by Te
August 24, 2011

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Decidedly AU-ized spoilers for not-quite-as-ancient storylines. Takes place early in Tim's tenure as Red Robin.

Summary: It's a process.

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

Author's Note: A commission for the delightful Urdsama. I hope this works for you, lady!

Acknowledgments: Much love to Jack, Mildred, Pixie, and ShadowValkyrie for audiencing and encouragement. Jack even gave me a title, while Pixie did much to help me negotiate my canon!Jason issues.


Black --

No --

Tim's up and moving, dodging, *striking*, because stillness is death, because it doesn't matter how many targets there are --

It doesn't matter how well-*armed* they are --

How well-*trained* -- no. He's moving, he's moving --

He can't *see* --

Is there blood in his eyes? Why does it *burn*?

He's *moving*, because he has other senses, other --

Have they gone silent? Moved away?

Where --?

Tim risks a pause to wipe his eyes --

And realizes that he'd been squeezing them shut. Just --


He opens his eyes and moves into his favorite ready-position, the best for large groups of belligerent targets -- no one.

No one.

No one --


There were... he doesn't know precisely *who* they were, beyond being sure that at least a few of them belonged to Ra's, but there'd been at least two *dozen* of them --

And there'd been --

A sword.

The memory of the pain comes back bright and clear, terrible and --

It had been so *sharp* --

He could feel his flesh dipping *in*, feel his intestines *shifting* --

*Tearing* --

Tim -- doesn't make a sound.

It can't have been that bad. He was moving well, and the only pain is *in* his eyes, and that only because for some unknown and potentially suicidal reason --

He had been squeezing them shut. Why...?

Where *is* he --

No, first things first.

He reaches down and *presses* where the wound is --

Was? His uniform is torn *precisely* the way it would be for a stab -- not a slash. Had he moved at just the right time?

There's an unfamiliar scar there, but --

Had he --

("You have *other* senses at your disposal, Tim. You will never be my partner if you don't learn how to use them.")

Yes, fine, all *right*, I *know* that, Bruce --

Where *are* you --

No. Not that. Not -- not right now.

Hearing -- nothing, save for the trickle of water somewhere nearby.

Touch -- well, there's a great deal of stone under his feet -- undressed and gritty. There are torches on the walls, and the walls are just as primitive as the floor. He's in a cave somewhere.

Smell -- oh.

Oh --

Tim swallows and follows his nose, pulling his auxiliary staff -- the primary one is missing --

He has a *vague* memory of it being taken *away* --

He follows, and -- it's not water.

It has a consistency *similar* to water, but water is only that color after severe chemical accidents --

And nothing smells like a Lazarus pit.

Tim swallows.

Tim shudders.

Tim crouches by the side of the pit and -- doesn't touch. Doesn't reach. Doesn't --

The memories --

He'd been slashed on the arm, too.

Stabbed in the hand.

Stabbed in the *thigh* -- and that wound may or may *not* have been. Fatal.

The sword-thrust to his abdomen definitely was. He.

Who would put him in a *pit*?

*He* has nothing Ra's wants --

This feeling --

What is it? What.

There's something rising in him, steady and large and more than a little overwhelming.

There's something --

Fear never feels like this. Fear is familiar, cold and sharp and *goading*.

Fear doesn't fill his throat and make his fists clench and his jaw *creak* --

Bruce, where *are* --

Tim doesn't make a sound.

Tim doesn't --

Movement --

And his birdarang work is just a little too perfect, because now there's a freshly-*skewered* bat twitching on the ground eight feet away from him.

Tim winces and goes to it --

It's bleeding.

It's *trying* to scream --

Tim breaks its neck and doesn't think of Alfred and his three hundred fourteen flying, screeching *pets* --

No. He doesn't --

Why did he --

Tim lets himself growl -- briefly -- and tugs out the birdarang with a sickening, crunching *wrench*.

And then he drops the bat in the pit.

And waits --

And waits --

The bat screams as it rises from the pit, swooping and diving, baring its teeth --

Tim keeps himself still until it flies down a darkened corridor, presumably to cause all of its little bat-friends and bat-family members all sorts of violent trauma --

There's something *rising* in him, something -- something *hurting* --

It's time to move.


It takes three -- lengthy -- false starts to get out of the apparently-empty cave system, and by the time he does, he's hungry, thirsty, and feeling somewhat... grainy.

Behind the eyes.

In his jaw.

Inside where the feelings rise and roil like --

Like --

He doesn't know.

The sky tells him that it's nearly dawn when he makes it out. There's no sign of his bike, but he's not far from the city.

It doesn't take especially long to acquire a moped --

Upgrade it to a motorcycle --

Ditch it in a -- somewhat -- public space three blocks from his safe house --

And the sun is up as Tim climbs in through the roof access, but, as usual, no one on the street is looking *up*. He strips quickly, stows his stiffened, ruined uniform for later disposal, eats cold leftover curry and rice, and drinks one liter of water and two cups of milk.

He thinks.

He thinks.

He showers, and his pain levels rise dramatically until he realizes that he's gritting his teeth and snarling his way through washing his hair --

That he keeps balling his hands into tight fists and *yanking* at his hair --

He breathes.

He meditates under the spray --

He tries to meditate, and manages to stop himself from punching the tile once --

Twice --

He gets out of the shower without conditioning his hair.

He doesn't punch the mirror.

He doesn't kick through the thin, decrepit wooden bathroom door.

He doesn't scream.

He doesn't scream.

He does two hundred push-ups, two hundred crunches, and one hundred chin-ups on the lintel of the doorway into the kitchen.

He questions himself at length about why he hadn't traveled here as Tim Wayne, as opposed to as the barely-realized alias 'Dave Winthrop, slumming college student,' but doesn't have any answers for himself, whatsoever.

He puts himself to bed.

He doesn't --

He forces himself to spend half an hour developing Dave's sexuality. He likes dark-haired women who aren't especially inclined toward conversation. He likes the occasional spanking in his porn. He's vastly ashamed of how quickly and thoroughly he gets off to sleep molestation videos. His first orgasm involved Troia and a lasso --

Tim places both thin pillows over his face and screams and screams and --

Tim gets up, pulls an emergency tranquilizer -- one never knows when one will be exposed to a Scarecrow toxin -- out of one of his spare belts, and dry-swallows it.

He wants -- to cry?

To hurt someone --

How, precisely, does one go about recovering from a dip in a Lazarus pit?

Who exactly is he supposed to --

Bruce, where *are* you --

No. No. He has options.

He pulls his palm-top and uses Oracle's cut-outs to access everything Bruce had ever written about Lazarus pits, and the attendant psychological... issues. The rage is there, the paranoia, the terror, the violence --

All in all, he's not doing terribly badly.

He'd only killed *one* living creature, and he'd been more than... internally *cohesive* enough to resurrect it.

And -- people recover from this sort of thing.

Black Canary had only needed a few hours before she was ready, willing, and able to stop brutalizing everyone who came near her.

He --

He's already had a few hours.

*Some* people recover. Only -- some.

He's never needed to ask why Barbara didn't choose the option for herself.

He squeezes his eyes shut.

He puts himself back to bed.

He stares at the ceiling --

He closes his eyes.


He sheds Dave Winthrop after four sleepless hours and three hours of nightmares, calling Dick and having him send the WE jet for Tim Wayne. Dick doesn't ask questions *very* loudly, and so Tim promises to tell him 'all about his vacation' with a laugh in his voice they both know is painfully false.

He goes to the airport and hides in a corner of the first class lounge with Dave's laptop, another tranquilizer, and a half-measure of gin.

A man in a suit as expensive and well-cut as one of Tim's slaps a waitress' ass.

Tim spends fifteen minutes planning how to break every bone in the man's hand as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Then he moves on to the man's arms --

His collarbone --

His ribs --

He knows what screams sound like for each of those injuries. He --

He spends the next half-hour writing a coded report of his -- altogether spotty -- memories of the last few days. He has no conclusions.

He has no successes.

Bruce would be --

Where --

Tim meditates on --

Tim meditates on the chorus of screams in his mind. The wet ones, the trilling ones, the piercing ones --

A waitress starts toward him, presumably to ask if he'd like anything else. Tim considers what he could eat -- there has to be *something* --

She freezes while still six feet away from his table, staring wide-eyed and --

And Tim realizes what he looks like. What he *must* look like --

He blinks rapidly, clears his throat, and smiles ruefully --

And watches the waitress weigh the risk of losing her job versus the risk of getting within Tim's range. After another few seconds, she steps closer --

And Tim knows that has more to do with the size he *doesn't* have than it does with anything else. He apologizes for his bad mood, blaming an assignment from some school he'll never actually attend, but he never quite manages to make her calm again.

She is far too intelligent for that.

He orders a steak for himself and a double order of potatoes. He's not even close to being that hungry, but it might help him sleep on the jet -- and it will absolutely help his body avoid going into any sort of shock from the tranquilizers and alcohol.

He watches the waitress go with only his peripheral vision -- he doesn't want her skin to crawl any more than it already is -- and he focuses on preparing a coded report about his own physical, intellectual, and emotional health.

He's finished by the time the food arrives.

He doesn't manage to send it to anyone.


Tim Wayne lives in the manor.

Tim *Drake* keeps something of a pied-à-terre toward the edges of the inaptly-named Garden district. It's far enough from the parks to be both reasonably safe and reasonably affordable, and, best of all, it's private.

He buys himself milk, eggs, and bread from the local -- and decidedly upscale -- grocery market.

He eats --

He doesn't know what he manages to eat.

He sleeps.

He wakes up, showers, conditions his hair, and sends Dick an utterly meaningless e-mail about needing to spend some time catching up on his sleep-debt --

And then he painstakingly digs out every last one of his subcutaneous tracers. He places them under carefully-calibrated heating pads on the bed.

He suits up.

He flies.


There is no reasonable way to move through Gotham at night without fighting crime.

The fact that Tim hasn't exactly *tried* to do it since his days of only following doesn't mean that he's wrong about this: Back then, he'd always seen at least one crime in progress whether or not he'd seen the objects of his obsession.

