So I just race
by Te
October 14, 2004

Disclaimers: If they were mine, I'd always be making
these silly little sounds of joy and contentment. Not

Spoilers: Vague and AU-ized ones for various old
storylines across the Batverse *and* the Superverse.

Summary: He'd never thought of it that way.

Ratings Note: NC-17.

Author's Note: Another in the Angels You Need series.
Takes place during *and* after Heaven tonight, and
won't make a lick of sense without the others.

Acknowledgments: Would not exist without the help
and hand-holding received from Mary, Jack, LC, and


He's never had home-made fried chicken before.
Granted, the scope of his experience with home-cooking
(somehow, Alfred just doesn't count for this. Duck a
l'orange simply cannot be categorized as home-cooking,
no matter what.), is entirely limited to the various
forgettable specialties of their various forgettable
live-ins, but... still.

There's something distressingly profound about the
chicken thighs on his plate. About their golden-brown
color and entirely un-KFC-like texture. The juiciness,
the seasoning (garlic, he'd guess, and salt, and
pepper, and... he doesn't know), and the utter...
*home-made-ness* of it.

He's aware that he's staring at his plate (there are
also green beans on it, and home -- yes, *home* --

He's aware that the Kents and Superboy are staring at

He's aware that it's very odd indeed to stare at one's
dinner as though it has the answers to the universe,
or perhaps just God's blueprints to the whole of
Creation, in all of its divine horror.

He can't, actually, do anything about it.

"Tim? Dear?"

Martha Kent is already calling him *dear*. Perhaps
it's just a verbal tic.

"Are you... allergic to chicken?"

Tim swallows. This... this chicken, these tics, and, oh
yes, the imperfect clone of Superman currently
mouthing 'no pie if you don't eat your dinner, dude"
at him. *This* is the shape of his immediate future.
Of his *life*.

"Oh, my," she says, trouble obvious and guilt-inducing
in her tone. "I'm sure we have *something* else..."

Tim drags on a smile, and hopes his impression of
rueful is somewhat accurate. "Sorry, Mrs. Kent. I'm
just having a little..."Don't say 'culture lag.' Diplomacy
is *key* before you discover the lay of any given
new land. "I just feel a bit disoriented."

He picks up a thigh and begins to eat.

Mr. Kent smiles at him, nodding over a forkful of
green beans.

Mrs. Kent looks at him as though she'd believed his
performance with about eighty percent of herself.
Which is fine, as it was only about eighty percent
honest, and only about sixty percent realistic. Facts
without scope, or depth.

"It's very good," he says, and means it.

It's the sort of good which makes him want to run
screaming into the night. He's *not* thinking about


"Aaand here we have... another field."

"So we do."

Kon -- never, actually, Superboy, as far as Tim can tell --
snickers and flies them in a lazy zigzag over the stubbled
field. They're *just* high enough that 'stubble' seems
entirely accurate. Well, when he doesn't turn up the
gain on his optics.

And... it's interesting to be flown around by someone

It's difficult to describe. There's something soothing
about being carried by someone who seems to
experience your weight as something akin to a
small paperback book... as opposed to a *page*
from a small paperback book.

"So... you can see why I've been, like, staggering
your 'Grand Tour' out. Don't want to kill you with all
the thrills and chills."

"Solicitous of you."

Kon sighs and takes them up higher. Farmland as far
as the eye can see -- human or otherwise. Or...

He follows Kon's look and sees something almost like
a city on the horizon. Certainly more like one than
all of *this*. And Kon seems distinctly wistful.

*This* sigh is pretty much wist in its purest, ear-vibrating

"You'd rather be there."

"I'd *rather* be in Hawaii."

"Hm." Tim's been here less than two days, and he
already knows -- by heart -- six different ways Kon has
of saying that particular phrase. That was #4 --
"Explanation to Slow Child."

Kon squeezes him beneath his arms and does a slow
and entirely random loop.

This, too, has happened often enough that Tim is
used to it, and tucks his legs automatically. It's an
interesting sort of exercise.

"Wanna buzz the cows?"

"Not particularly."

Kon sighs again. And really... there's no reason *not*
to ask.

"Why *did* you agree to come here, Kon? Why are
you *staying*?"

The position they're in makes Kon's shrug a rather
interesting gravitational experience. "I don't know,
man. Does *Batman* have to give *you* orders?"

"He... really wouldn't." And it's not the same. "He
doesn't, save in the sense of directing all of us where
we need to go." And I don't have to explain this to
you. "We..."

He doesn't have to say any of it *out loud*.

"In any event, it's not really the point."

"Uh-huh, so we're actually flying over Gotham, and
you're just *pretending* to be bored out of your

There's a smirk in Kon's voice. It isn't new -- there
often is. It's just that there's something *about*
Kon's smirks that's... different.

It *is* a smirk, it just doesn't feel like one. Certainly, it
doesn't feel like one of *Jason's* smirks. As opposed
to just a more *focused* (not sharp, and *not* cruel)
kind of smile.

"Does that dead silence and furrowed brow mean
you've decided to hate me?"

Also not the first time for that question -- or its like.
"Not yet," Tim says mildly.

"Good to know." Another squeeze -- it really is a
good thing he's not ticklish -- and another lazy turn
through the air.

Tim tucks in.

"So... is there anything you *do* wanna see? Or

"And what I'm *actually* asking is 'do you have any
idea what the hell we *can* do in this place?' I ran out
of ideas, like, forever ago." Kon manages to sound
rueful, curious, *and* hopeful.

Impressive. And just a little... painful isn't the word,
quite. Disorienting, maybe. No one has ever given
Kon even the remotest amount of training in keeping
his emotions out of his voice. "I was thinking of
seeing what I could do to upgrade the Kents'

"Oh. Do... do you want me to take you back to the

There's a... 'nudity' is more correct, but *nakedness* is
the only word which could truly describe the *feeling*
which fills Kon's voice. Tim doesn't know what to do
with it.

He can't *imagine* what Clark was thinking to bring
this boy back *here*. Theoretically, it's to train him in
the structure and maintenance of a secret identity --
Conner Kent will attend Smallville High School in the fall
 -- and this is all well and good and useful, but...

But Kon is flying them back to the house as he...
fails to speak. "Stop."

Kon stops with rather intriguing suddenness. "What?
What is it?"

Nothing but eagerness in response to Tim's command
voice. At this point, the invasion of Smallville by
hostile aliens bent on world domination would probably
be a relief, as it would give Kon something to *do*.

And... well. Tim gives *himself* no more than
fifty-eight hours or so before the honest-to-god
sympathy he feels becomes the sort of empathy which
might prove dangerous.

And he can feel Kon looking at him. Expectant.
"What... what do you usually do. On days like this?"

Kon squeezes his underarms -- again -- with a sort
of absent inattention. "Well. I mean,  sometimes there
are chores I can help with. You know, extra ones."

Tim wonders if there's really any such thing as an
'extra' chore on a farm. "And when there aren't?"

For a long moment, Kon doesn't answer. And even
after they begin flying again he doesn't say a word.


"I... training," he says, and it's more of a mutter.

"Oh. That sounds --"

"Only not, because all of my powers are really
TTK-based, and Clark can't really help with that,

"It's not like you. You know exactly what to do to
keep yourself... you know. Good."

Which would explain the curious -- very curious --
sense of envy and... and other things Kon had been
giving off yesterday morning while Tim had been
doing his -- really *very* basic -- exercises.

Kon broadcasts emotions the way Clark broadcasts heat,
really. The way *both* of them broadcast heat. And
emotion. The endless fields of wheat are clearly
affecting his brain. Perhaps he has chaff in his port, or
a distinct shortage of CO<sub>2</sub> and other useful pollutants.

"Perhaps I can help."

Kon... that squeeze isn't absent at all. He knows *exactly*
what he's doing. "Really?"

"I don't have any powers, but... we could think about
the sort of things you could do. Your limits and the like."

"Aw, man, *yes*!" The rush of wind is sudden and
quite literally breathtaking. It whips Tim's hair back
and forces his eyes closed. (His eye, and his
still-sensitive-to-reflex artificial iris.)

Kon is flying them rather high.

"Uh. How far up is too far? For you."

With their speed, it's more a matter of feeling the
vibrations of Kon's speech than it is of *hearing* him.
"Let's find out."


He wakes up to a soft, thudding *clank* beside him,
and then *wakes up*.

No one has been able to approach him as closely as
the woman beside the bed has done since... since
he'd gotten the first enhancements.

No one.

However, since the woman is Mrs. Kent, and the noise
is a box full of machine tools, WD-40, and various
metal-polishing powders...

He should probably stop aiming his index laser at
her. Now.



Tim winces and tucks his hand beneath the blanket,
willing it back into a safe -- or at least not *actively*
belligerent -- configuration. "You startled me," he
says. "I'm very sorry."

Her recovery has the sort of rapidity that only seems
super-human until one remembers just who she had
raised. As it is, it's no more than remarkable.

And she's... ruffling his hair.

"Well, I guess I did, dear! Lots of people accustomed
to city-living.... Well, I suspect you were sleeping pretty

That much is obvious. But.... Tim frowns. "I hardly
exercised at *all* yesterday."

Now she's *petting* his hair. "That's not what *Kon*
says. Oh, he was so *excited*!"

Which is... warming. But. "He's already awake?"

She blinks at him, and beams. "Well, it *is* after *ten*,

Tim rushes through his breakfast as much as
politeness allows and goes for a run. He makes it a
half-mile before Kon flies up to pace him, two pancakes
wrapped around a sausage and what looks like most
of an omelet.

Tim keeps running, listening to Kon's chewing and soft,
unconscious sounds of enjoyment.

The breakfast really was very good, even though
Mr. Kent hadn't let him escape until he'd eaten two
sausages -- drowning one in syrup first.

That was good, too.

"There's still plenty of food back at the house," Kon

"I know."

"Did you... do you feel okay?"


"Because you're..." Kon laughs, a little, and loops a
lazy turn around Tim -- just fast enough to avoid
making Tim have to change his pace. "Man, okay,
so I totally don't *know* you, but you still seem... I
dunno, off."

Kon's expression -- no, his entire *posture* -- is
rueful. Right down to the way he's holding his ankles.

It's like a particularly random interpretive dance.
Cirque du Smallville.

There's a part of him which is absolutely sure that
there's a *correct* way to respond -- to respond to
Kon in *general* -- beyond inanities, irrelevancies,
and the painfully obvious. He has no idea what that
might be.

"Yeah, uh... should I leave you alone?"

He doesn't want to be alone. He's usually *better*
at thinking when he's running. He *likes* running.
He's -- "I overslept," he says.

"Uh... okay?"

"I don't oversleep."

"I... oh." This loop is distinctly thoughtful, with
something of an absently graceful flourish as Kon flies
approximately five stories into the air before picking
up speed to join -- and pace -- Tim again.

Kon needs no practice whatsoever with flight, which
is interesting, considering his age.

Perhaps it's a matter of having spent several months
without paying so much as lip service to the ideas of
subtlety and secrecy.



"How far are you... allowed? To fly."

"Well, we're about ten miles out of town, and the
nearest neighbor kinda *expects* to see dark-haired
dudes in the sky, periodically, so... not far *enough*."

The metahuman equivalent to the fact that there is
very, very little equipment he can use -- or even
modify -- to practice his already woefully inadequate


Perhaps it doesn't, actually, matter if he states the
obvious for Kon. With him. "It must be very...

"Well, *yeah*."

"What do you do?"

"To deal, you mean?"

Tim nods.

"Speed-laps. Lots of 'em."

Which is sensible, but... "You haven't, since I've been

"What? Oh. Heh." Kon grins at him and sweeps behind
to cup his hands under Tim's arms and lift them up.
"I've had other things to distract me."

Tim watches the ground shrink and gain breadth
even as it loses detail. It's more reflex than command
to raise the gain on his optics, which is a good thing.
"I really do need to finish my run, Kon."

"Uh, huh, but it's prettier out *here*."

Kon takes him to a stand of thin, weather-battered
trees, about the size of one of the 'glades' in Robinson
Park. They're approximately three point two miles
away from the farmhouse.

"I could've run here, Kon. I *should've* run here."

"Think of it as a head-start?" And Kon *is* joking,
but there's that same cautious *edge*. That same...

And it takes a moment, but Tim gets it. Or
*remembers* it, and why that edge is so damned
familiar. It 'tastes' like Gotham and reeks of insecurity
and it makes him want to grind his teeth, no matter
how unpleasant that act has become. Tim frowns.

"I could take you back?"

Tim frowns harder. "Are you... afraid of me?" I
haven't *done* anything yet.

Kon sets him down and flies up to stand on -- no,
to hover *over* -- a branch some ten feet above
Tim's head.

Tim waits.

"Don't get me wrong, dude. I'm pretty sure I could
take you."

Maybe. On a *very* good day.

"I just..."Kon stares up at the sky. "I don't know. The
Kents told me *Robin* was staying with us for a while,
and then I see you and you're just this short little
kid, but then you're also a *cyborg*, and...

"You don't act like a kid, is all." And Kon shrugs and
looks down at him again.

"You don't exactly act like an infant, Kon."

"Hey, that's just --"

Tim smiles, a little. "Your chronological age?"

Kon glowers at him for a moment, but then he
laughs. "Yeah, okay, point. You're *still* not exactly
easy to... figure out."

("Once, just *once*, would you tell me what's going
*on* in your head?")

Jason is only fifteen hundred miles away from his

"I don't... mean to be." And he doesn't actually expect
that to work -- it never does.

And Kon *does* keep frowning, and shifting as if he
can't quite decide whether or not to come down,
but. "So... you *know* you can just tell me to fuck
off, right? I'm bored, not a sadist."

"Yes. I know."

"Okay," and Kon nods slowly. "So... did you wanna

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Are you going to kidnap me

Kon grins. "Maybe."


"So what *I* don't get," Kon says while surreptitiously
moving hay away from Tim's shovel. Pitchfork. Farm

Surreptitiously for Kon, anyway. "Kon. You could get
this hay from here to there with a... gesture?

"Yeah -- "

"And it wouldn't do you any good, because it expends
next to no energy, *and* you already know you can
do it."


"Whereas this, for *me*, is the closest I can get to
maintenance strength and stamina training."

Kon nods. "Yep. I got that."

Tim blinks. "So why...?"

Kon grins and sends hay flying in a small, disturbingly
anthropomorphic dervish. "Hee hee, Taz."

"*Kon* --"

"No, I'm totally just fucking with you, dude," Kon
says, and shoves the hay back towards Tim's pitchfork.
"I was *asking* about something else."

Just... fucking with him. Tim blinks rather a lot.

"Earth to Very Serious Robin, come in *Extremely*
Serious Robin --"

"Why don't you call me Tim?" He honestly didn't
expect that to be the first thing out of his mouth.

There's a pause. But Kon only says, "hunh?"

And the *falseness* makes Tim tense, hard, though
he can't figure out... any of it. "What is it?"

Kon actually *blushes*.

Tim doesn't know *anyone* who blushes. Other
than Clark.

"It's... it's stupid."

Tim sets the pitchfork on its... tines and tries to look

Kon winces.

Tim goes with 'blank.' "Tell me."

"Well... *you* never told me your name, or what I
should call you. Clark did."

He's blinking too much again. Too much, and rather
idiotically. "I... I'm used to people telling me how
best to refer to their allies," he says, after a moment.
"Security. Diplomacy."

"Yeah," Kon says. "I know, it's stupid --"


He didn't, actually, *mean* to use his command
voice, but it's nice to be able to watch it work
again. More than nice, really. Warming in a way
that makes him think about that conversation with
Max Mercury about Impulse, and --

He shakes it off. He's *Robin*, but he's also fourteen.
And grounded. And Kon is looking at him, and

"Call me Tim," he says, and thinks about it.

The only way for the smile on Kon's face to be
more viscerally palpable is if Kon actually --

"Okay. I will."

Says something. Tim blinks *again* and bites the
inside of his cheek to keep from shivering. "I'm... what
were you going to ask?"

"Hunh? Oh!"

Happiness, curiosity... Tim bales hay and tries not
to drown under all of the emotion. It's a lot like the
first can of Zesti he'd had after the Quake, and after
some three months without refined sugar.

He's pretty sure someone else's emotions won't
give him a hangover, though.

"... oversleep? I mean, don't you work nights

As opposed to just getting him *high*. Tim pitches
forks? Tosses? -- more hay and focuses. "I tend
to sleep for two to four hours at night, do whatever
needs to be done in the morning -- like go to school --
and then sleep again until it's time for training. Or

Kon nods, slowly.

"You're moving my hay."

"Oh, sorry, dude --"

"Hmm... all that just because you're standing in that

Kon shrugs. "TTK."

"But you're wearing boots."


Tim strives for patience. After all, he's still just thinking
about this stuff himself. "And you're moving hay
you're *not* touching."

Kon frowns. "Well, I mean... the hay-stick's connected
to the other hay-stick, you know?"



"Just hm. For now."

Kon gives him a kind of odd look -- something between
hopeful and apprehensive.

Most of the people who look at him like that tend to
be people he's rescuing. Which is... it's *wrong*.

He hasn't even managed to get them a decent cable
signal yet. "Kon?"

"Yeah..." Kon shakes his head, hair flopping a little.
It's very thick and glossy.

Tim wonders if he's dehydrated or something.

"I was going to say..."

"Yes?" Pitching. It's a pitchfork, ergo he's *pitching*
the hay.

Kon shrugs. "Anyway. You're not working *now*.
You're not even in *Gotham* --"

"Don't. Remind me."

"*Hawaii*, dude. *Hawaii*."

Tim sighs. "Mm. I'm out of hay."

Kon walks over to the new pile and pokes at it. And
sends it back to him. "That good?"

Inefficient. Random. Brilliant. "Yes," he says. "Thank

Kon grins. "You're welcome. But, you know, Gotham."


"You were there after the *Quake*. You can't *tell*
me you were keeping regular hours *then*."

("... on-duty twenty-four-fucking-seven...")


My point," Kon says, spreading his hands and smiling.
"You haven't had a regular schedule in, like, forever,
and now you don't *need* a regular schedule. So,
like, you *can't* oversleep."

The logic isn't *entirely* flawed, but. "I do need it,
Kon. I need... I need a schedule."

"I... oh."

Tim forks more hay.


The sound is only unfamiliar until Tim remembers where
he is and stops trying to compensate for architecture
and infrastructure that doesn't actually exist out here.

It's easy to forget when he's running. Even now, when
he's technically running back to the farmhouse.

Kon mostly lets him make his own time, these days,
but he still catches Tim up a half-mile out.

"Clark's visiting --"

"I know."

"You saw him?"

Tim shakes his head. "Heard him. I'm used to the

Kon nods, and settles in to fly... beside him. Hm.

"You're not in a hurry."

"Well... no." Kon shrugs. "It's hard to be around him,
sometimes, you know? Everything I'm supposed to

Clark feels the same, of course. Everything he
actually *is*...

"Anyway, it's not like he's bringing me any more new

Tim grins. "Well. Unless Huntress pissed Batman off."

And he's joking, but Kon just frowns at him.


"Batman's that... touchy?"

Tim pretty much has to stop, lest he trip over his own
feet. "No. Just... *really* no."

Kon's still frowning. "Well, I mean.... when you got
here, and Clark asked if you wanted... and, well, the
Kents kind of *warned* me.

"Multiple times, even."

"Batman didn't... he." Tim almost certainly should've
predicted this... this *reaction*.

He didn't.

"I'm not here because we fought, Kon. I'm here
because we disagree."

He's never actually seen Kon frown for this long.

"I know that doesn't make sense. But... it's true."

Kon nods slowly, then turns and looks toward the
house. And... blushes.

Tim turns up the gain on his 'comm' and hears:

" -- inseparable! I swear, Clark, I wonder if I shouldn't
have *bothered* giving Tim his own room."

"And Kon isn't... I mean, Tim is... tolerating --"

Tim turns down the gain with a thought. Look not
through keyholes, right, Clark?

"Uh... yeah." Kon isn't looking at him. "I think I'm
gonna --"


"What, Tim?"

The low, vicious *frustration* in Kon's voice is almost
enough to make Tim flinch. But he doesn't. "There's
something... I need you to show me something."

Kon looks at him, searching and serious.

"He didn't send me here for you," Tim says, and bites
the inside of his lip.

"What --"

Tim shrugs. He pretty much has to plow ahead *now*.
"I know that look, I think. From. From inside."

Kon nods and spares one more look at the house
before grabbing Tim under his arms and lifting off.
"Where are we going?"

"Where we trained before is fine."

"It's *Clark's* place. This whole --" The low sound
Kon makes this time is a different color of frustration.

Something. "Then take me somewhere else."

"I can't --"

"Fly high enough and no one looks, much less

"But... I mean... you'll get --"

"Cold, vaguely damp, and a bit dizzy. You do remember
my limits, don't you?"

Kon is silent for a moment, and Tim knows he's
remembering that day. When he does speak, he
sounds wondering. "I thought you were *playing*."

"I was," and Tim smirks, just a little. "But I never
*just* play."

"I... *dude*."

Tim calls up the aerial maps in his head, and wishes
for a connection that will let him update his *ground*

"So... where?"

It's an annoying fact of life -- is there *any* other
kind? -- that you never really have the full picture
about what you need for a given trip until you
*get* there.


"West," he says. "I need a city. You... don't have
to choose the *closest* one."

"Yes, *sir*! But... dude, let me know if you're going
to pass out or freeze or something."

High enough, fast enough for sound to be reduced to
vibrations and the translation of same. He'd have to
turn up the gain and calibrate for wind-speed -- which
no one has yet taught Kon to calculate for himself --
to get more.

It's still...

It seems strange that it should feel like nothing less
than his trip to New York.

His *first* trip, after he realized just how easy it was
to slip past his parents' attention for long enough to
get into New York City, and to the *Tower*.

The old one.

