Disclaimers: Not mine.
Spoilers: Lots of references to older storylines, mostly
the 'broken bat' arc and "Prodigal," which is when this
story is set.
Summary: It's not Dick's job to make this any easier.
Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content, as well as
content some readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: Petra needed a fix. *g*
Acknowledgments: To Petra and Jack for audiencing
There should be a way -- a really good one -- to say 'as long
as you don't send everyone away who can help you and/or
go crazy and kill people, you're doing fine.' Something short,
to the point, believable, and true --
And also not likely to make Dick give him...
Well, it's not a bad look. It's just a little pained, and also
very true, and makes the Robin suit feel like the Robin suit,
as opposed to his uniform.
Bruce hadn't ever looked at him like that, but there were...
Tim knows there were a lot of reasons why this uniform is
so different from the ones Dick and Jason had worn. Just
like how he knows that if he were really doing this -- *this* --
right, then he'd never want to say anything like that at all.
Because there's no such thing as 'doing fine' for Batman,
not if you're really Robin. There's perfect, or there's wrong.
Maybe if he were really Robin, Dick would believe he was
That's not going to happen. He's who he is, and the suit
Dick is wearing was *made* for him, and it's the right colors
and he's Dick, so he *is* doing everything just the way
Bruce would, but Dick is still Nightwing in his own mind, and
Nightwing isn't Batman.
Still, they're doing a lot of good -- mostly away from a Jim
Gordon who probably wishes he'd never seen any of them --
and the (Case) Cave is right again, and the Manor is almost
right, and, anyway, Bruce is coming back.
Thinking that makes it feel like Dick is right there, even
though he still isn't back from his own patrol. It's just that
it's almost a refrain with Dick, like maybe they're all in a
very strange and kind of grim little musical:
'And anyway, Bruce is coming back.'
He probably shouldn't believe it more than Dick does.
He's... he's nowhere near close enough to figuring out
everything Dick does and doesn't believe, and why. He
hasn't had nearly enough time to *observe*. Batman and
Robin working together shouldn't feel like one of those
inevitable team-ups they all wind up in from time to time,
even if it *is* one of the better ones.
*Nightwing* and Robin probably absolutely should feel that
way, though. And maybe that's why it does. Dick didn't want
to be Robin anymore. Or --
Dick didn't --
There's too much Tim still doesn't know. Still, being Batman
should maybe be better than being Robin, at least for
someone who thinks of himself as Nightwing, and sometimes
when Tim dreams there are too many people and not
enough masks to go around.
Sometimes it's the other way around, and that's worse.
The Case doesn't have anything to say about any of this,
possibly because it's too new, or possibly because Tim isn't
Robin enough to be able to understand. He used to think he
could be, one day, that Jason was always right there, and he
doesn't know why it isn't like that anymore, other than all
the irrational and crazy-sounding things about ghosts and --
It was always supposed to be a little irrational, like knights
in a world with guns, and bombs, and clowns who killed
"Am I too rational?"
The Case still doesn't have anything to say. He thinks --
*thinks* -- Jason wouldn't agree with the assessment,
because maybe if he'd been more rational he'd still be alive,
and not dead because of his mother --
Thinking about mothers isn't going to help anything, either.
The question is the same as it was before, and if Bruce were
here, he'd probably have at least a few helpful suggestions,
but, well, then there also wouldn't be a question. It's a
broken sort of puzzle when the only answers come from
cheating, or destroying the game entirely.
Not that this is a game.
And when Dick pulls in, it's another sort of question. It has
to be getting late -- late enough to make him need to use
the tunnel, instead of just going home -- but Robin should
be there when Batman needs him. Robin should be
*wherever* Batman is, but somehow he's the only one who
seems to remember that, anymore.
Even Alfred had let Bruce leave him behind.
And Dick walks a little like a ghost, at times like these. It's
*not* Bruce's suit, but he still acts like it is, which should
make it easier for Tim to be in this uniform -- to be *here* --
but it doesn't.