Sometimes he'd been able to scare a mugger away with the sound of his portable police scanner, or by screaming very, very loudly from a safe distance, or by dropping crumbling masonry on or near the mugger in question --

Sometimes he hadn't been able to do anything of the kind, and he'd been forced to simply call nine-one-one and *hope* for -- ultimately unrealistic -- speed.

He has other options now.

Batman and Robin will be on the west side tonight, which is fine, because Tim's target is rather far to the northeast --

And there's nothing especially wrong with shattering kneecaps, so long as one only does it to *one* knee.

Similarly, broken wrists are entirely within spec, as are broken ribs and ankles.

Broken collarbones are outside spec when there are no signs of metahuman abilities or PCP abuse --

But there just happens to be a raging, frothing, *bulging* gentleman doing his level best to grind Tim to powder... so.

The scream nearly has more rage than pain in it, and he knows that sort of scream well enough:

He breaks both of the man's cheekbones and his jaw, too, and then makes a two-point landing when the man finally drops him.


Better --

Gun shots from at least three blocks away --

Tim gets on his bike and rides --

And finds his target in the middle of a *very* well-directed crossfire situation. The way he moves --

Tim remembers being taught that particular back-flip, and wondering who had taught it to Bruce. And while there is no cape --

No red, no gold, no *green* --

Jason is using his jacket well. Of the twelve men who, presumably, had started attacking, only five are still up. The other seven are bleeding on the ground. None of them are distressingly *still* -- ah.

Tim uses his staff to break the wrist of the man reaching for his gun, and then uses birdarangs to remove four of the last five guns --

And Jason puts on a burst of impressive speed to *yank* the last gun out of the hands of the man trying and failing to reload it --

And then there are more screams.

And more --

Tim gets bored and helps, keeping one ear open for the sound of Jason's rough breathing --

It's evening out quickly --

As quickly as it should --

And then they zip-strip the assorted bleeding gunmen in silence which could, under some circumstances, be called companionable --

Except that Jason is bouncing him against a wall and doing his level best to choke him --

And Tim has a birdarang poised to slice through Jason's femoral artery.

Jason grins at him -- "Didn't order a walking condom."

"Well, that's interesting, as *I* didn't order breath-play."

"Can you even *get* choked through this cowl?"

"Not easily. But you --"

"Can bleed out right here," Jason says, and raises his eyebrows behind the domino. "Is that what you want?"


Well --

"Not -- particularly."


Tim licks his lips --

"Heh. Sure I shouldn't just try a little *harder* to choke you?"

Tim misses, badly, the ability to make his eyebrow-raises felt. "I have questions for you."

"I don't have any answers for you, birdboy."

Tim narrows his eyes. "You don't know what my questions are."

Jason grins again. "Nope, and I don't care -- yet."

"What do you need?"

Jason cocks his head to the side and seems to be -- thinking.


He steps back and raises his hands in the posture that's the closest any well-trained vigilante can get toward looking harmless.

Tim spins the birdarang on his fingers. "I'm listening."

"I want... company."

Tim blinks.


There's something *rising* -- "What sort of company?"

Jason's grin gets significantly sharper -- but also more rueful. "Work with me tonight."

"What are you --"

"Just a patrol, birdboy. You know how that works."

He buys that... not very much, at all.

But he tucks away his birdarang and nods. "Lead the way."


Their first stop is a social club owned and operated by the Russians who -- to be perfectly frank -- *also* own and operate much of the docks.

There are at least ten guns, but Jason uses Bruce's hand-signals to direct Tim to corral and protect the handful of civilians -- prostitutes, all.

*Because* this is a Russian operation, the prostitutes in question all have to at least *look* like they're fighting on the side of their employers, so there's at least some measure of challenge --

It's boring.

It's annoying.

There's something --

He can't --

Tim is far more fast than gentle with the women, though he doesn't knock any of them out before restraining them and moving into the melee. Jason hasn't been able to be as *free* with the crossfire direction as he was outside, so his jacket is decidedly perforated and his hair is downright *mussed*.

Tim's tempted to let him keep *working* for it --

Tim gives the all-clear whistle and watches Jason explode into action just the way he should. It takes seconds before the gunmen start screaming and cursing each other multilingually --

And then Tim starts going for kidneys --

And ankles --

Just once for the cervical spine --

Jason meets his eyes for a sharp, *hot* second over the toppling body --

And the remaining gunmen all have very, very good aim, and so it's time -- past time, truly -- to send out most of his remaining birdarangs --

His cape takes two shots --

Five --

But he has his own speed, and there is no one in this room who can take his staff away from him.

A broken jaw --

A shattered nose --

Three -- possibly four -- crushed fingers --

And he's smiling for the screams, for the shouts and growls that *become* screams --

One down --

Three --

Where --

And Jason's whistle has no tactical use whatsoever. He --


Jason snickers, and, when Tim looks, he's twirling two guns -- a MAC-10 and a thirty-eight, neither of which he favors -- on his fingers and smirking. He --

Everyone is down.

Everyone is --

Jason has already zip-stripped *most* of the gunmen -- and all of Tim's are thoroughly unconscious. He.

Tim stands down -- and takes a breath. Another -

"I gotta admit, birdboy -- I'm startin' to get curious."

Tim lifts his chin in lieu of a useless eyebrow-raise. "I'm willing to talk whenever you are."

Jason waggles his head back and forth --

Purses his lips --

Starts to *juggle* the guns --

"Have you been spending time with *Batman*?"

And Jason gives him a sharp look. "How much did you have to practice before you could get that out without a slip?"

Nightwing. Nightwing needs --

Nightwing will be *back* someday --

Bruce, *please* Bruce --

And Jason nods once. "Yeah, that's an answer. Not yet, birdboy. Let's hit it."

"What were we *doing* here?"

"Ruining their night, natch. Let's *go*."

Tim growls --

Jason narrows his eyes behind the domino -- and tosses Tim a bundle of extra zip-strips.

Tim works quickly.


They demolish a semi-legal dance club operated by the BTM.

They -- nearly accidentally -- burn *down* a social club operated by the Kings.

Jason smiles... often.

Jason --

They angle back to the docks, and Tim isn't the slightest bit surprised when Jason starts taking them to the strolls. It's -- humbling.

For all that Tim has had a reasonably positive relationship with Gotham's prostitutes over the years, none of them -- and none of his *other* informants -- have ever greeted him with smiles and hugs and other sorts of good-natured affection.

Certainly, none of them have ever kissed his *cheek*.

The information Jason gets is all useful -- though none of it is spectacular. Tim is exactly petty enough for a part of him to be glad of that --

And exactly *aware* enough to notice that the information Jason truly wants, tonight, is the locations of the various pimps. Which...

Well. The first time Tim watched Jason brutalize a pimp, Tim was eleven years old. It certainly wasn't the last time.

It --

Had a part of him missed --

No, that's a ridiculous question. Tim has never had any *personal* reasons to treat pimps brutally, but he'd still done it many, many times over the years.

And called it being closer to the boy he'd always wanted to --

Tim cuts himself off and focuses on his flight. Jason had directed him to take point into *this* particular -- BTM-affiliated, again -- dance club, and so --

*KRISH* --

Glass shatters beautifully --

Screams ring out here and there --

Blood spatters Tim's boots --

Chest --

Cheeks --

And, of course, there are any number of recognizable faces. A lieutenant takes two kicks to the groin and gains three breaks in -- one -- arm.

Three street-level dealers Bruce had thought were involved in several brutal beatings of *inefficient* runners --

*Children* --

Tim blinds them with their own drinks, gives *one* of them time to pull a gun, takes it --

Turns it --

And uses it. None of them are going to be especially attractive anymore. None --

There's more blood on his face. There's.

Bruce --

There's something *rising* --

And he doesn't *know* what Jason is doing --

Except that that's a lie, because there are the screams of the panicked --

And the screams of the pseudo-panicked --

And the screams of the *excited* --

And the gurgling, strangled screams coming from... there.

Tim takes his time moving through the milling crowd, dispensing minor nerve-strikes as he goes to keep his path clear, and --

Jason's gloves are wet, dripping and dark.

Jason's left boot has two broken teeth sticking out of the treads.

Jason --

Jason is smiling, and the formerly very well-dressed man Jason is punching *repeatedly*... is almost certainly the *first* pimp they'd learned about tonight.

The one with a penchant for using lit cigars.

The one --

The one who isn't screaming, at all, anymore.

Do you have any of that sort of scar, Jason...?

Would you ever let me --

Tim wants --

Tim forces himself into motion, pulling his staff with one hand and reaching for Jason's shoulder --

Jason stops before Tim can touch him. And grins. "I expected you about six punches ago."

That -- "Then why didn't you stop?"

"Had to see," Jason says, dropping the pimp and stripping off his gloves --

He drops them on the ruin of the man's face and pulls out a new pair. He --

See *what* --

But that's not a useful question -- or one Tim particularly needs to *hear* Jason answer.

The same goes for the question of what Jason would've done if Tim hadn't --

Gun --

Tim uses his third-to-last birdarang --

And pins a teenaged girl's hand to the wall. Her face isn't at all familiar, but her expression -- cold-eyed rage -- is.

Familiar enough, anyway. Still --

"Do you know her?"

"Gonna use my name tonight?"

"I'll think about it," Tim says, and turns enough to let Jason know that he's raising his eyebrow --

To *hopefully* let him know --

He really needs a uniform change. "J."


"Do you object?"

"Not when I can hear the period. And no, I don't know her. I've heard some *rumors* that the BTM --"

"Are recruiting hitters younger, yes," Tim says, and crosses the -- now empty -- dance floor until he can brace the girl, who has wide eyes which appear entirely black in this light, stylishly-relaxed hair, and a broad, soft mouth a distinctly shallow part of Tim would rather see on a male of the species. She knows enough not to yank on the birdarang without being absolutely sure she won't damage her hand any more than it already is --

Tim shifts right to dodge well-aimed spittle and backhands her --

"*Fuck* you --"

"You have no idea how often I hear that, miss. Would you care to tell me why you were planning to shoot at me and my compatriot?"

She sneers at him and tries to work up more spittle.

"I have no compunctions against *breaking* your hands."

