So safe and comforting
by Te
September 12, 2008

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Vague mentions of older storylines.

Summary: Secrets, lies, and ghosts.

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content some readers may find to be disturbing.

Author's Note: Call it a potential sequel to the first ending of A way so familiar, starting some weeks after the end. Will not make *any* sense without the first.

Acknowledgments: Much love to Mildred and Jack for audiencing, encouragement, and interesting noises.


Tom had been feeling strange and vaguely ill for several days, but it wasn't serious enough for him to do more than boost his vitamin C and fluid intake, and so he feels perfectly justified in being shocked, pissed, and seriously disturbed when he wakes up next to Bruce apparently biologically female.

Bruce is stroking his abdomen as he wakes up, and -- it won't be long. There's no need to disturb his rest.

He spends the next two minutes going over his symptoms -- assuming that's what they were, and there may or may not be any particular reason why he's no longer feeling faintly queasy and feverish -- and figuring out when they had started, and if there had been anything else particularly strange recently.

The only food he's eaten in the last month has been either Alfred's or whatever the caterers had provided for the last two parties they'd attended -- all of which had been shared by Bruce, who certainly appears perfectly normal. There'd been a battle with Poison Ivy, but there'd also been enough warning for him to wade into the usual vines and questionably pollinated air in one of the haz-mat uniforms, and he'd managed to keep it intact right through decontamination.

He hasn't faced any magic-users lately -- everything on the League front has required more brute force than intellect of late --

He doesn't know. And Bruce is cupping his... breast.

And humming in his sleep.

It's actually somewhat adorable, and really, Tom is grateful for all the moments he's allowed when he remembers why he loves his brother, why it's *that* good between them -- Bruce squeezes and wakes up immediately, sitting up --

"It's me, Bruce. There's been something of... frankly, I don't know what."

"*Tom*? What -- your voice --"

"And *everything* else, yes," he says, and throws the sheet back -- and winces a little, because... yes, everything else.

Bruce is staring at him with a frown on his face. "You're very beautiful. I don't think I've ever found your pectoral scars so disturbing, before."

"Ah -- noted. I don't suppose you have any theories...?"

Bruce frowns a little harder and strokes Tom's thigh. "You do a lot of strange things with the League, Tom. Perhaps you should check...?"

Hmm. The last time something this dramatic had happened -- they'd all wound up children for an entirely too memorable couple of days -- it had, in fact, happened to all of them. "Good thought." He puts in his League comm, taking a moment to wonder, mostly idly, when he'll stop taking it out for good, and taps it. "Batman to Tower."

"I don't *think* so, little lady --"

"Can it, Jordan, it's me. In a rather different body than I went to bed with last night."

"Uh... if you *are* you, you know that I'll need a lot more proof than just your word. And who's this Jordan guy?"

The rest of the League really does tend to have issues with security, but -- Tom sighs. "Fine. I'll be there in ten. Batman out," Tom says, tapping the comm and slipping out of bed.

His balance feels problematic --

He feels both top-heavy and too tall, and while the former is true, the latter -- well, at least he's no shorter than he was, before --

"Tom, are you... do you feel all right in other ways?"

"This is going to take the kind of acclimation that I really don't want to give it. Well. At least everyone on the League already knows my identity," Tom says, grabbing a robe before heading to his room.

Bruce follows, and it's a reminder to move carefully, to learn *enough* about this body that he *can* move --

It only feels like he's about to fall, and the motion of his hips is natural, normal for his stride in *this* body. It's not really a sway, or -- anything like that.

"We have a meeting with Lucius this morning on the budget, Tom."

"Damn, I -- hell. Can -- I know you hate doing the talking at these things, but --"

"I can handle it," Bruce says, reaching out to cup his face -- "You... really don't have *any* stubble. I think I might be more in shock than you are."

"Yes, well, I had several minutes to get used to it before you woke up, *and* I'm not looking at myself."

"It's quite fascinating. Taken as a whole, there's nothing *glaringly* different about your features, but --"

"Please don't specify, Bruce. I --" Tom shakes his head and throws on jeans and a t-shirt which is a few more washings away from counting as workout clothing. He feels the lack of underwear in several distinct -- and disconcerting -- ways.

"Are you -- you're very attractive."

Tom raises an eyebrow. "More so now, Bruce...?"

"No! I mean -- I'm really not sure," Bruce says, and reaches out to touch Tom's face, again. "I'm mostly wondering how I would've felt growing up with a sister."

And if you'd be as sexually attracted to her as you were to your brother, Bruce? He doesn't say it. He doesn't *have* to, because --

"Hm. Condoms would've been a lot more important, I think," and Bruce looks thoughtful.

"Yes, well -- don't think about it *too* deeply. We're going to take care of this as soon as --"

"Bruce? I heard a woman's voice -- oh. *Oh*. Tom?" Dick's in the doorway, sleepy-eyed, tousled, and with a few linen marks on his face.