Dick walks like he should be in the suit behind the bulletproof
glass, and Tim should still be...
Not here. Never here.
He should've left. He should've gone home. This shouldn't
be his home. This --
Dick pulls the cowl off and shakes out his hair, as much as
he can. It's too sweaty and heavy for much. "Sometimes I
think my face is gonna freeze this way," he says, and he
isn't looking at Tim, but he's talking to him, so...
"Maybe it would be better if it did," he says, mostly joking.
Dick laughs with his mouth and *looks* at him with
everything else, so he'd heard the 'mostly.' He --
Tim really should've gone home.
"Et tu, Tim?"
It definitely shouldn't be a relief when Dick makes 'Tim'
sound like 'Robin.'
Especially since it's a different 'Robin' than Bruce --
He thinks it's a different 'Robin.' He's not sure. He can't
make assumptions. And Dick is still looking at him.
Searching him. He smiles ruefully. "At least you wouldn't
keep... punishing yourself for smiling."
If it were still Jean-Paul, it would've been a good time to
just focus on looking rueful and keeping his mouth shut.
It still might've been a good time for that, because Dick is
frowning really hard and moving close enough to cause
damage *easily*, as opposed to just causing damage. "I
"Is that what I'm doing?"
"I -- I'm guessing."
Dick frowns a little harder for long enough to make Tim
think really hard about the choices he's made, and the fact
that his bedroom is less than a half-mile away as the bat
flies and as safe as any bedroom can be in the Gotham area,
and also not *here* -- but then his expression softens a
little, and there's a hand in his hair. "I'm not making this
any easier on *you*, am I?"
"That's not your job."
Dick's hand kind of jerks in his hair, and there's a different
frown on his face. He wants to argue.
"It's *not*," Tim says, and tries to sound like Robin, instead
of like a tired and scared kid, and maybe it even works a
little, because Dick laughs.
It's not the best laugh possible, but...
But a lot of things aren't the best. "Dick --"
"So how is it working for you, trying to be a new Robin for
a new guy every week?"
Tim frowns. "I'm the same Robin I always am. And I know
"Going to maybe get you killed?" Dick tugs hard enough on
Tim's hair to make him wince, but it's all about getting him
to tilt his head up a little more.
Tim does. "Lots of things could get me killed. Batman isn't
one of them."
"Anymore," Dick says, and this laugh is kind of awful.
Probably because it's honest.
"Batman," he says, as slowly and clearly as he can, "is you."
"Until Bruce --"
"You're Batman, Dick. I -- I don't know how else to say it."
For a second -- too many seconds -- it feels like Dick is just
going to keep yanking on his hair until Tim's legs give out
on him and he falls and leaves Dick with a handful of spikes
and himself with a bleeding scalp, and a Case which can't
even laugh at them, but he stops.
He -- he kind of stops. His hand is still in Tim's hair after all.
It's just a little gentler, a little easier to feel the slick
coolness of the gauntlet as opposed to the pain in his scalp.
It's... it's the same brand of 'almost kind of soothing' as ever,
and Tim sighs. "Batman."
"God, I -- I don't -- this isn't supposed to --"
"Batman, you don't -- you have to realize how much *better*
things are, already."
"Everyone," Tim says, and if he was a real Robin he'd just
leave it there. But an honest Robin is the best he can
manage. "Everyone but us."
Dick blinks at him, and --
Tim really should've gone back to his father's house, by now,
because Dick looks even less like Batman than he did when
he walked *in*, no matter what his hand feels like, and that
means Tim's not doing his job at all --
"You're something *else*, Robin," Dick says, and he's
laughing like himself and moving a little closer. "Aren't you?"
Tim winces. "I'm not. I try not to -- I just want --"
"You just want me to shut the fuck up and *cope*, because
that's what Batman does."
"That's not what I meant. I *know* this has to be -- this is
impossible, but all of it is. It was *always* impossible.