"So fucking *do* it!"

Tim cocks his head to the side. "How do you expect to earn if you can't hold anything, miss? On your back...?"

Fear for that, honest and sharp enough to smell.

Tim nods once. "What's your name."

"I'm not telling you *any* fucking thing!"

"You --"

"In case you haven't *noticed*," Jason says, shouldering Tim aside, "your asshole buddies have taken a runner. No one's here but us, chica. *Talk*."

She spits on *Jason* -- and he doesn't hit her.

That... fits exceedingly well with the psych profile Tim had worked up over the past several months. He nods internally and grips Jason's shoulder. "Please, allow me."

The look Jason gives him is narrow -- and darker than any of the other looks he's given Tim all night.

That fits, too. Tim signs 'light interrogation' and waits --

*Waits* --

Jason is *studying* Tim like *he's* the one --

The one.

The -- hell. And he can *see* Jason seeing him lose internal cohesion --

"What happened, birdboy?"

"Not here --"

"Fine," Jason says, striking fast -- and knocking the girl out before Tim can stop him.

"What --"

And then Jason pulls out one of *Oracle's* tracers and tucks it in the girl's back pocket. And raises his eyebrows.


"A woman's work is never done, birdboy. Let's hit it."

Tim snorts and shakes his head, yanking out his birdarang and letting the girl slump to the floor. "We could talk about your issues, too, you know."

Jason gives him a *wry* look. Which --

"We could hit a coffee shop, buy you a soy latte with extra cinnamon --"

Jason snorts.

Tim shows his teeth --

"What happened to you?"

"Lazarus pit." He can't *see* Jason blink -- but he can feel it. "We can --"

"There's one more stop I wanna make tonight. Then -- we can do anything you want."

Tim's reasonably sure Jason can feel *him* blink -- he nods.

They fly.


The townhouse is -- nearly -- in Tim's neighborhood. It's well-maintained, and has a tasteful postage stamp of a garden in front.

The curtains are all drawn on the upper floor, but it *is* two in the morning. It --

There's something *rising*, and it almost certainly has a great deal to do with the fact that he knows -- in his *bones* -- that Jason's about to show him something horrible, something true and horrible --

He can't bring himself to ask.

Not -- not yet.

Jason invites Tim to use his housebreaking skills to get them in through the basement entrance --

And there's a faint smell of urine --

The sound of *terrified* -- and *quiet* -- tears --

And Tim knows. He knows. He *knows*, even before he sees the first child -- male, blond, no more than six -- chained to a metal bedframe --

The second one -- also male, Latino, perhaps four -- chained to a *toilet* --

The third -- last? -- isn't chained to anything, and is somewhat older. No more than eight. Also Latino.

Naked --

He runs for the stairs and Tim gases him before he can open his mouth --

And Jason catches the boy and brings him back to his bed.

They leave the other children for now. Just -- for now. They --

"How long --"

"Found out before we hooked up tonight," Jason whispers, and takes point up the stairs. "There were rumors, but..."

"Where --"

"None of you people spend enough time with the pros."

Right. Fine --

Sometimes Tim misses Snuffy so *fucking* much --

Tim swallows and -- "How many?"

"This isn't the brothel. Should be just one."

"Where --"

"Don't know.*Yet*," and Jason gestures for silence --

They split up to grid -- and there's no one on the first floor. Nothing of interest save a computer that will --


They take the stairs to the second floor.

Empty home office --

Empty bathroom --

Empty apparent guest room --

Another of the same --

And the master bedroom is just as large as it should be, given the architecture of the building. It will get a fair amount of light in just a few hours --

And Jason wakes the sleeping man up with a blow to the abdomen that makes him vomit all over the bed.

Jason uses the duvet to towel the man off roughly --

And then Tim finds himself using his last two birdarangs to hang the man by the hands from his own headboard.

He --

His name is Phillip Wentz.

The password to get to his supply of images and video is 'punkinpie.'

The password to get to his list of names, addresses, and websites is 'sweetpea.'

The brothel is next *door* --

"I -- heh. Excuse me for *just* a sec, birdboy." And Jason leaves.

Tim waits.

Wentz pleads.

Tim waits.

Wentz tries and fails to move his hands.

Tim *waits* -- and opens the window just in time to hear a large amount of property damage happening next door. That was at least one firebomb --

"I told you! There's no one *there* now!"

Tim waits.

"Look -- look, we can make a --"

Wentz was almost certainly about to say 'deal.' The damage to his vocal cords won't let him now. He --

Tim works, slowly and methodically, starting with the soles of Wentz's feet and moving, always moving --

Broken ankles.

Shattered shins.

Dislocated -- shattered kneecaps.

He's trying to scream, and that's good, that's right, but there's something --

It's still *rising* --

Bruce, *help* me --

It takes work to break a pelvis, but Tim manages with four blows from the staff.

This is dangerous. This --

He'll stick to two --

Four ribs. Just four.

And the collarbone --

And Jason is watching him. Jason is -- speaking?

Not speaking. Not anything. Not --

His teeth, yes. At least ten.

All of the front teeth. All of them. All --

"Hey, birdboy."

"Just a moment --"

"No," Jason says, and shoots Wentz. Twice. In the eyes.

And once more to the heart.

There's something --

There's something.

"Are you gonna puke?"

"Not at the moment."

"You sure?"

Sirens -- still in the distance. Still --

He's dead. He's dead. He's -

"Hey, stay with me --"

"No," Tim says, and jogs down the stairs. The computer is on stand-by, so it only takes a moment to bring all the relevant files up --

"The kids are free --"

"They can't -- they shouldn't see --"

"They won't. I locked the door," Jason says, and he rests a hand on Tim's shoulder.


"You're about five seconds away from losing it, aren't you."

"The same has been true for the past forty-eight hours, J. --"

"Come with me."

Tim snarls --

And Jason coughs a painful-sounding laugh. "Come with me *please*?"

Tim -- wasn't expecting to snort.

And he definitely wasn't expecting Jason's *smile*, broad and bright and --

Tim nods and leads them out the back. They get on their bikes and Tim lets Jason lead them -- northeast.

It's an easy, clear ride at this time of night -- they only need to stop one armed robbery --

And then Jason parks by a warehouse Tim knows for a fact is owned by Talia Head -- minus a few dozen cut-outs. Tim had traced them himself over the course of one sleepless night. He --

Jason pulls off his godawful helmet again, shakes out his sweaty hair, and turns to look at him. "You can come in, or..."

Tim takes off his own helmet. "'Or?'"

"Or we can talk right here."

Tim nods slowly, thoughtfully --

Tim *tries* to think --

Gunshots are never as loud as you think they should be. They --

("The sound was the world, Tim.")

Bruce --

("The sound was *my* world... and still is, from time to time.")

And Bruce had closed Tim's hand around the butt of the thirty-eight --


And Bruce had stepped *away* from him, taking even his shadow, until Tim had nothing but the fluorescents, the stink of cordite --

And the memory of Bruce's screams in the night. He --

There's something --

"If you *are* gonna lose it --"

"I'm not."

"You sure you shouldn't?"

Tim -- looks up.

Jason's lenses are up. He --

"You have beautiful eyes."

Jason blinks. "Uh. Thanks?" He snorts. "Haven't heard that in a while."

"Was it -- him?"

Jason looks at him for a long moment. Searches him -- he nods, and steps off his bike, lowering the kickstand.

Tim does the same --

"C'mere. Please."

Tim moves within range --

And Jason grips his shoulder -- firmly, not brutally -- and tugs Tim into a small patch of shadow made up of a part of the warehouse's outside wall and the alley. The floods glance, but don't touch.

Hm. Tim looks -- and there is, in fact, a flood with a burned-out bulb --

"I keep forgetting to change it."

"That might get you messily killed --"

"Do you care?"

Tim meets Jason's eyes. "Yes."

Jason raises his eyebrows again --

"Sometimes very much."

Jason licks his *teeth* -- "Okay, that's new."

Tim shows *his* teeth. "Not particularly."

Jason freezes --

And Tim shrugs off his hand. "It's not important --"

"It was him, yeah. The last time he did it, he was comparing my eyes to Sheila Haywood's."

Tim sucks in a breath. "Your --"

"No. I'm not claiming her."

"Because she got you killed?"

"Because, in the end, she really didn't give a damn about me. That's not quite the same thing."

Tim nods once. "I need to know --"

"About the pit?"

Tim frowns and turns away --

And Jason turns him back. "Ask."

"How did you -- how did you... handle it. The sex. When it was him."

"'Handle it'?" Jason snorts again. "Are you serious?"

"All right, I'll stop trying to be delicate. When he was fucking you blind on assorted rooftops, and in assorted cloakrooms --"

"And all over the manor. Can't forget that."

"Of course. When he was doing *that*... how did you cope with your feelings?"

"My... feelings. I... heh. That's seriously what you wanna lead with?"

"You just put three bullets in --"

"That was really more -- I mean, I use armor-piercing rounds, birdboy. Those went right through."

Tim coughs -- was that really a laugh?

Jason's grin says it absolutely was.

"Fine. You just --"

"I was never his whore."

Tim -- stops. And considers. "That was enough?"

"For the first few weeks. And then..."


Jason's smile is rueful, *soft* with memory -- "Then I had to *admit* to being in love with him. And to the fact that he'd been in love with me from the word go. Whether or not he should've been."

Tim -- swallows.

"And you already knew that. Didn't you?"

"I -- yes."

Jason nods and cups Tim's chin. "When did he start fucking you?"

Tim closes his eyes --

And Jason uses his free hand to flip Tim's lenses. "Show me?"

Tim *opens* his eyes -- "Last year."

"It took that long?"

"He waited -- he told me that he was never sure I wanted him. He told me --"

("My *love* --"

"Please --"

"I need --"


Tim squeezes his eyes shut again --

"No, c'mon --"

"I -- fine," Tim says, and makes a point of keeping his eyes open. "He told me he could never *be* sure that I wanted the man he was... under all the masks."

Jason nods thoughtfully. "What changed it?"

"I seduced him. I... it was... it was revenge, at first. I knew he wanted me. I wanted. At the time, I wanted him... vulnerable. Because that's how he made me feel."