It's reassuring to be recognized quickly, but less so to be blinked at this way. The jeans really are somewhat tight around the hips with his body in this particular configuration. Tom shakes it off internally. "It's all right, Dick. I'm going to try to figure out what happened and *fix* it."

"Um. Okay? You look really *nice*, Tom," Dick says, and absently straightens his *hair* --

"Yes, Dick, I was just telling Tom the same thing," and Bruce reaches out.

Dick tends to like starting the day with some measure of affection, and -- yes, it's only a moment before Dick is pressed to Bruce's side. Bruce re-musses Dick's hair and gets the sort of squeeze...

Tom has tried not to be excessively affectionate with Dick, tried not to take what wasn't explicitly offered. This isn't the Dick he remembers with so much hurt in his heart -- he will *never* be this Dick's 'little brother' -- and so...

And so, at times like this, Dick goes to Bruce and not to him, and that's the way it has to be, no matter how often Tom catches a hint of Dick's scent and wants --

There are other concerns, right now. "I'm not sure how long I'll be on the Tower, but I haven't forgotten that it's my day to work with you, Dick. I want you to start on the weights today, with a special focus on your upper body. Your hands are already as strong as they're *likely* to get until you're significantly larger and older, but you should feel free to try working them when you need a rest from the other things."

"Okay, Tom. Um... are you going to be able to... I mean, I know women can be superheroes, too, but --"

"My balance has some problems. Until this is taken care of, I'm effectively off-duty," Tom says, and Bruce and Dick nod. He smiles. "Bruce can pick up my slack, but you should take this as all the more reason to improve as quickly and thoroughly as you can. We're going to need you out there, Dick. Do you understand?"

Dick nods again, solemn and sure -- and standing up straight next to Bruce. Tom feels his eyes narrow in a helpless smile.

"Both of you should get dressed and eat. I'm going straight to the Tower from the Cave --"

"Shouldn't *you* eat breakfast, too, Tom? Mom always said it was *important*."

"And she was right. I have some energy bars up on the Tower, though, and those will be fine," Tom says, and moves for the door. "Until later."

The stairs are somewhat intimidating in this body, but he gets the rhythm of them quickly enough -- mostly by pretending he has hot water bottles slung around his neck and hanging over his chest. The transporter is a relatively new addition to the Cave, and Tom is very, very glad he'd set it to recognize his biological 'signature' rather than his voice. One day, Bruce might just take a closer look at the various things that make up that signature -- including Tom's DNA -- but that's not something he's going to allow himself to consider more than necessary until he has to.

It is, after all, entirely possible that the Waynes in a different universe would develop differently... somehow.

"One to Tower," Tom says, and prepares for --

The sense of nothingness, the feel of himself as a single point within a vast -- but *not* limitless -- structure, the feel of himself *as* himself once more, shuddering to a stillness which doesn't seem to make up the whole of him --

No, he's whole. He's just disoriented, and, considering -- it could be much worse. Tom steps out of the apparatus --

And Hal immediately clamps a construct around him from shoulders to knees. Tom sighs. "I suppose I can't fault you for being cautious."

"Hey, I take constructive criticism well, babe. Batbabe?"

"It's a wonder you don't spend the entirety of your existence with a handprint on your cheek."

"That sure *sounds* like you," Hal says, and flies to the console. "Let me just check your stats... yeah, it's you. And let me just say -- you feel *fantastic*."

"Unauthorized groping with a construct is still unauthorized groping, Jordan. *Off*."

It's entirely predictable that the construct *slides* off him instead of just disappearing, and so it's not especially difficult to put on the Batman's usual scowl.

"Team status?"

"Diana's downside preparing for a speech to the United Nations, J'onn is doing that hibernation thing, Barry's helping the C.C. cops with a case, Clark's doing something with a volcano in Hawaii, Zatanna's off the grid, and Dinah and Ollie are in the mess pretending that they both just sort of *decided* to come up here for breakfast."

Tom nods and starts heading to the infirmary. "Track down Zatanna for me. We need a magic-user on this."

"No hello? How are you doing? Hey, Hal, I'm kinda tired, let me sit on your lap?"

Tom *looks* at Hal and gets a broad and lazy grin in return, the sort of thing which, in another life, might've meant radiated heat and a game of foosball --

Kon --

Tom resists the urge to roll his eyes and keeps looking, not bothering to blink until Hal starts to look a little queasy --

"Okay, and now I'm thinking about your -- eugh. I... completely and seriously felt you up, didn't I?"

Tom keeps looking, letting himself move on autopilot while Hal flies at his side.

"And you -- are going to remember that. And remind me of that. When you've got your... back. I'm... yeah, gonna get Zatanna, now."