And he'd known going in that he probably wouldn't
get good pictures -- even as good as the ones he'd
lucked out with those few times when he'd managed
to pick a good rooftop and camp there for a few
hours. And he was *right* about that -- by the time
he'd had to go back to the station for the last reliable
train to Gotham he'd had some of the best pictures
ever taken of the Tower as a whole, but nothing
whatsoever of any of the *Titans*.

(Except for a blurry through-the-window shot that
just made him wonder what sort of cameras private
detectives used.)

Still, that feeling wouldn't go away. That sense of...
of half-satisfied hunger, or the moments just before
he managed to get something like total recall of a
particularly good dream.

Potential and... pleasure. Freedom and, perhaps, a
little transgression.


It's a fair assumption to make that Kon feels it, too.

"Aw, *man*, Tim, I just can't believe..."

He can't feel the outside of his face, and so for a
minute he isn't sure if he'd just somehow *missed* the
end of the sentence. But the vibrations come through
as strongly as ever.

At this point, it's less about sensing Kon's sounds than
about *feeling* Kon. Excitement and raw,
uncomplicated happiness.

Tim smiles, quite helplessly, and only the fact that he
*is* that happy keeps the... emotional *bleed*-through
from being as disturbing as it could be.

Of course, smiling at this speed and altitude is a little
*painful*, and --


"Man, I can't believe I didn't think of this before."

'This' being Tim spun around to have his face pressed
against the soft, well-washed cotton of Kon's t-shirt.

He wonders if it had belonged to Clark, as well.

He wonders... "Perhaps because it's a bit... intimate?"

"Hunh?" Kon hitches Tim tighter and higher against
himself, until Tim has to either strain his neck or
bury his face against Kon's throat.

"Intimate," Tim says again.

"Well... do you mind?"

It *is* a lot warmer. And more comfortable. "I
usually prefer to see where I'm going, but... no, I

Kon squeezes him. "Good. Your face was getting
all red and stiff-looking, man."

Tim considers pointing out just how many stakeouts
he'd been on in the middle of blizzards, but...

He'd had his *uniform*, them. Armored and insulated
and everything these jeans and this flannel he's
wearing *aren't*.

He can feel Kon all over.

"Besides, you feel..."

Another sentence Tim would dearly love to hear the
end of. He's almost sure he *can*, that it's just
beyond the edges of his perception, but *not*
beyond the edges of his enhanced *potential* to
perceive. A matter of gain-increase, perhaps, or
just --

Or just *that* sound. Again.

"Incoming, Kon."

"Wha -- aw, *crap*."

He hears the flap of Clark's cape, and starts to turn.
Kon, for his part, does an excellent job of rearranging
his hold on Tim.

It's cold again. Hmm.

"'Incoming?'" Clark is giving him the Superman-knows-
best look, and for a moment it's so ridiculous that
Tim can't quite credit it.

But then he realizes that Clark is giving *them* the
look -- meaning Kon -- and it makes a little more
sense. Frustrating sense. Tim raises an eyebrow. "It
seemed appropriate."

It's satisfying on a number of levels, not least of
which is the opportunity to watch Clark eye them
both with a distinct -- and obvious -- sense of

He really *can't* talk to Tim the same way he talks
to *Kon*.

"So, where are you boys --"

"What can we do for you, Clark?" It's all the more
reason to steer the conversation back to *him*.

The look Clark gives him is almost redolent with
frustrated conspiracy.

Tim is, apparently, supposed to be on Clark's side.

And... it comes out before he can think about it,
but once he does... he really is being just a little
*bit* more confrontational than strictly necessary,
isn't he? Is it bleed-through?

Or... Kon. Kon's *breathing* isn't dangerously
erratic, but it certainly isn't *steady*. There's
anxiety, and shock, and... hmm.


Tim shakes it off internally and focuses on Clark.
"I'm fine. I say again, what can we do for you?"

Clark frowns, and Kon tightens his hands on Tim's
waist. It's enough to make Tim wonder if Kon is
experiencing his *own* sort of bleed-through. He
can't worry about that right now.

"Never mind, Clark. Just answer me this -- do you
trust me?" He knows Clark can hear the emphasis. He
hopes Kon can't.

"Of course I do --"

"Then you know I have no intention of jeopardizing...
your plans."

Clark frowns hard enough that his brows draw
together. It makes him look like a thunderously
angry -- and deadly -- four year old. "I never
thought --"

"Then you'll let us continue on our way?"

The frown gets even deeper for a long moment, and
Kon's fingertips are leaving bruises. Tim doesn't let
himself shift. And Clark... sighs.

It's a sigh he hasn't actually heard since Gotham,
and it's all about... him. And how people find him
ever-so-frustrating to deal with. He hasn't stopped
finding uses for that.

Clark smiles ruefully. "I was hoping to get to spend
some time with you today, Tim." He looks at Kon.
"Both of you."

It only feels like an afterthought because Kon *thinks*
it is. It's all through Kon's *breathing* and in the pound
of his heart...

Tim *thinks* it's just because of Kon's insecurities.
"Another time," he says.

Clark nods. "All right."

"Perhaps you'd consider calling ahead."

This time, Kon chokes. It's not a laugh, but it's very,
very hard to keep his own face straight. Still.

"We do have a busy schedule, Clark."

And Clark's expression is really rather fascinating. It's
the sort of knowing-ness that would suggest Tim
had gone much too far, the sort of lead-in to a verbal
slap he's come to look *out* for, but...

It's also entirely rueful. Entirely *Clark*.

"I suppose I should have guessed you'd find a way
to *give* yourself a busy schedule. Even here."

Tim doesn't bother responding.

"Shall I tell Ma and Pa to expect you boys to be

"I had every intention of calling them myself, Clark."
He can't quite hold in the whole of the wince when
Kon digs his fingers in again.

Clark frowns.

And while it's a *good* thing, overall, that Kon loosens
his grip, Tim can't help feeling somewhat irritated by
the fact that Kon does it *clearly* as a response to

He's getting himself involved in a pissing contest in the
sky. He'd blame it on all the oxygen, but there simply
isn't all that *much* up here. Perhaps it's just a
function of deprivation.


"I... I didn't mean to suggest you'd be irresponsible,

He nods.

"But I *am* here, and I *can* tell them, and... the
two of you can focus on whatever it is you have

"I see. Thank you, Clark, but no. We really ought to
call the Kents ourselves, I think. Right, Kon?"

"Yeah, I... yeah."

Clark nods slowly. "Then that's settled, I suppose.
Is there anything --"

"No," Tim says, and Clark nods again and swallows.

"He misses you."

He sent me *away*. Tim bites the inside of his lip.
"Another. Time."

Clark nods again, clearly unhappy, and waves.

And flies away.

"*Jesus*, Tim --"

Tim reaches down to squeeze Kon's wrist.

"Hunh? Oh, *jeez* --"

"You might not want to just let go."

"Crap --"

"I don't especially *want* to be a greasy smear on a
field --"

"I am *so* sorry, Tim --"

"Though I imagine your guilt will be amusing in the

"... *what*?"

"If there is one."

"You... you're *fucking* with me."

Tim grins, more pleased that he'd ever really want to
admit. It's not often that people... well, that they
*know*, without Tim having to work to be infinitely
more transparent. And... anyway. "Thought I'd return
the favor."

"Uh, huh." Kon lifts and spins him until Tim once again
has an excellent view of Kon's neck. "You're supposed
to do it at the *time*."

"And surrender the element of surprise?"

"I..." And Kon laughs, but there's something...

It's not that there's anything 'off' about it so much as
that Tim isn't sure if he's *getting* all of it. Or...

They aren't actually moving, yet, so he can hear Kon
perfectly, but...

"Kon? Is there something wrong?"

"Wrong? I... no, but..."

Interesting. It's a moment -- a *tone* -- that seems
to suggest the use of a nervous habit or two, but Tim
isn't at all sure how that will translate with them both
in the air.

Really, he can *feel* Kon's disquiet (anxiety seems a
bit too *much*, somehow), and it seems strange that
the only thing Kon's doing is rearranging his grip


Kon isn't so much altering his grip on Tim as...
stroking absently -- and gently -- at the places where
he's bruised. In all honesty, Tim isn't sure whether or
not he should *tell* Kon about that. Because he'll
almost certainly stop, and he probably *should*...
because the only other person who's ever paid that
much attention (absent or not) to Tim's bruises is

And somehow "you know, Batman used to touch
me like that all the time, until we broke up," just
doesn't feel like the kind of sentence Tim could
comfortably utter.

Kon breaks up the thought -- thankfully -- by sighing
and starting to fly again. Not especially fast, this time,
and Kon hasn't actually *stopped* rubbing at Tim's
side through his shirt.


"No, I just... you really tore Clark a new one."

He really could've been much worse. By rights, even.
"Does it bother you?"

"I'm... I'm not actually sure. I mean, I was pretty
pissed at him about how he's been acting, and... well,
other things --"

"I know."

*That* makes Kon stop petting him and tense. "I...
guess I was pretty obvious."

"I suppose I wasn't."


"You weren't the only one... irritated. With Clark and
with the entire situation."

Tim isn't sure if he's ever been hugged like this
before -- it feels like something caught between
aggression and the search for... validation? Comfort?

It's not possible to be sure. "Kon --"

"I just don't get it. I mean, he *respects* you. He
likes you, and wants to be your *friend* --"

Tim blinks. "Stranger things have happened." Mostly
to other people.

"No, I -- not *that*."

And Kon squeezes his sides again, hard enough to
make Tim wince --

"Christ, sorry, I just... I wanted to see your face."

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"Heh. Yeah, like that."

When Kon smiles like that, it's very difficult to
remember that he'd been Robin for months before
Kon was even... decanted.

"Anyway, I just... I mean. I don't get why *you* were
upset with him. He didn't say anything..." Kon shrugs,
and Tim wonders...

It's a good question.

It isn't the one he's actually considering. Still.

They're high enough that, when Tim blows out a breath,
it's 'smoky' and just a little strange. Atmospheric --
quite literally. "He was impugning my taste, Kon," he
says, as lightly as he can.


And Kon just keeps holding him there, and looking at
him. It isn't *quite* a searching look, or even a
particularly piercing look.


It's not at all uncomfortable to *be* looked at, like
this. Perhaps it's something like Kon's smirks. An
inherent gentleness, a reflexive comfort, a...

He really does need more oxygen.

"Let's go, Kon."


The internet café has more to recommend it in terms of
its computers than of its coffee. Between Alfred, Victor,
and, now, the Kents... well, it takes quite a lot to make
Tim see coffee as something worth buying from a
restaurant. He *has* caffeine supplements, after all.

Though there's something rather endearing about Kon
with whipped cream on his nose.

A little too endearing, actually -- he'd taken the picture
before he'd thought about it.

Sooner or later, for the sake of courtesy *alone*, he's
going to have to explain to Kon exactly how many
modifications he has, and what they do. For now, it's
enough that Kon can sprawl in such a way that Tim's
reasonably sure no one sees him pull the cable and
adapter from his pocket (you really *don't* ever
know) and jack in.

And... oh God, it had barely been a *week*, but it

Strange and wonderful, a half-forgotten *memory*.

"Dude --"

"Keep sprawling. I haven't gotten what I need."

"I... okay."

He hasn't even uploaded anything yet. Just the
*sensation*, the *potential* --

"Is it... is that..."

"It's not uncomfortable." Rather the opposite.

Kon drums his fingers on the table and gulps at least
half of his remaining coffee.

Tim's tempted to ask if *that* was uncomfortable,
considering the fact that his own coffee is still hot
enough to scald. But... no. And using these
computers... well. He's going to have to finish
those upgrades on the Kents' computer sooner or
later, but he's not going to rush until he *knows*
he can get broadband to them.

DSL just isn't *enough*. Not for the systems *he*
has to get into.

"It will be a few minutes, I think."

"Sure. Uh..."

In truth, this was coming. He hasn't had the opportunity --
reason, *reason* -- to use any of his more... obvious
enhancements since he's been out here, and while
Kon has been remarkably sanguine about

"Tim, can I ask you something?"

"Of course." And really, the biggest surprise is that *he*
feels sanguine about it. Something beyond the
inevitability of questions, and into... he isn't sure. He
finds the maps he needs, and --

"How... you said it's not uncomfortable."

"It isn't. And I'm going to be making a small sound
very soon as I upload."

"What? Oh. I just... does it feel..."

Tim has grown accustomed enough to the process of
uploading large amounts of information in various
media that he now knows the sound he makes is...
pretty much equivalent to a human doing a
reasonable impression of a busily working CPU,
but --


He can't stop making it. Feeling it.

"I... *dude*."


"Uh. That sounds... um."


Kon.. shifts. Visible in his shoulders, and in the odd
tension of his neck.

"Are you all right?"

The laugh isn't false so much as choked. No, *shocked*.

Hmm. "Did that... surprise you?"

"I... uh. Can I turn around yet?"

Tim catches himself smiling and... lets himself. It's a
very specific sort of smile, and bleed-through is really
only part of the problem. If it is a problem. "It's

The first thing Kon does is look at him. And that
wouldn't be especially... *special*, but it's a rather
serious look. An examination, a cataloguing... Tim is,
abruptly, very aware that his cheeks are probably
still flushed from the flight, and that his artificial
right eye almost certainly isn't showing the same sort
of expression as the left.

After all, if he's managing to look blank, right now,
it's purely by accident. Especially when Kon reaches
out and...

Doesn't touch him.

He clenches his hand into a fist just before his
fingertips would've brushed the skin beneath
Tim's -- right -- eye.

"Uh. Sorry. I just --"

"If I looked strange, you should tell me. I haven't spent
a great deal of time in public like... this."

Which prompts another searching look. "I think I'd like
to see you like that," he says, and looks down again.
"You know. In your uniform."

"Maybe --" You can come to Gotham sometime after
I've convinced Jason to see reason. Tim bites his
lip. "Was there anything?"

"Hunh...? Oh, no. Nothing... I mean, it was weird
when you kind of just narrowed *one* eye at me,
but --"

"Hm. I'm going to have to work on that."

"I guess? I mean... I was... paying a lot of attention.
Uh. Yeah, anyway, so you never told me about

Tim checks the temperature of his presumably mediocre
coffee and takes a sip. Mediocre. "What did you want
to know?"

"Well, I mean, come on. You *have* to have stories."

And there's something about Kon's voice. Again, not
*false*, per se... "About?"

Kon finishes the rest of his coffee and starts playing
with the mug. Staring at the mug, really, and...

It's not like he isn't *used* to people feeling the
need to change the subject whenever his enhancements
come up, and to helping them do so. But (Kon isn't like
that) this feels different, somehow, and. He kind of
wants to push. "Do my enhancements make you

Kon tenses again, and his mug clatters against the

Question answered.

"Uh. No. Not... I don't. Mind them."

Tim frowns. It should be -- it *absolutely* should be --
easy to dismiss that as the lie of a polite and
generally, genuinely friendly boy. He can't.

Everything about Kon -- from his breathing to his
posture -- is demanding Tim take the statement at
face value.

He settles for nodding, and takes another swallow
of his own coffee.

"Do you always take it black?"

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Unless someone corrupts it
before I can stop them."

Kon nods, but he still isn't looking at him. "It's just...
it's pretty obvious you think it's nasty."


A shrug. "Even bad coffee is drinkable with cream and
sugar, man."

Which seems... plausible. "I'll keep it in mind."

The smile Kon gives him is brilliant and -- brief. He
looks down at his mug again.

"What... what did you want to know? About Gotham."

"Clark keeps talking about B -- your boss."

Jason. The reports he's been filing are entirely
adequate. He knows exactly what's going in Gotham,
and that the last of the metahumans are expected
to be shown the door within two weeks. He knows
that Batgirl is still working with them, and that
the Spoiler has taught Huntress any number of nasty
new things which she is, in turn, teaching the others.

He knows that no one has been injured in any major
way, and...

He knows *nothing*. He bites it back and double-
checks the computer to make sure he's sufficiently
covered his tracks.  "Yes?"

"Well, the way he talks about... the way Clark talks
about him..."

And it -- whatever *it* is -- is right there. Tim
*knows* it is. But... "I... think I need you to be
more specific."

Kon glares so hard at his mug that Tim starts wondering
just what, precisely, triggered Clark's heat-vision the
first time.


"So." Kon blows out a breath and... squares his
shoulders. It's the only possible description for it. And
then he looks at Tim. "Do you have a girlfriend?"

Tim blinks. "No."

Kon nods slowly. "Are you... dating anyone?"

"Are you asking me if I'm gay?"


That strange, fascinating aura of Kon's had kept his face
from getting wind-burned during their flight, or even
flushed. Clearly, it's no protection against

"I just... I mean, you keep changing the subject or
totally ignoring me when I bring up girls, and..."

And once again, he can *feel* it. This... this terrifying
empathy, this *emotion* which isn't his. Or shouldn't
be. Perhaps it's strange that he's never had this
conversation before. Perhaps he just owes Steph a
debt of gratitude for making it extremely difficult to
make *him* blush.

"Yeah, I guess that was kind of personal --"

"I am."

"-- and it's not like that question wasn't totally --

"I'm gay."

"Oh." Kon runs a finger around the rim of his mug.
Abruptly, it starts to spin in the opposite direction.

"Does *that* make you uncomfortable?"

And Kon looks at him, letting the mug spin to a stop.

Tim nods.

"But I still... I want to know if you're seeing anyone."

And Jason... they haven't talked about it, but Jason
hasn't touched him since just after he'd found out
about Tim's optics. Tim can't say he didn't see that
coming. They didn't really need to talk about it. "No.
I'm not."

There's an extremely visible conflict on Kon's face,
something that leaves Tim straining, half-desperate
for Kon to say something. To make it *clear*.

And... it's a familiar kind of strain, now that he
thinks about it. He's been spending a great deal of
time *focused* on Kon, just lately. The Kents say
exactly what they mean, often in excruciating

He has no great need to learn the inner emotional
workings of animals he expect to eat for Sunday

And Kon is... well, of course he'd focus on Kon, and
of course that greater degree of focus would lead to
a greater degree of emotional... bleed. He's
accustomed to Gotham, and while everyone with
the experience to judge seems to think that he has
far more in common with the dead (though not
Dick. Never Dick.) than with the rest of his

Well. He thinks even Steph would want to put a
mask on Kon, just to see if it would turn the
*volume* down, a little.

He doesn't actually want to put a mask on Kon.
At all.

Though he wouldn't precisely need Kon's *face* to
recognize a certain degree of internal distress. Not if
Kon keeps doing things like causing small, localized
earthquakes. Their entire table is shaking.


"Ah -- fuck." Kon shoves his chair back and raises
his hands, and the table clatters to a halt.

Tim pushes the computer back out of range of


"You should know -- if I ever mind you asking
questions, I'll tell you."


There's something pleading in Kon's voice, something
*reaching* -- "Yes. Go ahead and ask."

Kon nods and splays his hands on the table. "Okay. I
mean, I know you said... that I was thinking the
wrong thing about... your boss. But. He sent you to
*Smallville*. And you... you *were* seeing him.

Really, he probably should've guessed that giving
Kon that sort of blanket permission would lead to
*that* sort of question.

"You know, it's funny. You don't really scowl or
glare or anything when you don't want to talk
about something. You just kind of... shut down."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Perhaps I'm merely in
power-save mode."

"I... you *do* that?"

"I don't have quite that many enhancements yet."

Kon nods, and looks at him as if he's trying to will
X-ray vision to develop.

"Would you like to know just what I *have* had

"I..." Kon blinks, and then... laughs. "Man, you can
barely even... if you put a pair of sunglasses on
and kept your collar buttoned on your shirt, no one
would even *know*... and you'd still rather talk
about that than... your ex."

Tim needs, very badly, to get Kon active. If only
to watch other people underestimate him to their
detriment. Tim smiles, perhaps more for himself than
for Kon. "I still don't mind the question."

"Just the answer?"

Tim stares at the computer and idly considers
dumping one of the virii he'd pulled from the thing
on a routine scan back into the system. After a
modification which would make sure the computer
could never be used by *anyone* to discover things
which needed to be kept private. And while he
could *probably* do it in such a way that the thing
would only need reformatting, and *probably*
wouldn't infect the others in the café...

It's still a little too much like shooting the messenger.
Tim stands up, double-checking to make sure the
collar of his shirt is even, and sets a finger on Kon's
mug to keep it from spinning. "I don't want to talk
about it. Here."

"That was supposed to be *one* sentence, right?"

Tim smiles. "Maybe."

Kon doesn't push, even after they've walked a few
blocks. There are a number of reasons why he's
grateful for that -- not least of which is the fact that
it's simply *disconcerting*.

Kansas City isn't his, and he's pretty sure the last time
he'd done more than fly over it was for some abortive
family vacation when he was still too young to notice
how ridiculous the concept was. But it's still a city,
and it's still...


He'd *forgotten*...

Because while Steph had assured him that the first
several minutes after the Quake -- and the initial
building collapses -- had been eerily silent, *he* hadn't
been there. And he'd been used to the noise of
Gotham, and the...

Part of it *has* to be the fact that it's day, and so
the human sounds are more intense, but.

He's going to have to start thinking seriously about
just *how* he'll go about re-acclimating himself
when he gets back home. He very clearly needs a

For now, he grounds himself by keeping Kon walking
on the outside, so that he remains, at all times,
within Tim's enhanced peripheral vision. His heartbeat
isn't as steady as it could be (and hasn't been,
since... that little discussion), but his breathing is...

And it hits hard, and more than a little cruelly: When
he goes back to Gotham, he'll have his family, and
the city itself, and... hell, even the Cave should be
fully renovated by then. And he'll have spent God
only knows how long *focused* on Kon.

Breathing him, talking to him, and *listening* to

It's entirely possible that he'll need -- actually,
physically *need* -- some sort of plan to re-acclimate
himself to Kon's absence, as well.



"You... are you okay?"

I've turned you into my drug. Something neurotropic and
desperately in need of *control*. He pauses in front of
the hardware store the maps he'd uploaded located for
him. "Why do you want to know?"