That's the point --"
"Is it?" And Dick's other hand is on his face. This gauntlet is
a little rough, and smells off, like it had gotten burned
somewhere along the way.
There'd probably been a fire tonight. "I --"
"Did you ever explain that to Bruce?"
What he should say, at this point, is something about how
he'd never had to. Except that he's not that good a liar.
"Tell me, Robin."
He doesn't shiver. Much. "It never seemed like something...
worth doing. Attempting."
Dick snorts and tugs on his hair again -- but lightly. "All this
new armor doesn't stand up to the Bat-glare, kiddo?"
"It's not --"
"Strike that -- the *Bruce* glare."
"-- like. That. Dick --" The half-melted thumb of the gauntlet
is on his mouth. Tim does his best to remember that it's
pointless to make himself cross-eyed just to look at it. He
knows it's there.
"That probably feels pretty godawful, doesn't it?" Dick shakes
his head. "Bear with me a second."
Tim nods. It doesn't really -- 'godawful' isn't the word. It's
the gauntlet, and it's dragging over his lips every time he
moves his head.
"I don't think you're allowed to understand how impossible
all of this is if you wear the suit."
Tim frowns, and starts to open his mouth -- and stops,
because Dick is pressing hard. Because --
"If you do, then you start trying to think of ways to make it
*not* impossible, Tim. *Robin*."
He shakes his head, because he's not supposed to talk, but
that doesn't mean he can't communicate, and also because --
he doesn't need to spend any more time than absolutely
necessary thinking about the combination of gauntlet on
his mouth and gauntlet on his scalp and he already has.
"You start -- you start doing the wrong things, like... like
chasing away your partner. Or hiding from him. You start --"
And Dick isn't -- quite -- looking at him.
"That's -- that's my *point*," Tim says, and now the
gauntlet looks a little slick, because there's his *spit* on it.
"Dick -- Batman, please --"
"Shh," Dick says, and closes -- he pushes Tim's mouth
closed again, and he's cupping Tim's jaw. "Look at me."
He can't not. He can't -- Dick looks so *steady*, all of a
sudden. Or maybe... maybe Tim had just missed him taking
care of business. He liked -- he isn't --
"I'm -- I'm Batman right now."
He needs to lose the 'right now,' no matter how true it is. Or
at least stop holding Tim's mouth shut.
"But I'm still -- Bruce made this look so easy, Tim."
He really -- he really didn't. He made *bad decisions*. And
"It *isn't* easy. And you know it, and I know it, and you're --
you're helping me."
Not enough. Not -- he can't figure out how to be enough.
Except that the smile on Dick's face is small, and real, and
really perfect, and aimed at him, and still perfect, *still*,
and Tim can't hold back this shiver, or the one after that,
and it's worse when Dick takes the hand off his jaw, even
though he just moves it to Tim's waist.
"Robin," Dick says, and he's using --
Oh, God, he's using the *voice*.
"That's not what you want to call me, is it?"
That -- teasing and knowing and *knowing*, voice, and "B --
Batman. I -- I think I need to --"
'Go back next door,' he was going to say, or something close
to that, anyway, and it's not like Dick's tongue is making him
mute or anything, it's just severely limiting the words Tim
has available to say out loud.
In his own head, it's a little better, but 'oh God, Batman,' still
isn't very *much* better than 'oh God.'
The biggest problem with the kiss is that it doesn't last long
enough for Tim to get anything like an intellect back, as
opposed to all the things which are making him pant and
stand on his toes and *reach* for more.
It's only a question because of the way Batman tugs his hair
again, reminding him, grounding him -- he's still supposed
to have an answer other than "oh -- please," but he doesn't,
and this time Batman says,
"Robin," and it feels like something which should be choking
him, like the suit should, or Jason, or --
There's no one else to do it, which means there's no one to
stop him from wrapping his arms around Batman's neck,
and reaching until he can feel the scratch of the cowl's
points on his own gauntlets.
