A place to stand and love
by Te
November 20, 2011

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Vague and occasionally AU-ized references to older -- sometimes much older -- storylines. Takes place (mostly) some months after the earthquake -- but *not* in NML.

Summary: "Sometimes the end of the world isn't so bad."

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content which does and doesn't dovetail with the content some readers may find to be disturbing.

Author's Note: Ever since I got my Earth-2 Robin action figure some years back, I've been musing on -- something like -- this story. If you have a Dick who stays Robin *forever*? There are going to be some changes to the rest of the universe. Mildred stepped in with tips on how to surgically remove a goodly portion of the angst and came up with some of the better jokes. I? Sincerely hope you'll come along for the ride.

Acknowledgments: To Mildred, Pixie, Melissa, ShadowValkyrie, Britt, and my splendiferous Jack for audiencing, encouragement, suggestions, and a *great* deal of crack.

Length: 214,000 words.


Gotham has the gayest fucking vigilantes in the whole damned world. Jason should know -- he's one of them.

It was bad enough when Dick took over for the late and *seriously* fucking lamented big, bad Bat but refused to put on his pointy little ears -- like Gotham needed a full-grown *man* in a Robin suit? -- and it's just gotten worse over the years.

Boosting the tires off that painfully bright, daffodil-yellow Robin-car wasn't the smartest thing he'd ever done for a buck, but it got him a ride to his new home and a uniform of his own once Dick finished proving that there was no way in fucking hell Jason could take him.

It's just that his cape is --

Well, it's fucking feathered is what it is, and somehow Dick had talked him into going by the name *Starling*.

For five damned *years*, already.

*That* was bad enough, but now --

Fucking now and for the last *two* years --



Tim licks his lips. It's no fucking fair, at all, that he'd managed -- with Alfred's help -- to come up with lip gloss that doesn't smear off when he does that.

Just -- no fair. Just like it's no fair that there's absolutely nothing wrong with the staff-work and tumbling Tim's been showing him for the last twenty minutes even though there are suddenly fucking *heels* on his fetish-wear red boots.

Fucking *Clark's* boots are more subtle.

*Wonder Woman's* boots are more fucking subtle --

"I note that you're not saying anything."

"Do you, Tink? Do you really?"

Tim looks at him from under his long -- mascara-ed -- lashes. He doesn't actually have to say, aloud, that Jason was the one who started calling him Tinkerbell three years ago -- while Tim was still in *training*.

That Jason doing it on the *street* had killed every chance they *had* of the criminal class -- or the cops, or the motherfucking *press* -- calling Tim Cardinal, even though that's his *official* code name.

That --

Jason sighs and covers his face with his hands. At least Tim's uniform is still mostly red.

At least---

Jason has no idea how Dick had talked Tim out of the sparkly purple jumpsuit thing he'd come home with one day, and he really should ask. It would *help* to know how to convince Tim to do sane things. It --

"Jason... you know I *can* work in them."


"In fact, *you're* the one who *taught* me to work in them."


"In fact, you're the one who removed all of my sneakers from my closet and *replaced* them with heels --"

"You were still in *training* then! And it was only for a *weekend*!" But moving his hands was a mistake, because Tim is that much closer. That --

Jason can smell cologne that may or may not be designed for women rather than men, the apparently *perfect* cruelty-free makeup Clark has the AI synthesize for Tim, the sweat from his little workout --

Jason doesn't groan.

Tim touches his tongue to his upper lip. "I'll be your best friend...?"

Tackling Tim is easier with him in the heels. That has to be something the kid keeps in mind, right?


Knowing Tim, *all* he'll keep in mind is the fact that Jason makes him leave the damned heels *on* after he tears off everything else --

"Oh, *Jay* -- "



When they'd come to the conclusion that Luthor was the driving force behind the anomalies which folded space enough to bring creatures --

People. He will remember that many of them were *people* --

Bruce distinctly remembers a moment of *relief* when Clark had brought him that filing cabinet full of papers with Luthor's signature on them. The man was dangerous, of course, but he would never risk his chances to gain power over the earth.

He would never truly go as far as it *seemed* like he'd gone this time. Cities were burning, hospitals were overcrowded, and every hero was strained to the breaking point, but there had to be an answer.

There was *always* an answer with Luthor -- Clark had proved that countless times -- and *this* time, he would have Bruce to help him.

It didn't matter that Bruce had barely spent more time as an operative than Clark himself had. It didn't matter that Bruce had only his martial arts abilities and wits to help him through to Luthor's inner sanctum.

All that mattered was the answer. All --

("Answer? You're joking, aren't you? You *aren't*?")

And Luthor had laughed. At first it was clear that he was laughing at *him*, and it had brought Bruce back to Exeter in a *blink*, turning him into the naive and *helpless* boy --

("Did you think *that* would help?")

Bouncing Luthor off a wall and into a messy pile of unconscious guards *had* helped certain parts of him --

Bruce can still hear Luthor's laughter, even though he hadn't laughed any *more* before telling them both that there was no answer, no way to secure the earth -- their plane of *existence* -- against the *chain* of reactions he'd started --

It had all been just another plot to *inconvenience* Superman -- not even kill him. It had gone wrong nearly immediately, with 'pockets' forming all over the world from which nothing returned and beings appeared which hadn't even been known to the Green Lantern Corps.

Luthor had been working to reverse the process and had only barely managed to escape a three-block-long pocket that had swallowed most of his main laboratory complex --

There is no answer.

There --

There is no *hope*, not truly, and Bruce has spent the past thirty-six hours wakeful due to caffeine pills and encroaching, *unmanning* horror --

But he fights at Clark's side -- he will never try to distance himself from the man again, he will never take for *granted* --

He fights and he tries to think of something, *anything* that hasn't been tried --

The earth is losing mass and the tides are wrong, day and *night* are wrong --

He's so *frightened* --

No, he *is* fear. He needs no excuse and no support from anyone save his allies --

Gotham is *drowning* when Clark flies them back there without so much as a word, and there are creatures, huge creatures --

People. There are *people*, almost certainly confused and frightened, and he must not kill, he does not *kill* --

One of them knocks Clark through what remains of Wayne Tower.

Bruce bares his teeth and pulls out his second-to-last explosive batarang.

He is fear. He is the night --

He fights.


Suiting up for the night is its own little ritual.

One: Mock Dick for looking *infinitely* fucking more like the circus boy he *isn't* anymore than like the hardcore vigilante he totally *is*.

Two: Accept mockery for having a cape Liberace would've creamed his rhinestone-studded jock for.

Three: Watch Tim like a fucking *hawk*, because -- guaranteed -- there is some damned fucked-up thing he's going to do.

Right now, he's *just* pulling on the shiny new boots, but --

Well, no, right now Dick is gripping Tim's shoulders and giving him a Look. Jason knows that Look. Jason used to *get* that Look all the fucking time when *he* was the baby in the house and -- yeah.

It's a pretty damned effective Look, as these things go.

Tim licks his lips -- tonight he's wearing the *lipstick* that matches his uniform, as opposed to his day-to-day gloss, and Jason hates so much that he knows the difference.

So much.

"Jason saw me working out in them --"

"Before or after he came on them, little brother."

Augh -- "Fucking A, Big Bird, you're not supposed to use the Cave cameras to *watch us screw*!"

Dick shows his teeth. "I didn't *have* to, little wing," he says, and never looks away from Tim. "Spill."

"Um... before. He said --"

"Jay, did you say anything remotely positive about the boots?"

Jason bites his lip. "Uh..."

Dick shakes himself like a dog. "Strike that question from the record. Did you say anything remotely positive about the boots which *didn't* in some way involve your dick?"

Jason blows out a breath. "That's a big ol' no, Dickie."

"Thank you," Dick says and turns back to Tim with his eyebrows up.

Tim raises his own -- lightly plucked -- eyebrow.

Dick narrows his eyes.

Tim sucks his teeth and stands hipshot, and -- Jason has to own this -- that stance works a lot better with heels. And he also has to own the fact that Tim could see at least *some* of that on his face, because, yeah, he's getting the slow-and-flirty wink that had, at last count, made at least three dozen skels recoil in horror.

Jason pulls on his stern face.

Tim *huffs* --

"*Cardinal*," Dick says, and Tim pulls himself up straight and generally looks like he's stalwart, true, and everything the *Bat* would've wanted him to be.

In the old days, Dick and Jason *both* had done what they could to make Tim *stop* doing that, but Jason has to admit that it works --

"Take those off, and retrieve your old boots from wherever you've hidden them."

"Yes, Robin."

Dick smiles then, and it's the crooked one which always makes him look like he's *maybe* three nanoseconds from hugging the fucking *shit* outta you -- but not when he's suited up.

Tim jogs for the locker room that had mostly been buried in rubble after the 'quake -- not even Clark had been able to rescue all of it, which sucks, because somewhere in there are some *awesomely* comfortable old shirts and shorts with Jason's name on 'em -- and he does it in the heels.

Jason watches him work and sighs. "How the *fuck* does he get gayer every *day*?"

Dick gives him the Look.

"Aw, c'mon, you know I'm *right*, Big Bird."

"You..." Dick laughs quietly and pinches the bridge of his nose, and that's --

Well, that's the thing. It's a *Bruce* look on Dick's face right now, a twist of his fucking beautiful features which means that he's totally thinking of the dead man. It's maybe even a *Batman* look, and that's bad because it means he's gonna be at least a little down. It's just that it's also *good*, because...

Well, Jason's been here for five damned years, and he knows a lot more about Bruce Wayne than any fucking civilian, but --

Not enough.

Jason steps close and cups *Dick's* shoulders. He's only an inch taller than Jason now, and he says Jason *will* get up over six feet -- Jason shakes his head. "It's so fucking weird to be almost eye-to-eye with you, man."

Dick smiles at him wryly. "I don't suppose I could convince you to *stop* growing? No...?"

Jason snorts and smacks the side of Dick's head --

And immediately winds up spun and halfway into a full-nelson, because Dick is just that fucking *fast* --

Jason slams himself back in an attempt to *flip* Dick --

Dick's not fucking *there*, and he's taking Jason's arm *with* him --

Spin and Dick dodges his punch, his strike, his really *good* punch --

Sweep and Jason's *down*, but only until he can roll, fling himself back up and into a kick -- and out of it before Dick can fucking *catch* him --

And now Dick's advancing on him, predatory smile all *over* his features -- his fucking *cheekbones* are fucking predatory --

Jason moves into a ready stance and gives Dick the come-on -- "Though that *doesn't* mean you shouldn't tell me what you were thinking, Big Bird."

"Bruce wouldn't know what to *do* with you two," he says, and *then* attacks --

Jason uses the armor in his gauntlets to block what *feels* like about nine hundred punches, but was really only a dozen. "Eh, the way you talk about him -- he probably would've just beaten us until we *behaved*. Which is something you should think about trying with Tim," and Jason drops and tries his own sweep --

Kicks up when Dick leaps --

Fucking *barrel*-rolls when Dick comes down stomping -- "Stop being so *mean* --"

"But --" And Dick kicks for his back --

Jason gets *up* --

"You *want* me to be mean to Tim."

"I totally don't, Dickie. I mean, it would just turn me on more."

Dick snorts and comes at him with his nut-twisting kicks --

Jason blocks, dodges, *moves* -- fuck, yeah. He catches Dick's ankle with one hand, *claps* the other on to make it secure --

And *barely* manages to make his toss worthwhile before Dick contorts himself up into, like, the Cartilaginous Wonder --

"Seriously, Dickie, you gotta *help* me with Tim. You can be mean if you're ready, willing, and able to suck off the consequences --"

Dick snorts again, rolls up --

The kick would've taken Jason's *head* off -- "But don't be mean like that. You know he hates the facial bruises --"

"God, you *two* --"

"What about us?" And Tim wades in, dodging and weaving to stay as much in Dick's blind spot as possible --

Dick laughs, high and bright and *happy* --

*Yes* --

"And this is how it is? Starling wears me out; Tinkerbell comes in for the kill?"

"Prepare to be fairy-dusted," Tim *intones* --

And then Dick is spinning, striking, moving --

He's just that fucking *fast*, and *one* day Tim will be that fast, too, but *Jason* won't --

And Tim isn't --

And it takes about two minutes for Dick to have Jason on his back and Tim on his stomach. Nice of him to arrange them side-by-side, like. Jason rolls Tim over onto his back and rubs his nose.

Tim wrinkles it like a ten-year-old and seems to be making a serious attempt to *blow* Jason's hand away --

And Dick drops to kneel between Tim's legs and tap on the pockets of his belt. "What else are you packing tonight, little brother, hmm?"

"I --" Tim blows again. "Not really --" Tim blows *again* --

And Dick laughs softly. "Tim. What are you doing?"

"I'm *tickling* Jason's palm so he'll *move* it."

"You're totally not."

Dick strokes Tim's chest through the armor. "You really aren't, no."

"He -- his palms *are* ticklish. I've *tested* this."

"With your fingers and tongue, bro. Not so much with the blowing."

Tim sighs and wriggles enough to get an arm free, then uses that hand to move *Jason's* hand. And then he pulls out his compact.

Which is red, and has a little fairy on it.

Jason rolls back onto his back.

Dick looks like he wants to take a picture.

Tim fixes his lipstick. "It really was only the heels tonight, Dick. I had a lot of homework to do today."

"Are you sure there won't be any surprises which would make me need to bench you for a day or five?"

Tim winces.

*Jason* winces -- Dick will *totally* bench a fucker for being a fucker --

And Tim pulls a knife from *somewhere*. The hilt isn't sized right for his hand, but he still holds it just as well as he should, considering all the training in knife-fighting Dick had given them that they weren't ever supposed to *use* --

*Jason* is allowed a belt-knife as of a year ago -- it had taken *that* long to get Dick to trust him with one that worked for more than just cutting through zip-strips and stuff like that --

And Dick takes the knife, getting that distant look again -- and shaking it off. "What's this for, Tink?"

"Well... mainly my own paranoia," Tim says, and sits up on his elbows. "It's been six months since the 'quake and Gotham is as rebuilt as it's ever likely to get. The metahumans are all gone... and the gangs *still* haven't settled down. I think I might *need* it, Dick."

Dick frowns and *that* is another Bruce-look --

"I... take it that Bruce wouldn't have approved?" And of course Tim would know. He may not have been here as long as Jason has, but... yeah.

A rueful smile makes Dick look about Tim's age, like he *needs* the hug --

Fuck it. Jason sits up and wraps an arm around Dick's shoulders. *Tim* sits up and places a gauntleted palm right on Dick's 'R.' "It's okay, Dick. I don't have to carry it --"

"Well, no, bro, you're right that it's fucking crazy out there --"

"There is just... no point whatsoever in trying to get you to stop cursing, is there, little wing?"

Jason snorts and shakes Dick's shoulders a little bit. "I'll totally do it if you let Tink run with his *good* ideas."

"You really won't," Tim says, and gives him the pissy look.

Jason grins. "Yeah, probably not," he says, and turns back to Dick. "Seriously, Big Bird. You've been doing this for almost thirteen years. We *trust* you, and we trust you for a *reason*. We all know you gotta trust yourself more often -- fuck --"

There's no such thing as being prepared for Dick's hugs. They're fucking *muscular* things, full-*bodied* things --

He and Tim are on their *backs* again, and the noises Tim is making mean either that he can't breathe or that his blush is smudging -- hunh.

"Bro, did you start wearing blush so that we'd never be sure when you were *actually* blushing?"

"Yes and no," he grits -- yeah, he can't breathe.


"I never thought I'd have brothers," he says, and his voice is thick and low. Aww...

Jason hugs right back and he knows Tim is doing the same --

"I can't -- I can't let anything *happen* to you --"

"We -- ah. We get that. Really," Tim says, and that sound means that he's patting Dick through the armor --

"One of the things I have to avoid is letting one of you *kill* someone. It can happen so *fast*..."

Like it had for the Joker right *after* that lucky-horrible shot with the poisoned bullet --

They all know exactly how that went down.

They all know what Dick dreams about when he's screaming -- and when he's smiling so darkly that even with his eyes closed Jason and Tim know it's *not* time to get close. Some nightmares you can't be saved from. 

Jason squeezes as hard as he *can* --

"I -- I'll leave my knife home. All of them, I mean --"

Dick stiffens -- and then he snorts hard enough to *move* all three of them, knocking him and Tim back down to the floor and kind of glare-smiling at both of them.

"Hey, man, *I* didn't send him to the Army-Navy surplus."

"I'll have you know I bought them from a *cutler* --"

Dick presses two fingers to Tim's mouth, which --

Yeah, Tim's got that 'I'm paying attention with my cock' look on his face that Dick's so good at not noticing even a *little* bit --

("Um... Jay..."

"Yeah, bro?"

"Does Dick ever... ah. Did *you* ever... um. *With* Dick?"

"In my dreams about six hundred times. And that was just last *month*. Don't worry about being subtle around him, Tink -- he's so not gonna catch a clue."

"But --"

"You *want* him to, I know...")

But that had just been the *first* talk they'd had about it -- back before Jason realized just how Tim *really* felt about him --

Back before he knew what those looks meant.

Right now, Tim is fighting every instinct he *has*, because there's no way in hell he's not thinking about sucking those fingers in deep --

Jason *likes* having company for thoughts like that --

"It's okay, little brother," Dick says, breathy and quiet and warm and hot at the same fucking time --

And yeah, Tim shivers.

Dick responds to *that* by using his free hand to stroke Tim's hair -- currently un-spiked, because Tim likes to save the best for last -- back from his face, careful of the blush just fucking *instinctively* --

Tim's jock is gonna make him start hating life *imminently*, so Jason sits up on his elbows and jerks his head to get Dick's attention. "Sanction to carry?"

Dick smiles gently. "Sanction to carry. But if you go overboard, Tim --"

Tim moves Dick's hand from his lips. "I'm benched. And I spend that time having horrible nightmares."

"That's about the size of it, little brother. C'mon, let's get your hair right. That crime's not going to fight itself."

"Not that that wouldn't be fucking *entertaining*."

Dick stands up and pulls Tim with him. "*Which* pimp is beating himself with a lead pipe in your imagination, Jay?"

Jason sighs happily and stands, jumping a few times to get the feel of *his* new boots -- sometimes he thinks his feet are gonna grow until he needs fucking clown shoes. "I got a whole chorus-line thing going on, Big Bird. Don't cramp my style."

"Oh, I'd *never* dream of it. You've got the strolls tonight, little wing. I'm taking little brother through my territory tonight."

Jason raises his eyebrows behind the mask. "Testing him with the knives?"

"Mm-hmm. And the fairy dust. And the magic wand --"

"I still *call* it a <i>bo</i>, Dick," Tim says, and his hair is already halfway aerodynamic --

"Yes, but you don't *think* of it that way, Tink, and that's just one of the reasons why I love you," and Dick *swoops* in and plants a kiss on Tim's forehead.

So much for saving the kid from his own cock. Maybe next time.


Bruce doesn't know how he made it back to the manor.

He doesn't know when he'd made the decision to *try* to get back here.

He doesn't know --

He'd watched most of the Justice Society -- and several hundred of the civilians they were protecting from the latest round of... beings -- be swallowed into one of those pockets, and then he had run, carrying what he thought was a baby to what he'd hoped would be safety, because the pocket had expanded.

So had the other four pockets he passed before... he doesn't know.

He'd woken in what was left of the kitchen, terrified by the silence of the child in his arms, by the creeping quiet of the manor, by *everything* --

The child had turned out to be a particularly realistic grimy doll.

He'd still had trouble putting it down.

He doesn't know where Alfred is.

He --

He's very tired, and there are muscle strains in both of his legs. His right ulna is cracked.

He doesn't know --

He doesn't know what day it is, and he can't be sure how long this day has lasted.

The sunset was... uneven. He remembers that.

Right now, he's standing in the surprisingly -- horribly -- perfect study.

The clock is open, but only by a crack. Only --

Bruce swallows and walks down the stairs --

Clark --

Clark had told him about an emergency in North Carolina, a pocket larger than the rest --

He doesn't know when that was.

He hasn't heard from Clark --

The pocket which is taking the space where the supercomputer used to be doesn't seem to be growing, at all, but --

A click, and Bruce is moving, flinging his tattered cape out to make it a target, rolling to his feet --

He has no batarangs left, but there is a bolo --

Most everything he's fought has been too large and strong for the bolos to do any good, but if an assailant is using a gun --

The man drops, cursing --

Cursing *familiarly* --

"Harvey --"

"*Fuck*. You *lied* to me," he says, and he looks to be considering shooting at his own *ankles* --

Bruce takes the gun and crouches to take Harvey's hands, always so long-fingered, always so deft --

Harvey is *snarling* at him, but --

"Harvey, I didn't know -- how did you come to *be* here --"

"I *drove*, you asshole! I was planning -- planning to get you and Al out of here -- ah, *fuck*," he says, and covers his face with his hands. "What's happening. What -- there are -- there are *voices* --"

Bruce pulls Harvey close because he needs to, because he's alive, because --

"*Bruce*. Take that fucking -- *costume* --"

"It. It's my uniform --"

"Has it done you any fucking good? You're a *mess*. I'm a mess. I don't. What day is it? Who *are* you?"

"Harvey... you must... you must stay calm --"

"Now? When my best friend in the world has been a lying sack of shit and the fucking *world* is ending and I don't know -- oh, God, they said all of Worth is gone. The whole -- whole damned *town* --" And Harvey is clawing at his face --

Harvey and Gilda *lived* in Worth --

Where do the pockets *lead*?

No, he -- he can't think of that. He tears Harvey's hands away from himself, crushing them between them --

"*Bruce* --"

"I'm here, Harvey. I -- have you. Did you see Alfred --"

"Yeah. Falling into that fucking -- *hole* --"

Bruce grunts but he doesn't fall, he doesn't waver, he doesn't *break* --

"*Cry*, you asshole!"

"I -- can't. I have to. There's work to be done --"

"Out *there*! You came *home*, Bruce. You -- ah, big guy, why didn't you *tell* me?"

Bruce swallows and shakes his head, meets Harvey's beautiful dark eyes --

So warm, even now --

"There. There had to be... secrets. Somehow --"

Harvey laughs, breathless and derisive at once. "Let me go."

"Harvey --"

"Let me *go* --"

"Harvey. Please. I need --"

"Me? Or that Halloween costume? I -- was that it? You thought I'd make you choose?"

"You love the law --"

"I just tried to fucking *shoot* you -- you. Oh. Oh, no. Oh, God, I've gotta -- where the fuck *am* I?"

Harvey... "You're in my home. My other home --"

"Surrounded by... creepy fucking *trophies* --"

"Yes --"

Harvey twists and yanks against Bruce's hold until Bruce can either let go or *hurt* him --

He lets go and Harvey stands, paces, pushes his hands through his thick, wild hair one after the other after the other --


"Not. Not now. I don't think..." Bruce shakes his head and stands, as well. "I think I'm... very tired now."

"I think I don't know how long I fucking *slept*."

Bruce swallows again and pushes back the cowl --

"There you are. Look at you. I thought you had black eyes for a minute, but you're just that fucking *wiped*," Harvey says, shaking his head and cupping Bruce's face. "Big guy. I wanted to tell you. I wanted... you're the only one I *can* tell --"

"You're having nightmares again. They're... hurting you."

Harvey stares at him.

Bruce winces. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to use... that voice."

"But you knew -- as soon as you saw me?"

"There are times... sometimes the nightmares have made you cruel --"

"My -- my police-issue forty-five. In *this* house. This --" Harvey makes a strangled noise and beats at his forehead with the heel of his hand --

"Don't *do* that, Harv --"

"Have to. Gotta. Two ways of doing things and I picked the wrong fucking --" Harvey cries out and points behind Bruce, and for a moment --

For a terrible moment Bruce wonders if it's a *trick*, but the air is changing, the quality of it --

The *pressure* --

Instinct to gather Harvey to him, to run --

Their legs tangle together, but Bruce will not fall, will not waver --

Black --

There's no air, there's nothing to breathe, there --

Oh, Alfred --

He's falling, and the only way --

Harvey is gasping, but maybe there's an end to the fall, a way --

Bruce pinches Harvey's nose shut and presses his mouth against Harvey's own, exhaling and willing Harvey's lungs to fill, for the fall to *end* --

The darkness is everything --

The darkness has always *been* everything --

He must breathe, he must help Harvey, beautiful Harvey --

Air, and it's normal, cool, faintly dry --

They're still falling --

The world is light, familiar --

And that's all he knows before he lands badly on his broken arm and the crack makes him --


Skylark is a hottie made entirely of hottie. She's right between Jay and Tim in height and fucking *stacked*. Her tits aren't any bigger than Babs', but you can just tell that they *jiggle* more. Her ass probably does, too.

It sure as hell does when he's spanking it in his fantasies, anyway.

Skylark's *name* is Stephanie Jean Brown, but Dickie says he's not supposed to use it until she opens up to *them* -- as opposed to meeting up with them for a little cooperative ass-kicking from time to time.

Like *this* time, when Jason's kick spins the latest fuckhead of a pimp *right* into her left cross -- which is just as sweet as candy, because teeth crunch before the guy hits the ground and starts snoring.

He lets her kick the guy onto his side so he doesn't drown in his own blood or anything, and takes a bow for the girls the pimp had been terrorizing.

He hands out a few cards, Skylark divvies up the pimp's roll. He gets his hair ruffled and his cape petted, Skylark gets some tips on how to condition her perfectly fucking pretty blonde hair. *He* doesn't get it, but he doesn't have to.

She grins at him when they're all done and they fly.

The next stroll has no pimp for them -- semi-mysteriously, considering the fact that the *last* time Jason was here he was hearing about what an asshole the pimp *was* --

Heh. Was *might* just be the operative term, considering the *smugly* secretive smiles on some of the faces and the *nervously* secretive smiles on others.

This? Is no skin off his nose.

Jason throws up his hands and tells them to get the word out if the bitch-ass punk comes back *koff* from the grave *wheeze*, and this time Skylark hands out the cards. She really rocks her homemade purple and blue uniform. There's military armor for her back and chest under her top, a nice sturdy belt with nice, full pockets, big-ass boots with steel in the toe *and* the heel -- and hell fucking yes, she *does* have the legs to pull those off --

He's pretty sure Dickie's dying to tell her that actual larks don't tend to be purple, but *he* knows that she'll point out that Dick hasn't *met* all the larks in the world, yet. So.

They do the town. Stroll after stroll after stroll -- with breaks in between for muggers and dealers --

Skylark hates dealers the way Jason hates *pimps*, and Jason just bets there's a fucking story or two *there* considering what they'd seen of *Mrs.* Brown when they were doing a background check on Skylark --

That's not for them today.

Dick and Skylark had hooked up to take down her punk-ass *father* a few months back and Jason had been all set to get a little more estrogen down in the Cave -- Babs doesn't *visit* enough -- but Skylark had never taken her mask off for Dick -- or for him or Tim -- and that had been that.

Still --

Jason knocks a couple of dealers' heads together while Skylark does some nut-blasting on the guys who are down --

Good deal, but --

He whistles three short notes and jerks his thumb up, and Skylark damned well knows that means they're gonna talk at the nearest r-point. She may not be one of them *yet*, but that doesn't mean they can't teach her stuff. Dick gave the order *to* teach her stuff, but he really didn't have to. Jason *likes* it when chicks can and do beat the shit outta people, and *Tim* likes it when he can sneakily increase the number of criminals with broken hands and dislocated kneecaps.

Skylark *mostly* doesn't do that stuff --

("What, like I'm gonna steal Tink's moves or some shit?")

-- but she fucking well *can*, and that's... good enough.

Jason leads her to r-point fifty-seven B -- which has a three hundred degree view of a *lot* of the docks, and is nearly mathematically centered between *four* different strolls, because sailors are sailors are sailors.


Once she's up, Jason steps about *halfway* into a shadow and pulls out an energy bar. *Skylark* pulls a *sandwich* from one of her pockets. Jason can smell roast beef, onions, mayo, horseradish --

"Jesus, you're fucking awesome."

Skylark smirks at him and takes a *big* bite. Right. There's more than one way he's not getting any tonight. Jason sighs and eats his vaguely berry-meets-sawdust stick of health, and it's not even remotely a surprise that Skylark's done with her sandwich first.

She sighs, belches, pats her belly through the armor, sighs *again* -- "So what did you wanna talk about, Starling?" Her voice is carefully light -- too careful.

Jason holds a hand up and fucking well chews *faster* --

A snicker. "You should dip those things in chocolate or something."

Hunh. Jason swallows -- "I can see it, yeah. But I dunno if chocolate would actually *stick* to this crap. Here, taste --"

She wrinkles her nose *and* glares at him.

"Okay, okay, these aren't even the ones with seaweed in 'em --"


"Heh. I have *seen* you drink those shakes from McBurger's --"

"That's -- that's special *chocolate* seaweed --"

Jason flips his lenses up just to give her a nice Look --

And she plants her fists on her hips and sticks her tongue out at him. Which --

"Heh. Sometimes Owl does that."

"Oh -- seriously?"

Jason tucks the last of the bar away and dusts off his gauntlets. "Uh, huh. She totally knows how to have fun."

"Every time *I've* worked with her, it's always been 'No,' and 'Don't do that,' and 'Damn it, Skylark!' and --"

"I get you, I get you," Jason says, and pushes with both hands. "She's totally worried about you because she knows how tough it is on girl vigilantes when they're just starting out."

"I've been doing this for almost a year -- oh." She snorts. "Yeah, okay, I'm the new kid, I can deal," and she punches his shoulder lightly. "What *did* you want to talk to me about? I didn't screw up or anything, did I?" Careful, careful, careful.

"Nah, you're good. You could be getting more out of your kicks, but then, so could I, you know?"

She gives him that kind of *old* smile she has. The one which Jason has learned comes with the territory for pretty much *any* halfway normal kid with fucked-up parents. He has it, ninety percent of the pros have it, *Tim* has it, *Dick* has it even though his *circus* parents were apparently pretty fucking great --

"I'm not trying to give you a line here, Skylark. I want you *in*."

She frowns. "What..." And her face moves kind of oddly -- she's totally blinking behind the mask.

"Seriously, babe --"

"I'm not your *babe* --"

"Okay! Not my babe, got it. Come home with me, anyway, hunh? You need better armor for your legs and the kind of training we just can't *give* on the street."

"And -- you're not telling me to go *home*?"

*Jason* blinks -- and knows she can see it. "Uh? No? Why the fuck would I do that?"

She flips her own lenses up, and she's awkward with it -- it's not something she does all that often, and --

"Hey, blue eyes. I was totally thinking brown because of how dark your blonde is --"

"I dye it so I look more serious and -- *Starling*! What, was all this some kinda fucking audition?"

"No? I mean -- not a question. Robin's had us waiting for you to come out --"

"You already *know* who I am!"

"Well, yeah, but we were totally trying to be polite," Jason says, and *then* realizes how stupid it sounds --

Skylark's looking at him like he's a *nutbar* --

"Okay, look, I'm blaming Robin for this, okay? He's kinda fucking crazy old-fashioned."

She's still giving him the stink-eye.

"Can we please skip to the part where you come home with me and get new toys? Seriously, Tink's had this *fantastic* mask all ready for you for weeks --"

"What's wrong with my *mask*?"

"Nothing! But the new one is all feathered-looking around the edges, has lenses for night-vision and infrared, and it's totally a better match for that purple you like --"

"Ooh -- it's eggplant."

"The -- that's what that purple is called?"

"Aubergine in England and France and stuff, but that's -- I don't know. Wussy."

Jason snickers. "And 'eggplant' isn't?"

"Not if you *don't* want a kick to the sac," she says, and crosses her arms under her unbelievable tits --- right.

"So you're comin' home with me tonight?"

"I -- Starling --"

"Jason. Or Jay," he says, and offers his hand.

Her eyes are wide, her mouth is open --

"Jesus, you're hot --"

And she giggles for him and takes his hand, squeezing hard and shaking it. "Steph, you pig. Not that you didn't know that --"

"Still nice to hear you say it," Jason says, twisting the hold until he can clasp her forearm.

"Oh -- got it," she says, and actually blushes a little, and maybe he's kinda fucking *trained*, because he reaches out to stroke her cheek --

He *stops* himself --

And she shivers and presses her cheek against his fingertips. "You -- like this?"

"Uh. Yeah," he says, and strokes a little -- gentle because of his gauntlets -- "I just -- got kinda used to doing this back when Tink was still just Tim."

"So the two of you *are* screwing?"

How had she not *seen* them --

Except that Tim has never really been big on getting crazy on the street unless it's a *high* rooftop and it's the *end* of the night -- after Steph has gone home to her mother.

Jason shakes it off a little. "Yeah, actually. Sorry, it's weird to think of you not already knowing that."

This time, her smile is small and kinda *cute*. Just --

"Just so you know? Tink and I are *not* monogamous. I'm just, you know, putting that out there. For no reason at all. Definitely not because I jerk off thinking about you --"

Steph snorts and hauls him in for a *hard* kiss. Their mouths don't get too far open and there's no *tongue* --

Jason still has to go with that being a *good* sign.

"So who else is *he* screwing?"

"Heh. You know Young Justice?"


"So does he. Well, the guys, anyway."

"Oh -- fuck! Are you saying Superboy's gay?"

Fucking Superboy --

("You *do* realize that the two of you only dislike each other because you're so much *alike*, don't you?"

"*Yes*. There only *needs* to be one of me --"

"My rectum disagrees. Strenuously.")

"Hey, what did I say?"

Jason smiles ruefully. "Superboy and I are a little too much the same kind. I look at him and see the kid I used to be when I was young and fucking *ignorant* --"

"As opposed to young and slightly -- *slightly* -- less ignorant?"

"Heh, and now you sound like Tink. All right, look  -- I don't have anything real against the guy. He always steps up and does his job and he has Tink's back when I don't. It's on me that I think he's too damned young, and not on anyone else. And? He fucks everything on two legs, so if you want a piece? He probably won't put up much of a fight."

She gives him a narrow look. "You think T-Tim can do better."

"Fuck yeah, I do," Jason says, and winks. "I also think he can do better than me."

She hums and tosses her ponytail. "But I can't?"

"I don't know, not-my-babe. Can you?"

Another snort and she gives him a casual -- but *hard* -- push.

"I can't fucking wait to put you on the weights."

"Not the gymnastics equipment?"

"Eh, that's Robin's -- Dick's --- thing --"

"His name is *Dick*?"

Jason mimes turning down the volume. "Older and wiser vigilantes than *us* have tried and *failed* to talk him out of that. He's pretty serious most of the time, but he knows more dick jokes than *anyone*."

"And Owl puts up with that?"


She snorts again. "And *that's* a no. There are these *constant* flamewars on the superhero boards about whether or not Owl and Robin are hooking up, and there's even this old, blurry picture which may or may *not* be them kissing back when Owl was -- wait, *was* she Batgirl?"

"Totally, yeah. Apparently, Dick was seriously surprised when she changed her name and look, but..." Jason shakes his head. "Everyone knew that Gotham would go to hell without *someone* for all the surviving heroes to, you know, rally around, but the way *Dick* tells it? He wasn't even remotely sure it should be him -- even after he traveled the world getting even more hardcore than he already was. Owl changed her name and *style* to get him to cope the way everyone *else* needed him to."

Steph nods thoughtfully, chewing on her lip a little.

Jason lets her do her thinking and pulls out the end of the energy bar again. It doesn't smell any better.

It doesn't look any better.

It sure as *fuck* doesn't taste any better, but he damned well eats it, promising himself thirds of whatever amazing thing Alfred will be cooking for them next.

Maybe fourths if Tim gives him that look where it's all about him trying and failing to *conceive* of any way Jason can be more of a pig. Jason smiles to himself for that --

"What's that for?"

"Thinking about Tink being a prissy bitch -- 'cause he totally is if you hadn't picked that up."

"I *watched* him fucking *destroy* some guy who spat on his boots. He didn't even let me *help*."

Here's hoping the guy had committed some *actual* crime... no, Tim's not ever that bad.

*He* is if someone gives Tink a hard time where he can hear them --

Neither of them are supposed to be like that, but sometimes you have to do the necessary. Even when it isn't. Jason shakes it off --

"That looked -- less good. Wait, am I supposed to be making you talk to me --"

"Yes. Yes, you totally are," Jason says, and winds a lock of her hair around his fingers before tugging a little. "We all work solo at least sometimes, but I'm not as good at it as Robin and Tink. I get too wrapped up in my own shit, you know?"

Steph's nod is a little troubled -- *she* shakes it off. "Tell me."

"Just thinking... well, Robin was *Batman's* Robin for almost six whole years. His whole damned adolescence, practically, you know?"

"It... gets to him? Like he feels guilty?"

"Fuck, yeah. Especially when he looks at me and Tink and sees people Batman maybe wouldn't have liked so much. Or wouldn't have *approved* of even if he *did* like us. There was a little of that tonight."

Steph frowns. "But you and Tink are so *good*. You guys never fuck up."

"Eh, you haven't seen us when we're tired -- or too tired not to be pissed right the fuck off. But yeah, we're good *enough* -- and Robin *never* lets us think for even a minute that we *aren't* -- but Robin also remembers being the subordinate partner to a man who worked most of the wild circus boy out of him and left someone professional and fucking *hard*. Well, when he's not making dick jokes and making fun of me and Tink and hugging us like our *lives* depend on it -- uh. It's complicated?"

Another thoughtful nod. "Okay, let's hit it. We can totally make five more strolls before you bring me back to your place and we totally don't screw over the pommel horse."

Jason blinks... a lot. "Uh?"

Steph gives him a *sly* smile, tilting her head back and licking her lips --

"Hell, yes," Jason says, moving in slow and cupping her waist with one hand and her face -- *carefully* -- with the other. His hands are big enough that the texturing on his gauntlets can really fuck with her hair --

He's constantly ripping his *own* hair out --

And he's totally not thinking about hair even a little once they start kissing, 'cause Steph's mouth tastes like peppery meat, and she's doing this thing where she teases Jason's tongue into her mouth and then pushes it out again and then coaxes it *in* again --

Jason laughs into the kiss and tries to dodge her tongue a little bit, get a little bob and weave action going --

She hums and presses close, and Jason can't feel her body's heat even a little, but he can feel the *promise* of it, and that's good enough for the street. He pulls back and licks a stripe over her lips --

Goes over it from the other direction --

And Steph giggles for him, pushing him back and looking him up and down. "Not bad," she says, and starts to back her way to the edge of the roof, but --

That alarm. A buzz rather than a chime or anything -- "Steph, *wait*."

"What is it?"

"Somebody is fucking with the Cave. I've gotta jet --"

"Wait, what? Your base?"

"Yeah," Jason says, and tries to swallow his fucking heart back down to where it belongs -- "I'll call you, but it's not safe for me to take you back there --"

"You need *backup*, asshole!"

Fuck -- Jason pulls the palmtop Tink had beaten him into learning how to use and checks their twenties --

Jason is the closest, followed by Tink, and Tink still rides one of the *smaller* bikes --

"Fuck it, yeah, you okay with riding -- uh. Pillion?"

Steph snorts and jumps off the roof -- "I'm not your *bitch*, either."

"That's *Tink*," Jason says, and follows. "Sometimes, anyway."

Steph hits the ground well -- no flashy little tumbles this time -- and takes off at a run for their bikes. Jason follows, wondering if it's *safe* enough that Steph's own bike won't get jacked --

Fuck it, he'll buy her a new one. She'll *need* a new one.

He catches up to her and they go. It *hurts* to ignore the dealer they'd missed before --

Steph kicks out *while* running --

Okay, he can do that, too. He makes it a good one -- lots of spin to keep his momentum up -- and the guy is taking a nap. Maybe some junkie will steal his stash and knife him before they get back. Stranger things have happened.