Jason *frowns* --

And Tim nods. "You still love him."

"Are you surprised?"

"Not ultimately. I wasn't very much older than you were when I fell in love with him."

Jason nods -- and he's still frowning. And that --

Tim laughs quietly. "My epic revenge lasted all of eight minutes."

"And then?"

"I tasted him."

Jason sighs and plants a hand on the wall next to Tim's head. He still has his other hand on Tim's chin. "Yeah, that would do it."


"Do you seriously sound like Al *naturally*?"

Tim smiles. "Sometimes."

"Doesn't get my cock hard."

"What does? Other than the individual we both miss rather badly."

Jason's smile is crooked -- warm.

There's something -- no. He can wait. He can --

"Violence is pretty good for it."

"I'm shocked."

"I know, you'll never be the same. Heh. *Shared* violence is even better."

"I know. I know Wentz might not have survived what I -- did."

Jason nods. "Figured you would. I mean, he'd gone into shock *before* I got back upstairs."

"That would explain the lack of entertaining noises."

"'Entertaining,' hunh?"

"I've been. The screams have been keeping me... even."

"This is even?"

Tim smiles ruefully and turns --

Jason won't let him turn.

Tim raises an eyebrow -- oh, fuck this. Tim pushes back his cowl --

And Jason snorts. "Okay, the domino under the hood is *my* shtick."

"A good idea is a good idea... J. And you may very well have still been dead the first time I wore two masks."

"It's like that, *T*?"

Tim grins. "Maybe. If you can take it."

"Heh. *Heh*. I wanna talk to you."

"Amazingly enough --"

"After," Jason says, and -- pauses.

Technically, there's more than enough time for Tim to ask what Jason means by 'after.'

*Technically*, there's more than enough time for any *number* of things that don't involve standing here waiting --

Opening his *mouth* --

The kiss is much, much softer than Tim was expecting --

Tim has no *idea* when he'd started expecting a *kiss* --

And Jason is moving Tim's lips with his own, opening and closing Tim's mouth --

Slipping his tongue in *only* when Tim's lips are barely parted, at all --

They both have blood on their cheeks.

They both have blood in their *hair* --

And Jason's tongue is as thick as Bruce's --

Bruce never tasted like chili and Cain-a cola --

And when Tim laughs, Jason grins and kisses him harder, shoves his tongue in from the *side* of Tim's mouth --

"Mm -- Jay --"

"Didn't hear a period."

"Ah -- sorry?"

"Heh. Liar," and Jason cups Tim's face and -- makes love to his mouth. That's the only possible way to put it, because this is wet, and slow, and very --

No, *not* serious, but still --

Dedicated? Focused?

Tim shakes his head and *sucks* Jason's tongue --

And Jason grunts --

And nods --

And starts fucking Tim's mouth, slow and wet and *deep*.

He hasn't had this --

Anything *like* this --

Tim shudders and grips Jason's hips, pulling him in closer, *harder* --

"I hear you," and Jason kisses him *again* --

And thrusts against Tim's abdomen.

And thrusts.

And --

Tim groans and pushes up on his toes -- and a part of his mind immediately begins trying to figure out if he loves or hates the feel of his jock being *shoved* against his burgeoning erection --

If it's pain or something greater, something better --

"I *followed* you --"

"I *know*, birdboy --"

"I followed *you* --"

Jason blows out a breath, warm against Tim's mouth -- "That's -- different."

Tim laughs somewhat helplessly. "Really."

"Yes, *really*, you fuckin' stalker --"

Tim kisses Jason, bites his upper lip and his lower lip, kisses him again --

"Come *inside* --"

"Let me suck you."

"I." Jason stares at him --

Searches him --


Tim grins and leans his head back against the wall. "We're even near the right part of town... if not the right alley."

Jason snorts. "Where's the right fucking *alley*? I keep this one *clean*."

Tim shakes his head and cups Jason through his pants --

"*Tell* me --"

"It's under the rubble of the Savoy Theater. In --"

"Libertyville. I hear you. Didn't all the BTM scum in the area turn you *off*?"

"Well. The fantasy *starts* with you brutalizing any number of criminally-minded young men --"

Jason snorts again --

"For justice, of course."

"In my little green panties...?"

Tim touches his tongue to his upper lip. "Ones you'd nearly grown out of, even. Ones that left... welts."

"B never let me stay in those for long. Thank fucking *Christ* --"

"I still saw you -- and him --"

"Of course you did," Jason says, and his smile is sharp and shadowed at once, *darkly* admiring --


"On your knees, birdboy."

"I thought you'd never... order," Tim says, and drops --

And thinks about blood spatter --

And broken glass --

And hollow-eyed *children* --

And Jason shoves a -- bare -- hand into Tim's hair and tugs.

"I'm not --"

"You're not okay --"

"Worry about that *later*," Tim says, and opens Jason's pants --

"Birdboy --"

"Please --"


Tim growls and tugs Jason's jock and boxer-briefs down --

"We're getting *real* fucking close to my limit for good fucking *behavior* --"

Tim licks his way up the underside of Jason's penis --

"*Fuck* --"

He does it again --

Again --

"Okay, but you're fucking well coming *inside* --"

"After --"

"*Fine* --"

"And then *you*," Tim says, and sucks *hard* kisses along the sides of the shaft --

"Nnh --"

"-- will come inside."

"Jesus fucking --"

Tim swallows Jason --

"Fuck -- *fuck* --"

Tim groans in his chest and tries to --

There's something rising and building and there are no screams, there are no arms around him, there are no --

There's nothing --

But Jason has one hand in Tim's officially *too*-long hair --

And one hand on Tim's *cheek* --

"Okay. I'm seeing. Uh. You're definitely -- uh."

Tim pulls back just long enough to hum an *obnoxious* question --

And Jason's laugh is breathless, thrilled --

He's *smiling* down at Tim --

And there are many, many things which don't matter in this moment, which are *small* -- if never meaningless.

Jason never kills anyone without proof of the absolute worst criminal acts.

The Tim Jason hated never *existed* --

But when did the hate end?

What *is* the equation for that? But more importantly --

It's always the right alley, the perfect one, because Jason is stroking Tim's cheek and mussing Tim's hair --

Jason is moaning and *rocking* his hips, *asking* for Tim's throat --

"Please?" And he snorts again -- "With sugar on top?"

Tim narrows his eyes and bares his teeth --

"Oh, *Jesus*, yes --"

And Tim *beckons* --

And the first real *thrust* is --

So perfect. So perfect --

The first real thrust is Bruce clutching him --

Bruce moaning for him --

Bruce *bruising* him --

And more than that, *different* from that, because Jason was Robin just like Tim was --

Because they *share* something, something real and true --

There's something *rising* --

But Tim doesn't have to listen to it, or do anything more than ride it, suck hard, scrape his teeth --

("Jason. Jason would. Oh, *love* --")

Moan when Jason pulls out and keeps Tim from swallowing him again --

"Jesus, why didn't I know you were a *slut*?"

Tim coughs and *glares* at Jason --

Jason *grins* at him --

Tim pulls back and sucks the head *hard*, stabbing at the slit again and again --

Jason grunts and *pants* --

Tim uses his teeth just a *little* viciously --

"Fuck. Fuck -- it's been --" Jason shakes his head --


"Heh. *After* we're motherfucking *inside*, you fucking freak -- oh, God, don't pull *off* --"

"You could've *held* me --"

"*Fine*," and Jason *grips* Tim's head --

Tim opens *wide* --

And Jason pulls *while* he thrusts --

Jason groans and throws his *head* back --

And Tim lets his eyes roll up in his head. Just -- he doesn't need his vision for this. It gets in the way, takes away from the thick heat in his mouth, the salt and *sweat* on his tongue --

"Yeah -- *fuck*, yeah --"

And now Jason is thrusting rhythmically -- if a little raggedly. Now --

How long has it been for him?

How long has it been since there's been someone who *mattered*? And Tim can take that appellation for himself, that *meaning* --

("*Son* --")

It's different when it's family. Right?

And Tim can keep himself from laughing, but only because he doesn't want to choke, doesn't want to *risk* Jason losing his rhythm of pulls and thrusts --

"Oh, God -- *fuck* --"

He's so thick, so --

Of *course* he's bigger than he was when he was fifteen --

Tim clenches on nothing and moans --

"Choking -- *choking* you --"

Tim nods as much as he *can* with Jason's grip --

"Yeah, I *hear* you," and Jason moves closer, bumps Tim's chest with his knees --

*Molests* Tim's head --

And now the thrusts are *short* -- short enough that there's hardly any time at all when Jason isn't in his *throat* --

And he can't breathe. And --

Tim feels himself flushing, sweating and *needing* --

Tim deactivates the alarms and traps on his suit clumsily enough to barely avoid getting stabbed by the poison-tipped spikes on his own bandoliers --

"What the *fuck* --"

Tim shakes his head and gets himself *out* in the air, in the night --

"Oh -- fuck, *look* at you --" 

Tim opens his eyes --

And Jason is staring into him, searching him again, wondering and -- needing?

He's *grinding* into Tim's mouth --

Into Tim's *throat* --

His hair is so much curlier than --

And Tim can't make himself jerk off, not when he can grip Jason's ass, instead. Round and full and *muscular* --

*Flexing* --

"Fucking *claw* me --"

Tim does, and spares a vague thought for Catwoman, the question of adolescent fantasy versus honest moral *agreement* --

He doesn't want Jason to go to Catwoman, no matter *how* well she's behaving these days.

He doesn't want Jason to go to the Outsiders.