Good, because Tom is going to need to blink soon. He waits until Hal is out of sight and closes his eyes for a long moment -- there. The truth is that he's always going to grateful to Hal for breaking Tom of the sense that he was working with -- and often leading -- legends.

Time and again, Hal has proved himself to be entirely human, and invested in breaking through what he'd seen as Tom's excessive armor. Sometimes it's difficult not to let him, but the Batman has an image to uphold. It's enough that Hal keeps trying -- in his own ways, and often with Oliver to help or just argue good-naturedly -- and that there is thus the potential of hope, and a kind of friendship Tom is just going to have to keep working at.

Eventually, perhaps, it will seem more natural that it belongs to *him*.

Once in the infirmary, he strips down and straps in. Much of the equipment had been a gift from the Hlnians -- a thank you for their work in helping to avert a civil war which had been provoked, in part, by the neighboring Taan -- and the testing is almost complete enough for it to be provided to human hospitals. Hal had wanted to give it directly to the military for *their* tests, but had eventually agreed that it was better that they test it on themselves, rather than leaving it to eighteen-year-old 'volunteers.'

As near as Tom has been able to tell, the biggest problem with the scanner is that it can trigger claustrophobia in the calmest and most well-adjusted of individuals -- not that he knows any of those, but he can extrapolate based on experience.

The nano-fibers brush against him unnoticeably at first as they build a breathable cocoon around him, eventually reaching the thickness -- and some of the adhesiveness -- of spider-silk. He's being read as thoroughly as anyone could be, and he loathes it extravagantly. Still, when the nanofibers over his eyes tap in and begin inputting information, it's something he can focus on.

He is... himself, save that he's biologically and genetically female for no good reason whatsoever.

Eight months ago, he was taking scans of himself nearly every day to make sure the machinery *could* be used by non-meta-humans, and he would've been able to look back over the records and presumably find... something. He might have been able to stop this from happening entirely --

Alarm, and the scroll across his vision goes mauve. There *is* a contaminant in his system -- trace amounts of it lingering in his kidneys. It doesn't appear to be *doing* anything, but it's not supposed to be there. Hm. He orders the machine to take a sample and begin analysis, and waits for the cocoon to dry enough that the fans can blow it from his body.

When it's done, the machine irises open and allows him to sit up. There's the usual urge to brush and scratch uselessly at his skin, but he settles for pushing his hair back with his hand -- mostly because Oliver and Dinah are there, looking precisely like two people who are pretending not to be sleeping together.

There's that artificial distance, the charged atmosphere... Tom shakes his head internally and steps down. "Good morning," he says, in an approximation of the Voice --

"I had to see it for myself, but I still don't *believe* it," Oliver says, tugging at his van dyke and looking both shocked and appreciative.

Dinah is somewhat more... amused. "I don't know, Ollie. I think it kind of suits him."

"Et tu, Dinah? I've already had to deal with Hal today," Tom says, and starts to dress again.

"You have to admit it's pretty funny. I mean, you spend all day every day acting grim and manly --"

"I *am* grim," and he pulls on the jeans. "Though I prefer to think of myself as being more professional than manly."

Oliver clears his throat. "What's wrong with manly, Bats? *You* seem to like it pretty good -- not that there's anything --"

"Wrong with that, yes. One day, Oliver, you're going to realize that your comments about my sexuality aren't actually improved by the addition of that statement."

"What, so now you're offended? You know I'm no bigot --"

Tom holds up a hand and moves to one of the chairs, sitting down, crossing his legs, and -- feeling *incredibly* exposed for a long moment that Dinah absolutely picks up on, judging by the smirk on her face --

"You just realized that there's a reason women cross their legs the way they do, didn't you...?"

It's never, ever difficult to remember just how much younger she is. Tom grunts. "Yes, I have. But I've decided not to let it bother me --"

"*Are* you still bent, Bats? Straight? How is that working?"

And that... Tom looks at Oliver and lowers his lashes slightly. "Why. Are you interested?"

Oliver shudders and tugs his beard again before raising his hands. "Okay, I asked for that. No need to... anything. What'd the scan show?"

"A contaminant of unknown origin that I failed to recognize. It's being analyzed as we speak, but there's no telling whether or not it has anything to do with what happened to me," Tom says, and turns to Dinah. "I don't suppose either of you have any thoughts...?"

Oliver shakes his head and Dinah -- continues to look like she'd rather be laughing herself sick.

Tom shakes his head. "You might as well say it, Dinah."

"It's only -- I think my mother would want to take you *shopping*, Tom. You... could use a bra."

"Now, there's no reason for a woman to wear a bra if she doesn't want to," Oliver says. "Sure, they're attractive and practical, but we can't just *force* people to do what they don't want to --"

"*Yes*, Ollie, *fine*, but she's -- he's. Swinging. A bit."

