Melt like lemon-drops
by Te
July 4, 2007

Disclaimers: There is not one thing here which is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: No spoilers, takes place sometime before
the mass murder of characters which, in my world, didn't
happen anyway. So!

Summary: Not that Gotham *has* rainbows, per se...

Ratings Note/Warnings: Mostly harmless.

Author's Note: The working title of this story was 'oh, Bruce,
wtf.' Do with that what you will.

Acknowledgments: To Betty for putting the crack right in
front of me, guiding me into taking it, and then refusing to
let me go into rehab.

See, I needed to write something happy and uncomplicated for
Audz' birthday, and because... because!

The dress is tight and distinctly glittery.

It ends at the knee, revealing calves -- the stockings are
silk -- and ankles which could, Tim must admit, be
considered shapely. The shoes -- and their four-inch heels --
match the dress perfectly, and Tim honestly isn't sure if he
wants to know who'd produced the ensemble, much less
who had designed the thing.

The rest of the dress -- and the individual *in* it -- is burned
on a portion of Tim's brain which, sadly, is not precisely
expendable. This doesn't mean he has to --


He has to look up again. He really, truly does. There's no
way around --

"C'mon, sweetie, chin *up*."

No, he says, in the calm and not especially glittery silence of
his own brain. "Please."

The shoes pivot. The whisper of silk on silk -- the dress is
really very tight -- makes Tim swallow. He is never going to
recover from this.

Nor is there any hope of forgetting the *precise* feel of
those -- painted, manicured -- nails on his chin. The touch
is gentle. Tim resists.

"Oh, now, it's not all *that* bad, Timmy..." The voice --

The voice is only familiar if Tim makes still another important
part of his brain kind of... squint. It's low, yes, but it's soft
and somewhat *rich*. Buttery.

He's going to go insane. The nice thing about that is the fact
that it can't possibly be any worse *to* look up. The waist is
thick and solid -- there's nothing which can be done about
that. The bodice of the dress strains and shines around the
sort of falsies which really...

He has to admit that if the falsies were any smaller, Bruce
would look --

Tim looks, and the lipstick is dark and wet. The makeup is
expertly applied. Bruce's eyes seem huge amidst the
mascara, liner, and shadow, and also manage to seem like
a warmer shade of blue --

"*That's* better, honey. Now, how do I look?"

There is nothing Tim can do about the expression on his
face -- he *feels* stricken, deep inside, as if Bruce had
reached down Tim's throat and started punching. "Um," he
says, and tries a careful step back.

And another.

Bruce tosses his long, glossy, thick black -- well, it's almost
a mane, and --

Well, no. And no. If it were *Bruce* reaching for him, he
would be caught. Since it is... not (strictly), Bruce's deep
burgundy (to match the lipstick, and perhaps Tim could
simply fall down and die) fingernails sort of... claw. At the

"Oh -- God."

Bruce is pouting, blinking thick, curled lashes and -- his
lower lip --

"You don't even *have* a pouty lower lip!"

For a moment, the non-sequitur seems fit to save him --
Bruce is eminently *visible* in the raise of that eyebrow.

And then Tim notices that the eyebrow in question has been.
Plucked. Tim is making that face, again. He knows he is.

Bruce -- sets his knuckles on his suddenly broad and well-
padded hips. And --

"I really wish you'd stop doing -- that. With your mouth."

Bruce cocks one hip to the side and looks at Tim from under
his lashes. "Too distracting, baby?"

Baby. "You. I'm going to go away now," Tim says, and does

Which is why, he supposes, there was no real warning of
what was to *come* before his palm-top buzzed ever so
innocently with co-ordinates and Tim had found himself
sneaking in through the roof of a...

Well, it could really only be called a cabaret.

The air is smoky and thick with a dozen different extremely
alcoholic scents, and the clientele is...

'Mixed' is probably the best way to put it. Tim gets a great
deal of compliments on the work he'd done to make his
'costume' look that perfect, as well as any number of
sympathetic moues about his painfully obvious lack of a
Batman. He also manages to snag the one table which won't
leave his back exposed which has anything like a decent
view of the stage, which is necessary, because some part of
him needs *just* this:

Bruce, face screwed up with some unknowable degree of
effort and a terrifying degree of emotion as he sings "La Vie
En Rose."

