Shake and cough
by Te
April 14, 2005

Disclaimers: All belongs to DC.

Spoilers/Timeline: No real spoilers. Takes place in some
nebulous time after Gotham Adventures, before Batman
Adventures v2, and after the JL episode Starcrossed. Vague
mentions of the S:TAS episode "Knight Time."

Summary: The regression isn't, really, what worries Clark

Ratings Note: Adults only.

Author's Note: Yet another example of a story that got away
from me and turned into something I never expected.

Alternate Author's Note: I'm fully aware that Clark/Tim is
one of my pairings of "uh... okay, Te." It's just that
sometimes I don't care.

Acknowledgments: To Livia and Jamjar for audiencing and
helpful suggestions.


His father once told Clark that the definition of wisdom was
understanding how little you actually understood. It was a
quote, but it suited things, and tended to give Clark...

He knows what the impression of naivete does for him and
the way he relates to others, and while he's often more than
a little conflicted about the occasional moments of smugness
-- it will never stop being amusing when people mistake
friendliness for vulnerability -- he wouldn't surrender it for
anything. Certainly not for the insecurity that plagued him in
the years before his parents had told him where he really
came from.

Sometimes, Clark is entirely sure that the true definition of
wisdom was understanding how very little you wanted to
relive anything -- anything at all -- about your teen years.

In his more introspective moments, Clark wonders what this
says about the relationship he's... found himself in, but there
are always other things to consider.

Right now, for an example, there's a mudslide which will
murder tens of thousands of people in poorly built homes if
he doesn't head toward Burma pretty soon.

He goes.


There are times when Clark hates the fact that his mother is,
quite honestly, *better* at cleaning his Superman uniform
than he is, even now.

While the fact of Alfred's existence -- never mind his
importance to Bruce's life and career -- had helped with this
for a while, the fact of the matter is that there's something
undeniably pathetic about flying home with your laundry
once a week.

Honestly useful -- and often amusing -- impressions of
innocence doesn't, actually, help with this at all.

His mother's cookies do.

As an adult, he's perfectly capable of saving half of the
batch. Most of these will go with him to the Planet
tomorrow. The rest...


The truth of the matter is that what worries him most is the
idea of regression. Not what this sort of thing could mean
for him, for a person who is, in fact, one of the most
powerful beings on the planet, but the regression itself.

There's something shameful about this particular sort of
subterfuge, this idea that he's only here for a friendly visit,
an *innocent* visit, even though it is (mostly) a mutually
agreeable one. Even though Alfred seems to honestly enjoy
his mother's cookies.

He has an even dozen left once Alfred leaves the study with
the tea tray, fresh and soft in his left hand due to the magic
of a Ziploc baggie. It could be worse.

It could be a lunchbox.

It could be, in fact, a Mighty Meta Mutant lunchbox, brightly
colored, obvious, and swinging from *Tim's* left hand when
he joins Clark in the study.

Clark has spent a great deal of time studying all of the
human religions he could find documentation about. He's
attended church services in forty-seven distinct sects of
twelve different religions.

The question of whether or not an alien could find himself in
some human designation of hell -- from what he's been able
to tell, his own people had no such thing, perhaps because
all of the stories suggested Rao rarely waited for evildoers to
die of natural causes -- has never been answered to his
satisfaction, and yet at times like this...

Tim is tapping out the bass-line to a song Clark is almost
sure he overheard while flying over New York last week on
the lunchbox with one hand, and eating his mother's cookies
with the other.

He hasn't actually said anything, and there's a certain degree
of comfort in --

In *looking* at him, really, and listening to the small, un-
self-conscious sounds of enjoyment he makes (Clark's
mother had started making at least one dozen of every batch
of oatmeal cookies without walnuts six months ago, for
reasons of her own which Clark chooses not to examine),
and smelling him.

This afternoon, Tim's scent is a mixture of faintly stale
sweat, the armor under his civilian clothes, and something
indefinably chemical. He smells like himself. He smells --

"Do other people ask about the sniffing thing?" This would
be mostly incoherent, were Clark not well accustomed to
translating the sound of Tim speaking with. With his mouth

"I don't sniff very many people," Clark says.