He doesn't want Jason to go to *Star City*. He wants --

There's something *rising*, but it doesn't feel the same. It feels like fear and the pain in his jaw and the discomfort of grit beneath his knees --

He needs taller boots --


Tim opens his eyes helplessly and stares --

"Fucking -- why didn't you --" Jason shakes his head *hard*, and sweat flies, spatters the wall --

Tim tries to urge Jason *faster* --

"Yeah, I -- " And Jason groans, long and *low* -- "Not fucking *long* --"

Please --

"I see -- I *see* you --"

God, *please* --

And Jason's moan becomes a whimper, shockingly high and shameless -- "Fucking -- fucking *take* this," and he holds Tim's head still and thrusts *hard* --

So -- so fucking *hard* --

Tim's throat is going to be *raw* --

Jason's ass is flexing so *perfectly* --

And Tim knows how to make it more perfect. More --

He knows what his slick, cold gauntlets *feel* like to other people, what they *must* feel like to Jason --

And so he dips two fingers between --

"*Nuh* --"

He presses *hard* --

And the fuck is wild, fast, *hot* --

*Too* fast*, and trying to just keep swallowing still gets the back of his throat slammed painfully --

"Sorry -- *fuck* --"

Tim shakes his head as hard as Jason will let him --

Signs 'don't stop' with his free hand --

"Fucking *can't* -- unh -- *unh* --"

And then there's nothing but grunts and cries and the steady *shudder* of Jason's body --

Jason's scarred and beautiful *body* --

Jason cries out *loud* --

*Spasms* in Tim's mouth --

And he thrusts his way through his orgasm, spattering Tim's tongue and throat in equal measure --

Yanking several hairs out by the *roots* --

But he's still ejaculating when he stops yanking and starts petting Tim, stroking and -- trying to soothe?

Tim doesn't know, but it's enough to make *him* shudder, feel *cold* --

It's been so long since he's been truly *warm* -- no. Not that. Not that.

Tim swallows and licks the semen all around his mouth --

All over Jason's penis --

Jason moans --

Pants --

Moans again and *shudders* again -- and blows out a breath and looks down into Tim's eyes. "When do you need me to pull out?"

Tim raises an eyebrow behind his domino.

"Serious question," Jason says, and smiles ruefully. "I'd kinda like to stay a little while -- if I can."

Tim nods and sucks *gently*, then pulls back enough to wrap his free hand around the base --

Jason grunts -- "Uh -- no gauntlet?"

Tim holds his hand up, and lets Jason tug the gauntlet off --

"Mm -- fuck," and Jason leans in to breathe on Tim's fingers, to lick and *suck* Tim's fingers --

And that --

Tim swallows and rubs more gently at Jason's hole --

Jason's penis *twitches* in his mouth --

"Fuck yeah, we're taking this inside -- not yet."

Tim smiles around Jason's penis and tugs at the hand he's holding --

And Jason licks a long stripe up the palm and then wraps it around the base of his penis.

And sighs.

And closes his eyes.

And -- smiles, soft and happy. That --

The part of him which only wants to keep this moment, to catalogue and collate and *index* --

The part of him which wants to be *silent* --

It's not *enough* of him, and he knows Jason can see it when he looks down. Just --

Tim closes his eyes --

"No. Please?"

Tim *opens* his eyes, and -- God, he knows that's a plea in them --

"I was thinking -- I was thinking of this one chick I went to school with. Real -- heh. Real granola. Pretty geeky, too. She ate... uh... what was it? Oh -- yeah. Cinnamon-flavored rice cakes. She swore they were the best fucking thing to *enhance* the taste of my fucking come. Her legs were fucking hairier than mine. Her bush was -- Jesus. Like something out of hippie *porn*. And now you're raising that fucking eyebrow at me." Jason snorts. "I *swear* she didn't suck cock better than you, you fucking fag."

Tim bares his teeth *illustratively* --

And Jason snorts and -- ruffles Tim's hair.

Tim blinks.

"I *like* fags. A lot, even."

Tim pulls back slowly -- and somewhat inexorably.

"Oh -- damn. Come on --"

Tim stands and works his jaw -- and tucks himself away.

Jason -- makes a face not unlike a child who discovers that Santa Claus isn't real.

Hollow. Hollow-eyed --

Tim winces and squeezes his eyes shut --

"Hey, I -- no, *this*," Jason says, cupping the back of Tim's neck and squeezing hard. *Perfectly* hard --

And Tim can't actually stop himself from evening out his breathing and -- calming. Which is something he *could* allow himself to find *infuriating*, but -- "I... suppose he wasn't any better at figuring out how to provide cuddle four and a half years ago."

Jason's smile is crookedly rueful. "Really not. Not that I helped. Did you?"

Tim offers his own rueful smile. "Ah... barely. It was... very hard to allow him to touch me the way Dick had."

"And... your parents?"

Tim snorts --

And chokes --

And snorts *again* --

"Okay, I'm guessing -- just guessing, mind -- that I just said something hilarious."

"Ah --" Tim waves a hand. "Leave it?"

Jason searches him again -- "Come inside."

"I -- all right."

Jason actually gives Tim his back as they're walking in, which --

Tim frankly isn't sure what to do with that... so he examines the place, instead. It's *almost* as utilitarian as he would expect. The only concession to comfort is that the lights are more warm than useful in several areas -- including the one corner clearly set aside for sleeping...

Or other sorts of things.

The bikes and computers are under fluorescents, as are *nearly* all the weapons -- the swords, for whatever reason, *also* get warm lighting --

"Happy memories," Jason says, and sprays on the mask solvent.

Tim raises an eyebrow -- no. He sprays on his own solvent, peels the mask off --

The warm lights are even warmer -- and are clearly designed to mimic natural light. The fluorescents are as enervating as they should be. They -- hm.


"Do you ever turn all the fluorescents off?"

Jason grins. "Yep. And then, about five minutes later, I get so paranoid that I turn 'em back on again."

Tim nods once. "Have you thought about --"

"A civilian set-up?" Jason sighs and shrugs. "Maybe once I can trust you people to stay off my back."

"I --"

Jason cuts him off with a gesture. "*You* can't make that promise."

"I can make it for myself."

"Would you, though? Is my spunk that convincing?"

Tim snorts. "No. But your... belief system is convincing enough."


"You were controlling yourself better than I was tonight --"



"You... heh. Okay, no, leaving that for now --"

"You really don't have to --"

"I do, actually," Jason says, and smiles wryly. "Gonna tell me who else you've been fucking? I *know* Bruce never did you like that."

Tim -- smiles. And turns to look at... yes, that's a very clean and interesting kitchenette --

Jason snorts, and Tim can hear him stripping -- more.

Perhaps a lot more -- no. No 'perhaps' about it. "I -- no one," Tim says, turning back to Jason and getting rid of his cape and cowl.

"That wasn't a lie."

"Did you really think you'd *missed* that kind of intel?"

"Ooh. I'll take that compliment," Jason says, and tosses his jacket at an extraordinarily beat-up and overstuffed armchair next to several bookcases -- and under warm lights. "Still..."

"A healthy fantasy life is an ornament to any young man's psyche, Jason."

Jason *snorts* -- "Okay, no, go back to calling me Jay."



Tim nods once, ignoring his blush and getting rid of his bandoliers. There's an empty work table that's more than sturdy enough to handle any accidental spillage from the assorted pockets. "Jay... I've been buying my own sex toys since I was thirteen."

"Not younger?"

"I still believed my parents might walk into my bedroom before then."

Jason winces and nods. "I'm still not asking that question... but I could."

Tim waves a hand and removes his belt. "I'm sure you've deduced everything you need to."

"You lied to them... a fucking lot."


"Was *that* revenge?" And Jason shrugs out of his military-grade body armor.

Tim smiles, and it hurts the precisely correct amount on his face. "Sometimes. Usually it was just... expedience."

"Break it down for me?"

"Say... thirty-five percent revenge with my father. Never with my stepmother."

Jason raises his eyebrows. They're thick and dark and eminently attractive --

"Never," Tim says again, and cracks open his chest armor, shivering for the loss of his own body heat --

"You're cold?"

"No, just cooler. I work better when I'm slightly too warm in my uniform."

"Thinner ones for the summer?"

"Of course," and Tim gets rid of his boots, his socks, his tights, his jock --

He leaves his comm in just in *case* --

And Jason is right there with one hand on Tim's hip and one hand cupping Tim through his boxer-briefs.

Tim sighs and closes his eyes. "Jay..."

"Let me see you."

Tim smiles *slowly*... and then opens his eyes.

"Did you close your eyes this much --"

"It drove him crazy. I... needed that at times."

Jason sighs and strokes the hollow of Tim's hip with his thumb. "Didn't think he wanted you enough?"

"Look who I had to compare myself --"

"Don't do that."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Jay."

"You didn't *let* him see you wanted him. You -- I've been around you for four fucking hours and I *know* you can turn it on and off."

"I -- no one wants to be rejected."

"I hear that. But who *has* actually rejected you?"

My -- Tim blushes and shakes his head.

Jason frowns -- and then winces. "Yeah, okay. I'm sorry for making you think about that --"

"Let's not --"

"We don't have to. I -- still need to talk to you."

Tim covers the hand Jason has on his hip with his own. "I'm inclined toward listening."

"Yeah. I..." But Jason sounds... sad?


Another crooked, rueful smile. A beautiful smile --

Tim reaches up to stroke Jason's mouth with his free hand --

And Jason bites the tips of Tim's fingers, harder and harder --

"Planning on keeping them?"

Jason *sucks* Tim's fingers -- pulls back. "Maybe for a little while. What do you want?"

"You may have noticed that I'm fairly easy --"

"A slut, yeah. But not for all that many people."

Tim shrugs more casually --

"Don't do that."

-- than he feels. Right. "Tell me who you've been... having sex with recently?"

"'Recently.' I -- heh. You don't already know?"

Jason had *taunted* Bruce about Talia -- "And she was... the only one?"

"Sort of?" Jason snorts again and tugs Tim toward the low and neatly-made bed, walking backwards with easy grace.

"I'm listening."

"She was the only one who -- touched me. Where I lived."

"I... find I want to offer sympathy."

Jason's shrug looks about as real as his own had felt -- "She's not all bad, or even all crazy."

"I know that --"

"She's a beautiful woman."

"I know that, as well --"

"I was -- am -- fucked-up about Damian. How she brought him up. How she completely failed to *tell* me -- or anyone --" Jason cuts himself off and shakes his head. That --

Tim blinks and pauses.

Jason offers another rueful smile and tugs on Tim's hip again. "I know the two of you hate each other."

"I would say that it's more a matter of mutual mistrust and incomprehension."

