughtta be careful with those open-ended questions --"

"Should I?"

The move is brutally fast and brutally -- brutal. The couch
tips over and hits hard enough that the surrounding
apartments go quiet for just a moment before everything --
music, televisions, arguments -- gets even louder than
before, and Dick's got one leg bent over the front -- now
the *top* -- of the couch and the other splayed out next to

"Just as flexible as you looked out there, aren't you?"

Dick shrugs, because it's awkward but still easier than trying
to talk with that big, meaty *paw* around his throat.

Matches grunts a laugh and lets go, kneeling up over Dick
and... looking. *Measuring*. "I could use you, kid."

"That so?"

"Oh yeah," he says, and rolls the match back to the left.
"That's *so*." And now those hands are flipping his jacket
open and stroking over his chest. "Mm. Been taking care of

"I could -- say the same -- *fuck* --"

He could usually take or leave nipple action, but Matches
was kind of *prepared* for that -- it might as well be
another attack, except for how it's making Dick's hips buck
and his face flush.

"Jesus -- is this business or foreplay or *what*?"

"Funny you should ask, kiddo. Funny you should ask..."


The address Renee had texted to her turns out to be a place
which can't seem to decide if it wants to be a diner or a
bar. The decor is kind of Confused Americana, and the
clientele seems mostly made up of families which couldn't
find a Friday's.

She finds Renee at the bar easily -- she's the only woman
there who's alone -- and climbs up on the stool beside her.

Renee isn't that much taller than she is, but she *does*
have longer legs.

"Hi," she says, at the same time Renee says,

"Sorry, I --"

And they laugh a little, quieter than the noise-level is worth.
"Sorry, go ahead, Renee."

"I was just going to say..." And Renee ducks her head and
shakes it a little, halfway between a 'no' and an 'I can't
believe this.' "Anyway, this is *not* my usual kind of place."

Right about now, Barb is guessing that Renee's 'usual place'
has a few more women. Not that she *knows*, but...
there's nothing wrong with playing, a little. "No...?"

It makes Renee look up again, over the rim of her glass of
beer and *right* into Barb's eyes. "*My* kind of place... it
occurred to me that it might not be the kind of place for
the Commissioner's daughter."

And that's... right *out* there, isn't it? So to speak. It's the
kind of thing the girl she used to be would giggle at, but
Barb doesn't really feel like giggling. "If you're sure about
that," she says, and sets her purse firmly on her lap.

"I -- Barbara --"

"Barb. And I wanted... well. It's hard to be sheltered if
you're a cop's daughter, Renee. Not *that* sheltered,
anyway," she says, and meets Renee's eyes again.

"Why don't you tell me what you wanted to talk to me
*about*, Barb...?"

"Actually? I'm thinking about going back to school... and
then going into the Academy. I wanted to get your point of

"Right. Because -- *right*." Renee laughs, and knocks back
about a third of her beer. "Why don't we forget the part
where I was --"

"But I already told my father that I'd be late tonight, and
there's no reason we couldn't talk about... other things."

"-- hitting on you. Um. Barb?"

Renee is smart and solid and down-to-earth and *solid*.
Some part of her would be bored silly... but that part is
nowhere around. Barb smiles. "We could start by finding a
place with fewer toddlers."

"Sounds good to *me*," Renee says, and slips off the
stool, absently patting her side where the shoulder holster
is hidden from all the civilians.

Maybe Renee will let her try it on.


He's almost done with the paperwork he'd convinced -- it's
possible the word 'cajoled' wouldn't be too strong a word,
or even 'wheedled,' but Bruce is choosing not to think
about that -- Lucius to let him take home with him when the
boys return from...

He's not thinking about that, either. They're *here*.

Bruce smiles. "Boys. Have you had dinner?"

"Oh, we ate --"

That makes the one on the left elbow the one on the right,
and Bruce frowns, but they don't decide to escalate, this
time. The furniture is possibly sighing in relief. Or possibly
that's him. "I know Alfred could whip something up if you
*are* hungry," Bruce says, and comes around to sit on the
front of his desk.

"Um -- we --"

"We could eat. Bruce --"

"-- Dad?"

"Stop calling him *Dad* --"

Bruce clears his throat. "It's all right, you know. I mean, I
understand that it hasn't been very long... well. There's no
such thing, of course, as getting over the death of your

They stare at him. It's really almost basilisk-like, now that
he thinks about it.

Bruce clears his throat again. "I just want you to know that
I'm *here* for you, and I'd like to... well, I already think of
you as my children, of course."

"Uh... right. That's --"

"-- what we wanted to talk about. With you."

"You wanted to *talk*? Oh, that's wonderful --"

"Bruce, we really didn't --"

"That whole thing with your dick --"

"-- just kind of a reflex --"

"-- and when you think about it --"

"-- we're going to blow up the clinic if you take us there

"-- just not a good idea."

Bruce blinks. The boys are looking at each other a little
narrowly, but it doesn't *seem* as though actual violence is
in the offing, so... no, no, really, it's important --
boundaries. Boundaries have to be *firmly* established. He
clears his throat one more time. "Boys, human sexuality is
a complicated and *important* issue, and I just want to
make sure that --"

"We're not going to jump you again. Dad. Er."

"We promise. Dad."


"We can -- um. We masturbate regularly?"

Bruce doesn't -- he's not *really* tempted to dive
backwards through the window. These are his *boys*. And
that's... that. "Um... boys?"

"Yeah, and we -- er. Really, it was just --"

"-- a mistake."

"Yes. A terrible -- mistake."

"But we'll really blow up the clinic, Bruce. Dad."

"Really, really. Dad."

"I..." If he clears his throat again, it's possible he'll cough
out a lung. "I'll let Dr. Withers know -- er. Well, not know,
but -- shall I just tell her that we found someone the two
of you like better?"

They -- the only word for it is 'beam,' really.

He can't help smiling back. "Dinner?"

They're looking at each other again, questioning, perhaps,
but Bruce can wait -- oh --!

"Oh, I have tickets to the Knights game tomorrow, if the
two of you would like to join me?"

They... well, they look a little pained.

"Or perhaps another time." The doctor had also used the
term 'baby steps.'

"Dinner is good, Dad."

"Yeah, dinner. And... um. We won't fight?"

"And maybe... we can try... the hugging? Thing. Again."

The one on the right seems very *close* to elbowing the
other, but, well, Bruce knows an opportunity when he sees

It's probably a bit below him to hug them tightly enough
that they can't move their arms, but -- boundaries are


Tim had been wondering, idly, where Nightwing had
*gotten* to when the signal comes on and he can't really
do anything but *fly*.

They're almost there before Batgirl curses quietly over the
comm --

And the next thing Tim knows he's getting yanked off his
line and Batgirl's got him --

"The *hell* --"

She doesn't hush him so much as hiss in his ear, while
they're *falling*, and then she shoots another line and
swings them into an alley.

The landing isn't the best, but it *does* result in him
getting slammed against a wall by the armoring over
Batgirl's tits, and there might be bad there, but *he*
doesn't know what it is.

Well, except for how all the mashed potatoes Bruce had
insisted on *watching* him -- them -- eat are kind of
making his stomach angry.

Batgirl *shoves* against him, though, and worrying about
oxygen is better than worrying about yarking. And then she
pushes off, and stares down at him with a finger pressed to
her lips -- and Tim gets it.

One Batman, one Nightwing, one Batgirl, and *one* Robin.

Right, okay, fine, whatever.

"I could've just veered off *myself*, you know."

"Like it *wasn't* more fun *my* way," she says, and grins,
and shifts --

She's stretching, maybe, but not in any pattern Tim can
figure out. It's more like she's deliberately making all the
armor and leather creak.

Which... yeah. Fine.

Definitely more fun.

Even if the other *is* getting all the 'lurk on the balustrade
of Central and try to make the Commissioner shudder' kind
of fun.

"So... what? We wait for the others to take off again and

"Mmm... no," she says, and pulls him close and shoots her
grapple *again*.

"Batgirl --"

"We almost never get to *play*, anymore," she says, and
loosens her *grip* --

Tim grabs her with his thighs and hangs on.

It feels -- it feels *weird* to be moving farther and farther
away from his other, but not fatal or anything.


The outfit --

Well, Dick *wants* to say that only Matches could've picked
something out with rhinestones *and* chaps *and* tassel-
pasties, but that would involve not being able to
*remember* some of the outfits Batman had put him in
back in the day.

(He can't remember why, exactly, he was in those outfits,
but that's not the point.)

Then again... it's hard to tell what Batman would be up to
with Matches over *there*.

Right there -- and Dick could point if he actually wanted to
blow this -- in the closet, with only the micro-camera's lens
poking out of the open doorframe.

And *closet* --

"Oh, God, just tell me your *name* ---"

-- is kind of a great word, when you think about it. Dick
grins, throws his head back, and lets himself kind of *slide*
down onto his knees. This hotel has great carpeting, so long
as he avoids rubbing the chaps against it too much -- static
electricity, he has learned, makes the pasties feel a little too
much like torture --

"Please, just -- *please* --"

The head-toss is ridiculous, even for him, but since his hair-
tie is still sitting on the Senator's erection -- where Dick had
tossed it a few minutes ago -- it's just the right kind of

The Senator -- what *was* his name? Doesn't matter. --
thrusts up into empty air, sending the tie flying.

He's sitting on his hands like a *good* boy, though, so Dick
lets his hair fall over the man's thighs once, twice --

"God, did you want -- I'm wealthy, I have *friends* --"

And if he didn't, he wouldn't be there. *They* wouldn't be
here, and that's just --

It's maybe a little out of *character* for him to laugh like
that, like *this*, but the Senator is just far gone enough
that he only stares as Dick slides and -- yeah, *wriggles* --
back up, and up, and onto the man's lap.

"Just -- your *name* --"

"Does it matter?" And Dick leans in and bites the man's ear
before he can even *maybe* think about coming up with an
answer, and grinds, and bends himself backwards -- enough
to let his hair tickle the man's bare, sweaty feet -- and
thinks about it.

And then Dick rears up again and grabs the man's hand --
the left one -- out from under his thigh, and turns his head
just *so*, and sucks the man's fingers.

Especially the one with the wedding ring.

The camera doesn't click, of course -- this is the age of
*video* -- but it *feels* like it does --

"Oh my God, *yes*!"

And that's plenty good enough.

Later, Matches works on the blackmail letter while Dick

He pauses, naked with his hand reaching for the bathroom
doorknob, and then goes back and puts the chaps back
on before heading out to join his... business partner.

And leans over the side of the chair. "How's it looking, big

"Well, if the good Senator *doesn't* pony up, I know some
people who could get you one hell of a career," he says,
and his hand *pauses* when he reaches back and feels
the suede of the chaps, but it doesn't stop.

It doesn't -- "God -- *fuck*, Matches."

"I know how you like to pull in the *big* crowds, kiddo."

It -- Matches' finger feels just as huge as it should teasing
the bare and suddenly really obviously naked -- more
naked than *before*, somehow -- cleft of his ass. "I -- I --"

"Mmph, c'mere," he says, but he's already tugging Dick
into -- *over* his lap -- "Yeah, like that," and Matches is
stroking him like an oversized cat, like --

Matches has one hand planted between Dick's
shoulderblades and the other stroking and *tickling* Dick's
cleft. "Fuck -- fuck, come *on* --"

"Didn't I say something earlier? Something... oh, I know, I
was gonna make it up to you for making you wax your
chest and belly for those rhinestones..."

"Yes -- I -- *God* --"

"Just me, kiddo," Matches says, and works the thumb he'd
shoved in *deeper*, twisting it and --

*Twisting*, and chuckling, and still -- still fucking *petting*
him --

"Yeah, that's right... Just like that."

"M -- Matches --"

"Stick with me, pretty boy. We're gonna make some


It's a little silly to be using the ladies' room -- *this* ladies'
room -- to have Renee help her put the holster on,
considering --

"God, I -- the *looks* we're gonna get walking out of this

Barb raises an eyebrow. "Do you care?"

Renee raises it right back. "See any of Gotham's finest out

Good point. But really... Barb frowns, a little.

"What's up, honey?"

She likes that 'honey' quite a lot, all things -- including the
way Renee's hand is still resting over her ribs -- considered.
However. "I think that's a bit backwards, don't you?"

"What is...?"

"That you feel that you have to be even the *slightest* bit
subtle about your orientation. You're one of the best cops
on the force -- possibly *the* best, according to my father,
and if you try to tell me that you haven't had to listen to
all the *men* go on and on about their sexual conquests --"

Renee's fingers are a little rough against Barb' mouth,
sweet with all the drinks they've been nursing not-all-that-
slowly, and sharp, too.

If she were to cross her eyes, she'd be able to see the grey-
blue stain of blowback on Renee's hand -- she'd been at
the range yesterday, or perhaps the day before. She can
still *smell* it if she concentrates...

And Renee kind of -- grunts. And laughs. "Listen to me,
honey-girl, Barb, honey -- God, I'm drunk -- but *listen*."

"I am," she says, just a *little* muffled by those fingers.

"Here's something I picked up -- thank God -- *before* I
arrived at the academy. Call it free advice. You need to
decide if you want to be a *cop* -- or if you want to
change the world. Because *I* can only help you with
one of those."

And Barb -- she doesn't really *want* to frown this much.
She doesn't want to break the *mood*, not really, not with
the leather almost cupping her side, her breast --

Renee's nothing like Batgirl.

"I -- shit, Barb, it's not like I don't *hear* you, you know?"

And cops don't get to change the world. Not really.

If she was another person, she'd growl, and pout, and --
and do silly, childish things in silly, childish *costumes* --

She isn't.

She *isn't*, not anymore, and so she kisses Renee, instead.

There are other people who can change the world, and...
and there's plenty of world left over for Jim *Gordon's*


Alfred brings Bruce tea in the drawing room, and then leaves.

No, he starts to leave, but returns --

"Yes, Alfred?"

"Really, Master Bruce, I -- I assume you do intend to keep
to your schedule tomorrow?"

"Well, I know it'll be -- it *is* a Sunday, but those ladies
and gentlemen at the R&D lab hardly keep *banker's*

"And... nor do you. Still, I feel it would be wise for you to
get some rest."

As opposed to, of course, waiting for his *boys*. He -- he
can't. But. "I... I don't suppose you have any idea where
Dick might have gotten to...?"

"As opposed to his alter ego, sir? No, I'm afraid not. I'm
sure he's quite all right, though."

Bruce nods. Dick has always been very resourceful, of
course, and he'd... well, he'd left once for two *years*, and
while there's a part of him which is rather screamingly
insistent that he hasn't been *back* long enough...

At least, this time, he hadn't *driven* Dick away.

Bruce sighs quietly and pours himself a cup of tea.

Alfred pats his shoulder, and... pauses. "You know, sir,
I've given the matter some thought --"

"You *do* know where Dick is?"

"Sadly, no. I was referring to your thoughts about acquiring
a pet. For Master -- the Masters Timothy. I've begun to
think that it *would* be a good idea, though you'll of
course have to prepare for the inevitable moments at
which the young sirs forget that the animal will have to
be *trained* --"

"Oh, that's *wonderful*, Alfred! I was reading the society
pages earlier -- the Braithewaite-Whistlers are throwing a
hunt next month -- they had to put it off because one of
their prize mastiffs has had puppies!"

"A -- a mastiff, sir? You're aware that mastiffs can grow to
be quite --"

"Well, we'll have to get two, of course," Bruce says, and
squeezes Alfred's arm. "Oh, this is wonderful!"

"I -- of course, Master Bruce. I'll just... have every stitch of
carpeting removed from the manor. And contact the
insurers for... every objet d'art... oh, dear."


"Nothing at all, sir."


It's one thing to start a fire -- accidentally, of course -- but
it's another thing entirely to jump *into* one, but Batgirl
had seen a flash of something in one of the upper
windows of the tenement building that *looked* like a
person, and their suits *are* pretty flame-retardant.

His *face* isn't, but --

It's not like he can do anything but follow once Batgirl lets
out that whoop and dives right *in*.

She takes out most of the window with her boots, Tim gets
the rest.

The floor rumbles and creaks beneath his boots, and Batgirl
is just another flash of flame and shadow ahead of him,
once the smoke starts blackening up her suit -- no.

When she *grins*, she's completely visible. White teeth
against a little piece of *Hell*, but Tim's been in worse

They've been on their own since Batgirl kidnapped him, and

Well, patrol is patrol, and it's not like the others couldn't
reach them if they were needed.

They find a cat screaming under a bed, and, behind the cat,
a kid.

Batgirl hands him both --

And Tim has just enough time to mostly cover them and
himself with his cape before the window in *this* room
explodes *in* --

He's pretty sure the only reason he doesn't go flying is
because he's short *and* his boots are melting to the floor,
and Batgirl --

He looks up and sees her tumbling, yelling -- *laughing*.

She got blown out the door.

She --

She tucks herself into a ball and tumbles *backwards*,
deeper into the *fire*, and he has to go after her --

No, he's got the victims -- and one of the victims has *him*,
and he may never get the smell of singed fur out of his
nose -- and he has to get *out*.

Tim growls to himself, coughs, and heads for the window --
the firefighters have finally arrived, which is great, but they
haven't even *begun* setting up the net, and it takes too
fucking *long* to get them down, even rappelling fast
enough to wrench the fuck out of his shoulder.