They make it to Jason's bike in under five minutes, but Steph's panting a little when she puts on Jason's spare helmet.

"You okay?"

She gives him the thumbs-up and fastens the thing --

"Starling, what's the word?" And Dick *sounds* breathless, which means that he was sprinting for his *own* bike --

"I'm pulling out now -- and bringing Skylark with me."

Dicks hisses -- "That's not safe --"

"She's one of us now, BB. If it's bad enough that she *can't* help, I'm pulling *both* of us out at speed. Could you raise Al?"

"No. But I can't tell if that's because he's hurt or because he's not wearing his *comm*," Dick says, and there were so many curses in there --

So many fights where *both* Alfred and Dick lost --

"How far out are you?"

Dick's palmtop should be showing his tracer just as well as Jason's own is, but -- yeah, he has to ask. "Twenty. Fifteen if I don't trip over any more crime --"

"Make it ten, little wing. *Twelve* if you run into a parade of toddlers and little old ladies."

"Uh. Fuck?"

"We're *not* losing our base. Robin out."

Jason fucking well pours it on, taking the bike up to one-twenty and wishing he trusted any of the gods around enough to pray. The bike is the best -- the tires are only a month old, the engine got a full exam a week and a half ago, and it's as responsive as one of his own *limbs* -- but the *roads* aren't --

He doesn't *know* how well the bike will respond with a passenger this *heavy* on it. Steph's five-seven and at *least* one-forty-five -- easily twenty pounds on Tim --

Shit, shit --

No, he's not thinking. He's *driving*, and he's making himself just as small and aerodynamic as he can, and it's after midnight. The roads are *mostly* empty, and he's going fast enough to blow through the red lights --

Another --

*Another*, and Steph makes a *yeeping* noise through the helmet radio when Jason noses them between a semi and a child-molester van --

They're good --

Over the bridge --

That's one pissed-off cop who isn't gonna catch them *tonight* --

Fuck, what if the *signal* goes up? No, not that, either, because *Dick* will go back for that --

Out of the city, and he fucking *owns* these back roads. Sometimes he wonders what'll happen when the *other* rich fucks living in Bristol finally get up the nerve to *complain* about the engine noise coming from the vicinity of Wayne Manor --

"Where the fuck are we *going*? This is *country* club land!"

"You're totally right, Lark, and I *promise* I'll explain everything once I'm sure we're not about to die in puddles of our own piss."

She snorts for that, and it feels good, feels *great* --

Yeah, he'll focus on the happy. He'll just --

Fuck, Ra's al Ghul could be waiting with fifty machine-gun-toting Ubus. Strange could be waiting with whatever whackjobs he managed to attract. Who else?

Who *else*?

Maybe Dent finally figured out what it meant that Batman disappeared at right around the same time that his ex-best-friend died mysteriously --

Okay, no, he's making himself fucking *queasy* and he's still at least a minute out -- "Lark, say something happy. Right now."


"*Something*! I'm goin' nuts over here --"

"Uh. Uh. Uh -- your uniform makes your ass look *fantastic*."

Hunh. "Seriously?"

"Oh, yeah. The cape is always blocking it, but when it isn't? I'm totally thinking of grabbing your cheeks and squeezing hard."

"Really digging your nails in?"

"*Fuck*, yeah," Steph says, and squeezes Jason's abdomen.

"Fuckin' A. I could go with that."

"Like Tink *isn't* all over you."

"See, Tink always gets distracted by my cock --"

"It's a very nice penis," Tim says, *right* there on-channel, and maybe Jason just needs to own the fact that he gets distracted on the radios.

"*Thank* you, bro. How far out?"

"Hn. Fifteen minutes, still. Armed robber shot out one of my tires --"

"*Shit* --"

"The good news is that the sealant works as well as it should, and that my batarang work from a spinning, ditching bike is excellent."

Jason snorts *with* Steph, and --

He's here. Two hundred yards from the hologram and slowing --

Slowing --

Stopping while he can still fucking *see* --

"I'm going in. You might hear me coming *out* --"

"Imminently," Dick says. "I hear you. Stay gold."

Jason parks and pulls out a batarang --

Jason thinks about it and pulls out three shuriken.

Steph takes out her sweet little nightstick.

Jason gestures for 'go in rolling,' Steph nods -- "Nothing fancy until I give you the high sign," Jason whispers and tries to *drill* it into her --

"I'm following your lead. *You* know the territory," she says, and drills her own look into him.

Good enough, and his ass is too fantastic for them to get killed. He's just gonna -- go with that.

He goes in, tucking and rolling and bracing himself for bullets, beam weapons, zombies --

Except for how *not*, because that -- *that* -- is Bruce motherfucking *Wayne* sending a batarang at his head --

"*Down*, Lark --"

"Got it!"

And he's rolling more, moving -- there --

He sends out two shuriken --

The -- thing that looks like Wayne --

Right down to the Batsuit which looks like the *old* ones Dick had shown him, the *first* ones --

The *thing* blocks once, twice --

The third shuriken gets caught in his gauntlet --

It looks fucking *chewed* already --

And the thing grunts and grips his arm exactly like Jason had *hurt* him, which --

No, immobilize him first, ask questions later --

"*Fuck*," Lark says, and tosses one of the batarangs Tink gave her *past* Bruce --

At *Two*-Face -- who's somehow a *one*-face -- who's wobbling on his feet due to taking a batarang to the head, but holding a gun steady --

Jason whips out another batarang and lets fly, taking out the gun, but there are all *kinds* of fucking guns in here -- "Lark, protocol J --"

"Got it," she says, and sounds calm and steady, ready for anything -- especially for getting out of the way and after the obviously weaker opponent --

Except that Jason's no longer sure which one that *is*, because the thing is still clutching his arm --

Fucking shaking like he's *sick* --

Two-Face grunts and hits the deck -- "*Bruce*! *Run*!"

What. The --

The *thing* grunts and just fucking *opens* his stance --

And then he's *moving*. He's --

Motherfuck, he's as fast as *Dick*, and he's --

Protecting Two-Face. Protecting -- but --

And he *can't* think about that right now, because he has to defend his damned fucking *life* --

Go for the wounded places, the places where the suit has been chewed or burnt or sheared off --

Block and move --

Move *again*, because that punch would've crunched his fucking cheekbone --

Block the strike that would've paralyzed his arm and spin into a strike of his own --

He connects to the arm and feels the bone *move* -- yeah, it's broken, but the thing doesn't even grunt for it this time, doesn't *pause* --

Jason drops, sweeps --

Gets stomped in the fucking *gut*, but he keeps his air, rolls --

Movement --

And the thing knocks Steph's nightstick away --

He's gotta teach her to go *low* with those hits --

If he gets *out* of this -- no, Steph is scrambling away, rolling fast just like she should --

The thing's attention is split --

And Jason can damned well kick for the thing's knees --

He misses and hits a thigh that's fucking corded -- but *that* time the thing grunts, staggers --

And Steph comes in low enough to jab the thing in the *crotch* with her nightstick --

And Jason *hammers* the top of his spine through the neck armor --

"*No* --"

That was *Dent* again, what the *shit* --

No, no, he's coping, he's definitely coping, because the thing just dropped to its knees --

And Steph's uppercut turns the lights out. Maybe.

Maybe --

He waves Steph back -- no. "Lark. Four hundred yards northeast is a cabinet. Third drawer down. Blue label. Bring four."

"Four hundred, three, blue, four?"

Jason nods and gestures go --

And then he kicks the thing onto his face and reaches for the belt --

Fuck, no, he can't be sure all the traps are in the same places, which means he can't tie the thing's hands anywhere *near* his waist --

Knock him out, drag him to the uneven bars, strip him as much as possible while *avoiding* the belt, because they damned well have Tink for that stuff -- he's good. He's good.

And Steph's already running back with the tranq darts. "I brought six just in case!"

"Good deal. Start Dent with two to the --" Nice, she'd managed to zip-strip his ankles, too. "Calves. Just jab 'em right in there."

"Who *are* you people?"

Steph kicks him in the chest. "Punks who fake amnesia piss me *off*," she says, and gets him but good. He's weaving before she makes it the five paces to Jason's position, and Jason stops her *right* there. "You think that guy is getting up after *that*?"

"That *guy* -- fuck. That *thing* looks just like fucking *Batman*, Lark. Watch my back."

He can tell she's blinking rapidly behind the mask, but she holds the two syringes he doesn't take like the weapons they are and spins the nightstick over the fingers of her other hand.

Maybe she should get a staff, too? Would that work with tits like hers?

How the fuck is Dick gonna react to *this* --

No, no, focus, just focus, because the thing hasn't moved from the uncomfortable position Jason left him in, but *he* wouldn't, either.

So he creeps, and he watches, and he creeps some more, and he swallows back bile that someone could know this much about them --

What if there are more of them?

What if he'd sent Steph into -- no, no, if there were more, they would've recognized how vulnerable Steph was two minutes ago and used that to take out Jason's only back-up. Right?

"Lark --"

"Say something happy?"

"*Fuck*, yes," Jason says, and tries to find a spot on the thing's body where he wouldn't be vulnerable to hands, feet, knees, elbows --

"I totally wanna watch you fucking the *life* out of Tink one day."

"That counts as happy. That totally counts --"

He tackles the thing and jabs for his exposed bicep, using every last pound of his weight to hopefully hold down --

The guy who used to be able to bench him and Dick *combined* --


A lot of nothing.

More nothing  --

"Gimme another dart," and Jason reaches back --

Steph claps it in his palm just like she'd stepped out of the safe-zone --

He jabs the thing again and calls it good, standing up and dusting himself off a little. "Don't *do* that, by the way --"

"You are *not* getting on my ass for moving to back your play when you're acting like this guy's the fucking Terminator on PCP."

"He -- okay, look, what if I'd needed you to throw your bolo?"

She scowls and crosses her arms under her tits.

"Don't gimme that, Lark. Which of us has been doing this longer?"

"You're seriously gonna trot that out every time you disagree with me for the rest of my life, aren't you?"

"To be fair," Tim says, "the rest of your life might not be that long."

"Yeep -- *gruesome*, much?"

"Often. I take it the threat is neutralized?"

"Yes --"

"*Maybe*," Jason says and glares at Steph for a moment before sucking it up and dealing with the fact --

With a lot of damned facts at once.

He's not even touching the theories. "We're going over the Cave with a fine-toothed comb once Big Bird gets back here, Tink. Take a look at what we got," he says, and lifts the thing's head by the hair --

Tim steps back and shakes his head once --

"And *this* fucker," Steph says, and Jason can tell when Tim notices One-Face by the way his hands twist into strike-formations he didn't learn from him *or* Dick.

He's ready for Shiva-work.

"Stand down and help us get the *thing* to the uneven bars --I'm not even gonna *try* to touch his belt."

"That's the old uniform. The -- there aren't any traps --"

"We don't *know* that, Tink. I -- shit, we don't know who the fuck it *is*."

Tim opens his mouth, shakes his head, and shuts it again. "You're right. We'll have to wait for Robin or... A?"

God, they didn't check on *him* -- but. "We can't risk bringing A into this. We don't know if these two checked what's above us or not --"

"Uh... maybe?" Steph looks back and forth between them. "There's a whole lot of dirt over by the big-ass computers. And a big hole in the... wait, *is* it a ceiling if you're in a Cave?"

"Hole --"

"What --"

Jason gestures at Tink to ask first while he gets a hold on the thing's legs --

"Ah... show me?"

"Stay *close*, you two."

"*Yes*, sir, Starling, sir --"

"Christ, Lark --"

"He really is -- ah. Skylark, words cannot express how *much* Starling is freaking out right now. I mean, if he feels anything like the way I do, his scrotum is trying to enter his abdominal cavity again and his penis is a full inch shorter than it should be."

"There's nothing wrong with my *cock*!"

"Note the quaver in his voice --"

"I -- fuck you both sideways."

But Steph's laugh is a little wondering... "Okay, I get it, he's scared something else fucked-up is gonna happen and he doesn't want to be responsible for me getting hurt --"

"I *said* that --"

"Really *not*, Starling. And... uh. Maybe I'm not so used to people worrying about me...?" And that was... really soft. Conciliatory, like.

Jason bites his lip and turns to look at her. "Apology accepted if you accept mine?"

"Done," she says, and tugs on her ponytail a little. Her lenses are down, but he *thinks* he knows what expression is in her eyes, anyway.


Jason keeps dragging the thing --

And it *has* to be a thing, because no one is that perfect. No one could even --

*That* day, Dick had sucked in a shaky breath, stroked his abdomen up and down and up again, stared up at the ceiling --

("He had... this one scar. Well, he had a whole *lot* of scars, but this one... this one was on his scalp, just peeking out a little on his forehead. I always noticed it because it had a little teardrop shape, like a shiny silver drop of sweat that never went away. He wore concealer over it every time we went out -- or just styled his hair to fall over it -- because he was just... incredibly paranoid about facial scars. About everything, really...")

And Jason had just... scooted in next to him. They were in the big bed, in the room Dick had shared with Bruce -- as opposed to the museum to Dick's childhood down the hall --

Dick sighed --

("The first time we made love...")

Dick swallowed and balled his hands into *fists* --

("Hey, you don't have to tell me --"

"I do. I do. And -- wait, do you not want to know? I know it's a lot to put on you --"

"No, I. I kinda. I wanna know everything.")

And Jason remembers blushing his fucking *head* off, but he also remembers loving the hug Dick had given him, hating his constant fucking *hard-on* --

("I said... God, at some point when I really would've said *anything*, and I already know you know what *that's* like, little wing..."

"Heh, yeah. What'd you say?"

"I said -- something like -- "I want to know about your *scars*, Bruce!" And you should absolutely imagine me sounding like scary porn, because my voice isn't that deep now, but *then*...")

'How young *were* you?' is one of a handful of questions Jason's never been able to bring himself to ask. The way Dick says 'we've been hooking up for *years*, little wing' when he's talking about Clark is bad *enough*. This --

'This' was something different. Something --

("That was the first scar he told me about -- maybe because he saw me staring, maybe because he was working his way from the top down. He got it from a little old lady who'd been running numbers with her mah jong crowd down in Chinatown. This was in the days *before* the cape and cowl, and those women must've thought he was just another criminal... heh. She hit him with what he said was an absolutely *beautiful* vase, he bled into his eyes, they beat him with everything handy until he ran *away*."

"No way!"

"He *did* eventually put them away. Eventually.")

And yeah, that scar is *right* fucking there, and it *does* have a teardrop shape, and it *does* look like he's sweating --

Though that could be the smell. Now that he's not kicking Jason's ass all over the Cave... yeah, no way this guy's had a shower in the past three days.

What the hell was he *doing* before he got here?

Who *is* he?

And why does Dent have a whole *face*?

God, where the fuck is *Dick*? *Did* the signal pop off?

No, focus, get him --

Fuck, no, the uneven bars are too *fragile* if this is --

He *can't* be. Dick had beaten the *shit* out of Ra's for even *trying* to take Bruce's body to a Pit, and then he'd damned well *burned* it --

("Raven took my emotions from me... and then I poured on the lighter fluid and lit the entire book of matches.")

And how fucking *fucked* --

But the bars are still too fragile. Jason drags the thing to the pommel horse, checks to make sure the pommel horse is screwed down into the stone *well*, and then he zip-strips the thing's wrists to the pommels themselves, arranging the thing so that his arms will be straight.

And then he uses two more zip-strips each.

And then he worries about the swelling from the obviously broken ulna.

And then he gets one of the wrap-around ice-packs and slaps it on.

And *then* he takes a deep breath --

"Master Jason --"

"*Gah*! Alfred! I. Are you *okay*?" And once Jason is on the floor again, he turns to see Alfred looking fucking *grey* as he stares at... the thing.

"So young..." Alfred shudders --

"It's not -- we don't know that it's -- I mean, it can't be --"

"Of course not. It's only..." Alfred shudders again. "I can't allow myself to be seen."

"Uh... no. But you can... I mean, there are questions you can write out for us to ask... him?"

"Master Dick should --" Alfred cuts himself off and studies the thing *hard* for a long moment, finally reaching out and actually peeling back the gauntlet that *isn't* shredded -- "No scar..."

"Uh... he's supposed to have one there?"

"A four and a quarter inch knife scar acquired while he searched for Master Dick's parents' murderer. If he is... if he is who he seems to be somehow... he's too young."

"Like... twenty-eight instead of twenty-nine?"

Alfred's mouth firms into a hard line. "I will prepare questions for you to ask," he says, and squeezes Jason's shoulder through the armor. "You must be strong for Master Dick."

"Oh, yeah, absolutely --"

And Alfred is one of the *very* few people who can shut Jason up with a look when he feels like it. Just --

Jesus. Jason bites the inside of his cheek and nods.

Alfred heads back toward the stairs.

Jason takes one last look at...

He heads over to check out the hole.


The darkness consumes. This is not a surprise in and of itself. In truth, he always knew that this would be the truth of his existence, the ultimate and only true end.

This is -- this *must* be -- the expression of everything which has always lived within him. This --

"Are you sure that's gonna hold, Big Blue?"

"Honestly, Starling, you could at least choose a nickname for me that hasn't been used by Lex Luthor's *tabloids*."

Clark. That --

In the darkness with him?

He's not alone? Why can't he *see* --

He opens his eyes and spends a moment berating himself for being foolish -- he's in the *Cave*, and that means all is --

The man crouched in front of him is utterly unfamiliar. The uniform he's wearing is more garish somehow than even Alan Scott's -- despite the lack of purple to go with the red, gold, and green -- and his expression is hard and utterly closed.

He is...

He seems to be young enough -- Bruce's age or perhaps somewhat younger -- and there's no way to be sure how many scars he has under his clothes, and so Bruce has no reason to assume there'll be many.

He is staring --

And Bruce remembers that this cave is not *the* Cave, that the differences far outweigh the similarities. He'd allowed himself to be beaten by two teenagers, allowed --

No --

"Where --" His voice is a furred croak. Bruce clears his throat and tries again, fixing his expression into the glare that, in his experience, had gotten the best results from even the criminals *most* entrenched in their terrible lifestyles. For a moment it even seems to work -- the young man shivers impressively --

But then the man gets up and walks away without a word, without --

He has to find *Harvey*. The people who'd taken over this Cave --

But where *is* he? Are these people working against the terrible *folding*? Bruce frowns. If this is the Cave -- and even the scents are the same, and the few looks he'd gotten at the amazingly advanced computer monitors had shown a city recognizably Gotham --

No, that's not -- possible.

Is it? Could it be?

A part of him had known he was restrained -- and restrained *well* -- before he'd fully regained consciousness, but, in some ways, it's only fully sinking in now.

There are at least two zip-strips wrapped around each of his wrists, and there are bolts driven into the mats -- and the rock below them -- to which his ankles are tied.

His boots and belt have been removed, as has his chest armor. He'd never gotten the cowl back over his head after falling through the pocket --

Alfred's gone. Alfred --

But could he have come here?

"Robin..." And that was Clark's voice again, unmistakably and unfailingly gentle --

"Don't," says a man with a somewhat rough tenor voice. The roughness speaks either of emotion or a habit of indulging in some sort of smoke --

"Hey, Big Bird, it's okay. We're *all* here, and we're all gonna deal with this." Another man's voice, or perhaps it's the voice of the large and well-muscled teenager who had gotten past Bruce's guard so easily with the help of his partner --

"Does he really -- I mean. No one can look *exactly* like --"

"Lark, it's -- every picture I've seen, every scrap of training footage --"

"It's not him," says the man with the roughened voice. "*He* coughed out his last breath on my cheek. *He* was dug up by Ra's al Ghul. And *he* was burned to ash by *me*."

"We gotta question him --"

"Yes. We do. Superman, please do the honors. I'm going to see what the hell is going on with this Dent-clone."

Clone? What could they possibly be --

But then Clark is in front of him, and he looks whole, rested, and uninjured. His hair is somewhat more casually-styled than what Bruce is accustomed to, but his uniform is correct, and his posture as he hovers a foot off the floor couldn't be *more* correct --

But his expression could not be more dark. Is he somehow in league with these people?

Had he been co-opted? Is there a way Bruce could bring him back? No ally could be more *useful* --

"Clark," Bruce whispers, "where are the others?"

Clark frowns in annoyed confusion -- "Who is Clark?"

It's just that -- "That's the expression I taught you to cultivate. I'm glad to see you've finally perfected it."

Clark jerks in the air and narrows his eyes. "You claim to know me but not -- who are these others you're speaking of?"

"Alan. Jay --"

"How *old* are you?"

*Bruce* frowns -- but they're in a strange and desperately *unlikely* situation. Of course he must be tested.

It's... a sort of enough that Clark is keeping his voice low, as well.

He nods. "I'm twenty-seven. I'll be twenty-eight on December twelfth --"

"What is *today's* date?"

"I --" Bruce blinks once -- "I can't be sure. It was the tenth of July when you came to me with what you'd learned about the spatial anomalies --"

"Anomalies --" Clark shakes his head once and frowns. "You're saying that we were fighting side by side."

"We went to Luthor together, Clark. We... he had no answers for us, no way to reverse the effects of the spatial *folding* he had caused. After that, we began to move to various 'hot spots,' doing what we could to save civilians from the... aliens which had been brought through due to Luthor's meddling."

Clark frowns more deeply. "And you are... twenty-seven."

Bruce raises an eyebrow. "I wasn't aware that was a problem. Please, Clark, tell me what's become of Harvey. I believe he has some sort of --" Problem, but he can't break Harvey's confidence. "He needs assistance badly --"

"He's your friend."

"Of course he is. You know that from all of your *surveillance*, Clark --"

"When I was *surveilling*... Batman, he did not call me by that name."

That... is worth a laugh, for all that he knows that it wasn't a very good one. "I know. I was a fool. You came to me and offered trust, friendship, *companionship*... it took me far too long to realize that it would cost nothing to take it."

Clark -- swallows.

"My friend, I didn't -- there was no time for me to -- the anomalies --" Bruce shakes his head. "I was a fool, and there is no excuse. Please, tell me of Harvey."

Clark closes his eyes for a moment, and when he opens them they're *hard* still... but the hardness is more brittle. "Dent is resting on the gurney. He responded to the sedative far more deeply than you did."

"Sedative -- I was *drugged*?"

"Are you truly surprised? You invaded the home and base of several deeply territorial vigilantes. Whoever you are, your mode of dress would suggest that you know something of --"

"*Clark*. You know who I *am* --"

"What's your middle name."

"I don't have one --"

"When did you learn to drive."

"I taught myself when I was thirteen --"

"How did that end."

"I crashed my father's Jaguar -- *Clark* --"

Clark shudders. "What. What were you doing when -- when you were found."

He hadn't *broken* anything in particular -- other than the car, but he was bleeding from several cuts, bruised all over, and his right ankle and left wrist were hideously swollen. And all he could think of was the look on Alfred's face. All --

He was going to be so disappointed, and maybe this would be the final straw, the thing which would make Alfred leave him, go back to England and find a whole family, a *good* family --

"How. How do you know --"

"Answer. The question --"

"I was weeping. And attempting to piece the front headlights back together. At some point, it occurred to me that my blood was a better adhesive than -- "

"What. Which hospital were you brought to?"

"I wasn't. Alfred cared for my cuts and bruises himself, and explained to me that he would never leave me if he could possibly help it, but that I had to follow... follow the rules which were meant to keep me safe and whole --"

"*Enough*," Clark says, flying up and back --

"Alfred. He told you these things. Is *he* all right?"

Clark blows out a breath -- "He's fine. He -- Bruce --" Clark shakes his head. "This is not... this is not your place."

"No, of course not. I never had these... garish *trophies*. The computer is something I'd very much like *to* have, but the one in *my* Cave is buried in some pocket of an anomaly. You, though -- you came to find me?"

"What? I -- no, Bruce, I -- this is *my* universe, and I --" Clark licks his lips. "The Alfred who gave me these questions to ask is *also* from this universe."

"But -- where *is*... your Bruce?"

Clark laughs softly. "Oh... he was never mine. And he's been dead these past six years, thanks to the Joker."

That -- "The *clown*?"

Clark floats back down and crouches in front of Bruce the way the strange man had, searching him --

This close, Bruce can see the lines at the corners of Clark's eyes --

The lines which simply weren't *there* -- and trying to reach out is just an excellent reminder that he's been tied. And that he has a broken *arm* -- "I have to -- Clark, how old are *you*?"

Clark smiles softly. "I'm thirty-seven. You also helped me learn how to... well," he says, and relaxes his face into --

There are no lines. "You don't *age*?"

"A discovery I made not long after you first *did* begin calling me Clark."

"Then -- the anomalies --"

"They didn't happen here, Bruce. Nothing like that ever happened on anything like that scale..." Clark shakes his head again. "Let me take you back to the Fortress and bathe you. And -- you need to be healed."

"Clark, you -- tell me who these people --"

"He's that young, Superman?"

And the strange man is back. He moves admirably well, though his hair is a little too long to be practical as a vigilante -- especially if his uniform has no cowl --

The girl's hair had been much, much longer than that --

Longer than *Dinah's* --

"I'm afraid so, Robin. But -- he answered --"

The man waves a hand. "I was monitoring. Alfred told me about the Jag when I confessed to him about how I hated... Bruce's rules."

"I... had rules for you?"

"*You* didn't. You --" The man covers his face with one hand and clenches the other into a fist. "Ah -- God. I. You don't know me."

"No, I don't, but if you were a part of the Mission --"

"When you were that -- when *he* was that age he thought he didn't *need* a partner," the man says, and drops his hands to his sides. "Right?"

"I thought a great many foolish things a week ago, but... you were very young to be my partner. Weren't you? Your Bruce would've been close to forty."

The man's hands are shaking. It --

"Or. Perhaps you could tell me your name? Your code-name --"

"I'm -- Robin. My Bruce took me in when I was thirteen and he was twenty-nine. He'd watched... he'd watched my parents die --"

"*No* --"

"He couldn't do anything but track down their killer... and teach me how to help make sure that didn't happen to any other children."

Bruce feels -- queasy. Lost. *Confused* -- "So -- so young?"

"He told me -- after he'd finally confessed to being more than just a brain-dead socialite with an occasionally functioning conscience -- that he saw himself in my eyes. And that he'd seen a lot more than that. He said -- you're not him."

"No, Robin. I... the two of you were close."

Robin's smile is humorless and dark --

And Clark immediately moves to take him in his arms. Clark is always *gentle* --

And he's murmuring something Bruce can't quite hear, something which makes Robin stiffen and shudder --

And pull back. "He comes *back* here, Superman. We -- we have to find a way to get him home."

If anything remains -- no, he must not think that way. He's been offered the chance to recover and recharge, and that he must take --

What would make him --

Of course he can understand needing to do everything in his power for a boy who had suffered what *he* had suffered, but to then turn around and take that boy onto the *street*? To expose him to thieves and murderers and *worse*? It's not --

Clark is holding Robin's hands up between them -- no. Clark is *kissing* Robin's hands, and that --

The urge to blush is powerful, but between the sedative he'd been given and his own control, he manages to contain it well enough that neither of them look at him strangely when they turn.

The move Robin makes to pull his belt-knife is smooth and practiced, at least as fast as Bruce himself can manage at his best, and Bruce doesn't manage to catch himself before he nods in approval --

And Robin smiles, sharp and quick. "At ease. My *father* taught me how to do that," he says, and slices through the zip-strips on Bruce's ankles and wrists --

And Clark is there to catch and cradle the broken arm before it can fall and make Bruce show something --

Something he doesn't want to show.

"How are you going to treat that arm, Superman?"

"Ah, the nanites at my disposal are the only possible choice at this point. It appears to have been broken and then broken more *thoroughly*." Clark turns to him with his eyebrows raised.

"I landed on it when I... fell through to this place. Clark, will you be bringing Harvey with you?"

Clark looks troubled --

And Robin looks almost *angry*. "Clark didn't tell you what he's just about due for."

Bruce frowns. "I don't understand."

"You said he needs 'assistance.' Does that or does that *not* mean that you know that he's in the process of flying off the rails?"

Pointing a gun at him.

Yelling and pleading.

Nightmares and lost *time* --

But Bruce is strong enough not to turn away. "He needs... rest. And someone to speak with. I take it your Harvey had problems, as well?"

"'My' Harvey. Right. In *this* universe, Harvey Dent beat me to a bloody pulp and left me to die... and did the same to many, many other people. Some years later, he murdered Starling's father -- as he'd done to many, many other people's mothers, fathers, siblings, and children --"

"No, he wouldn't --"

"But you have a few doubts about that right now, don't you, Bruce?" And the humorless and cold smile is back in Robin's voice. "I happen to have video of the time he took Jim Gordon hostage after shooting his way through Gotham Central with a mad bomber as an accomplice... but you think he just needs a little time on the couch."

Bruce works himself to his feet --

Bruce *braces* himself on the pommel horse to keep from falling over --

"It's all right, Bruce. I won't let you fall," Clark says, and it means so much --

It's *always* meant so much, and he hadn't let himself -- no, he must focus. "Harvey hasn't done any of those things in my universe. Here, he only tried to protect me from -- Starling?"

Robin nods once. "And Skylark. She's the reason your jock is uncomfortable as hell right now."

"I can't fault her ability to use the weaknesses of her opponents, but she's a *teenager* --"

"So was I. So were all the partners of the heroes my Bruce *inspired* to take partners -- and she has a lot more training than some of them did," Robin says, taking a step closer -- and becoming honestly angry.

Because... he is insulting what Robin sees as the Mission. To have inspired someone to carry the Mission long after his death --

The other Bruce had to have been at least somewhat remarkable, for all that his judgment was questionable -- no, he will set that aside for now. He studies Robin until he can be sure of where his eyes are focused behind his simple domino, and then he meets the man's gaze as best as he can. "I have no resources of my own in this... universe, but I am pleading with you to do what you can for Harvey. He has been a tireless and valuable warrior in the war we all fight --"

Robin raises a hand to stop him --

"*Please* --"

"You -- he always -- loved him. *Believed* in him --" Robin growls and turns to his left --

Two hundred yards away, Starling, Skylark, and a *child* in a bright red uniform are bending over something --

Harvey --

"Will they -- do they know not to *hurt* him?"

"He's as safe as he can be right here," Robin says, and turns back to face him. "They won't hurt him unless he attacks, and that won't happen while he's strapped down on the gurney."

Bruce winces. "He needs to be able to move and exercise --"

"There are... hospitals --"

"None of which are very *good*, Robin --"

"*Christ*, Clark -- *Superman* --"

"I'm *sorry*, Dick, but -- how *many* times have we discussed helping those hospitals modernize and hire trained, competent staff?"

Robin -- Dick? He won't use that name until he is allowed, assuming that happens. Robin bends his head and pinches the hawkish bridge of his nose. He is clearly troubled -- and Bruce must admit that he has reason to be so -- but he also must know that the Mission includes no room for the railroading of innocents.

After a long moment, Robin takes a breath -- "Do you have a suggestion."

Clark licks his lips and looks at *him* for a moment, but Bruce has never --

He doesn't *know* --

"Perhaps... we could consult with Dr. Thompkins?"

Robin winces for that. "Perhaps *you* could, but she hasn't spoken to me since Cardinal hit the streets."

"Cardinal is the... slight... young man?"

Robin laughs, panting out tension *sharply*. "*Cardinal* also goes by Tinkerbell... and is two years older than I was when *I* hit the streets at your -- at my Bruce's side."

But -- "Surely you weren't so --"

"Small? I was smaller -- though I had a better grasp of the acrobatics than you -- than he did. Cardinal came to us as a black belt in judo and a brown belt in karate."

So *small* -- but he is not here to question. He must somehow put aside his -- prejudices? "I would like to meet them," Bruce says, and hopes he sounds polite enough, *good* enough --

Robin raises his eyebrows behind his domino. "Meet them and maybe *test* them?"

Bruce *wants* to protest that -- but he shakes his head and closes his eyes for a moment. "You knew him well, of course. He was... a friend as well as a partner?"

Robin's expression hardens once more --

He turns and walks away --

Bruce winces. "Perhaps I shouldn't try to... I'm honestly unsure of what I was trying to do, other than attempting not to give offense."

Clark cups Bruce's shoulder and squeezes it. "You and Robin changed each other's lives, Bruce."

"I -- he put him in that terribly dangerous uniform --"

Clark clears his throat.

"What is it?"

"The original Robin suit was... ah. Rather more revealing."

Bruce frowns. "I don't think any vigilante's uniform should ever be able to be described as *revealing*, Clark."

"But -- you're familiar, by now, with your Dinah's uniform and the reasoning behind it?"

"I never *agreed* --"

Clark hums and smiles wryly at him. "Once, when I'd asked you about Dick's uniform for the seventh time -- trying to be polite, of course -- you muttered something bad-natured about the... ah... force of his personality?"

Bruce frowns more deeply. "Are you saying that I allowed a thirteen-year-old boy to choose how he would present himself to the criminal class?"

Clark rubs at his upper lip. "You did armor it."

"How much of it was capable of *being* armored?"

"If you'd just turn to your right and --"

"*Clark*. Those aren't even -- was he supposed to be some sort of *exotic dancer*?"

"Actually, those... trunks were immensely challenging to remove."

"How would you --" Oh. This time, he can do nothing about his blush save to turn aside --

And Clark's fingers are smooth and strong on Bruce's cheek. "Once, I thought I saw something like this on your face..."


Clark shivers and pulls back. "Of course. You have my apologies, Bruce. Are you ready to come with me?"

In truth, what he's most ready to do is sleep in a bed for at least eight hours... but he knows that Clark will arrange for that in one way or another. Bruce nods --

Red occludes his vision --

His arm is somehow splinted --

They fly.


"I'm so not dealing with the fact that he used to be hot," Steph says, and she's got that scrunched-up face which means that she's *actually* saying "eugh." She's just using words to do it.

"Actually, there was a great deal of talk about his attractiveness back when he was the District Attorney. If the papers weren't commenting on his age, they were writing incredibly salacious things about Dent and various attractive and famous Gotham women. It was... well, it was more than a little disturbing to read after he'd been Two-Face for several years," Tim says, and that's totally another way to say "eugh."

"But *this* guy hasn't even --" Steph frowns harder. "He had the coin."

"He sure as fuck did, Lark -- and *that's* what's gonna be on my mind. No matter how good and not-crazy he is right now --"

"That -- Bruce was spooked enough about him to beg us to get him help," Dick says, just fucking appearing out of nowhere. But --

"It's really -- him?"

And Dick gets that look like he's about to beat the living shit out of the first criminal he sees -- even if it's a jaywalker --

"I mean -- uh. Obviously it's not *him* him," Jason says, and squeezes Dick's shoulder hard. "But -- you gotta give us an update."

Dick blows out a breath and looks at each of them in turn before glaring down at Dent for a long moment. "He's Bruce Wayne from a universe where time, for whatever reason, moved much more slowly. He's twenty-seven years old, has never had a partner, and has only been the Batman for a little more than a year."

Well... fuck.

Dick smiles grimly. "He's also from a universe where Luthor -- somehow -- set off a series of reactions that caused *severe* space-time anomalies to pop off all over the place. One popped off in the Cave... and that's why he's here."

"And Harvey Dent was in the Cave, too," Tim says, and frowns down at the man. "He knows the most dangerous secret in the world other than Superman's."

"For now," Dick says, and never looks away from Dent. "There are ways to un-ring the bell, as it were. Especially if the psyche in question is already as fractured as we know *this* one is."

Steph frowns. "Wait, we're supposed to fuck this guy up worse than he already is?"

Tim rests a hand on her thin little gauntlet. "Sometimes, it's the only way. We've traumatized Ivy, played transference games with Harley, sicced Strange on his own judgment centers --"

"I get it, but -- shit, guys, it's not like he's done anything wrong, *yet*, right?"

She has a point, but -- "He was waving that gun around like he was gonna use it, Lark --"

"Yeah, but it was real damned clear that he was gonna do that to protect *Bruce*, yeah?"

*Tim's* frowning -- "There's... hypnosis? We could bring him upstairs to one of the guest bedrooms --"

"Way to make me queasy, little brother. Are you *serious*?"

Tim gets that *dogged* expression. "It would be reasonable. We could make him believe that *Bruce* had saved him, rather than Batman. A blow to the head makes all sorts of things believable."

Dick's expression twists a little, and he turns back to Dent -- who *had* been sleeping like a drugged baby, but now has a little frown on his face just like part of him is aware that he's being braced by four incredibly violent people.

"Tink's idea could work, Big Bird --"

"There's another option," Dick says, and curls his fingers around the gurney's railing, squeezing *hard* --

"Uh. The way you look right now is making me think I'm gonna hate it, Big Bird. Just so you know."

Dick's laugh isn't much, but it's there -- "The League. Specifically, J'onn and Zatanna."

Steph rears back a little. "You're gonna *magic* the knowledge out of his head?"

"Technically, I'm going to have J'onn chase down every pathway in his mind that leads to that knowledge, bind them, and *then* have Zatanna magic them out of his head."

"Is that... ah. Allowed?"

Dick reaches across the bed and ruffles Tim's hair, breaking most of the spikes in one shot. Normally, Tim would be bobbing and weaving a little for that treatment, but right now he's just standing there looking *shocked*. Which --

"It's... uh. The answer to that is 'sort of,' Tink. The League *only* does it when secret identities get compromised."

Steph *steps* back this time. "You've been part of this, Starling?"

"Personally? No. Robin and I convinced everyone not to do it when it was Tink."

And now Tim's looking *green*, and that --

He would, too. "Big Bird... it hasn't been done to any civilians. I mean, that's part of what *kept* them from jumping on our asses when it was Tink."

"*Dent* isn't going to be one of us."

"Wait, guys, just -- fucking *wait*," Steph says, and she doesn't look green so much as horrified. "You've *got* a fucking mind-reader-and-then-some on speed-dial. Why not just have the guy *fix* Dent?"

"Skylark --"

"Don't fucking *Skylark* me, Robin! What even *happens* to the people who get mindwiped? I'm not a fucking genius, but there's no fucking way that's an exact science!"

Which is *why* they didn't have to fight too hard to keep Tink out of the chair or star chamber or whatever the fuck they used --

But Dick is still looking hard. Just -- Jason is supposed to have his back right now -- and *always* -- but Steph has a point.

"It's not... uh. What if he *can* be fixed before he does anything fucked-up, Big Bird? I mean, if it doesn't work --"

"If it doesn't *work*, he could sell Bruce's secret to the highest bidder, and then -- if they're still *here* -- the spotlight gets turned on the people who live in Bruce's *home*, little wing. Unless you wanted to put a tail on him 24/7?"

"Well... ah. We *are* going to be monitoring him the entire time he's here -- we'll even have Super help with that -- and... I think it's worth a try," Tim says, and if his eyes *aren't* a little hollow behind the mask --

"You're all... for this. You..." Dick shakes his head and glares down at Dent again --

Dent's eyes are open, and he looks confused and freaked right the hell out.

As far as Jason's concerned, it's a *good* look on the fucker -- but this isn't *their* Dent. He's not even --

Fucking hell. "What *case* were you working on when your world went to shit, asshole?"

Dent shakes his head and tugs weakly at the restraints before his arms and legs fall back down to the gurney. "Who the fuck are you people? Where's *Bruce*?"

Movement --

And that really was Dick's arm shooting out to *choke* Dent --

"*Robin* --"

"Answer. Starling's. Question," Dick says, and that's the Robin voice that doesn't get trotted out too often. It's hard and cold and more than a little wrong for everything Dick is supposed to be --

Used to be?

"Shit. I was working the Maroni case, and none of you people are getting a word outta me about it," he says, pulling on hard like it's a suit instead of who *he* is --

And Dick blinks. "You... you think we're working for Maroni?"