"Like you *wouldn't* have given everything about yourself to make yourself good enough for B? Like you *didn't*?"

"That's not what I find incomprehensible," Tim says, and allows himself to be tugged and pushed and rolled onto the bed -- and onto his back.

"Then *what*?"

"The poorly-aimed antagonism. Bruce wouldn't have let that stand for very much longer, and Talia had to know that -- even if, for whatever reason, it somehow *missed* Damian himself."

Jason frowns and sucks in a breath. "I -- yeah. That's kinda why --" Jason blows *out* a breath. "It doesn't matter tonight, beyond me being glad that the kid has Dick."

"Supposedly, he's making great strides."

"But you still don't give a fuck."

Tim cocks his head to the side. "I care very, very much about his ability to be a reasonably successful -- and useful -- operative."

"And his ability to be a *real* son --"

Tim cuts Jason off with a gesture. "I'll admit to a certain degree of... chagrin. But only with the parts of myself which are deeply illogical *and* forgetful. I knew he wanted me to be his son long before I knew that he wanted me in his mother's lingerie."

Jason shows his teeth. "So you're expecting me to believe that you're not even a little bit jealous...? Interesting tack, considering what you've *let* me know about your actual parents."

"I -- touché. Fuck me?"

"Let me suck you off. Please."

Tim narrows his eyes. "That's what you want."

"Yeah," Jason says, and his voice is... husky. Rough.

"I -- oh. I'm not exactly. I mean, it's not like --"

"I don't need you to bruise my throat, birdboy. Remember -- *I* haven't had any recent practice."

Tim sits up on his elbows. "*Only* women?"

"I *promise* they're a lot of damned fun," Jason says, and tugs at the waistband of Tim's boxer-briefs.

Tim hums. "Perhaps you'll allow me to agree to trust you --"

"What about your fucking *ex*?"

Steph --

God, please --

But why didn't you tell me you were *alive*? "We've... agreed to disagree about some things."

Jason narrows his eyes and studies him --

And Tim laughs helplessly. "Perhaps you'll *also* allow us to take my countless psychosexual issues as read...?"

Jason's expression twists -- "You're better than this."

"I think you'll find --"

And Jason kisses him, kisses him back down to the bed, kisses him *flat* --

And then he makes it the kiss Tim had asked for before, biting him and stabbing in and in with his tongue --

Tim shudders and spreads his legs --

Wraps his arms around Jason's neck -- no.

He scratches at the dozens of scars on Jason's back, using the most force on the ones which feel as though they could've been -- should've been? -- fatal. He's lived a long, painful life since his death --

He's needed more than the world *gave* him --

And Tim isn't sure how to go about remedying that situation... and he knows, with all of himself, that similar thoughts are running through Jason's mind about him. It's enough to make him shiver again, arch and moan --

Suck Jason's tongue and get rocked against, *moved* against --

Some things are *unavoidable* when it's family.


And this scar feels like a cut that had been *cauterized* rather than stitched. When Tim scratches along the looping path of it, Jason pulls back and grunts --

Stares *into* him --


"Yeah. I..." And Jason uses his speed to dart in and bite Tim's upper lip *hard* --

"*Fuck* --"

Tim's throat gets the same treatment *repeatedly* --

As do Tim's shoulders --

Tim's nipples --

And that sound couldn't decide whether to be a growl or a moan --

And Jason's hair is thick and curly and *tangled*, damp with sweat --

And Jason is nuzzling him through his boxer-briefs, panting hot on the head, growling and *nibbling* --

"All right, you've thoroughly erased my objections --"

"Heh. Good boy," and Jason peels Tim's boxer-briefs down and starts fucking his mouth on Tim's penis *immediately*, working himself and moaning loudly enough --

*Heavily* enough to provide vibration --

Tim arches -- no, he can control himself --

Except that he has reflexes for when his hips are grabbed -- *gripped* -- by two large, strong hands --

Is Jason strong enough to hold him down?

Does he *want* -- no, that's an asinine question. He --

There's something --

There's everything in the feel of himself blushing and opening his mouth anyway, panting and letting himself --

("My love, please -- please *tell* me...")

"Hold -- please hold me down --"

Jason hums again and nods, gripping harder and *shoving* Tim's hips down against the bed --

Jason's mattress is soft, Jason's duvet is the same green as the one stored in the *west* attic, Jason's mouth is --

Is --

Tim whimpers and sits up enough to feel the mild hurt of the pressure on his hips --

Tim groans and tugs Jason's hair off-rhythm to the way he's working himself --

So --

"Jay. Jay..."

And Jason looks up and pulls back --

"*Ohn* --"

Jason sucks *hard* on the head and pulls *off*.

"I -- fuck?"

"Just as an aside? I really like sucking cock."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Should I call you a 'fag'?"

"Nah. I just like fucking and sucking guys. *You're* the fag in this relationship."

Tim lets his lips purse --

Curls his toes --

Gets a *good* grip on Jason's hair --

"Oh, thank fuck -- *mmph* --"

"You could've just -- just --" Tim growls and forces Jason into a rhythm that will punish them both a little, something rough and sweet and hungry, so hungry --

Jason isn't looking *away* --

"You're still -- holding me."


Tim blushes and groans, shakes his head -- "Please don't stop -- *nnh* --"

And now the hold will bruise him --

Tim's body knows that *force* -- "Please -- please *fuck* --"

And Jason *doesn't* stop -- or even pause -- before he sucks in two fingers *next* to Tim's penis --

He holds Tim's left hip even *harder* --

"Your -- *grip* strength --

Jason nods and sucks --

And sucks --

And every *pulse* of it makes Tim's heart seize, makes his body need and *ache* --

"God, *please* --"

Fingers out --

And Jason pushes in slowly, *carefully* --

Bruce --

"*Jay* --"

And it's harder to pull Jason onto his penis, harder to keep anything resembling a rhythm --

His fingers are long, *hard* --

*Callused* --

His fingers are --

"Oh -- oh, *God*, Jay --"

Jason nods again and --

Tim's body knows that brightness, that heat with no *outlet* other than his own shouts, his own need to scream --

There's something --

There's *everything* when Tim spreads his legs as wide as he can --

When he lets himself fall back and arch, thrust, work *himself* for every thrust, every *crook* --

He's supposed to be giving this to Jason, supposed to at least be making the kind of showing that grants a repeat performance --

"Sorry -- fuck, I'm *sorry* -- *ahn* --"

But Jason had only pulled back to *growl* --

And Tim can translate simple messages when he puts his mind to it: Shut up and take it.

Which --

Tim gasps a laugh for the way he *gurgles* when Jason swallows him again --

Shudders for the way everything moves, everything --

Jason's fingers *burn*, and there's no way around it, no way to keep himself --

Phillip Wentz is dead.

Wentz is dead and Tim doesn't -- doesn't fucking *care* --

That's the worst *part* of it --

And then Tim's *screaming*, because Jason just bared his teeth --

Jason could *feel* him losing the thread --

And Tim screams again --

Again because he can, because it's good, because he *hasn't* since Bruce was --

No, he's alive, he's --

They'll *find* him -- "*Nngh* --"

"Kid --"

"I'm less than two years *younger* than you!"

"And *exactly* young enough to fuck for the wrong damned *reasons* --"

"Fine. Just -- you don't have to fuck me until I'm a little more sane --"

"*Thank* you --"

Tim gasps another laugh --

Clenches *helplessly* --

And Jason growls and starts to *shove* his way in, twisting and *pushing* -- "*Want* you --"

Wentz is *dead* --

"God -- oh, *God* --"

"That fucker wasn't *worth* it --"

"And I -- I am?"

Jason *glares* into his eyes --

And Tim groans and thinks of being thrown, pushed, bent, *moved* -- "Let me -- let me get on my hands and knees --"

"Why should I?"

"Because I'll come all over your duvet --"

"It's a fucking *comforter* --"

"That, *too* -- *nnh* --"

"What if I wanna do you like this a little more?"

"Jay --"

And Jason lets go of Tim's hip and presses his hand to Tim's abdomen --

Jason pushes *down* --

"God, *fuck* --"

"Yeah. I wish like *fuck* I'd known you could take it like this --"

And Tim feels himself blushing *harder* --

Pulls his knees back to his chest --

"No. *Shoulders* --"

"Jay --"

"*Now* --"

"*Fine*," and Tim laughs again, hooks his legs over Jason's left shoulder --

"I said *both* --"

"*Fuck* you."

And Jason snorts and grins -- and fucks Tim harder --

And reaches up to *try* to grip both of Tim's ankles --

"Ah -- fuck, my hand's not --"

"It's good, don't let go, please don't let *go* --"

"Yeah? Okay, then. *Take* it," and Jason starts crooking his fingers on every thrust --

*Dragging* them for every *back*-thrust --

And Tim smells himself, but he doesn't care, can't care about anything but the burn and the way it thrums through him, drives him up and *up* --

He's *riding* Jason's hand --

"Sometimes... sometimes B --"

"This -- he wanted *this* --"

"Yeah, and I couldn't fucking *stand* it --"

"Me -- love --" Tim shakes his head --

God, he's practically tossing his *hair*, which is getting lank and sweaty enough that he wants Jason's *clippers* --

Or for Bruce to come back so he can stop growing it.

Tim squeezes his eyes shut and grips the duvet, promises to call it a comforter where Jason can hear him --

Promises to take this, to use --

"*Please* --"

"Oh, yeah, birdboy?" And Jason is *teasing* him with a third finger --

All but *tickling* his hole --

"What if I don't *want* you this stretched?"

"God -- fuck -- I'll do anything --"

"Yeah...?" And Jason's smile is sharp, dark --

The last thing any *number* of people have ever seen --

Tim groans and clenches --

Shouts and does it again --

*Again* --

And *screams* when Jason pulls out, but he only does it to get the lubricant in his bedside table --

The bottle is nearly *full* --

And Tim doesn't say a word, doesn't snipe, doesn't bitch, doesn't -- "Please," he says, and plants his feet on Jason's shoulders --

Jason licks his *ankle* --


"Yeah, no, just checking. B's kink, not mine. *Breathe*," but Jason doesn't wait before he's pushing in with three --

"Fuck -- *ow* --"

"Does that mean stop --"

"*No* --"

"Didn't think so," Jason says, and his voice is husky again, low --

Rough -- "You want to fuck me."