Incredibly -- *annoyingly* -- one of the firemen actually
tries to *stop* him. Tim elbows the man -- lightly -- in the
jaw, hands off kid and cat, and heads back in, going low,
*staying* low, and if he had a cowl he wouldn't be able to
smell his own *hair* starting to burn, and --

And he stops, because the lower floor is just *gone*.

It's just a pit, edged in *fire*, and down below is even
*more* fire -- no, red.

Red *hair*, and that's Batgirl, spinning and moving like --

She's *fighting*, something or someone, and a giant piece
of the ceiling just *barely* manages not to hit her --
"Batgirl! Come *on* --!"

"*Arsonist*," she yells, and then laughs and -- disappears
into smoke and black.

Tim drops down and in -- and *drops* because it's hot
enough that the decel frays and snaps before he makes it
to the -- thankfully stone -- basement floor.

He lands in a roll and when he comes up he can't see
*anything*. He's not the genius in this family, but even
*he* knows it's a fucking problem when the smoke is this
thick in the *basement* -- when the fire had been started
at least two floors up.

Flash of red -- there --

He runs, and finds Batgirl just *hitting* the bastard. He --

Tim can't even tell if it's male or female anymore. There's
too much blood and too much smoke --

There's Batgirl's *grin* and the groans and crashes of the

"Batgirl, you've got him, let's *go* --"

Nothing. Just -- nothing but the meaty thuds of her *fists*,
and the laugh, and the --

"Batgirl -- Batgirl, *please* --"

She looks at him.

She -- she *winks*.

And her shoulder pulls back for another hit --

And the tranq dart catches her right in the *neck*, which is
good, because if it hadn't, she actually would've made it
*to* him when she charged -- and that was one of the
*sharpened* batarangs in her left hand.

He can't -- he can't even *jump* when a big piece of the
first -- or hell, maybe the *third* -- floor lands behind him.

He grabs the 'rang, and Barb is dead weight and Tim's
shoulder is *screaming*, but the arsonist (*was* it?
Really?) is still alive *and* just too much.

Tim hears himself making a sound, shoots his grapple --

The hook falls with another chunk of building. Fuck.

He doesn't wait. He shoots it again, feels it catch *enough* --
feels it *slip* when they start up out of the pit and wishes
he could think of something to pray to --

He tosses Batgirl as far as he can over the lip of the pit,
watches her start to slide *back* --

And then he's leaping, twisting, *reaching* --

And he drags them both out as the last bits of the first floor
fall out from under them.

This time, the fire-fighters are too busy to worry about
him -- there's at least one more person trapped on an upper
floor --

And the arsonist. (Maybe?)

He grabs for someone wearing a captain's hat and points
at the basement. For some reason, he can't seem to get
*words* out, but --

"Another person down there, kid? *Alive*?"

Tim nods and uses the arm he's not holding on to Batgirl
with to try to shove. He can't. He -- His lines are all burnt
and Batgirl needs to -- he has to get Batgirl to the *Cave* --

"We'll do our best, Robin," the man says, and it sounds so
much like "fuck it" that he thinks he could scream.

If his throat wasn't fucked.

It's crazy enough on the street, at least, that no one is
paying attention to the half-melted kid dragging the
three-quarters melted woman into an alley.

Tim toggles the comm, chokes, vomits all over the ground
and Batgirl's boots, and gives the double-tap, instead.


They hit a club -- but it's not the kind of club *Dick* was
looking for.

This one is full of big, dark-haired men in tackily expensive
suits and there isn't a dance floor to be seen.

Dick looks at Matches.

Matches looks at *him*, and it's a little -- impossible not to
feel it. Blue eyes over sunglasses, and if anyone thinks that
the shades are there to protect those eyes as opposed to
the rest of the world...

They're pretty much too stupid to live.

Dick can wait for his kind of fun. At least for a while.

Especially because they're pretty clearly not here for the

Matches leads him over to a table inhabited by some older
guy whose face *kind* of tickles at a few memories, but
mostly doesn't. The guy is bracketed -- *braced* -- by a
couple of other guys who look to be made of at least as
much muscle as, like, blood.

Matches pulls a chair out -- and gestures.

Right. Dick sits down, crosses his left ankle over his right
knee, and shifts over just enough for Matches to loom
over him, the table, and the restaurant -- *social club* --

"Matches. Long time no bleed from the eyes from your
sartorial taste."

The muscle chuckles on cue.

"What can I say, Antonio? A guy's gotta be *unique*."

This is punctuated, as near as Dick can tell, by the passage
of something thick and envelope-shaped under the table.

The older guy -- Antonio -- nods once, and *then* actually
looks up at them. No, not really. He spares a *glance* for
Matches. The *look* is for him.

Which... not unexpected, all things considered. Dick looks

"So who's the kid, Matches?" Antonio isn't looking away.

"Well, there comes a time in a man's life when he's gotta
settle down... and track down what his bitch of an ex did
with the kid."

Everyone at the table's laughing, but Dick's a little too... it's
okay *enough*. That's not the kind of thing it's his *job*
to laugh at, right now. He rolls his eyes, instead.

"That's just beautiful, Matches, really. Like Norman Rockwell
hit up Goodwill."

Matches shrugs, spreading his hands... and leaving one of
them on the back of Dick's chair. "What can I say? I got a
bleeding heart."

"And a line into something interesting, by the feel...?"

Even Dick knows that was a little too obvious for this kind of
deal, so it's not a surprise when Matches just smiles.

Antonio nods, once. "I'll take it that the kid's bringing you
luck, and leave it there -- for now."

"For now sounds good, Antonio. And -- don't be surprised
if you see more of the kid around, hey?"

"Surprise is bad for my digestion, Matches. You know that."

And that's as much of a threat as anything else, tonight,
but Matches just stands. "I sure do, Antonio. C'mon, kid.
Night's wasting."

Dick dips his head to Antonio like a good -- *son* -- and
follows Matches out onto the street and into a Caddy the
same shade of gold as -- some of -- Matches' favorite

"So," he says, when Matches just drives.

"So what?"

"Do I get an explanation for that?"

"You saying you need one?"

Yes and no. Dick puts a foot up on the dash and thinks
about how to express it -- and then doesn't, because
Matches has a hand on the most important seam of Dick's
jeans, and that's -- damn. Dick rocks up into it a little.

"Look, kiddo -- if it's the passing you off as my kid thing --"

"Definitely... that's definitely part of it --"

Matches -- Dick can see him grinning out of the corner of
his eye, and he can *feel* him just...

It's only a tease because it's him, or them, or something.
Matches is right back to petting him, like -- like some --

"There's certain things that don't play in *our* part of the
city -- not for a man in my position. Not yet."

"Planning on -- changing the world?"

Matches laughs, and squeezes him. "Owning a tidy chunk
of it, maybe." The squeeze turns into a good-bye pet, and
Dick bites back a groan.

"Jesus, Matches --"

"You're sticking with me, kid. *Dick*."

"I --"

"None of that. You're sticking with *me*, and the two of

"Are gonna 'make some noise...?'"

"That's just right, pretty boy. That's *just* right."

"Yeah, well --" He doesn't really stop so much as *get*
stopped. The hand on his jaw isn't painful, or even very

It's just -- pointed.


Matches shifts his grip to something that lets him tap
Dick's cheek with his fingers. "You think I don't know how
to keep you entertained? You think I don't know *you*?"

Dick snorts, twists away, and ignores the nagging ache in
his groin. "You want I should call you *Batman*?"

And he's expecting -- he isn't sure what, exactly, but it's not
that big hand trailing through his ponytail gentle enough to
pull out a few tangles. The laugh is closer, though.


"Whatever turns you on, Dickie."


It's not that sounds he'd never heard before freak Tim out --
much -- but ones that come directly from his comm
absolutely do.

Especially when Batman and Nightwing both *jerk* like they
heard it, too.

"What --"

"Emergency signal. Pull your palm-top and get the
coordinates of the others."

It's the Nightwing voice -- it always is now, of course -- so
he's doing it, but it's still better when Batman nods.

He rattles off the coordinates, Nightwing says "West Side,"
Batman grunts, and they fly -- just far enough away from
the docks that the car can catch up to them on reasonably
well-ordered streets.

The back seat was never made for anything but making
people who *had* to ride in the Batmobile uncomfortable,
but he's small enough to make it work -- even though the
way Batman's driving is making him wish the restraints
were the kind that it was *safe* to put on yourself.

It's not like he's going to have time to pull his Boy Wonder
escape routine -- fuck. "Are they --"

He cuts himself off. He knows as much as any of them do
about Batgirl and the (*his*) other Robin, and asking if
they're okay is pointless and young and stupid.

He didn't cut himself off fast enough to avoid a look from
Nightwing, but when Tim just looks at him like maybe
there's nothing behind his mask but another mask,
Nightwing turns right back around again, head swiveling on
his neck like the robot he is.

Like -- Tim shakes it off, and watches out the window like
a --

Tim shakes it *off*, and checks to make sure his belt is as
stocked as it can be, this time of night, and pulls his
gauntlets on a little tighter.

The car's too well soundproofed for the sound of sirens to
make it through unless B -- Batman fucks with things a
little, and he doesn't. The lights are enough. The *smoke*
is enough and --

Jesus. That's not a fire, that's a fucking inferno --

"Nightwing --"

"I'm taking east, Batman," Nightwing says, and half-jumps,
half-rolls out of the car before it comes to a stop.


Batman frowns at him for a moment. "Can you -- is there
anything you can *feel*, in terms of your other?"

And that's -- that would be *helpful*, but he hasn't really
felt much of anything -- he hasn't really felt *right* since
Batgirl had flown off with the other earlier. He shakes his
head. All he knows is that the other isn't right *here*,
where he can reach out. "I -- sorry, Batman."

"It's all right, Robin. Take south. I'm going to spiral in on
the fire itself."

Tim nods and goes, and tries to --

He doesn't even know. Is it *reaching* if you're not using
your arms or anything you can feel?

No. He's not -- he's not going to *panic*. It's -- it's *him*,
or them, or however anyone who gets to know anything
*like* the truth wants to put it.

And if he had to hide, for whatever reason, then there's no
way he'd do anything but head for the alleys.

The *alleys*, after all, belong to him.

Ten minutes later, he has to stop and be fair -- Nightwing's
pretty good at alleys, too, or maybe his Nightwing sensors
had buzzed nice and loud in his pointy fucking head -- he
found Tim's other first.

And Batgirl, who... who's gotten one fuck of a bad haircut-
via-fire, by the looks of it.

And Nightwing is just standing there *staring*, even though
Batgirl's unconscious on the ground and his other is --

He can't. He --

Tim moves -- *shoves* past Nightwing and crouches next
to his other, using his cape -- the other's is melted right up
to his shoulders -- to hide their hands from... well, from

It's not like Batgirl's gonna have anything to say right now.

And just --

"What *happened*, Robin?"

The other shakes his head, opens his mouth... and nothing
comes out but a painful-sounding whistle.

"He can't report, Robin," Nightwing says, and the look on
his face makes Tim wonder if he's even *blinking* behind
there. Does he -- does he have eyes?

He doesn't shudder.

"His throat has been damaged, most probably by the

"Well, *yeah* --"

"However, as near as I can tell, Batgirl sustained no
*serious* injuries from the fire." And now Nightwing is
*staring* at his other again, like he maybe thinks *he*
did... whatever to Batgirl.


What had *Batgirl* done?

Tim squeezes the other's hand, nods at Batgirl, and looks
back into the other's mask.

He gets the whistle again, and another, and then the other
shakes his head violently.

Something. Something *bad*.

He squeezes the other's hand again. They can just -- they'll
wait for Batman.


The cab drops Barb off right in front of her apartment
building, of course. Renee is dozing in a really attractive
manner, and...

And her father's shadow fills the front window in a way that
suggests that she shouldn't use her tongue to get that last
bit of lipstick off the corner of Renee's mouth.

She makes sure the driver has Renee's address, instead,
and walks in just as steadily as she can.

"Girls' Night Out?"

Barb nods and nods and remembers to stop nodding. "I
mean... yes. We had a lot to talk about, Daddy."

Her father coughs a little, and shifts on his *feet*... and
Barb *had* been sure she'd gotten her sweater buttoned
and the shirt under it on the right way -- her pants? No,
they're zippered.

But then... her father is *Jim Gordon*, and that's... well.
"Um... Dad, I --"

"Now, listen, pumpkin --"

He hasn't called her that in *ages*. Barb fights back the
blush as best she can. "I -- yes?"

"I know -- I know you're proud of me, and you have no idea
how much -- well, how much it *means* to me that you
want to follow in my footsteps --"

"Of course I do!"

"It's just that I never wanted -- you deserve *better* than
a cop's life, sweetheart. That's all I'm saying. And I -- I saw
that you brought home those brochures, and I'm *glad*
you're thinking about going back to school, but I just. I
just think you should think even *more* about entering
the Academy after you graduate. I mean, there's all kinds
of things a smart girl like you can do with a Criminal Justice

Oh. Well. Oh. Hmm. "Dad --"

"Now, I'm not saying -- I wouldn't *forbid* you or
anything," and her father has his hands up like... like a

"Daddy, really --"

"I *remember* that silent treatment the last time I said
*anything* -- well, that's all past now, and anyway, I just
want you to know that no matter *what* you decide, that
you'll always be my little girl."

And that's -- she hugs her father, just as hard as she can,
until he makes that little 'oof' sound he used to make when
she was little and would run at him at full-tilt just to be
caught and lifted into the air...

It really *doesn't* matter.

"You know, Dad, Renee wasn't all that -- I mean, she didn't
exactly *encourage* me."

"What? Oh, I --"

"Just in case you were planning on glaring at her until she
shrank two inches shorter tomorrow."

"Pumpkin! I wouldn't ever -- you say she *didn't* encourage

Barb laughs and gives her father another squeeze. Really,
even with everything frustrating and disturbing and just
plain *wrong* in the world...

Well, there's nothing so wrong that family can't cure,


This isn't a club, either.

It's more of a *bar*, and even the fact that there's music
playing -- good and *dance-able* music isn't really enough
to excuse --

Matches' hand on his ass is big, warm, possessive -- and
more of a slap than a caress.

Dick balances automatically to keep from rocking on his
high heels. "Matches --"

"Make me proud, sweet thing," he says, right into Dick's ear,
and --

And the last time he'd tried anything remotely like this, he
hadn't really been... well, remotely *himself*. It had been
for... some damn thing for somebody's idea of justice --
Batman's, and...

And he wasn't wearing a red dress, red high heels, and a
little red collar too thin to hide anything about his throat.

He *had* been wearing falsies.

Dick doesn't look anything like a woman, even though
Matches had yanked the tie entirely for the night, because
this isn't a club -- it's a *bar*, and a specific kind of bar at
that, and the man he's meeting likes his women to have

Dick snorts to himself and sashays over, letting himself be
a little awkward, a little unsure...

It's just another performance, this time because there's one
part of the city Matches has *never* been able to get a
foothold in, and... well.

The fact that his contact -- mid *or* high level dealer, and
no one seems to know for sure -- doesn't so much greet
him as grin so wide the top of his head looks like it's gonna
fall off is, he thinks, a pretty good sign.

"You're stunning."

Dick smiles, tasting cheap red lipstick and leaning back a
little -- just enough so anyone paying attention could tell
what he has under the very, very tight dress. "I'm taken."

"Oh, darling. Not the thug by the bar...?"

Dick tosses his hair over his shoulder and just...

This one isn't anything like the Senator. He's fit, he's young,
and he looks like he has -- something of -- a brain behind
his stylish little green shades.

It's just that the *eyes* behind the shades are the same --
hungry enough to make Dick want to sweat and *need* to

Everything he already is. He smiles a little wider.

He leans in, crossing his arms just enough to call attention
to the size of his hands and to let the top of the dress gape a

"The thug by the bar, as you call him, has a proposition."

"And thinks I'll get softened up by a pretty face...? You
shaved a *little* too close for that, gorgeous."

Dick shrugs, and cups his own smooth cheek. "What can I
say? I'm vain."

"Tch. Uneven stubble can be such a *trial*... but honey.
Cut to the chase. I'm too busy for you --"

"*Because* I'm taken?" Dick uses the length of his legs to
stroke the man's thigh a little with the toe of one cheap
little shoe.

"Are you trying to tell me that's negotiable...?"

Is it? It's a good enough question that he turns to give a
look to Matches -- doing it slow, letting his head roll and his
hair fall in a little flood over his collarbone.

It doesn't matter that he can't see the man's eyes. He can
*feel* them.

And, after a moment, he can feel Matches' too. Right
through the shades. Right through his *skin*. "Mm, don't
think so. Still --"

"And really, sweetheart, forgive me --"

"Anything," Dick says, starting to smile long enough before
he turns that it's nice and broad and *slick* by the time he's
facing his contact again.

He gets a quiet little choke out of it.


"You're not -- I was going to say you're *not* Matches'
usual type."

No, that *would've* involved falsies. And a gaff. And a
much wider collar -- Dick leans in *close*, letting the man
smell the perfume that cost more than everything he's
wearing -- including the perfectly-balanced hunting knife
strapped high on his thigh. "Tell you a secret...?"

"I'm all ears, gorgeous --"

"And I'm -- his son."

That gets a better choke, and it's a good thing being
obvious under the dress is, well. A good thing. Even with
how fucked-*up* it all is, or maybe *because* it's so
fucked -- Matches knows him.