"You can say what you want -- anyone who'd beat up and drug Batman is no fucking friend of mine."

Dick yanks his hand back and starts to walk away --

He comes back and grabs the back of Jason's neck and starts to drag him along. "I'm comin', Big Bird, one sec," and Jason turns to Steph and Tim. "Don't do *anything*. If he wants to talk, let him, but we're *not* letting him go."

Steph frowns at him -- but Tim gives him the 'noted' nod which means...

Well, shit, he *might* do something insane, but he'll *try* not to.

Dick drags him back over by the supercomputer -- and under the new stone ceiling Clark had *melted* for them --

"Are you sure we gotta stand here?"

"It's not going to fall."

"That's what *you* say --"

"Jason. Clark can see *microscopic* cracks forming."

"Not while he's not *here*, man --"

"Focus," Dick says, quiet and -- not cold. This is Dick talking, and not even a little bit of Robin.

Jason nods. "I'm here, Big Bird."

Dick smiles ruefully. "You always make me think I should have a code-name like Raptor or Harrier or, hell, Nightwing or Flamebird."


"A couple of Kryptonian vigilantes who may or may not have been real. The stories about them are almost certainly exaggerated at least a little, but..." Dick sighs. "I thought about changing my code-name after I came back from my tour around the world. I thought about... I don't know. Getting *hard*. Being more like *Bruce*."

"And then you realized he would've hated that like a flaming bird on his sac?"

Dick snorts. "Got it in one. I didn't manage to stay... to stay the Robin I was for him. Sometimes I regret that."

"Meaning you *really* regret it a *lot* of the time."

"Maybe. I admit... some things. Not everything," and this time when Dick smiles, his eyes crinkle up and the corners of his mouth get deep and *serious* with the happy, and there is no one on this planet hotter than Dick-never-Richard John Grayson.

No one.

And so maybe Jason steps a little closer --

"Ah, God, yes, what am I thinking --" And then Dick wraps most of his body around Jason's own somehow --

Even though Jason has twenty-five pounds on the guy --

"I love you, and I need you to be my brain for a minute, Jaybird."

"Hey, you don't actually call me that --"

"Babs does. And you always get this look on your face like your cock is *beating* at your jock to get free when she does."

*Jason* snorts. "Look, man, you've got a *lot* of damned ways to make me look like that -- *oof* --"

Yeah, tighter hug.

*Better* hug, because Jason can feel his ribs creaking the *right* way --

And Dick pushes back and looks into Jason's eyes just like they've been mask to mask a million fucking times and know each other. "Be my brain."

"I'm not the one who makes the *plans* around here --"

"Jay... I'm compromised."

Jason frowns and flips his lenses up. "The fuck does that mean?"

"I can't look at Dent without wanting to beat him to death for every -- every *goddamned* thing he did that broke Bruce's heart..." Dick shakes his head. "I've told you that he never gave up on the guy."

"Yeah, but... seriously?"

"Every new murder was a *fresh* wound on him, Jay. He did everything he could to save Dent -- even funneled money into Arkham and twisted arms behind the scenes so that they'd hire the best shrinks in the country... Dent killed two of them and crippled the third for life."

"*Fuck*. I mean -- fuck, it's *not* a surprise, but --"

"'But,' yes. So Bruce stopped getting other people involved in his attempts to save the guy --"

"Wait, wait, isn't all this *after* he beat the shit out of you?"

"*While* murdering someone else, yes. I -- I'm compromised, little wing. All I want to do is accidentally drop him in gen-pop at Blackgate during the yard hour -- no, that's a lie. I want to drop him there and watch his last few minutes of existence. Even though the Dent who did all of those fucked-up things -- " Dick sighs and rests his forehead against Jason's own --

"It's okay --"

"It's *not*. You're the one who should be -- Christ, Jay, why *aren't* you ready to hang this guy out to dry?"

Jason thinks of the two neat little bullet holes in the anything *but* neat remains of his useless fucking asshole of a father -- and then he lets the smile that wants to be on his face out. It's small and sickly and weak and a whole lot of other bad shit, but --

"Oh, Jay, *tell* me --"

"You told me once that one of the things you were dead sure about was that Bruce would've thrown this whole life over if he could get his parents back."

"I -- yeah. It was one of the things that frightened me about him, about our life together --"

"Because *you* wouldn't have given up a thing. Heh. I'm with you, Dickie. All the way."

"Oh... Jay. You can't actually -- I mean, it's not like I haven't beaten Tony Zucco to a pulp in my dreams a million times --"

"And I've done the same damned thing to Dent. He still managed to do me a solid, Big Bird."

"Oh -- no, Jay, don't --"

"You're asking *me* about this stuff, right? No one else."

"Yes, but --"

"*But* -- you've set us all up so fuckin' *sweet*, Dick..." Jason shakes his head and gives Dick a hug of his own. "Think about it. We get to make ourselves hardcore and it's never really *work*, because you're right there finding *some* damned way of making *push-ups* fun. We get to go out every night and beat the shit out of criminals, and *that's* fun, because you taught us that it was pretty much *always* fun. We get to wear ridiculous clothes while we *do* it, and make our own fucking vigilante *brand* -- because you did it first. And, to top it *all* off, we never have to worry about killing anyone accidentally *or* on purpose, because you've damned well been there first, *too*. You make it look easy, Big Bird -- but more to the point? You make it look like the best fucking life any kid can have."

"It *is* -- most of the time --"

"Yeah. So how am I gonna *completely* lose my shit about this Dent when a) *he* didn't shoot my piss-stain of an old man, and b) the Dent who *did* it gave me Christmas and birthdays twenty-four-seven while he was at it?"

"What if I didn't *find* you, Jay?"

"Eh. You were all over Crime Alley in those days, Big Bird. Sooner or later? I would've gone for those fucking all-weather radials with the gay-ass rims which were still worth a fortune."

Dick gasps a laugh and beats his head against Jason's shoulder twice. "Okay. Fine. *You* don't want to kill him a lot for existing -- that's *why* I need your brain. Tell me what we need to *do* here, Jay."

Jason blows out a breath. "Fix him. *Somehow*. Sit on him -- maybe hook him up with one of those house arrest ankle bracelets -- *while* we fix him, *and*? Find a way to send his ass home."

Dick's smile curdles, and that's fucking *confusing* -- until it isn't.

"You... you're thinking of keeping this Bruce."

"He won't -- he's *not* --" Dick pushes off and growls, shoving a hand into his hair and pacing away a few steps -- "Fucking hell."

"No, uh. I get it? I think?" Jason makes a little pushing motion --

Dick waves him off. "One thing at a time. Explain to Dent that we know about his mental problems and will be *helping* him -- I'll call in the League."

Are you sure -- no, Dick doesn't need him to ask that question. "Sure thing, Big Bird. Uh... when *is* Clark coming back with Bruce?"

Dick smiles but doesn't turn to face him. "Got some questions for the big man, little wing...?"

"Fucking *yes*. Starting with 'how the fuck do I use my size to beat Dick stupid.'"

*That* gets him a snicker -- "He'll just tell you to push me down a flight of stairs first. A long one. While I'm tied up. And drunk."

"Aw, suck my sac."

Dick blows him a kiss.

Jason gives him the double-bird with his eyebrows up.

"*Clark*... will probably be *right* back just as soon as he talks Bruce into letting the AI experiment on him in ways we're technically not supposed to know about because they *can't* be used on all of humanity, bathes him lovingly, and possibly does other things lovingly," Dick says, and smiles wryly. "Clark? Never got a taste."

"Seriously? Never?" Did Bruce just not *like* adults -- no, no, don't go there --

Dick sighs. "Never. I'm reasonably sure -- no. Bruce was terrified of intimacy. I just tripped him into it by being a boy with a tragedy and too much *lunacy* to sit home and grieve my way through it. I..." Dick shakes his head and points Jason at the gurney before heading for the supercomputer.

Right. He can do this.

When he gets close --

"Jesus, you *kids*. Why the hell are you asking me about *law* school?"

Tim smiles ruefully. "It seemed like a safe topic? Ah, I believe Starling has something more substantive to speak to you about."

"Starling. Starlings are little winged *thugs* --"

"They sure are, Dent, and I am, too," Jason says, moving up to the side of the gurney and considering and rejecting cracking his knuckles. He leans in, instead. "What year is it?"

"What? It's nineteen-eighty-seven --"

"Not quite. See, when that big pocket or whatever swallowed you and Bruce, it didn't just knock you into a new universe, it knocked you into the *future*."

Dent -- laughs. "Okay, kid, that's original, I'll give you that."

Right, fine. Jason sighs and gestures Steph and Tim to flank before opening Dent's restraints --

"What's this about?"

"Take a look around, tough guy. See how much is different from the Cave you left."

*Now* Dent's eyes show a little shadow of fear -- but he gets up and looks around, lingering on the big-ass penny, the bigger-ass dinosaur, that giant fucking cannon they took off Freeze that one time, that dried-up Audrey III they took off Ivy and sealed up so it wouldn't contaminate everything and --

Christ, what if someone shoots out the glass on it? Are those spores still alive?

No, focus, focus, because Dent's mouth is a hard line and he's *starting* to clench his fists -- "I don't buy it."

"No, you don't *wanna* buy it. That's something different. But, well, you don't have to believe me -- whether or not you do won't change a goddamned thing about what's gonna happen with your ass -- so just sit back and listen," Jason says, and points to the gurney.

Dent glares at him hard -- and takes him in enough to know that he doesn't stand a chance in a fair fight.

And that Jason doesn't *fight* fair when he doesn't have to.

Dent sits and raises his eyebrows.

"That's fine for now. Here's the deal -- when the Bruce who lived in *this* universe turned twenty-nine, he took in a kid whose parents had been murdered in front of him --"

"Fuck --"

"Yeah. That kid is the guy who wants to choke you, because, among other things, the Dent from *this* universe killed a whole bunch of people. Excuse me -- he flipped a *coin*, and if it came up 'bad' heads? *Then* he'd kill them. To date, *our* Dent has been directly responsible for over eighty murders and *indirectly* responsible for hundreds more --"

"What -- what the fuck do you mean 'to *date*?' Why isn't he on death row?"

"Ah, Dent -- you don't even know how many times I've asked that question. But the courts rule him legally insane *every* time and put him in Arkham, and he damned well finds ways to get out. *We* have some cameras in his cell now. We checked on him earlier. He's sitting up against the wall drooling because the *latest* shrink says it's schizoaffective disorder and anti-psychotics will make him all better."

And that... is a haunted look. A *real* scared look --

"Yeah, you're hearing me now, aren't you?"

Dent swallows. "This -- this business that it's the future --"

"It is," Tim says. "You were still the D.A. when I was born, but, by the time I... became aware of Gotham's vigilantes, you were calling yourself Two-Face and making life difficult for them."

"Two--" Dent frowns hard, reaching for something under his shirt. It doesn't matter that they'd frisked him thoroughly before tying him up -- they *all* tense up for it --

And Dent pulls out a funky little yin-yang pendant on a chain.

"Didn't know D.A.'s were allowed to go around pimping," Jason says, and crosses his arms over his chest -- no, he's gotta stay loose just in *case* --

"Bruce... gave this to me. When we were sixteen," Dent says, and it sounds like he's reminiscing and it sounds like he wants to run somewhere dark and *cry*.

Jason takes a closer look -- the black side is scarred right the hell up. "You did that."

"I don't... remember. But yeah," and Dent swallows hard and closes his fist around the pendant. "What -- I killed him here, didn't I? I killed my... my friend..." Dent starts to hunch *in* on himself --

What the -- no, it's -- it's logical *enough* for him to come to that conclusion, but --

"You never managed it. You *tried* more than just about anyone else --"

"I didn't know. I didn't know he was Batman until I went to go *get* him when all those fucking anomalies were popping off. The clock was open and there was no one there but Alfred, and I couldn't get him to come with me, couldn't keep him safe --" Another swallow. "I waited for Bruce to come back so I could talk, just so I could *talk*, but there was a gun in my hand --

"I'd brought the gun for all the *monsters* out there. These -- huge fucking things breathing fire and knocking down skyscrapers like dominoes --" He's rocking back and forth now --

Tim and Steph both have their hands on batarangs and that's good, that's *right* --

"What happened with the gun? What -- tell us what happened, Harvey," and Jason thinks he might choke on that fucking name, but --

"I... I'd passed out for a while. Right on -- right on the gurney, actually," and Harvey's laugh is sick and fucking *old* --

"Go on."

"When I woke up, all I could think about was the lies. Your momma ran off with a salesman, Harvey. I'm gonna quit drinking tomorrow, Harvey. I signed those papers you needed and mailed them right off, Harvey. Nothing will ever take me away from you, Harvey. I'll always love you, Harvey... all the lies and all the liars and Bruce had been one of them all along, hadn't he? He didn't tell me what he was doing when he traveled the world and he let me -- let me make a fool outta myself all those nights on Central..." Dent frowns --

Dent balls his hands into fists and then relaxes them -- 

"But that's not true. He never made me a fool. Never -- he was always the smartest outta all of us. Always -- " Dent bites his lip. "I shouldn't have pointed that gun at him. Not my best friend. My only friend 'til Gilda came along. He was -- I know he thought he was doin' the right thing, keeping things above board, keeping *me* clean like I always told him I had to be --" And Dent covers his face with his hands.

He doesn't sob and his breathing doesn't get any worse... but.

And Tim and Steph are looking at Jason fucking *expectantly*, like it matters that *now* the guy knows it was wrong to *aim a deadly weapon* at a guy who kept a fucking *secret* --

Fucking right. "We're gonna help you, Dent."

"I'll help *myself*!"

"No fucking way -- you *don't* get a choice unless an anomaly pops off and yanks you through it before we *can* get you help."

Dent snarls at him -- "You want to take my *memories*!"

"Are you sure you still want the ones of your old man fucking with you? I mean, I know how *nice* it can be to get rid of that kind of pressure -- since the you from this universe killed *my* father."

"*No* -- oh -- oh, fuck, no -- "

"And you -- Jesus. Bruce bent over *backwards* to get your ass help, and he did it as Batman *and* as Bruce Wayne. He did it even though you almost beat his *partner* to death!"

That makes Dent *flinch*, but -- shit, that's not a fucking victory. That --

He's supposed to do *better* than this. Dick *needs* him -- and he can cope. He *will* cope. "We're gonna try this *without* taking your memories. One of our allies can step *into* your mind and he has, in the past, *taught* people how to fight off their bad memories. Hell, he's *helped* them fight the memories off. And if *that* doesn't work? We've got a sorceress on call."

"Sorceress -- is this -- did the Justice Society get new members or something?" And he's back to sounding confused and interested --

Jason hates that it *does* feel like an improvement -- but it does. "Yeah, the JSA has new members. But these guys are on the Justice *League*. Bruce helped form it a few years before Joker offed him."

"The *Joker* did it?"

"He's a lot more dangerous than he looks, Dent, so remember that for when you *do* get back to your universe --"

"He looks like a circus freak --"

"Funny how that works," Dick says, coming out of *nowhere* again --

Jason manages not to jump *too* much --

"*Do* you want to see what you end up looking like here? You should keep in mind that the wounds are self-inflicted. The *original* wounds are from a Maroni capo throwing acid in your face at the trial, but one of the things Bruce tried to help bring you back from where you'd gotten to was funneling money to some cut-out of a charity to get you plastic surgery. It worked for just long enough to give Bruce and Gilda hope... and then you let them down. Again."

Dent squeezes his eyes shut -- but only for a moment. "I -- I want to see the whole file on the... me from this universe. I'm not gonna fight you people -- I know you'd fucking love any excuse to destroy me, and I can't even blame you for that. I just wanna know. And maybe... maybe be forewarned."

Movement -- it's Steph, crossing her arms under her tits and frowning. This *isn't* sitting completely right with her, and, fuck, *he* can't blame *her*. It's playing judge, jury, and *shrink* instead of executioner, and maybe that doesn't make anything any better. They'll talk. They just --

They'll talk.

Dick nods. "I'll show you."

"Thank you. I..." Dent smiles ruefully. "You took care of Bruce? Watched his back?"

"Not enough," Dick says, and walks away *again* --

Jason gestures Tim to follow Dick. "I need to put you back --"

"In the cuffs, yeah, I hear you. Any chance of you letting me go take a piss before I have to do it in one of those damned hospital containers?"

Jason blinks. "You were hospitalized?"

Dent smiles a little wider and lifts up his button-down, turning to show off an obvious bullet scar that --

"You totally don't have a spleen anymore, do you?"

"Nope. Most death threats are just hot air, but the Flannery brothers' mother was the real deal. Put a thirty-two right through me for putting her asshole sons away," Dent says, and sounds just as proud of it as Jason is of his own better scars. That's bad enough. What's worse --

"That -- that didn't happen here. Mama Flannery just tried and failed to gut you like a fish."

Dent shrugs -- but his eyes are saying that he's thinking about it. That maybe what happened here doesn't *have* to happen to him, that maybe he's saner than he thinks he is --

So Jason pulls the coin out of his pocket and holds it up to the light, spinning it over his knuckles so it'll *catch* the light --

Dent shudders. "I heard you, kid. Loud and clear."

Jason nods and puts the coin away, and then gestures Steph to help him flank while he leads Dent to the bathroom.


The Fortress provides a bathroom which manages to look luxurious, utterly sterile, and completely unlike anything which should exist there. Bruce had only been in his Clark's Fortress once, but the AI's personality -- and pride -- were memorably alien.

*This* bathroom is made to a human standard, and, as such, Bruce can't help feeling suspicious. Although it's possible that it's simply... hmm.


Clark appears outside the broad, deep tub immediately. "Did you require assistance?"

"Is that... hope in your voice?"

"Ah... well. Probably," Clark says, and reaches out to not *quite* touch the odd -- yet firm and comfortable -- 'cast' on Bruce's arm. It will be there for another hour, at which point the nanites will have almost certainly completed their work. And --

That's not the point, right now. "Clark, were you watching me bathe?"

"No, actually. I was inputting some data about you into the AI's memory, and arguing with it about what was to be done with you. I've thus far talked it out of imprisoning you in an education module."

Yes, that does sound like the AI. "Thank you. I suppose... the AI is monitoring me?"

"Oh, quite closely."

Bruce nods thoughtfully and lathers the soap once more. The cast allows impressive freedom of movement in his hand and fingers and --

He's not sure he's ever had the sensation of feeling watched by a computer before.

Perhaps it's a question of sentience --


Bruce blinks once. "I'm sorry; I was woolgathering."

"I would love to hear your thoughts," Clark says, and the sincerity is palpable, warm --

Bruce turns to face Clark more fully --

And Clark looks Bruce over slowly enough that Bruce can't miss it, can't mistake it for anything *else* --

"The Clark from my universe was never so... direct."

"Had the two of you ever made love?"

Bruce doesn't blush -- "No."

"Perhaps... perhaps he will change tacks with you before it's too late," Clark says, moving closer without touching -- "I smell desire on you, Bruce. I would know it."

*Desire* -- "I -- I have no objection to your desires, Clark --"

"Just to me?"

Seduction. He'd prepared himself for such things when he was starting out as the Batman. A certain amount of attraction from erstwhile victims was to be expected, and certainly there were always 'groupies.' Absenting himself at speed from the scenes of the crimes he'd stopped was an excellent way to handle both groups of people --

He hadn't counted on the attraction of allies. Of people who fought the same war he did --

At first, he didn't think of it as *being* the same war. Clark was too bright -- and Superman was even brighter. Superman lives and works in a daylight world, and that world knows his face and wears his colors.

Clark --

Clark sighs. "I'm sorry, Bruce. I'm being... hmm. You always did call me precipitous."

Bruce walks into the hot water -- how is it *heated* down here? -- to cover his flush as best he can. The water is *enough* of an excuse --

He's only somewhat hard --

*Clark* --

"I've... offended --"

"No. No, Clark," Bruce says, and forces himself to meet the man's eyes -- he is a man, and so is Bruce, and the world, he has learned, is full of such things --

It's not so *strange* --

"I'm sorry. I'm having... rather a lot of difficulty focusing on any one thing."

Clark narrows his eyes slightly -- but it's the truth.

A piece of the truth. *Only* a piece, and doesn't Clark deserve much more? Doesn't he -- "You and your Bruce..."

"Yes, Bruce?"

"He... must have cared for you a great deal," Bruce tries, and soaps himself for a third time. How long *had* he been wearing the suit?

Clark smiles wryly. "He found ways to express just that -- at very odd, rare, and random times."

Bruce winces. "He... he was almost certainly afraid."

Clark blinks once. "Afraid?"

Bruce smiles and closes his eyes for a moment, continuing to scrub off the grime of the work, the most *extreme* version of the work --

"Please, tell me?"

"Yes. He... I have always been sure that the war I fought would be solitary. I never imagined allies, and I certainly never imagined anything like a family."

"There's a difference between a failure of imagination and fear, Bruce --"

"Of course. But one can very easily lead to the other. Have you never found yourself in a situation which proved that what you had come to understand about the world was a lie? A foolish one, even."

"Well... one particular memory comes to mind for that," Clark says, and raises an eyebrow. The light in his eyes is bright, so bright --

And the edges of his irises are faintly purple. Bruce controls his breathing as well as he can. "Please, tell me."

"The first thing I noticed was the sound of male screams -- several different men, all obviously frightened. *Some* of them were also deeply pained, and so I flew as quickly as I could -- and nearly caused the death of a man who had been tossed bodily *through* a plate glass window."


"Hmm. I see our first meeting was the same in your universe as it was in this one. You were nothing I'd ever seen, Bruce. You were actively *terrifying*."

Bruce smiles helplessly. "I forced myself to focus on the rush of violence, the joys of it -- something I almost never allowed myself to do. It was necessary in order to keep my fear from growing too great."

"Fear of *me*, Bruce?"

"Yes," and Bruce lets his smile become much sharper. "At the time, all I knew of you was what had been printed in breathless prose in the Metropolis tabloids and dailies. You'd allowed Lois Lane to dub you Superman --"

"To be fair, Bruce, there aren't very many things I *wouldn't* allow her to do to me. In fact, I can't think of any."

Bruce hums. "A truly beautiful woman."

"And a wonderful wife," Clark says, and holds up his left hand to show the ring which hadn't been there before. "Superman isn't allowed to wear it -- even among friends -- but... we have this time."

Bruce can do nothing to hold back his smile. "Did your Bruce live long enough to see that?"

"Ah... I'm afraid not. I allowed fear and habit to hold me back from her for far too long. And then there was the Doomsday business -- I was beaten so badly that I had to *hibernate* --"

"An ability my Clark hasn't seen fit to share," Bruce says, and raises his eyebrow.

"Chances are, he doesn't know he *has* it. Though... if your Clark ever seems to die, make sure you leave him exposed to sunlight. He'll come back much faster."

His Clark... how will he find the man? What can be done?

What *is* being done on the earth he'd left?

Bruce frowns and scrubs at himself faster. He has to --


"When I fell into this universe, the earth I was born on was in the process of being *consumed*, Clark. I have to find a way --"

"The most brilliant minds in the world -- who aren't actively evil -- are focused on this problem."

"I have to help --"

"Forgive me, Bruce, but how *much* theoretical physics do you know?"

Well -- but. "A properly-focused mind can learn anything," Bruce says, and steps out of the shower --

And into a perfectly white bath sheet held by Clark.


"Yes, Bruce?"

"Did you intend to dry me?"

"I -- intent is such a slippery thing. Much like you right now --"


And he's expecting a smile -- or even a laugh -- for his prudish tone, but what he gets is a shiver --


"You used that tone with me so *often* -- he did, I mean." Clark shakes his head and smiles ruefully. "When I *did* eventually discover that my Bruce was only three years older than me, I was shocked -- and determined to do a better job of standing up for myself against him."

"Did it work?"

"Oh... no. Not even a little bit," Clark says, and there's the smile, though it's more rueful than anything else as he pats Bruce with the bath sheet. "Excuse me --"

And Bruce is dry everywhere and faintly... not chafed. Sensitized. And Clark has the bath sheet pressed to his face. "Clark..."

"You say my name so many ways --" Clark shakes his head. "I'm used to such things being parceled out over weeks. Months. *Years* --"

"He was a fool --"

"Not. Not all the time. Please, come with me."

"Lead the way."

Clark does, and, as ever, there's something decidedly strange about following a man in tights, boots, and a cape around if all one is doing is walking not especially fast indoors.

In a *home*, even, and --

Perhaps it's Alfred's influence? The man had threatened to start taking season-long vacations the *one* time Bruce had worn the uniform in the manor proper, and, in truth, Bruce couldn't blame him for that.

Clark leads him to a room which seems more like a curious museum than anything else. There are uniforms that Bruce doesn't recognize, uniforms designed for both male and female forms --

"A museum to the fallen, Clark?"

Clark smiles again. "Each hero has his or her own memorial closer to where they'd lived and worked, of course, but... the nature of my powers is such that I am capable of visiting with nearly anyone I choose... and I always choose to know heroes," and Clark pauses by a flat case with --

"Dinah. She -- her uniform was always so --"

"Her uniform was her self-expression, Bruce. And it wasn't the work which took her from us."

Bruce frowns and strokes the air in front of the case, noting the old-fashioned seamed stockings she honestly tried to keep intact, the boning in the corset which had done nothing good for her lung capacity --"How, Clark?"

"Cancer," Clark says, and presses a button which opens the case --

And the air is immediately scented with her 'perfume' -- the many scents which had made up her flower shop. Another tell to her identity --

No. All he's doing is coming up with things to think which won't let him grieve properly.

Bruce breathes deep and remembers long nights with coffee thermoses and the hot dogs she never allowed her *daughter* to eat --

"Clark, who took care of her daughter?"

Clark hums. "According to the JSA? Dinah the younger, herself. She's Black Canary II, now -- she joined the Justice League when she was seventeen."

"So many *teenagers*. How -- how was this *allowed*?"

Clark closes the case and rubs at his upper lip with his finger, which --

"You're about to say something you find awkwardly amusing."

Clark looks at him from under his lashes, and his eyes have a *dark* heat --

"Clark --"

He blinks it away, leaving blamelessly blue eyes --

"No, not that. I've never wanted to see..." Bruce shakes his head. "It's one of the reasons why I feared you, Clark -- or, rather, the idea of you."

"Because of the relative ease with which I can deceive."

"It's never easy for you --"

"Oh... Bruce. I am not so *good* as all that --"


Clark moves from around the case and cups Bruce's shoulders in his broad, unscarred hands -- "I would seduce you, beloved friend. Needful companion."

Bruce breathes deeply --

Breathes in a riot of flowers and Clark, himself -- and the scent is not so different at this distance. So much ozone --

A part of Bruce only wants to know *where* he'd been flying so recently -- "Clark, I fear the unknown as much as any man, and you've represented that. Your powers, your admitted alien nature, the ease with which you mimicked humanity -- there was no way to know *when* your ship landed here -- everything. You did everything in your power to *make* yourself known to me."

"Did I do so good a job at that in your world, Bruce? You held yourself so much *apart* in those early years --"

"And I remembered everything you said, everything you did, every move you *made* --"

"Bruce..." Clark licks his lips and searches Bruce, takes his own deep breaths and strokes down over Bruce's shoulders --

No, Clark's hands are on Bruce's still-naked chest, and the more-sensitive skin there wants Bruce to know that Clark's hands are much warmer than they should be, much more *smooth* than they should be --

Clark leans in and Bruce prepares himself, holds himself steady, holds himself *clear* --

He must be *strong*, and he knows what that means --

He knows -- he should be doing *something*. He should be objecting --

And the press of Clark's lips against his own is -- different. His lips are more hard than those of the women he's kissed for the sake of his cover, than the women who have kissed *him* for the sake of whatever agenda they meant to push --

The *press* -- and Clark exhales. His breath smells like nothing Bruce can name, beyond being sure that there's something fruit-like about it --

The *press*, and it gets harder, *more*, and Bruce realizes that Clark's mouth isn't as soft as *any* human's must be, and he means to say Clark's name, but instead he makes a rough, low *noise* --

"*Please*," Clark says, and at first it makes no sense, but --

Of course he would want to be kissed back. Of course --

And he doesn't *have* to. Curiosity is a terrible reason to make love. Adrenaline -- or the aftermath of a great deal of it -- is even worse. This is *not* the Clark who took his hand on the roof of the Daily Planet building and pulled him close to keep a photographer from getting anything but the blurriest possible shot of the Batman --

This isn't the Clark who was honestly *aggrieved* when Bruce chose to follow him rather than simply asking his name -- or.

Everything *else* was the same about that meeting --

Bruce pulls back --

Clark groans and moves his hands back to Bruce's shoulders. He *clutches* Bruce's shoulders and pants as if he'd run -- as if he'd flown all the way around the world dozens of times --

"I'm sorry --"

"No, Bruce. I -- I meant to show you --"

"It's only that I wanted to know --"

"I have... one of your *suits*. Your business suits, I mean --"

"Did you -- did you want me -- your Bruce to ask your name?"

Clark frowns in confusion -- and then blinks. "That night. Yes, Bruce. I've wanted every *moment* of your curiosity. I've needed you and dreamed of you. I've mourned you and *hated* Dick for following your wishes and making sure you could never be resurrected by Ra's al Ghul..." Clark smiles again, and it's small, shaky... "I'll tell you anything. I'll tell you *everything*. You need only ask."

You loved me --

You love me still --

"You -- you're *married*, Clark --"

"Is that your only objection?"

He's having a difficult time *remembering* his objections, but -- "It... was one of them. It *is* one of them --"

"I would happily fly you to my Metropolis home. I would..." Clark laughs. "Lois would join us with joy in her heart... as she has joined me with others."

The images --

The *assault* of images --

"She doesn't always join me with my other lovers, but for some... certainly, the two of us have shared Dick many times --" And Clark stops himself for some reason --

No, Bruce was reaching up for Clark's hands, which Clark is using to massage Bruce's shoulders and the sides of his throat. Bruce shakes his head and grips Clark's wrists --

"I don't -- want to let you go. I let you go so many times --"

"And you can... smell my desire for you."

"I can *taste* it, Bruce. I..." Clark looks down between them and laughs breathlessly. "I can see it, as well. Tell me your objections. Tell me *all* of your objections, because I swear to you, Bruce, that I've spent the years since your death hating *both* of us for allowing those objections to stand --"

"Kiss me again. I."


"*Please*," Bruce says, and he doesn't squeeze his eyes shut. He doesn't even close them, and that allows him to watch Clark *almost* close his own eyes, to watch the red glow rise and flare behind his eyelids as he presses --

As he opens Bruce's mouth with his own --

Robin. Clark had shared him with Lois --

That strange and hurting man --

That *beautiful* man, so lithe and quick --

So devoted and *sure* --

Bruce grunts and pulls back --

"*Please*, Bruce --"

"Tell me. Tell me that I didn't begin a sexual relationship with Dick."

Clark pants and it's abruptly hard to look at Clark's eyes -- no, he's blinking many times rapidly. He's seen that. He's *shocked* the man, and that means --

Bruce exhales in relief and leans in to kiss Clark, to taste his mouth, learn the surfaces of his teeth, the *hardness* of his tongue --

Clark whispers something too rapidly for Bruce to be sure what *language* it's in and fills Bruce's mouth with his tongue, *strokes* Bruce's mouth --

The heat of him seems to intensify, seems to make the space they share into something hot and not quite humid *enough* --

Clark groans and cups the back of Bruce's head with one hand and Bruce's left hip with the other --

And then they're in the air and Clark is pulling Bruce close, holding him up --

The thrill is making Bruce's heart pound --

So *many* things are making his heart pound, and no, this is not something he has to do, and perhaps it's not the best idea -- but the soundless sound of him *weaseling*, playing semantics games even within his own mind tells Bruce all he'd needed to know. He'd thought he'd lost Clark forever, and this isn't --

But the memories are the same, the heat is the same as he's always dreamed, always *feared* --

Clark whimpers and pulls back --

"Clark, what is it --"

"I'm sorry," he says, and puts Bruce down near to Dinah's case, before settling himself a full three paces away. And --

"Have I done something wrong?"

"No, I did. I allowed you to believe --" Clark shakes his head. "Bruce, you and Dick were lovers for years. Night after night, day after day -- including the morning of the day you were murdered."

And this time, the images ---

They don't seem so strange. Dick is a beautiful man, but he *is* a man, and --

And he was not when they began making love, because -- "Please. How old was Dick... when your Bruce died." He *can't* ask the other --

And Clark nods as if he'd heard -- of course he had. "He had just turned nineteen earlier in the week. He still... he finds birthdays difficult. Even with Starling and Cardinal."

'Tinkerbell.' Had he seen makeup on the boy's face?

Had Dick learned to abuse --

"Oh, Bruce... I won't say everyone in the community approved, but no one --"

"*Stopped* me? How, Clark? How --"

"No one could ever be around you and Dick without seeing how you loved, how you *needed*," and Clark is pleading with him to understand *this* --

Clark has made love to Dick so many *times* -- and how old was Dick then? How did it *start*?

"Bruce --"

"It... I hurt the men and women who abuse children *badly*, Clark! I've always allowed myself a greater degree of violence --"

"Shall I show you pictures of the two of you together? Video? Dick was never *happier* than when he was with you. Than when he was *touching* you, in whatever small way being in public allowed. When it was only the three of us, he would leap onto your lap -- or mine -- and kiss you soundly --"

"No --"

"In the days when you refused his love, he would come to me with tears in his eyes he couldn't bear to shed --"

"I -- I vowed to never hurt a *child*!"

Clark reaches out with one hand and smiles ruefully. "Let me show you --"

"There's nothing you *can* --"

"Do you fight because of your beliefs? Or because you can understand the part of yourself which could love that way all too well?"

The boys he studied muay Thai with in and around Bangkok.

The boys all over Brazil who'd taught him all he could learn about capoeira and laughed so *musically* at his stiffness --

The boys -- he'd never *touched*, but --

And the girls? The way Dinah's daughter would look at him, always from behind the leg of one of the JSA members -- usually Ted Grant. She had been there to watch Ted teach him how to throw the most devastating punches possible, and afterwards she had sat on Ted's lap and drank iced tea, heedless of the sweat and stink of them both --

Pleased by it?

"Oh, Bruce, I never meant to make you feel this way --"

"No. No. I know," Bruce says, and stares down at his own hands. They are clean and bare of makeup and moisturizer. There are no gauntlets. He is... some variety of himself.

Who he always *should've* been with Clark --

Only Clark?

And heat announces Clark's proximity better than his other senses, his other --

Had he wallowed in Dick's beauty? Had he tasted and touched the way he's wanted to do with Clark nearly since meeting him?

Had he made Dick cry out?

Clark pulls Bruce close, and that makes Bruce aware of how stiff he is. How -- that's dangerous.

Bruce deliberately relaxes himself --

"I wish I could believe that was natural."

Bruce grunts in lieu of coming up with anything reasonable to *say* --

"I was jealous of your love, Bruce."

"Because -- because you desired me."

"And Dick, *always* Dick, but... not that. I believed for many years that I'd never have a relationship as pure and perfect as the one you shared with Dick --"

"You -- that's a *misuse* of that word --"

Clark pulls back enough to stare into Bruce's eyes. "You held each other's hearts with every moment you were together and every moment you were apart. You watched over each other's dreams, and held each other when you had to weep. You opened your heart to Dick's other lovers. You respected each other's wishes. You listened to each other's lessons and concerns... you were *not* each other's worlds, and you were never more open with me and the rest of the League than you were after you'd spent time in Dick's arms."

Bruce frowns. "All of that -- nearly all of that could come with simple *partnership* --"

"Is partnership ever simple?"

"Clark, you -- you have to *see* --"

"No, Bruce, I don't. I only have to love you, and believe in you, and desire you, and need you. And to admire the man who helped teach me what love should be until I was finally brave and wise enough to seek it for myself."

Bruce tries to push away --

"*Please*, Bruce --"

"You -- you've written a *fairy* tale around that -- *relationship* --"

"It even has the -- once obligatory -- gruesome ending," Clark says, and sighs. "If any of us ever believed Dick was in danger, that he was being *damaged* by your love --"

"You weren't there in their *bedroom*, Clark!"

Clark tilts his head to the side and raises an eyebrow, and that --

Bruce rears back. "You watched."

"And listened when I wasn't near enough *to* watch. I..." Clark shakes his head. "I'm ignorant of neither the law nor the truth of intergenerational relationships of that sort in this day and age. At first, I *had* to be sure that Dick *truly* wanted you, and then I had to know that he wasn't being hurt, and then... I simply had to know, and to know myself for someone who would happily make love with either or both of you."

"And you don't find your conclusions self-serving, Clark?"

"I am not perfect -- I save that sort of thing for that Superman creature."

Bruce laughs -- it's more of a cough than anything else.

"Yes, Bruce?"

"The other heroes... did they take partners of their own? *Young* partners."

Clark nods. "Diana -- or had you met her? She's Hippolyta's daughter."

"The woman of clay... no, though I heard that she had joined the battle to save as many lives as possible."

"She's a wonderful woman -- and another who desired you in vain. Her -- occasional -- partner was Donna, who was Wonder Girl and is now Troia. Green Arrow -- Oliver Queen -- took in a young orphan raised on a Navajo reservation and made him his ward and partner not long after Robin's debut on the streets. His name is Roy Harper, and he went by Speedy before he became Arsenal in the wake of your death. The Flash --"

"Jay *Garrick* took in a teenager?"

"Ah... no. Jay is mostly retired now, and passed his mantle to Barry Allen -- a forensic scientist -- who in turn passed it to the nephew of his wife. Both of them have metahuman abilities..." Clark sighs. "Barry passed away not long ago, becoming a part of something... well, none of it is well understood. Wally West -- the nephew -- took his place on the League. Aquaman -- Arthur Curry -- took in an Atlantean orphan --"


"Ah... to make a long story short: Atlantis exists, as do merpeople. They use a mixture and science and magic... anyway. Garth has various water-themed powers and is also something of a sorcerer, which is something I found uncomfortable in one so young, but... well. He's always been a very responsible young man, which makes his current code-name of 'Tempest' rather odd to me. He has a lovely new uniform, though. There are other young men and women in Dick's generation -- and younger, of course -- but those were the five who created the Teen Titans. They lived and worked together, eased the pressures of our lifestyle for each other... well. They're all great heroes, and the world would be much the poorer -- and perhaps decidedly nonexistent -- without them."

"I have no doubt that they perform admirably --"

"No...? Perhaps you simply doubt their ability to make decisions about their own lives?"

It occurs to Bruce that this conversation would be more comfortable were he wearing his uniform and also not being *held* --

And then Bruce remembers how many times he'd hid behind the thing when Clark was only trying --

"I made many of my own decisions when I was... very young."

"A teenager, Bruce...?"

"You *know* I was younger, Clark --"

Clark squeezes Bruce. "I do, I'm sorry. It's only... I've had many years to come to terms with *all* of my feelings about young heroes. The conversations -- and many were heated -- we had about them are all some variety of... ancient history? Not one of us hasn't defended the younger heroes' right to *be* heroes. Not one of us has made it to the ages we *have* without the help of those heroes -- and this has been the case repeatedly for those heroes who had the younger ones as partners. We were stunned when Dick couldn't save you, considering how many of us he had personally rescued."

Bruce closes his eyes. "It must have been terrible for him."

"I believe, very strongly, that it was terrible for you, too, in those last moments. Forced to disappoint your love, to leave him alone..." Clark shakes his head. "You'd planned for your death, of course -- there was even a Batsuit in Dick's size. It's just that there were far more Robin suits, including the first generation of the one he wears today. The will, the trusts, the orders to Lucius Fox to treat Dick as he'd treated you... none of that compared to the faith which must have lived within you -- that you would always be the Batman to his Robin."