The song Tim is tapping out changes to something Clark is
absolutely sure is being played heavily in Metropolis, and he
raises an eyebrow.

Clark used to feel the urge to defend himself at times like
these. "I don't," he says, evenly, and leans in.

Tim is still short enough that he has to actually arch, a little,
in order to rest his neck on the somewhat uncomfortably
high back of this couch. He doesn't stop chewing, even when
Clark presses his nose against Tim's faintly damp neck and
breathes deep.

Bruce is moving in the Cave, uncannily -- and, perhaps, a
little suspiciously -- aware as ever of Clark beginning to do
inappropriate things with his adoptive son nearby. Clark has
enough time to nuzzle the boy, and lick the few crumbs of
cookie Tim had helpfully allowed to settle near his mouth
away. He takes it, and leans back, and waits.

Tim smirks at him, and moves -- somewhat ostentatiously,
really -- to lean back against Clark's side and throw his feet
up on the couch. The position is one Clark would've,
perhaps, found himself in with friends when *he* was in
high school.

If he'd brought more people home, back then.

Or if Pete had been an entirely different sort of friend.

Tim places the lunchbox on his lap and eats another cookie.

Bruce, when he joins them, leans in the doorway with an
expression which would only seem casually knowing to most
of the people in his life.

Clark can see the tension in the man's forearms from here,
and knows, from experience, that the amusement in the
man's glare is for Tim's benefit alone.

When he's feeling especially reckless, Clark sometimes
considers saying something about the rather spectacular
degree of permissiveness Bruce shows toward Tim,
considering the fact that, legally, the man is Tim's father. He
isn't feeling reckless.

"Have you come to see whether Tim can come out to play?"
The words fall like particularly large and well-aimed stones.

"He brought cookies," Tim says, and brandishes the bag.

"Mm," Bruce says, continuing to glare at Clark for what's
probably some precisely measured period of time before
turning his attention to the boy. "What's in the box?"

Tim tosses it to Bruce -- *before* saying, "Amateur bomb,
rigged to send the gym sky high."

Bruce raises an eyebrow. "And the suspect in question?"

Tim shrugs. "Voted Most Likely To Shoot Up The
Lunchroom by the in-crowd last year. Gotta give him points
for originality. Info in my files."

"Mm," Bruce says again and lets the lunchbox swing at his
side, undoubtedly trusting that Tim had, at the very least,
disarmed it *enough*. And then he takes up glaring at Clark

There's a certain reflex to check the thing himself, but his
mother had always said that trust was the foundation to
every healthy relationship. And Bruce has just as much
armor under his clothes as Tim.

And the lunchbox adds a certain degree of 'Bruce Wayne,
professional idiot,' to Bruce's demeanor. A photo-op waiting
to happen, assuming Bruce doesn't try to shove the bomb --
lunchbox and all -- down Clark's throat.

He probably won't.

Bruce and Tim, between them, allow the silence to linger
just long enough for Clark to begin sweating beneath the
collar of his carefully unfashionable shirt, before Bruce... it's
not really a sigh, at all. Or it wouldn't be, from anyone else.

"Rendezvous point four-gamma, Tim. If you're late --"

"I'm benched. Got it."

And then Bruce leaves.

And then Tim shifts enough to fall into Clark's lap. "I
could," he says, chewing, "take off one sock. Maybe put
on a sundress and have Alfred hose me down."

"Your school's English department has much to answer for."

Tim rubs the back of his neck against Clark's thigh and
grins up into his eyes.

The regression isn't, really, what worries Clark most.


There are rationalizations for every level of this... *thing*,
from the ones which are, apparently, large enough for Bruce
to have trained Tim for a vigilante lifestyle, to the ones
which are smaller, and more suited to moments like this

Clark has no need for a phone, but he has the receiver
pressed to his face just the same. Tim likes to hear the way
Clark reacts to --

"I've got new stitches on my hip. It feels a little like an

The way he reacts to the things he says.

"When they're fresh like this, I can count them just by
breathing hard enough, you know?"

"Yes," he whispers, in a voice he's lost all ability not to
recognize as his own.