"Matches -- *Dad* -- thinks you might have had the wrong
idea about his... attitudes, for all these years," he says, and
leans back again. "He just wants to make *sure* you
understand... that he's not a very *narrow* sort of guy."

The man is blinking now and -- blushing a little. Eyeing him
differently. He's *embarrassed* now, like he just got
caught making eyes at someone's --

Dick gives up and laughs -- but still makes sure it's nice and
throaty and low. "So maybe you two *can* do a little
business, someday...?"

"Oh... Lord above. Don't you worry your pretty little head
about it, darling. I -- and my business associates -- are
always looking for broad-minded individuals."

Dick smiles. "I was hoping you'd say something like that."


"Yes, sugar...?"

"Do us a favor and take the man *shopping*, would you?"


The tea Alfred gives him tastes horrible and makes him
cough so hard his throat actually *bleeds* a little.

Tim not only *can't* talk after drinking it, he's not sure he's
ever going to want to, again.

And, when he's done puking, Batman *and* Nightwing are
standing there waiting for him. Staring at him and staring
him *down* -- he gets it. Time to explain.

The other is waiting for him at -- *on* -- the console, and
it's enough of a relief to walk into friendly territory that he
can type up his report without wanting to puke again.

Because they're... who they are, Batman and Nightwing
actually wait for him to, like, proofread and *print* the
thing -- two copies -- before they look it over. And that
gives both him and his other time to check on Batgirl.

The other doesn't miss him checking the restraints he'd
managed to insist on via signs and gestures -- and checks
the ones on *his* side of the gurney.

The other looks at him -- and it's a question, but even if he
could talk he wouldn't really have an answer.

They wait, and --

"She was out of control." It's Nightwing, and it's not a
question at all.

"Hm. The man had set the fire --"

He gestures -- he gives up and crosses to Batman, thumps
him right in the armor, and points at Batgirl.

Nightwing is the one who nods. "She *said* it was the man
who'd set the fire, and -- have there been reports of his

Tim cuts a hand over his own throat. The building had gone
down minutes after he'd gotten Batgirl out. He's not even
sure if all the *firefighters* had gotten out all right.

Nightwing nods, and that's -- that's *good*. He's *always*
good at stepping in when one of them -- any of them --
steps *out* of line.

But Batman...

Batman's still frowning at the paper like maybe Tim had
fucked the *grammar* up too badly for him to understand

"Batman," the other says, moving up on Batman's other
side. "Batman, this is -- we need to get this *fixed*."

And Batman grunts and sets the paper down, and *looks*
at Batgirl...

And then just looks at her, not soft, not *right*, but kind

Nightwing's the only one in this room not thinking of her
bent over a vaulting horse, Tim would lay *money*.

"I'll take care of it," Batman says.

"But --"

"I said I'll take care of it," and he waves the other *and*
himself off like nothing. Like the whole *night* was

And the fact that Nightwing's got that dead fucking stare of
his aimed right *at* Batman, now, doesn't really make Tim
feel any better.


Bruce hadn't realized he'd dozed off until after he feels small,
hard hands -- three of them, to be precise -- shaking him

He sits up as quickly as he can, peels the form authorizing
Lucius to raise funding to WayneTech R&D off his face, and
does a good job of not jumping out of his skin when he
sees the boys.

Which is good, because *they* look...

Hmm. "Boys? Is everything okay?"

It's almost natural to see them look at each other before
responding to anything like a substantive question, now,
even though Bruce supposes that they'd really ought to

He shakes his head -- internally. Everyone needs
reassurance, sometimes. "Please, tell me."

"Well we --"

"-- can't. Exactly. But. We just."

"-- you like spending time. With us."

Which is -- well, of course, and Bruce is moving before he
can think about it, pulling his chair far enough away from
the desk to make room, and -- but. "What's wrong with
your -- *your*," he says, reaching for the one on the right
and touching his throat. "You've been *hurt*."

The boys don't -- the one on the *left* looks to the other,
to Tim, who's been hurt, but the hurt one --

None of the ways to distinguish between them feel correct,
or, if he's honest, anything but shameful, *limiting*.

Bruce shakes his head and pulls them both close, trying to
remember the ways his father had touched him when
he'd both hurt himself and had no way to express how.
But... he's not a doctor.

"Tim, please -- I mean, Tim-who-can-still-*talk* --"

"There was a fire tonight, Dad. Bruce. Dad -- I can't do this."

"No, please -- is everyone -- was it the smoke? Boys, Tim,
please tell me --"

And it's worrying that they don't do anything but hug him
tighter, but... but it's also right, isn't it?

No, it *is*.

They -- they're *boys*, and he's their father, and it's his job
to make things *okay* for them. And that's. "You know,
boys, you don't *have* to -- it's good that you're Robin,
and the city does -- the city is so much better for having
you, both of you, but that doesn't make it your
*responsibility* --"

They don't make a sound. Just -- *stiffen* in his arms, and
Bruce can feel nothing but muscle and bone and *tension*,
just as though he's... he's touching them *inappropriately*.

And holding them tighter just makes it -- worse.

Bruce bites his lip and lets go...

And watches them each take a step back, and remembers
the sight of them scrambling *away*, running and
climbing --

God, at least they'd been *laughing*, then.

"Boys, I -- please let me help."

And for a moment there's just -- nothing, but then.

They smile, small and quiet and perfectly in time.


They reach for him -- they start to reach, and stop, and
look at each other, and the smiles on their faces are --
there's something desperately endearing about how
*rueful* the smiles are.

Or -- how they would be, if they were for anyone but

"It's okay. We're -- we just. Needed a hug."

And the one who can't talk in anything but a rough
*grate* -- nods, and smiles fractionally wider, and --
mouths. "Thank you."

And there's nothing in their stances which would suggest
that he *couldn't* hug them again... except for how there

Bruce nods, dumbly in what feels like *every* possible
definition of the term, and watches them go --
presumably -- to bed.


Barb never would've guessed that cooking bacon would be
so challenging -- certainly she wouldn't have guessed it
would involve quite so many tiny, grease-intensive *burns*.

Granted, none of them are serious, but perhaps next time
she should acquire an apron of some sort. Perhaps made of
*leather* --

Or nothing of the kind.

And really, some of the challenge probably has a fair
amount to do with the fact that she'd consumed rather a
lot of alcohol the night before, but *that* had been...

Well. A Girls' Night Out, like her father said, though --
undoubtedly -- a rather more...

Barb smiles to herself, covers the frying pan with the first
cover that looks big enough to fit the thing, and decides to
let the bacon cook without her interference. She can't
change the nature of bacon, either --

And that's an amusing enough thought that she laughs, a

Her father is moving around upstairs. He'll want the
newspaper, and certainly some coffee, as well. And --
there are still those files she'd gotten from the Batman...

She can check those later.


"You *know*, Matches --"

"Yeah, kiddo...?" His voice is actually almost absent, and
Dick can tell that he's more focused on wherever he's
leading them to than on anything else.

Which is fine, because *Dick* is still in the stupid little
heels -- and everything else -- and he needs to focus a
little, too, just to keep from getting his toes crushed by
any of the people in *this* -- different -- bar. Just a
little, though. "If you *are* gonna want to do business
in this part of town... we probably are going to have to
do something about *your* wardrobe."

"You think so...?"

... and apparently *really* focused, and now they're turning,
and the bar's crowded, but not that much. "Uh -- well,
*yes*. You want these people to take you seriously, don't

"'These people,' Dickie? Tch. Somebody sounds

"Oh, don't even --"

"Here," Matches says, shoving him a little toward an
unmarked door, which, when it opens, turns out to lead to
a darkened little closet of a bathroom.

"What --"

"*Right* here," and Matches doesn't so much shove again
as *move* Dick inside with the entirety of his body, and
then he closes the door behind him.

And locks it. "Oh, you gotta be --"

'*Kidding* me,' he was *going* to say, but now he's bent
over the sink -- and it feels clean *enough* under his
hands that this must be the *employee* bathroom -- and
talking is a little more difficult.

"*Fuck*, Matches --" as opposed to cursing. He can still --

Fucking *yelp*, because the slap to his ass was both hard
*and* a shock --

The next one isn't, and neither is the feel of the dress
sliding up over his ass -- halfway up his *back* --

"M -- Matches --"

"Look at it this way, gorgeous -- it's not like I could do this
in the *other* bar. You're my *son*, after all --"

"Oh, you fucking -- I can't *believe* this --"

"Can't you?"

And those are his boxer-briefs sliding *down*, and why did
he even bother *buying* the things for himself?

"C'mon, baby -- answer me."

"I... just --just fucking hurry *up*, Matches!"

"Aww, and here I got us this fine and *private* little place..."

It makes something ping and flare and -- disappear in
Dick's mind, something important enough that Dick feels it
going and wants to reach for it -- "*God* --"

And can't, because the slick is warm -- Matches must've
had it in his *pocket* -- and there's *enough* of it -- but
'enough' isn't a real concept when considered against
Matches' big fucking *fingers*, blunt and pushing and --
*twisting* --

He's up on his toes and gritting his teeth --

"You okay, baby? Baby boy... oh, you're so fine I can't
*stand* it --"

He's sweating down the center of his spine, and the dress
is -- *sticking* --

"Just so -- *beautiful*. Perfect little thing, *pretty* little --"

"Don't -- God, don't -- *fuck* --"

Harder now, faster -- he knows it's not going to feel like
he's being fucked a few dozen thrusts from now, but
*right* now --

"Don't what? Don't love you, baby?"

"Matches -- *please* --"

"See, I can't -- I --" The grunt is low and deep and
*growling* --

And nothing against the *stretch* inside him, to the -- fuck,
Matches is making *room* for his dick -- right -- right
inside --

"It's because I *do* love you, baby -- and I'm gonna show
you how much."

"I -- oh -- oh, fuck, Jesus -- God I --"

Dick hears himself -- feels himself -- hissing, *spitting* out
a breath, saliva on his face and --

And the *light*.

Bare bulb above them, swinging and yellow and *harsh*.
And the mirror --

The mirror is the cleanest thing in here. The mirror smells
like -- like cheap fake pine --

He doesn't care what it *smells* like.

It's just --

It's him, wide open mouth and wide open *eyes*, and he's
gotten his lipstick a little smeared --

And the next thrust makes him bite his lip, makes him stick
his tongue out and pant --

He's --

He's right there.

"You see, baby?"

He sees.

"Nobody loves you like -- heh -- *Daddy*."


Tim wakes up to the feel of the bed shifting, dipping --

Tim smiles and stops and doesn't reach, because Bruce is
their *father*, no *really* --

And then the other makes a sound he knows from the
inside, knows in his *dick* --

And that's when Tim feels the brush of the cape along his
chest and side.

"Batman --"

"Wait -- your turn."

And that wasn't really a hesitation so much as what could
only *be* a lick, *Batman* licking -- tasting --

And then the mattress is moving again, and these sounds --

These are different, but not -- not *really*.

They're the same sounds he'd be making if Batman was
sucking and licking -- and *biting*, he'd have to be --

They're the same sounds, only filtered through a truly
*fucked* up throat. His other still can't talk -- and neither
of them will be going to school tomorrow, so it's possible
that this makes sense.

Except for how Tim had *thought* everyone had agreed
that this -- this wasn't for the *manor*, as opposed to the
Cave. Or.


Tim holds himself as still as he can. He's *waiting*, and
maybe if he waits long enough someone will explain when
and how the rules changed, or if the rules were ever
really there.

He thinks about saying something about how if Bruce
*does* catch him -- them -- then Batman will have to do
something really disturbing to keep the man from turning
*Batman* in --

But he doesn't, because Batman knows that. Right...?

He starts to turn, and -- stops. It's not like he can *see*
anything, and right about now he kind of regrets not letting
Alfred give him a night-light when he'd first moved in --

That sound would be a scream, he thinks, if Tim -- if his
other could --

And the mattress is moving *rhythmically* now, really --
really *obviously*.

He doesn't need a night-light, and he doesn't really --

The hand on him -- is a hand, not a gauntlet. It's *his*
hand, only not, because things are kind of crazy right now --

It's the other's, and it's kind of -- reaching and scratching
and *grasping*, and Tim takes it in his own and holds on.

And waits his turn.


It's everything he's ever wanted, up to and *including*
how *cold* the gauntlets are on his hips, and the scratch
he's going to have over his ribs from the cowl.

It's -- it's *Batman*, and no one else, nothing confusing or
strange or impossible to understand, and his legs spread
just that wide, his knees press right *up* against his chest --

He can *do* this, and he is, and if it's better that he can
hold the other's hand, too --

It *is*, and he's not thinking about what is -- isn't -- under
that cowl, and he's not tasting the blood in his mouth
from all the screaming he shouldn't even be trying to do --
it's just a *little* --

And then the other *squeezes* his hand, really hard, and
he doesn't understand --

But then he smells *smoke* and *leather* --

"Which one of you good good *good* Robins got me out
of that big nasty fire, tonight, hmm? Who gets the reward?"

And the other is squeezing his hand again, and the smell is
gonna choke him, and Batman's so huge and he's not --

He's not *stopping* --

"Oh, like I actually *care*," Batgirl says, and hums, and
moves --

And Batman doesn't make a sound, but he makes it really
*loudly* --

"Aww, bunny, you showered so much you barely even
smell like *boy* --"

"Oh *fuck*," the other says, and he can't --

He can still squeeze.

And he does.


"Say hey, honey-girl. What are you doing for lunch?"

And Renee sounds... mm. That's exactly what she sounds
like, especially since *behind* her voice is the precinct, all
alive and bustling -- her father is back there, somewhere,
and Barb smiles. "I wasn't planning anything special," she
says, and that's entirely honest --

"In *that* case... there's this little diner I know that, now
that I think about it, is about as close to directly between
you and me right now as you can get without a map and
a ruler. How 'bout it?"

Really *very* honest... especially since Barb can't seem to
remember what she *had* been planning, or doing, or...

She's still in the robe she put on this morning, and her
pajamas are still under it.

She's -- she was at the kitchen table when the phone rang,
just like how she was when her father had left.

How very *strange* --

"Barb? Still there? Or --" Renee laughs. "Oh, I'm doing the
lesbian joke thing, aren't I?"

"*Who's* a lesbian, Montoya?" And that's Harvey, obvious
in the distance.

"*You* are, Bullock. Why don't you go munch a little
carpeting -- you look hungry!"

And then there's laughter, and -- her father must have the
door to his office closed. Barb frowns.

"*Anyway* -- now that I've scared you off but not off the
phone -- I can hear you breathing -- what do you say?"

"Oh! Sorry, I was just thinking -- no, I'm *not* doing
anything for lunch. Just -- give me the address?"

"You okay over there?" Renee's voice is quiet and the
particular kind of 'concerned' that only a police officer --
*real* police -- can get, the kind that on anyone *else*
would be suspicious.

It makes her think of bringing home dates for her father
to meet, and Barb smiles again. "Oh, I'm fine -- but I'm
going to need a little time to get ready."

Renee laughs, quiet and private. "Yeah, you should've seen
me staggering in this morning -- *ay*. Anyway, why don't
we try for two or so?"

*Two*? But that's --

The clock on the stove says it's almost twelve-*thirty*. Her
father had left -- how...?

It's not important. "Two's fine, Renee."

"Great! I'll see you then."


Barb hangs up, and pauses -- there was... wasn't she
supposed to do... something? She doesn't know, and it's
possible her father would, but he won't be home for hours.

It can't have been very important.


Tim wakes up and feels --

The other is awake, too, or now, or something.

"Morning," he tries to say, and gets out 'mor' and
something that sounds like a puppy being strangled by

"Yeah, don't try," the other says, and groans.

Tim nods. If he could, he'd groan, too.

The sheets -- the *room* --

"God, this place is -- shit, is Bruce gonna try to wake us up
for school?"

Tim's out of the bed just like that, and never mind the fact
that it feels like his thigh-muscles were being used to string
a guitar last night. He heads for the window and yanks it
open, pulling the curtains back, too for maximum air
circulation --

"Ow, God, I *hate* the sun --"

Yes, they do. But --

"I know, I know. Blech, which one of us *bled* on the

Tim looks himself over -- and points to his chest. He's
actually gonna have to disinfect the wound from the
pointy little Bat-ear of doom.

The other looks at the wound, and at the sheets, and

Tim shrugs.

The other holds *up* the sheets -- and that's an impressive
amount of blood. Tim points at the other and raises his

"Just some scratches and bites -- and yeah, I'll disinfect,
*too*, but..."

He remembers, just before passing out, getting shoved to
the side and mostly on top of the other, so that Batman
and Batgirl could --

"Oh... man. Eugh. *They* should be cleaning up."

Tim makes his own face, and shrugs again.

"Yeah, I know. Still."

They bundle the sheets into a pile... that immediately
unscrunches and is obvious and also reeks. They yank the
pillowcases off, too -- the one spattered with little blood

Well, they're little, but still there.

"I say we set fire to the whole set."

Tim punches the other's fists and goes to find some clothes.

"But -- we also."

That's not all they have to do. Tim clenches his fists at his

"I mean. You know. It *works* --"

Except for how it really doesn't.

"I mean, I didn't even *see* -- what Batgirl did."

He's dead. There's a dead man, and it's their fault.

"Shit. What do we -- *who* do we even call?"

He knows. *They* know. And... and Tim gives up and
looks at the other over his shoulder.