Kon frowns. "If you're okay?"


"Uh... okay. It's just -- wait, you want to talk *here*?"

"It's reasonably empty," Tim says, and starts picking
out a few things. A nicely complicated -- and thus
overpriced -- doorknob, an especially fragile-looking
(and also overly complicated) light-fixture, several
grades of rope...


"I'll explain later."


He listens to Kon scrubbing a hand back through his
hair, and wonders if he should... try to cut back. If
going cold-turkey for this sort of thing...

And it doesn't matter that he'd done just that with his
family. He'd never *had* this sort of constant contact
with any of them. Not when everyone involved was
fully *conscious*.

Tim does his best to focus on the other people in the
store, instead, but beyond being absolutely sure that
the one other customer is, in fact, having a deeply
personal discussion with the bathroom fixtures and
that the clerk is reading a magazine approximately fifteen
feet to the southeast of the actual counter... There's
nothing *there*.

Nothing he needed to *focus* for.

And it's not like he *needs* to know that Kon's
heartbeat is speeding up again (he's going to *say*
something), it's just...

"I want to know because. Because it seems like you...
you and your boss --"


"Okay." Kon takes a breath. "You say you aren't seeing
anyone --"

"I'm not."

"But Clark's acting like you two are Romeo and Juliet
or something."

Jason is, actually, quite terrible with a sword. And
Steph would want *him* to wear the dress. "But
*why* do you want to know?"

This breath is... shaky and loud and irritable and...
hungry. "Don't you know?"

Tim closes his eyes for a moment, and wonders what
he's going to do when Kon figures out that these
moments he takes rarely have anything to do with
thinking about his response... as opposed to feeling
the question.

All over.

He looks back over his shoulder. "Tell me anyway.
Or just --"

"I want you."

Tim bites the tip of his tongue. Lightly.

"And. I don't... I don't want anyone to be in the way.
If I can have you at all."

"He. He isn't in the way. He wouldn't... interfere."

Kon frowns. "But what about *you*, man?"

"What about me?"

Kon takes a step closer. His breath smells like coffee
and the cocoa he'd had in it.

For a long, long moment, Tim reconsiders his decision
to avoid the olfactory enhancements. A computerized
vomeronasal 'organ' would make this... Even more
overwhelming than it already is.

"Did you... are you in love with him?"

And... oh. "I don't think I know what that is."

Kon frowns harder.

Tim wants, very badly, for Kon to say something else.
Ask something else, no matter how awful. Just...
that *hunger* --

"I... do you want me?"


The kiss is sharp and sudden, Kon's teeth scraping
over Tim's lower lip before Kon cups his face and tilts
it up. Into it.

Tim knows, intellectually, that Kon's moan was
quiet, but it drives right through him, and it's a
matter of missing time.

He's aware of his knees starting to shake, and of
Kon's pounding heartbeat, and of the struck tuning
fork of need. He's aware of the *next* moan, and
how it's more of a gasp, and how it's his *own*... but not
much more than that until Kon pulls away, dragging
the back of his hand over his mouth and panting, "I
didn't mean to do that."

"Accidents happen." He doesn't have a power-save
mode. He does, apparently, have an autopilot. He's
rock hard and holding the doorknob much too hard
with his artificial hand.

"I didn't mean to do that *here*, where I can't..." Kon
takes another shaky breath and stares at his own
hand. And licks it.


"Buy your stuff. And... and tell me where we can

Tim nods and starts walking toward the counter. "We
could always go back to the  farm. Mrs. Kent already
wants us to room together."

Kon snorts. "And if she was talking about *that*..."
He runs two fingers down Tim's spine. "I don't want
to know."

And up again. Curiously, it feels less suggestive
than just another way for Kon to touch him. That...
there's a *constancy* to that. He shakes it off as
much as he can. "Noted. Of course, there are other
benefits to going back to the farm. For... this."

"I'm listening. I'm... thinking a *lot*, but I'm listening."

Tim gives the clerk his blankest look and watches
the man snap his mouth shut on whatever inanity
he was about to utter. To Kon he says, as evenly as
he can, "I don't imagine there are many *more*
effective ways to make a place feel like your own."

"I... you're talking about marking my *territory*."

Tim smiles, and gives the clerk the debit card for Tim
Drake's one official and, thus far, entirely innocent
account. "I just want you to feel comfortable, Kon."

The laugh is rough and low and...

And Tim *feels* it enough that he can't decide whether
he wants to sneeze or just adjust himself in his pants.
Autopilot lets him hold on to his bags and shove his
wallet back in his pocket.

Kon gets him out of the store and into the alley beside
it... and into the sky.

"Tim," he says, and kisses him again.

At least, like this, he has an excuse for the light-
headedness. There's only so much oxygen he's getting
even though he *does* know how to breathe -- and
keep breathing -- through his nose.

It's just that Kon doesn't stop moaning.

And his hands... the vibrations from the paths his
hands are taking over Tim's clothes are thin, light
things. The 'sound' isn't enough. The *feel* isn't
enough... for entirely different reasons.

"Tim," Kon says again, and pants against his ear. "Oh
*Jesus* --"

"Sorry --" He couldn't *stop* his hips from jerking.

"Oh fuck, you're so *hard*." And Kon sounds like...

Like Tim's giving him a *gift*. And he thinks it
wouldn't be half so strange if... well, if he didn't
know how that felt. From the inside. "Oh --"

"God, let me -- let me touch you..." Breathy and low,
right there against his ear, and Kon has one arm
locked around Tim's waist and the other stroking his
hip. Stroking hard, restlessly... "Tim..."

"Not. Not in the sky --"

"Anywhere. *Everywhere*, just --"


The sudden increase in speed snatches the air out of
his lungs, makes his ears pop, and *slams* him
against Kon's body. It's only practical to wrap his
legs around Kon's hips and hold on with his thighs.

He has never told a bigger lie than that, not even
to himself.

And frankly, he isn't sure how Kon is steering,
considering the way he keeps licking Tim's ear and
the side of his throat, biting -- *moaning*.

He doesn't care if they crash. It would be nice to
have an excuse to replace -- to --


They 'land' at a run, with Kon doing an admirable
impression of a 747 coming in fast. They kick up so
much dust that Tim isn't precisely sure *where*
they are, even with the optics -- he isn't focusing
on the optics --


"I just... please let me --"

"I --" The rest is coughed out on a grunt. There's a
wall -- probably wood -- behind him, and Kon
*pushes*. One hand splayed on his chest and -- he
isn't pushing hard. He's *holding* Tim.

The other hand is at the back of his neck, stroking,
petting -- "Please let me."

"You don't --" Understand.

"I just. I need to touch you so bad..." So low, so
desperate. So *honest* and real and the only thing
distracting Tim from it enough to let him focus is
the fact that Kon's *eyes* are open.

Focused on him, searching him all over, stripping him
with intent -- "*Fuck* --" He fights, but he can't stop
his hips from arching, jerking toward Kon --

"Oh man..."

There is, at least, a part of him *aware* enough to
realize that Kon's aura is still holding him still --
holding him in *place* -- even when Kon moves his

To be fair to Kon's conceptions of his own powers,
it's true that Kon hasn't actually stopped touching
him, but --

But --

On him. His port and his *dick*.

"*Kon* --"

"You just... you tell me how you like it. Everywhere.
I --"

"I can't *feel* it on the port --" And he cuts *himself*
off with a gasp when Kon actually stops.

Sometime later he'll expend some thought on just
what does and doesn't seem to cut through the
layers of... everything between Kon's id and Kon's
superego. Right now, he just...

He's struggling against Kon's hold on him before
he's even aware of how much more he *wants*.
He's... well, he's actually thirty feet up. In a barn.
He stops struggling.

"You... what?"

Tim closes his eyes and breathes. And sneezes
from the dust, and tries again.

"Tim --"

"Don't stop."

"Oh *fuck*, yeah --"

The moans feel like words when Kon kisses him again.
*Taste* like them, like there's something he should
be paying attention to beyond the slick eagerness of
Kon's tongue --

"Taste you --"

Beyond his own grasping *need*. The hunger that
makes him lunge against Kon's hold on his upper
body and tighten the hold he has on *Kon* with
his thighs --

"Tim --" Panting moans against his mouth, into
his mouth because Tim wasn't -- *isn't* -- ready to
stop kissing. Not yet. Not when shifting the position
of his face just makes Kon drag his mouth (soft,
soft and *warm*) up over his cheek and back to
his ear. "God, Tim..."

He can't hold back the moan and he's holding on
to Kon so tightly that he's rapidly losing feeling in
his thighs.

"You like that. Your... ears?" Kon bites the lobe
gamely, licks him, but -- "Tell me... tell me what to
do, man --"

"Just... tell *me*. What you want." In detail. With
your mouth right -- "*Kon* --"

"That. I want... fuck, you feel *good* in my hand.
So hard... and you're. You're getting all wet..."

"Keep... keep going --"

Kon swallows hard and gasps against his ear. "You...
you can't feel it on the port. But. I want to..."

"Around. I can feel -- still sensitive *around* --
*oh* --" Spun around and --

"Sorry, I -- too rough --"

"Don't *fucking* stop, Kon --"

And Kon squeezes his dick *hard* with one hand and
shoves on Tim's shoulder with the other, leaning in,
*breathing* --

"Keep -- keep talking --"

"You don't know how good this looks. You don't...
you don't know how fucking *hard* I get every
time you *talk* about uploading or -- and then
you *did* it."

And Kon sounds almost *angry*, and Tim thinks
about the way Steph would curse them out in the
first few weeks of her training, the way she'd look
at Jason and him like they had all the secrets of
the universe and were just *taunting* her with

It feels like that, it -- and it's not like he ever
really *questioned* Steph's attraction for Jason,
it's just that now he really *gets* it.

And probably it's wrong -- or at least *strange* --
that he's having inappropriate and deeply politically
incorrect lust for a frustrated Batgirl while a
somewhat less frustrated -- he doesn't think he's
ever been pinned spread-eagled against a wall
before -- Superboy is molesting him, but...

He's a drug. It's the only possible explanation for --
for *any* of it. Corrupting his perception and making
everything so difficult. So...

"Tell me how to make you come," Kon breathes,
and swipes his tongue around the edge of the ring.


And starts to bite.

"I -- *Kon* --"

"Sounded... sounded like you were coming right
*there*. In the coffee shop, like you were being
*fucked* right... right in your little metal *hole* --"

All things considered, Tim is quite happy that he
*doesn't*, actually, sound like he's coming when
he's uploading. That would make the occasional
need to do it publicly inconvenient at best.

"Oh. Fuck."

Tim lets his head fall forward against the wall and
starts the process of catching his breath. "This was.
My thought."

"Oh... fuck." And Kon slides his hand out from
between Tim's thighs. "I... no one's ever come on
me before."

Tim blinks. "You're... you're a virgin?"

"Um." Kon's heartbeat is rapid, erratic beyond even
his metahuman status and sex. "God, I can *smell*
you  -- *fuck* --"

Tim doesn't even time to remind himself not to panic
before Kon catches him with an arm around his chest.
"Kon, are you --"

"Sorry, I -- fuck, you taste so *good* --"

Sucking sounds *just* behind him. Kon had caught
him, consciously or not, with his *clean* hand. Just
so he could...

"I... I'm *tasting* you --"

"Kon." The attempt to use his serious-voice (if not,
necessarily, his command voice) is less than effective.
On either side of things, because Kon is pressing him
to the wall again.

And because Kon is pressing him to the *wall* again,
sucking his own fingers *right* behind Tim's ear and
grinding against his ass.

"You want to fuck me."

Kon whimpers and bucks hard enough against Tim
that they shake more dust loose. And make the wood


"*Jesus*, Tim. I..." The groan is wordless, and Kon
shakes and presses him to the wall, holds him there
and *keeps* shaking.

And Tim realizes that Kon just came in his pants at
pretty much the same time that he realizes he wants
Kon to fuck him. But. He really hadn't ever considered
the possibility that Kon might be a virgin. "Are you
all right?"

Kon groans against the back of Tim's neck, making
Tim shiver, making him --

*Focus*. "Kon."

Well, all right. Command-voice apparently makes
Kon's dick twitch hard enough for Tim to feel it.

He tries again, in a more neutral tone. "Talk to me."

Kon pulls Tim off the wall -- with his power, and it
sort of feels like his early childhood imaginings of
what a 'tractor beam' might be like -- and into his
arms. Rather more of a trip than it should've been,
considering, but Kon is apparently flying them...

Hmm. Tim shifts, trying to turn around and *face*
Kon --

"Wait -- just. Please." And Kon squeezes him.

"All right." He can't... he's not sure what he's hearing
in Kon's voice. Or... he's not sure how *much* of
everything he's hearing is there, or to what degree --

His heartbeat and breath is easier, and a more
comprehensible gauge. He can hear Kon trying to
steady his breathing, and doing a fair job of it. And
he doesn't think he could avoid feeling -- almost
*smelling*, at this point -- the pound of Kon's heart
if he tried.

If he wanted to try.

When they land this time, it's softly enough that
they only kick up a little dust. Tim looks around -- as
much as he can, considering Kon's grip -- and...
well, he hadn't *really* thought Kon would fly them
back to the Kents' barn for sex, but it's a relief to see
that he didn't, just the same.

He really *doesn't* mind the idea of having sex
with Kon on the farm, but he'd really like to plan it
a little better first.

This barn is... hmm. "It's abandoned?"

"I think so. No one lives in the house, and the fields
are all overgrown."

Tim nods and looks up -- squinting carefully -- along
the path of a shaft of sunlight. The roof has more
holes than wood. It's entirely possible that they'd only
made the wall creak because it's old and in desperate
need of repair.

Tim turns up the gain on his 'comm' and listens. A
lot of mice, a few cats. Too many birds, and some
larger animals. Dogs or foxes. He thinks there are
foxes out here.

If he concentrates, he can hear what sounds like a
very, very old truck moving slowly. A long way away.
Tim smiles. "It's a good place."

Kon squeezes him again. "I found it the first time I
explored. Before Clark told me to, you know. Keep a
low profile."

It's perfectly understandable that Clark would want to
protect his parents. Tim still wants to thank Clark
for dredging Bruce's Kryptonite from the bottom of
a chasm with a nice great big chunk of it to the face.

It's getting harder to tell himself that he's just picking
up on the bleed of Kon's emotions, especially since
Kon still sounds more dazed (shocked, wanting,
happy, *hungry*) than anything else.

Especially since he doesn't *have* to listen that
closely. "Kon."

"I'm... heh. Still a little. You know."

Embarrassed. "You should've told me you hadn't ever
had sex before."

"I was going to. I just got a little... I didn't expect
you --" Kon sighs and shifts behind him, somehow
managing to get them even closer together.

Tim bends his head forward, just to stretch a little,
but Kon moans again and... nuzzles him. Soft mouth
on the back of his neck, and then the deep-seated
nothing that means Kon's mouth is on the port, and
then Kon's tongue on the other side.

And back again.


"Does this... does it feel as good to you as I think it
does? You... you just got all." Kon breathes, soft and
ragged. "It feels like I could just..."

Bend me over? That would be... no. Focus. "It feels
wonderful. Stop."

Kon gasps and does it.

"Now let me turn around."

Kon lets go of him, which... well, it wasn't what Tim
*meant*, exactly, but it still works. Kon's hair is
mussed and flopping over his eyes. He needs a
haircut as much as Tim does, though there's nothing
Kon wants to hide at the back of his neck.

"Look at me."

And Kon's eyes are wide and... and Tim isn't sure
what he thought he'd accomplish by this. He'd have
better luck just *listening* to Kon... except for the
fact that Kon seems to have lost the ability to use
language that doesn't make Tim need to come.

Still. "Are you all right?"

"I..." Kon looks away, but he doesn't stop Tim from
moving closer.

And he almost seems to *relax* a little when Tim
puts his hands on Kon's shoulders. Which... also
works. Tim squeezes.

Kon sighs. "I just. I mean, I've spent a lot of time
*thinking* about it, and there were all these girls..."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "You know, it does *count*
if you've had sex with a woman."

"Have you?"

"No." Tim smiles. "But I've been told by reliable

Kon grins back at him, as easy as if he's remembering
being teased by Steph, too. Or maybe just like he
enjoys smiling with Tim. He reaches up to cover one
of Tim's hands with his own.

No, to cover his *left* hand.

"It feels... I mean, it only feels a little different than
the rest of your skin." He pulls it down between them
and Tim watches him stroke over the back, and his
fingers. "You can't feel that, right?"

Tim nods. "I only wear the sleeve for camouflage. It
was grown from my own epithelial cells, but Cyborg
says the process is never exact."

Kon laughs, a little. "Like me, right?"

It's not an *entirely* honest laugh. "I'm sure Cyborg
would love to know the process the scientists at
Cadmus used with you. You're... you're rather

Kon frowns. "I don't... what do you mean?"

"You're a clone. You're entirely artificial. And yet you
can feel, and think... you're an individual. I can see
aspects of Clark in you, but..."

Kon's hands shift on Tim's own, and Tim thinks he
might be squeezing. It's too gentle to trigger any
of the built-in alarms, though he thinks he could
measure the pressure if he focused on it.

"What's wrong?"

"I never... I mean, it was just kissing, and a little
touching with the girls."

Tim blinks, and realizes Kon is responding to the
earlier conversation. "All right."

"But... yeah. I mean, I know I'm not like Clark."

Tim narrows his eyes. "You... think that's a bad

Kon shrugs. "I'm supposed to be. It's what I was
built for. What they wanted --"

"Everybody wants something when they make a child.
No one gets it, as near as I've been able to figure

"Tim, you don't. I mean... you're *human*."

Tim smiles, and knows it isn't a nice one. And squeezes
Kon's hand.

"Uh... ow?"

"Kon. You're the most normal person I know. No, that's
not right --"

"Still ow."

"You're the most normal person I've ever *wanted* to
know." And he waits until Kon's looking at him again
before he loosens his grip.

"Oh. Dude."

The kiss is uncomfortable with his hand trapped
between them, but Kon doesn't move even when Tim
starts to push. Correction, he doesn't move *away*.
Which is... interesting. Tim drags the hand
deliberately down the center of Kon's chest and
opens his eyes in time to see Kon *squeezing* his

"Oh God, Tim. I know you can't feel that, but..."

Lower, and it's less than a thought to cup Kon, to
squeeze him, and Kon groans into his mouth and

"You -- you're gonna make me come in my pants

Tim licks Kon's mouth and pulls out of the kiss
entirely, waiting for Kon to open his eyes again.
"You should take off your shorts."

Another buck. "*Tim* --"

"They must be uncomfortable."

"I... oh God. Oh God --"

Hunger and shock and *hunger*. Tim licks his lips
helplessly. He can't even remember what he wanted
to talk about. "I could... do you want me to jerk you
off with this hand?"

Kon whimpers and his hands spasm in Tim's hair.

Tim isn't sure when Kon's hands got *into* his hair.

And then Kon pulls away from him, just far enough
for him to undo his jeans with shaking hands and
push them down and. "I need. God, I don't want
you to let go --"

Tim lets go and Kon whimpers again, louder, and
shoves his jeans and shorts down to his thighs.
Unscarred and faintly golden and --

"Please. Please, Tim --"

"Yes." He curls his human hand over Kon's shoulder
again and reaches and... pauses.


"Do you want me to take the sleeve off? I can't do it
without damaging it, but I packed extras."

He can see Kon's dick twitching and...

"We can do that later," he says, and squeezes.

"Please -- *please* --"

It's fascinating on a number of levels. Tim really
doesn't think he'd be able to focus at all if he was *feeling*
this as more than just the motion of his arm and a
phantom ache.

It's hard enough with the look on Kon's face -- pained,
but not... He's sweating, and panting, and biting his

Part of it has to be the fact that no one has done this
for him before. The first time Jason had jerked him
off, he'd barely managed to get his pants off. But part
of it...

The last time he'd used -- *almost* --  this much
pressure on a man's genitals, it was a deliberate --
and effective -- crippling blow.

And Kon is fucking his fist. He's slick with his own
pre-come, but the friction *alone*...

"Oh fuck -- oh *fuck* --"

It's enough to make Tim wonder what the average
individual with super-strength *does* when they
get involved with a human. The compromise must
be immense.

"Don't... don't stop..."

"I won't. I want you to come for me."

And Kon's eyes fly open, wide and dazed. His pupils
are half-blown and -- "Tim..."

Barely a breath. Difficult to hear even with his
enhancements. Impossible not to *feel*. "Kon."

He would like to feel Kon coming on him, but
watching it is... compelling.

His hand is a mess, and he's going to have to change
his shirt pretty much immediately after they get back
to the Kents. And Kon's knees buckle as soon as Tim
lets go. He manages to catch himself, which is a
good thing, but it still makes Tim somewhat regretful.

There's something compelling about the floor of the
barn, too, despite the fact that doing *anything* down
there would kick up so much dust he'd spend the
entire encounter sneezing.

As it is...

His hand is still a mess.

It's interesting. He's never touched Jason with this
hand. Jason never *wanted* him to --

He's never stuck these fingers into his mouth before.
He can't decide if the strangeness is the fact that
he *knows* that there's nothing but metal and a few
very powerful and specific plastics under the sleeve,
Kon's only partial humanity, or the fact that neither
he nor Cyborg have come up with a way to impart
anything like realistic texture to the sleeve's fingers.

He doesn't actually care.

"*Jesus*, Tim." Kon tugs on his wrist until Tim
stops sucking... and promptly shoves Tim's fingers
into his own mouth. And moans.

Tim would definitely like to feel *that*. Or --
The alarm in his head is one of the minor ones.
The sleeve...

"Oops." Muffled, because Kon is pulling the remnants
of the sim-skin covering for Tim's middle finger out of
his mouth.

Tim's pretty sure that's disturbing.

Kon frowns. "Um. You... said you had spares, right?"

