Disclaimers: Not at all mine.
Spoilers: Vague mentions of GK and STAS episodes. Mmm,
Summary: Clark watches, and learns, and tries.
Ratings Note: Sexual content which dovetails neatly with
the content some readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: Mainly, this got written because it occurred
to me that I hadn't written enough slash lately. Then it
kind of decided to be a bit meta. Um. Sorry.
Acknowledgments: To Betty and Jam for audiencing. Jam
also provided helpful think-y suggestions.
It takes a long time to see it, but not very long to accept it
once he does.
At night, there's something which quiets, something which
is regulated and a strangely inhuman (if he's truly allowed
to use words like that, even within the privacy of his own
mind, and Clark knows how his parents feel about it, but
the other people in his life all seem to have -- varied --
different opinions on the matter) variety of 'normal' in the
He has understood that from nearly the beginning, at least
on some level (a restlessness in the way he had sat on
Bruce's console which, even then, couldn't be wholly
attributed to the fact that Bruce was recovering from being
possessed by Brainiac), but still.
It doesn't seem especially beyond the pale for him to have
expected... something else.
A bit more enthusiasm -- as opposed to bemusement --
when Clark had acquired, via his connections through the
Planet, tickets for a baseball game on a day when he'd
known (checked) that Bruce would be busy being both
Bruce Wayne and Batman.
A hint more *excitement* at the opportunity to fly -- during
His own eyesight is powerful enough that there's little
difference in what he can and can't see no matter the time,
but for even the youngest and healthiest humans only the
cities register as anything but mostly featureless darkness
at night. He's studied this. He's *measured* this, as best
he can, using the AI's calculations and his own.
And, long after he'd had the opportunities (far, far more
than in any way necessary) to observe the truth of the
matter, it had been tempting to...
It was easy, and -- he can admit this to himself --
*impossibly* tempting to blame these things on Bruce.
Bruce had -- of course -- shared only the bare minimum of
facts about Tim's existence with the rest of the League. It's
entirely possible (and probable) that most of the League
still doesn't know more about Robin than that he's an
acrobat, a martial artist, and something of a journeyman
They don't know the last is more of a personal choice than
the others, and they don't realize that the boy's father had
been a career criminal, and that the boy's mother had died
while the boy was still a toddler.
This is... more problematic, in many difficult-to-define
ways -- than the fact that they don't know the boy's name
He's no longer sure why it isn't problematic that he had to
discover all but the demolitions information through his
own investigations, as opposed to from Tim himself.
It -- it was *easy* to assume that Bruce had simply imposed
the force of his personality -- and no one could possibly
blame him for all the times Clark has wanted to use the
term 'personality' very snidely, indeed -- on (another,
though the question of that has yet to be broached by any
of them, and he wonders, sometimes, what it would be like
to be the first) a child, and had done so with the same
thoroughness and unflinching *skill* the man applied to
It was easy to assume the boy had been poisoned, and
later to assume that the poisoning had simply bit deeper
than what he had originally hoped.
Another tragedy of their existence, both smaller and more
profound than most.
"Don't -- don't stop --"
"I won't, Tim. I --"
"Oh Jesus -- *fuck*, Clark, you --"
"I promise you, Tim --"
There is a moment, familiar and terrifying, when the boy
beneath him *changes*.
When the words become imprecations and, from there,
When the grace becomes something akin to desperation.
And when --
When his care, and his need to provide something close
enough to what the boy demands becomes the reflexive
tightening of his hands on Tim's wrists, becomes the way
he's pressing Tim down, when his hold becomes a *grip*,
becomes something a part of him still wants to call cruel,
as opposed to merely unbreakable.
When Tim's eyes fly open, dark and wide and shocked,
When he's forced to realize that they'd been squeezed
When the only thing he can say --
"I promise you."
-- results in a scream.
It would have to be poison, wouldn't it? Certainly, he'd
spent a great deal of time *telling* himself that.