The other nods. "It's just... how do we do it *and* keep --
*Batman* from --"

Neither of them shudder, because neither of them have to.

"Yeah, okay. So we do this... quietly."

They can do quiet.


It's still not the kind of dancing Dick wanted to do, but it's...

Well, it's Matches, and he's starting to *get* that the guy
has just a few kinks and is just a little serious about them.

A little.

The music might as well have come out forty -- *sixty* --
years ago, it's so slow and sweet and...

No, he has to stick with sweet.

Just the kind of thing for a guy and his -- *girl* to sway to,
nice and slow. Dick rolls his eyes and --

And the pinch to his hip is a reminder, an acknowledgment,
and a *pinch*.

"I'm being good."

"You always are, beautiful. You always are."

Right. Dick gives up and throws his arms around Matches'
neck -- and the smile comes from over the shades *and*
the man's mouth. And --

The hand on his hip moves around -- a little -- more. Just
enough to cup his ass and squeeze.

"Too bad we got a little more business to do tonight."

Dick grins, and grins more when the flush he can feel on
*his* face makes those eyes get a little sharper and a lot
more -- focused.

It could be a lot worse, all things considered.


Bruce finds the boys waiting for him at the breakfast table,
which is so much of a surprise he drops his briefcase.

He hadn't even *planned* to have breakfast, really. He'd
had... trouble sleeping, and he was already running late,
but --

"Alfred didn't think you'd be able to, but --"

The other -- he still can't really *speak* -- points to the
empty place setting between them, and --

And they smile.

Bruce smiles back. "I don't get the head of the table...?"

The boys look at each other -- and then each move their
chairs *away* from the place setting between them. And
look at him again -- *hopefully*.

It's terrible that the move is something of a relief, and it's
terrible that they feel -- "Of course I'll have breakfast with
you. Lucius is -- well, distressingly accustomed to me
being late, and -- and that's neither here nor there." Bruce
sits down between them, and smiles at them each in turn.
"So what *is* for breakfast this morning?"

"Alfred said something about eggs, and --"

Bruce knows the pause well enough to look to the other,
but the other just shrugs.

Neither of them seem... remotely interested in food as more
than fuel. Bruce frowns a little, and resists the urge to
stroke the other's hair -- he's *hurt* -- and then he doesn't

And -- the *other* bumps Bruce's arm.

And is smiling when he turns.

There's an odd pain in his arm -- in both of them, actually,
now that he thinks about it.

Hm. He hadn't had the chance to play squash yesterday...

Was it yesterday?


"Sorry, Dad."

The other grunts with what sounds like...

Like... something.

He's really very tired.


"Miss? Miss...?"

Barb blinks to herself, clutches her purse, and --

And she's in a diner. How... strange.

"Miss, did you want to order something...?"

"No, I -- I don't --"

And then the bell rings, and Renee walks through the door,
and Barb remembers, and smiles.

"Sorry, I --" She checks the waitress' name tag. "Sorry,
Marie, I was just woolgathering. The woman I'm having
lunch with has arrived. Could you bring us another menu...?"

Marie nods, and eyes her a little -- but just a little.

"Sorry about that, Barb -- but *you* know how it goes."

She does. Her father tended to count every meal he
*wasn't* late to as a personal victory in a very obvious
manner. "It's really okay, Renee. I wasn't waiting long." At
least, she doesn't think she was...

It's all right.

Barb smiles.

"God, you've got this..." Renee shakes her head and laughs
at herself. "You know, I never would've guessed you could
ever have a soft smile, you know? I... probably sound like
an idiot."

"You really don't --"

"I blame the great sex," Renee says, and raises her
eyebrows in a laugh that apparently only gets to be offered
aloud... in a different sort of place. Or when they're alone.

Barb smiles and looks down at her hands. *Batgirl* probably
wouldn't spare a moment's thought to the *normal*
reasons a young woman might want to keep her nails
trimmed neatly.

"*Anyway*... I was gonna say. That smile -- the one on
your face right now? It actually reminds me a lot of your
Dad, when I think about it -- oh, God." And Renee covers
her face with one hand. "Great sex and not a lot of sleep."

Like her father. Yes, she likes that. "And liquor. Quite a fair

Renee snorts, and drags her hand back down from over her
face. "That, too. Right. Look -- I just wanted to say. This --"
She waves a hand between them -- "*We* can be anything
you're cool with. But I'd like to make sure we *are*, you

Barb -- well, it seems a little silly to smile again, but she
almost has to.

There's just -- something so strong and sure and *normal*
about Renee, when the past several years have been
anything but.

"I'd like that," she says, and reaches across to take Renee's
hand in her own.

It's really... well, *Renee* reminds Barb of her father, too.

And eating lunch is awkward when you're holding hands,
and having anything like a *conversation* is awkward
when you're trying to eat fairly quickly -- Renee, of course,
has to get back to *work* --

But it's the sort of awkwardness that's right and... and
*perfect*, somehow.

Just like the sound of her voice, so soft and gruff and
*secure* against her throat, and her stomach...

And then the bell over the door rings again, and it
*wouldn't* be enough to distract Barb --

Except for the fact that it's Tim. Both of them.

"Oh... damn."

"Barb? Is something wrong?" And Renee looks around
immediately, of course, and eyes the boys. "Shouldn't they
be in school?"

"Almost certainly," Barb says, "but..."

"You know them?"

Yes. No. "I... yes. I know their... father, actually." Just as
they know *hers*.

"Well, it looks like they want you for *something*."

Barb sighs, and frowns, and...

And remembers. The files. She hadn't really -- there are
*two* of them when there *should* only be -- why hadn't
she... she shakes it off. As much as she --

No, she can't shake it off *too* much. "I -- there *is*
something I should talk to them about."

"Random maternal instincts...?"

Barb laughs hard enough to -- almost -- cough. "Not --
even remotely."

Renee's smile is rather more of a grin. "Glad to hear it,
honey... and I should be getting back to work, anyway."

She slides out from the table, leaving enough money on the
table to cover both of their meals (of course), and looks
the Tims *over*.

There's a part of Barb which has the vague idea that it's
something she should -- or, at least, could -- be concerned
about, but it really is vague.


"We need to talk to you someplace more -- private than

And she *doubts* that, but -- but should she? Really?
There's... And it's strange that the other one didn't say
anything as opposed to simply nodding.

Well, it *has* all been very confused. And so has she...
hasn't she?

"Babs? You in there?"

She waves him -- them -- off and stands. It's not like she
had anything else to do.

"Though -- you don't happen to know where Dick is? He's
kind of... off the radar."

"Why would I know that?"


The rest of their business had taken them to a motel just a
little too shady even for *him*, but, well, it's not like you
wanted to do your kneecapping -- if that's even what
happened, and certainly *he* doesn't know a *thing*,
officer -- at the Hilton.

Still, even once Matches had sent their -- contact -- off to
go forth and sin no more with *their* money...

It's funny to think of it as theirs, as opposed to his.

Funny, but also -- not, and --

He wouldn't want to sit down on any of this furniture in
*Matches*' clothes. Not that he has all that many of his
own -- the dress just doesn't count -- but...


"Restless, gorgeous...?"

"Disgusted, more like -- Jesus, Matches, how much longer
do we have to stay in this pit?"

"The individual we had to meet with this fine evening did
not have a vehicle of his own --"

"But we do --"

"And, despite our best efforts to the contrary, said individual
just may be wearing a little of our DNA -- or vice versa..."

"I'm *not* taking my clothes off in this hole --"

"*And*, pretty boy -- it'd be just a little *importune* for the
two of us to be in range of said contact before *he* gets
back home and... well, you gotta hope he's gonna *behave*
now," Matches says, and stretches on the bed, arms and
legs and chest.

It makes him seem... larger than he already is. It shouldn't
look that *good* with the man wearing a suit with more
colors than his old... than that old... he doesn't know. Either
way --

He *also* has a point.

And if he walks on his hands in this room, he'll wind up with
hepatitis of the palms or some shit -- "Fine. Just --"

"Just what, baby? Bored already...?"

And -- "Yes. And --"

"Disgusted. Yeah, I got that." And Matches sits up, fast and
smooth and dangerous, shifts down to the foot of the bed
that's probably leaving more genetic material on his clothes
than any *beating* could, and... crooks his finger.

Dick makes a face. "I already said I wouldn't strip here,

"Who says I need your clothes off? Come here. Let me...
heh." The smile on his face is knowing and -- irritatingly --

"Why should I?"

"So I can look at you, baby. Yeah. Turn around like that --
we should get you some tighter jeans. Maybe..."

"God, Matches --"

"Take your jacket off? I'll hold it for you, I promise."

It's over and down his shoulders just that fast, and the back
of Dick's neck feels... warm. *Watched*.

He hands the jacket back without turning, and stands, and

"What do you want, Matches?"

"What do I want? I've got everything I want right here...
except maybe for some music. I know you like to dance."

"I -- I like --"

"I know you like to *move*," Matches says, and there's a
sound, leather on fabric -- "No. Don't turn around. You --
you need to *feel* this."

And Dick's face -- he can feel himself flushing, but. Matches
can't see it. Not like this. "Feel... feel what?"

"Just this," Matches says. "Just me."

Watching -- no. *Seeing*.

"Yeah. I can't --" The laugh isn't private, at all. It's large,
and rueful, and open --


"I can't take my eyes off you. You know that, right? You've
always... no, forget that. You know it *now*."

It's not -- he's been on worse floors, and it's just his hands --

And Matches moans, just a little, when Dick drops his legs
into a split, and spins on his hands --

It's not really --

"Just -- just like that. I'm *never* letting you go, baby."


"There's a stack of bodies in our bedroom. I think -- I think
that's a sign of something a little fucked, Tim."

Two bodies don't make a stack, even if they *are*

"Yeah, I *know* it's only two, but... still." The other Tim
frowns, and *stops* in front of the clock.

"We have to," Tim says, only it comes out like something
between a growl and a wheeze.

"God, I -- Jesus. How come *Batgirl's* throat isn't all

Probably because she wasn't having a panic attack and,
you know, hyperventilating in the smoky inferno of death.
Tim shrugs.

Enough of that comes through that the other Tim nods. "It's
just... we're about to -- what we're about to do --"

Feels like a betrayal. Tim nods again, and looks at his feet.

"And maybe -- it's not like --"

They aren't scared, or anything. Neither Batman *nor*
Batgirl will see this coming. They've been well-*behaved*.

"But still. You know... even after we get them all together,
we still have to figure out --"

What to do with them. Except not, because that's what the
*League* is for. God -- had Batman even told them...

"Fuck it, maybe I *am* a little scared, but you can just shut
the fuck up -- you're not the one Batgirl fucked up the ass.
And that's when she was *happy*."

Tim blinks, and looks at the other -- and *looks*, because
he can tell by the feel that the look on his face isn't the

"Just --" The other crosses his arms over his chest, and
looks at the clock again, and --

And it's not about Batgirl -- or any of the others. Not really.

And of course if he puts his hand on the other's arm, it'll
just leave him open for about six different punches -- and
eight different strikes -- none of which he needs right now,
so he just *moves*, instead, pushing close and pushing the
other against the clock.

After a minute, the other stops tensing and hugs.

And laughs. "Bruce has been good for us. In a way."

Tim snorts.

"And yeah, well. I can't even remember which of us came
first --"

It was him. Maybe. Or -- he doesn't know, either.

"It'll be -- different. Without you."

Tim nods. Because it doesn't really matter that they *won't*
be... without each other. Not really.

And the other pushes off, and goes for a throat-strike that
won't be. He knows it, and tilts his head back, and the
other touches his throat, just for a second.

And then they open the clock.

They get maybe halfway down the stairs before they really
*have* to stop again, because Batgirl is naked and --

Batgirl is naked, and not actually fucking Batman, who's
right there, but she's naked, and there's no cowl, and she --

Well, maybe it was stupid to think she *wouldn't* have
eyes, since it's *her* cowl, but... still.

It's the same face as the one on the unconscious woman
upstairs, only showing a lot more teeth.

There's way too many almost-fresh burns and -- thread
coming out of her back?

"Batgirl. You *need* stitches."

"It *hurts*. I don't want to. I want to -- I'm only bleeding
a *little*!"

The other stops him from pulling the tranq gun he's had
strapped to his back since this morning -- Alfred couldn't
get the shoulder-rigs to sit right under any of their clothes --
and... yeah.

Maybe --

Maybe Batman...

In any case, not *yet*.

They head further down the stairs carefully, a little slower.
It's not that they haven't already (probably?) been seen, it's
just that Batgirl's holding one of the explosive batarangs,
and -- yeah. Time to be a little cautious.

"Batgirl," Batman starts, and moves a step closer.

Batgirl *growls*.

"Unacceptable. If you don't get stitched, I can't let you have
any of your spare uniforms, and you won't be able to join
us on patrol."

Seriously? *Seriously*? That's *it*?

And the other pokes him in the side again, but --

Tim shakes his *head*. That's just -- Batman *has* to see
Batgirl isn't *street*-ready --

"Clayface," the other says, soft and quiet and clear.

Tim bites his lip. It's not that he was going to -- it's. It's.


Tim closes his eyes and nods. Batman doesn't *have* the
same kind of hard and fast -- anything that Nightwing does.
It's what makes him *easier*, more *fun* --

"It's not. It's not better," the other says, and it's kind of like
a soundtrack to everything else, now, because Batman has
that no-teeth smile on his face, like maybe his eyes -- does
he have eyes, too? -- are *blazing* behind the cowl, like
it feels when Freeze shoots you and you have to tell
yourself that you're *not* burning.

That it's -- the opposite --

"Batgirl. Let me stitch you."


"I don't take 'no' for an answer," Batman says, quiet and
reasonable and *moving*, closer --

Batgirl drops into a ready-stance that has her about two and
a half moves from something that'll maim, at least --

"You *know* that," and then they're --

It's too fast to see and that's *good*, because it's too
fucking *harsh* to watch.

It ends with Batgirl's head bouncing off the floor of the
Cave once -- *twice* --

And Batgirl's legs are splayed -- spread --

And it's still not now. It's still.

"That's better, Batgirl. That's -- mm. Let's just..."

And, by rights, Batman *shouldn't* be able to flip Batgirl
that easily, not from *that* position, but enough of the
fight's out of her that -- that.

Tim swallows.

The other does, too. "At least he's... doing the stitching."

Tim nods, and they wait, and they *wait* and they
*watch* --

"You should be practicing, Robins," Batman says, and that's
absolutely a *threat*, but it's a coherent sentence, *and*
he's still stitching up Batgirl's fucking *wound*, even
though --


"This is why he's Batman," the other whispers, and it's so
hilarious Tim thinks he's going to puke.

It's still not -- there.

The first uneven stitch might be -- *might* be -- just a
mistake, but they *move* on the second, tumbling down
from the stairs instead of leaping for maximum momentum.

"You really shouldn't -- mm -- try to distract me when I'm
*working*, Robins --"

He pulls the gun first, aims for the little bit of thigh showing
on the left -- and waits -- and shoots Batgirl just in time for
the other to take Batman in the jaw when he moves his
hands to protect his thighs.

Batgirl *grunts*, but that's not a sign of anything, and he
isn't dead *sure* what the other is doing, but he flips and
*moves* --

And *hears* Batman coming up -- it takes *too long* for
the sedatives to take effect, *because*, in retrospect,
they've all had to shoot the man way too many fucking
times in the past --

And he flips and *dives* and doesn't know why until he
sees the batarang that would've taken a piece of his ear
stick and shudder in the mats.

It doesn't matter. Batman's staggering -- the other's gotten
him at least twice more in the face -- and *he's* got
another shot loaded.

Too much armor on the chest, and the only clear face-shot
he gets would take out the lens and maybe *blind*
Batman --

But, well, his dick is still hanging out.

Tim shoots, winces, whirls in time to *catch* Batgirl's
fucking explosive 'rang, doesn't panic, doesn't panic --

And then the other takes it and uses a code *he* doesn't
know to deactivate the thing, and they breathe.

Well, the other does. "What code *is* that?" he says, and
never mind that it fucking hurts and wouldn't make sense
to anyone who couldn't read lips.

"First time Batgirl got laid in the suit," the other says, and
shrugs. "Total guess."

Which... okay. He remembers that story, because he got to
*hear* it the first time --

"It used to be a lot more fun to remember her shoving me
to my knees and cock-slapping me with that dildo."

It really did. She'd carved a little bat on it and everything.

"I just... you're right," the other Tim says, and whips out
his zip-strips.

Tim whips out his own and raises his eyebrows.

"We've gotta get that *back*."

Totally yes, Tim thinks, and nods, and works on restraining
Batman --

*Starts* to work on restraining Batman, because there's a
very *specific* kind of 'rang currently pinning his strip to
the mats.

Tim has just enough time to think "shit, *Nightwing* --"
before the flying kick makes everything go *really* fucking


The apartment seems old and stale and abandoned when
they get back, like they'd been gone for weeks instead of
just the better part of the last two days.

Still, the look the landlady had given Matches said the rent
had maybe been paid up for the next -- *ever*, and the
smell of cabbage on the stairs felt like --

Well, it felt like home.

Just... something about all the lives going around and
around and *around* in every other apartment, like the
building was just this big human *hive* -- in the middle of
dozens of other hives.

He stops being tired when he takes a deep breath, because
it feels like *all* of him is breathing --

And because Matches is watching it all happen, of course.