"I'm *human* --"

"I'm -- sane enough --"

"*Bullshit* --"

"It centers me. It -- please."

Jason blows out a sharp breath -- and crooks his fingers --

Tim -- that was a wail --

And he can *feel* the plea in his own eyes --

Jason looks *hurt* --

"Jay --"

"Play fucking *fair* --"

"Ah... no," Tim says, and raises *both* of his eyebrows --

Jason glares at him --

Tim *pants* --

"Say please again --"



"Please *fuck* me -- hnh -- *hnh* --"

"Yeah, you like it this hard. You -- B only did it this hard with his *cock* --"

"Yes -- *please* --"

"You." Jason licks his lips and shakes out his own sweaty hair. "You could come like this. *Hard* --"

"I *want* you --"

"You *want* a willing cock --"

"Who *doesn't*?"

And Jason *snickers* -- and starts to *twist* his fingers --

"Oh, God -- fuck, *ow* --"

"I should send you home to your *brother* --"

"But you don't *want* Damian to hate me --"

"God, you're a fucking *bitch*," and Jason pulls *out* --

"I'm *sorry* --"

"*Lying* bitch," and Jason strokes himself once with his slick hand --

Twice --

"You're gonna *leak* all the way home -- *hnh* --"

Necessary to wrap his legs around Jason's chest --

To squeeze and *pull* --

Jason smirks and pulls *against* him --


"Promise to be sane after this?"

"Almost -- almost certainly?" And Tim laughs helplessly, moans his way through it and shivers, *pulls* --

"Eyes *open*."

And Tim follows orders, staring up into Jason's eyes --

Watching his lips part --

And watching him *wince* as he pushes in --

As he shudders and pushes *in* --


"God -- you --" And Jason growls and drops onto his hands, grinding once -- and then *rocking* his way in, grunting --

They're *both* grunting --

"So --"

"So *long*, Jay --"

"Yeah -- yeah --"

"I wanted to be *your* fucking brother --"

"Yeah, well -- uh. *Fuck*, how are you *clenching* this fucking --" And Jason growls *loudly* --

Winces without closing his eyes --

"So -- yeah, you can fucking *stay* this tight for me, then --"

"Oh, can I?"

Jason's laugh is explosive, breathless --

Tim smiles helplessly --

"God, you look *young* --"

"Two --"

"I *know* -- you don't fucking smile -- you never fucking --" And Jason growls again and *grips* Tim's hair in his right hand --

Yanks Tim's head *back* --

"Want your throat again --"

"*Fuck* me --"

"Want -- ah, *fuck* --" And Jason starts to thrust faster --

Starts to push so --

So *hard* --

"Tim --"

"Jay --"

"Don't close your fucking *eyes* --"

"You're practically yanking my *face* off --"

"Stop *bitching* --"

And they laugh together, groan together --

They push and pull and *move* --

There's something --

There's still *blood* on Jason's face --

And a part of Tim wants to lick it off, or at least get it wet enough that he can smear it onto his own face, *mingle* it with the blood on his own face --

He wants so *much* --

And Bruce never forced Tim to meet his eyes this much --

Had he wanted to? Had --

He'll *ask* Bruce, and when he says yes, Tim will promise to do it, and he will, he *will* --

And Jason shoves the *hank* of Tim's hair he's holding against the bed and moves his other hand --

Shoves his *thumb* into Tim's mouth --

"Fucking *suck* --"

Tim slurs a moan and does it, scrapes his teeth, tickles the pad with the tip of his tongue --

"*Cocksucker* --"

Tim nods --

"Me, too, me fucking *too* -- fuck, *more* --"

And now it's faster, heavier --

Sharp with not enough lube and not enough *preparation* --

Tim's going to be *raw* --

And he needs it just this way --

And Jason *knows* he needs it just this way --

And Tim moans again and closes his eyes --

"*No* --"

Tim opens his eyes and signs 'thank you' --

Jason *grunts* -- "Tim -- *Tim* --"

Tim flexes his thighs around Jason's chest --

Jason groans and *whines* --

And it's enough to make Tim clench again, shout around Jason's thumb and *grind* for the pain of it, for the sweet and *hot* body-shock of Jason thrusting in --

And in --

So *deep* --

And now Jason is sweating through the blood on his face --

And Tim is shaking and *shaking* --

And there's mingled sweat and blood dripping pink on Tim's *face* --

"Need -- need this --"

Tim sucks *hard* -- but Jason pulls his thumb out and grips Tim's throat instead, squeezes and *pets* --

"Fuck -- I don't -- I don't even know -- "

"Good -- it's *good* --"

"You gonna come?"

Tim nods *frantically* --

And when Jason smiles this time, he looks like Robin, like the Boy Wonder, like the hero Tim felt he *could* live up to --

"*Jay* --"

"*Tim*. Tell me how. Tell me how to make you come *fast* --"

"Fuck me --"

"I *am* --"

"Harder, faster -- *move* me --"

"Aw, yeah --" And Jason pulls out and *flips* Tim --

"*Please* ---"

And shoves in hard enough to make them both scream --

Hard enough to drop Tim onto his elbows and *face* --


Tim scrambles and screams --

Growls and *rocks* --

"Yeah, fucking *work* that ass," Jason says, and *slaps* Tim's ass --

And does it again to the other cheek --

"Jesus, you're fucking *pretty* --"

"Jay --"

"*Come* for me!"

"*Nnh* -- " And Tim hangs his head and works for it, *rides* for it --

Jason is still *spanking* him --

Jason's scrotum is rocking Tim's --

And then Jason has Tim's hips again, and his hands are slippery with lubricant and saliva and sweat --

And his grip is rough, jagged as the *fuck* --

"Come *on* --"

And Tim whimpers and reaches back to stroke himself --

The first touch of his own hand makes him *yowl* --

"Make that fucking sound *again* --"

And Tim does when he strokes --

And swallows a *wail* when he squeezes --

And for a hot, blinding moment their rhythms synchronize --

And Tim can't even make himself close his *mouth* --

And Jason sounds like he's being *beaten* --

And so does *he* when Jason starts thrusting harder, starts *shoving* Tim closer and closer to the *wall* --

It hurts so *much* --

"*Please*, Tim --"

And then it hurts perfectly, brilliantly --

So *sharp* --

And Tim is screaming even before his penis starts to spasm --

Beating at the bed with his other fist --

Spilling *everything* -- and clenching hard enough to make Jason choke and strangle on his own cries --

He can't stop *ejaculating* --

There are tears --

They rise and rise and --

And Jason *clamps* one hand on the back of Tim's neck and shoves his face down into the pillow --

Tim ejaculates *again* --

And Jason's shouts are loud enough that the muffling doesn't matter, nothing matters but the feel of him slamming in --

And not missing Tim's prostate even once.

Not --

Tim clenches *again* and screams into the pillow --

"Fuck *me* -- *nnh* *nnh* *nnh* -- *fuck* --"

Slick heat, perfect, so --

Tim claws at the pillow and takes it, *keeps* it --

Tim forces himself to clench *rhythmically* --

"Ah *fuck*, Tim -- *unh* --"

And Jason's right hand slips on Tim's hip and Jason collapses on top of Tim hard enough to flatten them both to the bed -- and to make Jason slip out part of the way.

Tim whimpers in what he hopes is a *speaking* way --

"Uh? Oh, yeah --" And Jason *shoves* back in.

And pants.

Tim pants, as well -- though far more shallowly. Jason is significantly heavier than he is, and his pillows are as thick and soft as the mattress. Eventually, this is going to be a problem.


Tim smiles, closes his eyes, and decides to wait it out.


The sword's gleam is almost mesmerizing --

The push is slow, at first, and that's the worst part, the --

There are too many people surrounding him --

Too many belligerent bodies -

Does he sigh as he starts to bleed? Is that correct?

The push is so --

Faster now, and struggling is impossible, pointless --

He feels himself tear --

But doesn't he have to fight?

Never stray, never surrender, never *break* --


"Really not," Jason says, from -- next to him.

On a bed --

On *Jason's* bed, because apparently -- he'd just gone ahead and passed out. Tim winces and turns over onto his back --

And breathes.

And breathes --

"You could talk about it."

Tim makes a face.

Jason snorts and hands him a -- cold -- bottle of spring water. "Suck it down. You're a little dehydrated."

"I... suppose I am," Tim says, and sits up against the wall and follows orders.

Jason's doing the same right *next* to him --

And he's still naked. Which... what does it mean?


Tim pauses halfway through the bottle. "I'm sorry."


"Passing out, having a nightmare, calling the wrong name --"

"Eh, B did all of the above sometimes. It's not a problem."

Tim licks his teeth. "I'm sorry for... other things, then."

Jason looks at him from under his -- thick, curling -- lashes. "'Other things'?"

"Whatever's dampening your usual air of effervescent good humor."

Jason touches his tongue to his upper lip -- and then stops. "I'm pretty sure I like you. You can apologize for that."

Tim offers the smile that often -- not always, but often -- made Bruce *burn* at him --

"Okay, that smile makes me wanna punch you in the face."

Tim coughs. "Ah -- sorry."

"No big. You just looked like B at his most fucking *annoying*."

Tim blinks --

Considers --

And nods. "I was -- I was dreaming of being killed."

"And -- what? Bruce was gonna save you?"

"No, of course not," Tim says, and takes another swallow of water. "I always apologize to Bruce when I'm about to be murdered. For. For failing."

"Like I did?"

Tim snorts and lets his expression be sour. "For the first three years of our acquaintance, he told me nothing about you except your mistakes and injuries."

"Jesus fucking --"

"Dick hit him for that fairly often. Barbara rigged his chair -- and some of the driver's seats in the cars -- to electrocute him."

"Okay, I'm totally giving her the footage of this fuck."

"I -- heh."

"Like you have an objection? Those *aren't* just bat-bugs in your belt."

"No objections whatsoever," Tim says, and gives himself permission to cover Jason's free hand with his own. "I'm just wondering why you think she doesn't already have it."