Something too real to be (healed) ignored and too nebulous
to lay at Bruce's feet -- aloud -- without being forced to feel
at least somewhat ridiculous.
It shouldn't --
He had never considered the idea that it could be anything
but wonderful to understand a lover's needs, and to be able
to then *provide* them.
And yet, he is forced to admit that learning how to... satisfy
Tim has been something short of --
Clark frowns at the top of Tim's head, and dislikes himself
for it. The fact that the boy is sleeping -- that he sleeps
deeply and needs more than just a few moments of Clark
*looking* at him to wake -- isn't an excuse.
He isn't angry at Tim, nor is he frustrated with him,
The problem is with himself.
There is nothing more likely to drive the boy from his bed,
to wandering, than Clark choosing to put himself to sleep,
just as there is nothing more likely to make the boy fall
asleep with that (gratifying, soothing, terrifying) depth than
the sound of Clark's wakeful voice.
Certainly, there are worse things.
Still, it's become one of the reasons why Clark prefers to
take the opportunity to be *with* him in the Fortress when
Well, there are a lot of reasons. Not all of them are
When he finds the boy, he has convinced the AI to shift an
entire wall into a viewscreen offering -- predictably -- a view
of the world beyond.
It's summer, and the brightness is something almost too
harsh to be called sunlight.
The storm is something living, wild and white and grey.
The boy is --
Tim is naked and still, standing near the exact center of the
wall with the fingertips of one hand pressed to the screen.
Clark watches him *watch*, and waits.
After a moment, Tim acknowledges his presence with the
shift of his lean, sharp shoulderblades.
It's an excuse to breathe deeply. Tim has chosen -- once
again -- one of the rooms Clark hasn't allowed the AI to
decorate at all. The whole of it is blank and nearly sterile --
save for those times when Tim is present.
If he focuses his vision, he can see the faint spread of
condensation from beneath the boy's feet -- once again, he
has argued the AI into setting the ambient temperature to
something only *just* tolerable for a human -- but that's
far more reflexive than necessary.
Necessary is the way the temperature makes the boy's
natural, human heat into something closer to (normal)
obvious, and the way the chill of the room makes his
scent -- unshowered, shameless, perfect -- into a tease
Clark nearly has to reach for.
"If I could, I would..." Tim's voice is dreamy (the cold?),
and he shakes his head.
"You wish you were in the storm?"
Tim looks back over his shoulder, smiles back wide and
sharp. "Out there, you could -- you'd *have* to -- move,
and just..." He shakes his head again, wondering this time
rather than frustrated. "The whole world out there is
The boy's excitement is palpable, and, of course, tempting.
It's another tease to only return Tim's smile and cross his
arms over his chest. "Interesting definition of 'alive.'"
Tim snorts. "By which you mean 'technically wrong,' I
know," Tim says, and turns back to the storm. "You know
what I mean."
"I do," Clark says, fighting back the urge to explain that
he'd only meant that other places offered *more* life with
the knowledge that the boy would, at this point, simply
tune him out. He watches Tim lay his palm flat to the wall,
and listens to him hiss in chosen discomfort.
The AI makes the floor rumble beneath -- *only* beneath --
Clark's feet, and whispers that Tim has been here for nearly
Another ten, and things will become dangerous.
Clark acknowledges the warning, and waits.
"I've thought about getting the AI to make me some kind
of full bodysuit and... I don't know." Clark can hear the
frown in his voice. "Going out."
Clark has wondered, more than once, why he hasn't. It's
the sort of direct question which would almost certainly
doom him to an unsatisfying answer, however, and so he
has kept the question to himself.
The fact that Tim is cold enough to let himself shiver is
something he won't be allowed to do anything about... yet.
Tim blows out a breath, white and cloudy and gone, and
looks back over his shoulder. "You should go, Clark. You
should just... strip down and *go*."
"You should *feel* it, as much as you can, and then..."
It is as much of an invitation as he's likely to receive, and
it's as impossible to deny as anything else about the boy.
He moves, only close enough that his own heat -- there.