Dick breathes that in, too, and smiles, and strips down as
he walks.

Just because he's not tired doesn't mean he doesn't need
sleep -- it's one of the first things he'd *learned* from his
parents, really. Adrenaline isn't the same as energy.

The *high* -- can get you killed.

Matches' bed -- hunh.

"Who changed the sheets?"

"Probably the missus downstairs, kiddo. She likes to take
care of me."

Because you take care of her? Yeah, that doesn't actually
need to be asked. The *important* thing is that the sheets
*are* clean, as opposed to just clean *enough*. He can go
with that.

He can definitely... yeah.

He groans a little once he rolls on his back and can stretch
his legs under the covers, and he doesn't have to open his

Matches is -- paying attention.

"You know --"

"You're actually planning to go to *sleep*, aren't you,

"Had to happen sometime," Dick says, planting his feet and
arching enough to crack his lower back a little, and then
rolling over onto his front.


He rolls his ankles in their sockets, shakes out his knees a
little, and -- clean *flannel* sheets, yet. He rubs his dick
against them, just a little companionably.

"Dickie, Dickie, *Dickie*..."

"But I was gonna say -- just because I plan on getting some
sleep doesn't mean you shouldn't..." Dick pushes his arms
out from under his body, planting them flat to the wall. His
left wrist pops -- he'd injured it sometime, maybe -- and
his right arm wants him to know that he hadn't limbered
up enough before the last little show. Dick groans, and --

And that feels good, too.

"Just because I'm passing out doesn't mean you can't have
some fun."

"You think I'm not, baby?"

Dick knows Matches *is*.

"You think I don't love it when you play for me...?"

It kind of sounds like a rhetorical sort of question, or maybe
just a -- *polite* -- request to keep it up, keep it *moving*,
keep himself -- Dick smiles and reaches up and behind his
own back to yank out the tie in his hair, then pushes up on
his elbows enough to shake it out.

"That's it --"

And then it gets a little challenging. Turn on his side? Turn
over onto his back? Get up on his knees -- no. Too fast,
too far, too much.

He flips over onto his back and wriggles enough for the
sheets to hit him *just* below his belly-button -- and does
it fast enough that his hair covers *enough* of his face.

Covers his *eyes*.

"Oh, baby, I could kiss the Bat for fucking you up this

Dick snorts and cups himself through the sheet, squeezing
himself into a nice little bulge... and grins a little wider.

"Like he was making you just for me. Heh. What are you
gonna do if I look away?

He won't, Dick thinks -- *knows* -- and squeezes himself
one more time, and arches up -- and rolls over again.

The trick is not to let himself touch the sheets too *well*,
at this point. The trick is to *be* the trick --

And he pulls his left knee up -- yanking the sheets aside
just enough to show his ass --

And the first touch is a stroke.

And so's the second, up from his thigh to the space
between his shoulder-blades, the space that's been hot and
itching and perfect since the first time he saw Matches'
*face* and knew that *this* time --


Just --

"I didn't say stop, baby."

Just *something*, just *right*, like the touches that let him
keep moving, keep writhing and dancing and *moving* --

Even when Matches kisses him, deep and slow and tasting
like whiskey, like some other kind of burn.

The kiss is trying to tell him something, but --

He doesn't really have to listen.


There's a part of him that wants to be fair about things. It
*is* suspicious that Batman and Batgirl are drugged
unconscious on the floor, and, the fact is, it's not like
*they're* any less automatically suspicious by existing
than... any of the others.

Except for *Batgirl*, and really --

It doesn't matter. He's all willing to give Nightwing the
benefit of the *doubt*, here, except for how that would
involve not fighting for his *life* --

No, the kick he'd used to knock out his other *could've*
snapped his neck, but didn't.

It's still --

*He's* still Nightwing, and even though that means Tim's
getting his ass *handed* to him, he's gonna live.

For at least long enough to be interrogated for the good of
the mission.

Tim leaps over one kick, notes the spin, times his *jump* --

And gets struck *hard* in the kidney. He can't even tell if
that was a kick or a *punch*.  Fuck -- just --

He rolls when he hits the mats and keeps rolling until he
can spring and leap and flip and *flip* -- just far enough
out of range.


Nightwing has stopped.

Nightwing is -- waiting? In the ready-stance he knows from
a *lot* of damned beatings but not, actually, coming for him.

Which isn't like him at *all*. That was the whole *thing*
with Nightwing -- he didn't stop until you *begged* for it at
least a little -- calling it 'tapping out' and *meaning* 'say

He's -- he was just like every crappy big brother Tim's ever
seen on *television*, only more likely to leave *deep*-tissue
bruises -- no.

No. *That* was Dick. Or...

He shakes it off, ignoring the blood that sprays back over
his own cheek -- his teeth *feel* loose, but none of them
are broken. He just --

Nightwing hadn't been using any of the *moves*. Not the
good ones, anyway. Not the ones that are all 'Nightwing
from above! And also below and diagonal' ones, and *not*
the ones... that *Dick* had taught him.


That's different.

Tim gives him a little come-on with his fingers.

"This isn't a game, Robin."

He'd roll his eyes... but it's enough to run right for
Robotwing, leap *just* beyond the man's kick-range, and
just --

Why roll your eyes when you can roll your whole *body*?

Because Nightwing was ready *enough* for the double-
strike down as Tim had gone over, and he really
*should've* been ready for the little donkey-kick once Tim
could plant his hands on the mats *behind* Dick to give
his kick some *spring* --

But Tim's shins are ringing enough from the *contact* to
let him know Dick wasn't.

*Fuck* yeah, he can *do* this. It's just a matter of staying
up, staying *moving*, because there's not one single
asshole big brother *trace* of Dick left inside this guy, this
*thing* -- and he has enough for both of them.

The trick is remembering that he can do *all* of this, that
he has the flexibility if not the training -- contact.

That Batgirl's body is a messy sprawl of an obstacle for
*both* of them -- contact.

That it won't matter how many tiny important things inside
him he rips to pieces when he lets Nightwing catch him
enough to *give* him momentum for this leap, this twist,
this *strike* -- contact.

That he just has to -- has to --

Has to *not* use the explosive batarang, even though he
*had* disarmed the thing, because he can't -- he can't
*trust* Nightwing not to catch it, can't trust *anyone*,
can't --

The spikes on Batman's gauntlets make him stumble, and
he's so fucking wiped that hitting the ground feels *good* --
it would've been nice to figure strategy *before* Nightwing
had wiped the mats with him -- even though he knows that
Nightwing's coming *this* time.

He can *hear* him, or maybe feel him in all the places that
are going to hurt really *bad* in a second or two --

Or would if another 'rang from *nowhere* -- didn't take
Nightwing out at the ankle *enough*.

It's just a stumble, but it's time enough for him to tumble
*back*, get his *own* last three 'rangs --

And he only hits with two, but one is *right* to the head.

And Nightwing is down.

Now he just needs to find the tranq gun -- and the
*tranqs*, shit, they'd planned to restock after Batman and
Batgirl --

And then there's a little thwip-thwip sound, and there are
two darts sticking out between Nightwing's ribs.

God, he would've *sworn* his other was out -- he'd gone
down hard enough that he *bounced*, but --

He still is. Out. Right there.

And then Alfred coughs from the stairs, and Tim is never,
ever, ever going to turn down seconds on orange juice

"Al -- *fuck*!"

"Indeed, young sir. I trust my assistance proved timely...?"

Tim blinks, and nods, and blinks a little more. "Just -- when
did you learn to throw a *batarang*?"

Alfred makes a little 'hmpf' noise and sets the safety back
on the gun. "To be entirely honest, young sir," he says, "I
was aiming at his *head*."

Well. Okay, that works, too.

Now they just need to find *Dick*.


He wakes up because he can only breathe enough to know
that he can't breathe *enough*, and he isn't really panicked
until he realizes he can't *move*.

And then he's --

And then he stops, and thinks about it, and *twists* --

And Matches coughs out a sleepy-sounding grunt and rolls
off. For some reason, it's easy to forget what *big*
sonofabitch he is unless he's actually pinning you to
something -- like a mattress.

It's something...

It *is*, in part, those fucking awful clothes, because you're
too busy trying to convince your retinas not to commit
suicide to pay *attention*.

But it's also the way *he* moves. Just a little too much
speed, a little too much -- heh. Flexibility.

"You want me around to distract people from looking too
closely at *you*."

"Among other things," he says, clear and warm and slow
and awake -- because it's been a whole two seconds.

Dick snorts -- and stops when that big hand winds up
wrapped around him and squeezing --

"Go back to sleep."

"That's kind of -- what's my motivation there, exactly?"

"I'm awake. And I'll watch you every minute."

Hot all over, just -- *hot*, and if he gets any hotter there'll
be enough sweat between his dick and Matches' hand to
make it -- perfect instead of great. He doesn't -- he doesn't
buck his hips. "Jesus. I'm not -- I'm not that --"

"Yeah, you are," he says, and licks the back of Dick's
*neck* --

"And I'm going to be too turned on to sleep in a minute --"

"So don't wait."

"Matches -- please don't --"

"Or maybe I just want to hold you close, just like this.
Maybe I know how much you'll like that, too, because of all
those times *they* never gave it up like that. Not the Bat...
not that idiot in the suit."

"God, *fuck* you --"

"Close your eyes."

"I'm not -- I don't --"

"C'mon, baby," he says, and kisses the back of his neck.
And does it again, and again, and it's not enough that he's
watching, that he's doing it with his whole body when Dick
feels himself shuddering.

Just -- he doesn't --

It's one thing to *play* this, but he isn't --

He'd walked *out*, and he'd -- there'd been --

"Please, Dick. Baby. You know what I need..."

There'd been someone else, is all. And now there isn't,
and --

And closing his eyes feels so good --

Breathing *deep* feels so -- Matches --

"Just like that," Matches says, and kisses the back of his
neck one more time.


Clark... Clark looks kind of horrified, actually, to be blunt.

And, well, it's not like Tim had thought his reaction would
be *good* -- he was *hoping* for it to be at least a little
bad -- but. Really.

"I just... I don't... there's something so very *wrong* about
this, Robin."

"You don't know the half of it. But listen, *I* have no idea
what *happened*, and it's not like *any* of them were
working on figuring it out before we had to... well."

Clark winces, and the look he's giving Bruce's zip-strips is
really a "are you *sure* we can't undo that" look, and Tim
clears his throat.

"Clark --"

"No, I -- I understand, of course, but I have to admit I'm at
something of a loss, Robin -- and. For that matter, where's

Which is a really bizarre and *random* question -- except
for how it isn't. "Upstairs. Nightwing conked him pretty bad.
And he can't talk, anyway -- his throat got pretty messed
up the other night. And actually -- we're both. Um. Tim."

Clark frowns -- and when he frowns, all that background
information in Bruce's files kind of makes sense. He's just
not that much *older* -- no. He's League, and that has to
mean something.

"Look, we just -- we need *help*."

"You're both -- but --"

"We're both Tim and we're both Robin and no one's really
thought about that much, either, because we're both, you
know, still us. Me. Whatever. Clark -- seriously, the only
thing we've got right now is 'keep drugging them for the
sake of the city,' and pretty soon their muscles are going to
start to atrophy."

Clark blinks at him, looks up at -- through, probably -- the
ceiling, and blinks *more*. "He's -- the other Tim is
conscious. The other -- Robin. Er." Clark blinks more.

Tim *looks* at him, and it's nothing like some of the looks
Batman can put out -- *could* put out -- but it's still
enough to make Clark at least *look* like he's focusing.

"Yes. I'll just... consult. With the rest of the League."

"Thank you, *Superman*."

And *that* gets him a little more focus, and he really
should've known -- but he just got whipped like a *bitch*
by the Nightbot, and he's tired, and he can't really be

Tim slides -- carefully -- down from the console and goes to
check on the... well, the prisoners.

"I did -- their pulse and respiration all strongly suggest a
lack of consciousness, Robin --"

"And they can all *fake* that, if they have to. Check the
ones upstairs, will you?"

"Yes -- I. Robin -- the other -- he just drugged them, again."

"And ask the others about better ways to keep them under
wraps --" And he was going to say something else, but
there's a big, warm hand on his shoulder. A big, *hot*
hand, and it's like having a giant alien compress. He can't
really blame himself for letting out that hiss.

"You're injured."

"You didn't look before?"

Clark raises an eyebrow at him. "I haven't made a habit of
using my powers for that sort of thing since I was
somewhat closer to your age, Robin."

And that's -- heh. Creepy, actually, but also funny. "Okay,
fine. Yeah, I'm injured, and I really need some painkillers
soon, so...?"

"I'll be back as soon as possible," Clark says, and squeezes
his shoulder -- gently -- and goes.

Shit, he also needs to have him track *Dick*.

Or... hell. Maybe GL can do it.


It's beyond strange to something like surreal to actually
*be* shopping with Matches, especially since it's more like
getting shopped for *by* Matches.

It's not like --

Well, people have always seemed to like picking clothes out
for him as opposed to letting him do it himself, and while
he could've argued the point *with* Matches...

There's a difference between style and camouflage.

And *style*... is what *he* gets.

He's never really been focused on this kind of thing, but,
well, Matches has a point -- just because he needs clothes
he can move in -- like *air* -- doesn't mean they have to
be all that plain.

"I'd think *you'd* know that pretty well by now, kiddo..."

Which is... a point, but there hadn't ever really been time
for this, to really -- *be* this, as opposed to the good boy
in the school uniform, or the... that other thing.

In the end, it's nothing too fancy -- even though he'd kind
of wanted something a little...

"Gilding the... daffodil," Matches says, and the smile is a
warning Dick doesn't have to listen to.

"What, I'm a flower, now?"

"Well, you make *me* want to think about the bees and
the -- heh -- birds."

He flips Matches off and puts the -- well, he guesses it's
really a blouse, even though it's technically designed for
men -- back on the rack.

"Not that I don't see your point, gorgeous. There's just not
a lot of choices out there for *tops* for a man like you."

A man like... Dick snorts and shakes his head. "What are
we doing today, anyway? Tonight, whatever."

Matches chuckles and does that saunter -- the one people
are *supposed* to notice -- over to where the jeans and
other pants are.

Dick can't see the cameras, but he knows where they are.

Both of them look *exactly* like the kind of people who
need to be followed around a store like this for, like, the
good of the economy and what-not. It's just too bad that
they'd come in after a pack of little teenaged schoolgirls
wreaking havoc *all* the way on the other side of the
store, really...

And it's not like those little clips are much of a challenge for
someone with the kind of jacket he has, with the kind of
pockets *it* has, with the kind of accessories *they* have --



Matches had managed to stop, change directions, and get
*behind* him, just that fast.

"What? I'm not allowed to have any fun?"

Matches laughs and pulls the -- it's definitely a blouse --
out of Dick's pocket, puts it back on the hanger and back
on the rack *again* --

"Seriously, you can't tell me you *object* --"

"It's beneath you, baby," Matches says, patting him on the
hip and leaving the hand there to lead him away. "Besides,
I told you -- I'm not going to let you get bored."

"I already am."

"Liar," Matches says, and shoves him toward a rack full of a
lot of leather.

Well... okay.


It's not exactly comfortable watching the Green Lantern
float his kind of father, his mostly boss, his sensei of pain,
his closest friend, and the sexiest woman in his world out
of the Cave in individual green -- bubbles. But.

The Watchtower -- Bruce or maybe Batman had designed
the thing, in part, for *containment*, and they just really
have to *hope* that he hadn't planned on winding up
there himself, or -- no.

That thing with the Justice Lords... they all know how to
take down a Bat now, should it be necessary.

Though Tim thinks he -- they -- should probably go over
the Tower schematics a few more times just in case.

He looks over -- and the other *isn't* at the console, which
is a surprise. It's a thought they should both have, and
even though Superman is still doing a really thorough job
of monopolizing the other's attention with every useless
question in the *world*...

Still, it's not really...

The other looks up, right then, and the question in his eyes
is the same one that's in his own.


Tim shakes it off, internally. They don't really have time for
this now.

"Superman...?" The nice thing about Superman is that he
can absolutely get away with whispering everything.

Though it does seem to encourage the man to get closer
than he strictly needs to.

"What can I do for you, Robin? Have you had any further...

His other is next to him again, and the console isn't really
made for two Robins sitting on it side by side, but it was
never really made for *one* Robin sitting on it, either. It's
fine -- and it's better than that, because he can *feel* the
other raising his eyebrow behind his domino, and that
means he doesn't have to...

Though of course he does, anyway.

"I mean to say..." Superman coughs. "That is, I'm simply
not sure..."

"Uh, Clark," the other says, and taps at Superman's knee
with the toe of one boot.

"Yes, Robin? Should I.. call you both Robin? Or Tim? Or..."

"Robin will be fine," Tim says -- whispers -- and softens it a
little with a smile.

"Of -- of course. Yes. And I -- well, yes, I suppose this isn't
quite the time to say how much I'd hoped we'd get to
spend more time together --"

"Really *not*," the other says. "Clark -- *Superman* --"

Both of Tim's eyebrows are up, now.

"I -- *yes*. Well. I meant to say -- was there anything else
I could...? Shayera -- Hawkgirl -- has already contacted Dr.
Fate. And they're working closely... certainly Wonder
Woman has a lot of experience with magic," Clark says,
and the look on his face needs glasses, or maybe just less...