For some reason, it's very important to know that Bruce
knows every lyric of the song, and that he's capable of
imbuing his perfect French with the sort of dockside Gotham
accent which makes it seem anything *but* perfect.


It's really an excellent performance in any number of ways --
right down to the tear which doesn't quite *smudge* Bruce's
mascara at the applause. He totters expertly on his heels as
he takes a bow, accepts a bouquet of small, cheap roses,
and blows kisses at the crowd before he makes his exit.

All right. Tim has taken this. He has -- endured. The problem
is that he doesn't really know *why* he has. Beyond the sort
of casual drug use in the shadows which they've never
bothered with unless there was also something larger going
on, the cabaret seems peaceful enough.

There aren't even any obvious prostitutes around, and the
liquor license is both prominently displayed and entirely in
order. No forgery.

The next act is revving up the crowd with an energetic
rendition of "I Will Survive," and there's no sign whatsoever
of Bruce. Tim is going to have to go backstage.

Or try to -- the bouncer at the front has nothing on the large,
comfortingly grim woman who is currently demanding ID in
a manner which suggests that she'd be more than willing to
see if Robin can fly. Amazingly enough, none of the false
identities currently shuffling through his mind have any
domino-friendly ID pictures, and Tim's just about ready to
make his escape and try a different *route* to sneak in when
Bruce kind of *explodes* out of one of the back rooms,
kisses the woman on the cheek, grabs Tim by the wrist, and
starts to tug him in a terrifyingly *ineffectual* manner back
with him.

"Hey, don't you think this one is a little young for you,

Barbara. Oh... God. Tim straightens up. "Oh, I'm actually --"

"Believe it or not, honey, this one's my little brother," Bruce
says, and gives Tim one of Dick's hair-ruffles. "He's a *little*
strange, but not that much."

Barbara and honey-the-bouncer share a good laugh, Tim
smiles weakly, and then he and Bruce are in a room
overflowing with feather boas, aging makeup, and the smell
of sweat and artificial hair.

To be fair, the latter *could* simply be Bruce -- the wig adds
full *inches* to his already heel-enhanced height. Tim takes
a breath, folds his arms under his cape, cranes up, and

Bruce -- bats his lashes. "The Robins in this club usually
wear a lot more lipstick," he says, and --

Tim can't really call that position 'leaning against the door.'
'Lounging' is closer, but it still doesn't really cover it. It's a
position designed to accentuate every last arc of false curves,
as well as to make Tim's soul hurt. Well, perhaps not that --

"Oh, sweetie, you're *adorable* when you glare like that --"

"Barbara," Tim says, wondering how much of Oracle's
inevitable revenge will spill over onto his head. "*Why* are
we here?"

Bruce pouts at him.

Tim chews on the inside of his cheek.

Bruce pats the outside --

"I could beg. Would that help? If I begged?"

Bruce isn't *entirely* absent from the predatory look on
Barbara's face -- the heat of the room and the stage before
is going to wreak havoc on her makeup, if she's not careful --
it's just that it doesn't make things any better.

"The *Mission*, Barb?"

"Going by my recent... observations, the bartender and co-
owner of this fabulous establishment is going to be visited
soon*ish* by a couple of real party-poopers."

Translation: protection racket. Tim relaxes a little. He can
handle that. "And I get to discourage them vigorously?"

"Baby, you're just so *cute* when you're all *heroic*," Bruce
says, and -- kisses him on the cheek. The move is much too
fast for Barbara, but the lipstick on his cheek is, Tim has to
admit, just going to make him blend *in* more until the
time comes for him to stop doing anything of the kind.

Honey gives him a broad, nicotine-enhanced smile when he
heads back out, again. The bartender gives him a Shirley
Temple and pats his hair back into place.

Tim sits through the next couple of acts -- he quite likes the
couple performing "I Got You, Babe" -- and, just as Bruce --
*Barbara* -- takes the stage again, three exceedingly
heterosexual-looking men barge in and start making a
beeline for the bartender who looks, for his part, deeply

Really, Tim shouldn't make assumptions -- anyone could
look heterosexual in this crowd -- but the fact that all the
obvious regulars have melted away from the bar and that
Barbara is singing her heart out about how she's 'got it bad'
directly *to* Tim... right.