Jason blinks.

Tim smiles.

Jason snorts, shakes his head, and drinks more water. "Point to the gentleman with the sore, leaky ass."

"Bruce... he gave me the real you when we started making love. By then, I'd gotten bits and pieces from Dick, Barbara, Roy, Kory... you get the idea."

"What about the bits and pieces you had from your stalking?"

Tim closes his eyes and smiles, and pushes the bottle of water against his chest --

"Is it for all the soft smiles, Tim? The ones that actually mean something?"

Tim blinks -- and snorts. "Ah... yes. Call it 'several years of trying to keep Dick and Bruce from seeing how much I was in love with them.'" And then he turns to smile ruefully at Jason.

Jason nods thoughtfully. "And right then... you were thinking of keeping your memories of me close to the vest?"

"And close to my brave little Robinly heart."

Jason laughs quietly and shakes his head. "I'm just a guy."

"Aren't we all?"

Jason's smile is sly, dark -- "You sayin' you're in love with me?"

Tim snorts. But -- well. He waves a hand. "There was a time..."

"I'm listening."

"Heh. There were *several* occasions when the time I spent alone with the Case -- your memorial in the Cave -- led to me feeling... somewhat more full."

"Uh. Like my ghost was *fucking* you?"

Tim snorts *again*. "I certainly would've welcomed it. But no. It was more... it was more like being possessed. My desires would change. My attitude toward Bruce would change. My *fighting* style would change. And then... it would change back." Tim shrugs. "I welcomed that, too. And I missed it terribly when it stopped."

Jason nods thoughtfully. "And this was before you were officially Robin?"


"It could've been me. Sometimes... sometimes there are... memories. And they're not like anything else in particular." Jason frowns. "It's hard to describe. They're more feelings than anything else. Feeling warm, feeling safe -- for the first and *only* time in my whole fucking *existence* -- feeling... satisfied, maybe."

Tim frowns. "You didn't seem satisfied --"

"When I was possessing a pretty boy who *already* liked to hit things but who I *couldn't* fuck up the ass?" Jason punches Tim's shoulder. "Of fucking *course* I wasn't satisfied. Asshole."

Tim licks his lips --

And takes a breath --

And then gives up and laughs. Extensively.

Jason doesn't say anything about the tears which insist on coming out. He hands Tim a box of Sneezex Plus, throws an arm around Tim's shoulders, and leaves him to it.

Time passes.

More time than Tim really wants to *think* about --

But, in the end, he *does* manage to stop crying --

And there's a wastebasket next to the bed for all the damp tissues --

And he can breathe. And think -- no.

Meditate? God, no.

Jason squeezes Tim's shoulders.

"Thank you."

"Uh, huh. I..."

"You want to talk to me."

Jason winces and plucks at the stained duvet. "I do, yeah."

Tim nods. "It's... well, I imagine it's going to be horrible --"

"You can't guess, yet?"

Tim considers, and holds up a finger. Considering Jason's attitude -- and the way he's been behaving for most of the night -- it won't *just* be horrible. It will, in fact, be something that could ruin the fragile inroads they've been making toward a decidedly pleasurable détente.

It's something *so* terrible that Jason both hadn't wanted it to interrupt their lovemaking *and* hadn't wanted said lovemaking to be too serious.

It's... "It's something which could disillusion me."

"They all say you're the smart one."

"It's something." Tim licks his lips and -- realizes. "I wasn't in a pit."

"No. You --"

"This is all -- this is all just... me."

"Tim --"

"I'm really. I'm not -- Jay. Jason --"

"Look, *something* happened to you. I can see the fucking scars, and I know at least a few of those weren't *there* the last time I got some footage of your naked ass --"

"You -- what? No, never mind --"

"Babs *likes* me --"

"She likes me, *too*!"

"He visits more often," *Oracle* says.

"Ah. What --"

"Calm down," and she's turned the scrambler off. Her voice is warm through the comm, *gentle* -- "Calm down, and think this all through --"

"I *am*, Oracle --"

"This line is clear."

Tim swallows --

Breathes --

Breathes and *counts* --

And -- deals with the feel of Jason rubbing and massaging his shoulder. It's --

It's warm.

"I'm calm -- Barbara."

"All right. Think of this in terms of the gauntlet Bruce had you run."

"I... would really rather not."

"Hnn. Do it anyway."

Tim squeezes his eyes shut --

Jason squeezes Tim's *shoulder* --

Tim opens his eyes and turns to face Jason again. He doesn't know what expression is on his face, but it's making Jason look *sad* again --

"I -- no, Jason --"

"I told him about it, Tim. A few weeks ago. He knows... well, think about it."

There's only *one* truly relevant thing -- "He knows that I would be... conflicted."

Jason snorts, but it's not especially unkind. "That's the word you wanna use?"

Tim hisses through his teeth -- no, he's not, actually, Selina fucking Kyle.

Selina would *leave* Gotham if one of them made that sort of play for control, and damned well coordinate with the resistance --

And Tim... wouldn't.

Not for --

Not if it were someone he needed, and loved, and *respected*.

Not if he could *help*.

Tim covers his face with his hands. "I killed a man tonight."

"You *helped* kill a man tonight," Barbara says. "But I tend to think people like that have lost the right to *call* themselves people."

"As opposed to baby-raping shitbags. If my opinion counts for anything."

"Of fucking *course* it counts --" Tim growls and moves his hands, sits up and --

Jason hands him his half-empty bottle of water.

Tim drinks it.

There are tears rolling down his cheeks, but he feels apart from them, separate --

"How do you know I wasn't in a pit?"

"Even when you were destroying that asshole, you never missed a mark. Pits make you fast, and strong, and *brutal*... but they also make you *sloppy*. You didn't miss a mark all night, Tim. We both --"

"Know that. Yes. Yes." Tim says, and stares at the wall --

And Jason's rack of firearms --

At his *racks* of truly beautiful knives --

"My guess," Barbara says, "is that some of the renegade Amazons have made a deal with Ra's for their healing technology. Of course, this still leaves the question of *why* he would heal you..."

Tim smiles thinly. "But not the question of why he'd choose to make me believe I'd been in a pit. In the absence of Bruce, he's going to want to see how far I -- and the rest of us -- will go... and if we can be co-opted."

Barbara is silent.

Jason mimes shooting a gun -

He still looks *sad* --

"Jason --"

"Not using my name anymore?"

Tim rears back -- and blinks. "I need... time to think."

"That's cool."

Barbara is *silent* --

And Jason stretches and stands, turning away. "It's not like you don't know where to find me," he says, and he's not *looking* --

Tim growls and stands. "I need time to *think* --"

"I heard you the first time --"

"I don't need time to think about you."

Jason stiffens -- and doesn't turn to look at him.

Tim laughs painfully, helplessly -- "It's not like -- I thought I could *recover* --"

"You still can, birdboy. Everybody slips sometimes."

Birdboy. Right. Just ---

Tim stalks around to the other side of the bed -- and watches Jason use every available shadow in this part of the warehouse to cloak his expression. "I can do that trick, too."

"Quelle surprise."

Tim *snorts* -- and rests a hand on Jason's chest, rubbing at a scar which *nearly* reaches keloid proportions. "Maybe... perhaps you need to think, as well?"

Shadows --

Silence -- except for the pound of Tim's heart in his ears. The rush of blood for something that can't decide whether to be a blush or a flush -- "Jay --"

"Don't --"

"Tell me what you want from me. Please."


*Shadows* --

"Please --"

And then Jason snorts and pushes them back into the glow of the warmer lights. His expression is rueful again, and -- "I don't fucking know."

"Jay --"

"I don't. Fucking. Know."


"What, like you do?"

Well -- Tim licks his teeth. "No. Not even remotely. I thought we were doing well at winging it, though."

This time, Jason's snort sounds *painful* --  and he pushes a hand back through his hair. That --

"We desperately need showers."

"Ya think?" And Jason shoves him lightly. "*My* shower can't fit eight people."


"*No*." And Jason seems to be doing his level best to stare Tim down.

Tim raises an eyebrow.

Jason grips Tim by the throat and *lifts* him --

But not before Tim can get his hands on a kris and aim it at Jason's left kidney.

"That's my favorite fucking *knife*."

"This is my favorite fucking *throat*."

"My shower... could probably fit two people."

"Good to know," Tim says, and raises his eyebrow higher.

And Jason sets Tim down again. "It's not a partnership."


"It's not --"


"And you're gonna fucking let me suck you *off*."


"Oh, for fuck's sake, go get the water warm while I strip the bed."

Tim tries on a pissy look --

"He loved that."

He still does, wherever he is -- "Yes."

Jason nods slowly, thoughtfully -- and then he turns his attention to the rumpled and decidedly fragrant bed.

Tim goes to the bathroom --


"I'm listening, Barbara."

"You're coming over here to get a new set of tracers put in."

Tim winces. "I -- yes, all right."

"That's not all you're coming here for."

Tim smiles ruefully and turns on the water -- which is, in fact, just as icy as the initial blasts from the Cave showers. "I have no objections."

"Good. Don't try to make all your decisions at once."

Tim pauses in his search for conditioner. He... can't say he doesn't know what she means. He can't -- "There's something. There's something rising in me, Barbara."

"Does it choke you?"


"Does it make you angry?"

"So -- so much --"

"Does it make you feel *painfully* alive?"

Tim blinks. "I. Yes."

"Congratulations, you've finally taken another step toward coping with your staggering amounts of grief."

"*No* -- oh."

"Oh, Tim... I promise you don't have to think about it right now. I promise that with all of myself."

Tim swallows. "Barbara. I think. I think I might be frightened --"

"Happens to everyone," Jason says, and pulls a bottle of conditioner from on top of the cabinet above the toilet. "If you bitch about the brand, I *don't* spank you."

"Jay --"

"Barbara out."

"I --" And Tim shakes his head and takes the conditioner.

And meets Jason's eyes for a moment of mutual search, mutual *confusion* --

And mutual other things, as well. Tim laughs softly and pinches the bridge of his nose before gesturing to the shower. "After you."

Jason's smile is cautious, but perfectly real.

It's -- enough.

For now.