"I bet you could count them just by touching me."

"Yes --"

"Through my clothes."

"Tim --"

"With your tongue."

He absolutely could.

The rationalization for this is problematic in its own right --
Tim hasn't been able to visit him at any of his homes for
three solid weeks. There's almost certainly something wrong
with needing rationalizations for your rationalizations.

This phone line is entirely modern. Clark can still hear every
imperfection, every hint of static. There are times when the
imperfections seem almost deliberate, a technological tease
designed to drive him nearly as crazy --

"You could be watching me, Clark. You *should* be
watching me."

"I've memorized every expression you've shown me. Every

"Like that -- *fuck* -- matters --"

Clark squeezes his eyes shut. "I watch you sleep. When I

Tim's laugh is breathless and a little cruel. "Is that... a

"Really... it's more of an exclamation. Excusably senseless
and embarrassing, given the circumstances."

"Also -- also --" Tim's breaths are coming faster.


"Impressively -- *creepy* oh god *fuck* --"

Clark can't, actually, smell the boy from here. Most of the
time, this relative lack of sensitivity is a blessing. Most of the

The soft, humming purr Tim makes is familiar, and has a
faint echo in the ear which isn't mashing yet another
telephone receiver out of shape. "You're still fully dressed,
aren't you?"

Clark forces himself to hold the phone in a gentler fashion
and leans back against his headboard. "Would you like me to

Tim yawns. "Nah. It's not really the same for me."

Clark could be in the boy's bedroom in less than ten
seconds. Less than five, if he's careless with the Wayne
architecture and the necessity of not breaking too many
windows in his wake. If he asks what the boy wants... he's
learned, from experience, that it can be dangerous on a
number of levels to ask what the boy wants until he's
physically worn out.

More than he could ever be after only one orgasm and an
average patrol.

He listens to Tim breathe until he sleeps, instead, adding
memories to the list.


Clark Kent has no reason whatsoever to visit Bruce Wayne at
Wayne Enterprises. Not today. Hovering half a mile above
the tower and watching while the boy -- 'frolic' is too gentle
a word for something this close to 'wreaking havoc' -- moves
through various offices has to be enough.

This time.


He knows for a fact that Bruce has no intention of letting the
boy drive until he's old enough by New Jersey law. Clark has
no intention of questioning this decision, or the fact that
'piloting a moderately well-armed jet' apparently doesn't fall
under the man's definition of 'driving.'

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that flying is
much safer, statistically, than driving. Of course, that sort of
thought leads to questions about teenaged vigilantism in
general, the place of superpowered aliens in the world's
sociopolitical structure, and the fact that J'onn, for no
particular reason, periodically listens in on the thoughts of
entire cities. Other things.

Clark accepts the boy's random arrival in Metropolis as the
blessing it is, and makes love to him in the sky while the
plane's autopilot performs entirely admirably.

Later, in his bed, he catalogs every new bruise, scrape, and
scar he can reach with his tongue.

When Tim curses him with sufficient vehemence, when Clark
can smell his own sweat and taste something like acid-
soaked iron filings on the back of his tongue, when the
pound of Tim's blood under his scarred, pale skin is
indistinguishable from his own heartbeat and he can't,
*can't* stop himself from squeezing the boy's wrists and
*holding* them against his sheets --

He's breathless, mindless inside the boy, and control is a
necessary illusion.

Once again, he manages to take the boy without injuring

After, with his own usual lack of satisfaction warring with
the feel of the boy -- warm and damp and curled against his
chest, Clark wonders, idly, if a smaller, cheaper mattress
would hold the boy's scent better.

He's yet to figure out a way to convince the AI at the
Fortress to be less thorough about cleaning up after them.
He's yet to figure out a way to say even a fraction of the
things he should. But.

"You shouldn't... Tim."

Tim scrubs his cheek against Clark's chest, wiping away
sweat. "I trust you, Clark."

It would be touching, without the tone. As it is... "Tim."

"If I didn't, you'd have no trouble whatsoever keeping
control of yourself. Right?"

When the boy is both aroused and frightened, he looks his

Tim jabs him in the ribs. "Right?"