He manages to catch the low, vicious punch before it
connects with the bartender before the goons notice his
presence, smiles at the shocked looks, and then it's just a
matter of holding back *just* enough not to interrupt
Bruce's act:

No broken bottles, no goons given the chance to scream
*very* loudly, and no bodies sent flying.

Bruce, after all, had clearly practiced.

Tim wraps things up with a gratuitous kick to the goon still
conscious and lets the regulars take care of dragging the
bodies out back.

Bruce blows him a kiss after Barbara takes her bow.

Tim salutes and goes to finish his patrol.

The next day...

Well, perhaps it's his own fault. He's long had the equipment
to allow him to check the files remotely -- there was no
*good* reason to return to the Cave, as opposed to all the
niggling questions which really... really.


"It's the bowler that makes it, I think," Tim says, giving up
the fight as lost before it could ever truly begin and settling
down on the mats.

Bruce hums, twisting on the straight-backed chair -- the
leather of his corset creaks alarmingly -- and kicking one
fishnet-stockinged leg high into the air while twirling the hat
in question on a provocatively cocked finger.

There are no falsies, and no extra padding at the hips. The
heels on the shoes are only two inches, and the curves of
them are somewhat old-fashioned.

Bruce bends his knee -- keeping the stretch at a degree
which, despite everything, *screams* Batman -- and then
kicks, one, two, three.

"I note that you're not quite going for the same... *intensity*
of drag. Are you still 'Barbara?'"

The leg comes down, Bruce rises, twists, and sits down
again, straddling the back of the chair and popping the hat
back on his head. His eyeliner is very thick. Dramatic. "What
do *you* think?"

"I think there are all too many ways for me to answer that
question, Bruce," Tim says, catching the bowler when the
stylistic move which ends with Bruce twisted around the
other way in the chair also calls for the thing to be tossed.

"After you left, a compatriot of the individuals you... handled
showed up to promise -- one might even say threaten --
revenge," he says, lifting himself on his hands and twisting
and turning his body back and forth.

"And, somehow, this is the best way to handle it."

Bruce drops onto the seat, spreads his legs, pushes his feet
back until he's somewhat en pointe, and then bends his
head back and to the side. "You are, of course, welcome to
try other methods in the interim."

"You'll need back-up."

"Hm," Bruce says, and stretches -- languidly -- back for his
hat. "You have seven hours until I go on."

"Bruce -- can we. I mean. Is it at all possible that we could
talk about this without you causing me to need to lobotomize

"Sweetie," he says, in his own voice. "I think that all depends
on *you*."

Tim chooses to translate that as a 'no.'

In the end, seven hours isn't enough by any stretch of the
imagination. While he's worked all over Gotham, this
particular neighborhood has belonged to Bruce since he's
known the man. It's possible that Dick would have more
information, but the prospect of trying to explain to Dick
*why* he wants to do an end-run around Bruce...

No. Just -- no.

In the end, he makes several potentially useful -- if day-
time -- contacts by pretending to be just a young man who
likes to dress up as Robin, but all the information he can
pick up about the gang working -- and working over -- the
territory is the moderately firm rumor that meth is involved.

He marks a handful of non-descript buildings with the small,
mostly unobtrusive spikes he uses in lieu of actually
*tagging* Gotham's architecture -- potential labs and
distribution centers -- watches the sunset with a heartfelt
sigh, and applies the lipstick Bruce had left near Tim's bike.

As it happens, it is, indeed, cabaret *night* at the cabaret,
and there are any number of people wearing outfits which
will make Barbara's look average, or even conservative.
Tim isn't sure why this is such a relief, but it is.

The best theory he can come up with is the years of
ingrained circumspection. Batman belongs in the shadows,
or, at the very least, should be hidden in plain sight. The
fact that somewhere, backstage, Bruce is surrounded by
several men and women who will see nothing untoward
about Bruce's heretofore unsuspected need to *perform* --

No, it's not really an explanation.