This shiver is nearly violent.
"Tell me, please?"
Tim's smile is almost shockingly gentle. "I don't really know,
Clark. I'd probably just sniff you a lot." He flares his nostrils
and raises his eyebrows. "Please?"
"If you let the AI raise the temperature --"
"AI, temperature to seventy degrees Fahrenheit," Tim says,
and his hand on Clark's chest is almost frighteningly chilled.
Clark nods and flies to the hangar. Once outside, he makes
a point of flying as close to the AI's cameras as he can and
still offer Tim the view of his entire body. This is something
which will never be entirely comfortable, despite the rare
simplicity of the pleasure Tim takes in Clark's nudity -- and
his seemingly total unconsciousness of his own -- and there
is little comfort in the fact that the storm is certainly
obscuring nearly as much as he's exposing.
Then again, comfort has never been the point.
There was, of course, a certain inevitability to the fact that
he had been seeing Tim for a number of months before
being able to see the boy's bedroom with more (less) than
his enhanced vision.
Knowing the layout, the decoration, and the average amount
of time Alfred would allow it to be cluttered (no more than
forty-eight hours) before straightening it himself should've
It was -- in terms of satisfying the fundamental curiosity.
It's just that it was different to be there, and to be there
with Tim himself. There was something almost absurd in
how little of the -- admittedly generous -- space he took
And there had always been an almost perfunctory feel to
the clutter Tim occasionally left, hadn't there? A sense of
something done because it needed to be done, rather than
because Tim was who he was.
Tim's closet was full then -- and undoubtedly is still full
now -- with the sort of clothes even the awkward teenager
Clark had been would have found desperately dull, with
only a few cheap t-shirts in the drawers to hint at anything
The sheets on the bed were nearly always red (Alfred
purchases the linens), and there were comic books which
had clearly been read (rarely more than a few issues of
any title), and there were countless video games (he has
never seen the same game in the boy's console for longer
than a week at a time) --
It isn't that he'd expected to gain any deeper insights into
the boy who had become his lover by being allowed into
his inner sanctum.
It's just that he hadn't realized what it would *feel* like to
discover that there was no such thing.
"May I ask you something, Bruce?"
"Could I stop you?"
There is a temptation to allow the reflexive irritation and
frustration to distract him, of course. However, it's telling
that Bruce isn't making any effort whatsoever -- beyond
the utterly predictable lines of his back which Clark is
being given -- to deepen it.
And Bruce's sigh wasn't predictable in the least. "What is it,
"Who is he, to you?"
It's the perfect opportunity for Bruce to taunt him mercilessly
for his circumspection -- Bruce is, after all, the only one of
them who ever *thoroughly* examines the surveillance logs
on the Tower.
And it's almost...
"For just a moment, after we'd met..." Bruce doesn't --
quite -- sigh again. "For just a moment, he was this...
startlingly vivid stranger. I often wonder what it might have
been like if..."
The sound Bruce makes is one which Clark has -- in
especially charitable moods -- interpreted as a laugh.
Sometimes it even is.
"He... *became* Robin very quickly, and very thoroughly,
Clark feels himself frowning, and he knows, from
experience and by the feel, that it's the precise sort of
frown Bruce takes far too much pleasure from eliciting. He
still can't quite clear it from his expression before Bruce
turns to face him.
However, the smile on Bruce's face is only a smile, however
miserly. "Dare I ask why *you're* asking... now?"
Clark turns away, predictably first.
For quite a while -- weeks -- it feels like an irrevocable and
terrible step *backward* to only watch the boy when he's
It's a painful thing to do, and not only because of his own
He does it just the same, once again aided by the curious
fact that so many of Metropolis' worst troubles occur in the
In the past few months, Tim has begun patrolling by
himself more often than he had in the past. It's something
else the rest of the League would undoubtedly find shocking
if they knew, and thus it's something else he feels no need
Clark watches him laugh, sharp and cruel and *true*, as he
breaks a man's jaw. Clark watches him crouch silent and
still in the dark, monopolizing a perfect sightline into a drug
lab. Clark watches him flirt with older prostitutes, and
watches him charm younger ones into following him to
clinics and shelters.