"Yes," he says.

"Hm. That was totally a confession. I should charge you or

"Tim --"

"Clark. You *may* have noticed that I'm kind of an
adrenaline junkie. I mean, I know it's not really *obvious*,

The laughter catches him low and shocking in the chest and
rumbles through him until it's almost difficult to feel the
boy's sharp, knowing smile against his chest.

"Everything's dangerous, Clark," Tim says, rolling over onto
his back and bending one knee up to his chest in a stretch
that could, possibly, be necessary. "Fuck me again or go to

Clark waits, pretending a degree of surprise which hasn't
been real since the first time. Certainly not since the third.
And Tim...

Tim's poker face isn't as good as Bruce's, not yet. He cuts his
eyes at Clark, and the sharp grin softens -- *melts* -- into
something dangerous in entirely different ways.

Something which allows -- demands -- the brush of Clark's
knuckles along the warm flush of the boy's cheek, and the
kisses which, at any other time, make the boy laugh at him.
"Lovely," Clark whispers, again and again until Tim can
manage to turn the sounds he's making into a reasonable
approximation of derisive impatience.

"Come on -- come *on* --"


It doesn't matter that the equipment is the best -- Clark can
still hear the imperfections which mean that Tim isn't,
actually, on the satellite.

And Clark still can't do anything but allow the sound of the
boy's voice to lead him into the comm room.

The boy is decidedly larger than life on the monitor screen,
balancing what appears to be a champagne glass on his
forehead while providing a report.

Bruce had been on assignment for the League for days.
Since nothing had come up in Gotham which required
calling the rest of them in -- and perhaps not even pulling
Dick in from Bludhaven -- the information in Tim's report is
as new to him as it presumably is to Bruce.

And Bruce... the man can undoubtedly come up with
something useful to do with the information that The
Creeper is currently trying to pursue a romantic relationship
with Poison Ivy, but Clark would be surprised if there was
anything truly necessary about getting the information like
*this*, as opposed to from the reports Barbara had
undoubtedly already filed.

There are other benefits.

With the champagne glass balanced, Tim begins to juggle
four of its fellows.

"And see, the best part? Creeper gave her *flowers*. Cut
*flowers*. Fourteen *dozen* of 'em."

"Hm," Bruce says. The only reason Clark can tell that the
laugh is false is that he's fully capable of reading the line of
the man's shoulders.

The fact that Tim is still playing means that Bruce hasn't
turned the satellite cams on for Tim's benefit. Or perhaps he
knows this just because Tim hasn't acknowledged his own
presence. Perhaps he's allowed that.

"*I* told 'im he should've started with the chocolates."

"Ivy isn't capable of digesting human food anymore,
Robin." The rebuke is obvious.

Tim rolls his eyes and jerks his head, knocking the
champagne glass that had been on his forehead into his
juggling rotation. "Still though. The *gesture*."

"Hm," Bruce says again. "Is there anything --"

"Harley was either helping Ivy try to kill Creeper or trying to
fix them up. Hard to tell. Anyway, everyone's safe and
tranqed back in Arkham."

"Good. I'll be back in Gotham later today."

Tim grins, catching three of the glasses in one hand and two
in the other. "Lucius told Dick that if you don't show up for
that board meeting tomorrow, he's gonna have your legs
broken. Apparently he's had to reschedule it four times

"Noted. Batman out."

The picture doesn't wink out until after Tim's lazy salute.

There's some question as to why Bruce had allowed him to
see this, considering everything, but --

"You have to know what you're doing, Clark. I *know* you

-- then there isn't, at all.

He could, perhaps, say something about the fact that Tim
never shows *him* that kind of behavior, and that they both
know that's on purpose. He could say something about the
fact that Bruce gets *more* of it now, more than he'd ever
been able to hope for before.

Neither option seems remotely helpful.


Bruce uses his name far more often than he used to. There
are times, like now, when Clark isn't sure at all whether or
not it's on purpose. "I wouldn't ever hurt him," he tries.

"That isn't the *point*," Bruce says, and there are also times
when it doesn't matter that Bruce has the cowl on, when
Bruce is too much himself for any of his training in
intimidation and illusion to make any sort of difference at all.