Bruce frowns and tries to imagine --

"It's difficult, I know. He was *very* young when the two of you first made love together, and you've had your whole life to turn you away from such desires --"

"I never... I've never spoken to anyone other than Harvey about my sexuality, and even with him... I never admitted my attraction *to* him, or to any other man in anything but the vaguest of terms. I've made a study *of* sexuality -- but more to understand the many strange things I saw or heard or made *use* of while acting as the Batman than to understand *myself*. Clark... I am ignorant," Bruce says, and doesn't try to hide his blush.

Clark reaches out to touch his cheek, and once again doesn't quite do it -- until Bruce leans forward. "It's only -- your heat, so human..." Clark swallows. "Bruce, are you saying you're a virgin?"


"I -- do you think you and Dick gave your virginities to each other?"

Bruce smiles. "I don't know. I can't know."

"Yes, of course, but..." Clark blinks. "I honestly don't know if Dick *would* tell me that --" Clark shakes his head again. "Will you learn with me?"

And Bruce knows his mouth is open --

"Oh -- say yes. Please, say yes. You must know I would never hurt you, or --"

Bruce kisses Clark, feeling heedless, reckless --

Bruce kisses Clark, and the *flood* of feeling --

Everything he'd felt before is back again, and this --

Clark is an *adult*, fully-grown, powerful, independent, *married* --

Bruce groans and lets his mind fill with the few memories he has of Lois Lane and her fox-faced beauty, her long legs and the whisper of silk --

He lets himself picture Clark's broad, golden hand on her thigh, the sight of that hand slipping under Lois' skirt --

*Clark* groans, and Bruce realizes that he'd just been thrusting his tongue into Clark's mouth repeatedly, that he'd gripped Clark's head to hold him *still* --

Bruce pulls back --

"*No*," Clark says, and *licks* Bruce's mouth, his cheek, his *throat* -- "Let me, please *let* me --"

"Clark --"

"Just -- it only has to be *once* --"

"No, please, Clark, don't say that --"

Clark *pants* and cups Bruce's face, kissing Bruce *hard* --

Bruce grunts and finds himself tugging at Clark's thin uniform, at --

Clark's cape falls before Bruce realizes he was trying to undo the thing --

Clark's kiss is a brutal thing, a *sharp* thing -- and then Clark pulls *back*.

"*Clark* --"

"I'm sorry. I'm -- your *mouth*, Bruce --"

"Would you have me fellate you?"

Clark makes a *hurt* noise, deep and animal --

And then the two of them are on a flat, soft surface which feels nothing like a bed, but probably is. Bruce is on his back and Clark is beside him -- no, he's hovering above and *slightly* to the side --

"Let me *taste* you, Bruce --"

"Naked. Please, Clark --"

Clark moans and Bruce can see the Superman uniform fluttering to the floor in his peripheral vision, but mostly he can see *Clark*. The vast, golden expanse of him, muscle and flesh over bone more sturdy than titanium --

The Man of Steel.

Bruce closes his eyes and gives himself *over* to stroking Clark's chest and back, Clark's shoulders and throat, Clark's abdomen --

"Are. Are you learning me, Bruce?"

"Making... memories. Clark, I need you --"

"I *feel* you --"

Bruce growls and flips them --

Clark *allows* it --  "*Anything*, Bruce --"

And he must kiss Clark again, must *taste* until he's convinced that he *does* taste citrus and strange minerals, fruit and salt and sweetness --

Bruce sucks Clark's tongue into his mouth and does his best to *massage* Clark's chest --

Clark *softens* himself --

"*No*," Bruce slurs, and Clark cups Bruce's face again, hardens again, *coaxes* Bruce's tongue back into his mouth --


Bruce *takes* Clark's mouth the way he thinks he wants to be taken, the way --

Oh, but he hasn't yet touched Clark's *penis*. Bruce groans and pulls back, kissing Clark's throat --

Clark *gasps* when Bruce reaches his pulse point, and --

He can't hurt Clark. He can't --

Bruce bites down hard -- and Clark *clutches* Bruce's shoulders and holds on tight, holds him --

"Bruce, *yes*, *yes* --"

Bruce licks him there and thinks of Harvey's throat, of the flavors which *must* be left behind through the oxidation of silver --

Harvey has worn that necklace for eleven *years* --

And if Harvey had ever wanted this from him --

If he'd ever *asked* --

But Bruce is groaning *again*, because Clark has begun to sweat, and the taste --

The slick-hot *feel* --

Bruce licks Clark's throat thoroughly, taking Clark's whispers and moans for his own --

They're becoming more difficult to parse, more *senseless*, by the moment --


Bruce bites the other side of Clark's throat in what he hopes feels like a promise and moves down. There's more sweat between Clark's pectorals --

Clark cups the back of Bruce's head and *pants* --

"I've wanted this," Bruce says, and can't drag his gaze away from Clark's chest --

"It's yours."


"Touch -- oh, please, your wonderful fingers --"

Bruce *pinches* Clark's nipples, tugs a little -- "Like this."

Clark blows out a breath --

And suddenly Bruce is straddling Clark's hips. His fingers are still on Clark's nipples, but -- Bruce meets Clark's gaze and raises an eyebrow.

"I've wanted *this*, Bruce --"

"It's yours," Bruce says, twisting and tugging, pinching and *pulling* --

Clark groans and arches up, tossing his head -- no, Clark is floating, head tilted back --

"Clark, *stay* with me --"

And Clark slams back down to the bed with a hurt sound -- "I'm *here*, Bruce --"

"Yes. Yes, you --" Bruce shakes his head. He hadn't truly meant to *command*, but now that he has --

Now that he has, he can deny neither of them. Bruce goes back to stroking Clark restlessly --

*Firmly* --

And he lets his gaze fall on Clark's groin, on the thick and curling hairs there, on the *vastly* erect penis, less dark with blood than his own, less curved and more *slick* -- it seems as though Clark has been leaking pre-ejaculate for hours, considering the volume --

And he's already cupping Clark's penis, already *gripping* --

"Oh, *Bruce* --"

"I've wanted -- you wear no *armor* here --"

"No. No, I --" Clark groans and arches up again, lifts both of them --


"Do -- oh, please do anything you *wish* -- "

"I have no -- no *skill*, but I wish --"

"*Please* --"

Bruce grunts and nods, stroking Clark with much the same motions he's used on himself when his needs grew too great, when he couldn't stop himself, when he thought of *touch* --

How warm it might be, how *shattering* --

And he's not surprised to find himself moving again, leaning in, breathing deep --

"My friend -- oh, my beautiful *friend* --"

"Tell me... tell me I found ways to let you *in*, Clark --"

"*Yes* -- oh, please, your breath is so *cool* --"

Bruce blows on the tip of Clark's penis, and it twitches so powerfully that Bruce's hand jerks --

"I'm *sorry* --"

"*No*, Clark --"

"I need you, I would have your touch, always, I would live in your -- your --"

The taste is distinct, impossible to imagine as something else --

Or perhaps it's simply that his imagination is failing. For all that Bruce had imagined Clark's penis into his mouth dozens of times, he'd never taken the fantasy very far. To taste, to feel, to *have* --

To be *filled* as he takes more of Clark inside his mouth --

As he feels his lips stretch, his jaw complain --

"*Bruce* --"

Bruce hums --

"*Ah* -- oh, yes, oh -- I wanted this -- I wanted to *do* this --"

Bruce hums and *nods* --

And Clark is definitely saying something, but it's much too fast to translate -- assuming it's even in any language Bruce knows.

Bruce grips Clark more firmly and tries to suck -- surprised and not that it's so challenging to do with this much of Clark in his mouth. On the one hand, it's one of the first motor skills a human develops. On the other hand, making love must always be challenging in some way, mustn't it?

There surely has to be a *price* to pay for pleasure like this, for the *ache* of this which is located nowhere near to his jaw, the ache which is making *him* twitch and thicken, rise *more* --

Clark pushes a hand into Bruce's hair, strokes Bruce's scalp and tugs so *gently* --

So much *control*, even though Clark is spasming with every suckle, arching and dropping whenever Bruce strokes him a certain way --

"*Bruce* --!"

Perhaps he would not be himself if a part of him didn't wish for Clark to have *less* control, for *Clark* to be as inexperienced and ignorant as Bruce is, himself --

Could the other Bruce have kept himself apart from Clark for so long *because* of his virginity? Shame? Fear? No, there's no question -- fear had to have been *some* part of it -- but Clark --

Clark would *brook* no shame, no --

Oh, Clark is stroking the back of Bruce's neck, cupping and squeezing, pressing and *testing* --


Bruce nods and hums --

And Clark *grips* the back of Bruce's neck, holding tightly and firmly even without guiding --

Bruce has perused pornography. He can guess what's desired, but he isn't sure if he *can*. He certainly isn't ready to release the base of Clark's penis, but -- he has to try. He pulls back enough that only the thick, rounded head is in his mouth --

Clark groans and speeds through more speech --

Bruce lowers his head --

Bruce goes down and then back up again --

"*Yes* -- oh, yes, *Bruce* --"

He can do this, and, more importantly, it's *desired*. It --

Had something in Dick's body language told the other Bruce that this was desired?

Had his scent been as young as his body?

The man is lithe *now*. Then, he must've been as slight as Cardinal. As *small*, smooth and sleek --

No. No, not --

Bruce forces his head lower to chase his thoughts away, works his head faster and uses the slickness of Clark's pre-ejaculate to ease the way --

And the image of himself bent over or on his hands and knees *for* Clark isn't new, but it's enough to make him cough for the feel of his own penis twitching, his body trembling --

"Oh, Bruce, you mustn't --"

Bruce suppresses the cough as ruthlessly as he can and hums --

Clark cries out --

And there are other things Bruce can do. Other --

It would be worse than pointless to hold Clark's hip, but he can slip two fingers behind his scrotum --

So slick and hot --

He can *press* --

And Clark cries out rhythmically, shudders and tosses his head --

Spasms *powerfully* --

And then Clark is ejaculating with a series of *sharp* cries, semen splashing the back of Bruce's throat and forcing him away from the urge -- the *need* -- to wallow in just this --

He will not *cough* again, and he'll suck as hard as he can --

"Bruce, I *love* you --"

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut and tries to convince his heart not to seize, not to *ache* --

He must stay in this *position* --

Except that Clark is pulling Bruce away. Could he be too sensitive? Bruce kneels up and licks his lips, feeling their slight numbness and tasting Clark, *feeling* --

And then Clark is kissing him deeply, *wetly*. He seems to almost be searching for the taste of himself in Bruce's mouth --

Searching for the purpose of *obliterating* it -- and Bruce cups Clark's shoulders and pushes him back --

"Oh -- please, Bruce --"

"No, you --" Bruce shakes his head. "I want to keep the taste of you for somewhat longer."

Clark stares at Bruce, lips parted and eyes wide, irises rimmed in red --

Bruce reaches out --

Clark closes his eyes -- no, Clark offers his eyelids, and they seem as though they're as thin as any human's, but they aren't *soft* --

Bruce sighs and leans in to kiss them, to feel the heat of Clark's *power*. It leads inevitably to kissing Clark all over his face, to kissing his lips over and over --

"Bruce, let me -- oh, I don't know what I *want* --"

"I want everything --"

"Then --" Clark exhales shakily and kisses Bruce once more before pulling back. "I have -- there's a certain lubricant which relaxes my internal muscles for a time so that I don't have to concentrate enough to *control* those muscles."

Bruce swallows and thinks --

And then there is no thought, no --

"Give it to me, Clark. Let me --"

"*Yes*, Bruce, it's there --"

And the bowl growing up through the bed has a faintly golden liquid in it --

Bruce reaches for it --

Remembers that he's *supposed* to question, to test, to -- at the very least -- *pause* --

"Oh, Bruce, I've tested it extensively. It works very badly for certain species, and many metahumans can't use it, at all, but --"

"Did you... I... with Dick?"

"And with Cardinal, Roy --" Clark shakes his head. "Many others. I've never wanted to *hurt* someone with my penis, Bruce --"

"No, of course not --" But what if it was desired? He had enjoyed the ache of having Clark in his mouth. Surely having Clark *take* his mouth would be even more pleasurable, more intense --


"I'm... musing on sexualized pain," Bruce says, and slicks his fingers with the lubricant, noting that it's warmer than the air -- though not as warm as Clark --

Clark tilts Bruce's head up so they can face each other -- "Anything, Bruce. At any time. I -- there is nothing I would not give, though I would ask that you not ask me to injure you permanently."

Bruce swallows and pants -- "Clark..."

"Every -- I do not make that promise to everyone, or lightly. I would give you all that I am. I would have you *take* all that I am."

"I want you. I want you inside me, Clark --"


Bruce grunts and *tries* to think, to be more than just his erect and aching *penis* --

Clark sighs and licks his lips, stroking Bruce's wrists, squeezing them. "If it helps... I've longed to have you inside me far more often than the other way around."

That -- Bruce narrows his eyes --

And Clark laughs. "I promise to show you how such a dream could come to pass. Now?"

"What -- I need to give you what you *want*, Clark --"

And then Clark is flat on his back with his legs spread wide.

A part of Bruce is only noting Clark's flexibility and wondering how it could be improved -- and that part of him will clearly try anything to keep Bruce away from pleasure --

(Your path will be a lonely one --)

No, not that, not *now* --


"I am... berating myself for giving in to pleasure. I will not listen to myself, however," Bruce says, and hopes the lie of that is true *enough* --

Clark sits up and kisses him, cupping the back of Bruce's head with one hand and guiding *Bruce's* hand between his legs with the other. Bruce can't stop himself from stroking and caressing Clark's scrotum -- so soft and hard at once --

Bruce squeezes Clark there and shouts at the corners of his mind, fights for more of *this* --

"Bruce -- oh, Bruce, *take* --"

"*Yes*," Bruce says, and shivers for the sound of need in his voice, for the obvious hunger, the loss of *control* --

Clark gasps -- "You desire so *much* --"

"*Yes* --"

"Push *in*, Bruce. Two -- *oh* --"

The *heat* --

The tightness and the heat, the sense -- but how will he be *able* to take Clark? How could anything --

But his body is telling him how wonderful it will feel inside Clark, how the heat and pressure will drive him to heights he has not ever *approached* --

Clark gasps again and Bruce realizes that he's *thrusting* already --

"Clark --"

"Don't -- don't *stop* --"

"You feel --"

"*Perfect*, oh, can you --" And Clark is on his knees, pressed close enough that the reach between his legs isn't difficult --

His scrotum is pressed to Bruce's *wrist*, and Bruce can feel his skin prickling with sweat --

Clark moans and darts in to lick Bruce's throat, the spaces behind Bruce's ears, his throat again --

"Clark --"

"I like --" Clark laughs breathlessly. "I love this. I've wanted -- oh, your fingers are so long, so *powerful* --"

"Your *body* --"

"Opening. Opening to you -- do you *feel*?"

There's slightly more room to move, and that -- "It works that quickly?"

"Yes. I -- faster in me than in -- humans --"

"Tell me -- tell me about --" No, he can't. He *can't* --


Bruce shakes his head and thrusts faster, tries to bury himself in the sensations --

The scents and *flavors* when he licks Clark's throat --

When he *sucks* --

"*Oh* -- I -- Bruce, you -- what *is* it?"

"It isn't -- it's not important --"

"You *want* something of me --"

"Need you. Need -- I've always --" Bruce growls again and bites Clark's throat, holding on against the need to *ask* --

"*Bruce* --"

He pushes *deeper* --

"Ah -- ah -- oh, my *fire*, I would give you -- I *will* give you everything, but you must *tell* me --"

No. No...

"Please don't *hide* from me, Bruce --"

Oh -- but --- and Bruce makes the mistake of looking into Clark's eyes --

The eyes which have *always* seen him, seen *all* of him, and how could that ever be a *mistake*?

"It -- I wanted you to tell me of Dick --"

Clark gasps again and *clenches* around Bruce's fingers, and the fear for that is meaningless against the pleasure, the power --

"I *need* you --"

"Soon -- soon it will be *safe* for you --"

"Yes, yes, I see --"

"He told me you wouldn't take him. He told me that you *wanted* him, that he could feel it, but that you feared his pain and *blood* --"

"No -- oh -- Clark, no --"

"What you *want*, Bruce. *Take* it," and Clark is almost glaring at him, certainly trying to *will* him to imagine --

Sleek skin, perhaps --

Perhaps hardly scarred at all --

"Clark..." And Bruce knows he sounds helpless, but he needs so much, and Clark is taking his fingers, working his *hips* back --

Clark is taking *him*, and Bruce sees, Bruce *knows* --

"He was so *small*, Bruce, and, though we had made love in other ways many times by then, I was struck anew by his size, his innocence, his unstinting bravery -- and his *need*."

Bruce groans --

Clark licks his lips and nods -- "Give me another finger, Bruce..."

And for a moment, Bruce wonders if Clark's story had simply *skipped* to that point, if this was something the boy --

*Dick* --

But Bruce is aware *enough*, and pulls most of the way out to make room --

"Oh -- oh, *now*, Bruce --"

He pushes in --

Clark cries out and *bucks*, removing any chance for Bruce to enter him slowly -- "*Yes* -- oh, you're *in* me --"

"Not -- not *enough* --"

"You'll fill me," Clark promises as he leans in to kiss Bruce lightly three times, a dozen -- "You'll *take* me."

"Yes --"

"Dick told me stories of how you would take him with your tongue, your fingers -- he showed me the chafing on his thighs from how you would take his thighs again and *again* --"

Bruce *grunts*, shakes his head --

"Don't *stop*, Bruce --"

"No, no, I -- I *can't* --"

"He was so beautiful. So *hungry*. He begged me to take him and so *prove* to Bruce that it could be *done* --"

"I wanted -- I would want to *protect* --"

"Yes," Clark says, and his voice manages to be soothing despite the breathlessness, the need -- "You never wanted to show him pain, abuse --"

"Never. I --"

"So *beautiful*, Bruce. The blue of his eyes swallowed by dark hunger --"

"They're. His eyes are blue?"

Clark pants. "Yes, so -- and you would try to capture them in your sketches, but you felt that you never had --"

"I --" Bruce shakes his head and grips the back of Clark's neck with his free hand --

"*Anything* --"

"More. *Please* --"

"I could not refuse him, Bruce. I... in truth, I had only been waiting for Bruce to take him first, for them to give *that* to each other, as well."

Bruce groans and thrusts *faster*, harder --

"Oh -- *soon* --"

"*Clark* --"

"I could -- I couldn't stop myself from taking him with *my* tongue again, and his whimpers and cries sounded like *betrayal* --"

"Wallow. I would need to *wallow* --"

"Yes, and *take*, always *take* --"

"I have to *give* --"

"You are. You *did*," Clark says, and kisses Bruce hard *while* riding Bruce's fingers. His moans are words, his wordless *noises* are words, a language Bruce wants --

A language Bruce *must* learn --

And then Clark is on his back again, *away* from Bruce --

"*Please* --"

"*Now*, Bruce, don't *wait* --"

Bruce strokes himself with his slick hand and gasps, *pants* --

The warmth and pleasure of his own *hand* --

But Clark doesn't want him to wait. Clark needs him. Clark --

Bruce groans and shakes his head, guiding himself in --

Bruce *whimpers* for the heat --

"Oh, *yes*, Bruce --"

"Tell me -- *give* me --"

"I used *this* lubricant, and I --oh, Bruce, oh -- not so *slowly* --"

"I need -- I *need* ---"

Clark breathes deeply and nods, pants out his air and arches --

"*Clark* --"

"I didn't make him wait. I -- I gave him two right away, and he was -- Bruce had left him so *tight* -- "

Bruce growls and *thrusts* --

Clark cries out and rips great *hunks* of material out of the bed --

The bed refills the holes immediately -- and the strangeness of that is enough to let him get his hands on Clark's hips, so strong, so *perfect* --

He must distract himself, he must --

Bruce grips Clark's penis and begins to stroke him fast and *hard* --

"Bruce -- *Bruce* --"

"I need -- I want you to have an *orgasm* --"

Clark laughs -- "I *will* --"

"While. While I'm taking --"

Clark groans and opens his eyes wide, showing red that has taken over the *entirety* of his iris --

"*Clark* --"

Clark pants and smiles brightly, happily and hungrily at once -- "He cried *out* --"

"*How* --"

"High, *sharp*. Almost -- almost a *scream*. And I promised -- I'd already promised not to *stop* --"

"Did. Did he *hurt* --"

"*Yes*," Clark says, and it's almost a *hiss* -- "and then he ejaculated while screaming my *name*."

Bruce *needs*, and it feels like instinct or something deeper to push Clark's right leg up to his chest --

To grunt like an *animal* for the shift in angle --

To quiet himself *immediately* so as to better hear Clark's grunts, Clark's moans --

"Oh -- like *this*, Bruce?"

"I don't -- "

"Would you -- would you have me on my hands and knees --"

"Don't *move* --"

"You would not *notice* --"

"Don't *move*," Bruce says, and begins to thrust fast and hard, begins to *squeeze* Clark's penis --

Clark *shouts* and tosses his head -- stops and stares once more. "The hunger you feel --"

"*You* --"

"And Dick --"

"A -- a boy, he's not a boy, he --"

"Shall I tell you of Cardinal? When -- *nnh* -- when he is aroused enough he sounds nearly *feline* in his pleasure --"

Bruce growls and squeezes his eyes shut, shakes his head -- "*Please* --"

"Starling... Starling never truly seemed a boy, at all --"

"*Clark* --"

"Bruce, let *go*..."

And Bruce can't stop himself from *gripping* Clark's penis, the back of his raised thigh --

"Oh -- not --" Clark laughs again, gasps twice and arches -- "Oh, *love*. In the -- I took him *three* times with my penis. I took -- I took him until he lost consciousness, and then I woke him up to take him *again* -- "

Bruce flexes --

Clark clenches --

Bruce *shouts*, and now he can't stop himself from thrusting as quickly as he's stroking. Now he's on his own *edge* --

"*Bruce* -- oh, please, tell me you'll do this *again* --"

"The -- the right *way* --"

"*This*, oh -- oh, *this* --"

"I *need* --"

"My pleasure, my -- oh, you *have* it. You've had it with every touch, every long *enough* look --"

"Clark --"

"I've masturbated myself on your *roof*, Bruce --"

Bruce coughs, shocked enough by the laugh that he can't fully *express* it without jerking, losing his *rhythm* --

Clark shouts and wraps his powerful legs around Bruce's waist -- "I *must* --"

And Clark is pulling him in deeper, somehow, *holding* Bruce in and allowing only a rough, *brutal* grind which is making Bruce lose the ability to see, to breathe, to *think* --

"I -- I flew him home to Bruce with a *large* bottle of the lubricant. I *waited* --"

"Did -- did he --*Clark*, the *feel* of you --"

"You must -- you must not *leave* --"

"Not this place, this moment --"

"Not --" Clark groans and shakes his head. "Bruce didn't *wait*. He threw Dick to the mats, arranged Dick on his hands and knees, and slicked them both. Dick cried his joy, and then he -- oh, he -- cried more as Bruce brought him to two more orgasms before *spending* himself --"

"I want --"

"*Take*. I can't -- not -- much longer --"

"*Come*," Bruce says, and he feels like Harvey, like someone brave --

"*Bruce* --"

"*Do* it --"

And Clark twines his fingers with Bruce's own and guides him to a stroke that strips, that *pulls* --

"I want you in my *mouth* again --"

"*Anything* -- oh -- tell me..."

"What, Clark? Tell *me* --"

Clark gasps a laugh --

Cries out *high* --

And his penis is spasming so vigorously in their hands while he ejaculates that Bruce has to wonder if he'd been controlling it while it was in Bruce's mouth -- no, he had been. He's *careful*, always careful --

Far more careful than any Bruce could be when faced with beauty, acceptance --

Need which is only *human* --

And Bruce can do nothing but *rut* as he brings his slick and dripping hand to his face, as he paints his own mouth --

Clark grunts and clenches again --

Again --

And Bruce realizes that he's doing it rhythmically, that he's being --

All but *milked* --

And the only thing which stops Bruce's groan is running out of air. The only thing which *can* stop his hips --

He *won't* stop --

And it seems as though he's hearing himself roar from a great distance as he jerks and spasms his way through his orgasm, as he spurts and spends --

Clark's eyes are still *glowing* --

Clark's mouth is open and he is -- he *must* be the hungriest man --

So much more than merely a *man* --

Bruce collapses on his hands --

Realizes that the cast had -- somehow -- removed *itself* --

He is in a world of wonders, and this man is -- not only one of them. He's several of them. *Many* of them -- Bruce laughs at himself and meets Clark's eyes --

And Clark is smiling at him, redness banked to a faint purple glow -- hm.

"Are you controlling your arousal?"

"Ah... yes, to a certain extent --"

"Don't. I want more of you."

"Oh --" Clark searches him, bites his lip, reaches out to stroke Bruce's cheek --

"And tell me... tell me what you needed me to *say*, Clark --"

"No. It's nothing you can give."

Bruce frowns. "Clark --"

"It -- you're going to return to your own universe once we find a way to make that happen, and so you cannot give me what I want," Clark says, and strokes Bruce's mouth.

And --"That's what you meant about wanting me not to leave?"

Clark smiles ruefully and nods.

"I --"

"It's all right, Bruce. I am a very, very greedy man."

"I... have my own greed," Bruce says, and feels weak, small, *selfish* --

"Teach me. Teach me how to stop you from thinking, beautiful friend."

Bruce breathes deeply -- "Kiss me again --"



So maybe the Martian Manhunter gives him the willies a little. That -- well, that's gotta be normal.

Right now, he's walking around doing his giant-chitinous-insect-with-fucking-ridiculous-*claws* thing --

Well, all right, he's just *standing* there with five of those claws buried in Dent's *hair*, but that's worse. That's really fucking *worse*, because he doesn't even stand *still* like a human. Humans move, breathe, twitch, scratch --

Manhunter might as well be a *statue* --

<i>I am not a statue, Jason.</i>

*Fuck* --

<i>You are supposed to call me J'onn.</i>

Fuck, fuck, *fuck* --

And Manhunter -- *J'onn* -- is totally laughing his not-really-an-ass off, only without actually *moving* -- So I take it it's break time?

<i>Yes. I have made good progress, I believe. He is fully cognizant of the fact that the voices he hears and impulses he has are a reflection of what he'd seen of his father as filtered through his own far greater intellect.</i>

And *then* J'onn moves his hand and turns to face Jason. Dent is passed *right* the fuck out at the moment, so -- okay.

Are we gonna talk like one of us is a plain old human? Please?

This time, the laugh *starts* in Jason's mind and then migrates out into the real world as J'onn morphs into that humanoid form he likes so much --hunh.

Jason gestures J'onn over to where he's theoretically writing up some kind of damned *report* about why they're suddenly at plus-one Bruce and plus-two Dent -- like he *knows* anything, and he swears Dick makes him do this shit because he *hates* him.

At least Tim can *bullshit* his way through a report --

"Yes, Jason?"

"I gotta question you've probably answered a million times, but uh... humor me?"

J'onn puts one big, green, fingernail-less hand on the back of Jason's chair. "If I can."

"Okay. Okay. You can look like *anything* you want, just about. You've *got* a human identity... out there somewhere and we both know why I'm not being specific, yeah?"

"There is no reason to compromise security further."

"Exactly," Jason says, and spins his chair around to face J'onn, look him over, try to *see* -- no, he still doesn't get it. "*That* form. Why?"

J'onn raises exactly one-half of his brow-ridge. It's not like there's any *hair* there, and -- yeah.

"Seriously. Supes says you told him and Bruce that it was all about making yourself look, like, *harmless*, but -- it doesn't work. It really, *really* doesn't work."

J'onn smiles -- and smiles wider somehow in Jason's *head* --

It feels like it should make him *sneeze* or something --

And then it's milder or quieter or whatever the fuck, because Jason feels normal again --

And J'onn nods. "I did not wish for your species -- and the protectors of your species -- to know the full range of my shape-shifting abilities. Similarly, I have kept the full extent of my mental abilities a secret from all but a select few -- and those people with whom that few wished to share. I am unnerving."

"Well -- yeah, but -- that form isn't *less* unnerving if you know what I'm saying. You look like big gay alien wrestler, and that's coming from someone dressed up like a big gay *bird*, so -- yeah."

The laugh is aloud again -- but it also isn't. This time, J'onn doesn't make him want to sneeze, so that's all right, then. "Your species... humans often wish to believe they know everything about the things which frighten them *without* first knowing everything," and this time he raises his entire brow ridge, which...

"Okay, I'm hearing you. It's not like I *haven't* beaten the shit out of all kinds of people who *thought* they knew everything there was to know about the world without really *trying*, but..." Jason shakes his head. "You've been around for a *while*, J'onn. You were on-planet back when the Justice Society was young the *first* time --"

"Not quite that long --"

"Close *enough*. You're a founding member of the League, now. If you wanna rock the big green insect thing, I think you oughtta do it."

"Do you prefer it, Jason?"

Well... heh. Jason forms an image of himself as a four-year-old holding a canister of green Play-Batter and making a mushy version of the gay-alien-wrestler look.

J'onn hums.

"I mean, sure, the insectile look is fucking creepy, but it also *suits* you. It makes you look like exactly as much of a badass as you are."

J'onn tilts his head to the side. "I cannot speak aloud very well in that form."

Jason frowns. "Wait, I thought you guys couldn't read each other's minds all that well?"

"We could not. We communicated, mostly, in clicks, whistles, rattles, moans, and hums."

"So... maybe you could kick ass at a language like !Xhosa?"

Another laugh. "I do have a better vocabulary in that language than I do in most."

Jason nods thoughtfully. "Okay, I can go with that." And -- "Hey, how long can you hang out tonight? I'm benched to keep an eye on Dent, but we're totally not expecting you to do a marathon session on the guy."

"The inside of his mind is a dark and terrible tangle, though it's a predictable one given the studies I've made of violent human criminals. And I am not yet needed elsewhere, if you would like for me to stay."

Jason grins and points to Dick's chair.

"Most human chairs are not designed for the comfort of Martians in their traditional chosen form, I should say."

"Heh, I hear you, I -- wait. You go poking around in the minds of violent criminals?"

J'onn turns the chair so that they're facing each other and offers an entirely human-style smile. It's rueful as all *hell*, and maybe --

"Uh. Was that an emotion you just didn't have in your society?"

"Much of Mars was uninhabitable -- even for the hardiest species -- by the time I was born, and what was left was quite crowded. There was little room for those who would behave apologetically only after already committing a crime of some sort."

And that absolutely is another way to describe 'ruefulness.' Jason nods and grabs one of the nectarines Alfred had gotten especially for him, since Dick has the dumbass idea that peaches are better and Tim never met a piece of fruit he didn't like better carbonated and filtered with high fructose corn syrup. *Vegetables* he'll eat all day, but -- hunh. "Do you eat human food?"

"I would have starved if I did not, Jason."

"Yeah, no, I know, but as far as I know you could be getting most of your nutrients from pine tree bark --"

"Delicious, but terrible for my... blood pressure."


"An approximation of the condition in question."

"Right, got it. Nectarine?"

"No, thank you. I prefer peaches."

"Aw, man, not you, too! They're just fuzzy little bitterness machines."


"With... uh... cogs?" Jason snorts and pushes a hand back through his hair. "Don't mind me, J'onn. I'm still trying to wrap my head around you going digging in the brains of psychos and fuckwads by *choice*."

"Even though the things I've learned have already been helpful with Harvey Dent?"

"Even *then*. That can't be good for you."

J'onn shifts just his upper body to the insect form and covers Jason's hand with his own -- <i>Consider the people I surround myself with. There is little hardship in burying myself in the troubled and evil when I have people such as you to return to.</i>

Aww -- okay, now I feel guilty for how much time I spend thinking about fucking.

J'onn pats Jason's hand. <i>It is quite remarkable.</i>

Jason snorts and flips J'onn off --

Then he *thinks* about it --

Does J'onn have a *cloaca* of some kind?

The laugh shivers Jason's entire brain and makes him grit his teeth a little --

"So I guess you heard *that*," Jason says, and smiles -- heh -- ruefully.

J'onn morphs back to the Jolly Green Alien form and raises his brow ridge. "While I would be happy to answer your questions about Martian physiology, I am not sure those are the questions you would most like to have answered."

And that... yeah. Jason spins his chair back and forth a little, savors his nectarine *maybe* a bit ostentatiously --

Tim has *also* been known to consume fruit juice if it's dripped -- or poured -- directly on Jason's skin somewhere. It's just that he makes them do it in the damned *shower*, and that's not actually good for Jason's digestion.

As opposed to Jason's other things -- fuck.

"Yes, you are doing it again."

Jason snorts and beats at his forehead a little -- there. "Okay, how 'bout a blanket apology for the past five years and the next ten or so?"

"Were you planning to castrate yourself at age twenty-seven?"

"Uh. No? I'm just -- well -- *Dick* isn't this much of a horndog still, you know?"

"He was not so... focused when he was your age."

Jason -- well, he knows he's making sad-face, but --

J'onn pats him again, and smiles in Jason's head *obnoxiously*.

Jason thinks about flipping him off again --

Jason thinks about whether or not he has a *cloaca* again --

"I --"

"Don't *tell* me! Never, ever tell me," Jason says, and tries a nice, manful glare.

He wonders how Steph likes those. He could find out easily -- it's not like she *wouldn't* just throw a punch if she hated it. And then he can work on her form a little --

Maybe *work* on her *form* --

J'onn clears his throat.

"Aw -- fuck. You don't even have to *do* that!"

"While air is heavily filtered before it enters my lungs, certain particulates can and do still lodge in those filters from time to time, making it immensely difficult to respirate."

... all right, that's just fucking *interesting* --

"Here," J'onn says, making himself translucent until Jason can see -- something --

J'onn lowers his *head* --

And that damned well looks like a fleshy filter. Or maybe some of those things whales have for filtering out krill and stuff.

<i>It is not entirely dissimilar,</i> and J'onn makes himself solid again. "Do you wish to distract yourself from something in particular?"

*Yes*. "Uh... you can't tell?"

"I am not reaching within you to know your thoughts. I am 'picking up' only what you are broadcasting."

Jason opens his mouth -- closes it again.

Tries to broadcast an image of himself doing calculus --

He *likes* calculus --

Mrs. Piazza is always wearing those pinstriped pants that make her ass look fucking *huge* --

J'onn chuckles --

And Jason admits it. "I'm totally avoiding thinking about the potential mass murderer snoozing over there," he says, and finishes off his nectarine before grabbing a wipe for his hands. "I keep going back and forth between wanting to *help* Dick choke him out and wanting to just -- I don't know. Help him. *Fix* him enough that we can send him home or wherever without worrying about the people there who probably don't deserve fucking Two-Face."

"Does anyone deserve Two-Face?"

"*Yes*. Hugo Strange. I've had *fantastic* fantasies about making them take turns fucking each other's brains up before shooting each other full of holes."

J'onn nods slowly, gaze going distant as he listens or reaches or whatever the fuck -- "I am studying Dent's dreams."

"Uh... yeah?"

"He has rather more memories of his mother than he thinks he does," J'onn says, and that --

"That doesn't sound... good."

"His conscious mind believes that she died when he was quite young. His... subconscious believes that his father murdered her. Beneath and beyond that is the truth: she packed a small suitcase, stole the few dollars from his father's wallet, and ran -- leaving Harvey there."

"*Fuck*. He *saw* that?"

"He seems to have watched her walking out the door from the shadows near his own bedroom door. He distinctly remembers her not looking back. One of the questions which has plagued him is the incomplete memory of whether or not her facial bruises had healed enough for it to be 'okay' that she had left the apartment without her 'special' sunglasses."

Jason winces and turns to look at Dent. Just -- he can't fucking *help* looking. What kind of mother --

No, he knows exactly what kind of mother would do that -- one who'd been beaten hard enough *often* enough that she started thinking more like a whipped dog than a woman. One who had exactly *one* light at the end of the tunnel --

And men like Dent's old man never let a chance to threaten death go by. Maybe --

Maybe he'd promised to kill her if she took their son? Maybe he'd promised to kill their *son* if she took him away. Maybe --

Jason squeezes his eyes shut because Dent's still out and it's safe enough to *do* that -- he still opens them after only a few seconds and turns back to J'onn. "Are you gonna give him that memory back?"

"I believe he will regain it on his own. I have..." J'onn steeples his blunted fingers and raises his brow ridge. "May I show you? Not the substance of Dent's memories, but... a representation."

"Uh -- sure?"

And then Jason just *is* in the middle of a huge forest. Like, exactly the middle, because there's no path behind him, no anything.

The clearing he's in is fucking claustrophobia-causing, because the thick and thorny branches are reaching in to grab him from all sides, waving and twisting like something *Ivy* would throw at him --

No, wait, there's a path in front of him. He hadn't noticed because it's even darker than the forest, but it's clear. It's --

It's *not* safe, but the thorns are ripping him to fucking pieces, and he doesn't wanna die. This is gonna kill him, and he doesn't wanna *die*. He walks down the path --

He walks into the black and it's cool, almost silky somehow. It gets wider as he goes, and he can breathe, he can think, he can *do*. All he has to do is stay on the path --

(He's losing his friends.)

The path is his only choice --

(He's losing his wife.)

It's *easier* now, and if he just keeps going he can get it all back, somehow, come back with a flame-thrower and a machete -- no, a chainsaw --

No, a fucking *tank*, yeah, that's right, blow it all outta the water once and for all. All those fucks -- they're all liars and crooks, all out for the main chance --

Even Bruce and Gilda --

He has to get *away* from them, do his own thing, maybe finally make a little fuckin' *money* --

But what's that sound over there? Like -- like sawing and chopping --

No, like a huge fucking light-switch being turned on --

And he can see the woods on either side of the path again, see that they're just trees, see that there *are* spaces around them, ways to get through --

And the path is still black. It --

Jason gasps and shudders. "Holy -- I was *him*!"

"Not... entirely."

"Uh. Okay? Please don't do that again?"

J'onn nods. "All right."

Jason laughs a little breathlessly and shakes himself like a dog. "Okay, so what you're saying is that he only saw one way away from everything fucking him up?"

"Not quite. It was more a matter of him having been blinded by his dread of his worst memories. He thought he was seeing clearly, that it was obvious to anyone that he was... beset by enemies? I believe that is the proper phrase."

Jason frowns a little. "I think I'm hearing you. It basically felt like anyone who asked him what was wrong was really... uh... poking him with sharp sticks."

"It does... feel very similar to what I have read of 'sports' such as bear-baiting."

"Eugh -- okay, so I sound like Skylark." Jason snorts. "Fuck *me*, I don't wanna sympathize with him."

"Even though he has not committed any crimes?"

"He pulled a fucking gun on Bruce -- shit, J'onn, it's just that I can *understand* that kind of thinking. One minute you're yourself and you've got friends and you like the world and most of the people in it, the next minute you're starving to death and fighting for your life -- and more -- every fucking night and it seems like the people who ask if you need any help just wanna... I don't know, shove you in a little box and forget you."

J'onn blinks slowly. "Are you speaking of the child welfare system?"

"Uh. Kinda? My life on the street, too," Jason says, standing up just to stretch his legs a little --

And maybe to pace --

And maybe to throw himself into a kata, because he's *not* suited up in any way save for wearing his mask and he's damned well in the Cave and he's damned well going to *move*.


Harvey fucking --

And a whole lot of people had grown up the way he had *without* murdering a fuck-ton of people, so --

So maybe most of those people had grown up to do other fucked-up things -- or just to *be* other fucked-up things to their own families. At least Two-Face had never targeted Gilda. That's --

That's fucking weak for a mitigating fucking circumstance.

That's --

"Jason. You need not sympathize with him."