"Yes," Tim says, and takes the sim-skin away from
Kon. He doesn't have any specimen vials on him, and
he doesn't want to just *leave* it here, and he
*really* doesn't want to put it in his pocket -- it's
already starting to stiffen without the lubricant his hand
is programmed to exude for the sleeve -- but...

"Maybe we could... bury it?"



It's barely four when they make it back to the farm --
there'd been no need to call -- and Clark had apparently
trusted them enough *not* to tell the Kents that they'd

Which is obvious by the stack of sandwiches Mrs. Kent
had left on the table for them for lunch. Still, she'd
covered them tightly with plastic wrap, and there's
nothing *especially* perishable about peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches (on home-baked bread, naturally),


Really, he *had* planned on getting straight to work,
but he actually is kind of hungry.

And Kon is busily devouring a sandwich before Tim
even picks up the note.

<i>J and I are running errands in town. We'll probably
get a snack while we're out, and we should be back
by five, but if you boys get hungry before then, you
can go ahead and put the roast in the oven. (Covered
 pan on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Cook it for two
hours on 350. )


Aunt Martha

P.S. There's some cookies in the jar, but don't ruin
your dinner, Kon!

P.P.S. Drink some *milk*.</i>

It's tempting to wonder if *he's* allowed to ruin his
dinner, or if she just trusts him to have better impulse

It's also tempting to wonder, as Kon works his way
through his third sandwich, if Kon *could* ruin his

He has a dollop of jelly at the corner of his mouth
which Tim isn't going to lick off.

He hands him a napkin, instead, gets a sandwich of
his own, and pulls the milk out of the fridge.

"Mmm, gimme."

Tim pours them both glasses and sits down.

"Dude, you know she wants you to drink a whole


"Isn't it supposed to make humans grow?"

Tim narrows his eyes.

"She'll *ask* me if you drank all your milk. You know
she will."

"I don't *like* milk."

Kon dunks a quarter of his sandwich in his glass. "I've
noticed, dude, but I'm just saying -- when you went
out for your run the other day? She muttered
something about buying you decaf or just dumping
milk in your regular coffee."

Tim pours more milk in his glass. "You could always
just *lie* to her and drink my share. You *like*

"Man, I am *so* not lying to Aunt Martha, so stop
scowling at me and chug."

He's not scowling.

"You could put chocolate in it. I'm pretty sure that

Chocolate milk and peanut butter sandwiches and a
warm, sunny kitchen and a roast for dinner which
will probably be excellent and tender and juicy
and surrounded by wholesome, farm-grown
vegetables and enough potatoes to choke a horse.

He's gaining *weight*, and he's not sure if he can
pitch enough hay to make up for it.

Maybe he can go for longer runs. Or... well, he *did*
get that rope. "I'm going to need your help in a bit.
Before the sun goes down."


And nothing even remotely resembling a question.
It's the nature vs. nurture thing which he can usually
avoid considering in terms of Kon. Would he be
this trusting if he hadn't spent the last few months

Would he be this... invested in Tim's friendship if
he weren't the closest relative to a man who seems
physically incapable of *not* seeking out the
friendship of Gotham vigilantes?

It would be one thing if it were just Jason -- everyone
seems to like Jason once they get to know him, except
for Essen, of course. But Bruce's old files on
Superman were extensive, and full of obliquely
terse references to Clark's tendency to push for more
emotional contact.

And certainly, Clark seems to be the only person in
the known universe who *he* can't put off.

Whether or not he's trying.

It seems wrong to hope that there's some sort of
genetically programmed need in Kon to seek out the
companionship of the antisocial and the emotionally
difficult, but... he does.

He doesn't want to chase Kon away, and there's
something like an emptiness inside  him, a *lack*.

He's been *lonely*. And Kon... likes him. Wants him
and *likes* him. Kon has been lonely, too. It's a
different sort of alarm in his head, something
irrational and emotional and horribly familiar.

Tim knows himself well enough to know that he'd
do just about anything to keep this, now that he...
has it.

He drinks his milk.

Kon beams at him.


The light-fixture is somewhat the worse for wear
after the fall it took in that abandoned barn. He really
should've purchased one *without* an included
light bulb. The damage isn't bad to the rest of the
materials, but he doesn't really want to experiment
with it until he's sure he's removed all the shards of

The doorknobs, on the other hand, are perfectly

He sets the box on the desk the Kents have loaned
him and grabs the ropes.

Kon meets him when he's halfway down the stairs,
eyeing the bag curiously.

"Just the ropes," Tim says, and... hmm. "Do you
know how old Clark was when his X-ray vision
kicked in?"

Kon shrugs. "He says he pretty much had everything
by the time he was a senior in high school."

"And you were... aged to sixteen?" Which seems...
odd. Why not full adulthood? Why not younger,
if the people at Cadmus were looking to create a
controllable superbeing of the sort Luthor had
always failed to make?

And Kon is basically glaring at the steps.

"What... is there a problem, Kon?"

An obvious tension in his shoulders, a hesitation,
and a smile so false it makes him want to flinch
*and* spend time teaching Kon how to act.

Sometime later. For now... "Tell me."

"I..." Kon turns away and scrubs a hand through his
hair. "I don't age."

Tim blinks. "What?"

"I don't *age*. I'm, you know. Stuck. At sixteen."

"That's... that's *asinine*. What possible reason
could there be to keep you at sixteen?"

"I don't *know*, okay?!"

Tim stops, takes a breath, and analyzes. Kon is...
honestly upset. About this, and possibly about the fact
that Tim is asking. "Do you want to stop talking about

"Crap, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you. I mean.
I usually try not to think about it."

Tim nods. He doesn't know any gene-therapists,
offhand. He could, possibly, *make* himself one. He
needs the records on Kon. He needed them
*anyway*. "Has anyone tried to correct the

Kon shrugs and runs his hand along the banister. "I
don't know. I haven't really heard from anyone at
Cadmus since I busted out. I kind of think things
weren't entirely on the level there."

"Hm." Tim turns and goes back to his room. He
doesn't need to, in order to do this.

But then, he theoretically could've done this at any
point, and never mind the distance. Because he
never did reprogram *all* of the little things Victor
had left in him, and... and because he didn't want
to know if it *didn't* work.

He gestures Kon over to sit on his bed and tosses
the bag of rope on his desk.

"What *are* those for, anyway?"



"Cyborg, this is Robin."

"And since you're the only one who *can* contact me
on this 'channel...'" The laugh is brief, but it still
makes Tim's nostrils flare.

Kon is staring at him, and Tim holds up a hand. "Are
you busy?"

"Only if you're calling to convince me you need
more surgery."

Not *this*. "My reasons were sound --"

"They always are, but I can't say I disagree with
Batman about you taking some time off."

Tim pauses. "He spoke to you?"

The sigh expresses itself as something like a ghostly
cramp low on Tim's back. "He sent a letter. I can't help
but think that's improvement."

Especially since there'd been no signs of it when
*Tim* had checked the Cave's systems. But it isn't
important now. "That isn't why I'm calling."

"All right."

"Who do you know at Cadmus?"

"No one, personally. A few by -- questionable --
reputation. They were one of the institutions
recommended to me when I was still trying to offer
my services as a surgeon for amputees. The
unofficial word is that it always had a few shady
donors. A certain presidential candidate comes to

"That's... unsurprising in an unfortunate way."

"Uh, huh. So what do you need from them?"

"Everything on the Superboy project. Hard copies, too,
if possible."

"Sounds like a job for --"

"Don't say it."


And that was really a very *direct* non-committal
sound, enough that Tim feels himself raising his
eyebrow solely in reaction.

There's more than one reason why he saves this
sort of communication for special occasions.

"It's really not the sort of work he does, Victor."

No sound, but the pause is equally telling.


"It's the sort of work *you* do, isn't it?"

This time, he fully *intends* to raise his eyebrow. "I
didn't bench *myself*, Victor." But the response is
less satisfactory than merely yet another example of
how most people tend to underestimate Victor, but
how *he* no longer has even the slightest excuse:

"No, you didn't. But you *are* just looking for an
excuse to take yourself *off* IR."

"I was never *injured* in the first place."

It would be better if it was a long-suffering sigh, or
even and *irritated* sigh. It isn't. It's... 'sad' isn't
enough for it, *couldn't* be enough for anything
which makes his knees try to buckle, that makes
him feel so *heavy*.

"Victor... I'm still not calling you for... for

"Not today."

"No," Tim says, and closes his eyes. "Not today."

This sigh is somewhat better. "Is there any chance
you could give me a good reason for sending you
this information?"

Tim tries a smile, or something like it for the benefit
of a man receiving digital information directly into
his brain. "Other than the fact that you're just the
*fastest* way I can get it right now?"

"Yes," Victor says, and he isn't smiling at all.

The worst part, he thinks, is the fact that he can't
blame the way it makes him feel on bleed-through.
There's just... there are too many people who
don't --


The shock in Victor's voice -- the *guilt* is enough to
make Tim wince and it's almost reflex to slam down
the walls. The visualization is as crude as it *can* be
-- it really does involve a number of walls -- but it's
still effective.


"I'm sorry. For... broadcasting," Tim says.

"You do realize... *that* makes it more difficult to
hear you."

Tim closes his eyes. "But you still can."

"Yes," Victor says.

"Good. Then here's your reason -- the Superboy project
was designed to be, at most, a partial success." Tim
ignores the confusion and... and *hurt* in Kon's eyes
as much as he possibly can. "I need to know why,
who, and how I can go about correcting that."

"I... you're with him now?"


"Is he in *danger*?"

It's an excellent question, for his purposes. It couldn't
possibly be better. But...

Tim had gotten into the habit of telling Victor as much
of the truth as possible even when they were safely
in each other's actual *presence*. It's not a habit he
feels a need to break.

"Not that I can see, not immediately. But he's been
effectively hobbled. No, that doesn't get the point
across. Someone's *bound* him, Victor. Like a
mutilated foot. I refuse to allow that to continue."

The pause is long, but not especially ominous.
More... thoughtful. "I could use this rare opportunity to
point out that the use of the word 'mutilation' is...

He knows everything Victor is and isn't saying. He still
doesn't have the time for it. "I'm not planning  an...
extensive rebellion. I'm qualified, available, and..."
I need him. "I have a stake."

He feels himself nodding, and doesn't bother to resist
the bleed. It takes effort to hold the walls up, though
he suspects that it has more to do with the fact that
he's communicating with *Victor* than it does with
any inherent difficulty to the act.

Which is interesting, and --

"I'll think on ways we can test that theory, kid."

"Thank you, Victor."

"You're welcome," he says, only it feels more like
pleasure and amusement than general language.
"Here it comes," Victor says, quite clearly, and Tim
braces himself, because --

"Nn -- nnn..."

Because --

"Nn -- Interesting."

"Yeah, we haven't tried a direct transfer of this
much information before. Well, not in this direction."

"True. Thank you again, Victor." Tim fights back a
sneeze, and knows Victor is laughing at him.

"*Near* you, kid. I should've known you'd be
going out tonight."

"Perhaps just for surveillance. It depends on the
resistance we meet."

"Uh, huh. Luck. Cyborg out."

Tim rolls his head on his neck, more out of reflex
than anything else, and... pauses. The pain is
surprising, and almost alarming, and he reaches
back -- *also* out of reflex -- and...

Ah. Bruises.

Kon clears his throat and Tim focuses on him
again. Kon is still sitting on his bed. Sitting, not
lounging. His fingers are curled over the edge, digging
at the coverlet. "Kon?"

"I... yeah. Sorry about that. You kind of have --"

Tim smiles. "I noticed. And I don't... mind." There
have been very few occasions in his life when he's
been quite this conscious of providing quite this
*much* of an understatement.

Especially because the look Kon gives him is both
searching and hungry. It's difficult to focus on just
the searching.

"How much of that conversation were you able
to follow?"

"Uh... yeah. That's the thing." Kon stares at the

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"I'm used to... I mean, I *don't*, and I don't even
*think* about it, but... I can *always* hear the
other half of conversations, and I just... I could
only hear. You know. Your machines. You were
talking to... Cyborg? The Titan?"

Tim nods. "He's the one who did my enhancements
for me. He's quite an accomplished surgeon, on
top of everything else."

"Well, okay, but..."

"There was never really any 'sound' for you to pick up
from him. Rather more like an instant message. Why
are you... troubled?"

"Those things you said... you. You think I'm crippled?"

And it takes a moment to figure it out, and he doesn't
particularly *like* making Kon wait while he thinks --
it *bothers* Kon, and it makes Tim *conscious* of his
own silence in a very disturbing way -- but...

He remembers the hurt on Kon's face.

Tim walks to the bed and sits next to Kon, enjoying
the way it's dipping with Kon's additional weight in
an entirely irrelevant way. When Kon turns to look
at him, his breath is warm and faintly milky against
Tim's cheek.

It... isn't difficult at all to rest his hand on Kon's
thigh and squeeze before speaking.

"You *are* crippled. Artificially. *Obscenely*.
You're... I used the word 'amazing' before, and I
meant it. The fact that you're being stopped from
reaching your *full* potential -- whatever it might
be -- is..." Tim frowns. It seemed so clear in his
own mind, and it's something of a shock to
realize that the feeling he'd had was just *that*.

A feeling -- lacking almost entirely in intellect. If it
were anyone else, he'd want to go, and regroup,
and *think*, even though the people in his life
tend to respond nearly as well (if not *better*) to
these sort of emotional motivations as they do
to reason.

But he wants. He wants Kon to *know*. "It's
wrong," he says, finally, and stares at his hand
on Kon's thigh.

And *stares*, because it actually is somewhat
disturbing to look at the ragged edges of the sim-skin
just about the knuckle of his middle finger.

It isn't that he hadn't replaced the sleeve before,
and that process had always been somewhat
messy -- the texturing Victor had added to all of
the hands he'd made for Tim's use had, at best,
one practical purpose, to snag on the inside of
the sleeves and help hold them in place -- but...

This is different. He makes a note to give the
matter some thought, and then loses the thread
when Kon's hand covers his own.

His hands are quite large, actually. Disproportionately
so in the way of most human teenaged boys. That
quality called 'gangly,' which he has never felt regret
over missing out on, despite the fact that the lack of
it tends to make him wonder if his own (lack of)
size will be permanent.

He knows how warm Kon's hands are on his skin.

Watching his fingers stroke over the sleeve and the
bare finger is maddening, fascinating. *Distracting*.

"Oh, I -- should I stop?"

Tim swallows. He shouldn't have to think about it.
"For now," he says, at last. "Do you... do you

Kon laughs as he pulls his hand away from Tim's
own. "Which part?" He still isn't meeting Tim's eyes,
and his lashes are dark on his cheeks.

"Why I think there's a problem."

Listening to *Kon* swallow shouldn't be quite this...
wonderfully obscene. "Yeah, I think so. I still don't
know exactly what you were talking about with

"Raiding Cadmus for your records."

*That* makes Kon look up. "Really? But..." A frown.
"I mean... what do you think you'll get from them?"

Tim smiles. "More than I have now. That's enough...
for me. What about you?"

"What about me?"

"Well. I was hoping you'd come with me. I can get
to Metropolis on my own, but..."

"You want me to fly us to Metropolis? And break
into Cadmus? In *Metropolis*?"

And while Kon *is*, quite honestly, incredulous, he's
also instantly excited. His heartbeat makes Tim think,
seriously, of far too many things which have nothing
whatsoever to do with necessity.

"I think I'd mentioned something earlier about
marking territory..."

Kon laughs, teeth showing. "Man, I..." He shakes
his head.


Kon cups Tim's face, thumb dragging over his
cheek. "I'm glad you're my friend," he says, and before
Tim can ask anything, or *say* anything -- How
*does* Kon define friendship, precisely? -- Kon is
kissing him, soft and wet and then *hard* and wet,
moaning into Tim's mouth and pressing closer.
Moaning *louder* when Tim squeezes his thigh
reflexively, when Tim sucks Kon's tongue in
something he can almost -- *almost* -- *tell*
himself is a reflex.

"*Jesus*, yes," Kon says, pulling away to turn and
lean in and --



Kon has one knee up on the bed and one hand cupping
Tim's waist and... not *much* later. Tim smiles again.
"We have work to do."


"But first we should leave the Kents a note. And put
the roast in the oven."

Kon blinks at him. "Okay..."

Tim twists out of Kon's grip and pulls his duffel out
of the closet. And... "I didn't, actually, intend to
pack this," he says, and releases the hidden panel to
reveal a small, lead box. "I forgot this was in here
until after Clark... well." The combination is the
date Jason gave the first uniform to him, multiplied
by 2, divided by 3, and cubed, respectively.

He'd always meant to come up with something
better, but...

But. "You did say you wanted to see me in this," he
says, and pulls out the suit, letting it find its shape


"Not entirely accurate. I only have the birdarangs I
carved out of those spare tractor parts, which are
balanced well but not especially strong --"


"I was bored."

"Uh --"

Tim starts stripping. "And I've yet to come up with a
way to store the belt or its usual contents compactly,
so I'll just be going without --"


It feels so good going on, so *right*, that he almost
wants to drag out the process. Almost. "And,
obviously, I don't have *my* boots..." Or the knives
in them, or the explosives... Tim bites his lip. "The
work boots will do for this, I think."


Tim looks up, and lets himself grin, a little, as he
slips the mask into place. "Go back to calling me


The flight out was somewhat distracting, for a number
of reasons. They'd flown with Kon's arm around his
waist, and Tim had used far too much of his mental
capacity trying to figure out if the sound of Kon's
fingers moving restlessly and, apparently, absently
over his tunic *was* different from the sound of

More to the point -- trying to figure out why he
wanted it to be.

However, despite the fact that Kon never did actually
*stop* stroking him during the flight, he also didn't
do anything else.

Kon wants this.


The restlessness in him is obvious. The way he's
holding himself, the way he keeps plucking idly at
the straps around his thighs, the way he *isn't*

He's crouched just behind and to the left of Tim,
entirely unremarkable to the casual eye until one
realized that he's actually hovering *above* the
surface of the rooftop.

Kon has asked no questions since Tim had nodded at
his "Here?"

Kon appears content to follow his lead, and...

Tim's been leading people, officially and not, for
quite some time. He'd stopped being taken aback
by others' willingness to take orders from him so
long ago that he doesn't really remember what
it was like beyond not -- quite -- this.

It's different. The feeling manages to be both
soothing *and* faintly disturbing, and a part of
him can't quite lose the nagging image and
memory of one particular Gotham sunrise after one
particular Gotham night -- one of the few where the
soreness and exhaustion was patently obvious in
a way it usually wasn't until after he'd gotten an
inadequate amount of sleep and had had time to
think about all the death.

All the blood which he hadn't been able to stop
from being shed.

Something about inevitability.

But it's only a part of him. The rest of him is...

Well, he *hadn't* really gotten the opportunity to
*use* his optics, before. Not like this. He hadn't
done surveillance alone -- he hadn't *had* to --
since long before he'd gotten them installed.

He *had* had a large amount of time to grow
accustomed to the fact that no one in his family
save Cassandra was entirely comfortable with
the use of his enhancements more than strictly

Tim had actually reached for his scope before
he remembered that it was back in Gotham with the
belt he isn't wearing.

But now...

He can do what he wants. He can do what he *can*.

It's nearly six, and, whatever else Cadmus is, it's an
American business. They've been watching people
leave at a steady pace. There are only three cars
left in the lot, and two of them are far too old and
beat up to belong to anyone but maintenance

The third, perhaps, belongs to the flare of red
moving with the slow, cautious movements of a
scientist in one of the third-sublevel rooms which
are unlabeled on the most recent blueprint Victor
had sent.

The other flares *move* like maintenance staff --
and are all above ground.

A list of statistics scrolls down the far right of his
vision, an endless stream of calculation on the flares'
relative speeds and the amount of time they spend
in each of the -- probably useless for their needs --

There's no real point to it but the collection of data,
the absent thoughts he'd always entertained himself
with while on surveillance given exactitude and some
degree of permanence -- he does know how to
safely and thoroughly delete information he doesn't
need, but he is, as of yet, less than comfortable
doing it.

Not for the first time, he wishes Bruce had gotten
the opportunity to study Clark's X-ray vision
enough to provide more theories Tim could work
with, more chances to recreate the effect
mechanically -- if at all possible.

Not for the first time *tonight*, he imagines a Kon
given the entirety of the powers which are -- almost
certainly, but he *must* not forget the 'almost' --
his birthright, and...

He's been biting his lip, but the truth is, short of some
massive change, he *will* be taking them in soon.
And. He wants to know.

"Would you let me study you?"

Kon starts, but recovers well -- his shoulders twitch,
but he's still below the waist.

Tim nods approvingly before he can stop himself.

"Uh... I mean. You aren't already?"

Which is... an excellent point. But still. "Only casually.

Kon nods. "You mean, like, in a lab?"

"Possibly." He watches Kon frown out of the corner
of his human eye, and tries not to stiffen. "I
wouldn't --"

"I trust you," Kon says. "And..."


Kon shrugs, but the movement is careful and small.
"That's it, really. I figure you'd take me down hard if
it ever had to happen, but that you wouldn't... you
wouldn't just lock me away or something."

Tim resists the need to move, to *hit*, to move. He
knows it isn't his. The urge to cause actual,
permanent damage is. And has already become
familiar, for this. "No," he says. "I wouldn't."


Absent, calm, utterly... Tim closes his eyes for
a moment before opening them again. "I'm glad you're
my friend, also," he says.

Kon exhales, and it isn't -- quite -- a sigh. "Just so
you know, I'm putting a lot of willpower into the whole
not jumping you right here thing."

"Noted. We're going in."

"Yeah? I mean, even though I can't remember exactly
where --"

Tim waves it off. "They would've moved it, anyway, if
they'd had half a brain
between them."

"And you know where they *would* move it?"

Tim starts to point before he realizes he would,
essentially, just be pointing at the ground. The
wave of rage, of *need* for Kon's... fucking
*safety* to come off is powerful, frighteningly
intense, and *entirely* his.