Clark watches him fly, tumbling and shouting, through plate
glass windows, splintering doors, and the night itself.
Clark watches, and learns, and tries to understand.
It's an order, softened by nothing other than the fact of
their relationship. Clark checks the urge to simply obey,
and raises an eyebrow.
Behind the mask, Tim's eyes gleam a challenge. "Is this
where I beg, Clark?"
"You could consider it."
"Hmm," Tim says, rocking on his heels. His heart rate is
entirely even. "Could I?"
Clark reaches out, palm curved reflexively to the ungenerous
shape of Tim's cheek. He doesn't -- quite -- touch.
In return -- and it feels as though the city itself wants Clark
to know that this is, in fact, the only rational response --
Tim tilts his head. Away from Clark's palm.
Clark raises his eyebrow higher.
"Please," Tim says, matter-of-fact and almost frighteningly
Clark hadn't realized they were whispering.
"Clark... *please*," and this time his diction is so exact he
hardly sounds like himself at all.
His own heartbeat isn't steady at all, and he's aware of the
crackling sound of his fingers sliding into Tim's hair as
something absent, something irrelevant against the taste
of sugar and coffee on Tim's tongue.
The taste of blood when Tim viciously -- and predictably --
jerks his head in Clark's grip just enough to rake his lower
lip along Clark's teeth.
And still there's the moment when he changes. He doesn't --
It doesn't seem to *fit*, even within those theories and
suspicions Clark hasn't tried especially hard -- yet -- to
Still, there's the moment when Tim begins to shake in his
arms, and to struggle with that addictive and terrible
To plead instead of command, to --
There's the moment when he changes, startling and vivid,
and the fact that he won't *let* Clark make love to him
without Clark also forcing him to it.
It's difficult, of course, to think very deeply about anything
at all. But there's... something.
Something about the boy's -- conscious? -- nudity, and --
He can't --
Tim's motions have left desperate behind for something
closer to spasmodic. He is color and feverish heat and
danger and beauty and --
Clark buries his face against Tim's throat and lets go.
This time, when he wakes himself, Clark finds the boy silent
and smirking among Clark's fellow aliens.
Many of them become desperately agitated by Tim's
presence, though several seem to find him no stranger
There is, as ever, the same shameful comfort to this. Long
after Clark has nothing else, after Earth can *give* him
nothing else, Clark will undoubtedly be struggling to
understand these people (creatures?), and to connect.
A kind of insurance.
The habitat Tim has chosen, tonight, is an exact replica of
the one from the Preserver's ship -- moreso than most of
the rest, because Clark has been able to discover nothing
of the being's origins.
She, he, or it is as much of a mystery as anything can be,
and this is not the first time Tim has stationed himself just
beside the mostly blank plaque, and not the first time he
has done so with just that smile.
It's been happening far more often recently. And that --
"Figured me out, yet, Clark?"
That isn't a surprise. "I... I'm not sure whether or not I
should apologize for my curiosity."
"No?" Tim is still smiling only at the being -- currently dozing
in a (literally) boneless drape over a sulfurously yellow
variety of something like coral.
"No," Clark says, even and clear.
"Hmm," Tim says, and starts to rock on his heels, once
"You *could* just ask me what you want to know."
"But how to phrase the questions?"
This is enough, for whatever reason, to make Tim roll his
head on his deceptively slim neck enough to look at him,
though his smile doesn't change at all. "You're the
The name makes something in him stutter, slightly, and
Clark knows it's made it onto his face by the way Tim
nods -- once.
And turns more fully to face him.
"Robin," Clark says, and he doesn't know if it's a question
"Sure thing," the boy says, and comes just close enough to
be touched. "If you'd like."
Clark laughs, and accepts the helplessness in it, and kisses
the smirk on the boy's face until it becomes...