There was a time when that sort of thing would make Clark
want to reach out, make him *need* to. Bruce is his closest
friend, and times like these had, once, been all the reason
and rationalization Clark could ever need for that fact. Bruce
is already reaching out. Bruce is --

"I'm *asking* you --"

"What *is* the point, Bruce? What could possibly mean
more for people like us than care, than the desire and
intention --"

"He's half. Your. Age."

Clark closes the space between them, slowly and
deliberately. A moment's glance with his X-Ray vision shows
the effort, the *struggle* going into Bruce keeping his
expression neutral beneath the cowl, and that -- that's still
not enough. Not for this. "When I met him, he'd been left in
charge of Gotham during a crime wave --"

"I *never* authorized that --"

"So you punished Batgirl and Nightwing for it? Stayed home
until everyone learned to only give Robin the easy missions?
The ones where he *wasn't* in mortal danger?"

Bruce doesn't -- quite -- throw a punch. And he doesn't back
away. "There are words for what you're doing, Clark. Do
you think you're above them?" His voice is low, and

"I'm not above anything, Bruce," and Clark can't quite stop
himself from reaching for Bruce's shoulder. He might as well
be holding nothing but armor. "I just love him."

"You're obsessesd with him. You -- he *allows* you
freedoms you couldn't. Couldn't otherwise --"

"I love him," Clark says, again, fully aware that he's getting
away with the interruption for reasons which have little
enough to do with the strength of his arguments.

And Bruce recovers quickly, sneering with tight, perfect
honesty. "If you honestly believed it was that simple, you'd
carry on your *business* under my roof."

"And if you were honestly sure it wasn't, you would have
Kryptonited me the first time I touched him."

Bruce brushes Clark's hand off his shoulder and steps away.
"As a friend, Clark."

Clark closes his eyes. "I can't."

He stays in the comm room after Bruce leaves.


A rumpled school uniform and a zip-strip. Blithely obscene
phone calls and a demand for ice cream. A hand in his
uniform and the way Tim hugs him when they're alone, the
way he settles into Clark's own hugs.

He never plays baseball with Clark, and he's never shown up
at the Planet solely to distract him from his work.

If he'd ever... if he'd ever, with Bruce, Clark has seen no
sign. He never wants to.

The plan to take Tim cross-country skiing in the climate
controlled 'courtyard' within the Fortress had gone precisely
nowhere, and Clark is almost positive that the fact that Tim
had discovered how to get the AI to follow his commands is
only part of the reason for this.

Clark drinks cocoa and watches the boy argue with the AI
until the... clothes it provides for him are correct,

When he strips, he removes everything save for the
'garters' around his thighs. The first time Clark had seen
them, he'd begun to wonder about Bruce. And then he
realized they each held ribbon blades and a full set of lock
picks. He's still not entirely sure how Tim gets to
the equipment when he needs it, but the chances are
good that he'll find out sooner or later in the normal
course of their... business.

"My fishnets had holes -- is it even *possible* for a non-
meta to rip this material? -- and the makeup didn't apply
*itself*, and I have no fucking clue how to explain 'fake
needle tracks' to your AI, but..." Tim puts his hands on his
hips, takes a deep breath, and becomes...

Someone else entirely. The way he's walking makes it seems
as though there are actual hips beneath the strip of 'leather'
which makes up his skirt. The fact that Clark knows Tim's
eyes are never that wide, never that *welcoming*, doesn't
actually matter.

"A whole weekend like this," he says in a purr both deeper
and softer than his own voice. "And *you* were off-planet."

"I'm here now," he says, and the flash of honest surprise in
Tim's eyes is the only real notification Clark's mind receives
that Clark has already moved, and that his hands are curled
under the waistband of Tim's skirt.

"Yeah. You are." The purr wavers.

Clark pulls the boy into his lap, and Tim is more himself by
the heartbeat. Softer, aware, afraid -- what expression is on
his *face*? Is it that Tim's so far away from home? How
much control has he already lost?

"Superman --"

"What's your name?"

"Um. Clark..."