"Heh. Is that what I'm trying to do, J'onn?" Jason steps out of the kata and smiles at him, thinks about what he would look like with hair --

And then J'onn grows hair. Specifically, John *Jones'* hair.

"You look like a backwards *carrot*. And yes, there are totally yellow carrots --"

And then J'onn *is* a yellow carrot -- just with arms and legs.

Jason snorts. "I think I had this nightmare when I was four, man."

The carrot grows a face right about where J'onn's should be -- "Have I successfully distracted you?"

Jason licks his lips and raises his eyebrows. "I'm definitely not thinking of either sex or Dent, so -- oh, damn."

Just --

He *had* to say that out loud, didn't he? Now he's thinking of sucking face with *Two*-Face, and hey, maybe they could talk shit about *each other's* childhoods --

And there's a clawed hand on top of his head. J'onn's got a little less than a foot on him, and it's exactly like having his head palmed like a basketball. By a great, big not-insect.


"I could remove those thoughts from your mind. They are not as fully-formed as they could be."

Which -- okay, that would be *nice*, but -- "Doesn't that mean that they'll hit me just as hard when I have those thoughts again?"


"Then no, thanks," Jason says and reaches up to grip the surprisingly slim wrist --

Because all the not-really-bone is on the *outside*, right --

Jason steps back and moves his grip to J'onn's hand --

"You may ask for this at any time, Jason. I do not wish my friends to suffer."

Jason grins. "Thanks. You make me wish I could offer you something."

"You have offered me companionship. More, you have offered me the pleasure of your surface thoughts."

"Heh, well, not like I'm any good at hiding those."

"On the contrary; whenever you are on the Watchtower, your thoughts are often... streamlined. You do not broadcast there, save when you are willing a member of the League to think more rapidly."

Jason blinks. "Seriously?"

"Yes," J'onn says, and softens his hand until it feels -- no, it doesn't feel human, at all. It feels warm though, and malleable enough to shape itself *around* Jason's hand. "I enjoy coming here. Your entire family is far more relaxed here, more... open and welcoming."

"Yeah, well, Robin wouldn't have it any other way, you know?"

"And you have no influence of your own?"

"If I had any *influence*, I'd be out there with Robin, Tink, and Lark breaking heads -- except that I don't actually wanna fight for fighting's sake. I know what you mean, J'onn, I just... isn't it the same with the other vigis?"

"To a certain extent. There is more of a difference with your family, however. You generally have far more emotional armor to set aside, and so being here is... striking. Stimulating."

Jason turns and looks at the big, portrait-sized photo of Batman and Robin from back in the day. Dick is grinning like someone just explained to him that every day from now on would be all ice cream, ass sex, and beating up criminals. *Bruce* looks exactly like he's holding his face still against anything *like* a smile, and that the effort is the best pain he's ever felt. There's a single red rose that gets replaced every few days and a box full of Kory's memory-sticks.

If you're Tamaranian, inhaling the fumes from those things makes you remember just about anything you want to. Jason always winds up thinking about Dick hooking *up* with Kory whenever he burns one, while Tim had told him that he just meditates a little.

He hasn't asked what Dick remembers when he's kneeling at the little shrine. Some things really *are* private -- or maybe it's just that they should be. He doesn't know. What he *does* know...

"Tink and I always try to be at least a little professional around other people. It's not that Dick beats us if we don't or anything, but we figure... he has enough voices in his head questioning him about whether he's doing things the right -- read: *Bruce* -- way."

J'onn nods and kind of *grows* up Jason's arm a little until Jason's encased in green to the elbow --


"Is this all right? I wished a greater degree of contact."

*Why*? No, no, go with it --

"I find your company pleasing, Jason."

"Are you... uh... not that I think you... uh." Sex?

<i>Would you like to try it?</i>

Jason licks his lips and pictures --

*Tries* to picture --

If J'onn does it one way, it would be like hooking up with a cartoon character --

J'onn laughs in Jason's mind --

*Or*, the other way -- how? Just -- *how*?

And then there are images of Clark holding what certainly looks like a penis-like thing jutting out from the insect's... groin... maybe. J'onn is pumping his hips and *gripping* Clark's head with his clawed fingers --

And then Clark is jerking like he's been electrocuted by someone with some idea of how much juice it takes to *make* Clark jerk. He's coming hard and -- yeah, Jason's going to stick with hard. Those tights and trunks had to be a *dead* fucking loss, and --

Yeah, he's being hit on. By an alien who's somehow *more* alien than either Kory or Clark, despite the fact that both of *them* are way more freaky than J'onn could ever be.


Jason raises his eyebrows at J'onn.

<i>How would you define 'freaky?'</i>

Oh -- Jesus, don't make me think of answers to that question.

The... J'onn-ness creeping up Jason's arm making it feel warm and loved *ripples* --

"Uh --"

"I believed that you took pleasure from your thoughts about Superman and Starfire," J'onn says, and it's totally a question *inside*, like maybe --

Maybe J'onn would like it better if Jason answered silently --


And that would be... sex?

<i>If you wish it to be.</i>

That's kinda... uh... Jason imagines himself limp-wristed --

J'onn sends him an image of Tink looking *dangerous*, only it's *really* Cardinal. Jason's not sure what the difference is --

<i>It is, in my opinion, simply the difference in how I see him through my eyes versus how you see him through yours,</i> and there's Tink kicking the *shit* out of a bunch of *unfriendly* aliens the last time the League had called for help from *them*.

No wisecracks, no flirty little smiles -- hell, hardly any expression at *all* --

<i>I believe he saves such things for when he is with you or Dick.</i>

When he has backup. Yeah, that makes sense. And --

Jason looks up into J'onn's eyes. Tell me a little more about what you like? How you roll? What it is about *me*, maybe?

<i>You find my desire confusing?</i>

Desire. That. That's just putting it *right* out there, isn't it.

J'onn smiles in his mind, and it's exactly like being in the warmth of his pod, surrounded by friends and loved-ones as the solar flares make every one of the modern conveniences -- and the vast majority of the things they use to do their jobs -- into useless blocks of synthstone --

Whoa, wait --

<i>Was that too much?</i>

Jason blinks up at J'onn and *thinks* about asking him what the *fuck*, but -- he knows. He -- We feel like family, yeah?

<i>You are a family, and yet you always welcome strangers -- once we prove ourselves.</i>

You're totally not a stranger --

<i>But I am... strange. Are you aware that you are reaching for me?</i>

What? His arms are still -- oh. But -- what am I reaching *with*?

<i>It seems to be your own thoughts of family. Of... home. You have desired a woman to be part of your home?</i>

Well -- yeah. Homes *need* women. Not, like, cooking and cleaning and shit -- unless they're into it -- but --- being there. All female-like.

<i>There is... a desire for softness?</i>

And then Jason's thinking -- and almost certainly *beaming* -- about a memory --

The heat being off in their building -- for once *not* because they didn't pay -- and his mother waking him up and bringing him to her big bed, covering them with sheets and blankets and sweatshirts and coats and *curtains* --

And then she'd climbed in, and by then it was a relief, because her skin was cold but *Jason* was sweating --

<i>She sang to you.</i>

*So* badly. So -- Jesus, she couldn't carry a tune in a *suitcase*. And I was old enough to *know* why the songs didn't sound right, so I was kinda squirming and trying not to wince too hard --

And the next thing I knew it was morning and the heat was coming back on *right* before I had to go out in the cold to get to school -- uh. I'm totally not thinking helpful thoughts here, am I?

<i>You are thinking of warmth and family. You are offering me your loved ones. May I?</i> And he's lifting that clawed hand --

The one that *hadn't* stopped being a hand and started being a damned *sleeve* --

And -- well, why the fuck not?

J'onn fills Jason with *gratitude*, with hope and pleasure and something that smells a lot like need --

Not that Jason can smell anything but that wet-rock and carnival midway downwind-from-the-cotton-candy-machine thing that J'onn usually puts out --

And then that hand is in his hair, *gently* scratching his scalp --

His scalp feels warm and *tingly* --

<i>I scratched you enough to help our connection; I will leave none of myself behind,</i> and that's so damned *reassuring* --

He can go with that. He's relaxed. He's happy --

No, he's *excited*, because Ma'ena has summoned him to her tonight. She has not yet come wholly into her time of fullness, and so still has days before she *must* choose a --

<i>'Husband' is close enough.</i>

No, what --

<i>'Mate' is a word used for animals -- for your people and my own.</i>

Okay, okay, *show* me --

And there she is, waiting for J'onn on the --

Stoop --

<i>Yes. In a way.</i>

Except that this stoop *stoops*, and brings Ma'ena down and down to the pedway, and she's gloriously nude, swollen enough at the throat and abdomen that she's split her exoskeleton to expose her deep green flesh. Her scent is --

Hot sand and --

<i>I go to the deserts often.</i>

*Musk* and --

She is ripe. She is *ready*, and that must mean --

He is chosen, he --

She read his terrible poetry and enjoyed his adequate sculpture?

She read the dry petition his aunt had helped him with?

But she is speaking! She is saying... something. Had she called him by mistake? Perhaps he shouldn't stand so --

She shifts, rising up and up on a coil of her tail, folding back her exoskeleton until she is a scaled creature, vast and sleek and *hot* --

And J'onn shifts with her, coiling himself --

Aching and thickening, longing --

His hands are clumsy and needful --

His throat is vibrating with the song he has longed to *sing*, the only song there is, because Ma'ena is wise and fair in her rulings over the criminals and advocates alike, Ma'ena has the longest fingers he's ever seen, Ma'ena's eyes burn like precious red stones --


<i>*Deeper*,</i> and J'onn is up to Jason's shoulder, pulsing and *gripping* --

And deeper is right, because Ma'ena is slamming against him and coiling around like maybe she'll crush the *life* out of him, and he remembers that this form used to only be used for *combat* --

*Mine*, and she is not waiting for the formal call and response, for the *introduction* of mind to mind --

*Mine*, and she shows him herself in several pulsing *knots* as she scented the small gifts in his sculpture, as she *gnawed* on the bit of scale he'd left almost as an afterthought --

*Mine*, and she slams him to the ground, piercing herself on the spines J'onn may have grown in self-defense as much as in arousal --


Oh, Jesus fucking -- she's so *hot* --

<i>*Strong* --</i>

Just like -- just like I like 'em --

She's grinding him into the dust, cracking the surface of the pedway in dozens of places --

The fines will be high --

*MINE*, and she is everything, everything. He had *teased* her with himself, held himself apart when all her other suitors came to her *directly* --

He had been too formal, too *absent*, and now he must *pay*, he will pay anything, everything --

Beautiful Ma'ena, writhing and clutching him, heating him until he must gasp and shout meaningless images into her mind --

*MORE*, and he throws everything he is into her, he makes himself --

He is no one but Ma'ena's, and there will be children --


Jason gasps a laugh --

Jason *groans* as the memory fades, as he remembers that he's *not* a Martian with a half-shattered exoskeleton and... pedway rash?

<i>Because I had courted her in the old style, she felt compelled to *claim* me in the old style -- though technically she should have waited for an audience of our relatives and friends to gather and perhaps fight her for me.</i>

That's -- uh.

<i>The old style was... very, very old. While there were no laws against it, no one in our society had used it without irony for many centuries.</i>

Why did *you*?

<i>I was -- and am -- a history 'geek.'</i>

Jason snorts and reaches out --

He *means* to reach out and clap J'onn on the shoulder, but both of his arms are sleeved-up now, held and *massaged* --

And *that's* when it occurs to Jason that there's nothing touching his cock but his boxer briefs, and that that could -- and probably *should* -- change.

A lot.

Right now.

J'onn sighs and it's like a wind blowing from everywhere at once -- especially *right* up Jason's cut-off sweatpants --

*Fuck* --

And J'onn *locks* Jason's shoulders in place and *grows* over him, on him --

Into him?

<i>Yes,</i> and suddenly it feels like his scalp is *higher* than it was a second ago, like there's something hot and *sweet* slipping around all the little connections and --

*Down* his shorts and in around his *cock* --

So *hot* --

And Ma'ena is dragging him off a case --

And Ma'ena is calling a recess to 'discuss' a *different* case in chambers --

And Ma'ena is singing their daughter to sleep while painting a detailed fantasy of J'onn inviting home his partner, his immediate supervisor, *her* immediate supervisor, and the man who had recently robbed several museums in order for them to *service* her --

Holy --

And he and Ma'ena are shopping for groceries, and J'onn is trying to concentrate on paying the vendor while Ma'ena -- hand hidden by their satchels -- is growing *into* him, penetrating him in a dozen places at once, stroking and *scratching* him --

Jesus Jesus fucking --

She's like *me* --


And the hiss is coiling around his brain, his *mind* --

J'onn is jerking him off and *pumping* Jason's sac --

And Jason throws out an image from the dream he'd had about going down on Diana for about three hours, tongue so far up her box that he can feel her *clench* --

And an image of Dick beating him to the mats and then fucking him *through* them --

<i>Little wing...</i>

Yes please *please* --

But no, the memories, real *memories* --

Here he is swallowing Tim's little cock, still little because he was still *twelve*, but he was damned well training with them, and his parents were still alive and somewhere *else*, and there had been Superman sheets on his big, rich-boy bed, and he'd tried to put a pillow over his own face --

He'd tried to bite his *fist* --

He'd *begged* Jason to let him be quiet, but Jason had needed his noise *just* like he'd needed that cock in his mouth, needed to show it a damned good *time*, make him need it, need him --

And then he was teaching him how to walk in heels and he'd just *kept* falling to his knees --

And the sixth time that happened --

("Fuck my *mouth*, Jay.")

And maybe that's when Tink was born, because after that was the lip gloss -- and the lip gloss on his *cock*.

And the lipstick -- and the lipstick-marks that were perfect around his nipples and *fucked* all over his cock --

And the hip-sway --

The hip-sway that had killed every last fucking *scruple*, because he'd bent Tim over his own computer desk --

He'd ripped Tim's good-boy clothes off --

He'd tongued and fingered that pretty little hole at the same time, doing it until his jaw was complaining and Tim was *shaking* --

Doing it until he'd had to yank on Tim's sac three different *times* --

<i>You made him... beg.</i>

And he's right there listening to it and he's right here *sending* it. Every cracked cry, every hitching sob, every *wail* as he'd waited and waited and *tried* to tell himself he could do something else --

And the *silence* when Jason started pushing in, like maybe Tim didn't want to jinx it, like maybe he was *hurting* --


*Please* --

<i>You... you needed him. You'd denied yourself and him as well --</i>

Please, I tried, he -- so *young* --

<i>And you were not?</i>

Jason laughs and isn't surprised at all that it's not out loud -- I'm not denying anything anymore --

<i>No...</i> And J'onn is smiling and rippling around him and in him -- <i>Open your eyes.</i>

Jason does, and J'onn looks like a rose branch. Just -- spines *everywhere*, and a part -- a very dumb part, but still a part -- is horny enough to wonder what it would *feel* like to hug the man --

<i>Fatal,</i> and there's another smile, another squeeze and *stroke* --

Yeah -- fuck, how 'bout some nice tentacles?

And that sound *was* out loud, but only because there's something slim and sleek and *hot* sliding up inside his *cock* --

*J'onn* --

<i>No pain?</i>

No -- no? Oh -- oh, *please* -- and now he couldn't talk even if he *wanted* to, because there's a tentacle down his throat --

Another one *seeking* at his ass --

In me -- in me -- *in* --

Jason feels his eyes roll back in his head --

Feels his *knees* buckle --

Feels himself getting *lifted*, because J'onn *isn't* as strong as Clark, but that doesn't fucking *say* much --

He throws J'onn his favorite fantasy of Dick, where it's just the two of them on the big bed he'd shared with Bruce, and Tim's on the chair *telling* Dick how to give it to him, because Tim had gotten some *first* --

Tim knows what Jason needs and what Dick can give --

Tim's his baby brother and *loves* him --

And then all the tentacles stiffen at *once* --


J'onn's moan takes *over* Jason's body and most of his mind, J'onn is flooding him with feelings of heat and slick warmth, muscle power and *hunger* --

And Jason realizes that J'onn was feeding him *himself*, and that --

Fuck, he wants to be fucked so *bad* --

The tentacles soften --

No --

<i>Only. Enough to be safe. *Feel*,</i> and J'onn sounds enough like himself that Jason realizes that he'd just *come* --

And then J'onn is fucking *taking* him, jerking him off from the inside and *fucking* Jason's throat and ass, one-two-three, one-two-three --

One-one-one-two-three-three --

And he can't keep track of it, can't do anything but moan and beg for more. He'd never *fantasized* about J'onn, but this is *why* he isn't the smart one. Just --

Holy fucking *hell*, like Dick would say if Roy convinced him to have a beer first --

More and he feels like Ma'ena, feels like he could take everything and *everyone* so long as he had J'onn to take him home afterward and do him *right* --

<i>*Jason* --</i>

Loved you, she loved you --

<i>*Ma'ena* --</i>

Think about her, show --

And Ma'ena is teaching him the women's ways, the tricks well-educated women will use on the men who bore them, like building pockets within themselves which lead nowhere for the spikes --

Ma'ena is making him promise to *never* bore her while he fills all eight of her wombs --

Ma'ena is teaching him the latest musical styles and laughing, always laughing --

Ma'ena is systematically destroying his ability to be anything but her own, now and forever, and he is frightened, but never resentful. He is *uplifted*, and when he comes home early that day they shift so much that they rack up massive bills and must live with a tarp for a roof for months --

Here she is at --

Carnivàle, it's Carnivàle --

<i>Something like.</i>

She wears the fur of a hundred jerr, more covered than ever and more sexually *perfect* --

*Ripe* again, and this time she intended a child --

They'd disrupted the *parade*, encouraging an orgy in the Plaza of the Makers --

He penetrates women, men, neuters --

Her cries lead him from man to man, broken and leaking --

*Bleeding* --

He finds her waiting for him at the center of the Plaza --

He falls on her --

<i>This is how I took her... almost,</i> J'onn says, and the tentacles stiffen up enough to make Jason think of fucking *Clark* --

But Clark had never done him like this. Never --

Jason can't even *tell* how hard it is. It's so much, it's all *over* him, and he's being fucking *drilled* --

It feels like his *hair* is being jerked off --

<i>It is.</i>

Jason *tries* laughing, but it comes out shouted, *screamed* --

He's screaming in his *mind* --

<i>Forgive me. I'd forgotten your prostate gland.</i>

Jason nods --

Jason *thinks* he's nodding --

Jason focuses on screaming and writhing, because that's all he's got *left*. J'onn's so *hard*, so -- so fucking all *through* him --

Never like this. Never --

He remembers that he's not even screaming *aloud* and bites down --

And J'onn does him harder, takes him up --


Ohn --


Fuck, fuck, *fuck* -- of course J'onn knows orders fucking work, of course he'd picked that up --

*Fuck* --

The tentacles are so --

Thick --

White-out and Jason's got nothing. No brain, no eyes, no fucking *soul* --

It's all burning away, all --

Spattering all over the mats --

Slicking up J'onn's tentacles --

More and *more* --

J'onn could do this all *day* --

<i>Yes. With you.</i>

Jason grunts -- and that was out loud. That -- okay, so he's coming back to himself a little. He's twitching and *swaying*, but J'onn's got him and he probably won't fuck Jason to death today.

<i>Maybe next Thursday.</i>

Jason snorts and it fucking *stings* --  because J'onn had *used* his throat --

<i>And your sinuses to a certain extent.</i>

Jason sneezes on cue.


You always this cheerful after doing your impression of an entire porno cast?

J'onn sets Jason down on his feet so they're facing each other again. He's smiling and back in the humanoid form, eyes glowing orange enough to give that Impulse kid a -- heh -- run for his money. The sleeves flow back and off of Jason --

Jason focuses on remaining *upright*, because --

<i>You have my apologies. Dent is regaining consciousness.</i>

So -- but it's not soon, at all, because he'd just gotten laid by the Martian Asshunter.


Heh. And -- "Heh. You wouldn't even have to change your uniform, much," Jason says, and punches J'onn's shoulder lightly. "Maybe just, you know, grow a package."

J'onn hums -- and grows what looks a lot like *Clark's* package after a long sweaty fight with Maxima or one of his other fuck-me enemies.

"See, and now that's not even *intimidating* --"

The package is moving.

Like -- writhing.

Behind the little shorts.

"Uh. Maybe don't show that to Dent," Jason says, keeping his voice low.

"Are you sure...?"

Jason snorts and punches J'onn's shoulder again. "Get back to work, Green Machine. I've got another few pages of report to fake."

"If you wait, I'll have more you can add to it."

"I already have to add what you told me *before*," Jason says, and waves him off. "Some of us are damned fucking inefficient."

"You have... many other fine qualities, Starling."

Meaning Dent's awake for serious?


"Right." Jason heads over to the gurney. "What do you need?"

"I don't suppose you got a bottle of gin in those sweatpants?"

"Alcohol will only make our task harder, Mr. Dent," J'onn says as he phases up out of the stone at Jason's side.

"*Jesus*, that's creepy --" Dent shakes himself like a dog. "Okay. How 'bout some water and a couple of aspirin?"

"Headache or other soreness?"

"I'm stiff, not sore. I -- hey, maybe you'll let me jog to the bathroom next time?"

Jason frowns and checks the restraints reflexively -- "Depends on what Manhunter tells me when he's done with you. I'll be back with your aspirin in a minute."

Once J'onn and Dent are settled in for their session, Jason grabs another nectarine and heads back to the computers. He's *going* to get this report done.

And maybe put some backbrain time into figuring out who *else* had gotten the tentacle treatment from J'onn that he was that cool with it.

But he's not gonna beam porn theories at the guy for the rest of the night or anything like that. He's got at *least* ten minutes before his cock starts talking smack again.


He's wearing a suit with a somewhat broader tie than the ones he'd grown accustomed to, but, other than that, there are few differences. Once the cufflinks are in place and his hair is combed to fall -- rakishly, of course -- over the small scar at his hairline, Bruce feels prepared for one thing only:

A trip into Wayne Enterprises.

Of course, everyone there believes him dead, and that's more than a little problematic --

No, that thought was incorrect. The man who belonged at WE --and in this suit, which is almost certainly five years out of date -- is dead. In *his* universe, much of Wayne tower had fallen over onto the Schiff building, and he can only hope that the upper floors had been evacuated by then.

The bomb shelters in the basement can hold hundreds, thanks to his grandfather's paranoia about 'Reds.' There -- there would surely be *some* survivors --


Bruce frowns and stares at his hands. Cufflinks at his wrists, but -- "I need moisturizer to complete the look."

Clark steps around in front of him and places a small jar in his hands. His eyes are amused, and his expression is wry. "A lack of lotion caused you to begin gritting your teeth while staring hollow-eyed at the wall?"

"Hmm. While that's entirely plausible... no."

Clark smiles and begins rubbing the moisturizer into Bruce's skin. "Tell me?"

"That... is a remarkably decadent sensation."

"You've never had --" Clark shakes his head. "Of course you haven't. I don't suppose I could talk you into a rubdown?"

Bruce smiles --

"Oh -- that expression makes me very happy," Clark says --

Bruce feels a tugging sensation -- Clark is plucking at Bruce's jacket. "Clark."

Clark breathes deep. "Your scent suggests that we haven't yet... ah... exhausted the possibilities?"

"And if I'm needed tonight...?"

"Oh -- of course you'd think of patrolling. I --" Clark laughs and covers his face with his hand.

Bruce frowns. "If I'm not going to be any help with figuring out how to get Harvey and me back to the other universe --"

Clark kisses him, soft and brief. "Amazingly enough, there are uniforms in your size in the Cave. None of the materials have degraded in the cool and mostly dry air of the Cave, and -- you have tricks and traps to learn."

"I added traps to my uniform?"

"All sorts of people did everything in their power to unmask you, Bruce," and Clark cups Bruce's face. His expression is rueful, aged, *distant* --

Has he -- no, ask. "I've upset you?"

"Only by speaking the truth."

"I could... quiet myself?"

Clark smiles more widely and searches him. "You care about my feelings."

"I always have -- since meeting you, I mean. I... I did my best not to show that to my Clark. I assume your Bruce did the same."

"Assiduously. Perfectly. I... he let me in to a certain extent once he took Dick in -- I've always thought he did that in part *because* Superman was so important to Dick -- and he wasn't always cold to me after that by a long road. It's only... well."

"I held you at a distance."

"An arm-clasp, a hand on my shoulder, a level look -- my friend, I am not yet ready to let you go."

"Then don't. You're already flying me back to the Cave --"

"You're asking me to stay with you?"

Bruce feels the blush rising and fights it as best he can --

Clark strokes Bruce's cheek -- freshly depilated with *lasers* --

And then Bruce remembers. He -- "I'm sorry, the Cave is not my home, anymore. It's wrong of me to assume."

Clark breathes deep again, this time parting his lips. "Robin will want you to stay close. He... would also want you supervised."

Bruce steps closer to Clark. "I could do anything without supervision, Clark," he says, trying on some of Brucie's innate flirtatiousness --

And it makes Clark look scandalized for a moment, thrilled for another -- "I will stay with you for as long as --" Clark stops and very obviously *listens* -- and then frowns and wraps Bruce in his cape.

"What --"

"Mudslides. The rainy season is much too early this year in certain parts of southern Asia --"

"The never-ending battle -- but what's this in my *ear*?"

"A Justice League communicator -- oh, dear. I'll be back as soon as I *can*," Clark says, and then Bruce's feet are on the ground, the cape is gone -- and so is Clark.

Bruce looks around -- and is immediately struck by the sight of an obvious non-human digging sharp claws into Starling's *scalp*. Starling doesn't seem to be bleeding or distressed -- if anything, his expression is quietly thoughtful -- and it says something that Clark hadn't even paused for the tableau --

<i>It is a strange thing to see myself a stranger in your eyes, Batman.</i>

A voice in his *mind* -- !

<i>I do not wish to break Starling's concentration by speaking aloud at this time. I am sharing with him news about Dent.</i>

The creature -- the man -- the *alien*?

<i>I am a Martian.</i>

There's no *life* on Mars --

<i>I was kept in stasis for many thousands of years before being brought to this planet, Batman. I am the last of my species.</i>

The idea of that --

Of course, it's too fantastic to be believed, but -- so are many, many other things. Starting -- but not ending -- with the photograph he now knows is part of a shrine to his partnership with a thirteen-year-old boy who had become a man in his care --

His *dubious* care --

<i>I can see that Clark has already discussed the matter with you, but you still hold doubts about your partnership with Robin?</i>

He must come to terms with the fact that he is sharing space with a *telepath* --


Bruce turns to look at the alien directly once more -- and finds carnelian eyes focused on his own. We are... allies?

<i>Yes. I helped to convince you to join the League.</i>

Bruce resists the urge to pull out the communicator Clark had given him -- it's small, but it's weighted with *something* --

Circuitry would be much lighter than this, assuming it could be made to be that small --

<i>Computing is advancing rapidly among your people. I believe you would be surprised by the things this computer, as an example, can do.</i>

I had the best. Surely, it can't -- no, I must remember that many things are possible. I suppose I should be grateful -- in some small way -- that my and Harvey's appearance here was surprising to the rest of you.

<i>We all remain... people,</i> and the alien is smiling -- <i>I am J'onn J'onnz. I have been dubbed 'the Martian Manhunter,' and you most often referred to me as Manhunter.</i>

Bruce nods. Manhunter... that sounds like a formal title.

<i>It was. I was something between a police officer and what you would think of as a bounty hunter. Later, when the White Martians began their genocidal war, I used the skills I had learned to become what most in this nation would call a 'guerilla', often fighting at the side of men, women, and neuters I would have previously helped to imprison.</i>

May I ask what became of your people?

Manhunter -- *J'onn* smiles wryly. <i>War brings plague. For our war, the plague was devastating. Every man, woman, neuter, and child in the cities was infected. Those of us in the deserts lasted longer, and I was chosen to be put into stasis after we finally defeated the White Martians --in case they ever came back. When I was... put to sleep, there were people who believed the plague could be defeated with just a little more work. They were incorrect.</i>

I'm sorry. There's nothing I can say --

J'onn raises the hand he isn't using to... interface with Starling. <i>The Batman from this universe, and I, once spoke of loss extensively. I know that there is much you understand. Unless you did not lose your parents?</i>

*BANG* *BANG* -- Bruce grimaces --

<i>I am sorry --</i>

It's all right, and Bruce raises his own hands --

And Starling is stirring, shaking out his thick hair -- "Fuck *me*, that's some scary-ass shit," he says, and turns to the computer to type.

Had no one ever tried to correct his language?

<i>I believe Starling would have a great deal to say to someone who tried,</i> and J'onn is smiling again.

He is your friend.

<i>And lover, now --</i>

"Okay, wait, are you sure Dent's not awake? My back is crawling something --" Starling spins around to face Bruce -- "Fierce. Uh. Hi?"

"Hello," Bruce says, taking a step closer and wondering if he should try for more --

"Uh -- when did you get back?"

"Approximately ten minutes ago. I believe... Clark meant to stay, but there was an emergency somewhere in south Asia."

Starling nods and bites his lip. He's wearing faded and heavily damaged workout clothing save for his mask, and he is --

There's something about him. He is --

Well, he's J'onn's lover, and that's remarkable --

<i>Thank you,</i> J'onn says, and the deadpan sarcasm is *also* remarkable --

Bruce is not used to digging himself into social holes -- *graves* -- without first opening his *mouth* --

<i>Do you think that is why the Bruce from this universe spoke so little?</i>

"I can't know, but I wouldn't be surprised," Bruce says --

Starling blinks and looks back and forth between him and J'onn -- "What am I missing?"

"I am sorry," J'onn says to Starling. "Batman and I began a conversation while I was still giving you the gist of my session with Dent. I didn't wish to have your concentration interrupted, and so I began the conversation silently."

"Heh." Starling jerks his chin at him. "You kinda had to get used to the telepathy *fast*, yeah?"

His language is --

<i>Perfectly comprehensible, and perfectly himself.</i>

Bruce draws himself back -- I'm sorry.

"Hey, what is it?" Starling stands and moves in front of J'onn --

Moves to *protect* J'onn --

Bruce raises his hands once more. "J'onn was defending you from... the run of my thoughts."

Starling frowns. "You were talking shit about me in your head?"

"Ah... I wasn't expecting your language to be what it is."

Jason snorts and grins -- and the rest of his dental work is so obviously perfect that his one crooked tooth almost seems to be an artistic choice. "Big Bird said you used to give him fucking fits when he cursed. He still almost never does, so... point to the power of your personality?"

"I... suppose?"

"Heh. He *also* said that if you ever met me and Tink that you'd have no fucking clue what to do with us, so... uh. I was kinda prepared?" Starling turns to look up and back at J'onn. "I appreciate you lookin' out for me, Green Machine, but you can just poke him until he says whatever it is out loud. And then *I* can talk to him about it."

J'onn inclines his head. "I will remember that."

"Good deal," Starling says, and moves his head oddly --

No, he would be looking at J'onn from under his lashes if --

Starling touches his mask and the lenses flip up. The angle is all wrong for Bruce to be sure of the color of the boy's eyes, but --

He'd like to know.

<i>Perhaps you will ask him,</i> J'onn says, and cups Starling's faintly-stubbled cheeks. "I will return tomorrow evening, Starling. If there are any difficulties, please summon me sooner. I will be staying in Gotham."

"Seriously? Why don't you just stay here, man? It's not like we *don't* have room. Room on top of room, even."

"Thank you for the offer. However, I wish for my... alter ego to walk the Gotham streets again. I have not done so in over fifteen years."

Starling shakes himself like a dog. "Wow. Fuck, yeah, I keep forgetting you used to live here. Why *did* you move?"

J'onn looks at *him* -- "Gotham gained a different protector... and I was not yet ready to make my presence known."

Starling laughs and turns back to smile at him. "You hear that? You bring down property values and shit. You gotta watch that while you're here."

Oh. He's joking with him --

<i>Attempting to. Help him.</i>

Bruce smiles and inclines his head. "I will endeavor to never play loud music at night or park the cars on the lawn."

"And hookers. You totally gotta chill with the hookers at all hours, man."

Bruce raises an eyebrow. "Perhaps I'll only summon them during business hours from now on."

"Well, that would mean it's time for *me* to get my ass out," Starling says, and *winks* at him --

His eyes are a beautiful Mediterranean blue -- and Bruce is very confused. "I... I'm not sure..."

"You should, perhaps, be more gentle with your houseguests, Starling."

"Aw, look at him. He can take it," and Starling grins at him again. "I'll explain in a minute," and he turns back to J'onn. "*Where* are you gonna be staying?"

"I am not sure. I will call when I know."

Starling's grin slips a little --

But J'onn moves his hands to Starling's shoulders and smiles warmly. "I am not always lonely when I am alone, Starling."

"Heh, okay, I hear you. Not like I haven't been up in your head *all* night. Just, you know, remember that I'm here, yeah?"

"Yes," J'onn says, and cups Starling's head once more --

Starling gasps -- and then smiles slowly and somehow *wetly* -- "Right back at you, Green Machine," and he steps back --

J'onn nods at him -- and then flies up and up --

*Through* the ceiling --

"He does that all the time, don't worry."

Bruce blinks and looks at Starling once more. "I suppose my wonder was obvious."

"And your 'I'm about to freak out any second now' face is pretty cute."

Bruce blinks... more.

"Heh. Seriously, you do this thing where you totally look fucking *dismayed*."

"I might have *been* dismayed, Starling."

"Nah, no way. You're the motherfucking Batman. When you're actually dismayed? You probably just look kinda grimly constipated."

Bruce... coughs. "Ah... Leslie did mention that once."

Starling smiles and shakes his head, moving closer until there's only a pace between them. He's approximately five-feet-ten-inches tall, and he is at least one hundred and eighty pounds, given all his muscle. He's broad and could become broader. He will almost certainly be taller than he is now, but Bruce would have to do detailed measurements to be sure *how* tall --

And Bruce is standing here *examining* the boy -- "I'm sorry. I --"

"Wanted to see if you could see what made me fit for the street, maybe?"

"I... I also wanted to know you more and better than I do."

"You could always ask me questions...?" And Starling is looking up at Bruce through his lashes. The mask casts strange shadows over his eyes, giving them an ominousness -- "Is that too much for you right now?"

"What? No -- I." Bruce smiles ruefully. "I honestly believed that I would never share this space with anyone, that if another hero came to join me here it would be merely temporary --"

"And it definitely wouldn't be a foul-mouthed kid who used to hook?"

"You -- are you all right?"

Starling snickers. "Yeah, I am, big guy --"

"Oh. Harvey calls me that, sometimes."

Starling winces. "Jesus, uh -- I kinda have to take it back, then. I... uh. Anyway. I'll just call you Bruce, and you can keep calling me Starling -- unless you'd prefer I'd call you Batman?"

"Less than two days ago, I believed that I would never see anyone again who *could* know me as Bruce," and Bruce offers another smile and his hand. "Please, call me what you like, assuming that the people who surround us can be allowed to know my name."

Starling cocks his head to the side. "I *could* just call you B. Everybody who's *not* anybody would assume I was abbreviating Batman."

"As you like. Would you... Harvey is asleep?"

"Yeah. Apparently the invasive therapy is pretty exhausting. Why don't you come over to the computers with me and read over my shoulder -- I gotta finish the report."

"If --" No, he wouldn't be able to wait even if Starling *wasn't* sure. He closes his eyes for a moment. "Yes, thank you."

Starling nods and leads them over --

And Bruce learns that Harvey has been hearing a terrible voice giving running commentary -- violent, insulting, and decidedly sociopathic commentary -- on all aspects of his life at all times. He learns that there have been blackouts during which Harvey went out to brutalize criminals on his own.

It doesn't seem to be true Multiple Personality Disorder -- now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder -- as there are many times when the different aspects of Harvey's fractured mind work together, and there is no 'child' alter which is protected by the others. Harvey has been spending his days attempting to ignore the darker parts of his psyche, and his nights being driven by them.

Harvey had begun believing that he was two people in one body, and that it would only be right to allow the other 'person' time to be ascendant. He had also begun thinking of ways to change himself *physically* to better reflect his dual nature, and, while these thoughts and beliefs had not reached his conscious mind, they had already begun digging deep roots into the soil of his *overall* consciousness.

The worst thing by far, however, is the discovery that all of this could've been stopped *years* ago if anyone had ever managed to draw him out about the terrible influence his father had been.

Bruce had barely even *tried*, and he'd known even as a teenager that there was abuse. He'd allowed Harvey to refuse his overtures time and again, and then he'd simply stopped making them --

"Hey, are you okay over there?" And Starling puts a large and well-worked hand on Bruce's shoulder.

"I. I've been a bad friend."

"Hunh? Oh, shit, because you didn't jump down his throat way back when? Seriously, B, how would that have gone?"

"Badly, but --"

"But nothing. *You* aren't a shrink, and you sure as fuck weren't one back when you gave Dent that necklace."

Bruce blinks -- "He showed you...?"

Starling's smile is troubled. "Yeah, he did. And he made it pretty clear that you two had a little... thing going. Yeah?"

Bruce draws back --

"Okay, no, you *don't* have to tell me --"

"It's only... I tried to never touch him... that way."

"Uh. Did that work?"

Bruce smiles ruefully and looks at his hands. "I never molested him, but I know that he knew I desired him greatly. I was never able to keep the truth from my eyes."

Starling bites his lip and nods thoughtfully. "I'm -- trying real damned hard to separate the Dent *I* know from the one *you* know. I mean -- I know your guy still wants to team up with Batman and Gordon to put the bad guys away, and he sure as fuck tried to protect you from us last night, but..."

"Your... Dent has done too much. I understand --" Bruce laughs at himself and knows it sounds terrible, but -- "No, I don't understand. I don't know if I'd understand even if you showed me your doubtlessly comprehensive files --"

"Heh, well. We showed them to *Dent*, already."

Bruce winces. "I... he took that hard."

"It got him to sign up for the hardcore emergency therapy real quick, which, well... that *helps*. If we could've done this with *our* Dent, a whole lot of dead people might still be walking around right now, and several demolished sections of the city would still be whole -- and Robin wouldn't be breaking his heart over all the times Dent broke *your* heart. Well, our Bruce's. You know what I'm saying."

"I do. I... he was my first friend, Starling. My only friend for a very long time. I could have made other friends -- certainly the Clark from my universe tried very hard to make that happen -- but Harvey never made me try, at all. He sought me out, and spoke to me, and did his level best to pull me out of my sulks and glooms -- and his best was very good. He carved me gifts with his own hands, introduced me to foods and music from other ethnic traditions, played childish games with me, shared his *life* with me..." Bruce shakes his head. "I don't know why I'm saying all this. I'm fully aware that I can never ask you to see him the way I do."

"Are you, though? I mean, I could read between the lines when Robin said his Bruce never gave up on him. Robin was his *subordinate* partner, and if Batman said jump, Robin asked how high *while actually jumping*. So if Batman didn't give up on Dent, then Robin sure as fuck wasn't allowed to."

Bruce frowns and winces. "I've gone back to thinking that it was wrong for your Bruce to choose a partner that young --"

Starling snorts. "Are you serious? Like *anyone* is old enough for that kinda bullshit? Anyone *ever*?"

Starling... has a point. Bruce nods to acknowledge it.

"So... yeah. So long as you understand that *all* of us are a little fucking incapable of being all sunshine and flowers about Harvey fucking Dent... we'll be fine."

"All right. May I ask why you're not patrolling tonight? Did you have... homework?"

Starling waves a hand. "All of our teachers have networked laptops, because the school system out here is that sweet. Tink hacked the network back in August and gets a little update every time one of our teachers submits anything new for the lesson plan. We're all way ahead on our schoolwork. Every now and again, the motivated types -- or the disorganized types -- spring a surprise on us, but we're solid. Nah, I'm here because Big Bird hates me," he says, and grins.