The other looks at Tim. Tim looks back. Yeah, Clark wants...
some. And that's -- well, it's not really a *surprise* as these
things go, but... *timing*.

The other clears his throat and taps Clark again with the
toe of his boot. "We could use some help tracking down
Dick. I mean, all of the others stayed pretty close to the
usual spots, but..."

"Dick...? Oh, yes, of course --"

"Yes," Tim whispers. "We can't really -- I don't know if
we *need* everyone in the same place before we can
make it better, but we were when it happened, so..."

Clark nods, and looks at them, and... looks.

"*Yeah*?" The other's starting to sound impatient.

Tim kicks Clark himself to soften *that* -- "You could -- go
now." They'd already *given* him Dick's stats in terms of
his usual pulse and respiration rates...

Though, really, wouldn't it be more... right if it was different
now? More... Tim isn't sure, but a part of him actually really
*wants* to have the time to sit and think about it --

The other elbows him -- lightly. The question in his eyes is...

The question in his eyes is actually kind of *scary*, but --

"Robin -- Robins? Are you quite all right? Did you need me
to --"

"*No*, Clark," the other says, while Tim works on getting
the frown off his face. "Look, we just --"

"You should probably take us with you, now that I think
about it."

"Tim, *what* --"

He stops the other with a hand on his arm, and -- it doesn't
really stop him so much as make him feel tense and
different and *wrong* under Tim's arm. "We did have a
*few* guesses about Dick -- assuming he stayed in the city
at all -- and since you were just planning on monitoring
areas for vitals *close* to Dick's...?"

Clark's expression is worried and focused on them -- and so
focused on the really wrong things, but the other --

Coughs. "Uh. Right. Yeah, Clark. You can just -- we'll show
you which areas to focus on, and then... something," the
other says, and twists his own arm enough to grip Tim right

*Knowing* that the grip means 'what the fuck, seriously,
Clark is creepy, I see your point' isn't really the same as...

It isn't really the same.

Of course, the other is probably thinking the same thing
about how knowing the tension in *his* arm translates to
'seriously, yes seriously, I know, thank God someone does'
doesn't make it right that it's so different...

But. Well.

That's kind of a relief right there, isn't it?

They shift to a hand-clasp -- only briefly, because it really
does make Clark *stare* --

"Are you... both... quite sure --"

"Let's go, Clark," they say, together.

Together *enough*.


 As it turns out, their work-day is all about collections.

And a part of Dick wants to point out that protection rackets
aren't really any higher class than shoplifting, when you
get right down to it, but...

Okay, he *could* buy a lot of blouses with what they get
from the bookies over on Ninth and Dixon -- and that's
before you get into the bookies on Eleventh and
Wolfman, or the working girls --

"*Ladies*, Dickie -- show a little class --"

-- and the small-time dealers which Matches hasn't *let*
get swallowed up into any of the larger gangs --

"Too many mouths to feed --"

-- and the handful of enforcers, which...

"Still bored, pretty boy?"

"Not for long, I'm thinking," Dick says, and unzips the jacket
enough to show off the really excessively tight little excuse
for a t-shirt.

He knows the looks he's getting -- and, for now, he wants
to encourage them.

It's pretty much pure beauty when one -- no, *two* -- of
them start actually snickering --

"What's the matter, Matches? Too much time upstate?"

He turns to face Matches -- and makes sure to really *toss*
his hair while he's at it.

Matches shows his teeth, and lets the *match* roll from the
right to the left. And nods.

"Jesus, would you *look* at this guy?"

Please do, Dick thinks, and unzips the jacket the rest of the
way, flinging it open -- and, coincidentally, loosening the
catches on his arm-sheaths...

"I can't, I'm fucking blinded here -- just a little too much
*sparkle* --"

And they're all laughing now, which means none of them
have noticed that Dick's in *range*. "Well, hi, boys," Dick
says, and --

And the thing is?

The reason why he can't remember why he's *doing* this --
the heels on the boots might be a little too high for *true*
practicality, but they surely do make teeth *fly* -- is
because Matches didn't actually see fit to share that

Is the man he just shaved a little -- maybe a lot -- too close
with the left-hand knife one of *Matches*' employees?

Did the guy who just said something *really* rude in
response to the way Dick's last backflip had ended with a
kick to the face and Dick mostly landing *on* the man's
groin -- did he maybe report to one of the people who ran
*this* district?

Or maybe -- *maybe* -- the man currently aiming projectile
vomit at Dick's boot (he misses, of course) after taking the
hilt of the right-hand knife right to the gut --

"Fucking -- *motherfucker* --"

Maybe *that* one had just... shorted a take?

Beat on a debtor too hard?

Not hard enough...?

It doesn't matter, really. He's flying again, and only
amateurs need a *net* --

He's flying again, and so are teeth and blood and -- bodies.
Just the one, really, and Dick hadn't even intended it.

But a) it's not his fault that the guy was having trouble
keeping his balance, and b) it puts a nice little finish on the
whole routine.

Muscle goes *thud*, Dick sticks his -- heh -- dismount --

"What, no bow for me, gorgeous?"

Dick sucks his teeth, drops into a crouch to wipe the blades
down on the nearest-and-not-very-dearest, puts the knives
away, and *looks* at Matches.

"Ooh. Fucked your timing a little, didn't I?"

"Well... *yes*."

"What can I say, gorgeous? I got a little -- heh -- distracted."

Good. But... "So I take it I *was* supposed to leave
everybody breathing?"

"Baby, baby -- if you weren't, you would've had at least
*one*," he says, and yanks one of Dick's hands under his
own jacket, "of these."

A holster. Well... maybe they can find some that match his


The first set of vitals even close to the right one turns out
to be some idiot stockbroker whose eyes bug out behind his
stupid little wire frames at the sight of Superman flying up
close with two armfuls of Robin.

The second and third are freaking *reporters*, of all things,
and the fourth, fifth, sixth, and *seventh* are freaking
*cops* --

And, okay, so the *main* reason why he's pissed is because
he can't, actually, come up with a better way to search --
he'd run out of bright ideas right *after* the search of the
circus camped mostly out at the city limits had turned up
nothing but a lot of confusion -- but... still.

It's not the only reason why he's pissed, and it *is* the only
good one.

The other -- *his* other -- isn't right. Isn't --

He doesn't know. Part of it are those weird little moments
back in the Cave when he could *see* his other but couldn't
really feel him or know him.

But part of it is just -- this. *Now*. It's not that he doesn't
know or understand the expression on his other's face --
he's focused, he's on, he's *impatient*. It's just that it's
not the same as the one on his own, and every passing
fucking *second* makes it worse, and if he doesn't keep
his cool, then Clark will get fucking distracted again, and
no, they *don't* have time to just blow him and keep
going --

Assuming that would even *work* on Super-fucking-man.

Damn. Just --

They're flying slowly enough that the altitude isn't killing
them -- good of Superman -- and slowly enough that, when
his other *does* turn to look at him (into him? Can he do
that anymore?) that it almost looks normal -- even with the
sky as a backdrop.

And Tim doesn't know what to *do* with the question in
the other's eyes, and he doesn't --

The other reaches -- *across* Superman's chest -- and --

And Tim *knows*.

And he knows the other knows, too. That's.

It's not enough.

"Robins? Are you -- do you need me to stop?"

And if Clark could just stop sounding so *hopeful* -- Tim
snorts and shakes his head. "No, Superman, we're good, I
promise --"

"No, we do -- we --" His voice is all *wrong*. "Robin, look
*down* --"

What -- he looks down. And if Superman wasn't holding on,
he probably would've fallen.

"Oh -- I see. Is that -- goodness, that's Dick, yes, but who --
oh. My."


The biggest problem is that they hadn't planned for this at
all. That's -- well, it was just an inexcusable *mistake* not
to plan for Matches, even though they'd already secured a
Bruce *and* a  Batman, even though Bruce didn't --

Batman didn't --

It was a mistake, full stop, and being as how they're
currently the only halfway sane Gotham *native* operatives
running around, then they should've -- they should --

And Tim is absolutely aware of Superman setting them
down in an empty-for-future-renters apartment, far enough
away that Matches and Dick wouldn't be able to see them --
assuming they'd been *just* focused enough on each other
not to notice them flying over and *gaping* -- while still
being more than close enough that Superman can keep tabs
on both of them.

He's -- *aware* of that, just as he's aware of his other
cursing and pacing and of Superman explaining that Dick's
heart-rate was actually much slower than what he'd been
led to expect, while his respiration had been faster --

"... though, of course, some consideration -- well, for their --
*his* -- activities --"

"Please be quiet for a moment, Superman," he says --
whispers, *still*, *dammit* -- "I need. To think."

"Jesus. Just -- I hope you don't expect *me* to shut up --"

Really not, he thinks --

"-- because I can't -- that's just... I don't know if I can --"

"It's -- I *get* it," Tim says, and swallows back the cough.
About 80% of that was coherent *enough*, and his other...

His other nods, and punches a *wall*.

"Oh, Robin, you shouldn't --"

"Shut *up*, Superman," he says. *They* say.

That's -- that's better. Except for the obvious. Tim winces a
little at Clark, and gets blinked at, and folds his arms under
his cape and tries to --

"We just. We have to -- okay. We should figure out why
we're freaked. Before we lose it too much to cope."

That's a great plan. But he --

"I don't really *want* to put it into words --"

That. Yes.

Eventually, his other paces back to where he's close enough,
*there* enough -- Tim takes a step to the right.

The other -- grins, and takes a step to the left. They bump
arms. The thing is --

"It's -- it's pretty obvious. Actually."

Tim nods. Because Batman had only pulled out Matches for
them once.

"I -- Bruce looked so *horrified* --"

Because they had.

"And, you know... we *didn't* point out that he really
should've known a -- fucking *persona* like *that* --"

"Wouldn't fly," Tim whispers.

"Maybe we should've."

Tim smiles, and it's right enough that the same one is on the
other's face, even though he doesn't -- even though neither
of them have ever really liked that smile.

It makes Superman look away, too, for that matter.

Still, there's no reason not to be fair. "*Bruce* would've
cared," he says, and waits --

"It's just that *Batman* wouldn't've."

Tim snickers a little.

The other snickers a little more -- "We could've gotten them
to flip a *coin* --"

Tim chokes, which is a bad idea.

Superman starts patting his back before the other can reach
to do it, and really, it's not like Tim wants to carry that
thread of conversation *any* further, but, the other makes
a *face* --

"I told you," he says, in a low, flat voice which at least feels
safe enough to use, "to stop calling *Bruce* 'Dad.'"

Superman breaks it up much too fast.

"Robins, *please* -- I'm really not at all sure what's going
on, but I don't think the two of you should --"

"Clark, would you do us a favor?" The flat little voice is still
working for him, at least.

"-- fight -- I -- well, of course, but --"

"Yeah, I..." The other twists until Clark lets go of the back
of his cape. He lands in a crouch, grins at *him*... and
then at Clark. "I don't think -- well. It's not like you *can't*
handle those two."

"Oh, I -- I just assumed you'd prefer --"

"Really not," Tim says. "Actually, I think I'd --"

"I think I could use a long, hot bath. And more painkillers,"
the other says. "Like, for my brain, I mean."

Tim smiles. "Please, Clark?"

"Yeah, we'd -- uh -- really appreciate it," the other says, and
it's probably a little too earnest for *him* -- either of
them -- but Clark's tugging on one edge of his own cape
like maybe he wishes it was a *little* more voluminous or

"It's true," Tim says. "And we really do need to --"

"Get some sleep. And stuff."

"Oh. Yes. I -- shall I drop you off back at the manor, first?"

The other grins. "That'd be great, Clark."


The shower is fine, and dragging on shorts and t-shirts to
sleep in is fine, but it's actually a little strange to just --

Well, he'd *been* sleeping with the other since, well, there
were two of them. It was just --

It's his bed, which means it's *their* bed, and since it's the
bed Bruce bought for them (Batman? Matches...?), it's
huge, and it was just...

At first it didn't feel like *anything*. He trained, he went on
patrol, he got cleaned up, he went to bed. And if there
were two of him, it didn't mean anything.

After that it had just felt -- *good*. One more thing that
was good about everything, about the lives they'd fallen

And it's not that it feels *bad* now. Just...

"You're -- weirded," the other says, and it doesn't help that
he's still using the freaky voice that makes Tim think of
words like "affect" and also "lack of."

"You're *not*?" Tim doesn't wait for an answer, though --
he *is* tired, and since they'd gotten the League involved,
that meant there was a better chance than not of things
getting even bigger and weirder and more complicated than
they already are. Tim gets in on the left --

He starts to, and he *stops*, because maybe he's just
making it worse, too --

Except that the other had already gotten in on the right.

"We could switch."

Tim snorts a little and just crawls in.

The other still *feels* right -- *he's* the one who's going to
have all the new scars, since the other had slept through
Return of the Nightbot.

"Tim. I -- Robin."

He can feel the other frowning. He frowns, too. "I know.
I -- don't really understand. What's happening with us. I
mean --"

"It should've happened before. I mean -- if it was going
to. And I don't know..."

The other trails off, and it's not like... Tim knows what he
was supposed to say to finish that sentence -- *neither* of
them know who the other is *supposed* to be, because
apparently it would just be too fucking *easy* to be 'Tim'
and 'Robin,' but...

He doesn't want to say it.

And maybe the other doesn't want to hear it.

Maybe they should really just *sleep* --

Except that the sound the other just made is a laugh, only
small and choked and hurt, and really, Batgirl really needs
to apologize for that when she gets, well, the other half of
her soul back, or however that's working, but --

He isn't sure what's funny. "What...?"

"I'm just -- I'm just trying to figure out if it's more or less
weird now that we... well." The other gestures, and --

Yeah. The special secret Robin handshake. Tim covers his
face with his hands and snickers. "It should be *more*
weird. It -- really should be. Because we were -- "

"We were more like -- we were the same. Ish. I -- Tim,
when do *you* think it started?"

The first thing that comes to mind is Batgirl yanking the
other away, but he's not sure if it's because it feels right or
if it's just because *everything* fucked up seemed to start
there. He already knows the second one isn't right at all,
though, so... "I don't -- I don't really know."

"Neither do I."


"I -- I think it's worse. That other people are going to know
we're different."

Which -- "Only until we get -- mashed back together,

The other doesn't say anything.


"I -- yeah. You're right," the other says, and rolls over onto
his -- right -- side.

"Hey, are you still right-handed? Am I?"

"I -- let's not think about it."

And -- yeah. "Sounds good to me," Tim says, and rolls onto
his left. Sooner or later they're both going to wind up on
their stomachs, or maybe just -- together.

Either way, it works. Enough.


Tim's reasonably sure that the hand on his shoulder was
*supposed* to be light enough to sleep through -- for any
human to sleep through, even --

However, Superman is incredibly warm, and he's Robin. One
of them. Tim turns over and opens his eyes -- and feels the
other wake up.

"I -- was just checking. I mean."

"It's okay, Clark," he says in the flat voice.

"Yeah, I -- we were kind of expecting you," says the other,
and yawns.

"Oh, you... that's -- that's really very..."

"First off," the other says, "any news?"

"Oh! No. I'm sorry about that. I just. I was just --"

Tim sits up enough to kiss Clark, and really, it isn't that
much of a kiss -- he kind of hates the heavily
tongue-intensive kind when *he's* climbing into bed with
someone who just woke up -- but it's enough to make
Clark *move*.

Or -- it was enough. It was too fast to *see* before Clark
was in bed *between* them, and it's impressive that Tim's
actually still kissing. Because, well, at some point Clark had
to move *him*, too.

He grins against Clark's mouth and pulls back --

"Really, I -- *one* of you was quite attractive *enough* --"

The other snickers -- and pushes on Tim until they can both
pick a thigh to straddle.

"Oh. You're right, of course. You should never, ever be
separated," Clark says, and it's -- almost kind of laughably

But --

"Yeah, I..."

It's also true, Tim thinks, and reaches with his right hand.

The other takes it in his left --

"Oh... *Robins* --"

It's actually somewhat awkward to get *into* Clark's tights
with their hands together, but...

Clark doesn't seem to mind very much.


If he's honest, Tim was kind of hoping that Clark *wouldn't*
take the whole "if you kidnap and imprison our kinda sorta
adoptive father and brother for us, we'll make it worth your
while" completely seriously. Just -- yeah, they're all
supposed to treat Clark like just another meta, but he

However, if he's *entirely* honest, he has to say that he
knew Clark *would*. Because... well.

He's not sure what it is that makes his other *okay* with all
of this, but it's not like he's *not* okay, and it's actually --

Well, it's hot *and* disturbing to watch Clark's eyes when
they're jerking him off, just like it's disturbing *and* hot
just to be doing this.

His other's --

His other's fingers are *slick* with Kryptonian pre-jack, and
so are his *own*, but that's... it's really not the *point*,
and if it feels more like instinct than *fact* to know that his
other's in about the same place right now...

It's still *knowing*.

And it's still --

It *has* to be less weird to kiss his other now, even though
he hadn't really even *thought* about doing it before. It's --

It *is*, even though it makes Clark buck so hard they both
have to shift, have to move until they're *kneeling* on
Clark's thighs -- he can take it -- just to keep the kiss
*and* the jerk going, just to --

"Robins -- Robins, please don't *stop* --"

Tim's actually pretty sure that Clark's referring more to the
kissing than the hand-job, which he can go with --

His other kisses like he's wanted to do it for much longer
than *he* has, and that's incredible, and it makes him wish
he had, and it's --

"Oh -- you're both so *beautiful* --"

Definitely Clark wouldn't *mind* if they stopped squeezing
and stroking -- and slipping and *sliding*, damn, Clark --

Fair's fair.