And then Batman kisses him again, and the hand that was
on his waist is on his hip, cupping and pulling.
He's -- this is --
This is probably not what he's supposed to be doing, but
when he's honest with himself, he has to admit that he
hasn't really been sure of anything since he'd figured out
just what Bruce had left him with in Jean-Paul.
There are a lot of things Batman is supposed to be, and
some of those things conflict with the others in ways that
won't let him sleep in any position that won't give him a
pillow to scream into should it become necessary, in the
middle of the night.
Robin is --
Robin is easier. Because the only thing Robin has to be is
good for Batman.
Right now, that means -- he thinks it means -- just letting
himself *do* this. And even though that can't possibly be
fair, he'd stopped trying to make 'possible' apply to any of
this when he was still in elementary school. What's left is
desperately unlikely, and --
And if he moans because he's remembering watching old
Sherlock Holmes movies with Bruce, it's still okay, because
that was for Batman and Robin at least as much as this is,
and also the noise makes Batman tighten his grip even
more with both hands, and they're moving, and the car still
feels warm through his tights, and when he moans again
Batman breaks the kiss and smiles at him.
"Batman. I -- please."
And then Batman -- Batman probably isn't supposed to wink,
but since it's the last thing he does before reaching back to
pull the cowl back on, Tim really can't do anything but start
stripping. It's not that he knows Batman wants him in fewer
It's just that Batman's not objecting, and possibly it's
another kind of help.
Definitely, it's a way to get Batman to look at him like *that*,
like he's something -- 'attractive' doesn't really cut it, but if
he thinks 'necessary' too loudly he'll blush even more, and
he can't really stand that right now.
It's enough that Batman nods when he strips off the cape,
and nods again when he loses the gauntlets, and again for
his boots and shorts and tights, and doesn't bother to do
more than catch Tim's wrists when he reaches for the tunic.
And move them to one hand to trace the 'R' of his shuriken
with the other.
"Robin," he says, and this time it sounds like...
It doesn't sound *anything* like the way Bruce has ever
said it, but it does sound like Batman, a Batman who can
smile and is -- hungry.
He's hungry, too, and the metal of the car isn't quite
uncomfortably warm against his ass, and then Batman's
hand is moving down and down the tunic, and Tim really
wants to watch that, but Batman is watching *him*, and
Because it makes whatever desperate and obvious thing is
on his face when Batman wraps the half-ruined gauntlet
around his dick into just the thing Tim did to make Batman
growl, the thing Robin did to make this *better*, and Tim
watches as long as he can, but that's not long at all.
Batman's hand is hard, and rough, and strong, and Tim feels
his knees buckling and his eyes rolling back in his head and
at least he isn't shouting --
Tim shouts and jerks and comes exactly like the too-young,
too-soft thing he thinks he'll maybe always be --
And that's not -- that isn't the way --
"Robin," Batman says, and the ruined gauntlet -- the
*messy* gauntlet -- is on his mouth again, and it smells
like his come and it *tastes* that way, too, of course it
does, and his knees aren't going to hold him for very long
at all, but at least now he can remember that he has
hands that he can help hold himself up with, that he can
*clutch* the car with, because Batman is pushing his
fingers into Tim's mouth and that's --
It's too perfect and it's too *much*, and if Batman wants
him to stand up, then he's going to have to stop tugging at
Tim's wrist with his other hand, but he can't say that *and*
suck Batman's fingers, and he -- he really has to suck.
Luckily, Batman lets his hand follow Tim down onto his
The floor is cold and rough, and the cape is making
everything dark and a little terrifying, and Tim can't taste
himself anymore, and the gauntlet tastes just like something
burnt, and Tim can feel his heart beating too hard, too fast,
and he doesn't want to whimper, but he has to.
"T -- Robin, God --"
And now he's flushing again, too, because he can't hide
anything from Batman, and he wishes he could just -- be
more than this, better than this, but he can't stop himself
from clutching at Batman's thigh.