"Hates... you?"

"Uh, huh. *I* get stuck with the crazy guy, the report-writing, the freaky alien, *and* you."

Bruce winces again. "I'd be more than willing to watch Harvey --"

"Hey, no, I'm just playing -- and also? *You* don't know what Dent's capable of when he slips his traces."

Of course. Bruce nods again --

And Starling gives him a *playful* shove.


Starling cocks his head to the side. "I'm trying to see Batman. The guy who twisted Robin up so bad. The guy Robin will always be in love with."

Twisted -- "I... Clark was of the opinion that your Bruce's relationship with Robin was positive."

"Heh. Sure he was. And *Robin* is, too. Me... I'm just a little leery of that kind of relationship -- and you know why."

"I tended to... ease my own limits when it came to people who abused children."

"And you had no idea that you could be one of them?"

Bruce breathes deeply and forces himself to meet Jason's eyes. "I ignored those thoughts and feelings and never allowed myself to be alone with attractive teenagers -- if I could help it. To be... fair, I never brought those thoughts and feelings very close to the surface of my mind."

Another thoughtful nod. "I never asked Robin how young he was when the two of you started screwing. I know he started up with Clark not much later than that, and that the two of them have been fuckbuddies for -- quote -- 'many, many years.'"

"That was... the gist of what Clark told me."

"Did he give you numbers?"


"Guys like that are a little allergic to numbers, in my experience," Jason says, and pushes a hand back through his thick and unruly hair. "Well, some of the them are. The rest either flat-out don't care or get *off* on those numbers. Which kind are you?"

"I don't -- I've never --"

"You're saying you're not gonna hit that when you go back to your world and Robin falls into your lap? No, wait -- when he *jumps* into your lap, wraps his arms and legs around you, and *begs* you to hit it?"

Bruce frowns and stares at his hands --

Bruce feels himself *blushing* --

He doesn't -- he *wouldn't*, but --

"Heh, okay, maybe not a fair question. You gotta understand, B -- Robin is my *brother*, and everything that hurts him? Hurts me. So I look at how every relationship he's had since you've been dead has either been with Clark, or casual as all hell, or just dead in the fucking water, and I think maybe you had a hand in that. Grief's one thing, but..." Starling shakes his head. "And no, it's not like I'm some kinda innocent bystander here. I've been in love with Robin practically from the jump, but I know he's never gonna give me what he gave you, and that makes me jealous."

Bruce reaches out -- and lets his hand hover over Starling's on the console.

Starling raises his eyebrows behind his domino. "Whatcha gonna do with that?"

"I... honestly have no idea," Bruce says, and starts to pull back --

Starling catches Bruce's hand and twines the fingers with his own. "Tell me something, B."

His hand is warm and very strong -- Bruce shakes it off internally. "Yes."

"That's it? No 'if I can' or anything like that?"

"I would like... I would like to live connected to others. I would like to die knowing that I had *been* connected to others... even if those others lived in a universe parallel to my own."

Starling blows out a breath. "You really thought it was the end for you."

"Many times in the last several days. You saw how damaged and exhausted I was."

Starling bites his lip again and nods. "Yeah, okay. If *I* could take you down... I mean, I'm pretty sure Robin's hardcore enough to take anyone down after twelve years of this, but I've only got five under my belt."

"How... how old are you?"

Starling's smile is sharp and wry. "Seventeen. Legal just about everywhere for just about everything, B. Well, except sodomy. In the south."

Bruce closes his eyes and forces himself to take that in. To -- Starling had been a *child* prostitute, subject to violence and abuse from nearly *everyone* -- of course Robin would want to provide a better life for him, and perhaps he'd been large for his age, or --

No, Bruce doesn't know what would make Robin choose to train a twelve-year-old for the life of a vigilante. Perhaps his Bruce had had an answer to that very question when Robin asked.

Perhaps Robin hadn't felt the need to ask the question, at all --

"You know, you could actually let some of those thoughts *out*, B."

Bruce opens his eyes and smiles helplessly. "I continue to be confused about what could make someone like me -- someone who *was* me for all intents and purposes -- choose to train a child."

"But you can see making *love* to a child?"

"Far... far more easily now that Clark has spoken to me about it... though still not actually *easily*. I would hope... that I would recognize youth and innocence and be able to resist the need to --"

"Mark it up a little? Take it for yourself?"

"I -- I don't know. I've never --"

"You gotta think about it, B. You just -- you seriously need to, because if you don't? It's gonna rear up and *bite* you, and then you'll be stuck with a kid on your cock and no idea how he -- or she? -- got there."

Vulgar... and vivid. Bruce breathes deeply. "All right. I will take your advice --"

"Start now. What do you see when you look at me?"

"I -- I mostly see your mask and then find myself wondering --"

"Yeah, none of that. Or -- I don't know. *Maybe* that. We'll see. You said *mostly* -- what else?"

"I -- your eyes are beautiful."


"Your hair is thick and... quite lustrous."

Starling blinks. "*Lustrous*?"

"I -- could use a different word --"

"No, fuck that, what *else*?"

"Your limbs are strong and well-shaped. I thought about measuring you to see how tall you might grow --"

"Robin says six-one or two. What else?"

"Your mouth -- I --" But -- "I don't know when I noticed your mouth."

"Bingo," Starling says, and mimes shooting a gun at him. "*What* did you notice about my mouth? Gimme everything."

He doesn't want to. He shouldn't. The boy is *seventeen*. He's too young. It's not right --


"Your mouth is..." Bruce swallows. "The whole of you -- you're very beautiful --"


"Your mouth is -- it looks soft. Broad and... your lips are quite sensuous, and I wonder how they'd feel against my own. I wonder if I could crush them a little, if you would enjoy that. I wonder how it would feel to bite your lower lip, and then the upper. I -- I don't know where this is coming from --"

"You. It's coming from you. The *real* you who's thought a lot about boys --"

"And. And some... girls."

"Heh. Equal opportunity perv. See, you've obviously got a leash on it -- and that's good -- but that leash is fucking fraying, because I didn't have to push that hard at all to get you to think about fucking a teenager."

"I -- only kissing --"

"And biting, and crushing, and maybe some licking?"

Bruce bites back a *grunt* --

"Now, maybe that's not fair, either. I'm pretty. I *know* I'm pretty -- and guys like you have been telling me all about it in one way or another since I was *eleven*."

"That's -- obscene --"

"It sure is, B. And here's the deal -- if you're one kind of perv? Hearing that number bent your cock back a little. A different kind of perv would get twice as hard. Which are you?"

"I. I don't --"

"You don't *know*? You want I should *check*?"

Bruce stands and steps back, clenching his hands into fists --

"*That* wasn't fair, either, maybe? The thought of me shoving a hand down your pants --"

"Please. Starling -- "

Starling stands up and stalks close -- close enough that Bruce has to choose between stepping back and holding his ground for a decidedly losing battle --

And Starling cups Bruce's jaw, pressing hard just beyond the pressure points and tilting Bruce's head down enough that they can meet each other's eyes.

"I'm here, Starling."

"Yeah, you are. But are you here to fuck us up? Throw a wrench in the whole family, maybe?"

Bruce shakes his head and frowns. "I would never interfere with you or your loved ones --"

"Not on purpose, no. What about by *accident*?"

Bruce frowns and reaches up slowly to cup Jason's wrist. They tighten their grips almost simultaneously --

And Starling frowns and shakes his head. "Your grip strength... is absolutely more hardcore than mine. Heh. *Right*," and he steps back, letting go of Bruce's jaw --

Bruce makes himself release the boy's wrist --

"Hesitation for that, B? How *much* am I turning you on?"

"I'm not -- I shouldn't be aroused."

"Maybe, maybe not. *Definitely* not what I asked," Starling says, and crosses his arms over his impressive chest.

He has the body of a fully-developed adult, and surely that should mean something, say something *decent* about him --

Anything at *all* --

Bruce feels himself grimace again and steps back. "I find you to be very beautiful. The touch of your hands is somewhat maddening. I feel sorrow for what has been done to you over the years, and I find myself wondering if there's more I could have been doing for Gotham's prostitutes --"

"Sex workers."

"All right --"

"And there absolutely *is* more. You just needed Robin to point it out to you. Just like Robin needed *me* to point out the rest."

"You -- if you would tell me --"

"You'll take it home and start right away?"

"Yes," Bruce promises, and catches himself trying to will Starling to believe it.

Starling, for his part, looks troubled, and seems to have more he wants to say. Needs to say?

"I... anything you'd like to tell me would be welcome, Starling." Including your *name* --

"I -- am one dumb vigilante," Starling says, and then turns around and walks the short distance back to the computers before sitting down and typing in... something.

Bruce honestly isn't sure what he should do with himself, and in the days when that had been the case more often than not, he'd had Harvey to help him forward, to teach him the right things to say and the right questions to *ask*.

What would Harvey do right now? But --

Harvey would never be in a situation like this one. Harvey has never been a *deviant* in any way, shape, or form. Harvey would turn aside from Bruce forever if he knew Bruce harbored these feelings, and even if Bruce never acted on them, he'd be right to do so.

People like him are a stain on the world, and while Bruce has always tried to do far more good than harm, this universe has given him proof that he would lose his control.

That he would lose his control less than a handful of years from now --


Bruce clenches his hands into fists and tries to think, to *plan*. There have been inroads made into chemical castration, but he would perhaps lose some of his power and grow breasts he would have to learn how to work around.

There are other kinds of castration --

"Holy fucking *Christ*, you suck all the air out of a room," Starling says, spinning his chair around and glaring at him. "C'mere and read this, okay?"

"Is it the... sex worker protocol?"

"Yeah, and some other stuff..." Starling trails off and stares at him, looking him over thoroughly, suspiciously --

"What is it, Starling?"

"What is it with *you*? You... you're putting out some freaky fucking vibes."

Bruce blinks. "Do you have... supernatural abilities?"

"What? Yeah, actually. Just... kind of a good nose for it. Nothing serious. I can see ghosts and shit like that."

"Ghosts are *real*?"

Starling rolls his eyes. "Get *over* here."

"Yes, of course," Bruce says, and moves to join Starling at the console again.

He reads over the protocol quickly and carefully, noting that it calls for making the sex workers their allies and permanent informants by making sure they have access to food and basic care, that they aren't being abused by either police or pimps, and that they're funneled useful information about things such as incoming Vice raids as soon as it comes in. The rest is research and speculation about how to best handle the various sorts of pimps.

There were some who could be used as informants -- and rewarded for same -- but, in general, these tended to *not* be the pimps with the most information. *Those* pimps were almost always the ones who had earned the worst beatings -- scarring, and even *maiming* -- if only to keep the sex workers they managed loyal. It's a rough sort of justice, but Bruce can see the logic in it.

Certainly, Bruce had gotten absolutely nowhere with trussing up pimps to be arrested -- the worst of them could always count on their terrified 'employees' to testify on their behalf, as not doing so was no guarantee that the pimp in question *wouldn't* be acquitted and back on the street within days.

All too many sex workers had disappeared on his watch, and there was no excuse for that. Knowing that their profession had a long and honorable tradition and thus trying to treat them respectfully had done nothing to *protect* them -- or advance his cause.

Bruce reads the protocol over twice more until he has it committed to memory, and then he turns to Starling and nods.

"You sure you got all that?"

"I... there are tricks I've used to train my memory --"

Starling waves a hand. "Robin always said your memory was frightening," and Starling smiles ruefully. "About all I'm good with, memory-wise, is languages and numbers."

"Both useful. And... I imagine you've learned a great deal about the city's geography by now?"

"Eh, there's no percentage in trying to memorize more than the street-layout. Gotham changes all the damned time -- and that's not even counting the 'quake that ripped through here six months ago."

He was *aware* that Gotham rested on a fault line, but -- Bruce shakes head. "There's a very small percentage of earthquake-proof buildings in Gotham. I tried... I have some designs for renovations for the older neighborhoods --"

"Robin found those not long after he got back from his year of training himself up. He got some of them implemented by playing the public figure -- which helped a lot when it came time for him to convince the Feds not to fucking *disown* Gotham."

"I... I don't think I understand?"

"The damage was so bad... you don't even know. *All* the bridges collapsed. Half of downtown dropped a whole story underground. Arkham split open like a dropped egg. Homeland Cemetery -- let's just say it was fucking gruesome. We had a fucking cholera outbreak -- and that was *after* Robin rounded up the League and the JSA and everybody else to come in and help us rebuild. And all the while? Lex fucking Luthor was bribing government types to try to get Gotham declared a No Man's Land. For a while, Robin was *living* in D.C. to keep them from getting too crazy. He finally hooked up with Green Lantern -- the *first* Green Lantern --"

"Alan Scott?"

"Heh, okay, good, you know him. Scott did this freaky thing with his ring that basically made Robin invincible -- and functionally *invisible* -- for a while. Long enough for him to dig up some dirt on Luthor so that he would stop trying to fuck with the whole damned *city*. And *then* it turns out that he was after WE -- using vulnerabilities that had come up when Robin stopped trying to run all the day-to-day stuff -- anyway, it was a mess," Starling says, and pushes a hand back through his hair again. "Part of me still finds it weird to sleep in a warm, soft bed at night, go to school during the day, and shower whenever the mood hits me. Of course, I *first* had to get used to that when I was twelve."

Bruce nods slowly and -- reaches to cover one of Jason's hands with his own.

"Again with the comforting thing. Robin said that *our* Bruce always had to be eased into things like that."

"Your Bruce had more years to grow stunted and lonely. Starling... I believe there's a way to make sure I never hurt a child."

Starling snorts and grins at him. "Sure there is. You'll just whip it out for me while I whip out my belt knife -- holy fucking shit, you're serious."

"It --"

"Why are you *serious*? What's *wrong* with you?"

Bruce raises an eyebrow. "I believe you helped me to detail just that."

"Augh! Look, I -- fucking *Christ*. *You cannot cut your balls off.* Okay? You just can't."

"Have there been improvements in chemical castration? I'm worried about losing stamina and strength --"

"And growing tits, yeah, sure, okay -- okay, listen to me for a minute, okay? So I can stop saying okay?"

Bruce frowns and nods --

And Jason smacks the side of Bruce's head. Bruce could've stopped it, but it seems to have made Jason feel much better. "All right. I'm cool. I'm breathing and everything. You can't castrate yourself."

"But --"

"Look, I don't even think *Clark* should castrate *himself*, and there's *nothing* he won't fuck so long as it's either pubescent or convincing about *being* pubescent. I mean, his little black book is the Oxford English Dictionary, okay? Shit, I said it again, but -- *okay*?"

"I... wasn't aware that Clark was so promiscuous --"

"And maybe now you're wondering if he gave you space-herpes? You *should* -- but also no, because he totally flies *into* the sun periodically to power up, and if that doesn't sterilize him, nothing will."

"That's... ah. Improbable?"

"But *true*," and Starling cups Bruce's shoulders. "Look, I gave you a lot of shit, and I even stand by all of it. You *can't* go around with your fingers in your ears saying 'la la la' about all your hard-ons for kids. You *have* to acknowledge it, and examine it, and figure out where *all* of your limits are so you don't surprise yourself and hurt someone while you're at it," and he *squeezes* Bruce's shoulders. "Clark is a fucking dog of a *pervert*, but he damned well owns it, and he never crosses his own lines -- and he never hurts anyone unless they beg *real* nice for it."

"Have you... have you and Clark made love?"

"Eh, I would say that we've fucked a few times. He's damned good at tripping me into bed when the mood strikes him. I'm just that *easy* -- and he's just that good. I like him just fine --"

"But you hold yourself back from him because of his... perversions?"

Starling leans back and scratches his stubble thoughtfully. "Do I...? I don't know. I *do* like him, and he's been an *incredible* support for this family and everything..." He frowns and stares at Bruce. "What do you want? Seriously."

"I would like... to make friends here."

"Friends like you and Clark are friends?"

"I've had... I've always thought that there could be many different types of friend."

"See, I *wanna* be suspicious of you --"

"It would certainly be security-conscious."

"No, no, it's not *you* we don't trust. It's -- it's all about what you'd let slip to Dent at this point."

Bruce raises an eyebrow and smiles as gently as he can. "I am capable of keeping secrets, Starling."

"Sure you are. Just like you're capable of not molesting the guy you're more than a little in love with --"

"He -- Harvey's my *friend* --"

"He's a lot more than that, B. You gotta own that, too."

"I don't think it's -- he's been my only friend since we were *fourteen*, Starling. Of course my feelings for him are intense --"

"What do you get out of denying you're in love with him? Seriously. It's not the seventies anymore -- you *know* there's nothing wrong with you being queer as fuck for someone who's never done you wrong."

"I... must admit that I've had difficulty growing accustomed to the idea that homosexuality wasn't a mental disorder."

"Like you don't have *enough* mental disorders to make up for that?" Starling kicks Bruce's shin. "Seriously, this is the queerest bunch of vigis you're ever gonna see. Cope *quickly*."

"Did you... did you have people to speak with about your sexuality when you were younger?"

Starling cocks his head to the side. "Before or after I started hooking?"

"Either," Bruce says, and knows he sounds eager, but --

"Robin gave me the big talk. He started out with charts and books and educational movies, but eventually he'd just pull me aside every time something occurred to him. By then I was *really* hoping to talk him into my pants... but yeah, he helped. He's always been incredibly supportive. He did the same for -- well, no, he *tried* to do the same for Tink, but Tink had had the internet --"

"Is that something like ARPANET?"

Starling blinks at him. "Uh... sort of? Tink talked me through this... ARPANET is kind of like the trilobite to the internet's chimp. You can find out anything with it -- especially if it's about sex."

"It's... an educational resource available to the average student?"

"It's a porn-filled *cesspool* available to anyone who can walk into a public library in time to get an hour on the public systems. I'm not big on computers, but I know Tink games with people all over the world. Owl does, too."

"Long-distance *games*? On a military network?"

"Nah, nah, the military has its own private networks. Well, mostly private. I know Tink and Owl like checking up on the Feds when they can."

Bruce shakes his head and files the latest wonder away. "Would you tell me more about Owl?"

"Heh. The former Batgirl. She's a few years older than Robin... which means she's totally older than you now. Uh. Damn?" Starling shakes his head. "You didn't pick her up or anything -- she decided that she wanted to be a vigilante in your mold, made herself a uniform, taught herself to fly between buildings, and hit the streets. Black Canary -- the second Black Canary --helped train her in ass-kicking. Hacking's been her hobby pretty much forever, and she's been spending more time with that lately -- funneling info to Tink about who we should be targeting."

That sounds extremely practical. *Useful*. "She's a partner to you all."

"We're *all* partners to each other. We've all got strengths and weaknesses and we find ways to work around them -- or with them. You were seriously thinking you'd work alone your whole life?"

"I imagined... heroes from other cities occasionally visiting, or me needing to travel to their cities for cases. It's how I first met Clark."

"Clark's not anyone's partner. Not really --"

"It's true," Clark says from a crouch at Bruce's *feet* -- "Though I've tried to be a friend."

Starling kicks Clark's chest lightly. "You do all right. Here to kidnap Bruce for another little while?"

"Oh -- I should stay here and try to be present when Harvey wakes up --"

"Of course," Clark says, and kisses Bruce's hand. "If you don't mind my company, Starling...?"

"Heh. Mi casa et cetera. *Please* convince B not to castrate himself."

Clark's jaw drops and -- that's really something of a splutter -- "*Bruce* --"

"In my defense --"

"This should be good," Starling says, crossing his legs and folding his hands on his obviously well-muscled abdomen --

Even through his t-shirt, the definition is visible --

Of course the t-shirt is quite worn --

Bruce looks up --

And Starling is giving him a look which is a blend of amusement, disbelief, an oddly good-*natured* scorn --

"It -- it's far more than your physical beauty --"

"Yeah, 'cause my personality's been just *sparkling* tonight," Starling says, standing and stretching a little. "I think I'm gonna hit the sack. You and Bruce'll be okay down here, yeah?"

Clark murmurs assent and turns to Bruce, but the frustration --

The sense of something left *incomplete* --

"Okay, wow, Bruce, you're seriously --" Starling shakes himself like a dog. "*What* are you thinking now? Because I'm betting it's fucking ridiculous and huge."

Bruce -- blushes.

Starling stares at him with a *dumbfounded* expression on his face --

"It's only... I feel there's more we can say to each other. Ah. There's more that I want to say to you, I mean."

Starling continues to stare at him.

Harvey would shake him at this point -- almost certainly a gentle sort of chivvying, but -- "I'm not sure... what those things are."

Starling raises his eyebrows behind his mask and laughs somewhat breathlessly.

"I... recognize that I'm being ridiculous --"

"And huge, even," Starling says, and smiles at him *sharply*, beautiful eyes in shadow -- "Do you wanna talk to me? Or do you wanna do *other* things to me?"

Bruce stands and closes his hands into fists. "Both. And... other things. I'm not sure what those other things -- no. I would like to train with you. To teach you and to learn from you. Our body types complement each other. There are things I could give you --" And Bruce is cut off by the way Starling is closing the distance between them, the way Starling pushes a hand into Bruce's hair --

The way he leans in and *breathes* against Bruce's mouth -- "In case you haven't figured it out? I've been hitting on you all night, B. I just had to see how you would roll, you know? I don't know enough, yet, though. Give it time," he says, and the kiss is soft --

The kiss *starts* softly, but gradually gains more and more *force* --

And that's when Bruce realizes that he's pressing closer, trying to *take* more, trying --

He moans against Starling's mouth, desperate to keep himself from trying to pry it *open* -- but then Starling *does* open his mouth, and Bruce licks his way in, licks Starling's lips and teeth and tries to urge Starling's tongue into his mouth --

Starling grunts and *bites* Bruce's tongue, pulls back and bites Bruce's lip, Bruce's chin, Bruce's *jaw* --

"Starling --"

"Jason," Starling whispers, then licks the place on Bruce's lip where he'd bitten. "My name is Jason. I'll tell you when you can use it."

Bruce moans again and cups *Jason's* face --

But he knocks Bruce's hands away and backs up. "School tomorrow, B," Jason says, and waggles his eyebrows behind his mask. "Also, J'onn says Dent's cleared for sleeping with the family, but I'm thinking that we're all gonna want *some* time without our masks. Best scenario? There are extra gurneys in the storage area by the lockers," and Jason points in that direction, and then to the pile of blankets and pillows near Harvey's gurney. "Set yourselves up right, hunh? We'll work out the rest of the arrangements tomorrow."

Bruce...licks his lips. He can't quite stop himself. "Thank you."

Jason's lips part for a moment -- and then he grins and shakes his head. "Yeah, I think I see you now," and he turns to Clark. "Try to avoid doing at least some of the things I wouldn't, hunh?"

"Ah... no promises?"

Jason snorts and shakes his head before jogging for the stairs --

And Clark presses himself to Bruce's back and kisses Bruce's ear.

Bruce shivers --

"Are you wondering what his bedroom smells like?"

Bruce feels himself *twitch* -- "I am now."

"He's so powerfully *male*, don't you think?"

That -- "I'm not sure what you mean. Neither of us have vaginas, Clark."

"Yes, yes, but... hmm. He has a sort of uniquely American maleness. Perhaps I mean masculinity. You and I both have a bit of androgyny when held against cultural standards."

Bruce thinks of Harvey --

Of the *wonder* of Harvey. His bluff, hearty good nature, his enjoyment of sports, his *rough* physicality...

He's tender with Gilda -- Bruce has *seen* that, though not as much as he's wanted to -- but with others...

Even female colleagues are far more likely to receive a clap on the shoulder from Harvey than, say, a gentle touch to the backs of their hands. Part of that is the desire he has to be seen as above all temptations, no matter how simple and relatively innocent, but...

("Ah, women. Women are...well, they're *supposed* to be a confusing mystery and twist you up inside a little. That's kind of the point of them, no matter what else a given women is or does, big guy.")

*Bruce* has never found the average male to be *any* less strange and confusing than the average female, but he has to admit that he's had some degree of trepidation about making love to a woman. Far, far more than he's had about men --


"I'm sorry. I was... in the process of starting a round of self-doubt and recrimination."

"Oh, Bruce, he's *seventeen* --"

"No, not about --" Bruce shakes his head and gives himself permission to press his body back against Clark's --

"Oh -- wonderful," Clark says, and kisses Bruce's cheek. "What *were* you berating yourself about?"

Berating -- well, yes. "I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to take a wife."

"Take -- hm. Perhaps if you made it sound less like a dose of terrible medicine?"

Bruce laughs softly. "Clark, I... he's so free."

"Starling? I'm not sure if I'd describe him as free so much as *wise*. He is a product of his time and of his life... and he has transcended both of those things."

"I long to prove myself to him. I -- and of course I'm speaking about this to you instead of simply enjoying your company. I am sorry, Clark --"

"No, no, no. I want all your thoughts and dreams and desires. Especially the ones about me, of course, but also the ones about other people. I have longed to know you, beautiful friend," Clark says, and strokes Bruce's chest and abdomen through the shirt. "You wish to touch him."

"I believe. I believe I wish to taste him."

Clark sighs and presses closer, still, burying Bruce in heat, making Bruce's skin prickle with new sweat. "His flavors are... very strong."

Bruce breathes through his mouth. "Are they."

"Oh... yes. He often chooses very unhealthy foods."

"Alfred. Alfred wouldn't like that --"

"He told me that he'd compromised with Alfred. So long as he eats everything Alfred gives him, Alfred turns away from his... additions."

"I would like to... watch him eat."

"I would like to watch him fellate you," Clark says, and kisses the back of Bruce's neck over and over --

Bruce groans --

"I want to take you..."

"Clark --"

"I want to --" Clark growls and strokes down to Bruce's hips. "I've been replaying my memories of you since I had to leave. I can't -- I need more."

"Touch -- I want your touch --"


"*Clark* --"

"Oh -- yes, Bruce, *demand*," and Clark *cups* Bruce through his pants, squeezes -- "You're so beautiful..."

"Why -- why must I desire so *many* people?"

Clark laughs and flies them --

Sheets fly --

And there are two twin mattresses side-by-side on the stone. They're at least fifty yards away from Harvey --

"I meant to stay closer to him --"

"I will move us. *Later*," Clark says, holding Bruce's lapels and giving him an openly, *hopefully* questioning look.

"I -- yes --"

And then Bruce is naked --

"Clark, you --"

*Clark* is naked and on his knees. He's *nuzzling* Bruce's penis, breathing hot --

So *hot* --

Bruce moans as quietly as he can --

"Oh, no, Bruce, truly your friend sleeps *deeply*."

Bruce swallows. "I wouldn't want him to wake to *this*, Clark --"

"Do I shame you, my companion?"

That -- Bruce laughs. "No. No, you don't. But it seems a basic *courtesy* --"

Clark kisses the head of Bruce's thickening penis --

Bruce gasps --

"Perhaps you're right. If I gag you, *I* will still be able to hear every nuance of your cries."

Bruce narrows his eyes and licks his lips -- "Do it --"

"Oh, *love*," and suddenly Bruce is on his stomach with what seems to be a goodly fraction of a pillowcase in his mouth. The detergent scent is quite mild, though not the same as his Alfred had used --

And he remains capable of thinking about the detergent for only about five seconds, because Clark *spreads* him --

Clark moans -- "*Bruce*..."

Bruce tugs the pillowcase out enough that he *can* talk -- quietly. "Clark -- that's disconcerting --"

"So many people in your position have said, but I can't help... ah... appreciating the view?"

Bruce laughs helplessly. "At least I can be sure that I'm not especially dirty there, given the equipment at the Fortress --"

Clark sighs *sadly* -- "All too true. Still, I believe I can find *some* ways to make you sweat for me," and he spreads Bruce *wider* --

"Oh -- the flesh feels very sensitive --"

"And so it is. I've watched you hold Robin just this way, Bruce. I've watched you *stare*."

Bruce swallows. "He... he's beautiful --"

"Oh, yes. And he would *squirm* for you, giggle nervously, ask you if you were sure you wanted to examine him *there*..."

"I... I must have wanted to know everything about him. I must have... wanted him to be mine."

"He was. Even when he made love to others. Even *while* he made love to others."

"I -- he's -- doesn't still -- *hnh* --"

A kiss. *Just* a kiss, but the location of it --

The --

He could *feel* his own puckered flesh, imagine how it felt to *Clark* --

"I -- *Clark* --"

"Analingus," Clark says, and *licks* him, "has a long and noble history, Bruce," and the smile in Clark's voice is *unmistakable* --

Bruce laughs again, tries to -- no, there's nothing he needs to try, nothing in particular he needs to do -- "I've thought about this act."

"I'm not surprised... but feel free to elaborate," Clark says, and kisses him again, again --

Bruce *pants* -- "Harvey. No -- no one else --"

"Not even me...?" A lick --

A *strong* lick, and Clark's tongue *is* strong, thick and powerful --

Dipping *in* --

Bruce grunts -- "I -- recently those thoughts have become far more inclusive --"

Clark laughs wonderfully, *happily* -- "Oh, Bruce, I never guessed you could be like this with *me* --"

"I never thought --" Bruce shakes his head and pushes up onto his hands and knees. "Please, like this," he says, and arranges the pillowcase a little more forgivingly. To his own ears, he sounds hopelessly slurred and quiet --

But Clark's senses are the best. Clark --

Clark has always been so much *more* --

"Oh, love -- " Clark kisses a hard line up along Bruce's cleft, then down again --

"Please, I -- I can't be sure what I want --"

"Then let me choose for both of us," Clark says, and begins to lick *wetly*.

Bruce narrows his eyes against the sensation, but it doesn't take long before he's panting constantly -- not *quite* blowing like some sorely-used horse, but --

It's hard to even *imagine* catching his breath with Clark doing this. The pleasure is too intense, too *serious*.

He --

Oh, he's pushing back against Clark's *face*, and that means he'd gotten up on his hands and knees at least in part to be *able* to do that. His body has gotten hopelessly ahead of his mind --

This pleasure --

"Clark, *please* --"

And Clark moans *against* Bruce's anus, panting himself and kissing --

Kissing *deeply*, and Bruce feels his eyes widening, but he can't actually *focus* on anything. He isn't even sure what *color* these sheets are, which is a shame, because he's going to stain them badly in just a few minutes. Just --

And Bruce groans and shoves the pillowcase deeper, because Clark is *thrusting* with his tongue. Is this what he'd meant by taking? It *is* being taken, tasted and known and laid *bare*.

Bruce wants to know if Clark had felt like this when Bruce was buried in him --

Either of the times --

Wouldn't the other way have to be more intense? He *wants* --

"Please, your *penis* -- *hnh* --"

Bites on his buttocks, his thighs --

His *back* --

"Clark -- *Clark* --"

"My love, you must be *patient* --"

"As. As you have been?"

"Never -- I'd never make you wait so *long*," and Clark wraps his arms around Bruce's chest and kisses the back of Bruce's neck -- no. He makes *love* to the flesh there, pressing close yet seemingly weighing nothing --

He's hovering. He -- "Clark, your *weight* --"

"More. You would have more?"

"*Cover* me --"

Clark groans and gives Bruce what must be at least *most* of his weight. It's no true strain to hold him up, but it *feels* better to lower himself flat to the bed again, to spread his legs and stretch his arms over his head --

Clark groans again --

Shifts --

Clark slips his penis into Bruce's cleft and begins to thrust, stroking his way along Bruce's arms until he can pin Bruce's wrists --

Bruce grunts and feels himself begin to sweat in earnest, feels himself slipping into what must be a sexualized *panic* response. He can't move, his breathing is somewhat impeded, and a very large man is thrusting against him hard, so *hard* --

But. He's not panicked, truly. He's excited. He feels almost *wild* -- certainly uncontrolled and only barely tethered to what he'd thought would be his *life* --

"Bruce -- oh, *Bruce* --"

Bruce nods as best he can and tries to work his hips for Clark --

"No, not yet. Stillness, beautiful friend, beloved companion --" Clark moans and tightens his grip on Bruce's wrists --

Thrusts faster and *harder* --

"Yes -- *yes* --"

"Clark, that's *intimidating* --"

Clark gasps something like a fraction of a laugh -- "You. Should I show you how you were taking *me*?"

Bruce feels himself blush --

"Oh -- oh, say *yes* to me --"

"*Yes*, Clark --"

And Clark's growl is strange, low and familiar -- "Like *this*," Clark says in *Bruce's* voice --

"*Clark* --"

"*Feel*, my companion," and that was his own voice, but the motion of his hips --

The *slam* of his body against Bruce's own --

"You took me -- *claimed* me --"

"I -- I don't *own* you --"

"You always *have*," Clark says, and his voice is breaking, a higher tenor than his usual as he thrusts and grinds and *grips* with his hands -- "I *need* you --"

"I -- should I be yours?"

Clark *shouts* -- but even that is relatively quiet, relatively *safe* as he spends himself in Bruce's cleft, as he spatters Bruce's lower back with hot *slickness* --

Clark whimpers -- and then his weight is gone --

"Clark --"

"Need. I *need*," and Bruce is being licked clean at speed, being *worshipped* with that tongue, those grasping, clutching *hands*.

Bruce spreads his legs --

Clark grunts and takes Bruce's scrotum into his mouth, sucking hard --

Bruce gasps and tries to push up on his hands and knees --

He's down again, and he can't even --

Clark had moved too quickly for Bruce to *notice*, and his body feels that that's worth another blush, a squirm, a *vision* of his father shrinking away from him in disgust --

Wouldn't he have to? Never mind the homosexuality -- he's rutting in a *cave* near to his innocently resting *friend* --

Clark releases him and *growls* --

"Clark --"

"Let *go* --"

"I -- it's only that we're practically in *public* --"

"Your friend is still sleeping deeply, and Robin and Cardinal aren't due to return for at least another *hour* --"

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut for a *moment* --

"You *desire* me --"

"*Immensely*. I -- there's nothing I wouldn't at least *try* with you," Bruce says, and starts to turn over --

He's on his back and Clark is over him, still erect -- erect again? -- and staring down at him, *searching* him -- "Would you tell me... what *hurt* you?"

"I -- an image of my father. His -- disgust."

Clark looks *stricken*, and he cups Bruce's face -- "Everything you've told me about him, everything you've told Robin and that *he* shared with me... you painted a picture of a *broad*-minded man. He protected the weak and the downtrodden as much as he could --"

"I -- I know I'm not *sick* --"

"But you're not sure that your father would've known that?" Clark smiles gently. "Would he -- wouldn't he have continued to learn with you? The way that Dr. Thompkins has?"

"I --" But what is the real problem? What is he *keeping* from --

(This will be a place of struggle!)

-- himself. Of course. A part of him had wondered if he'd left that voice in the other universe, if what had been left had been only the whispers and grating *squawks* of memory...

Bruce laughs quietly and tugs the perfectly comfortable pillowcase free the rest of the way --

And Clark winces -- "Will you tell me?"

Bruce closes his eyes -- no, not that. Not when Clark is touching Bruce's cheek so *gently*... Bruce looks up and meets Clark's eyes. "Did you ever watch your Bruce arguing with nothing? Perhaps with his empty uniforms?"

For a moment Clark's eyes are shuttered and blank -- and then they're not. "But, of course, *you* would know. Oh, Bruce, does it drive you?"

"It's only... I believe it thinks I'm having too much... fun."

Clark blinks at him and seems to be weighing any number of responses. Of course, he thought of all those responses in less time than it took for Bruce to *notice* the blink, but --

"I know. It's too much -- it's always been too much to ask anyone else to accept," Bruce says, and sits up --

Clark shoves Bruce back down, pressing hard on Bruce's sternum. "What must I do?"

"I -- I don't think there *is* anything, Clark --"

"No. I will not accept that. This -- this is your *home*. You *must* be able to let go here, Bruce."

"Was I not abandoned enough in the Fortress?"

"That isn't --" Clark shakes his head. "*Here*, Bruce. Here, where you have worked and sweated and *bled* for the Mission. *Our* Mission, and the Mission of your entire family --"

"They aren't *mine* --"

"Perhaps they should be."


"Perhaps..." Clark strokes Bruce's face, cups Bruce's cheek -- "I must -- I need you to be comfortable here. A part of me recognizes that that's a great *deal* to ask, but... if I were to see you happy --"

"I'm happy with you --"

"And must it always be such a serious affair, Bruce? I -- no, not that, either. Do you have any idea how long it took for me to convince Jason to kiss me? You're already *making* them your own, and it won't be long -- I have to believe it won't be long --"

"I. Clark, I can't stay --"

"I *know*. I --" Clark leans in and kisses Bruce's forehead twice. "Make this your home for as long as you're with us, beloved friend. Be with us. *All* of us."

Could it be so easy?

(Nothing of any worth is *easy*.)

But was that the Bat or his *mother*?

Bruce laughs helplessly and covers his face with one hand.

"Oh -- *tell* me --"

Bruce moves his hand. "You come to me with lotus, my friend."

"I will *kick* you into *space* --"

Bruce gasps his own laugh -- "Noted, Clark. Kiss me again?"

"Do you mean that?"

"I am *quite* confident in your ability to make me think about absolutely nothing of any consequence."

"I'm *not* --"

"Clark. Believe in yourself," Bruce says, and offers one of Brucie's most obnoxious smiles.

"The Bruce from *this* universe once drove Robin to pick up a *two*-by-four and attempt to hit Bruce with it for that voice."

"Then it did its job --"

Clark rests two fingers against Bruce lips. "There are games we could play, beloved friend."

Games? Bruce raises an eyebrow --

Clark laughs and *strokes* Bruce's lips. "No one so innocent should be so skilled at playing the louche."

Bruce grips Clark's wrist and tugs it away from his face. "The ability served me well."

"And left you lonely... but that's neither here nor there. There are *games*, Bruce."

"Tell me."

"You've never made love as Brucie."

Bruce blinks. "That -- I believe that *would* be obscene."

"I've watched women throw themselves at you while you wore that guise. I've watched men catch their breath at the thickness of your wrists as you shot your cuffs, the breadth of your chest, your dazzlingly *dim* smile --"

"I'd never realized those parties were that *entertaining*."

Clark laughs, and it's one of his older ones. A *dangerous* one -- "And you slip into that persona like it's an old pair of slippers when you're uncomfortable enough. Or uncomfortable in just the right way?"

"Clark, would you *want* Brucie?"

"I've fantasized about taking you-- *fucking* you -- until you weren't *able* to call on that creature anymore."

Bruce grunts -- and shakes his head. "I'm reasonably sure that shouldn't arouse me more. Were you cursing for emphasis, or --"

"I was making a point. I have personae of my own, Bruce."

"Clark Kent would, I believe, give my penis a terrible sprain were he to fall on it."

Clark laughs again, and it's sunnier this time, but -- "Other than him. Other than Superman."

But who...? "Then I don't understand --"

Movement, but it's confusing, difficult --

His wrists are -- tied.

He's on his back with his legs spread as far as they'll comfortably *go*. *Precisely* as far --

And he doesn't see Clark. "I --"

"*Quiet*," and the voice comes from one of his many blind spots. Somewhere beyond where his wrists were placed.

Hm. "I'm afraid I -- *ah* --"

And at first it's only the shocking *crack* of flesh on flesh -- but then Bruce feels his penis almost --

It almost seems as though it wishes it could *scream*. The pain is bright, staggering --

It's impossible to be sure that he isn't truly injured, and so he keeps peeking at it, trying to see it from every angle without moving too much --

Clark hadn't *said* he couldn't move, but it seems --

For a game like this...