The other is stroking Tim's fingers at least as much as he's
stroking Clark, but --

He's not doing any better. He -- he can't.

The other is *kissing* him, and *their* other hands are
moving, and Tim knows the only reason they're not
squeezing each other's asses, as opposed to how the other
is squeezing his and he's stroking the sensitive spot right
above the cleft --

The other has *bruises*, from Nightwing, and they're ones
that he should have, or that they both should --

Or --

He should *want* it to be the same. He shouldn't be just --
*losing* it as much as he is, because --

He's losing it, he just --

The other is *different* now, and so is he, and so it's just
like being in bed with two people instead of one and a half,
or having one of the people in bed just have a lot more
freedom in terms of the laws of physics --

"Robin," the other says, into his mouth, and he's too busy
sucking the other's tongue to say it back. He's --

He's *moving*, because Clark is, sitting up and actually
*hugging* both of them --

"Please -- hold that thought," Clark says, and lifts them
both off of him, and --

And then he's gone.

Tim blinks.

The other shrugs.

They kiss again, and -- again, and the other laughs into his
mouth when he stops wiping his hand on the sheet enough
to reach for Tim's own and feel *him* wiping, and --

It's definitely easier to kiss the other like this, and -- and
better, though it would probably work a little -- it would
almost certainly be more efficient to *stop* kissing long
enough to get their hands between them, but when the
other hooks his leg around Tim and kind of trips them down
from their knees onto the bed...

It's a different kind of efficient, or working, or --

"Robins, I -- oh. I -- I'll wait."

That's Clark. Again.

Tim bites the other's lip to get him to pull back *enough* --
and gets bitten right back. And *then* the other rolls off.

"I -- well. I."

Clark has -- still has -- a really impressive erection tenting
out his shorts. He knows his other realizes this -- neither of
them have taken either eye injuries or serious head injuries,
for that matter. But --

"Uh, Clark, if there's news, you *really* need to tell us."

Yes. "Right now, please."

"I -- well. What you need to understand -- the others, your
family are all..."

"Jesus fucking *Christ*, Clark, *what*?"

This *feels* a little like where he softens things for the
other with Clark, but -- *no*. "Right. *Now* --"

"Your family is well. And -- together. Again. Which is to
say -- they're back to... normal."

Which is... *really* a relief, but it would be more of one if
Clark didn't look like he was having trouble deciding whether
to climb back in bed or run *away* --

"Well, okay, but what *else*, Clark?"

Tim raises both eyebrows and nods toward his entirely on-
point other.

"I -- well, first, I should say that Felix Faust was behind the
whole thing, and -- the spell was aimed at *you*."

Less than a shock, all things considered -- he *had* stolen
the man's property, used it against him, and humiliated him
a little, too, but --

"*And* --"

"And. Ah." Clark looks at the floor.

"*Jesus*, Clark --"

"Robins, I'm -- I'm terribly sorry. It's just. The spell was
designed to be a permanent one aimed at *you*. The
others -- he used the term 'collateral damage.' Faust
destroyed all his records days ago --"

"Wait --"

"You --"

And it's *fair* that Clark has actually stopped talking, but
it's still infuriating. The other looks at him, and his eyes are --

They don't look as wide as his own feel, and maybe that's
a good sign, held up against words like 'permanent,' but --

"Robins...? I -- I can assure you -- Dr. Fate assured *me*
that he's still working -- rather that he won't stop working --
and Batman -- I left him contacting Jason Blood -- and I.

Tim can't decide if it's reassuring or not that they shudder
at the same time. But.


"Could be worse," the other says.


"I mean -- you kind of have to wonder what the *point*
was since it fucked everyone *else* up more than... us."

*Yes*. Kind of. In a way --

"Should I... did you want me to... I believe Batman intends
to use one of the Javelins to bring himself and the others
back, but, it may be some time -- that is to say, would
you... like me to go?"

And -- and he's expecting the other to take the opportunity
to say "yes" in the most obscene way possible, but all he
does is bump Tim's shoulder.

His call.

His call...?

He looks at the other -- neither of them are as... excited as
they were a few minutes ago. If they focus on that rather
than Clark's... yeah. "Clark... we'll call you?"

Clark does an impressive job of *almost* not looking like
he's going to cry, or perhaps just punch a hole through their
mattress with his... head.

It's what makes him Superman, the other says -- in Tim's
head. Or.

No, he's pretty much out of thought.

He waves as Clark goes, though. No reason not to be...

"Well," the other says.

"Yeah. I --"

"I don't. Um -- shit. We're going to have to spend a lot of
time dealing with fallout, aren't we?"

"We had to *burn* the *sheets* because of *Bruce* and

"Parts of them," the other says, "And... yeah, I know. That's
not gonna help. Shit. Bruce and *Dick* --"


"Well," the other says again.


"At least we know for sure that we don't actually need a
bigger bed?"


Babs had about half a minute to wonder why her hair was
suddenly eight inches shorter, her back was sore, her *ass*
was sore, her *pussy* was sore --

And then it came back, and kind of *kept* coming back,
and sometimes she *really* thinks she could use a full-face

She's gotta be as red as her *hair*, which means she's
clashing like crazy with the Javelin, because --

Well, *Batman* is one thing, but sometimes her father has
the MCU over for *dinner*. Barbecues. And --

God, she's actually *dating* Renee?


And on the one hand -- well.

It's not that she minds, per se. Her father's said a *million*
times that Renee is one of the best cops he'd ever known,
and if she *has* to come out to her Dad, doing it about
Renee will probably...

Okay, so it'll probably make things stressful for *Renee*,
but not really for her.

Still, it's kind of weird...

It's... okay, it's more than kind of weird.

Also, she's going to have to figure out how to explain her
*hair* to her father. And -- man.

She bets Robin is at least a little mad.

And -- *Renee*.

God, that's the *thing*. Babs hadn't even -- Renee doesn't
even really *know* her, as opposed to half of her, and a
part -- that's kinda funny in the awful way, but still -- of her
wonders if it might not just be *easier* to let Renee get to
know *enough* of the real her that she'll run screaming --
it works for *Bruce* -- but.

She'd been really fucking great in bed.

Maybe she'll ask Kara about it.


Technically, Dick is co-piloting. The fact that a) Bruce
doesn't need a co-pilot, and b) he'd rather try to see if he
could make it back to Gotham from the Tower by *falling*
through the atmosphere -- head-first if at all possible --

It doesn't matter. Bruce had *asked* him to co-pilot, and if
he really wanted to know *why* Babs wasn't up to doing it
herself... he'd be a really different person right now.

God, she'd gotten a man *killed* -- no. No. Batgirl had done
that, and that's -- horrifying. But it's not. She won't do it
again. He knows her -- well enough to know that. *Now*
he does, and --

As opposed to about forty-five minutes ago, when neither
of them -- any of them --

As opposed to -- Jesus.

He'd -- the things he'd -- the *people* --

Matches -- *Matches* -- had been talking about introducing
him to some guy named *Eel* --

Jesus fucking *Christ*, Bruce --!

"One could wish for... more varied scenery," Bruce says,
without turning around, or looking, or glancing, or moving
in *any* way from his side of the cockpit.

A part of Dick -- not *funny* -- really wants to be a little
*pissy* about that, but that's the part that's already doing
a really good job of forgetting that little incident in the

And the motel room. And the -- God, the hotel *rooms* --

The bars --

That part's not really *big* enough right now.

But. Bruce is... trying. There'd been at least two shamans, a
medicine woman, and a really friendly jai alai player of his
acquaintance who'd suggested, back before he'd come
*back*, that he ought to... make room for things like that --

(Bruce's *fingers* --)

"I," Dick starts, and stops.

"Yes?" And Bruce *does* start to turn --

("Yeah, gorgeous?")

Dick stares out the window. "Scenery. Yeah. I. Space is.
There. Bruce --"

"Dick, I'm --"

"Yeah, I -- I can't actually let you finish that sentence right
now. No matter what. It is."

"I -- understood," Bruce says, and the gauntlets creak a little
on the stick, and.

Jesus. "But I... yeah. This seems like as good a time as any
to tell you that I was... thinking of branching out. A little."
Or maybe a lot.

A whole big real serious lot.

Bludhaven isn't *far* enough --

"Dick -- Nightwing. That's -- there are other cities which
could use you, it's true, but --"

"Bruce, really, I've -- 'thinking of' was understating." It
wasn't, *last* weekend, but -- "I'm going."

"I -- I see. Nightwing --"

Dick doesn't close his eyes behind the mask and *doesn't*
want to. He wants to watch his fucking -- "This isn't going
to be an argument and it isn't -- it *can't* be a discussion."

"Of course. I. I just want you to know that -- you'll always
be welcome."

In your Cave? The manor? Your *bed* -- "That's --
understood, Bruce. I -- thank you."


And that's. It's not really anything, and it's nothing he has
to respond to, that's *worth* --

Dick doesn't punch the controls, because he doesn't know
for *sure* that *Babs* is -- at least in *part* -- considering
painful, fiery suicide right now, and it really wouldn't be fair
to assume.

He doesn't have to *respond*, and --

It's worse to know how much Bruce wants -- how much a
part of Bruce -- no. Just -- the jai alai player would be
very disappointed in him right now, really.

"Bruce -- what?"

"I'd like to talk to you about -- the past several days --"

"I don't want to talk to *you* about it until I find a shrink
who deals with *capes*. Jesus, Bruce --"

"I -- I meant *sometime*. If that's -- do you think you

Dick squeezes his eyes shut and -- doesn't bang his head
back against the seat. "I -- yeah. Sometime."

"Thank you."

Damn if that doesn't feel like progress.

Dick also doesn't pull his feet up on the seat and curl his
arms around his knees. Just... God.



"Maybe... maybe that conversation can start -- in the
*future* -- with you telling me more about that time
Hatter..." Dick gestures, vaguely.

"Nearly convinced me I was just one nearly entirely whole
person with occasional strange delusions of grandeur...?"

Dick snorts. "I was gonna go with 'fucked your head up but
good,' but... sure."

Bruce... smiles. A little. Probably, he doesn't just have gas
or something.

"So... will you?"

"Yes, I -- I will, Dick."

Okay. That's... enough.


It's not a surprise when Dick moves directly from the plane
to his bike -- and from there *away*.

Nor is it a surprise that Barbara only takes long enough to
wink at him -- and to ask him to tell the Tims that she
promises to get in touch with them later -- before doing the
same. His relationship with Barbara...

It's obscene to be this positive that he's done nothing to
damage *that*, at least, and yet it's the truth just the same.

Barbara has always been... almost terrifyingly accepting of
every part of himself he's let her -- or been *forced* to let
her -- see.

And it isn't her fault that he strongly suspects that he won't
be able to look her father in the eye...

He doesn't know when he'll be able to do that, again.
Frankly, very little of that has anything at *all* to do with

If he removes his uniform and then walks up the stairs, and
then continues further up and into the manor, he will find
the two boys who used to be one Robin, and who are,
currently --

They're currently strangers *enough* to him that they'd
been able -- on top of merely ready and willing -- to do
something of an end-run around all of them.

He's proud.

He's angry.

He's -- he's proud, and he's angry, and he's afraid, and
he's -- perhaps predictably but certainly horribly --

There are *two* of them now, and -- he's bought them
*dogs*. He's been their -- he's *acted* as their father
and --

He'd allowed himself to act as their father and he'd allowed
himself to take everything Batman had never, actually,
been promised.

Nightwing -- Dick had the right of it, as he nearly always
did. This -- sexuality wasn't *for* them, and neither was.
The other.

And the fact that he's nearly as sure that they'll still come to
him if he *doesn't* go to them as he is about how
*smoothly* everything will go once Barbara returns to him...

They -- they're *Robin*, surely as much if not more than
anything else.

And it isn't enough to justify his cowardly *need* to remain
down here, in the shadows.

Even though it doesn't feel like enough *less* of a lie when
he actually begins stripping out of the uniform.


So, he really wouldn't have expected puppies.

He thinks he maybe *should've* expected it, or something
like it, but... puppies.

They'd arrived -- been *delivered* by some other rich
person's pathetic excuse for an Alfred -- not very long ago,
and -- well.

Not so much the first -- or even the one hundred and forty-
seventh thing he would've ever put on a list of 'things Bruce
is likely to give him.' Them.

There are two.

"I -- puppies," the other says, and it sounds like a
combination of 'what the *fuck*' and also '*puppies*?

Tim's tempted to point out that maybe they *should've*
seen it coming, considering just who they were sharing the
*manor* with for the past several days, but, well, that
would both imply that he was less what-the-fuck about it
than the other and would also make the other get on his
case again for encouraging Bruce on the whole 'Dad' thing.

Not that the other had done much *better*, but --

Really, Bruce had wanted it so *bad* --

"They -- they're... cute. I suppose."

What they *are*... is tearing the shit out of a chair Tim's
pretty sure is worth more than, like, several individual
Gotham apartment buildings.

The last time they'd seen Alfred, he probably --

Well, he probably hadn't really been crying, or anything. But.

"They *are* cute," Tim says. "Just. Possibly they're going
to be bigger than we are in six months or so."

"They're *mastiffs*. We might not make it six months --
are we sure they don't -- I mean. Are we sure they're not
going to try to gnaw on us in our sleep?"

Yes, he is, and so is the other. Or he should be -- there'd
been lots of strays in their old neighborhood. Or. "Well.
Probably it'll be friendly -- can you think of anything we
can throw for them?"

The other doesn't say anything for long enough that Tim
looks back over his shoulder. The other is looking at him
like he's insane.

"Well, look, they're *puppies*."

"Yes. Yes, they are."

Tim glares a little. "I could put one on your head when
you're sleeping. It'll probably pee on you --"

"I could put one in your *underwear* drawer --"

"It's *our* underwear drawer --"

And Bruce clears his throat.

And it's -- it's *Bruce*, the real one, the *right* one, and
it's so obvious -- just his *eyes* --

"I... see the dogs arrived."

"Yes," the other says. "Alfred mentioned you thought we
could use them...?"

Which *also* sounds a lot like "what the *fuck*?," now that
Tim thinks about it.

"I -- I believe it would be fair to say that Alfred was...
humoring me. Rather a lot. At the time."

"Makes sense," Tim says, and lets himself fall back on his
elbows -- and immediately winds up with the world's largest
puppy sitting on his chest. Tim... pets it. "I mean, I think
Alfred was pretty close to running for his life --"

"And sanity --"

"By... *Friday* night."

Bruce kind of grunts at him, or them, and stands there. And

And that's... that's normal, too, it's just that Tim can't
*quite* decide what kind of normal it is. Or --

It's like *Bruce* can't decide which kind of normal he wants
to give them -- though Tim's pretty sure he doesn't *mean*
to look like he's grading them on their puppy socialization

"Bruce," the other says. "Was there something you wanted
to talk about?"

And Tim would've sworn that'd be the best possible way to
get *rid* of Bruce -- to the point where he's thinking of
smacking the other, since he's not in range of any 'rangs --
but Bruce just.

Keeps looking. Right.

And when Tim snorts, the puppy falls off and kind of... rolls
a little. That's...

"Okay," the other says. "That was cute."

"Somewhat reminiscent of your own... behavior," Bruce
says, and stops, and...

Keeps looking.

Okay then. "So, Bruce, anything you wanted to just kinda...
loom over us and stare creepily about?"

"Or, you know," the other says, "did you really *mean* to
call me cute? Just now?"

Tim snickers, pulls the other puppy off of -- what's *left* of
the chair leg, and places it *on* the other Tim.

"What --"

"Just hug it, Tim, it'll totally make you *even cuter*."

"Oh, fuck off, Tim --"

"Boys -- Tims."

Robins? Tim grins at Bruce.

The other takes another moment to stare at the puppy on
his lap... and then *also* grins at Bruce. "Right here. Dad."

Tim chokes -- "Jesus --"

And then chokes a little more, because it's better than
snickering at the look on Bruce's face.


He's -- really *tempted* to laugh, but if he does it too hard,
he might fall over and wind up getting licked on the face
the way the other is, right now.

Bruce kind of looks like he's having a *stroke*... and that
makes up for a lot.

"Sorry," he says. "Really."

The other gives up and laughs rather a lot -- and gets licked

"Look -- you tried to take us to family *therapy* --"

"And a -- *hah* -- *ball game* --"

"And now? Puppies."

"Just --" The other sits up, removes the puppy from his
head, and grins even wider. "You have to realize we're
going to torture you about this. Like -- we kind of have to.

"Mercilessly, even. Dad."

And the expression on Bruce's face... shifts. It's *Batman*,
and it also isn't, quite, but...

Tim can go with boundaries being a little messier --

"God, I *missed* that look, Bruce," the other says, and he
probably doesn't *mean* it to be payback for Clark, but...

It really is.

Either way --

"That's... gratifying to hear, Tim," Bruce says, and then
looks at *him*.

It's tempting to hold the puppy currently gnawing on his
pants up in front of him like... a canine shield.

It's possible *Bruce* would just find that... cuter.