The possibility occurs to him that he is, perhaps,
personalizing this even more than is entirely
understandable (if not reasonable), but...

It doesn't matter.


Tim shakes it off, internally, as much as he can.
"There's barely any pause at all when the maintenance
crew move from room to room -- there's almost
certainly nothing better than basic, key-card level
security on the upper floors."

Kon nods slowly. "So... how many basements are we
about to explore?"

Tim smiles. "As few as possible. We're heading straight
for the fifth sub-level."




He accesses the part of his brain he'd left working on
the photo he'd snapped half-absently of the keypad
next to the loading bay, and is surprised (and perhaps
a *little* disturbed) to find, in its place, a highly
enhanced version of the photo focusing on those
numbers with smudges and/or very obvious layers
of human fingerprints.

And sixteen potential combinations, listed in order
of probability.

The surprise is in the fact that he hadn't, actually,
given much thought to his processing speed --
despite the fact that the speed of his integration of
new information really should've told him

The disturbance is in the fact that he doesn't have
any real conscious memory of giving himself this task
to begin with. Perhaps he should --

Kon sets him down gently in front of the bay, and
doesn't say a word -- or even react -- to the fact
that the first combination Tim tries (97.1%) gets them
in immediately.

The door opens as soundlessly as it had for everyone
else, but Tim holds up a hand just the same.

"Doesn't it start to close if --"

"Yes," he says, and slips off his left gauntlet. The
screwdriver punches through the sleeve over his index
finger, and his middle finger is already ready to
access -- yes. "Take off your glove and cover my

Kon does, unquestioningly. He could -- and has --
done this, when necessary, with his own right hand,
but Kon's hand is larger, and the oils in their skin
make the seal far more efficient than it would be with
his gauntlet.

It also feels very, very good, though he really should
start designing an easy to remove work-gag. (Has he,
already? Somewhere in his mind he doesn't know
about? Did he begin doing so just by asking --)

He jacks in and has enough time to be viscerally
*satisfied* by the fact that this really quite vulnerable
station is directly connected to the entire building's
security systems. The inefficiency of his enemies
remains a wonderful treat.

He's out again within seconds, new security
information overwriting what Victor had sent.

And then they're inside.

And he *had* considered this. It would be safest if
Kon flew them through the building, making sure
they failed to make contact with any of the walls or
floors, but one, he *is* the building's security now,
and two, he's taking point on all of this little mission
unless it's absolutely necessary for him to pull back.

No matter how good Cadmus' security simply
*isn't*, it would be too much to ask if *someone*
here didn't have a better idea of Kon's weaknesses
than "energy weapons and Kryptonite." The risk is

They move quickly, Kon pacing him in flight and
watching his back. Tim pauses at the elevators,
and... keeps going.

It doesn't matter that, at any given moment, he
could set off alarms on, say, the roof of the building,
sending everyone out of their path. It doesn't matter
that the act of pausing brought up a 'screen' which
'asked' him if he wished to divert a car to the ground
floor for them.

Taking the stairs is an irrationally inefficient choice
that, at the moment, feels too good and right to

He stops them again on the landing for the third
sub-level long enough to switch back to infrared -- the
unknown scientist is still pulling his -- or possibly her
(very *tall*) -- overtime.

He keeps moving.

The lights go up to half as soon as his foot touches the
floor, and he pauses again, but the security grid remains
a cool (Robin) green in his mind, with the addition of
moving red dots indicating the maintenance crew. He
is... not *entirely* sure how he's doing *that*, but --

The ignorance doesn't last. The unspoken question sends
a scrolled list of all of the active motion detectors (and
which ones require maintenance) he's currently tapped

Tim swallows, reels, and focuses. These are support
systems, on an entirely different system -- or set of
systems -- than the security systems. He knew this.
He *expected* this.

"Your heartbeat --"

Tim holds his hand up. "Got it. Unexpected data. We're

Kon nods.

"Get that tile I stepped on a moment ago," he says,
pulling back. "Gently."

Kon drops into a floating crouch and places his fingertip
on the tile. It pulls free immediately, with a creak that
Tim reminds himself is only loud because of his
enhancements and his adrenaline levels.

"And the pressure-sensor. All of it."

He knows, suddenly and with a lack of reasonable
confidence he clings to as much as he can, that a part of
his processing power has abruptly devoted itself to plans
for artificial hormone control. And a smaller, more efficient
pressure sensor than the one which had tripped him. Or
rather --

He bites the inside of his lip and fights back the urge to
study the maintenance panel beneath with his human
eye before he does anything else. It doesn't matter --
his hand is already primed to jack him in. He *needs*
this information. Now.

He imagines, with a pleasure which feels nostalgic for
no reason he has time to discover, some engineer or
other jacking in with a palm to make sure everything is
operating at peak levels.

Kon covers his mouth without being asked and --

So much.

So much.

The support systems have an admirable level of
redundancy which loses all admirability by the fact
that there are hardly *any* blocks between them
and the network the Cadmus scientists use.

He has their passwords, their e-mails, their browser

Doctors Grant, Billings, and Heath apparently do much
of their banking when they're supposed to be working
on their projects in the robotics, human genetics, and
metahuman genetics departments, respectively.

Heath leads him to Westfield, and he's helpless to it,
yanked along on a stream of data at turns irrelevant,
fascinating, and enraging. He's taking everything,
he'd meant to take everything, he --


No, he's *integrating* everything, taking --


Splitting off. He's still following Heath. He has access to
databases at M.I.T. and Stanford. Donations?

Another split and he's in administrative. The flood of
information widens, crashes in. The irrelevancies
stack up like -- like --

Series of holding companies. Interesting --


His body. His body must --

Jerking, twitching. Mouth wet. Too much at once.
Too --

No. Not enough.

Westfield. *Westfield*.

He feels himself arrowing in, pushing through, coming
together -- not entirely. Part of him is still following
the trail of holding companies, reflexively attacking
every security measure he hits. No, absorbing --

"Come *on*, man --"

Westfield doesn't work here anymore. Sabbatical -- no.
Cut and run. Slash and burned his own systems. Not
good enough to protect him.

Not from *him*.

Still integrating. Still -- no. He can't bring the money
trail to his conscious mind, not yet. His conscious
mind is *busy*. Operating capacity exceeded,
exceeding --

"*Please* --"

So close -- so --

Wet. Face is --

The alarms in his head go off all at once, quite real and
quite --

Impossible to ignore. The phantom of his left hand
*howls* and he knows --

Everything --

He's pulling out. Too soon, emergency abort --

All at once, he's not so much back in his body as
*trapped*, spasming, every sensation confused,
shuffling under the mountain of new data. He knows,
intellectually, that the amount wasn't as much of a
problem as the fact that some part of him had insisted
on real-time integration, as opposed to the usual
*entirely* reasonable lag.

His body is insisting that it's all the equivalent of trying
to simultaneously clean up behind and feed billions --
*trillions* of new guests at once with nothing but a
whisk broom and a plate of cheese.

"Shit, what the *fuck*, dude --"

"New data. Integrating. Mission successful --"

"You're *bleeding* --"

"Get us out of here."

He isn't *very* upset by the fact that his body is
interpreting what is, undoubtedly, an incredibly
uncomfortable airspeed as an attempt to absorb cake
frosting directly into his pores -- no, *veins* --  but...

It's still a relief when it starts to hurt the *right* way
after an interminable string of seconds.

He comes back to himself with his face pressed to
Kon's chest and a scrolling list of the damage he'd
incurred. "I'm all right, Kon."

"*Fuck* that, you're *bleeding* --"

"Blew two blood vessels in my left eye. Chafed the inside
of my right eyelid. It'll be ugly, but the damage is
superficial --"

"Your *mouth* --"

"Chewed my lip. Again, ugly, but --"


The anger is the thinnest possible skin over the
*terror*, and Tim pauses. And thinks.

He *can* think again, and he makes a command
decision to use the ability to shove *all* of the new
data into standby mode. The fact that a part of
himself seems deeply surprised by the behavior is...

As damning as everything else. He takes a breath. "I
have the information we needed."

"God fucking *dammit*, man --"

"I made the mistake of trying to take everything I

They land hard, but Kon absorbs the vast majority of
the jar. *Protecting* him... just before yanking Tim
away from himself and shaking him. "What. The

Tim spits blood in the... dust. They're back. At their
barn. He regroups, and licks his lips. "I panicked."

"You... *what*?"

"I made several new discoveries about my processing
capacity --"

Kon glares at him again. "*English*, you fucker!"

"I found out that I could do things I'd never even
considered. That I'd *been* doing them without
consciously -- or even half-consciously -- considering it.
It frightened me badly, which made me... reckless. I
will not do that again."

Kon pants and squeezes his shoulders. "The mistake
or the fucking -- giving yourself a *seizure*?"

It wasn't, technically, a seizure. It also doesn't matter.
"If I have to, I'll do it again. I never had to do it in
the first place. I don't anticipate having to do so in the
future. I... I wanted to know," he says, and knows
it's true. "I wanted to know the Superboy project,
and I half-consciously did everything possible that
would *allow* me to know it as quickly as possible."

"You..." The frown is back, but it's not even remotely
steady. "You *hurt* yourself."

The hurt in Kon's voice... it's too much. Literally. "Put
me down."

"Tim --"

"Before I puke on you."

Kon lets Tim go, but catches him around the waist again
when he stumbles while turning. He still manages to
retch on the *ground*, but it doesn't feel like much of
a victory.

The scroll tells him about the nutrients he's surrendering.
*Off*, he thinks, and he's abruptly blind on the right
side. He doesn't mind at all.

"Tim... Tim, please, you have to talk to me."

"I have what we need," he says.

"I don't *care* about that!"

"I do. But." He spits again, and wipes his mouth on
his gauntlet. He turns, slowly and carefully, and sees
that Kon has the other shoved in one of his thigh-
straps. This particular variety of 'too much' is all his
own. "Only because I care about you. Very much."

"I... you..."

There's a wave of a very powerful sort of *nothing*,
but the pain in his left arm is so shatteringly intense
that he can't quite figure out what it was... until he
hears the series of clanks.

His artificial hand is, currently, in very precise pieces
all over the ground. It's just a little soothing to know
that he'd apparently been mostly correct about the
way Victor had put it together in the first place. The
cap on the stump is -- slightly -- askew. He shoves it
back in place reflexively, and makes a sound more
like a bark than anything else at the pain. "Kon."

"Holy... I didn't -- oh *fuck*, Tim, I'm so *sorry* --"

"I. Have a spare. Perhaps we should retrieve it." He's
reasonably sure he shouldn't give in to the overpowering
urge to laugh his head off.

He's unreasonably sure that laughing his head off
would, at this point, be literal.


"Jesus. *Jesus* --"

Tim sways on his feet, nearly entirely accidentally,
and Kon catches him and holds on.

"Kon --"

"Tell me what I need to *do*," he says, and squeezes

"Take me home. Fly us... directly into the bathroom.
Unless someone is in there."

"Okay --"

"I'm going to clean up. And then I'm going to... I'm
pretty sure I'm going to pass out."

"Okay. Okay. Just... we'll take it slow."

Tim wishes he had the capacity to squeeze back. "Thank
you. And..."


"I won't, Kon. I won't..." It's as easy to feel, to *know*,
as it was with the fact that Kon had been *limited*. It
shouldn't be, logically. He's almost *sure* it shouldn't
be. But he has the fear -- his own and Kon's -- and
he... "I'll find a way to... avoid that. In the future."

"Tim, you don't know how much I *need* you. *I*
didn't know how much I need you," Kon says, and flies
them not very far at all into the air.

Tim's stomach lurches, and he swallows back the
laughter and bile. "We... we'll get this right. I think.
I'm tired."

"I've got you."

"I know," Tim says, and closes his eyes. Carefully.


It should probably mean more that Mrs. Kent hasn't
quite met his eye since he woke up to find her
glaring at the very clearly miserable Kon who'd been
sitting near his bed. He *knows* it should.

He can...

There is, effectively, no real way to ground two
people with as much power and experience between
them as he and Kon have. The fact that it would be
an entirely reasonable response to waking up in the
 morning to find one of your charges beat up and,
well, *incomplete* while the other looks guilty and
fails to say anything  probably just brings the point
about the power and experience -- and essential
*independence* -- home.

He understands it. He... he *wants* it to mean more,
in a way that's fascinatingly painful.

When he looks at Mrs. Kent, he thinks about his

He hasn't looked at her much.

Mr. Kent, for his part, hasn't really said much of
anything. There's a chore-list in his handwriting that

It feels like it should be typewritten, somehow.

The fact that Tim has experience with just how well
apologies without explanations *don't* work doesn't
make it any easier this time.

He knows it shouldn't be easy.

It is, probably, already too much that Kon is with
him. For the chores, for the meals.

In his bed while Tim is in his, because, as it happens,
his body apparently found their trip to Metropolis more
stressful than the short list of injuries would reasonably
account for.

Their bedrooms aren't, actually, next to each other --
the linen closet and Mrs. Kent's sewing room are
between them -- but that doesn't matter.

When Kon whispers, "Are you awake?" he might as
well be right there. Soft and careful and so close.

"Yes," he says, and turns onto his back. He doesn't
*need* to have both ears 'free,' for this, but... he
prefers it that way.

Kon laughs, and Tim feels his nose trying to wrinkle.
It *isn't* digital information improperly translated, but
it feels... right. Better. Somehow.

"What is it, Kon?"

"It doesn't matter how much I whispered -- I'd wake
you up *anyway*."


Kon takes a slow breath. "Would you tell me, if I did?"

"Would it make you make some futile attempt to force
me to go back to sleep?"


"Then no," Tim says, and smiles.

"You *need* your rest, dude. You --"

"I overextended myself --"

Kon snorts.

"I didn't break anything."

"No, *I* did --"


Kon sighs. "Man, when you say my name like that, I feel
like I should be saluting or something. Maybe checking
my posture."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "It *is* a command voice."

Kon yawns and Tim can hear him shifting. Stretching,
probably. "No, your *command* voice is all... there's,
like. A difference." Another shift.

"I have more than one."

"It's true," Kon says, but there's something a little
off about his voice. A sense of...

Tim frowns. "Kon?"

Another laugh. "And then you do *that*, man. You
*say* you're not really psychic --"

"I told you. I process voices differently now. It's easier
to hear undercurrents. You could probably do the
same. Even with my enhancements, you still hear
better than I do."

"Yeah, but..." That shift was probably a shrug. "I just
don't... I think it makes a difference that *you're*
always *looking* for undercurrents, anyway. I'm
just, you know, listening."

Tim thinks about it. "My theory is that people who
are born with enhanced senses, but who aren't raised
with people who *also* have enhanced senses..." Tim
shrugs. "No one has ever really *shown* you what
you can do."

"Except for you." This time, the undertone in Kon's voice
is... familiar.

And makes him shift.


"Do you like it... when I help you train?"

"Jesus, yeah. You... I mean, you don't even *have*
powers, but you still... it's like you've *thought* about
all of this so much, and you make *me* think about
it. I feel like I'm ten times *better* than I was before,
you know?"

"I like helping you."

Kon shifts again, mattress creaking beneath his
weight. "Heh."

Tim hasn't been on Kon's bed yet. It seems...

"Even when I'm so busy trying to get into your pants
that you have to use the command voice just to make
me pay attention?"

"Hmm." It would be too much to ask to keep the
smile out of his voice. He doesn't try. "It really
shouldn't have taken you quite so long to install
those new doorknobs."

"You were *crouching*, and you had that little frown
on your face, and your lips were still all red and
swollen, and -- I don't think that was my fault."

Tim licks his lips. Quietly.

"Dude. Did you just --"

"We were in the hallway. The Kents were less than
one hundred feet away."

The sound Kon makes is a growl, somewhere between
frustrated and hungry. "I only got to kiss you twice."

"It's true."

"And we haven't..."

Tim closes his eyes. He can... he can almost *smell*
it. "What do you want, Kon?"

Kon's moan is quiet, muffled by... skin. His hand.


"That's... fuck. That's a command voice, too."

Tim smiles slowly. "Does it make you want to check
your posture?"

"It makes me want to suck you."


"Yeah. I... man, you need to get this place hooked up
to the internet. I still don't... I mean. I know what I
*want*, but I think I'll want more when I know...
when I know everything we *can* do."

"I'll try to do it tomorrow --"

"No. No, we're gonna do our chores and then we're
going back to that *barn*, Tim."

Tim smiles a little wider. "Are we?"

"Yeah. And. And I'll take your jeans off. I want to. I
wanna touch you through your shorts."

"Tease me?"

Kon gasps. "Fuck. Tim. I don't..."

"Kon. What else?"

"You smell. Really good. You." Kon swallows. It's a
wetter sound than usual, because Kon is probably

So is he.

"When you do those pull-ups in the barn, I just want
to push my face against your jeans --"

"You can."

Kon's moan is low and pained. "Tim. Fuck, I *want*
you --"

Tim tries to get his breathing under control. "I know."

"What..." The sound is less a shift than a long, slow...
stroke. Kon's hand, on the sheets. Moving... down?
"What do *you* want, Tim?"

"For you to do to me? Or for me to do to you?"

Another gasp. "Both. Either. *Both*, dude --"

"I want your mouth on me. I want to touch your face
with my left hand."

"Hold... hold my hair --"

"It's." Tim teases the roof of his mouth with his
tongue. "Very long."

"More. C'mon --"

"Let me hear you touching yourself, Kon."

And Kon isn't panting, quite, but his breath is ragged,
loud. "Tim, I -- oh God --"

"Squeeze. Like it's my hand."

Another muffled moan, ending in a whimper. "So --
oh *God* --"


The covers are almost certainly on the floor, and Kon's
mattress creaks --

"Yes, Kon. Brace your feet. Spread your knees for me."

"You... you want --"


Kon's breath is closer to a sob than anything else.
"*Tim* --"

"Again. Faster now. You... you're very close."

"Yes, I. Oh God. Is this..."

Tim can't translate the moan. He almost -- *almost* --
doesn't care. He reaches beneath the covers and
pushes his own shorts down, then balls his hand in
a fist and rests it on his hip. "Again. Again."

"*Tim* --"

"Ask the question."

"You -- this is how -- *fuck* -- you do it?"

He's panting now, too. "Sometimes."

"Oh fuck -- oh *fuck* --"

"Are you going to come for me?"

"T -- "

The slap has a faintly hollow sound -- Kon's hand over
his mouth. The scream still makes Tim arch and
*tense*. "Kon."

"I -- I --"

"I'm here."

Wet sounds. Sucking sounds.

"Oh, Kon --"

"Go -- go to the window. Now."

Tim is out of bed and moving before he remembers to
open his eyes. By the time he gets to the window, it's
shivering in the frame. Tim unlocks it before Kon can
break the mechanism and snatches his hand away
before it can fly up and crush his fingers. "Careful."

"Yeah, I *know*," Kon says, and yanks him out into
the sky.

He's only wearing pajama pants, and his stomach is
wet. Hot and... sticky. "Kon --" Yes, he says into Kon's
mouth, and then they're flying.

Not far.

The dirt is soft beneath his back, and the world smells
like green and sex. "I don't. I don't want to get your
metal dirty --"

"It's all right."

Kon groans and cups Tim's hips. "You already... you
were gonna jerk *off*."

Tim stares up at the stars and smiles. "The idea had
occurred to me."

"You drive me so *crazy*," he says, and digs in with
his thumbs.

Tim reaches up -- with his left hand -- and strokes
Kon's face. He hasn't bothered to put on the new
sleeve, and the scrape of the texturing -- not precisely
the same as it was on the other -- against Kon's skin
sounds sharp and dangerous.


"Do what you want, Kon."

And Kon licks his lips and pulls Tim's hand into his hair
before leaning in. And nuzzling his dick.


"Tell me. Just tell me --"

"Suck me. Kiss me. Lick me. Whatever you want. I --
*oh* --" Sucking kisses up the underside of Tim's dick,
and Tim forces himself to keep his hand still until he
remembers that Kon doesn't want that. He closes
his fingers and tugs.

"Oh God, oh *God*, you taste --"

And Kon licks the head with the flat of his tongue,
again and again, and Tim lets his hips buck.

"Were you gonna jerk off *that* way?"

"Not... don't have the control. Right now -- *Kon* -- "

The head is in Kon's mouth, and it's wet and
unnaturally hot, it's *Kon* --

"*Oh* --"

*Hard* suck and Kon pulls off. "How. Tell me how --"

Tim hears himself whimper and knows he's arching.
"Make you... make you tell me how *you* do -- it,
*fuck* --"

All the way in, and he can *feel* Kon choking, but he
can't keep himself from thrusting, because Kon is
still *moaning*, still licking and sucking, and Tim feels
spit ribboning down, over his balls --

"Please --"

And Kon throws his leg over Tim's own and *grinds*
against his calf and pulls back just enough to let
himself suck so hard it *hurts* --

"*Please*, Kon --"

And Kon tightens his hands on Tim's hips and
whimpers after every suck. Tim feels himself shooting
pre-come and bangs his head against the ground.
There's dirt in his hair and he feels several hairs come
free from Kon's scalp and it's --

Rhythmic, sucking and the *squeeze* of Kon's lips
around him, and --

Kon's trying to *give* him this, the control and --

He bites his lip hard but he can't keep from screaming,
can't keep from yanking and thrusting, can't keep
from *coming*.

And he can hear Kon coughing, and he knows he
*can* see, but he isn't sure *what*. Everything's just
*dark*, and he doesn't realize he's been flipped over
until Kon starts nuzzling his *ass*.

"Oh, *Kon* --"

"I just... oh God, your *skin* --"

"Anything, you can --"

"Tim, I can taste *both* of us, now."

Tim digs the fingers of both hands into the dirt and
does his best to brace himself on his knees.

"Taste you *everywhere* --"

It's one of those little things he'd failed to predict. It
feels very, very strange when his body tries to roll his
right eye back into his skull. It actually feels a
little *wrong*, and even *painful*, when he thinks
about it.

He can't think about it very deeply.