It takes too long to loosen his grip on the boy, and he
doesn't manage it with any real degree of true success, but...
but. He's breathing again. The Fortress is sterile, and the
scent of the boy is a goad and a reminder. He can *do* this.

"Clark --"

"Tim, I'm so sorry. It's... it's all right." If he could will the
boy to believe it right now, he would. He's made worse
ethical lapses.

Tim cocks his head at him, searching Clark's eyes. The fact
that he's also shifting in an entirely unnecessary manner on
Clark's lap doesn't make the searching any less important,
any less true. The fact that he's searching doesn't change the
outline of the boy's erection beneath his skirt.

Usually, it's easier to decide which message to pay attention

Tim tastes like the familiar nothing of the AI until Clark
manages to lick all the paint off his mouth. "I'll never, never
hurt you."

"Well, now that you've fucked my ass into *shape*..."

"Tim --"

He can't keep himself from tightening his grip when Tim
bites his lip.

"Oh, Timmy..."

"Adrenaline junkie, Clark?" His voice is soft, and his breath
tastes like chocolate. "Remember?"

The AI softens the floor for them, and swallows the shreds
of the boy's disguise silently and efficiently.

When Clark tells Tim he loves him, Tim stretches truly,
yawns for effect, and hugs him.


Bruce Wayne attends a Luthor fundraiser in Metropolis that
he's covering for the Planet with Lois.

While Lois makes Bruce dance her as close as possible to a
knot of senatorial conversation Clark already knows is nearly
entirely innocent, Tim blithely switches his ginger ale with
Clark's champagne.

And toasts Luthor with it before tossing it back like a shot.

The tuxedo -- and the rigid control someone (probably
Alfred) had applied to the boy's hair -- makes him look like
Bruce Wayne's son. Unless you paid any attention
whatsoever to Tim's eyes.

"If I could," Clark says in as casual a voice as he can
manage, "I would dance with you."

"And if I was about six, you could probably get away with it.
Or if I was retarded or something." The grin is only in the
boy's eyes, but it's there.

Clark nods and sips his ginger ale.

The song is a fairly long one, and Bruce and Lois dance past
them twice. Probably because Bruce can tell Tim is more
uncomfortable than even being forced to be on his best
behavior on what are, technically, his off hours would
justify. Judging by the irritated confusion on Lois' face.

Clark pulls out his notebook and does his best to change his
expression to something bland. "Would you tell me what's

"Two months ago, Bruce pissed me off and I told him I
wanted to visit my long-lost cousin or something in
Metropolis for my birthday. Yesterday I found a plane ticket
on my dresser. I'd -- fuck, I'd *forgotten*."

Tim does a far better job at controlling his facial expression.
The rationalizations for this are well-worn.

"He's testing me. He's... you know he doesn't like this. Us."

Clark swallows back a sigh, and most of the things he badly
wants to say. "You know you're welcome. At any time, for
any reason."

Tim gestures impatiently. "He's *testing* me."

Clark closes his eyes for a moment. "He believes that if he
gives you enough rope, you'll hang our relationship."
Sometimes, Clark does, too. And he can *feel* Tim looking
at him, *into* him.

He can feel Tim *seeing* him, and everything Clark's done
little enough to hide about his own emotions.

It takes a long time for Clark to be able to open his eyes
again. When he does, Bruce is watching them from across
the room. And Tim is still looking.

"You... it's not like that, Clark. Not --"

"Tell me what you need me to say, Tim. I can't -- I can't."
Clark manages to only bite the inside of his lip, but it's
only a matter of time before Lois notices the undercurrents.
He's never been able to imagine the scope of Lois' disgust
if she ever found out about his relationship with Bruce's
fifteen year old son. When he's touching Tim, it almost
doesn't matter.

And Tim has his game face back on. "I don't *know*,
Clark," he whispers. "It's just... it's fucked *up*, okay? I'm
not supposed to be playing chicken with Batman. Not for

Clark nods. "I could say something, here, about how to an
outside observer you've been playing chicken with him all

"Like you haven't."

"Mostly," he says, and he's not really surprised at the
comfortable feel of the smile on his face, "I've been playing
with you."