Tim settles in to watch, again, next to a 'Black Canary' who
fits in really quite well, all things considered.

Bruce is up third, after a young man in an expensive black
number who looks a bit suspiciously sickly, but is gifted with
a nicely powerful falsetto. For Bruce, the lights are down
save for a spot powerful enough to make all the scars seem
to glitter --

No, every inch of exposed skin has been *dusted* with
glitter. The performance is quite riveting, as Bruce has
decided to give Barbara a somewhat incongruous air of
blatantly sexualized menace as she stalks the stage and
demands every last bit of attention. The short pants
accentuate the powerfully muscular thighs, as the heels do
for the calves.

'Fever,' indeed.

The shoulders are impossible things, seeming somehow
larger and more dangerous now that they're bare of
everything but glitter. Bruce doesn't focus on him at all,
which means that when their eyes do meet, it's enough a
trigger for Tim to check the door.

It would only have taken a few more minutes for the
violence and crowd-diffuse sense of *unease* to catch
Tim's attention, but Tim doesn't actually want to think about
what the eight men wearing exaggerated expressions of
disgust and mockery would've done with those ten minutes.

Tim moves toward the door. A different sort of Robin would
offer a challenge, and that *is* an excellent way to get the
bad guys' attention fast, but so is just wading in and causing
large amounts of pain.

Tim learned this from Batgirl, as well as the shape of the
expression on his face: simple, quiet joy which any number
of people seem to find desperately unnerving.

Though perhaps not quite as unnerving as the terrifyingly
well-aimed shoes that take out first one, then another of
Tim's opponents. He doesn't need to confirm anything for
himself, but still, once he gets the opportunity to turn
himself by dint of using one of the falling bodies as leverage
for a spin-kick --

Yes, Bruce is currently barefoot on stage.

It takes something nebulous away from all of the... vamping,
but this could just be because of the moderately well-aimed
hit Tim takes to the head before pistoning his elbows back --
and his clenched fists *up* -- for the curious applause that
is the sound of ribs snapping and noses breaking.

When he's done, there's only one individual left standing.
His clothes are of a better quality than those of his groaning
compatriots, and Tim counts no less than four different
disposable cell phones on his person.

Tim takes a moment to salute the scattered -- and more
conventional -- applause of the cabaret's patrons and
hustles his target out the door for some good, old-fashioned,
desperately mean-spirited interrogation.

Bruce can catch up to him after his second show. Or -- well.
There could be an after-party.

Tim decides not to wait up.

A call to the MCU allows Tim to direct them to several
different stashes of meth and a couple of 'factories.' He
hangs around one of them to meet up with Montoya and
Allen -- the beating he'd given the gang members is one
thing, the physical and recorded evidence he can provide to
make sure most of them spend at least a little time locked
up is something else. Montoya seems less than charmed by
Tim's lipstick, but Allen becomes quite friendly at the
prospect of showing up the narcotics division.

This is the sort of thing which Tim is sure Batman doesn't
particularly like to encourage, but the narcotics division is
chock full of men and women who like to refer to Tim as
'that freaky little Christmas tree ornament," and, frankly,
Bruce owes him.

Tim finishes his evening with a quick and mostly uneventful --
not even one armed robbery attempt -- patrol through his
own territory, stashes his suit in one of the safe-houses, and
makes his way home.

The fact that he can't get "Fever" out of his head is really a
lot less problematic than the image of Bruce shimmying,
self-caressing, and altogether *being* through the song...

Maybe if he'd stayed longer he could've just burned out that
part of his brain, entirely...?

Impossible to be sure. Tim treats the act of *not* humming
it tunelessly under his breath in the shower as a different
sort of training, and then forces himself to pass out.

The next day...

Well, it's his day off. There's less than no reason to stop by
the Cave after school. He absolutely does not have to torture
himself any more than he already has. He --

He has to know.

He performs a few acts of speed-meditation in the study,
gives the clock his best determined glare, and heads

There is no music playing -- but there was none the day
before, either.

There are no strayed bits of glitter or sequins visible on the

There is no disco ball spinning gracefully among the
stalactites. Yet --

"Looking for something...?"