He *has* done all the reading which *could* be done, from scholarly papers to the meanest, cheapest erotica available at 'adult' stores -- "I'm sorry, Clark." He *thinks* he can hear Clark's breathing catch --

And then there's a stream of what could only *be* Kryptonian --

"I don't -- *hnh* --"

This time, the shock of the slap fades quickly, leaving only pain which makes him want to *arch* --

He does, and that breathy sound comes again --

More Kryptonian -- " -- Kal-*El*. Brucie."

Bruce blinks. Kal-El is some sort of sexual dominant?

He's supposed to be *Brucie* for that?

It certainly seems like an *original* way to go about making love, but -- no, Clark had spoken of driving Bruce to extremis, making him reach a point where he *could* only be honest --

And the desire to -- somehow -- resurrect this world's Bruce in order to *shake* him until he communicated honestly with Clark is, if not beneath him, then rather suspect. He'd had to watch his world be badly endangered if not -- no.

Not that.

Leave it at the fact that he has neither room nor right to judge --

And this is anything but a sacrifice. Bruce smiles -- stops and imagines the taste of champagne, and how it becomes something of rust and tang if one drinks enough of it while, say, pawing at and kissing a socialite who has been slipping out to smoke various drugs and flirt with other men all night.

*Then* he smiles. "Your name's Cal, you said?"

A flood of *pleased* Kryptonian...

"You know, they named a school after him. Cal Teck or something. I'm almost *positive* he did something important --"

He can't *see* Clark -- no. He can't see *Kal*, but he can feel him. Touches to his shoulders, his chest, his hips, his abdomen --

A *lingering* touch on his abdomen --

"Gosh, it sure is *windy* out here, Cally. Maybe we should -- whoa there. Hiya, tiger," and Bruce waggles his eyebrows at Kal, who is currently crouching between Bruce's thighs. "Lookin' good! You work out?"

Kal's teeth -- seemingly all of them -- are showing. Kal's hair is an attractive nest, blown this way and that by the wind of his passage.

Kal's eyes are... burning.

Seemingly *literally* -- but he has a role to play. "Say there, Cally, have you been hitting the ganja? Man to man, your eyes are pretty red."

Kal *licks* his teeth -- and begins stroking Bruce very --

Very *firmly* -- "Oh, oh -- is this -- did you go to boarding school, too?"

*Sibilant* Kryptonian --

"Mm, I -- not that there's anything wrong with -- ooh, your hands are as smooth as a *woman's*. Not that there's anything wrong with -- that --"

Kal licks a stripe between Bruce's pectorals, catches hair between his teeth and tugs --

"Oh, hey, when did *I* get naked?"

Kal *chuckles* -- and begins to stroke faster. Concentration is --

Very difficult, but -- "You know -- you know people will *talk* about this, Cally, ha, ha, ha. You know what it's like..."

Kal *squeezes* --

Bruce grunts -- "Oh, look at *me*. You're turning me -- turning me into an *animal* --"

Kal flips Bruce onto his knees *just* slowly enough that Bruce can *parse* the motions --

And Brucie would surely be a little intimidated right now? He's -- "I've *heard* of this kind of thing, Cally --"

More Kryptonian, rough and *hungry* --

"You -- say, you're not *French*, are you?"

*That* laugh sounds far more like Clark than anything else, and Bruce lets a little of his own smile out --

And Clark spanks him. That --

That *has* to be too loud --

More to the point, he can feel his penis bobbing, his scrotum *swinging*. That's -- there's no possible *dignity* --

Brucie is *allergic* to dignity. "Ooh, *Cally*, you're a *beast* --"

And that laugh is -- somehow -- *in* Kryptonian, but he's still being spanked, being *moved* with each --

No, he's lifting his rear for the contact, for the simple, *moderately* painful rhythm --

Bruce lets himself pant through his blush, hang his head -- "Should I be calling you *Daddy*, rough-and-tough?"

Kal stops and *cups* Bruce's buttock. "Would you like to...?"

Somehow, hearing English after that --

That simple *question* --

But, of course, it could never *be* a simple question --

And Kal's Kryptonian manages to feel soothing and frightening at once -- or perhaps it's just because he's *shuddering*, *wanting* to soften --

He isn't softening. He -- still has a role -- "I'm not some kind of *pervert*, Cally. *You're* not, either, right -- *hnh* --"

*Bite* to the back of his neck, hard and firm and *hot* --

"K-Cally --" And Bruce groans for the feel of Kal scraping his teeth down the hollow of his spine, pausing to *kiss* the base of his spine --

"Even if you beg, I will not stop."

Bruce closes his eyes -- "What -- what's *that* supposed to mean, Cally? Don't be *mean* to me, now --" And Bruce grunts again for the feel of being *forced* down onto his elbows --

His rear is -- exposed this way. *More* exposed, somehow, and having felt Clark watching him -- *studying* him -- earlier is no preparation for *this* examination --

He's spread and *open* --

He's *clenching* --

"Oh... aha ha, *Cally*, you're starting to really give me the *heebie jeebies* --" And then Bruce is sighing out all of his air for the feel of Kal stroking his anus with slick fingers.

It *must* be the lubricant which he'd used on Clark, himself, and a part of him is relieved, which means a part of him had been honestly frightened. Is that too far? Far enough?

Bruce frowns and tries to turn --

And finds himself staring down at the mattress between his forearms. His wrists are still tied together --

Somehow he'd *forgotten* that -- no, the role. "*Cally*, I was just trying to *see* you..."

*Sharp* Kryptonian -- an order.

"You know I don't *speak* that babble -- oh, say, are you from one of those countries with all the blondes? I *love* blondes -- *nnh* --" That -- it has to be more than one finger --

Kal *twists* -- yes, it's two, and even masturbating --

He hadn't *done* that to himself, always leaving it aside as something too involved, too *time*-consuming -- "*Cally*..."

Thrust after --

He feels so *slick* inside -- Bruce shakes his head. "We will *never* live this down, Cally -- *ah* -- oh, what was *that* --"

"The proof that you need just this," Kal says, and the smile in his voice is hard and *promising* --

"*Need*? I don't need *anything*, Cally --" And the rest of that is a *shout*, because Kal is rubbing at Bruce's prostate gland, pressing and *dragging* his fingers against it --

The pillowcase is back in his mouth --

The Kryptonian sounds *thick*, somehow, as insinuating as those fingers -- no, they had *breached* him, are taking him with no --

No *subtlety* --

Brucie wouldn't understand subtlety -- "Unh -- oh. Oh, *Cally*, that's *marvy* --" *More* shouting, more, but none of that sounds any *more* ridiculous with the pillowcase in --

Kal is *vibrating* his fingers --

"Cally, *Cally*, this is -- just -- just *silly* --" But he's *screaming*, because Kal is stroking his penis again, taking him that way, *too* --

He's -- he's *close* --

Clark wants to be --

Kal *will* be inside him, and Bruce thinks it would probably be better for *him* if he were still aroused --

Though who knows what Kal would find to *make* him aroused again? Who knows what Clark would *allow* Kal --

"*Please*, Cally, you -- you're going to make me *pop* -- *ahn* --"

Three -- three *fingers*, and it shocks the imminent orgasm away despite the pain being entirely manageable --

Kal is -- oh.

Kal is using his fingers as something of a *ring*, denying him orgasm, but not pleasure --

Bruce has never wanted to own sex toys as much as he does right *now*. Of course, he would've had to carry them in his *belt* -- and laughing like Brucie instead of himself takes effort, but -- "You're such a *meanie*, Cally. Go on, tell me what's next. Give me a *hint*."

The Kryptonian is staccato this time, sharp and *promising* once more, but it seems to involve a *list* --

"Aww, I don't even *know* Swedish, Cally..."

"You take this well. Perhaps I should give you more of myself."

"*Please* -- I -- I mean. What does *that* mean?"

Kal sighs and begins vibrating his fingers again, making Bruce flex and croon, clench and gasp and --

He *sounds* obscene, but even that's not enough to make him soften in Clark's grip, to make him --

There must be a sort of freedom in being ringed like this. He need not control himself in any way save the ones which will allow him to continue playing this *role* --

"You -- your hands don't feel --"

"Like a woman's...?"

"Haaa, oh, Cally, *you* know how smooth they -- they are --"

"You're sweating."

"That's what *happens* when I get a workout, Cally --"

"I can smell your lust. Your *hunger*."

"Oh, *gosh*, did I forget my *shower* again? I must smell like a monkey in a *zoo* --"

"Shall I keep you, dim one? Feed you my semen when you thirst? Let you suckle like a babe?"

Bruce squirms *helplessly*, aware that he's still partially tied, but that -- he could close his legs --

Kal spreads him again easily -- Bruce hadn't even felt his *hands* move --


"That -- I'm not a *child*, Cally --"

"You're an innocent to this... but your instincts are *mostly* correct," Kal says, and begins to thrust *while* vibrating, making Bruce aware of how full he is, how *stretched* --

"*Kal* --"

"Not. Yet," and Kal squeezes Bruce's penis and scrotum *painfully* tightly --

"Cally, don't be so *mean* to me. You know -- I -- I'll give you what you *want* --"

"Your abasement?"

"I don't even *have* a basement, Cally, but -- hey, we could *build* one -- *nnh* --"

Faster thrusts, *harder* thrusts, and Bruce gives himself permission to just cry out into his gag for a while, just *feel* --

If he can take this --

If he can *have* this --

"Beautiful creature. So *flushed* for me..." And Kal slips back into Kryptonian for what sounds like a *count* for each thrust --

"*Cally* --"


"I don't -- I don't know what to *say* anymore, pal. I *know* it's a little... little *swishy*, but I think I'd *really* like you to put that fat rod of yours where the sun simply *never* shines..."

"*Rod* --" Kal coughs --

Clark *chokes* --

And suddenly Bruce's cheek is against the mattress and it feels like Kal is removing most of his *arm* from Bruce's rectum. It's just his fingers, and --

It's in preparation for *more* --

"Oh, Cally, *please* --"

"Beg. Beg to be taken --"

"I -- you don't think I should really do *that*, do you? I mean, the press is *always* --"

*Wet* spank, and thinking about the lubricant, the *slickness* --

And then the spanks begin landing on his *scrotum*, and Brucie would never --

*Could* never* --

"Oh! Oh, I'll do anything you *want*, Cally, I -- what do you *need*? That basement thing?"

"Beg. To be taken."

This blush is fitting, *suited* -- "Please, Cally, put it -- put in in me --"


"*Take* me, Cally, *please*. I -- I suppose that would make me your *boy*, but I honestly thought I left that behind me at *Exeter*. You know, with all -- all of those *poofs* -- ah -- *ow*, Cally, I *need* those --"

"I need them more," Kal says, and spanks Bruce's scrotum steadily, making Bruce blush more, *sweat* more --

He's gritting his teeth and trying not to lose all of himself --

He's hurting and *needy* --

Surely -- surely Kal must --

"*Please*, Kal, no *more* --"

"Ah -- *perfect*," and Kal --

Clark is sliding in, *pushing* in inch by inch --

He can recognize intellectually that the girth is less that Clark's fingers, but the length --

The incredible *heat* --

"Bruce, *speak* --"

"I *need* you, Clark, please, please *take* me --"

"Oh, *yes* --" And Clark slips in the rest of the way --

The slap of his scrotum against Bruce's own makes Bruce want to jump, flinch, cry *out* --

"Oh, your pain, your beautiful -- Bruce, tell me you still *desire* --"

"*Yes*, Clark, you -- or Kal, show me everything, *everything* -- *oh* --" And the hand locked around the back of Bruce's neck *isn't* as hot as Clark's penis, but it feels that way *emotionally*. Everything feels --

He's as sensitized as he was after firewalking in the Kalahari --

He's stretched open and *full* for the first time, and everything else --

No, none of it is meaningless, because Clark had brought him to this point with a game they could both play, a moment they could *share* --

"Please *take* me --"

And Clark tightens his grip on Bruce's neck and begins to move, one long thrust after another. Bruce tries to breathe, but he can only pant, *salivate* as if his body wants to find still *other* ways to take Clark --

Every way, *please* --

"Bruce -- oh, Bruce --"

"*Here*. I -- I *need* you --"

"*Yes*, you feel -- you must *feel*," Clark says, moving his hands until they're both on Bruce's hips --

Until he's free and *twitching* -- "*Clark* --"

"You'll come for me *soon*."

Bruce nods like he's lost even more of his intellect than Brucie could play through --

Bruce *laughs* --

Bruce groans for the way laughing changes things, from the way his body moves to the way Clark is *clinging* to him --

"Please, *yes*, Bruce --"

"Don't -- please don't *stop* --"

"I want *more* --"

"You can *have* it --"

"I *must* --" Clark groans and lifts Bruce into a kneeling position, thrusting *up* at the same time --

The sound Bruce makes hurts his *throat* --

"Ah -- a moment --" And Clark moves the pillowcase and covers Bruce's mouth with his hand, instead.

Bruce can taste his own sweat and pre-ejaculate --

Bruce feels his eyes rolling up -- no, he must stay *conscious* for this, feel every moment, *taste* --

And Clark is lifting and moving Bruce into the thrusts with his other hand, clutching hard enough to bruise and making Bruce grunt for every one, *need* for every one --

"*Here*," Clark says, and shifts the angle of his thrusts --

Bruce cries out --

Bruce can't *focus*, anymore -- but he can grip Clark's wrists and hold them just where they are, beg with his grip for more, please *more* --

Where had the zip-strip gone?

When *had* it gone?

"*Bruce* --"

How could he give this up? How could he walk away from anything --

No, those thoughts aren't *correct*, and they don't belong in this moment, this --

"I *need* you, Bruce. I have loved, I have dreamed, I -- oh, Bruce, so *human* --"

Bruce nods and wishes he could speak -- but he knows he has no words as eloquent as those. He has grunts and cries and shudders, licks and *bites* for the palm covering his mouth --

"I would never deny your *sounds* --"

Better, it's *better*, and so Bruce tightens his grip on Clark's wrists --

"No, I need --" Clark growls and twists free, moving his hand from Bruce's hip to Bruce's penis --"*Together*."

Yes, always -- no, just for this moment, this pleasure --

And Clark is stroking him fast and perfectly --

It's his *own* rhythm, for those times when he's wanted both to be efficient and to imagine himself lost to the touch of Harvey, of the frightening and beautiful alien --

He calls Clark's name and is muffled. He thrusts into Clark's fist and is taken *harder* --

The rhythms are *different*. He can't -- he can't catch *either* of them, but Clark can catch him, take him --

"Do it *now*, beloved friend. Do it so that I may do the *same* --"

Bruce gasps and twitches, groans and *flexes* --

"Oh, Bruce, *come* --"

Yes -- *yes* -- and throwing his head back *means* more when he can rest it on Clark's shoulder, clutch at Clark's wrists, his powerful forearms --

He's shaking all *over* --

Clark cries out into Bruce's *ear*, and the need in his voice --

The *anguished* pleasure --

Bruce loses himself in a *blank* heartbeat, comes back to find himself jerking and spasming as he spends himself --

As he spurts into the air --

As Clark groans almost *mournfully* --

And the feel of Clark's *hot* semen is enough to make Bruce spurt again and again, try to cling, push himself back and *cling* --

Clark bites Bruce's shoulder *hard* and spills still more inside him --

Bruce slumps because his body will allow nothing else --

And, after a moment, Clark wraps his arms around Bruce's chest and they stay that way, kneeling and bent under the force of their *pleasure* --


Clark laughs softly.

Oh. "Did I tense?"

"Minutely, but yes. What is it, my friend?"

Bruce reaches back to cup the back of Clark's head --

"Oh, you're so wonderfully *big*."

Bruce hums. "Clark."

"It's *lonely* being 'the size of a motherfucking barn,' as Jason is wont to say."

Bruce *laughs* -- "His *language* --"

"Robin tried to change it. He's a determined young man, but Jason has a will of iron when it comes to some things. Tell me what's wrong?"

"Nothing. Or..."


"Was that truly what you wanted?"

"Is that so strange...?" And Clark leans in enough to let Bruce *feel* the breadth of his smile on his shoulder.


Clark sighs. "I've missed you *scolding* me, as well, beloved friend."

"Hm. I'll keep that in mind."

Clark shivers against him -- "Please do. And... you taught me much about how one can play certain roles until they *become* personae, until they become so real that no one can be sure they *aren't*. I needed that, considering the fact that I chose to spend as much time as possible around a world-class investigative reporter."

Bruce nods and considers that. "When *did* Lois learn your identity?"

"She told me that she went back and forth on the matter. Clark Kent was convincing enough most of the time, but, in the end, there were a few too many coincidences."

"Not that Superman occasionally looked at her like Clark Kent and vice versa?"

Clark smiles against Bruce's shoulder again. "Kal was looking out of my eyes far more often than anyone else."

Oh... "Did that..." No, he shouldn't. Bruce shakes his head.

"Please, ask."

"I'd rather not accustom myself to asking egregiously personal questions --"

"Of the people who make love with you?"

Well, that's... a point. "Hm."

Clark kisses Bruce's shoulder, his throat, the back of his neck -- "Please."

"I... wondered if Kal excited her."

Clark *licks* the back of Bruce's neck --

Bruce shivers --

"Yes, though I must be careful. When she's not in the mood for Kal, she is *decidedly* not in the mood for Kal."

Bruce strokes Clark's arms, his hands... "Ultimately unsurprising."

"Did *you* guess that Lois would find a man like him desirable?"

"I... have only met her twice. Once as the Batman, once as Brucie. Neither of those personae moved her to be especially open."

"And that wasn't what I asked. Tiger."

Bruce smiles helplessly, squeezing Clark's wrists precisely as hard as he can -- "The idea had... occurred."

"Because... no, I have no idea. *Why* did the idea occur to you that *quickly*?"

Clark... isn't softening. His stamina approaches the god-like when compared to *human* males, but -- "Are you... unsatisfied?"

"What? No, I'm --" Clark sighs and kisses Bruce's throat again. "There have been times -- many, many times -- when I've thought myself made up of nothing but *greed*, Bruce. While it's true that there are few things I enjoy more than making love, I've yet to... ah... reach an end-point?"

Bruce blinks. "Not... you have many lovers."

"Oh, yes, and Diana is one of them. There are times when we make love for hours in the most vigorous ways available to us. But... well. Perhaps it would've been possible when I was younger and less powerful."

"That seems terribly sad --"

"Oh, yes, Bruce, it's a *tragedy* that I am, for all intents and purposes, *always* ready to make love to the people I care about. Or to do it a second time."

"Or a third. Or -- yes, I see," Bruce says, and smiles. "I withdraw my sympathy, but not my desire for you to live happily --"

"How did you *know*?"

Ah... yes. Bruce hums. "It was in the way she challenged me as the Batman. There was never any particular way around her challenges without resorting to force and... the more blunt forms of dominance."

"Yes, but how did you know she would *approve* of that?"

"I didn't, truly. But there was something in her eyes which... suggested that it wouldn't necessarily be a terrible idea to try."

"You were a *virgin*."

"Exceedingly so. Though I'd had access to a great deal of information about human sexuality. Access you may not have given yourself immediately...?"

Clark sighs. "The bumpkin in me is blushing *most* profusely, in case you were curious. I didn't think I *needed* to know what I hadn't picked up via... ah... trial and error?"

Bruce raises an eyebrow --

"All right, yes, I *did* do a great deal of research after moving to Metropolis, but I never really thought to *apply* that knowledge to my friends and loved ones."

"And you never listened to Lois' dates...?"

"That would've been... ah... prying?"

Bruce coughs a laugh --

"Yes, yes. Let's just say that you're not the *only* one with foolish and damaging rules of behavior."

"Noted," Bruce says, and moves to kneel up --

Kryptonian. *Teasing* Kryptonian, punctuated by Clark's *firm* grip on Bruce's hips.


More Kryptonian, whispered into his *ear* --


A sigh, followed by still more Kryptonian -- "-- and, furthermore, you *can't* blame me for trying."

"You were wonderful --"

"And you were -- " Another sigh. "*Consider* staying here, with us. Consider all that you could teach us, and all that we could teach *you* --"

"Clark -- please."

Clark moans softly, kisses Bruce's shoulder, and lifts Bruce off at a speed --

Bruce can feel the *aftermath* of the move -- mostly in terms of the semen spilling out of him -- but he couldn't feel the actual move, at all. He -- Bruce turns to face Clark, cups his beautiful face --

Clark turns to kiss Bruce's palm repeatedly before turning back. "I understand, Bruce, but I cannot entirely help myself."

"I am flattered and --"

"No, no, don't say that --" Clark shakes his head and laughs again. "I never want to *flatter* you, my friend."

Bruce nods once. "I'm sorry."

"You were trying to be polite to me. You -- I would much prefer your honesty, no matter how much it hurt."

"I never want to *hurt* you --"

"But you will, and you must. Start now. Tell me that you don't love me, that I'm not the *one*."

Bruce shakes his head. "I. I don't think I can do that."

Clark's lips part. "Oh... beautiful companion, I would keep you *near* --"

"I know --"

"But it's not enough."

Bruce frowns. "I must. I must *try*, Clark."

Clark sighs and nods. "Yes. You are yourself, and... yes. Lie with me? For sleep, I mean."

"I... thought I would dress again and wait for the others to return --"

"I've already sent them a message saying that you will be sleeping near to your friend and that I would be keeping watch."

Bruce nods -- pauses. "What *of* Lois?"

"Ah -- while she enjoys a certain amount of snuggling, that enjoyment dips precipitously when she is asleep and I am most assuredly not."

That -- "You don't sleep, at all, anymore."

Clark spreads his hands --

And then they and the beds are much closer to Harvey's gurney. Harvey is no longer tied, and is sleeping on his side. There are frown lines bitten deep into his forehead, but he looks far better than he had before.

Bruce reaches out to stroke his face --

("Bruce? C'mon, big guy, wake up, it's just a nightmare...")

"When J'onn has done this for others, there has always been a period of adjustment. The individual in question must grow accustomed to... ah. Well, the way he described it made it sound a bit like lucid dreaming," Clark whispers.

"He isn't having a nightmare?"

"I believe what he's experiencing is closer to having walked *in* on one of his nightmares."

There is no reason to wake him. There -- "When you covered my mouth..."

"He had moved closer to waking. He never actually did," Clark says, and tugs Bruce toward the beds. "Tomorrow, I imagine, you'll be able to speak with him."

Bruce breathes deeply and nods -- stops. "If J'onn has this power --"

"Ah -- you must understand, Bruce. Your friend had not yet sunken *in* to his difficulties. Most of him was still... on the right track?"

And most of the emotionally troubled criminals Bruce has met have already lost touch with the people they were before they sunk so low. Bruce nods. "I understand. He *has* done this before?"

Clark smiles ruefully. "Three other times. Twice on my behalf, once on Diana's. All of the individuals in question were younger than your friend, however."

Bruce frowns --

"If J'onn wasn't hopeful, your friend would still be *restrained*, Bruce."

Bruce closes his eyes and feels exhaustion and ruefulness settle *weights* on him -- "I'm being ridiculous."

"You're worried about your good friend... something I have been assiduous about giving you as little time as possible to do."

Bruce opens his eyes and raises an eyebrow.

Clark shrugs lightly. "Only Superman's motives are entirely pure at all times, Bruce."

"Noted," Bruce says, and lies down on the perfectly comfortable bed. It's positioned well within Harvey's sight lines --

And Harvey would be worried if *he* weren't rested. Bruce closes his eyes --

And sighs helplessly when Clark presses his body to Bruce's own and rests his head on Bruce's bicep. The warmth is staggering enough that Bruce is grateful to only be covered in a sheet --

Bruce breathes deeply and lets himself sink. Perhaps he won't have the nightmares tonight --

Perhaps he'll have them quietly.


Jason's dreaming of the mythical spar against Dick which leads to anything but crushing defeat --

Jason's dreaming of kicks he can't hit completely without making his sac fucking scream at him --

And it's not Dick. It's -- Bruce.

And he's smiling -- showing even white teeth -- and gesturing a come-on --

He's using every halfway decent move Jason *has* --

He's showing Jason how it's *done*, and even knowing that he's dreaming -- the mats go to just beyond where the cars and bikes are parked. They *don't* lead into a blank fog --

And the world doesn't skip and restart every time Jason fucks up --

And Bruce *probably* doesn't toss his hair like Dick does when he feels like being an *ass* --

Even knowing it's a dream, Jason can't stop trying to catalog what he's learning, can't stop trying to make himself try to *remember* --

Movement --

And there's Tim and Tink and Cardinal all at once, sashaying in with his staff-slash-magic-wand, dancing in, *moving* all quick and sleek and right --

And that's *definitely* Tink sucking Bruce off, because Tim likes to do it a little slower than that and Cardinal maybe files his *teeth* --

Kiss --

The kiss *doesn't* taste like cock, which means he's waking up the right way. He reaches --

And Tim's skinny little hips are right there, already naked and sleek for Jason's hands. Jason squeezes *hard* --

And Tim hums a moan into his mouth, wriggling and pressing closer --

Until Jason *has* to flip them and pin his baby brother and the scariest twink in the known universe. It takes approximately *no* time for him to be kissing a smile --

And that means he's warming up everywhere he isn't *heating* up. Jason bites Tim's lips, sits up and *yanks* Tim's body further up the bed, and then starts working on renewing the bruises on his throat.

"Oh -- mm -- Jay, we should -- ah. No, I forgot," Tim says, laughing that breathless little thing that means Jason hasn't *earned* the giggle yet.

Jason grins and kisses his way up to Tim's ear --

No, he nuzzles Tim's cheek, looking for the scent of blush and finding cold cream, instead --

"You cleaned up *that* good down there?"

"I was -- um. Hoping that Bruce would wake up."

How big *is* Bruce's cock? He hadn't really pressed close enough to get a good feel -- wait a minute. Jason opens his eyes and wipes away the sleep-dust. "You're hot for him already?"

Tim blinks at him like he's a nutjob. "He's *Batman*."

"He's a fucking perv is what he is --"

"We *knew* that --"

Jason leans in and kisses Tim's cute little nose. "I kissed him."

"He's not -- *is* he your type?"

"Fuck if I know, bro," and Jason yawns fucking *hugely*. "Jesus, I'm always fucking *sleepier* on my nights off. C'mere, get on top of me again," and Jason rolls off onto his back.

Tim straddles him agreeably, but he's frowning.

"What is it?"

"We can't *all* want him. I mean, obviously we can, but --"

"It gets kinda fucked up if we do, yeah, I'm hearing you. And Big Bird's already thinking of keeping him --"

"I picked that up. Though he didn't even *shower* in the Cave."

Jason nods, thinks about it -- "He probably needs a little more time to run away from the guy who totally is the love of his life but also isn't."

Tim nods thoughtfully, doing a little data entry and input retrieval with his huge, terrifying brain -- and then he gives Jason a Tink smile.

"I'm about as braced as I'm gonna get. Hit me."

Tink pouts at him. "Is the magic gone *already*?"

"You *are* the magic, you freak. What do you wanna destroy my brain with today?"

Tink narrows his eyes, pouts a little more --

Jason has *learned* to not even try to predict --

And Tink has his hard little hands on his nipples. "Rings...?"

Jason groans and beats his head against the pillow -- wait. "What about your skin, baby?"

"You *like* my scars --"

"All of 'em, yeah, but --"

"The scars wouldn't *show*, Jay --"

"*But* the piercer might screw up. You don't know. It's not like these guys go through years of school and then stand and deliver in front of some board --"

"I was *planning* to do it myself," Tink says, and he's got that bitchy little twist to his mouth --

Jason sits up on his elbows and raises his eyebrows. "You totally already decided."

Bitchy look --

*More* bitchy look --

Flirty look. "You could watch...?"

And there goes Jason's cock. "Yeah, hunh? You wanna bleed for me a little?"

And Jason was expecting the twitch, but he gets a twitch *and* a hot little grind that may as well be designed to make his sac tighten and his cock want a *taste*.

"C'mere --"

"I want -- tell me more about Bruce."

Jason blinks. "You're totally gonna try to hit that, aren't you."

Bitchy look *right* back... but Tim -- *not* Tink -- sighs and starts rubbing and massaging Jason's chest. "It's just -- a part of me has been fantasizing about him since I was *three*, Jay."

Okay, but -- "I thought that was *Dick*."

"It was! Mostly," Tim says, and smiles ruefully. "He was -- is -- the Dark *Knight*."

"And you wanted to be his squire...?"

"Well. I think I mainly -- there was definitely a fantasy about smelling his armor."

Jason stares at Tim.

Tim narrows his eyes.

"Okay, yeah, I *do* like it when you're sniffing me. I just -- how *old* were you?"

"Ah... ten. Maybe -- no, I was ten."

"But you said you didn't spank it until you were *eleven* --"

"There were any number of fantasies which made a lot more sense... then."

Jason stares at Tim -- oh, wait, he has no room to judge whatsoever. "Uh. So I hooked up with J'onn."

Tim *looks* ten when his eyes are wide like that --

"It was -- pretty fucking fantastic, actually. He said -- uh. He *sent* that I reminded him of his wife."

"His wife liked fucking underaged boys and aliens?"

Jason snorts and bounces Tim a little -- just enough for his cock to start getting interestingly uncomfortable. "Probably, yeah. Basically, I could *not* stop thinking of fucking -- this was before Bruce got back from the Fortress -- "

"*Did* he and Clark have sex?"

"Oh, no doubt. Wait, wasn't Clark still there?"

"He *was*, but he was also wearing his uniform. You know how innocent he can look in his uniform."

"Bruce was naked?"

"I couldn't see what he might have been wearing under the sheet --"

"They totally boned again. Also -- also, Clark is never innocent."

"I *know* that. But he loved the Bruce from this universe... I don't know."

"You thought maybe he would wait?"

Tim scratches Jason's pecs and nods, looking a little troubled.

"I think -- I think maybe he wasn't capable of waiting. This Bruce *was* the same as the guy he fell hard for back when he was younger than *Dick*, you know?"

"*Dick* isn't --"

"He totally is --"

"He hasn't even said more than ten sentences to him. And he keeps running *away*."

Jason looks at Tim.

Tim glares at him.

Jason looks a little harder --

Tim growls -- "All right, fine, that *is* how he tends to try and fail to seduce people he wants now."

"Exactly --"

"I can't decide whether I'm happy he actually speaks to *us* or not."

Jason snorts and reaches up to break a few of Tim's hair spikes. "You're happy."

Tim sighs. "I am, yes. *Why* did you kiss Bruce?"

"Because he's huge and hot and *interesting* about being a perv? I dunno." 

"That's *Clark*. You made Clark wait for two *years*."

"He told you that?"

"He made it sound like an epic love story for the ages," Tim says, and traces little circles around Jason's nipples.

"He's good at that, yeah. I don't know. This guy -- once I made him admit that he was totally hot for underaged ass --"

"Not just underaged boy-ass?"

"There was totally some little girl *somewhere* who tripped his trigger, yeah," Jason says, and thinks about it -- "Shit, I don't know. Have *you* ever asked Dickie how old he was when they started hooking up?"

"I..." Tim smiles ruefully. "It was definitely before he was tall enough to drive the cars, going by what he's said in various little... anecdotes."

"So -- definitely not fifteen yet. Maybe not even fourteen --" Jason bangs his head against the pillow a few times. "Yeah. He -- okay, I made him admit that he was kinked that way, and apparently Clark had spent some time talking him down off the ledge for that --"

"Clark is... does he just not *believe* in the concept of 'underaged?'"

"He totally doesn't. Or -- you never hear about people being fucked-up because of Clark, as opposed to all the other heroes in his generation. Shit, I don't know. His definition of 'underaged' is a lot fucking narrower than mine -- or the *law's*. Maybe he can *smell* the tweens who are up for some Superfucking. I don't know."

Tim files *that* away --

Gives Jason an odd little look --

"What is it?"

"I have another question for when you're done answering my sixteen other questions," Tim says, and lies down on top of Jason, snuggling up close and humming a little under his breath --

"Oh, hey, I love that --"

"I know. So do I... sometimes."

Jason wraps his arms around Tim and holds on tight. "You'll tell me when you need me to be less up on your jock, yeah?"

"*Jay* --"

"I'm *serious*. You've got your own thing --"

"I have Young *Justice*, and -- that's only a weekend thing. They're not -- none of them are *you*," Tim says, and he's totally glaring.

Jason raises his eyebrows. "Then it's okay when I say that I never wanna let you go?"

The glare kinda melts off Tim's face --

"I don't know what I'll do when --"


"Okay, okay, I hear you. Uh. Where was I?"

"Clark had convinced Bruce that it was okay that the version of him who'd lived in this universe was having sex with a teenaged Dick."

"Can I make you translate for me all the time?"

"No," Tim says, and bites Jason's collarbone.

"Heh, noted. Anyway, I put him on the right track -- you *can't* just gloss over shit like that --"

Tim grunts noncommittally.

"Hey --"

"I'm *listening*," Tim says, and bites him *again*.

"Okay, fine," and Jason blows out a breath. "So there I am, talking some sense into him. And then I went back to my report --"

"Dick snorted twice while he was reading it."

"Damn, no hat trick?"

"You probably would've had one if Dick hadn't been obsessing about Bruce. He muttered something about Bruce usually being a *light* sleeper before he stripped off and jogged up the stairs."

Jason frowns. "No goodnight for you?"

"He gave me the manly-yet-loving shoulder-clasp and an entirely unreadable look."

"Unreadable for *you*?"

Tim wriggles a little bit --

"C'mon, give."

"He... he was looking at me a little like he used to. That 'someone is going to stop me from training this boy, because I'm doing it wrong' look."

Jason sighs. "Yeah, I know that look."

"I know you do, but... it wasn't *quite* like that. There was... well, he looked -- and I hate using this word this way -- haunted."

"His childhood's coming back to *bite* him, baby bro."

"You think... you really think he was damaged by his relationship with Bruce."

"You *don't*?"

Another wriggle --

"Do I need to let you move?"

"No! I mean -- no. It's just..." Tim gnaws on him a little, but it's not in that Tink way, or even in that Tim-wants-a-piece way. It's in that *other* way he has -- the one Jason's not sure he's *supposed* to understand. The one that's all about how young Tim *wasn't* when Jason caught him snapping his little pictures -- except for how he was even younger.

Jason strokes the back of Tim's head and holds him a little tighter. Just -- keeps him a little, because maybe it *wasn't* their job to give Tim a childhood, but maybe they should've tried harder to do it, anyway --

"I'm okay."

Really? "I know."

"I'm *okay*. I just -- Bruce was the love of Dick's *life*."

"His *first* love --"

"Sometimes -- sometimes the two are the same *thing*," Tim says, pushing up and glaring a little --

And the way that always makes Jason trip a little, *seize* a little -- "I love you."

Tim blinks rapidly and reaches to scrub at Jason's stubble with his hand. "You didn't -- even if I'm really -- really a *mess* when I'm older? It could never be your fault."

Aw -- Jesus. What -- no. Jason swallows and nods, because there's nothing he can really say to that. Tim had never wanted him to feel even a little bit guilty for wanting him, needing him --

And, most of the time, he doesn't.

"Tell me..." Tim licks his lips. "How did you get from 'you're an evil pervert' to making out with him?"

"Well, I never really thought he was an *evil* perv. I mean, Clark wouldn't have gone for him so hard if he was --"

"*Jay* --"

"Okay, okay. Uh. Right. So I was working on the report again, and I could *feel* him, you know?"

"Staring at you?"

"Nah, that's a different feeling. It was more like -- he was taking up all the space in the damned Cave with what *he* was thinking, and a part of me was thinking 'shit, I bet it was like this all the fucking *time* back in the day,' and I even think that part is *right*, but it still wasn't like *that*. I mean, my skin was crawling."

"Like it does when you're around Crane?"

Fucking *Crane*. He'd hit Jason with a potion that made him afraid of *himself*, and the fear was so bad he'd gotten *angry* -- and nearly killed the guy before Dick had shot him up with the antidote and he could *think*. And now --

Now he can't be around the guy without feeling that scrawny neck between his hands and --

"No, not like that. More like..." Jason licks his lips and pulls Tim back down on top of him. Tim sprawls just as sweet as you'd like -- "God, I love you."

"You -- always, Jay. *Always*."

And maybe, just maybe, one day you'll be able to use those three little words -- or, hell, just *think* them -- without getting caught up in what giant fuck-ups your parents were. But -- "Anyway, it was more like *I* could feel what Dick feels every time he wonders if he's as good at training us up as Bruce would've been. That kind of -- *everything*-in-the-Cave-is-watching-me thing."

"That sounds rather... hm. I believe I'm rather glad to be the youngest."

"Eh, you'll feel it one day. Whenever one of us brings in the *next* bird-to-be."

"I don't feel like that with *Steph* --"

"How was she tonight?"

Tim sighs a little *dreamily* -- "Brutal. Relentless. *Mean*. She definitely made up for you being benched."

"Meaning she *did* use that nightstick of hers on you in some smelly little alley?"

"Jay, that's *unsanitary*. She deflowered me on a *rooftop*."

Jason snorts and smacks the back of Tim's head. "You don't *have* any flowers, you little prick."

"On the contrary -- I still have my *woman*-flowers. My heterosexual virginity is firmly intact."

Jason lifts Tim's head by the hair and *looks* at him.

"... and it's likely to remain so, given that even watching Steph kick a mugger's teeth out --"

"How many?"

"Two and a half."

"*Sweet*, go on."

"Yes, well," Tim says, and arranges himself a little better -- i.e., with his cock nudging Jason's own -- "Even then, I still wasn't even a little bit... arrested."

Jason sighs. "We can't all be equal-opportunity sluts, bro. Hey, what happens when you think about *me* doin' her?"

Tim gets a thoughtful look --

Tim *blinks* --

Tim licks his *lips* -- "Would you... maybe be excessively dirty about it?"

"Heh. If she was into it."

Tim licks his lips *again*. "Yes, that's a definite... maybe. I think she does want you."

"Yeah, I think so, too. We kissed --"


"Right before Bruce and Dent showed up in the Cave. I -- heh. I meant to mention --"

Tim bites his *nipple* --

"Yow -- unh. Wait, are we having sex tonight or not?"

Tim *hums* around his nipple -- and wags his head back and forth before pulling back. "One, I don't know. Two, I never make *you* wait to hear about what -- or who -- I've been doing --"

"We've been *busy* --"

Tim narrows his eyes at him.

"I'm *sorry*!"

Tim narrows his eyes even *more* -- and then he hums his way into a snicker. "I'm not actually mad."

"No? Good!"

"I'm -- um. I've thought about what it would be like to be -- your girl."

"Like -- "


"With the --" Jason gestures --


Okay, okay, he's breathing --

He's thinking --

He's thinking *and* breathing, because that's a Tink look on Tim's face, and that's just fucking *dangerous* -- "Okay, one big problem with that... plan?"

Tink doesn't give him even a *whisper* of a hint.

Right. "See, if you were my girl? You couldn't be my *boy*."

"I could be *both*."

"Like -- more than you already are? And you know I love you in drag --"

"And if..." Tink licks his teeth. "And if it wasn't drag...?"

Jason -- stares. He just --

Tink snickers his way into a Timmish little hum. "Okay, that's -- that's for a time when I *haven't* woken you out of a sound sleep --"

"I'm awake!"

"Jay... stop thinking about it. I've just... well, file it under 'Tink is going to be doing some more experimentation' for now? Maybe?"

Jason *knows* he looks fucking wary --

And Tim leans in and kisses him deeply, licking at seemingly *all* of Jason's teeth, sucking Jason's tongue, humming and sucking on Jason's lips --

Jason cups the back of Tim's head and fucks his mouth a little. Nothing serious -- just enough to get *one* twitch of Tim's cock before Tim pulls back.

"I'm really -- finish telling me about Bruce? I mean -- what specifically changed your *mind* about him?"

Jason nods and breathes and -- licks his lips. "Well -- okay, there he was, sucking all the air out. I asked him to tell me what he was thinking, he's like -- 'I've found a way to keep from hurting a child,' I joked about how maybe I could castrate him... and he just looked at me."