"Clark --"

"I won't stop. I *couldn't*. Unless you asked me to."

It's impossible to tell whether or not Tim could hear the
hesitation in his voice, and everything it means. He doesn't
really want to know. He wants... he wants so much, and he's
not actually surprised that it's worse now.

He knows it won't ever get better. "Come to me, Tim. This
summer. Tonight. Any time you can."

"Is that an order?" The tease, Clark knows, is as much
reflexive as anything else. It doesn't matter that there are
broad, real elements of truth. And Bruce is, abruptly,
nowhere to be found.

He has no right to say, "Yes."

Even though it makes Tim shiver beneath his tuxedo.
Especially because it does.

When the waiter passes them again, Clark takes champagne
for both of them.

Tim sips his, this time, silent and watchful of everything
which isn't him. He *should* be snorting, or upping the
ante of their conversation with something even more
outrageous. The fact that Clark can hear the small vibration
on Tim's watch (which explains, perhaps better than even
the applied use of his X-ray vision ever could, just where
Bruce has gotten to), isn't the whole explanation for Tim's
silence. He knows this.

He *knows* this.

"I've gotta bail," Tim says after a moment, setting his
half-full glass down on the table behind them.

Clark nods. "I'll undoubtedly see you soon."

"Yeah," Tim says. "You will."

And then he moves, casual and quick, through the ballroom.
After another minute, Clark can hear him changing into his

Clark checks his League communicator reflexively to make
sure it's active, sips his own champagne, and waits for the
evening to really start.


Tim is naked save for his mask and gauntlets. His body
suggests he's dozing. The set of his mouth tells the truth.

Clark strokes the boy's black-painted toenails and tells
himself there are more possessive things he could be doing.

It's a relatively new rationalization, and it still has some
degree of power. He's never kept the boy in the Fortress for
more than twelve hours. He's never interfered with Tim's
other romantic relationships, and not just because the boy
hasn't had much time for any of that in months, between
Bruce's demands and his own.

He wonders if Tim will tell him what case the toenails were
for. If Tim will show him.

"I'm thinking of getting nipple rings," Tim says randomly.
The exhaustion in his voice isn't entirely feigned.

"Perhaps more practical for your lifestyle than earrings."

Tim laughs, softly, and stretches in a way that doesn't,
actually, touch the tension in his body.

Clark rubs the balls of his feet.

"So you love me. You're *in* love with me."

Clark kisses his toes. "Yes."

"Then okay," Tim says, visibly and consciously relaxing.
"That's... that's okay."


End note:

In retrospect, I think this also has a lot to do with the
thoughts that've clearly been *lingering* in my mind over
the concept of childhood in toonverse, especially when
contrasted between the glimpses we've gotten of Dick's
early years with Bruce (always in flashback form,
naturally), and Tim's entire arc to date.

It's somewhat simplistic to focus on the contrast between
the image of a little boy sleeping with a teddy bear and
another little boy sleeping with a batarang, but I'm not
out to write an essay here, and there's a whole section
of my livejournal memories devoted, for the most part,
to this sort of thing.

Basically, we all know at this point that comics!Tim is
the Robin who didn't have even a semblance of a
childhood, no matter what sort of crack certain writers
have tried to perpetrate in recent months (a *rodeo*?).
Toon!Tim, on the other hand, has exactly that -- the
*semblance* of a childhood.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about the
toons (and, more to the point, the tie-in comics) is that
we are several times shown Tim attempting to have
a childhood, to react to things the way a reasonably
well-adjusted young boy would... and being punished
for it, to one degree or another.

Whether on the meta level of having (what he felt to be)
another child die in front of him ("Growing Pains"), or
on the more direct level of being actively chastised for
his reasonable emotional reactions (GOTHAM
ADVENTURES #44 -- and then more subtly chastised
for the same thing by another character in #45, the
issue in which we're also shown the story of Dick's teddy
bear), the only thing which Tim is consistently rebuked
for, consistently *discouraged* in, are those times
when age-appropriate behavior gets in the way of the

It's fair to say I'm somewhat obsessed with the
implications of this.

.The Mirror Before You.