Bruce has, of course, taken the opportunity to appear out
of nowhere just beyond Tim's blind spot. Tim does not
jump or swear. He's saving that for after he turns around
and *looks* --

And sees Bruce standing there, hands casually slipped inside
the pockets of his trousers, dress shirt opened at the
collarbone. There is no bowler anywhere to be seen.

Tim narrows his eyes.

"Yes, Tim...?"

"I'm waiting," Tim says.

"I'm sure I don't know what you're --"

"Bruce. Just -- let me see it. The lace-up corset under your
shirt. The garter belts. The *blonde* wig --"

"*Really* not my color," Bruce says, and the voice -- the
tone --

Tim stares at Bruce.

Bruce stares back, blithe and bland.

Tim can feel sweat prickling just behind the skin above his
lip and at his temples, but he's not going to back down. He's
seen the face of purest *insanity*, but he is strong. He can
handle it. He can --

Bruce coughs, covering his mouth with one hand -- the nails
are painted. Gold.

Tim shudders, represses, stands firm. "Okay, what did I
miss last night?"

"Well, ah -- technically, the case is closed."


"You did quite well," Bruce says, and starts to work on his

"And yet."

"And yet, 'Barbara' has been offered a permanent
engagement," Bruce says, revealing an undershirt -- and
removing the undershirt to reveal something very like a gold
lamé camisole.

"You -- oh my God."

Bruce reaches for his belt and Tim catches his wrists.
"Tim --"

"You -- I -- words cannot *express* --"

"'Barbara' refused, of course," Bruce says, gently breaking
Tim's hold and working open his pants -- underneath which
are gold lamé *shorts* all but *welded* to Bruce's frame --

At least the black ones from yesterday weren't so --
"*Bruce* --"

"A farewell performance. Something --" Bruce steps out the
suit pants, hands them to Tim, and -- adjusts himself.

The shorts really are that tight.

"Something for my audience to *remember* me by...

Tim squeezes his eyes shut. "Wouldn't want to waste those
shaved legs, I imagine."

"Precisely. I go on at nine tonight. Being as it's your night
off, you should probably feel free to --"

"Dress up?" Tim opens his eyes. Bruce's expression is
something very near to unholy.

"It would mean *so* much to me, darling, really it would."

"I think you got a little -- a little Judy Garland in your Mae
West there. You -- I think I'm going to go work out."

Bruce doesn't *quite* 'twiddle' his fingers in a wave.

In the end, Tim only stays long enough for a handful of sets.
It's a little too distracting to watch Bruce spin and twirl

Well, like yesterday, Bruce is working silently, and doesn't
even appear to be lip-synching. He's saving himself --
saving all of *it* up for tonight. For the club, for the

Tim doesn't want to *spoil* --

Tim does not jab himself in the eye. Very hard.

It won't bruise.

He heads home and buries himself in lying to his family and
planning his ensemble for the evening, which --

The suit is no longer entirely perfect on his frame -- it was
tailored for him when his father was significantly wealthier
than he is now -- but Tim also hasn't grown all *that* much.
He never got to wear this to Brentwood's shared semi-formal
with Seneca Day, and there's some strange and hungry thing
within himself, something he'd never even noticed, to wear it

Especially once he's beyond his parents' oohs and ahhs and
ostensibly on his way to pick up a similarly attired Steph.
Once outside, it's pretty tempting *to* just head out to the
suburbs -- Steph likes it when Tim "brings the class" -- but,
well --

The fact that he hadn't promised to go to the club does not
mean that he hadn't agreed. Silence -- and gibbering terror --
has always been its own variety of consent.

And -- he's not exactly *done* with the look.

His hair is just long enough to style into something of a
marcel -- with Alfred's assistance and somewhat
intimidatingly old-fashioned curling irons. After, there's still
enough time left over for Tim to work on his makeup,
especially since he's only applying enough to make his lips
look a little fuller and 'soften' his cheekbones.

When he's done, he looks *enough* like a woman not trying
especially hard to look like a man and he's more than a little
disturbed, which means he's ready to go.

Alfred drops him off in the Rolls.