At the moment.


For a moment, he isn't sure why he's awake. The ground
beneath him is somewhat cold, but Kon is, among other
things, an incredibly effective blanket. The birds haven't
started to sing yet, and Kon is snoring, soft and breathy,
against Tim's throat. It's the sort of thing to make him
appreciate the American countryside, really, and --


It was the *sound* which woke him up. Sonic booms
occurring just a few thousand feet below where
commercial jets tend to fly over this part of the
country. The whisper of air rushing over a certain

Right. Tim rolls them over until Kon is on his back
and... pauses. Kon is still asleep. He looks comfortable.

He feels...

Tim presses his mouth against the line of Kon's jaw
and stands up, scrubbing the worst of the mud out of
his hair and retrieving his shorts. They're actually not
that dirty, considering, and it isn't *precisely* a
hardship to drag them back on.

The sound stops, far above, and Tim nods and starts
walking -- further away from the house.

Clark picks him up before he can get too far and
settles them on top of the silo. Tim curls his toes
against the smooth, cold metal.

"Um. Would you like my cape?"

"It *is* a little windy up here, thank you."

Clark hands the cape to him, instead of wrapping it
around Tim's shoulders himself. Tim raises an eyebrow.
Clark clears his throat.

"If you're uncomfortable, Clark, we could always
reschedule this... whatever it is for another time."

"Assuming you found a way to pencil me in."


Clark stares at the roof of the silo and frowns. "I
needed to speak to you, Tim."

"I'm here."

"At the moment," Clark says, and sighs. "Are you
going to tell me what you were up to in Metropolis?"

He hasn't had anything like the time to organize the
information he'd gathered into anything like a coherent
whole, much less the time to talk to *Kon* about, so...
"Not yet. Soon, I think."

Clark frowns a little more. "So the assumption I made
when I found your blood about it not being a pleasure
trip was a correct one."

"Yes." He wonders how *much* blood he'd left
behind when Kon was flying both of them out again.

Another sigh. "My parents are... we'd hoped you

"I have every intention of cooperating with this little
*vacation* you all cooked up for me, Clark --"

"You can understand that it doesn't really *look*
that way, from where I'm standing, I assume."

Tim pauses, and regroups. "I never intended to
worry anyone. I had information I needed for
projects of my own, and I made a miscalculation.
However, Kon proved to be an excellent partner,
and neither of us were ever in danger."

Clark looks at him for a long moment, and the
confusion and frustration...

He doesn't, of course, look anything like the
Kents on a strictly physical level. Some things are far
more important than that, though. At least, in some
families they are. "Clark, an apology without an
explanation has no use whatsoever, and I'm not
prepared to offer the complete explanation all of you

"And... it's not, entirely, mine to give."

Clark narrows his eyes at him, and then glances back
toward the field where Tim had left Kon sleeping.

He's awake now, Tim knows.

Clark looks back at him, a silent question in his eyes.

"Yes," Tim says, and... it's *good* that Clark has
realized, at last, just how much power Kon has at his
disposal. One day, he *will* have even more.

Clark nods slowly. "Is there anything... I understand
you have to keep this close to the vest, for now,

"I believe there'll be information you can use. I'm
not sure yet. When I am, you'll know immediately."

"All right." Clark's expression is wry. "I take it that's
all I can ask, for now."

Tim smiles. "You can *ask* for more..."

"And when I talk to Jason about this?"

Tim bites the inside of his lip sharply, and takes a
breath. "I wouldn't dream of putting words in your
mouth, Clark."

"Except when absolutely necessary." The smile
doesn't need to be on his lips. It's broadcast from
his eyes, thrumming in his *voice*.


Clark sighs again. "Can we *talk* about Jason?"

Tim forces himself to look Clark in the eye. "I'm still
waiting for him to... call. And don't bother telling me
I could show more receptiveness to the messages
he has you send, because we *all* know that was
never the point."

"Will you let me say one thing for him?"

"If you must."

Clark rests his hand on Tim's shoulder, making the
cape slip, a little. "He wants you to know that
Batman still needs a Robin."

And that's... he manages to stop blinking like an
idiot, but he *can't* hold in the laughter.


"Clark... *This* Batman never needed a *Robin* at all.
He just doesn't know it."

Clark squeezes his shoulder, and actually shakes it a
little. "Jason *needs* you, Tim --"

Tim shrugs free and takes a step back. "*That* remains
to be seen. But he doesn't need a Robin. He needed
a partner, and support, and the... some of the things I
could *give* him as Robin. But he never needed
anyone to balance him, or show him the *right* way
of doing things, or any of the bullshit I used to believe

"We *both* know that, Clark. And... I was never the
person who could give *that* to him, anyway."

"But you wanted to."

He feels himself frowning, and it's... this has been
in his head, and *deeper* than that for longer than
he wants to think about. And that's the point. He
never wanted it to be as much of a fact as it is.

"Tim --"

"Of *course* I wanted to. I... I did. But I can't. And
he doesn't *want* what I *can* give." The nice
thing about having a cape -- even one that *isn't*
his -- is that he can fold his arms beneath it anyway
he wants to.

Clark starts to reach out again, but pulls back before
Tim has to get any closer to the edge of the silo.
"There's a difference between *that* statement and
'he doesn't want you to cut anything else off.'"

And then Clark frowns again, and Tim realizes that
he's rubbing at the bruises around his port. He really
needs to break that habit *immediately*. For now,
he settles for folding his hand beneath the cape again
and raising an eyebrow.

"I... I'm happy you and Kon are. Getting along."

Tim snorts. "Even if you *could* have spat that
sentence out with slightly more conviction, I can still
*hear* it when you're lying, Clark."

"*Dammit*, Tim, Jason *loves* you."

Tim feels his face twisting into something far, far
too sour and stops it as much as he can. He
could -- and perhaps *should* -- point out that he
and Jason had never been *dating* in the first place,
and that their imitation of a relationship had started
going sour before the damned *quake*. But...

It's hard not to be angry.

"And how do *you* feel about Jason, Clark?"

Clark takes a step back, eyes nearly comically wide
before he gets control of himself again. "I... I care
about him. I care about *all* of you."

"Of course you do. And we're all very grateful for
your affection, of course. But I'm wondering when
you plan on telling Jason how *much* you 'care'
about him. Or if you're just waiting for him to
figure it out for himself."

And it is, actually, satisfying to watch Clark's face
crumple in on itself. But only for a moment.

Mostly, it just makes Tim feel sick. "Clark --"

"I never. I wouldn't have ever tried to... Please, Tim,
you have to believe that I would never interfere..."

Nature or nurture. It doesn't ever matter, except for
how it does. And now is *not* the time to think
about his parents, as opposed to just... stepping
forward again. He flips the cape back over his
shoulder and reaches up to clasp Clark's bicep. "I

"I just. He --"

"He's Jason, and he's Batman, and I've always known
how you felt about him." Tim smiles, a little. "You
completely failed to be subtle, Clark."

Clark still isn't looking at him. "I... I don't think he

"He will. If you keep spending time around him, at
least. There's only one thing keeping him from
knowing it *already*."

Clark frowns and brushes a hand over the shield.
"Sometimes I don't know how I feel about... this."

"People in our line of work never do."

Clark's expression is sharp and not entirely warm.
"About themselves, or me?"

Tim smiles a little more. "Both. If they're at all

"I used to hate Bruce, a little, for how he could
never... he never *let* me be human."

"It's always been *my* understanding that friends
never want their friends to be anything but themselves."

Clark's smile is only a little less than cruel. "Careful,
Tim. One could almost think you had something of a
*stake* in that statement."

Tim pulls back and folds his arms under the cape
again, but he doesn't look away from Clark's eyes.
"I'm only human, Clark."

Clark narrows his eyes.

"Don't play if you don't know the rules."

The light behind Clark's eyes is precisely as ominous
as it should be, but it fades  before he glances back
toward the fields. "You think he accepts you more
than anyone else."

"The assumption wasn't a difficult one to make,"
Tim says, and clenches his hand into a fist to keep
from reaching for the back of his neck again.

Clark nods slowly. "Tell me something, Tim."

"If I can."

"Why is it so easy for you to read -- to *know* --
the inner workings of everyone around you except
for when they're trying to reach *you*?"

"Not everyone, Clark. Not anymore."


Tim shrugs. "It's more than a little novel to spend
time with someone who realizes that I am, in fact,
right here. And that there's no need to *reach* for

Clark glances west, and Tim knows that's where
Kon has gone.

He is, for the moment, out of *Tim's* range.

"He's... trusting," Clark says, and frowns again.

"Are you seriously suggesting that's a bad thing?

"You're a dangerous young man, Tim."

Tim snorts. "And when you decide which of us is
in need of protection from our weaknesses and
*issues*, we can, perhaps, discuss the matter
again. For now..."

"We agree about Jason," Clark blurts.

Tim raises an eyebrow. "We both want him to be
happy," he says. "And --"


Tim smirks. "From everyone but us?"

"Tim... what *do* you intend, when you go back to

It's a stupid question, and an excellent one -- all
things considered. "Did you mean to ask what my
intentions were in terms of Kon?"

"Are the two connected? For you."

Tim smiles. "In the early days, long before I met you,
Alfred and I had a discussion about just what sort of
person Robin should be, in terms of Batman. He
pointed out that I was lacking."

"I... didn't know that."

Tim meets Clark's eyes, again. "You're now the only
other person who does. In any event, he was entirely
correct. I've since done my level best to *fix* that."
He shrugs. "The results have clearly been mixed.
My point is that I will *always* try to give Jason
what he needs."

"And what he wants?"

"When I can." Tim looks east, at the blank and
endless sprawl of the horizon. Dawn's coming, soon
enough. Thirty-four minutes from now, according
to his records. "It would be... easier, if he comes to
want *you*."

"Tim --"

"Because the *me* he wants died a long time ago,

"You're selling yourself short, I think."

Tim scrubs a hand back through his hair, shaking off
the dirt that winds up all over his fingers. "Jason and
I are a mess in every way save the professional,
Clark. If I were you, I'd *use* that."

"Would you?"

He glares at Clark, but Clark's expression is steady
and clear. "I'd want to. Just as much as you do."

"I find I enjoy the ability to look at myself in the
mirror, in the mornings."

"We all have to decide how to balance the
consequences of our actions, Clark. Look --" Tim
pauses. He isn't entirely sure what he wants to say.

"I'm listening."

Tim sighs. "If you want my blessing, you have it.
You always have."

Clark's face is a perfect representation of shocked
relief. "Because we both want the best for Jason?"

"Because *you* have a chance of giving him that."
Tim snorts. "Does it ever bother you when you find
yourself actively plotting with *both* of us in terms
of the other?"

Clark pastes something like innocence all over his
expression. The frightening thing is that it's far
more sincere than not. "Not when it's for a *good*

"Of course," Tim says, and smiles at Clark. "Why
would anyone ever want *you* to be anyone but

And Clark laughs, softly. "I didn't know anyone
*could* say something like that and have it feel

"I have a gift."

They stare at the horizon together, for a while. It isn't,
actually, getting colder. It's just that there's really only
so much Clark's cape can do to protect him.

Still, it's been much too long since he'd had the
opportunity to test his own limits. Physically, anyway.

"You're cold."


Clark nods. "I'll fly you back in a moment. But...
there's just one more thing."


Clark shifts on his feet, and clears his throat.

"That's ominous."

"I..." Clark laughs, softly, and shakes his head. "Jason
says the same thing. But... what you were saying,

Tim nods.

"Maybe you *weren't* the best choice for Robin.
But... Robin isn't everything you could be. Not by a
long road."

Tim turns toward Clark and raises an eyebrow.

*This* innocent look is almost entirely lacking in
sincerity. "Your predecessors seemed to view Robin
as... a starting place."

His chest feels... he glances down, shifting enough
to let Clark's cape gap over his chest. He's covering
his own heart with his right hand. Because it's
*pounding*. "What, precisely, are you saying, Clark?"

Clark smiles at him, narrow *and* warm. "Just
something for you to consider, Tim," he says, and
lifts Tim into his arms. "I presume I'm taking you
back to your room? Where your *clothes* are?"

"That..." Tim catches his breath, with an effort.
"That will be fine."


Tim does his level best to ignore the sound of Clark
talking with his parents -- about *them* -- while he
showers, dresses, and cleans up all the muddy
prints he's left behind.

He focuses on those tasks *only*, and really...

There's something wildly impressive about the way
people who *were* born with enhanced senses
manage to ignore so much of the world as a matter
of course. It's really rather difficult to *do*.

Perhaps Kon could give him some pointers.

When he can't put it off any longer, he heads
downstairs. The Kents are in their robes, having
coffee with Clark. "Good morning."

The Kents both give him searching looks, but they
also both wish him good morning.

Clark isn't so much sipping his coffee as sliding his
hand into a subtle-for-him thumbs-up position.

"I planned on taking a quick run. Is there something
I can do while I'm out?"

"Oh, honestly," Mrs. Kent says. "Just come back for
breakfast. We'll figure out the chores later." The
smile in her voice is... closer to real than it has

Clark is far, far more experienced in the art of
diplomacy than Tim is ever likely to be.

Mr. Kent clears his throat. "Yes, yes. Though when you
find Kon, tell him I'd like  to talk to him about the job
he did on your new doorknobs."

Tim blinks. He'd forgotten. "Oh, I'm sorry, we have
every intention on putting your own back. We were
just... training."

And Mr. Kent laughs, honest and open. "Training?
Home repairs are *training*? Son, I *like* you. That's
a nice job the two of you did there," he says, and
winks. "But I got a much better deal on those knobs
in town."

Mrs. Kent smiles fondly and ruffles her husband's hair.
"Jon's always been a bargain hunter."

Tim nods, and tries and fails to come up with a
response. He smiles and nods again, instead, and
heads for the door.

"I'll tell Jason you said 'hello,' Tim." And Clark's words
come with a wicked smile, and the Kents laugh -- Mrs.
Kent actually slaps him with her towel -- but...

The low edge of utter seriousness was absolutely
there, and absolutely for him. Tim looks back over
his shoulder, and nods for Clark. "All right."

It's his first run in nearly a week, and it takes a
while for his body to decide whether it's ecstatic or
horrified. After about half a mile, it settles on 'faintly
uncomfortable' and lets him get on with it.

He does, of course, run west.

The decision is rewarded at the mile point by the
fact that Kon is just standing in the middle of the
road, waiting for him.

And... holding a bag?

Ah, the *ropes*. He still hasn't gotten to that. Tim
jogs around Kon in a circle, more because he can than
because he's trying to hold his pace, but Kon's smile
isn't entirely right.

"How much of my conversation with Clark did you

Kon lets the bag's handles settle over his wrist and
shoves his hands in his pockets. "Either too much
or not enough. I'm not sure."

Tim nods. It really was that sort of conversation.
"Should I have woken you?"

Kon frowns and looks down at the road. "It didn't
matter. I mean, it was really obvious when you were

"And that wasn't what I asked."

"Heh." Another not-quite-right smile. "Command voice
number four: Talk or I'll be grim at you."

"Kon --"

"How soon do they expect us back?" And he jerks
his head back toward the farmhouse.

"An hour, maybe a little more."

"Can we...?"

Tim stops jogging in place and steps close. "Let's go."

From the inside the barn -- *their* barn, because he's
reasonably sure the realtor saddled with the property
won't look too closely at Merula Inc., as opposed to
the money it's offering -- is unrecognizable.

The dust is gone, revealing a surprisingly well-constructed
stone floor. The cobwebs are gone. The broken glass is
gone. And the roof is... patched. "How did you do that?"

"Badly. I just bought some wood-glue and started...
gluing. It won't hold up for long," Kon says, and shrugs.
"The owner is probably gonna want me dead, whenever
he or she sees it."

Tim smiles. "Maybe. Did you do all of this today?"

Kon shrugs again, and doesn't look at him. "I was kind
of restless."

Tim moves closer, until he can stroke Kon's arm, up
to his shoulder. It usually makes Kon relax.

It usually makes *him* relax, if he's being honest
with himself, but... Kon *still* isn't looking at him.

"Please tell me what's wrong."

Kon looks up at him, but only for a moment. "So,
you and Clark really get along, hunh?"

"I..." They *do* have an hour. They can play it Kon's
way. "Yes. For the most part. We... understand each

Kon nods, and shoves his hands a little deeper into his
pockets. "I get that, now. I mean, I thought... I've
never seen *anyone* bitch out Superman the way
you do. I've never even *heard* of anyone doing

"I'm not the first."

"Yeah, but, like, you do it all the *time*. And Clark
just... takes it. Or bitches right back."

Tim shrugs. "It seems to be... something of a

"With your... family."


Kon nods. "And... this Jason. He's Batman, right?"

Tim frowns. "You shouldn't --"

Kon stops him with a hand. "I shouldn't know that,
and I'm just kind of gonna pretend I don't. I won't...
I know you guys need your secrets."

"All right." He feels a scrape on his right wrist, and
looks down. And frowns again. The problem isn't that
he'd crossed his arms like he had a cape around
himself. Not really. The *problem* is that he'd
somehow forgotten that he really needed to put a
*sleeve* over his artificial hand before leaving the
house. He's been entirely too --

"Are you... are you cheating on him with me? This...

Comfortable. Or not. "I told you, Kon -- we aren't
together, anymore. We never... it was never like

Kon frowns. "Yeah, but Clark --"

"Clark knows a lot about my family, but he doesn't
know everything."

The frown gets deeper. "I just. I would've thought,
if you and... and Jason were really not, like,
together... that you would've spoken about him

Which is... an understandable thought to have, and
Tim nods to himself.

"I mean, am I right to think that the minute he calls
up the farmhouse and says 'okay, come back, all is
forgiven,' you'll be out of here?" Another brief look,
and Tim thinks it's actually *worse* than the
sound of Kon's voice.

Because Kon only sounds scared. He *looks*...
hurt and scared and angry. He's getting better at
all of this so *fast*.

"Because... because that doesn't sound like 'over,' to
me, dude. And I want to know... you said you're my
friend, and you *are*, and I just want to know what
*else* you are."

It nearly shocks an entirely inappropriate laugh out
of him, but he manages to bite the inside of his lip in
time. "That's my question, actually."

"I asked first," Kon says, and it feels like he's doing
his own swallowing back of laughter.

"It's true that I'll go back to Gotham when Jason calls
me --"

Kon sucks in a breath and it sounds like he's been
punched. "Yeah, see, that's --"

"Wait. Please." Tim squeezes Kon's shoulder.

Kon nods jerkily.

"When he calls me, it'll be because he needs *Robin*.
And when I go back... that's why."

"You... you said he *doesn't* need Robin. Not really."

Tim winces. "Robin means a lot of different things.
Maybe more now than it used to. Maybe less."

When Kon looks up this time... "I don't know what
*that* means." His voice is even *more* pleading.

"I don't either, most of the time."

"Tim --"

"I have skills he doesn't. That the others don't."

"So... it would be just business?"

He isn't sure if they -- his *family* -- have ever
managed to let anything be just  business. He isn't sure if
they *can*, and he honestly wonders when they stopped
trying. But... That isn't what Kon is asking. "Jason is
my partner, and, I think, my friend. He used to be
my... lover, too. But he hasn't been since... it's been
a long time."

Kon nods. "And... me?"

"I told you I didn't think I knew what being in love
was. I still don't. I don't think... I don't think I have
the capacity to know what it is, Kon. But..." It's
terrifying. No one ever *wants* this sort of thing
from him, not ever. Except that Clark thought Jason
did, and Kon... Kon isn't like *anyone* else. So it
isn't as terrifying as it could be. "I want you, and I
need you, and that isn't even a fraction of what. I


Tim smiles. "I prefer science, personally, but --" He
pauses at the feel of Kon's hands on his face,
cupping and holding. "Kon."

"Don't go back."

"I --"

"Or just... we could go anywhere. You tell me where,
I'll fly us, and --"


The kiss is desperate, more painful than sexual, and
utterly impossible to resist. Kon's teeth scrape over
his lip and Tim tastes blood and *feels* Kon moan.

He locks his knees and kisses back until Kon finally
pulls away.

"*I* know this is love. *I* know what I feel and I
know *you* --"

"If Jason calls, it'll be because people could die if
I *don't* go, Kon --"

"You'll go to Gotham, and there'll be a million things
they fucked up without you, and there'll always be
something you can do better than anyone else --"

"That's not *true* --"

"And maybe... maybe Jason will tell Clark that he
just wants to be *friends*, and... he's *Batman*. He'll
figure out a way to convince you that Clark was right
all along, that he missed you and loves you and
needs you --"

"You don't *know* him --"

"I know *you*, Tim!"

The shout makes him wince, but Kon winces harder,
and starts rubbing awkwardly at Tim's ears. "Fuck,
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to --"

"Come back with me."

"I *always* -- and your fucking *hand*, I found
more pieces --"


It makes Kon jerk, and tense, and his teeth click

"Come back with me," he says, again. "I want you

"But... you don't... I mean, I *heard* Clark telling
his parents about how you guys kicked out all of the
metahumans --"

"It would be problematic, but..." Tim rubs his
cheek against Kon's palm, once. "Gotham is just the
only city we're working in *now*." ("Your predecessors
seemed to view Robin as... a starting place.") He
takes a breath. "There are others nearby which could
use... the attention."

"You... Tim." And Kon starts stroking his face again, and
his hair, and, after a moment, his port.

Tim shivers, a little.

"You'd... you'd want to work with me?"

"I *have* been training you, Kon. And... I've been
asked to consider working with another of the younger
metahumans. A speedster." Tim frowns. "I haven't
really had time to make concrete plans, but..."


He looks up.

"We *do* still have about forty-five minutes. Before,
you know. Breakfast."



They've spent much of the day replacing the old,
creaky -- but actually quite pretty -- doorknobs in the
Kents' home with the new ones Mr. Kent had bought.
Which basically means that he crouches behind Kon
and watches him work.

Kon didn't need his help for this at all, after the
first one, and he knows it.