Tim raises an eyebrow, instead --

And is not really surprised that his next few seconds boil
down to shadows, sudden movement, the crash of bodies --

Well, he supposes it's technically a hug.

It's just that it's *also* him, and the other, and the fact that
they're currently kind of *dangling* in the air, because
Bruce --

Wanted a hug.

Fine. They've gotten used to this, after all --

Pretty much all of it. And -- well. Okay, it's less of a hug
than a -- grip.

But so long as Bruce is making out with him, neither of the
puppies are doing the same.

Though the yelping sound the other makes is either Bruce
doing something interesting with the hand not on *his*
ass or one of the aforementioned puppies mistaking his leg
for more furniture.


Tim tucks his knees up and kisses Bruce back.



1. Title reference.

Apparently, a fair amount of you know this from schoolyard
days. I'd never even heard *of* it. It's *perfect*. We
*love* Jack. (Also, check this site for lots more interesting
information on it.)

2. You know, a lot of the time I cheat on warnings -- I don't
*like* being too specific, because a lot of the time the
things people want to be warned for I consider *way too
spoilery* to be borne. Still, sometimes I cheat -- like using
an only slightly altered line from the slashiest and most
befucked moment in "Prodigal" for a summary. Hopefully, it
prepared at least a few of you for what was to come.

3. One of the things that kept me from writing this story for
so long was that I had a picture in my head of what all the
id-split characters would be like... except for Babs-sans-

Comicsverse doesn't give us much on that score, either, but
there's *some*, you know? At this point, I can remember
less than a handful of scenes where we got to *see*
Babs+Jim (or Babs-not-Batgirl + Anyone) for more than the
space of a few seconds (or, well, more than a couple of
panels). I wasn't even sure what Jim *called* her as a
nickname --

However, I *did* know that whatever Jim *did* call her
had to be how she thought of herself. Because, well, those
bare few toonverse occasions where we *do* get to see
her interact with her father, she's very *much* Daddy's
Little Girl.

Some of that, of course, is the fact that the Babs we get to
see is much, much younger than the Babs we've gotten
post-Crisis I in comicsverse. I'm still not sure how old she
*is*, compared to Dick -- though I'd be shocked (and a bit
creeped) if she was supposed to be as much older than
Dick as she is in comicsverse.

In any event, since that was pretty much the only thing I
*did* have to work with for her, I decided to run with it a
bit and make up the rest with a little comics-ish canon and
a lot of spackle.

What *would* a Babs missing Batgirl's sparkle, flare, flash,
violence, joie-de-hurt-you, juvenile hypersexualism -- this is
a character who sticks her *tongue* out at Bruce's back
not *very* long before she starts *dating* him, let's recall --

Anyway, what would she be like?

More to the point in terms of how I set about writing -- if
you take away all of *Batgirl*, what's left?

A soul. Kind of.

Sort of.

Just not a very... lively one.

4. Bruce. Bruce, Bruce, *Bruce*. Certainly, none of the
characters were revised as much in mind from the original
bunny -- I tracked down the chatlog with Livia: January 5,
2005 -- as Bruce was.

I was originally picturing -- kind of -- a generic Bruce and a
generic Batman.

But, well, that didn't really work at all.

For one thing -- while 'Bruce Wayne, idjit' exists in toonverse,
he's *infinitely* more of a mask -- and a flimsy one -- than
he is in the kind of comicsverse that gives us storylines like

No, in toonverse -- generalizing, here -- Bruce Wayne is
more of a *schmendrick* than an idiot. He's well-meaning,
he's serious, he's kind of a giant woobie, he *exists*.

Just -- not often very effectually.

He loves his children in honestly filial ways -- for all that I've
played that for comedy. He's aware of how much he *owes*
his family as a whole, and he's honestly grateful. He's
confused by injustices more than he's angered by them.
He's... very, very *nice*.

So what does that say about Batman?

Well, in the meta-ing I was doing with Betty prior to writing,
the phrase 'grim vengeance with a cock' was used more
than once. By me, mind, but -- yeah. He's vengeance, he's
the night, and he has sexual relationships. Like,
more than one.

Like, *textually*.

He gets *way* more tail than Bruce, and he doesn't actually
stop *trying* to get tail -- even a little -- when the
relationships crash and burn. So what happens when you
take all the woobieful *Bruce* out of there *entirely* -- as
opposed to just enough to make it sexy and hot?

And... what *about* those rules of his? I've harped on the
matter a lot, but comics!Bruce/Batman/Whichever is
*infinitely* harder on his kids that toon!Bruce. We're meant
to think that he trains them harder, but we never see him
really dressing Dick down for his -- numerous -- moments
of flat-out insubordination, and the shit Timmy gets away
with would make your hair curl.

He's -- God help us all -- *reckless*. And while the thought
wasn't crystal clear when I started writing, it didn't take me
very long to realize that a Batman sans Bruce would be a
very terrifying creature indeed -- less because of anything
*he* did (there's a reason I left Batman-in-action
offscreen), than because of what he *allows*.

Metatextually, the Batman is supposed to *control* Gotham,
to the point that it's always a Huge Flipping Deal when he
*can't*. Metatextually, therefore, Batman is *supposed* to
keep his *own* house in order -- at least in terms of the
vigilantelets in his care.

But really... if Bruce is the giant family-minded woobie, and
you take that *away*...

Finally -- Matches.

I've mentioned before how '!!!' I was at the "Shadows and
Masks" storyline in which, among other things, we get to
see Bruce having relationships -- actual, solid, *meaty*
relationships -- as Bruce, Batman, *and* Matches Malone,
but really -- !!!

If I was going to let "has actual relationships" be a defining
function for what makes a character 'worth' id-splitting, then
I *had* to let Matches out to play -- not just for his
romantic -- and I do mean *romantic* -- canonical
escapades, but for the fact that this is a man who also
has friends.

And who does at *least* as well with that as Bruce and
Batman do.

So. If Bruce gets the familial woobieness, and Batman gets
the grim vengeance and the sexiness... what's left for

Answer: Stuff that will make Te write 'Bruce'/Dick all day
and all fucking NIGHT. Just -- motherfucking GUH --

Er. Yes. Seriously. Matches is the one who *romances*
people, which is, of course, as much about sex as it is
about love.

I think it would've been *clearer* if I'd given him someone
other than Dick -- the loving part, I mean -- but, well, trying
to make it clear just let me write more porn. No bad!

5. Dick. I -- I don't have very much to say about this. I
mean, Dick's characterization and arc is pretty much exactly
what I imagined from the word *go* -- save that in the
original version, Batgirl waited to go bugfuck for long
enough for she and Dick to fuck like *barbarians on PCP*.

Basically, toon!Dick is someone who damned well made his
*own* destiny, and his Nightwing *isn't* just Batman,
Jr. -- dammit -- because *dammit*, and also because...

Well, seriously? For all I joke and sigh about toon!Dick's
violence and volatility and *poorly banked ex-sidekick rage*,
Nightwing is what Batman is *supposed* to be, in a lot of
ways. He's on *target*. He's devoted to the *mission*.
And while we get to see that in the ways he's, well,
*Nightwing* -- we also get to see it in the way that, after
the *very* beginning, he very clearly *takes over* Tim's

He's dead serious about it. He makes comics!Bruce look a
little *lax*. He's harsh -- sometimes *brutal* -- and he
damned well *never stops*. He's *committed*.

But -- *Dick* gets pushed down really hard, for a really
long time -- the stretch of time after he comes back from
walkabout and before he moves to Bludhaven. And Dick...
is something special.

(Perhaps short-bus special in some ways, but... yeah.)

It's meta I've never written completely enough, it's vague
and nebulous and not examined enough for my tastes by
the canon, but --

Essentially, that flashback in NIGHTWING #100 which gives
us a rather (post-Crisis) Jasonish Dick -- combined with
how Dixon gives us the same thing in ROBIN Annual #4 --

Well, it reminds me a *lot* of toon!Dick. It feels even more
valid for him than it *does* for comics!Dick, considering the
men they both become. Put simply, toon!Dick is less *tied*
to Bruce. Bruce *isn't* his father -- even though Bruce
wants to be -- and Bruce isn't the be-all and end-all of who
Dick *wants to be*.

And then... there's those eleven seconds of the episode
"Over the Edge," in which we get a sorta-kinda canon AU
where Jim sends the GCPD after *all* the Bats.

Montoya: "Richard John Grayson! You have the right to
remain silent --!"

And Dick jumps down, and flips, and is beautiful, poetry in
motion, *violence* --

He stops, he *bows*, and he says, "Waived."

And every time I watch it -- *every* time -- I practically
cream my pants. Because it tells us -- even more than the
episode "Animal Act" -- that, at base, even with all of his
photo albums tucked away and all of his *fun* buried under
Nightwing -- *Dick* is still a showman, at heart.

A master showman.

And... a repressed showman.

A *seriously*, *dangerously*, *painfully* repressed

So. Yes. Add a Matches to *that*, stir vigorously, throw in
crazy outfits because I'm just that shameless about trying to
attract fanartists --

Enjoy! Or, you know, hide under your pet.

6. Timmy. And Timmy.

Well, what *else* is going to happen when you split

Made perfect sense to me back in January 2005, makes
perfect sense *now*.

Except, of course, that they started *changing* on me while
I was writing, and I realized that there *was* one other
option that could happen when you split a toon!Tim.

I'm desperately -- *desperately* -- curious how many of
you (who've made it this far) picked up on the fact that I
wound up with a *Tim* and a *Jason*, and, if you did,
when you realized it was happening.

Because *I* didn't until the scene that begins with them
in front of the clock, even though an argument could
absolutely be made that Timmy Sinister starts becoming
Jason as *soon* as Timmy Dexter gets separated from
him by Batgirl.

On edit, I was reading the 'Batman, Nightwing, and
Timmy spring into action' scene in Jason voice... and it
mostly worked.

Jack: "It's like you're *unwriting* The Drowners!"

Te: "....l;skjflksdjlksdfjklsdjf"


Why, yes. It's exactly like that.

And I'm going to miss the Timmies, but... Tim and Jason!
No bad!

Except for how it started to get *very* hard not to type
'Jason' for Tim towards the end and... I miss my Timmies.

*laughs at self*

7. This is probably the first time I've ever written a story and
wished I were writing a script, instead. Not because I
wanted art for all this that badly -- though I *do* -- but
because it occurred to me, while writing, just how much
more affecting and to the *point* the art (Jimenez, Hitch,
Neary, anyone else?) was in the "Divided We Fall" storyline
than even Waid's damned impressive text.

I mean, really, the *imagery* -- the blankness of the Bat,
the utter sex0r that was Eel, the terrifying *wildness* of
Bruce, the incredible *woobie* that was Kyle --

Look, I read that storyline *once*, a year and a half ago,
and these things *stayed* -- and did as much if not more
than the text toward expressing the *points* --

Both that none of these people were *complete* without
their other halves -- however problematic -- and that they
all get steadily more and more fucked up as time passes.

That they become... *injured* by the separation, and
lessened by it, even as they become more and more
sharply *themselves*.

So, one of the reasons why this is so *long*... is because I
was damned well trying to do the same with no pictures.

Is it too long? Did I wind up overstating? Did it still not
work? I don't know, and I'm not likely *to* know until, like,
sometime next year when I give it the first *serious*

Though you should all feel free to add pictures! *laughs*

8. It was a little uncomfortable to stick so close to various
stereotypes for Matches' business activities, but it *felt*
right to do it, too. Even in the comics (perhaps *moreso* in
the comics), Bruce's efforts to give Matches street-cred
always come off as at least a *little* bit, well -- cartoonish.


Cartoonish to the point where it can often hit my
*embarrassment* squick, but there you are. Broad strokes
for the plot, fine (hah!) detail for the meaty personal stuff.
Call it an experiment.

9. Right around their trip to the social club, Betty pointed
out that it was really kind of terrifying just how *much*
paternalistic behavior crept into *all* of the Bruces. It's just
that only *one* of them got the healthy bits. And I think...

Well, it certainly wasn't on *purpose*, but I kind of do
believe it. There's nothing that will knock me out of story
like a writer positing that Bruce *doesn't* feel fatherly
toward the various Batkids.

I mean, yes, it makes for messy and terrifying porn, but,
well, I wouldn't *be* here if it weren't for the messy and
terrifying. Whether or not any given Bruce *manages* to
be a father to any given Batkid, he really *wants* to be
one. *Badly*.

Sometimes -- sometimes he just fucking *hungers* for it,
and it's that which makes me love him -- and fear him -- as
much as anything else.

Of course, things get *different* once you split any given
Bruce into *three*, but... the concept remains. Just a bit
more dilute/diffuse/OMGWTFBBQACK.

10. To the extent that I have guilt about this story... well, I
actually thought long and hard (once, you know, I was
halfway through the thing) about what the plot would
actually be, and the mechanism, and how to make it
toon-specific and *story*-specific...

And then I decided/realized that if I actually let any of the
characters -- and it would have to *be* the Tims, because
splitting the toon!Bats leads to WAY MORE HORROR than
splitting the comics!League -- do The Plot Thing... it would
get in the way of the story.

I mean, there's something to be said for having the main
characters actually advance the *plot* -- obviously -- but
really, I'm writing about Robins, here. It's not their *job*
to be the main characters in anything, and they know it.
Even *when* the Bad Thing (whatever it is) is aimed
specifically at them...


It's one of the things I've always loved about toon!Tim --
and Jason, too, for that matter. They knows that it's not
their story, and 99.99% of the time, they're okay with
that. So long as they get to do their thing, and don't get
ignored when they *can* help -- yeah. It's an *odd*-
numbered Robin thing to jump between Superman and
the Big Scary -- and that's?

Just fine.

(Though of course it makes me feel guilty on how I rolled
with girl!Tim... or it would, if I hadn't written *that* series
entirely for my own id.)

11. Interestingly, to me, it was actually really *easy* to
hear/write the voices of the re-integrated Bruce, Dick, and
Babs. What was *hard* was figuring out what they would
and wouldn't say/think. I started dreading the ending before
I was halfway through -- there's more than a few reasons
why I tend to limit my stories to no more than three POVs
ever (unless I'm co-writing *and*, like, in a different

But... yeah. Even though Babs doesn't really sound anything
*like* Barb or Batgirl... she was right there. *Really* right
there. In a way that was even more terrifying to me than
either the reintegrated Dick or Bruce. Bruce, I'm used to.
Dick... well, content of my toonverse stories aside,
toon!Dick is one of my favorite characters *ever*.

Babs is *scary*. She's... she is, I think, smack dab in the
middle -- age-wise -- between Barb and Batgirl, and of
course that makes as much sense as anything else *in*
this story, but... damn.

It means that no matter how old she's supposed to be
chronologically (I was thinking of her as being either a little
older or a little younger than Dick, who's about 24 at this
point), she's about *15* emotionally.

And even though a part of me had known/'known' that
coming in...

Well, it's scary. Very, very scary.

... can you tell Babs is (are) the character(s) in this story who
freaked me out the most?

Anyway, it was a really pleasant surprise to have all three of
their 'voices' right there waiting, just as if I hadn't spent
30,000 plus words writing *very* different people.

12. But Te, what about the *dead* guy?

Well, first off, this is where I point you to This place, this
prayer, and my notes at the end of same.

In short... Batman gets to pick the rules for the Batverse --
textually, subtextually, and metatextually. What he says
*goes*, and the toonverse canon has told me, time and
time again, that Batman can be *damned* casual about
excessive violence. Not his own -- not all the time,
anyway -- but certainly from his kids. Dick only directs the
excessive stuff *at* Bruce, of course, but Babs and Timmy...


This is the man who watched Timmy try to *murder*
Clayface, asked him to stop, *told* him to stop, had to
*fight* Timmy to *get* him to stop... and then they all
just went on with their lives as though nothing of the
sort occurred.

Additionally, to a lesser but still important extent, there's
the fact that we *know* that Dick, when faced with a
*Timmy* who's completely out of control -- a Timmy who
he can't possibly have known for more than a year or so
(GOTHAM ADVENTURES #19) -- isn't to bench him, but
to *cheer him up*. So.

It's the biggest reason *why* I balk hard at the events of
"Return of the Joker," and it remains what I believe more
than anything else.

On the other hand, now I wonder how much of that
terrifying behavior is the fact that Batman's inner *Bruce*
doesn't get to make *all* of the rules, and the sorts of
things which might be different if that ever changed. If
anything, I've actually given myself more of a context to
use to *believe* in RotJ, as opposed to simply occasionally
using it as a starting place for the weird and wacky and
porny and *insane* shit it'll allow me to do.

Because -- it *is* the act of a father to do everything
possible to keep his damaged child out of harm's way. A
*good* father, even. And if the part of Bruce which wants
to be a good father more than anything else had its say...
yeah, okay, fine. Dick would almost certainly stand with
him, which *would* totally count for more than the
objections Timmy -- and Babs -- would make.

Of course... you still have to beat the *crap* out of *both*
Matches and Batman *first*... so I maintain that we're left
with possibility, not *plausibility*.

12a. No, wait. More than anything else (maybe, or at least
right this second) --

I think it's possible that one of the clearest distinctions
between toonverse and comicsverse is the phrase -- the
*concept* -- "good enough," and how it exists in one but
not, really, the other.

It's a concept that leaves a lot of room for both happy
endings (!) *and* mind-boggling insanity, when you think
about it.

13. No one ever expects the Spanish Inquisipuppens.