And he just whimpers *again*, only this time it's even
louder and worse because Batman takes his hand away.
"I -- sorry, I --"
And Batman is right there, cupping his face like Tim had
taken a head shot instead of just -- *losing* it --
"I'm okay. I promise. Just -- just let me..."
"Let you what?"
Tim bites his lip. "I'm not -- I'm not sure."
Batman's hands tighten on his face.
Tim tries -- he tries. "I could -- I just... needed a minute?"
Batman... Batman isn't supposed to laugh like that. Dick is,
And it's terrible when he pushes the cowl back again, but
it's also a relief. That's terrible, too. "Dick..."
"Batman isn't supposed to be new at anything, even if he is.
Neither is Robin?"
"I -- that isn't... you're not wrong," Tim says, and closes his
eyes. Dick is holding his head too tightly to let him stare at
"I -- c'mere."
He's okay enough now that he doesn't need Dick's help to
stand or walk, but he gets it, anyway, and then they're in
front of the Case.
It's a special kind of vertigo to do this with Dick. It's -- Bruce
should be the one with his hand on Tim's shoulder.
Batman should be.
"Soldiers train at their bases, Robin."
Tim frowns. "Yes." And?
The look Dick gives him is... really kind of wry, actually.
He'd heard the 'and.' "That's not all they do there."
"Well -- no. But --"
"Sometimes bases let soldiers *stop* being soldiers. Robin."
And... it's not like he doesn't know what Dick is trying to tell
him, and it's not like he doesn't understand. It's just that it's
a way out, and if they were allowed to have those, then it
wouldn't be a *uniform* in the Case. And the plaque would
only have Jason's name.
Dick sighs. "Or maybe I'm still making this up as I go along."
"Which of us do you think you failed, little brother?"
Tim blinks. "I -- what?"
Dick looks at him, curiously. "What is -- oh. I..." The laugh
is rueful, and quiet, and maybe a little embarrassed.
"Should I not call you that?"
"No, I -- it's okay, I just didn't -- I mean, you never. Said
that before." Tim gives up and stares at the floor again.
"It just -- slipped out. God. It's not my fault," Dick says,
laughing more. "It's really *not*. Robin."
Tim feels himself blushing *again*. "It's -- I don't mind. I --"
But Dick is stroking the back of his neck instead of just
holding it, and language doesn't seem like it's going to get
any easier. "There are a lot of things you 'don't mind.'"
And Tim's almost sure there were supposed to be more
words from Dick after that, but instead there's a kiss, and
the Case is different against his ass than the car -- it's the
*Case* -- and Batman's hair isn't supposed to be
impractically long, and it shouldn't tangle so easily around
your fingers, and Batman isn't the one licking his tongue,
because Batman would definitely pick a better place for this
than pressed up against the memorial to the last (real)
A real Robin wouldn't enjoy something this --
It's Dick, and even though this isn't what either of them are
supposed to be doing, even though the only person Tim can
yell at is *himself*, it's --
It's Dick, and the sounds he's making into Tim's mouth are
so pleased, and so --
Tim hadn't realized it would be that *easy* for someone
else to take his tunic off. Someone who wasn't Bruce,
anyway, and he's not injured, and this isn't what they're
supposed to be *doing*, but it won't stop feeling good
to be naked with Dick.
For him, and --
"So it's not *just* the cape and cowl, kiddo?"
It never was.
And the gauntlet on his face is kind of a lie, even though it
would be easy to pretend it isn't. It's -- it wouldn't be easy.
"That's good to know, Tim," Dick says, and tilts his face up
again. "Whether or not you believe it, yet."
"Dick -- we -- we have a *job* to do --"
"For now," Dick says, and his smile...
His smile is probably more Batman than he wants to think
about, right now.
It's enough that it's there -- whether or not *Dick* believes
it. Tim is just going to have to find a way to make it more
"Come upstairs with me?"
Though it's possible it won't happen tonight.