But Kon enjoys the company. And Tim enjoys...
being enjoyed.

Tim smiles to himself and lets his head fall back
against the wall. He's scrolling through some of
Westfield's less-intuitively-written notes over the
right side of his vision, more for the purposes of
familiarity than comprehension.

He's going to need a trip to a good biology library
and the opportunity to jack in before he can do much
of anything *concrete*, but...

The basics are there.

One, the only other weakness of Kon's *they* know
about is that he loses his invulnerability while
unconscious -- which would explain how they were
able to give him that haircut and pierce his ear.

Though not *why*.

Two, none of the weaknesses were specifically
designed to exist. The addition of human DNA was
merely to stabilize the DNA of Clark's they'd stolen
for use.

Which would be enough to make Tim less inclined
toward fantasies of violence, except for,

Three, the publicized reasoning -- that they'd
created Superboy to be there in case Superman ever
couldn't -- was always as much bullshit as it had
*sounded* like. Especially considering the information
about where that trail of shell corporations led. Kon
is -- almost certainly -- less of a clone than the
biological son of mSuperman and Lex Luthor.

He can't actually decide which of them will have a
more problematic reaction to that information, but,
considering just how many problems Luthor had
caused for Clark with his prior cloning experiments,
he *can't*, in good conscience, keep that information
from Clark for much longer.

And he has no intention of telling Clark *anything*
before he tells Kon.

But there are other matters --

"Earth to Tim..."

"I'm here."

"Just checking. You were doing that 'no, actually, I'm
totally a statue' thing."

Tim smiles. "Sorry. It makes it easier to process
large amounts of data."

Kon grins back over his shoulder at him. Next to his
cheek, six screws circle through the air, waiting to
be needed. "You know you just turn me on when
you say stuff like that, dude."


"Uh, huh," Kon says and looks him up and down,
very deliberately, before turning back to the linen
closet door.

Four, Tim isn't sure how, precisely, they'd 'frozen'
Kon in time. It's the largest problem, and it's...

It simply doesn't make much sense. Even Clark's
individual cells age and die at a rate which, while
incredibly slow when compared with humans, is
still comprehensible.

And they *hadn't* had the opportunity to test Kon
for very long. However... there's the question of his

While hair and nails do need somewhat less...
intercellular maintenance to grow, the fact is that
Kon's hair had grown in the first place -- allowing
them to give him that original haircut -- and that it
continues to grow now.

Faster than Tim's own, actually. They both needed
haircuts as soon as Tim arrived,  but Kon needs one
*more* than he does, now. More to the point, Kon
is capable of *learning* -- obviously -- which means
that his neurons *aren't* frozen.

However, while Tim hasn't actually sat down and
measured Kon, he knows he has a decent eye. Tim's
wrist is getting to be slightly too large for the cap --
he'll actually *have* to go back to New York for a new
one within a month or so, no matter what -- while Kon
doesn't appear to have grown at all.

And there's no real information about the freeze here
beyond the fact that it exists. If he didn't know for
sure that the emergency abort hadn't occurred until
*after* he'd gotten all of Westfield's files -- the
corrupted and incomplete files involve a Doctor
Whitman -- he'd be insisting on another trip to

Very curious.

Kon had spoken about it as though it was a flaw in
his genes, and Tim *isn't* a geneticist, but...

It doesn't smell right.



"I'm going to need a blood sample."

The screws next to his head spin a little faster. "Uh...
okay? Dude, is *that* the data you're... processing?"


Kon reaches up and lets the screws fall into his
palm before turning around. He's frowning. "Are
you... I mean. Did you find anything?"

"A few things. Some of which we're going to need
to talk about sooner than others, but --"

"Okay, let me just say right now that that didn't
sound good."

"I..." Tim listens. The Kents are in the kitchen, and
sound likely to stay there. *Is* there a good time?

"Dude, seriously, don't... I mean, now I *know*
there's bad news, so I don't want to just sit here
worrying about what it might be."

Probably not. Tim nods. "I need the blood sample
because I need you to have a complete workup --
genetic and otherwise. I have reason not to trust the
information Cadmus had on file for you."

Kon nods impatiently.

"I want the scan for two reasons. One, it doesn't make
any sense for some of your cells to be aging -- just
trust me that they are -- while others aren't. Not on a
genetic level."

"So..." Kon frowns. "You think it's *not* my genes?"

"I think it's far more likely that the issue is chemical,
in some way."

"I'm just going to pretend I understand what you're
talking about."

Tim smiles ruefully. "All right. There's another reason,

Kon scrubs his hand back through his hair. "I'm ready,

"I think -- *think* -- I know who the human donor
was for your DNA."

"I... I mean, it wasn't Westfield? It's *worse* than

Tim leans forward, and reaches for Kon's hand with his

"Dude --"

"I have reason to believe your human donor was Lex

"Holy -- *ow*."

Tim relaxes the squeeze. "I don't want this to bother
you, Kon."

"Not *bother* me? Jesus *Christ*, dude! No *wonder*
Clark doesn't like me --"

"He doesn't *like* you because you were built to
replace him, and just happened to come out of the
woodwork after it was forcibly proven to him that he
could, in fact, be killed without any Kryptonite

"Tim --"

"He doesn't like you because you *disturb* him, Kon.
Not --"

Kon rips his hand away from Tim's. "But what if...
I mean, you *know* this genetics stuff *does*
actually mean something, Tim. And --"

"Kon. I look, almost exactly, like my mother. I have
her body type, and several of her expressions --"

"You have a *mom*?"

Tim smiles, and it feels tight on his face. "Theoretically.
My biological mother was, when last I saw her,
checking in to a detox center for the fourth time in the
last year."

"Oh. God, I'm sorry --"

Tim holds up a hand. "Don't."

"But --"

"My father and I share a love for electronics equipment
and museums. However, my father is shallow,
immature, and something of an asshole. While it could
be argued that my personality isn't the best... well. I've
tried to imagine a life where I could find my vanity and
desire to remain young more important than my family
and, oddly, I've had difficulty."

Kon frowns. "You haven't... you don't talk about them.
I thought... I mean. Everyone assumes that the Bats
are either all related or just... you know."

"Orphans, yes. There's such a thing as a metaphorical
truth, Kon."

"Tim --"

"Give me your hand."

Kon barks a laugh. "Are you gonna squeeze it again?"

Tim smiles. "Anything is possible."

Kon takes Tim's hand in his own, and strokes over
the texturing with his thumb. "Okay."

"You're a lot like Clark, in several superficial ways. Your
hair seems to be almost exactly the same in terms of
texture and color. Your smile isn't very different from

"Are you... attracted to him?"

Tim blinks. He hadn't really expected that question.
But... "Not for his appearance, and not that much."

Kon frowns. "All right..."

"In terms of your personality, you both have a certain
degree of openness which is, at turns, appealing,
terrifying, and viscerally needful."

"Um --"

"It's possible that Clark and I could have had a
satisfying sexual relationship."

Kon blushes. "He's... he's so much *older* than you

Tim raises an eyebrow. "I'm nearly fourteen years
older than you, Kon. My point is this -- I didn't want
him. I want you. I've known him fairly well for a rather
long time, I've known you for barely a month.
However, I've never found myself thinking of *him*
when we are... intimate.

"Because, to me, you are *nothing* like him."

"I..." Kon rubs at Tim's hand with slightly more
pressure, judging by the appearance of his thumb.

Unbidden, the information that Kon is using
approximately three and a half pounds of pressure
now scrolls across Tim's vision. He doesn't have
anything *like* the time to give that the consideration
it deserves. Not now.

"I know you think it's a good thing that I'm not like
him, Tim --"

"'Good' is something of an understatement, Kon."

"*My* point is that I'm only just starting to get used
to the idea that I'm not going to be him when I
grow up -- *if* I grow up. And now..."

Tim cocks his head and cups Kon's face with his
human hand, tilting it up. "I've never met Luthor."

"I know, but --"

"You have his mouth, I think."

Kon flinches. "*Jesus*, Tim --"

"Perhaps his eyes, as well. Certainly the color, judging
by the photos I've seen."

"Please stop."

"Of the two of us, I think most people would assume
I'm far more likely to attempt to implement a program
of world conquest and domination than you. And
they would be entirely correct."


"Strangely, neither of my parents have ever shown
many signs of being power-mad megalomaniacs. And
yet *somehow* --"

Kon wrenches his head out of Tim's grasp, but doesn't
move his hand. "*Fuck*, dude, okay, I get your point.
*Jesus*. Do the words 'break it to him *gently*' mean
*anything* to you?"

"Not for this, Kon. I won't *let* you get caught up on
this... irrelevancy. You need to know so that no one
can use it against you. For that matter, if Luthor has
any genetic quirks in his background, I'd like to know
about them *before* they have a chance to have
any effect on you."

Kon stares down at their hands for a long moment
before blowing out a breath. "Do you think... was I
created to be a weapon against Superman?"

"I think it's likely, yes. But you won't be, unless it
ever becomes *necessary* to take him down. At
which point I'll be *with* you."

Kon closes his eyes. "I don't think you *get* it, man.
I just... maybe you think it's stupid -- God *knows*
your relationship with Clark is fucked up -- but... I'd
always hoped he *would* like me."

"I know, Kon --"

"He's the world's greatest *hero*, Tim! You don't
even have to be *polite* to him for him to like
*you*. But when he finds out..."

Tim flips his hand over and squeezes Kon. Relatively
gently. "I can't keep this from him."

"I *know*, dammit. But from now on, all I'm
*ever* going to be to him is the weapon you safed
before it could go *off* on him."

"One, you don't *know* that. Two? I have no *intention*
of making you *safe* for anyone."

Kon frowns, and squeezes Tim's hand a little -- four
point three pounds -- harder. And then looks up at him,
searching his face.

"What is it?"

"Do you want me to be *your* weapon?"

"I want you to be a lot of things, Kon. But not if it's
anything *you* don't want."

Kon exhales. "Do you think Clark is afraid of you?"

"I know he believes I'm dangerous, Kon. Why?"

"Because..." Kon pulls Tim's hand up until it's between
them, and twines his fingers through Tim's metal
ones. And then he smiles at Tim. "Because
sometimes I wonder why *I'm* not."

Tim tries and fails to get his breathing under control.

"Yeah, maybe it's that," Kon says, and tugs until
they're both standing. "You'll be able to get a sample
of my blood easily once I'm asleep -- and you
already knew that, right?"

"Yes. Kon --"

"I know how I want you to make me pass out,

Tim licks his lips. "I'll tell the Kents we'll be back for



There was really no earthly reason for him to pack a
specimen gathering kit, and he hadn't really thought
about it since he'd *been* here, but...

Being Robin has been about being prepared. The fact
that he's made himself almost as much of a
self-contained weapon as he could be while still being
as efficiently *Robin* as he could be...

Well. It doesn't change the fact that he really
*misses* his utility belt.

The irrelevancies run wild and free through his mind
as he climbs. There's really no reason whatsoever for
him to go up to the roof of their barn, but he hasn't
gotten to climb in *much* too long.

And they *have* the rope.

Kon had been... disappointed about the fact that he'd
only bought them for the purpose of making practice
grapples and temporary 'gymnastics equipment.'

Disappointed enough that Tim had left some of the
rope he'd bought aside, and...

He feels burned. Marked, in a way far more important
and infinitely more indelible than the bite-marks on
his throat, his chest, his thighs.

It doesn't matter that he understands -- intellectually
*and* emotionally -- just what would make Kon so
feverish, so...

He's always hungry.

Tim doesn't know what he'll do if Kon ever *isn't*
that hungry.

Beneath him and *moving*.

Tying Tim's wrists and...

He's asleep now, but he won't be for much longer.
Tim can feel him. More than the soft thud of his
heartbeat, the caress of his breathing.

More than the bruises and the fact that Tim is, quite
frankly, *sore*.

He can *feel* him, irrationally and wonderfully. Tim
closes his eyes and shifts his feet against the outer wall
of the barn. He holds the rope in his left hand only,
since he doesn't have a gauntlet for his right.


"Mine," he said, when he couldn't hold it in anymore. And
Kon had only urged him on. Faster, harder.

He isn't, actually, physically capable of more, right now.
*He* should probably sleep.


The sample is already four minutes old.

He climbs the rest of the way quickly, double-checking
the loop of rope around his waist, before hooking the
grapple to the windowsill below.

Which isn't, probably, much more stable than the roof,
but if it collapses under his weight, he'll still be able to
*slow* his fall enough to call for help. Should it
become necessary.

"Superman. It isn't an emergency, but I need you as
quickly as possible."

Tim closes his eyes.

The timer set at the lower right edge of his vision
reaches forty-three seconds before Clark's presence
announces himself with a rush of wind that Tim is,
actually, sufficiently braced for.

"Sorry, had a fire."

Tim nods and hands Clark the vials. "I need these to
get to Cyborg. He knows better than I do who they
should go to from there."

Clark blinks. "Are these..." He glances at the roof. No.
Judging by the blush on his face, he'd glanced *through*
the roof. He clears his throat and sends a soft puff of
breath over the vials, chilling them.

Tim shivers. "They're his, yes."

"Is there..." Clark frowns. "Do I need to know
something, yet?"

"I have reason to believe that Lex Luthor was Kon's
human donor, and that Kon was created specifically to
be a sort of sleeper agent."

"*Jesus*, Tim --"

Kon's heartbeat speeds up. He's awake. "Calm down.
There's nothing that I can find about Kon which is in
any way dangerous to *anyone*, much less you."

"Other than --" Clark sucks in a breath and stares
at -- through -- the roof again. "Did you want to have
this conversation elsewhere, Tim?"

Tim raises an eyebrow and pauses deliberately before
saying, "No."

Clark isn't a fool. Tim watches him very definitely
*taking* control of himself. After a moment, Clark

"Luthor was bankrolling Cadmus in general and
Westfield in particular. I think it's safe to assume he'd
never entirely given up on the possibility of cloning

"And now he's succeeded."

"Yes. It's also safe to assume that Kon's escape from
Cadmus threw a wrench in their plans. It's *not* safe
to assume that Kon has no viable... siblings."

Clark's eyes narrow hard. Tim would bet he's glaring
*at* the Cadmus building in Metropolis. "It needs to
be investigated."

"Yes. I've already spoken to Cyborg about it. The
Titans will handle it."

"I --"

"Among other matters, it's *also* fair to assume that
they'll be ready for *you*, Clark. The fifth sub-level
was lead-lined."

Clark glares at him. "Do *not* pretend you did an
end-run around me for *my* safety."

Tim tilts his head. "Certainly not entirely so, no. But
you are in no way emotionally prepared for a mission
like this one. Please don't pretend otherwise, Clark. Not
with me."

Clark's hands snap into fists and his heartbeat speeds
up for long enough that condensation begins to form
on the outside of the vials before Clark exhales, long
and shakily.

"At no time will you be out of the loop on this, Clark.
Even assuming you *don't* monitor our every move."

"Your courtesy and professionalism is noted, Tim. Is
there anything else?"

Tim closes his eyes again for a second before meeting
Clark's eyes again. "Your enemies haven't changed,
Clark. Nor have your allies, nor have your *friends*.
Please try to remember that."

Clark rears back, nearly snarling, and then... laughs.
"You pick strange times for your declarations."

Tim smiles. "I'm unique. Have a good day, Clark. And
tell Jason I said 'Code 47.'"

Clark pauses several feet above the surface of the roof.
"Are you *sure* there isn't anything else I need to

"Yes. Good-bye."

Clark is an ambiguous dot in the eastern sky when Kon
joins him on the roof, naked save for his jeans. He's
holding his shirt and shoes in a bundle in his hand.

"I think it went well, Kon."

"He was totally glaring at *me*, dude. I could *feel*

"Then I think it went even better than simply 'well.'"

Kon snorts and puts the rest of his clothes on, then
brushes at the rope around Tim's waist, making it

"I don't have too many of these."

"You can get more," Kon says, and pulls Tim into his
arms, instead.


"I like that 'hmm.' It's not like your 'hm.' It's more
like my 'let's get naked.'"

Tim smiles and leans in, pressing his nose against Kon's
neck. His sweat doesn't smell precisely human. The
scent makes Tim want to visit alien worlds, solely to
have a larger number of appropriate metaphors to call

It also makes him want to lick Kon, which he does.


"Jesus, yeah..."

But Kon prefers a heavier touch. Understandable for
someone with super- strength and... an aura. Hm. The
aura doesn't register on any of his sensors. It doesn't
register on *anything* -- according to Cadmus.

"Uh... you stopped."


"Why did you stop?"

"I'm thinking. About your aura."


Tim kisses the underside of Kon's jaw. "We don't
actually have the time for... more."

Kon growls, low in his throat, and tightens his hold
on Tim, hands splayed over Tim's back and legs
tangled with Tim's own. "We can *make* time."

"Have you ever dropped your aura consciously?"

"Hunh? Why would I?"

"Hm. I need to think more about it."

"Yeah, but..." Kon starts flying them back toward the
Kents'. "I'm just... if I dropped my aura, I wouldn't be
able to fly. *Anything* could hurt me."

"Or... touch you."

"Touch me, sure, and... whoa." Kon stops, and it's
windy enough that his hair is whipping over his face.
"Did you seriously come up with something I could
do with my powers *just* for sex?"

Tim shifts in Kon's grip.

Kon tightens his hold. "Dude --"

"I'm sure I can come up with a practical use for it."

Kon laughs, and it's something of a sensory overload.
The movement of his body against Tim's own, the
sound, the *feel*. "You *only* want time to think
about it so you can come up with a *good* reason."


Kon starts flying again, but he doesn't stop laughing
softly. "Come on, dude. Give me that extra 'm.'
You know you want to."


He spends the rest of the evening wanting to, really.
Which means he spends the vast majority of dinner
staring at his plate, or at the Kents.

Or the wall.

Or anything *but* Kon. Because there *isn't*
anything sexual about the way he eats his green
beans, and Tim doesn't really want to convince himself
there is.

Unfortunately, they still had the rest of the
doorknobs to install, and he hasn't had anything
*like* success with convincing himself that there's
nothing sexual about watching Kon frown while
dismantling and assembling moderately complex
mechanisms with his power.

Watching him crouch, or kneel, or make screws
dance next to his head, or...

It's good that they're on the last door.

It's *also* good that it's a) not yet time for the Kents
to give up on network television and go upstairs to
bed, and b) that the last door is, in fact, the one
for the attic.

Tim shifts, and waits, and watches.

"Just to be clear, we're totally screwing as soon as I
finish this, right?"

"Don't rush."

"'Don't rush, I'm getting off on this,' or 'don't rush, you'll
fuck up?'"

It's amusing, but he doesn't have the control to smile.

"Uh, huh..." Kon, for his part, hasn't looked at Tim
directly for an hour. "I think I should totally be rewarded
for as good a job as I've done so far. I mean --"

"I intend to."

The screws next to Kon's hand dip and scatter for a
moment before going back to their orderly circle.
"Dude, don't. Not yet."


"I just..." One of the screws flies to the door. The
sound it makes, going in, is faintly reminiscent of the
sound the cap made when Victor was bolting it to his
radius and ulna.

It was hideously painful after the drugs had worn off.
Sickeningly so. But the memory, now, is just making
Tim harder.

"I can feel you, man."


"And... I can *smell* you."

He's had to spend the last ten minutes with his thighs
spread. "Tell me more."

"I... if I do..."

"Hmm. Rush. We can fix it later, if we have to." The
last three screws slam home, and Tim can hear wood
splintering within the door. He doesn't care.

"Where, man?"

"Right here --"

"*Fuck*, yeah," Kon says, and reaches back to touch
Tim's knee. By the time Kon turns around, Tim has
been yanked to his feet and *pulled* across the four
feet of space that separates them.

"Inside the --"

Kon kisses as though it's something which has to be
done with the entirety of his body. Like he's tasting
Tim with his palms, and the insides of his thighs.

He always has. It's just that it's more intense now.
Like he'd been... holding back. "Attic," Tim gasps,
and Kon growls and flies them in.

A part of Tim's mind *does* take note of the fact
that the door slams behind them despite the fact that
Kon is touching nothing but *him*, but it's just
another one of those things he doesn't have time for.

Not with Kon's teeth scraping beneath his ear, and --

"All over. The sex is all *over* you, Tim, not just..."

His hands are moving on Tim's back. *Tim's* hands
are in Kon's hair. And Tim's jeans are, abruptly,
around his knees.

So much power in him. So much... "*Tim* --"

"Calling it *tactile* telekinesis isn't so much an
understatement as a lie, Kon."

"Not *now* --"

"I'm just saying. You shouldn't think of yourself as
having limits. You don't, that I can see --"

Another growl, this one directly against his ear. There's
anger in it on top of all the hunger, and *knowledge*.

Kon knows exactly what this does to him. "Not with
this power," Tim grits out, hands spasming in Kon's
hair. "And not with *me*."

Kon's hands tighten on Tim's waist. "Anything. You

"I want *everything* from you, Kon," he says. It's
easy, because it's nothing but the truth.

It's possible Kon isn't using the TK when he lays
Tim down on the floor. The world smells of gently
rotting furniture, dust, and what he thinks is
probably the smell he's seen referred to as
'lavender sachet.'

He *does* use it to strip Tim the rest of the way.
His hands are on Tim's shorts, stroking him, petting

Tim's shoes thud down somewhere Tim can't see.
His jeans tangle around his ankles, and his shirt...

It isn't that he was unaware of how useful a t-shirt
could be for temporary bondage, but it's something
altogether different to have it *happen* to you
while the person responsible is looking at nothing
but your dick.


"You liked it before. With... that rope." His voice is
thick, almost dreamy.

He's concentrating. "Yes."

"You want..." Kon frowns, and the t-shirt tightens
around Tim's arms, making him arch off the floor, a
bit, just to keep his shoulders from complaining.

"What is it?"

"Did you do this... with him?"

"No. Not with... accessories."