The bartender gives him a gratifying double-take followed
by the hard look of someone who's *almost* sure they're
looking at someone they think they should know. If a
significant portion of Gotham's population isn't entirely sure
about Robin's gender, this can only be to the good.

And Barbara had had Tim's favorite table saved for him.

At eight-fifty-nine, the lights go down and Tim braces

Not enough.

Definitely not enough.

The shoes are gold and sparkling -- and he was *prepared*
for that -- but the robe, while it covers everything but wrists,
calves, and a teasing -- massive -- expanse of chest --

There are feathers arching up out of the collar of the thing,
gold as everything else, and, along with the shoes, they
bring Bruce's height to a full seven feet. And the song...

"If a custom-tailored vet... asks me out for something wet...
when the vet begins to pet -- I cry hooray..."

The audience is already laughing and cheering. And Bruce's
mincing sashay --

"But I'm always true to you, darlin', in my fashion..."

-- is *directly* to him. And a significant part of the audience's
attention moves to him along with one of the lesser spots.

Possibly, he should've seen this coming. Not just earlier this
afternoon, but earlier in this *life*. He's always been most
comfortable around Bruce when Bruce himself is at his
most --

"Yes, I'm always true to you... in my way..."

His most. Well.

Tim sits back in his chair, crosses his legs deliberately, and
raises an eyebrow.

Bruce blows him a kiss between verses.

It's entirely predictable that the robe would come off
eventually, as it was predictable that this removal would
climax in Bruce spinning the thing above his head while
grinding his hips in a circle-- Tim is reasonably certain no
one else is paying attention to the circle's ruthless
exactitude --

Tim lets the robe settle over him in a mass of feathers and
surprising *heft*, only shifting it aside just enough to watch
the rest.

Bruce is...

Well, somewhere beyond all of the carefully-trained *power*
Bruce is currently using to belt out Ella Fitzgerald, Bruce is
laughing uproariously. This isn't a shock in and of itself --
Tim has been stumbling and stammering along in quite an
entertaining fashion, if he does say so himself.

It's just that Bruce is also laughing at himself.

Every time he uses that *architectural* musculature to twist
or shimmy, every time he demands the cheerfully shallow
affection of the audience with a wink or pout, every time
he --

Every single moment of this is nothing more nor less
than *play*, and the fact that Tim had managed to punch
a little justice out of it is... so far beyond the point as to be
entirely forgettable.

Which is not to say that every last bit of it won't be going in
Tim's reports.

If nothing else, it will immediately become clear which of
the family members are reading most closely. Probably
because that family member will be the one gassing Tim
and dragging him back to the Cave for observation.

Maybe Bruce will *sing* him back to consciousness.

A comedian comes on after Bruce, and Tim wonders if this
is when he's supposed to head backstage, but the
comedian doesn't finish before there's a large, familiar
hand on his shoulder.

Tim shifts his chair over to give Bruce a little extra room
and takes Bruce in, a little, as he sits down. He's wearing
trainers, jeans, and a t-shirt which seems perfectly normal
until Tim realizes how tight it is.

Tim snorts and takes the bottle of water Bruce hands to

"Yes, Tim?"

What to say? Asking Bruce if he had fun is kind of
ridiculously pointless. Asking him when he's going to *do*
this to Tim again would be... perhaps a bit churlish. It's not
every night when Tim gets to go to clubs and have fun near
people who are also having fun, as opposed to all those
times when he's having fun while people are either bleeding,
screaming, or both at once. Tim shakes his head and drinks
some of the water.

"I like the look," Bruce says, once the brief lull between acts
is over and there's enough ambient sound to drown out
absolutely everything.

Tim smiles. "A moment's inspiration. It gives the suit an
excuse to be this poorly tailored."


Bruce's hand is still on his shoulder, but it's not really the
sort of touch which is easy to classify. Although, after
everything, it really should be easier to apply the word
'casual' to at least a few things Bruce does without also
feeling the need to hide.

Onstage, a magician wearing what is, essentially, an
extremely sparkly bathing suit gestures showily toward his
assistant, whose tuxedo is matched in perfection only by
the even-ness of her crew cut. And --

It all depends on him, right?

Tim relaxes in Bruce's grip and decides to enjoy the show.