Tim chokes and stares at him.

"Yeah, *exactly*. I think if I told him that I wouldn't believe he did it unless he let me chop 'em off myself, he would've just led me over to the medical equipment and dropped trou."

"Jay, that's -- what did you *say* to him?"

"Fuck if I know, baby, I was just talking shit about how he couldn't walk around thinking he *wasn't* a giant perv, getting him to admit that he wanted *my* ass --"

"You don't even *look* like a teenager, Jay!"

Jason shrugs. "He's got some serious guilt issues? Whatever, we both know how you *look* doesn't have shit to do with *shit*, yeah?"

Tim blushes and nods --

And Jason strokes his cheeks a little. "So, yeah, I had to talk him down a little, get him to *cope* with himself and how he could be a perv *and* a hero, but that he should watch himself, and by then... by then I could tell that he *really* wanted me."

"Oh... I. What -- what did that look like?"

"His eyes got all deep and wide, he kept taking really deep breaths, he kept clenching his hands into fists like maybe he was telling them *not* to just grab me and *take* -- that kinda thing."

Tim *grunts* -- "Um. I. Wow."


"*Batman* *wants* you, Jay!"

"Eh, he's no Robin."

Tim's snort is just a *little* scandalized, and fuck if Jason doesn't need that. A little proof that *he's* still capable of being the one who's just that fucking *out* there --

Tink is tough *competition* -- "*Anyway* -- he's a good kisser. A little hesitant at first, but fucking *hungry* when you get him going."

Tim kneels up and frowns thoughtfully, eyes going distant because he's burning up his little motherboard... yeah.

Jason shifts to get more comfortable and folds his hands behind his neck. He can be patient. More to the point, he can be patient with the *light* on, because Tim has a *nasty* fucking bruise over his lower ribs on the left side.

Jason marks it out with his fingers -- it's gonna be bad. "Anybody take care of this for you?"

"What? Oh, no, it was under armor and I got it when I was soloing."

Jason frowns. "You should've told Dickie about it --"

"It's just a *bruise* --"

"He would've rubbed it a little for you --"

"He was -- you didn't see his eyes. I really don't think he would've dealt all that well with me being injured."

Jason winces, nods, and starts working the flesh a little, trying to keep at least a *little* blood from pooling. Tim stiffens up a little for the pain, but relaxes well enough pretty much immediately. Good boy.

When Jason's done, he leans in and kisses it a little, because he *has* to, damn it, and never mind how fucking --

"I -- I love you."


"Oh -- God, that sounded terrible, didn't it? I mean -- the timing --" And Tim's pushing him *away* --

"Hey, no," Jason says, sitting up and cupping Tim's face. "I just -- I wasn't expecting that --"

"I know, and. You were just taking care of me --"

"I had to --"

"You always -- you *always* take care of me, and I love that, and I feel guilty for loving it --"

"No, don't --"

"Because I'm not supposed to *need* like that --"

"Yes, you *are* --"

"And -- I guess. I guess I just need you to know that it's always you," Tim says, smiling ruefully and rubbing the backs of Jason's hands. "You're the one I'd do anything for, *be* anyone for --"

Just *you* --"

"Because I know, in the end, the only me you want is um. Me. Okay?"

Sometimes --

Sometimes Tim really breaks his fucking *heart*, and the only thing to do with that is tackle him like Dick would, pin him and fucking *mush* him --

"*Jay* --"

"Shut up and take it, baby."

"You're *heavier* than Dick --"

"Uh, huh. You need the extra compression."

Tim starts hitting him, but since he hasn't broken out the nerve-strikes, yet, Jason figures he's got another few minutes.

He damned well takes them, and starts kissing Tim's forehead a little --

Okay, that was a nerve-strike which could've paralyzed his arm if it had been aimed right. Jason kisses Tim one more time and rolls off.

"You're *not* going to do that every time I say -- it."

"Not every time."

"Okay --"

"Probably," Jason says, and grins at him. "I have to make *sure* you know what you mean to me, bro. I never had anyone like you, and --"

"You -- don't have to keep -- ah."

"Bein' sappy? Gushy? *Mushy*?"

Tim makes a face.

Jason snickers. "You, my bitchy baby boy --"

"That makes me sound like your *son*, Jay! Your son who's a *toddler* --"

"I don't think I'd call a three-year-old bitchy, but since we're talkin' about you... heh. I bet you made your nannies cry if their nail polish wasn't right."

"Some of my nannies were perfectly lovely people. I never -- I never."

More sharing? Really? Jason rolls onto his side and rubs Tim's chest a little. "Okay, I hear you. But I'm also... hearing you, you know?"

Tim makes a face again --

It turns *into* a frown --

"I suppose it would be better if I just spit out what was bothering me," he says, and generally sounds like Jason had suggested he put leeches on his cock or something. So --

"Yeah, baby bro. Just rip off the scab and get it over with."

Tim sighs. "It's just -- it's not really bothering me --"

"Is it not bothering you, or are you just convinced that it *shouldn't* be bothering you?"

Tim opens his mouth --

"Not the same thing. We've been *over* that."

Tim turns a bitchy look on him that's doing its best to wither the nuts off every last one of Jason's male ancestors -- and then he sighs again. "I'm worried about us. The way we'll be. With Bruce here."

Jason blows out a breath. "So am I."

"You are? No, wait, that doesn't make me feel more hopeful."

Jason laughs softly and pulls Tim close again. "He could really fuck us up, and all he has to do is be himself --"

"He wouldn't," *Dick* says from the damned doorway --

"*Jesus*, Big Bird --"

"Sorry, sorry. I was lurking, and I *know* I'm not supposed to do that, but -- it happens?"

Tim sits up. "If you need to talk --"

Dick laughs. "See, that's funny. When Jay wants *you* to talk, you give him Tink's evil-minded aunt. But for me? You've always been Little Mister Open. Why's that?"

"Ah -- hm."

And that's the 'hm,' of 'nobody is going to like this answer,' so Jason pokes Tim just above his bruise --

"Ow! Um. You're needier, Dick."

Dick looks at Tim.

Tim winces.

Jason tries very fucking hard -- he totally deserves points for this -- not to laugh.

Dick looks at *him* --

Jason snickers.

Dick hums. "You realize that you're both getting wheatgrass shakes out of this, don't you? And Tim, yours is going to have raw egg."

"Aw, *damn* it --"

"Dick! Salmonella!"

"Not if I wash the shell *very* well, which is something I learned from Dario Gatali, so it *must* be true," Dick says, breathing on his fingernails and pretending to buff them on his chest. All he's actually wearing is a pair of boxer-briefs, which means --

He doesn't know. Jason hasn't figured out the rules for pajamas versus pajama bottoms versus t-shirt and shorts versus -- and so on. He's damned sure there *are* rules, though, and he *will* learn them one day.

For now...

"You're a fucking *terrible* Dad, Big Bird," and Jason's expecting a choke, a splutter, maybe some obscene gesturing --

But Dick only sighs. "So was Bruce."

Oh -- shit.

Tim's eyes are *good* and wide --

"We're listening," Jason says, and sits up, dragging Tim with him. "In fact, get over here."

Dick frowns. "I -- should be letting you both sleep."

"Yeah, but you know we're *not*, because now we know you're fucked-up enough to lurk against the rules."

Tim nods to back his play and points at the spot at the head of the bed where Dick could make a nice equilateral triangle --

And Dick laughs a little sadly. "That's part of it, you know. Parents aren't supposed to take *over* their kids' lives. There has to be a certain point --" Dick shakes his head. "Even *I* know that Dad's mood swings aren't supposed to be the be-all and end-all of a kid's existence."

"But Bruce's were," Tim says, and frowns a little -- "Dick, please come here."

Dick raises an eyebrow at Tim.

Tim pulls on Tink and *flourishes* a point at the head of the bed --

And this time Dick's laugh is better. "I love you so much. *Both* of you -- okay, I'm coming," Dick says, and actually *walks* to the bed instead of flipping or tumbling --

"Hey, how tired are *you*, Big Bird?"

"Oh -- God, don't ask," Dick says, and sits down tailor-style before leaning over to ruffle Tim's damp hair. "Or -- you can ask, but you probably both already know."

Jason nods and bites his lip --

"Dick... we need you to tell us... I mean. I don't know how much you overheard --"

"All of it."

Jason's stomach tries to relocate a little. Dick hadn't been upset about Jason hooking up with *Kory* -- but Kory wasn't Bruce. He bites his lip a little harder -- no, he's gonna man up. "Uh... how upset are you about me making out with Bruce?"

Dick laughs again *and* smiles. "The most handsome man in the world? The bravest and the strongest and the absolute, perfectest *best*?"

Jason winces --

"No, no, it's okay, little wing. I *promise*. I always thought..." Dick rubs at his long, perfect fucking thighs with his hands and Jason doesn't try to pin him and lick or anything like that --

Because he totally has a sense of timing and a limit on the number of times he can deal with being rejected for really good and intelligent reasons that make him want to beat his head against the wall --

He's fine. "What did you think?"

"Well, I had Bruce, of course. I just also had Clark, and Roy, and eventually Kory, and all the other Titans..."

And he *does* mean all, because once Jason brought random bribes with him up to the Tower and got a Dick-sex story from every last *one* of them --

And he'd used the one Vic told him to get Tim so high he came twice *before* Jason shoved it in --

"You... ah." Tim licks his lips. "You thought Bruce should... have other people, too?"

Dick grins at Tim. "I thought he should be *having* people right and left. Even when I was thirteen, I could tell that Clark wanted him, and Diana wanted him -- and this was back when she got a little queasy when people talked about heterosexual sex in front of her. Hell, I saw *Ollie* give Bruce a look or two, and Ollie *hated* him back then *and had never actually seen his whole face*."

"He does... uh. He does have an *effect*," Jason says, and pushes a hand back through his hair. "Seriously, Big Bird, how are we gonna do this?"

Dick leans back against the headboard and just stares up at the ceiling for a little while, periodically swallowing.

*Jason* knows that that means a part of Dick is crying a whole fucking lot somewhere they just can't *see* --

Tim reaches out and cups Dick's ankle -- he knows, too, and -- they can do better than this.

Jason moves up to Dick's left side and lets Tim take the right, and then they push and move him a little so they can give him the tag-team hug --

"Oh -- God. Okay, at least I taught you guys how to do *this* right --"

"*Dick*. You taught us how to do *many* things right, or we'd be *messily dead*," Tim says, and he's not really being Tink, but there's that little snap to what he's saying, anyway.

"Seriously, Big Bird. You *have* to stop --"

"Worrying about the two of you? Really?" And Dick gives them both that *arch* look --

"*Dick* --"

"You *know* that's not it, Dickie --"

Dick holds up a hand, and then gives them *actual* serious looks. "I know. I do know what you're saying, and -- I know this is going to be damned hard for you both to believe -- most of the time I even agree with you. I can't *look* at either of you without seeing how incredible you both are, and how great you'd be for *any* team, and, most of the time, I can even put myself in that picture. *I* trained you both. *I* helped you learn the things you needed to know. I'm not -- I'm not actually *constantly* chewing my fingers off convinced that Bruce is going to -- to come back and reject me for doing a terrible job. Okay?"

"I... you do that a *lot*, though, Dick," and Tim's petting Dick's chest and not even looking like he'd rather be petting something a lot further down.

"What he said. You can't actually *hide* that from us."

Dick sighs. "No, I can't. I -- it's actually part of the bargain I made with myself, guys. I promised myself that you'd always be able to tell what I was thinking and why I was making you do the things I made you do -- since that was one of the few things that drove me straight up a *wall* with Bruce. He never -- I think..." Dick frowns.

"You can tell us, Big Bird. You *should* tell us."

"I think it's possible that he was a little -- superstitious. That if he thought too much about what he was doing with me, he'd go a little nuts." Dick laughs. "More nuts."

If he thought about *everything* he was doing with you...?

Tim presses a little closer. "Was he... did he seem... afraid?"

"Never. Just -- never. God, we had almost six years together, and I don't think I saw him widen his *eyes* more than a handful of times. And, you know, even then I knew that was part of the image, something he had *worked* on specifically to *make* himself seem more than human and infallible and *correct* and all the other things a man dressed up like a flying rat really shouldn't be *able* to be... but it was also just him."

"Well... ah. I think, after a point, that anyone can become the stories they tell about themselves if they're not careful. Or... even if they are," Tim says, and smiles ruefully.

Dick smiles fondly. "Yeah, you'd know all about that, wouldn't you, Tinkerbell?"

Tim tosses his hair -- impressive since he doesn't actually stop cuddling Dick. "I -- um. I really did appreciate you trying to keep Jason from calling me that... back then."

"You *did*?"

Tim blushes. "I knew you were trying to protect me, Dick. It felt... warm."

Dick gets a look on his face that Jason recognizes from the *inside* -- and then Tim just kind of *is* on Dick's lap and getting the life hugged out of him. "I love you so *much*, little brother --"

Tim gurgles. He's getting a little brick undertone to his cheeks -- Dick must've caught him just after he exhaled.

Jason pats Tim's back. "You're good, bro. Dick... uh. Are you ever weirded that we *are* your brothers and not your... uh..."

"I think I'd *remember* fathering a child when I was *seven*, little wing."

"I know, I *know*, but still. You weren't *looking* for brothers."

Tim gurgles again --

"I wasn't looking for *you*, Jay, but -- God, I don't know. I just knew that I *had* to get you off the street, and that you'd actually made me *laugh* in *Crime Alley*, when every other time I'd been there I was either watching Bruce mourn for his parents or mourning Bruce's parents *for* him, and --"

Tim flails a little --

Dick eases his grip *just* enough to let Tim gasp -- and then squeezes him *harder*.

"*Ngh* --"

"Just take it, bro," Jason says, and turns back to Dick. "I know you looked at me and saw *potential* or some shit --"

"You *poet*. I saw -- God. You were so *brave*, Jay. So -- you didn't even *blink* when I dangled you off that rooftop --"

"I was focusing on not shitting my only pair of *pants* --"

Dick snickers. "You were incredible, and I thought -- I need a partner. I need someone who can keep me from losing my mind and killing someone *else*. I need -- him. And then *I* was so busy figuring out how to convince you that it was all a *great idea*, that I didn't *have* to think about anything else."

Tim finally slumps --

"*There* you are, little brother," and Dick manhandles him into a position where he can kiss him all over his face --

Tim whimpers --

Jason keeps his snickers *internal* --


Okay, no, he couldn't keep that snicker in -- and now Tim is giving him a dirty look.

Jason grins and opens his arms, making a come-on gesture with his fingers --

Tim nerve-strikes Jason's fucking *thigh*, and now he can't feel the thing or tell if he's tipping the fuck *over* --

Dick drops Tim and knocks Jason onto his back, and, eventually, they wind up lying down with their heads at the foot of the bed. Tim's got the middle this time, though. Jason rolls over carefully, wincing for the pins and needles, and snuggles up to his best-worst baby bro in the *world* -- who scowls at him until Jason waggles his eyebrows.

And then he just *tries* to scowl --

And Dick cuddles up to Tim's other side. "He never tried to get in the way of my other relationships, guys."

Okay, back to that. "Not even a little?"

Dick sighs and gets a little distant -- but only for a moment. "There were a few times when I could tell that he was at least a *little* jealous. That fist-clenching thing, and also some tightness in his jaw like he was *fighting* himself about saying something..." Dick shakes his head. "He never did, and he was always right there after I came back from a weekend with the Titans or a sleepover with Clark, giving me this little *look* like maybe he knew exactly what I was doing the whole time and was amused and *happy* for me..." Dick rubs Tim's abdomen restlessly -- "That's *why* I wanted him to have more lovers. He was so *good*, and there were good people who *deserved* him. Am I making any sense?"

"Um." Tim covers Dick's hand on his abdomen until he *stops* rubbing --

"Oh, hell, sorry, little brother. I know I shouldn't really -- ah. I'm not actually that oblivious, guys. I know you both think you want me --"

"Oh, don't *even*, Big Bird. We're *exactly* old enough to know what we want --"

"No, of course you are, and -- I never thought it was wrong for you and Tim to get involved, Jay --"

"But you think it's wrong for us to get involved with *you*? Dick, that makes no *sense*," Tim says, and tries to sit up --

Dick shoves him back down --

"Oh, *God* --"

Dick *winces* --

"Wait a sec, both of you, okay?" Jason looks back and forth between them. "Dick, are you saying that being with Bruce *did* fuck you up?"

"*No*, because I'm never -- going to admit that?" Dick laughs and moves the hand from Tim's abdomen to cover his face.

Tim frowns up at Jason --

Jason winces and shrugs --

"I always -- I always *feel* you two," Dick says, and keeps his face covered. "Sometimes I think I'd know if something bad happened to one or both of you; sometimes I think the feeling means I should just be -- all over you all the time. That I shouldn't *give* you time to be alone with each other, that I should just -- *keep* you both, twenty-four-seven, until you both felt me the way I feel you. The way I felt Bruce."

Tim blinks a lot.

Jason opens his mouth -- "Uh?"

Dick snickers. "Yeah, that about covers it, little wing. I'm not -- I know what it *feels* like to be the younger partner, or -- maybe I mean that I know what it *should* feel like. Roy wanted Ollie. Garth wanted Arthur. Wally was *straight*, but he still would've done *anything* for Barry -- and was dying a little because Barry didn't *want* anything. But *I* had Bruce, and Donna had Diana, and we were the ones who were happy pretty much all the time. We didn't get addicted to anything nasty, we didn't hook up with weird undersea sorcerers, we didn't pick up gambling habits -- none of that. And for a long, long time -- let's just say 'until the day I caught Jay staring at my dick in the shower and then met his eyes for a long, long moment we *both* wanted to have go somewhere' --"

"Fucking *A*, Dick --"

"Wait, Jay. Okay?"

Jason frowns -- but Tim squeezes his hand. He'll deal.

Dick sighs and starts rubbing his temples without uncovering his face. "For a long time, I thought that meant that everything was fine and dandy. I wasn't like those *victims*, after all, and of course, when I grew up -- heh. I never thought about what I'd do when I grew up. I didn't think of myself *as* an adult until *long* after Bruce had died -- and I was right not to. I..." Dick swallows with a click --

"It -- it's okay, Dick," Tim says, and rubs Dick's thigh a little cautiously. "We're here and -- ah. All right, I don't think I *can* understand, but I don't think less of you --"

"And neither do I," Jason says, and his voice is fucking *rough*, but -- he can deal. "It's okay. Just, you know --"

"'Let it out,' Jay?" Dick's smile is *old* on his face. "I used what you told me, little wing. Your experiences on the street, I mean."

"Uh -- used *how*?"

"Jerking off enough to hate myself, rearranging things in my head until it looked right enough, thinking about what it would've been like to be your *john* --"

"*Jesus* fucking -- uh. Okay?"

"Never --" Dick winces. "I would never hurt you. Not either of you. And Clark is really, *really* good at helping people blow off steam. And that machine you've both used to help you break the nightmare cycle -- I've used it countless times to get dreams of you, and Tim --"

Tim makes a strangled noise --

And Dick moves like a striking *snake*, grabbing Tim's hand and bringing it up to his mouth --

"Oh -- Dick --"

And Dick kisses Tim's fingertips *once* before letting them go. "That's how I get through. That's what I do. I let Clark fuck me blind, I dream things -- a *life* -- with both of you that -- God, it can't happen."

"Dick -- there's *nothing* stopping us from boning. *All* of us --"

"*I'm* stopping us, little wing," Dick says, sitting up and smiling down at both of them. "Because I've known for a long time that I don't want either of you the *right* way --"

"*Dick*. Just because you're not Bruce doesn't mean you're *bad*," Tim says, kneeling up and moving to cup Dick's shoulders --

Dick catches Tim's wrists and squeezes --

"Oh -- God. I really wish --"

"Oh, Tink, little brother --" Dick groans and squeezes *harder* --

Tim gasps a little bit --

"I'm not saying 'never,' guys, all right? I -- I couldn't actually do that if I tried, and I can't even *try*. I want -- I want so much, and maybe if I'd learned something different when I was younger -- ah, God, I can't blame *Bruce* for this --"

"You totally can, Big Bird. He never stopped you from making him the planet you were orbiting, you know?"

"He *tried* --"

"Not hard enough --"

"I *loved* him --"

"And you always will. But --" Jason licks his lips and shakes his head. "He taught you that it was *okay* to be completely obsessed with him to the point where you were never really fully a part of the team you helped *found*. The team you *led* --"

Dick grunts and his teeth click together. He lets go of Tim's wrists, grinds the heels of his hands into his eyes -- and then he lets out a shuddery breath. "He came first. Always. Even -- even when I wasn't here. And -- that's what I want with both of you," he says, and drops his hands.

"You --" Tim frowns. "You can't have -- that. But everything else --"

Dick taps Tim's nose. "Is not enough. And this whole thing... well, obviously it didn't *start* with -- that other Bruce showing up, but it's not helping. Or rather -- it's incredibly helpful at getting me to face a few salient facts. Like what it means that Clark honestly doesn't understand why I don't make love to both of you."

"We don't *either* --"

"Jay. Don't lie."

Jason winces -- and raises his hands. "All right, fine, but look, Dick, do you really think you *can* work this out alone? Clark's never had a partner or *been* a partner. You could at least be talking to *Roy* about this stuff, you know? He fucking *misses* you."

Dick winces. "I could never... I could never be who he wanted me to be. I could never be who *Bruce* wanted me to be, and I *definitely* can't be who you --"

"Big Bird, it'll be the fucking *life of man* over here, but I *will* punch you in the fucking jaw."

Dick coughs -- "The life --  what?"

Tim smiles like Tink in a social club full of people who don't have broken hands *yet* -- "Nasty, brutish, and short."

Dick snorts, claps a hand over his mouth -- and his eyes are dancing a little. It looks more hectic than happy, but Jason will fucking take it.

"*None* of us are fucking perfect at being who other people want. Tink would fucking love it if I let him get away with never talking about the shit in his life. *I* would love it if *Tim* would *trust* me --"

"I *do*, Jay --"

Jason pulls him in close and kisses his temple hard. "Not as much as you could, bro, and we both know that."

Tim bites his lip and nods.

"This -- this is never gonna end, Dick. Tim is the one I'll do anything for and follow *anywhere*, but we're still not perfect, and we never will be --"

"And that's *okay*. Or. Um. Better than," Tim says, and pets Jason's forearms like he can't decide whether he wants Jason to squeeze him harder or let him go.

Jason goes for harder -- and yeah, Tim junior is rising for the party. The *question* is --

Not a question, at all, because Dick is cupping himself and *squeezing* while he stares at Tim's cock --

Fucking *fuck* --

Tim moans and *reaches* --

And Dick fucking *motors* off the bed and back to the door, raising his hands --

Exposing a bulge that just keeps getting bigger as they *watch* --

Jason licks his lips --

Dick *pants* --

"Big brother..." And Tim's voice is high and sweet and *wanting*, and nobody can fucking stand against that. Jason's *already* grabbing for him --

But Dick has his fists clenched and his eyes squeezed shut -- "*Clark* --"

"It's only that I'm not sure I *should*, Dick," Clark says, and doesn't quite *touch* him --

"*Please*, Clark --"

"I --" Clark turns to look at them, and he looks worried and hungry --

He's looking at *Jason* --

"It's only... Jason, perhaps I should try to be... convincing?"

Dick laughs and gasps -- "Clark, *work* with me, here!"

"Your brothers desire you greatly, Dick. Perhaps... perhaps even more now than they did before?"

"*Yes*," Tim says, but --

Jason is holding Tim back. He doesn't even --

He doesn't *recognize* that reflex --

"Jay...? Let me go --"

Dick laughs again, and it's ugly and low -- "You know what I've been saying, don't you, little wing? You know I'm -- poison right now."

"Not -- not all the fucking *time*, Big Bird --"

Clark *grips* Dick's shoulder. "*Dick* --"

"Not all the time, Jay. No, I -- I promise," Dick says, and his eyes are solemn and heavy even though he has to be *aching* right now --

Right. Jason pulls Tim back against him, and -- wonder of fucking wonders -- Tim doesn't struggle.

Clark frowns and sighs, pulling Dick into his arms --

Dick turns and *buries* his face against Clark's shoulder --

"Oh, love, beautiful love..."

And Jason can see Dick shudder *hard* before Clark hides him with his cape --

"Big Bird -- I'm thinking of you, okay? And... yeah. Part of me wants you more."

Dick makes a low, quiet sound that Jason can't classify --

And then his door is closed and there's no sign of Clark and Dick other than something he thinks he can smell. That *hard* thing that's arousal plus guilt --

Plus fucking *shame* --

Dick should never be *ashamed* --

And Tim's wriggling free and staring at Jason. *Not* glaring, so that's something, but --

"How mad are you?"

Tim frowns. "You... were trying to protect me?"

"I think. I think he would've hurt you tonight, bro. Whether or not you wanted it."

"I *always* want it. And -- he's *smaller* than you --"

"That's not the kinda hurt I'm talking about. Well -- it's not the only kinda hurt."

Tim frowns *harder* --

"I know you don't get it, baby, but -- maybe trust me on this one?"

"That... it's when he was talking about wanting to be your john. That's what upset you?"

Jason winces. "That's one of the things, yeah. See, Dick's always known how fucked-up it is to be on the street. Hell, I think he knew at least a little about it when he was still in the circus, you know? For him to be thinking like that..." Jason shakes his head. "A part of him isn't thinking of us as his brothers."

"A *part* of him is thinking of us as his *lovers* --"

"No question there. At all. But there are whole *other* parts which don't think of us as *either* of those things. And -- I know you already know that."

That gets him the *pouty* frown that always makes him wanna chuck Tim's *chin* or something -- no, no, so not the time for it, no.

"Seriously, Tim --"

"I -- I know," he says, and crosses his arms over his chest. "We still have to help him."

"Absolutely. Just, you know, maybe with our clothes *on* for a while --"

"Oh -- *Jay*. You *know* it'll hurt him if we start acting like we're uncomfortable around him."

I *am* uncomfortable -- or. No. Jason sighs and lets himself fall back to the bed. "You're right."

"I *know* I am."

"Maybe -- maybe we should lock him up in a room with Bruce."

"It's not the *right* Bruce --"

"No, I know, but that's the thing -- *this* is a Bruce who *hasn't* gotten his cock wet with an underaged hero. Maybe he can still *think* straight --"

"*You're* the one who made out with him. You *know* he can't think straight --"

"*Argh*. Okay, okay. I'm thinking -- no, wait, *you* think," Jason says, leg-locking Tim and throwing him down next to him.

Tim bounces into snuggle position and starts gnawing on Jason's pec --

Jason cups the back of Tim's head and just -- enjoys for a minute. They *needed* Tim, and that was just --

Dick didn't even put up a *fight*, and now, yeah, Jason's wondering if it's at least partly because Dick wanted a piece, but that doesn't even really matter. Because --

("You're saying he knows the secret."

"Fuck, yeah, I am."

"You're saying he knows the secret and a lot *more* than that because he's a hacker."

"Dickie, he had your family tree, and you and I both know that that's only on two computers in the *world*, and that one of those computers is Vic's fucking *head*."

"You're saying he already knows --"

"Karate and judo, yeah. He's a little stiff, but -- fuck, Dick, what are *you* saying here?"

"Bring him home. *Right* now.")

And the look in his eyes had been *all* about the fact that a *part* of Dick thought Jason had fucked up by not bringing him home *before* asking --

They needed him, and now they have him, and it was just their fucked-up luck that Dick and Jason had been dealing with Two-Face while Tim recovered from his training in his parents' house on the night the Drakes had gone to *that* party. The one with the high-society tweakers with more firepower than brains --

They needed him, and they have him, and that's how it's going to stay. In a way, Two-Face has a piece of all of them, though Jason's not sure Tim's ever thought about it that way. All he knows for *sure* is that Tim's never blamed *them* -- and that a part of *Tim* was grateful for the chance to move into the manor -- and half into Jason's bedroom.

Jason kisses the top of Tim's head and promises always, promises forever, promises to make Tim get a less-stinky brand of post-patrol conditioner and never fucking mind the fact that Clark likes this one --

*Clark* is doing whatever the fuck it is that makes Dick *look* like he's coping with all the hot underaged vigilante ass in his house --

Their house.

And, suddenly, it seems *wrong* that Jason can't hear it, that --

Fuck, they *should* be sharing this, right?


And yes, he *was* already sitting up in preparation for going to open the door, and maybe also Dick's door, and maybe doing a little -- just a little -- more than that -- right. Jason snorts and pushes a hand back through his hair. "So maybe I'm a little... yeah."

"He needs us."

"He really does."

"Robin -- Robin needs a *flock* -- okay, no, that sounded... um."

"Pretty fucking gay, actually," Jason says, and ruffles Tim's hair until it's sticking out in all directions.

Tim gives him the meanest look he *has* --

Jason grins obnoxiously -- and catches the knuckle-y punch that was aimed *right* for his nipple. "That's for *supervillainesses*."

"Well. You *were* being bitchy."

Jason coughs and squeezes Tim's fist in his hand. "Point to Team Drake."

"As it should be," Tim says, taking his fists back and kneeling up to straddle Jason's thighs --

"Oh, yeah?"

"I lubricated my rectum in the Cave."

"You -- Bruce was *sleeping* down there --"

"I was hoping he'd wake up, as I've said," Tim says, and gives Jason the eyebrow.

"Yeah, okay, but you gotta realize that I'm now thinking about *him* slicking you up."

"Not Clark? He *was* down there, too."

Jason sighs and gets a nice double-handful of Tim's ass. "I've *seen* that already. You were practically *meowing*."

"I was *not* --"

"Yeah, no, it was more of a yowl once he got that third finger in there."

Tim blushes -- no, that's a flush.

Jason licks his teeth. "Maybe that's what you want tonight? See how *much* of my hand I can get up there?"

"Oh -- fuck. Um. Maybe? It's just -- I'm also thinking about Dick."

*Right* --"Wait, yeah, you were supposed to come up with something --"

"He needs us, and he needs us to be at least mostly okay with the fact that he has a dark, burning passion for both of us --"

Jason snorts --

Tim smiles, slick and sly. "Maybe we *should* make fun of him."

Jason lets go of Tim for long enough to find -- there. Tim had dropped the lube near the center of the bed to get warm enough from their bodies. It's possible Dick was *sitting* on it. He slicks *himself* up, grabs Tim's skinny little perfect hips --

"Oh, Jay --"

"I think it might be dangerous to do that to him, baby."

"Yes, but it could be the *good* kind of dangerous --"

"It could also be the *wheatgrass* kind of dangerous."

Tim looks pained, and that --

He can't have that. "C'mon, tell me what you want Dick to be doing *right* now."

Tim grunts and stares into his eyes --

Jason does his *damnedest* to look encouraging --

"I want. I was thinking about him just... fucking me hard. Hard enough that I yell *every* time --"

"Where are his hands?"

"Ah. Um. One of them is on the back of my neck. He's holding me down."

"And the other one?"

Tim licks his lips and -- *that's* a blush.

Jason sucks in a breath and then pants it right back out. "Tell me, baby," he says, and squeezes Tim's hips *hard* --

"He. He's -- gripping your hair. Holding your head still. Making you watch."

Well... fuck. "You want that?"

"I want *everything* -- ah. I mean --"

"You mean you want everything. Don't backtrack. Me, I'm thinkin'... I'm thinkin' he could fuck me right *into* you."

Tim groans. "Oh, would you --"

"I've wanted him to fuck me pretty much from day one, baby," and Jason lifts Tim just enough -- "Get me in you. *Now*."

"Fuck -- oh, fuck, Jay --"

"The longer you make me wait? The longer I make *you* wait for Dickie."

"*Ohn* --"

And Tim reaches right down, gets a *mean* grip on Jason's cock --

Tugs against Jason's hold on his hips --

*Pulls* against Jason's hold on his hips until Jason eases up enough to *let* him position himself the way he wants to --

"*Now* --"

"*Fuck* me," and Tim takes him deep, so fucking --

Somehow he always forgets how *hot* Tim is inside, his own personal fucking *furnace* --

And so Jason takes a minute to just enjoy it, just feel Tim clenching and spasming around him as he tries *not* to scream and yell and *beg* --

And then Jason opens his eyes and raises an eyebrow. "You fuck Impulse yet?"

"Ah -- no. He doesn't *stretch*. Or -- the stretch doesn't *last* -- "

"You gonna do him anyway?"

Another blush --

Tim licks his *lips* --

"Heh. Yeah, you are. Maybe you'll even get Superboy to hold him wide open with his *power* --"

"I've had. That fantasy --"

"Twenty-seven times?"

"*Yesterday* --"

Jason snickers and groans, bounces Tim a little --

"Oh -- oh -- oh --"

"Yeah, baby. You're so sweet for me..."

"*Always* --"

"I wanna see you sucking Big Bird off, baby. I -- nnh. Wanna see you really go to *town* on his cock --"

"It's so -- he has a *foreskin* --"

"But he's used to treating his cock mean. He told me that he still jerks off the way he did when he was living in his parents' trailer -- fast and hard and faster than *that*. You don't have to -- have to be too gentle."

"Nnh -- I -- Jay, I need --"

"What do you need?"

That frown-line is deep on his forehead, his eyes are squeezed shut --

Jason reaches down between them and *squeezes* Tim's sac --

Tim shouts, eyes flying open -- "*Jay*!"

"*Tell* me."

"Make me -- make me scream --"

"You want Dickie to hear you? *Again*?"

"*Yes* --"

"You want him to know -- what he's not *having* --"

"God, *please* --"

Jason pants and stops bouncing him -- "You little fuckin' bitch. Grab my shoulders and hang on -- don't move your hands for *anything*. Get me?"

"Oh, *yes*, Jay, yes --"

"Do it --"

And those hands are *right* there, just *barely* not pinching pressure points --

"*Good* boy," Jason says, grabbing those hips again --

Lifting Tim while he pulls out --

"*Please* -- *ahn*!"

Fuck, this rhythm shouldn't be so *easy* --

Shouldn't --

He feels so *good*, so slick and right, so hot and fucking *tight*, because, no, he *hadn't* fucking stretched himself. Tim had *just* slicked himself up and hoped that the big, bad Bat would catch him at it, maybe ask a few questions, maybe --

Fucking *rumble* at him and *touch* --

And now Jason's grunting for it, because this rhythm is easy *because* it takes him right over, makes him fucking --

Fucking *brutal* --

And Tim is yelling for him, tossing his head like it's just that good --

It *is* just that good. It --

"*Always*, Tim --"

Tim whimpers and lowers his head, *tries* to focus on him --

"You're perfect, make me feel so -- be *ready* --"

Another cry and Tim is *gripping* Jason's shoulders, digging his short little nails in and nodding, panting --

Clenching hard enough to make Jason fucking *bark* as he shoves in as deep as he can, pulls Tim down and *grinds* them together, and it would suit the *Mission* for Tim to grow, but then he wouldn't be this *incredible* --

"God, baby, I *need* you --"

"Here -- I'm *here* --"

"*Drop*," Jason says, and they've done this enough times that there's hardly any awkwardness at all getting Tim on his back --

Getting his legs up around Jason's *chest* --

"Tell me you *want* it --"

"I want it, fuck me, *take* me --"

"Nuh-uh. *Bruce* will do the taking," and Jason starts the fuck right up again, cupping Tim's shoulders from the back and holding him *still* for the fuck, the right fuck, the best fuck except for all those *other* fucks --

"*Jay* --"

"What's that, baby? *Harder*?"

Tim yells and tosses his head, which is the kind of yes Jason *maybe* shouldn't listen to --

No, fuck that, Tim wants Dick to *hear* him --

Hear those yells turn to screams, louder and louder --

And a part of Jason wants to just close his eyes and *feel* this, fucking *wallow* in it and the way his cock feels almost *tenderized* by those clenches --

But Tim had told him once that it was *better* when he could see Jason staring down at him --

("Like you *own* me.")

And that had led to *just* this --

"Who do you belong to, bitch?"

"*Hnh* -- I -- oh --"

"*Say* it!"

"*You*, Jay, oh -- *please* --"

"*Milk* my cock while I'm fucking you," and Jason works to make his expression as mean as fucking possible --

Tim screams and does it, and it's gotta be *killing* him -- this is the kind of fuck where they'll maybe need to take a day or two *off* -- but --

God, so good --

So --

"So *sweet*. Yeah, you -- *nnh* --- just a little longer, baby --"

"More -- *more* --"

*Fuck* -- "Oh, *yeah*?"

And Tim focuses for a *hot* second, and his eyes are full of everything. Heat and hunger and shyness and *meanness* and --

Tim and Tink and Cardinal -- just the way he likes it. So Jason works in a twist of the hips, just enough that he's *glancing* off Tim's prostate a little from the side --

Tim claws at Jason's *sides* --

No, he's gotta do it the other way, gotta -- "Losin' control, baby --"

"Oh -- *yes* --"

He lines himself up again, kneels up and *shoves* Tim's knees back to his chest -- and now every thrust is *punishing* that little prostate --

Now Tim's screams are fucking *breathless* --

"You tell -- you tell Dick to put it to you *this* way, baby --"

"*His* way -- want -- I *want* --"

"*Fuck*, that's -- God, I hear you, I *hear* you, just give it to me, gimme everything --"

And Tim *immediately* starts trying to buck for him, *move* for him --

In this position he can only *rock*, but that's fucking good enough --

So good --

Tight and --

*Hard* clench, and it makes his eyes fly open --

Makes him realize they were *closed*. Can't do that, can't ever --

Jason uses everything he has *left* to glare down at Tim --

And Tim comes with a whimper that turns into a *wail*, spattering them both hot and sweet --

And Jason's *vision* is going for those clenches, whiting out, fuzzing out --

He can't *stop* --

"*Jay* --"

"Hnh -- *yours* --"

The clench gets *harder* --

And that's all he can do, all he can fucking *be*, because it feels like he's *forcing* himself into that tight little hole, feels like *he's* the one taking what doesn't fucking *belong* to him --

"Oh, fucking -- *Tim* --"

And he *loves* it when he can yell Tim's name just before he comes, because it means --

Something --

He's jerking-spilling-*yelling* --

Sweet fucking *Christ*, that's so *good* --

And holding on to Tim's lean little thighs is a great way to keep from falling on the kid. Heh.


Jason opens his eyes just in time to catch that look of wonder and sweetness and *young* happiness Tim gets *every* time Jason yells his name out like that --


Jason unfolds Tim a little without pulling out and *carefully* lowers himself down. He still slips out enough to make them both grunt, but it's good.

It's perfect.

It's --

Okay, they're laying *sideways* on the bed and Tim's head is actually dangling over the *edge* --

Jason snorts and bites Tim's neck. "Fucking *relax*. Were you holding your neck like that the whole time?"

"Well... yes?"

Jason bites Tim's neck *harder* -- and gets a clench that makes them both grunt *again*.

And Tim lets his head drop -- "This is going to get uncomfortable extremely quickly."

"Next time *tell* me to yank you further onto the bed."

"I didn't really have that many *words*, Jay --"

"Yeah, yeah. Puss."

Tim nerve-strikes Jason's damned *shoulder*.

"Okay, I *was* gonna drink half your shake for you while Dickie wasn't looking, but now you get it *all*."


Jason snickers and licks the underside of Tim's chin. "Eh, maybe you'll grow. You never know."

Tim sighs and wriggles --

And Jason hauls them both up, uses his lingering hardness to push in again --

"*Oh* --"

And *then* gets them situated more or less the right way on the bed. "Sleep like *this*, baby."

In answer, Tim reaches back to turn off the lamp and then wraps his arm around Jason's chest.

Good deal.