Kon nods and rests his palms flat against Tim's hips.
There's a ripple of... *something*, and his shorts are
abruptly neat enough, *straightened* enough, to
look ironed. "He'd... hold you down."


Kon bites his lip and slides his hands up over Tim's
chest. "You... did you *want* him to tie you down?"

"I never really had that thought in any particularly
conscious way."

"And with me?"

"Not until I saw how disappointed you were when
I told you what the ropes were for."

"God, Tim..."

Fingers on his nipples, pinching. Twisting and
rubbing -- "Yes --"


"*Kon* --"

"I want to... God, all *night*. I always -- every time
you close your freaking *door*, man."

"You want more."

"*Yes* --"

"You can have it, Kon. I like it. I want -- I --" He can't
talk. His mouth is open, and he can't close it. There's
something pressing down on his tongue. Something...

"I... didn't know I could do that."

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"I don't *want* you to be quiet. I --" And Kon shakes
his head. The pressure on his arms loosens to the
point where it's *just* the t-shirt. "Wait --"

And then tightens again, while the knot of solid air
in his mouth dissipates. "All right."

"I need you so much... I don't even *know* --"

"I could make suggestions."

Kon reaches up with one hand and strokes Tim's
mouth, reaches in to pet his tongue. Tim sucks on
Kon's fingers until Kon pulls back.

"You could --"

"No. I'll just. Want everything. Right *now*."

Tim nods. "Then just... touch me."

"Yeah, I..." Kon looks him over. *Scans* him, almost,
and Tim tilts his chin up and rolls his shoulders back.
"You're so fucking *perfect*," he says, and leans in
to lick Tim's throat, and his jaw, and his collarbone.


"Even the bruises."

*Especially* the bruises. "More."

"You drive me so crazy. I don't even... I *remember*..."
Kisses on his chest, and Kon teases Tim's nipple with
his tongue.

"What... what do you remember?"

"A time when I could..."

Bite. "Please --"

"I could get through a fucking *hour* without needing
to touch you --"

Another bite, and another. Again. "You... oh, you
*always* touch me -- *oh* --"

Kon's hand on his dick, squeezing rhythmically. "I
didn't used to *need* it, man."

"You're going to make me come -- *no* --"

"Not... not yet, okay?" And Kon strokes Tim's abdomen.
"Sorry, I just..." Kon shakes his head again and leans
in to kiss him.

Tim bites his mouth.

"Yeah, make me *pay*, dude --"

"*Kon* --"

"I want you to *feel* this. I want you to feel like *I*

"I -- *mmph* --"

"Wow. It's like I'm licking *myself*, kind of."

The block in Tim's mouth won't let him point out that
the aura *is* a part of Kon.

"And... is this how *you* feel? All this *crap* in your
head when I'm just trying to make you come?"

It *isn't* crap. And... his legs *were* free, but they
aren't, anymore.

"I... damn. I didn't really mean to do that, either."

Tim raises an eyebrow. His legs are as far apart as
the shorts will allow. No, they just ripped.

Kon blinks. "Is that... I mean, I know you're really,
*really* flexible, but. Is it okay?"

Tim nods.

"All this... I never really *thought* about what I can
do. But *you* were thinking about it as soon as you
got here..."

A bit before.

Kon rubs at the center of Tim's chest, then starts
tracing the edges of Tim's muscles. "And you just
want me to do more. You want me to have Clark's
powers *and* my own. You say I was built to be
a *weapon*, and you..." Kon frowns. "It's like you
don't have a problem with that."

Tim grunts, deliberately. He can't actually respond
to any of this, at the moment.

"I know, dude, I *know*. Just let me finish, okay?"

When Kon meets his eyes, Tim nods again.

"I always knew I wasn't real, that I wasn't a
person. But it was okay, because I was a *hero*.
And now... it's like you're saying that the only
reason I *am* a hero is because I want to be..."

It isn't like that, not entirely. And if it is... Tim isn't
sure what the problem is. Though he is beginning
to understand why Kon occasionally gets
frustrated when his focus shifts outside of sex.

"It's just *scary*, man." Kon scrubs a hand back
through his hair. The other is still moving on Tim's
chest. "I've spent my whole *life* knowing I was
made for something, and it worked, because I
*wanted* what I was made for."

Tim nods slowly. His lips are beginning to feel
tight, and a little dry.

Kon looks down at his own hand, and then splays it
over the center of Tim's chest. "It's stupid, right? I
mean, like you said, I'm not even a year old."

It isn't stupid. It's relative.

"And I'll get used to it, man. I just... everything's
changing so *fast*. I thought I was used to it, but I'm
not even used to how much I need you. And *that*
makes perfect sense to me."

And Kon sighs, and reaches up to stroke Tim's face,
and push his hair back from his forehead.

"*You* move really fast. Your *brain*..." He smiles,
ruefully. "I'm totally perving on having you, like,
bound and gagged here, man..."

Good to know.

"But I think I'm also just happy I can slow you down
a little." And then Kon frowns again, and stares, and...

Tim closes his mouth, and licks his lips, and swallows
a few times. "If you do that often, we're going to
have to come up with a method of keeping my mouth

Kon winces. "Sorry."

"Not a problem."

"Man, I always feel like I'm gonna *damage* you."

Tim smiles, and stretches -- as much as he can. "You
know I don't mind... rebuilding."

Kon's eyes get wider, and even though Tim knows
Kon has a certain appreciation for his body, he also
knows that if Kon *had* X-ray vision, he'd be staring
through Tim's body at his artificial hand.


"Mmm, yeah."

There was so much he could -- *should* -- respond to,
but... "I don't mean to... I never want you to be

Kon frowns and pauses, hand settled just below Tim's
throat. "Dude, I *know* you don't, but... it totally
doesn't *stop* you. Even..." He taps his fingers on
Tim's skin. "Even when I ask you to."

Tim blinks. "You're talking about the question of your

"Well, *yeah*."

"Kon..." Tim stretches again, this time just because
he has to. "Let me sit up."

"Oh, sorry --"

Interestingly, Kon only releases Tim's *upper* body.
Which is something worth thinking about... later. "It
would've been a pointless waste of time and
resources to allow you to... dwell on Luthor. He
helped create you, but he has *nothing* to do
with who you are. I knew it would upset you. I
did what I could to make it... minor."

"I..." Kon reaches up and pushes Tim's shirt the
rest of the way off. With his hands. There's
something of a strained feeling in Tim's right
shoulder, but before he can even start rolling it, a
little, Kon starts to rub.

"Thank you."

"Yeah," Kon says. "Look. I know you're the brains of
this outfit --"

"Kon --"

"But I don't think it works that way, you know?" There's
something in his voice that pleads for understanding.

Because it's Kon, it's also a demand. But... "What do
you mean?"

"You can't..." Kon shakes his head. "It doesn't matter
how illogical it was for me to be upset. I still *was*.
I still *am*."


Kon slips his other hand around Tim's waist and...

Tim's legs aren't free, they're just being moved
*differently*. To either side of Kon's thighs, as Kon
settles him on his lap. "I feel like an action figure."

"Heh. Fully poseable. Kung-fu grip. *Literally*." Kon
pulls him into a hug which manages to lack
innocence *and* intent. He strokes Tim's back and
sighs, close to his ear.

Tim wraps his own arms around Kon and
squeezes. "Continue explaining."

"Yeah, I'm... it's." Another sigh. "I think I'm starting
to get it, you know? Why you got sent here."

"I told you why."

Kon laughs and squeezes him. "No, you totally didn't.
But it's okay, because... I *did* hear that conversation
with Clark."

Tim rests his chin on Kon's shoulder. "I'm listening."

"B -- *Jason* was upset about your cyborg parts.
How you kept getting them. Right?"


Kon nods. "And, you know, you're *you*. You
probably told him all about it before going off to get
cut up, and explained it, and gave him all the good
and logical reasons..."

After, mostly. "Hm."

"And, like, you were right. Hell, I've barely seen you in
action. I bet I haven't seen a *fraction* of what you
can do with everything."

He isn't at all sure *he* has. "Yes?"

"And this is why... I mean. You hear it all the time.
People think you guys in Gotham are total *freaks*,
but they also know you're the *best*. And I *know*
you must make them even better."

Tim frowns. There's a *but* there. "That was the point,

"I know." Kon strokes his back. "I just... man. I *like*
your metal. Sometimes I think about taking one of
your spare hands and just... uh. You know."

"I have an idea."

"But... you didn't have any of this stuff before. You
were human, and you -- you're *you*. God, you
must've been incredible. You probably made
*yourself* Robin."

Tim frowns a little more. "I'm better now."

He feels Kon nod. "Sure. And I bet you could come up
with all *kinds* of cool things to do to yourself to
make yourself even better than *that*."


Kon's hand slips up to Tim's port. "It scares me, man.
This... I know you, and your body. I love you. I *love*
your body."

Tim tenses. "Kon --"

"And I'm telling you right now, dude -- I'm gonna
 be freaked when you decide to cut something else
off, no matter *how* good your reasoning is."

Tim pushes away, or tries to. After a moment, Kon lets

His face... he looks sad, and... "You need to *know*,

Determined. "I've saved lives."

"I *know*, man --"

"I wouldn't have been *able* to do that without the
enhancements. Certainly not as *many*."

"And I'm *not* arguing, dude." Kon squeezes his
shoulders. "It's not like I want to send you back to
Gotham and have you pull your parts out of the fridge
and put 'em back or anything."

New York, actually. "But... then what *do* you

Kon smiles, ruefully. "I'm not sure? I..." Kon sighs
again, and reaches up to stroke Tim's face. "Did Cyborg
paint that eye?"


"It's really pretty. Natural. I mean, your hand is just
*awesome*, and it feels... but yeah. He's really good."

Tim nods. "I think so. Tell me what you want."

Kon looks down, between them. His expression doesn't
change, but a soft wall of nothing *moves* Tim until
he's close again.


"I think I just don't want you to give up on me just
because I'm gonna be upset when you cut more of
yourself off. I don't..." This frown is deep, and
serious, and Kon tightens his hands on Tim's shoulders.
"Clark's not an idiot, man. He may not be as smart as
you, but... he *knows* people. If he says Jason loves

"You don't --"

"I *know* I don't know him, man. But Clark really
thought... I mean, maybe you think Jason's just fine,
or *will* be just fine when he finds out about... about
*us*, but what if he isn't?"

"It won't ever stop him from doing what needs to be

Kon shakes him, once. "That's not the *point*. I just...
I can *see* it, when I close my eyes. When you close
your *door* --"

"Kon --"

"He didn't -- he *couldn't* -- keep up with you. He
couldn't deal, for *whatever* reason, and you... you
locked him out. Right?"

"I..." He hadn't, actually, thought of it that way.

"And hey, maybe he's a good guy. Maybe I'd feel bad
for him. But I *don't* know him. And his loss..." Kon
shrugs. "Maybe I'm *not* a hero. Maybe..." Kon lets
his hands slip off Tim's shoulders. "I just don't want to
wake up one day and find some other dude on my
doorstep because you decided you're no good for me,
but *he* is. Just because I'd be a little *upset* if you
replaced your dick with, like, a belt laser."

It's cold, without Kon's hands on him. It's utterly irrational
and completely true. "I don't want to lose you."

"So *keep* me, man. And... slow down."

Tim rests his own hands on his thighs, and forces himself
not to stare at them. He has to meet Kon's eyes. "What
if... what if you're right about Jason?"

Kon's heartbeat speeds up, stutters. But he has a smile
on his face. "And you go back to Gotham and tell him
you *get* it now and won't be immediately chopping
off, like, your foot?"

"Yes. And he..." Tim bites his lip.

"And he breathes this huge sigh of relief and wants to
drag you off to go screw in a cave or whatever the
hell you people do?"


Kon cups his face. "Don't think I'm not asking myself
that, man. Don't you *ever* think that."

Tim winces. "I. I think I. Love you."

"Yeah? Well... keep thinking," Kon says, and kisses
him. Holds him still and kisses him slow and hard.
"Because you're making me your weapon," and he
slides his hand beneath the waistband of Tim's shorts
and cups his ass.

"Yes --"

"And I'm not *safe*," he says, and squeezes.

"Never -- never want --" Dragged close.

Kon's mouth sliding over his cheek and Kon's hand
*pulling* him in and Kon's hips working against him.
"And if I'm your weapon, then..." Kon reaches for
Tim's left hand and settles it on his own hip. "I can't
let you let me go. Right?"


"Yeah. Just..."

Tim holds on to Kon's hip and makes him thrust faster
against him. Harder.

"Oh fuck, yes, Tim --"

"Your jeans. Open them."

Kon groans and the sound of denim ripping is loud,
obscene. Irrelevant against the heat of him through
his own shorts, the press and *thrust* --

"I won't. I won't let you go, Kon."

"Tim --"

"I promise," he says, and has just enough time to
tilt his head up before Kon leans in and bites him.
His chin, his jaw, his throat. Up again to his mouth,
and his hips never stop moving --

Fast and hard and Tim realizes that the *only*
reason they're managing to stay in this position is
that Kon is holding him again, steady and still and...

"*Kon* --"

Kon doesn't kiss him so much as fuck his mouth with
his tongue, ragged and rough and *wet* until it's
*just* ragged, and Kon is shouting into his mouth.

His eyes are squeezed shut and he's *wet* behind
his shorts.

And so is Tim.

He wants to be wetter. He wants --

"Come on, come *on*, Tim --"

He jerks and --

"Oh *fuck*, you're so sexy, I *need* you --" And
Kon sucks on his throat, bites and --

"Kon -- *Kon* --"

"*Do* it."

He does.


In some ways, it's a lot to think about.

In others, it's hardly anything at all. More like what he's
waiting for in terms of all the information he'd taken
from Cadmus -- the last piece, the bridge between
knowledge and comprehension.

The image of Jason, reaching out, and of himself...

Walking away.

It's horrible, and sickening, and true.

And the worst thing about it is that it's a mistake he
can't fix. An... *injury* against the boy he'd been,
because there *was* a time when the only thing he
*wanted* was Jason, and to be good enough to have
him forever.

To have... this.

It doesn't matter that his Robin suit is tucked away,
because he can still feel it. Point to it with his eyes
closed and every sensor he hadn't been aware he
*had* turned off.

It's in his blood.

And *that* doesn't matter, because...

The thing is, he hadn't *known* he was moving that
quickly. It all seemed so logical. And it *was*. One
step after another, one *act* after another, until his
family was *only* his family because...

Because they wouldn't ever stop *trying* to be, and
because they've all lost too much. Or surrendered too

It doesn't actually matter which -- he's always
understood *that*.

It's the definition of consequences, after all. It doesn't
matter *how* you wind up wherever you do, because,
in the end, you're still *there*.

Tim slips his left hand out from under the covers and
lets the moonlight catch on it.

Still *here*.

And, while a part of him would honestly like to know if
this new... convergence of *information* is actually
knowledge, if all of them -- including himself, now --
are *right* about Jason...

It also doesn't matter.

He was wrong to assume that they couldn't... that it
was *over*, so long ago, no matter what they actually
 said, or did. But he'd done it, and *believed* it,
and... he hadn't been lying, or incorrect, when he'd
told Clark that the boy Jason wanted was dead.

He'd just failed to point out -- to either Clark or
himself -- that he was the one who'd pulled the trigger.

Worst Batman and Robin in the history of ever. He
really needs a life where the funniest jokes *aren't*
the ones which hurt.

"You know, I actually *know* you're awake, dude."

Tim smiles. "Listening to my heartbeat?"

"More your breathing. I'm getting the hang of this
creepy stalker thing, I think."

"It can be useful." It has, actually, defined the
entirety of his existence. It's just that he'd forgotten
how to watch *objectively*. And...

And maybe no one really can keep that up, once they're
close enough to watch without the aid of binoculars,
built-in or otherwise.

There's probably some self-help book somewhere with
a whole chapter about that. Perhaps he's been wrong to
ignore them.

Tim smiles to himself, again, and it doesn't feel any
more wrong on his face than it should.

"So... do you want to talk about whatever's in your
head right now?"

"Not with you," he says without thinking. And
winces. "I mean --"

"It's okay, man. I... I kind of figured you might need
to talk to him."

Tim closes his eyes. The resignation in Kon's voice
makes him more tired than he'd managed to make
himself despite all of the heavy food and... exertion.
"Kon. I haven't... changed my mind. About us."

"You *also* haven't talked to *him*, yet."

"It doesn't matter --"

"I think you think a lot of things don't matter, man."

Tim snorts. "Ouch. But... sometimes I *am* correct.
Even about... emotions."

"Yeah, so... do me a favor and tell me that after you call
him, okay?"

"I will."

Kon makes a non-committal sound, and ruins it by
shifting so much that the bed creaks.

"I'm... going to go for a run. And to make a call."

"Yeah, okay. See you."

Tim slips out of bed and puts on his sweats. They smell
like Kon, and like sex. The decision to ask Mrs. Kent
precisely how to use her washer and dryer and make it
clear that he would, in fact, be doing his *own*
laundry had been a good one.

Even if he'd only made it out of a desire to keep a
part of himself, however minor, private.

A rebellion of household chores.

It has to be a blessing, of some sort, that he's come
to find himself this amusing.

He moves down the stairs carefully, avoiding the ones
which creak as much as possible, and slips outside. It's
dark -- dawn is two hours away -- and cold.

Running makes it better.

Slipping onto the Gotham channels -- *their* channels --
feels a lot like stretching after having been crouched in
an, at best, difficult position for several hours. It *is*
dawn in Gotham, which means the channels are silent
save for Spoiler's. She never actually turns hers
completely off, and Tim listens to her sleep for a while.
He misses her.

He misses...

He changes it to Jason's channel, and sets it to chirp.
After about another fifth of a mile, Jason picks up.

"Batman here. What's going on?" Low, sleepy voice. He'd
gotten in early.

"It's... me." There are a lot of reasons why he doesn't
want to identify himself as Robin, and none of them
are rational and none of them are comfortable to

"I... are you alone?"


"Okay." He can hear Jason moving, but not much more
than that. He must be somewhere with carpeting, or
possibly a lot on the walls. Had the repairs on the
Manor been completed? "Tim. What... are you all right?"

"Yes. I needed to talk to you. If you... have time."

"If I..." Jason laughs, quietly. He sounds tired and

"It's all right if --"

"No, no. I'm just... remember the first time you called
me for no reason? Just to talk?"

He'd been living at home. No, he'd been living with
his parents, in a place he'd thought of as home
because he hadn't known any better. "I remember."

"Yeah. Just a little... deja vu."

Tim turns into the path through the wheat field, letting
himself get swallowed into the green. "It's appropriate,
I think."

"Is it?"

I started falling for you that morning. "I think so. But...

"You wanted to talk. And, because it's you, even
though it *is* a social call, that means it's about
something specific. Right?" Amusement, wariness,

"About... us."

"And not the official 'us,' I take it?" Jason blows out
 a breath. "Christ, we're ass-backwards."

"I've been told that admitting the problem can be...

"Then we're in *good* shape," Jason says, and laughs
easily. "Christ, I miss you. I can't fucking believe you
told *Clark* to tell me Code 47."

Tim smiles and jumps over a fallen stalk. "I thought
you might find it amusing. Is everything going well?"

"Yeah, he's not gonna go postal or anything. He just
needed to talk."

The fact that Jason doesn't say anything else is... telling.
Clark is, for whatever reason, still waiting. "Good to
know. I thought you were a better choice for that than
I would be. K -- Superboy seems to think I spend
more time 'bitching' at Clark than talking to him."

"Uh, huh. I hear you and Kuh-Superboy are pretty

"I..." The conversation is rapidly spinning out of
control. "That isn't what I wanted to talk about,

"I won't pry, man. Just... Clark says you two are
good together."

"I... Jason --"

"I want that for you," he says, and it's like being held,
shaken. Touched. "You know that, right?"

"I want that for you, too, Jason --"

"But you *know* it?"

Tim stops, and drops into a crouch before he has to
admit that he's swaying on his feet. And covers his face
with his hands. Sharp friction of his right eye on his
right palm before he remembers to close it. Sharper
friction of his left hand on his left eyelid. Patchwork.


"I know it."

"God, you sound..."

"Like I'm telling the truth?"

Jason snorts. "That and like you're *hurt*. You're not,

He'd told Victor he was never injured. He'd...

"T-minus ten seconds before I send Clark to come get
you, no matter *how* pissy you are at each other.

"I'm. Not physically injured."

He listens to Jason breathe.

"Jason --"

"Tell me what's wrong, man. Please."

In the end, there's only one thing that really matters. "I
owe you an apology. I didn't trust you, and I hurt you,
and I..." He doesn't need the scroll of his vitals across
his vision. But he has it, and there's nothing he can
do about it. Not now.


"I hurt myself."

The sound Jason makes is reminiscent of the results
of a lightly-thrown but well-aimed punch. "Jesus.

"That's. What I wanted to say."

"What -- how -- no. No, I don't *care*. Just... tell me
what this *means*, Tim."

"It means you can throw the prototype away. Or burn


Tim presses his hands against his eyes, hard enough to
hurt. And then drops them to his thighs. "It means I'll
save the body modification for when -- if -- I ever lose
something... naturally."

"Holy *fuck*."

"I'm... if you need me, I'll be here. But. I'm not. I'm
not ready. Yet. I have... there are things I need to
do." And I'm not sure if I should be Robin anymore.

I'm not sure if I was ever supposed to be *Robin*
in the first place.

"I'm. I'm sorry."

"Tim... oh, God, Tim..." Jason sounds choked, lost.

"And I... if you ever want to call. I'm here."

"Hey." Jason's voice is thick. Wet. "Hey, wait." The
breath he takes is watery.


"I'm here, too, you know?"

Tim smiles, and isn't really surprised by the salty,
acid taste in his mouth. "You always were."

Jason laughs. "Yeah. I was."

"Tim out."

Tim waits until he has his breathing under control,
tracing faint patterns in the dirt.

And then he stands up, and turns, and walks back
to the house.

And Kon.