"And that's *distracting*, I'll grant you, but it's up to us to be adult about it and not stare no matter *how* big they are --"

"Well, it's not that they're that big --"

"They're pretty big for Tom's size, there --"

"How much attention have you been *paying*?"

Tom decides to leave them to it, turning the chair and staring at the console in an attempt to will it to work faster. After several minutes, Oliver and Dinah take their argument elsewhere, and...

This isn't the first time when he's been forced to deal with the fact that the League simply *isn't* a monolithic source of salvation and comforting explanations of the unknown. The part of him which will always be Tim Drake still wants to whine about it, though -- and Tom has to accept that.

It's far better than those times when Tim wants to panic, when people like Diana and Hal and *Clark* turn to *him* for the comforting answers, the useful solutions --

The fact is that Tom will be thirty this year, and that Tim -- for all that he insists otherwise -- will be thirty-one. Both of them have been doing this for half their lives and, sooner or later, everything will be okay. The answer might be anything but comforting, the solution might wear him to his limits and beyond, but --

This is what they do.

And Clark comes in just as the analysis of the compound comes up on the screen. One word stands out as if it's being screamed:


Clark makes a low sound of distress from behind Tom --

"My thoughts exactly."

"Where --"

"No idea. I haven't been up against any of our opponents who could reasonably be expected to produce something like this, and neither have any of you, recently."

Clark rests a warm, smooth hand on Tom's shoulder. "What are you going to do?"

Tom smiles, and suspects it looks a great deal like he's about to attack someone. It's one of Tim's smiles -- a close enough *cousin* to one of the Bat's to be acceptable... "I just happen to have a friend who's a biochemist."

Clark squeezes Tom's shoulder. "He's not very -- I know he *is* your... friend, but --"

"But his attitude toward vigilantes remains... what it is, yes. He's still one of the most brilliant people on the planet, Clark -- though I'd appreciate it very much if you were to bring a sample of this... thing to your AI."

"Of course. Ah -- how will I contact you if you're... still in Metropolis?"

"Contact Bruce," Tom says, and sets the machine to prepare three samples for travel -- presumably Zatanna will come back to this plane of existence eventually. "He'll know what to do."

Clark nods and backs off, and when Tom turns he's frowning precisely as if there's something else he wants to say, but isn't sure if he should.

Tom raises an eyebrow --

"It's deeply disconcerting to see that expression on... your face."

Tom smiles. "I plan to avoid mirrors for as long as humanly possible."

Clark nods and frowns harder.

"Say it, Clark."

"You... what will you do if there's no way to reverse the process?"

He's not *thinking* about that -- no, Batman isn't allowed to ever do that. "Train," he says. "And tailor a new uniform."

"I'm -- I'm sorry, Tom."

"No. Don't think that way. I'm healthy, and I remember *everything* I've learned over the years. This will *not* hold me back, Clark."

Clark blinks, perhaps for the Bat in Tom's voice, and nods. "Of course. I'll take the sample immediately."

Tom nods and clasps Clark's forearm for a moment, and then heads back to the transporter.

When he gets back to the Cave, Bruce and Dick are already well into their workouts, and Alfred has left a tray for him which is an excellent reminder of the fact that he'd singularly failed to eat anything on the Tower.

By the time he's finished, given himself a moment to watch Dick grow and learn and *become*, and gotten upstairs, Alfred is waiting in the garage with a small bag packed with what will undoubtedly turn out to be Tom's loosest clothes.

Tom thanks him for his forethought and slips into the back of the Rolls. The trip to the airport gives him time to go over the steps he'd already taken and second-guess himself a few dozen times until he's sure that he's done what he needed to.

The flight gives him far too much time to imagine retraining himself in this body, to picture and edit the press release that would have to be made, the laughing comments that would be made, here and there, that he would have to respond to...

What *would* the world think if Tom Wayne became a woman *just* as the League gained a Batwoman? Would security demand Tom Wayne become a recluse? He wouldn't miss the parties and charity balls, but, dammit, he *likes* his work at Wayne Enterprises, for all that Bruce has been handling more and more of it as Tom gets more involved with the League.

And the Foundation -- well, he hadn't created it, but he'd shaped it, helped it grow into one of the largest and most successful charities in the country.

*Tim* may be a hermit who only comes out when Lex coaxes just right, but Tom is a public figure, Tom is his *life* --

No, he has Clark's AI, he has Zatanna -- who can make him *look* like a man when he needs to --

He has Lex, who'd taken a medium-sized agricultural concern and turned it into a sprawling scientific powerhouse, complete with a thriving pharmaceutical arm and a lab which has been mapping the genomes of various species since it had become remotely possible to do so.

They *will* map the human genome within the next ten years, and then... well, the future will be wide open, with no limits save for Lex's prodigious imagination. Some of Lex's pet geniuses may be a little disturbing to be around, but Lex keeps them all on short leashes.

There will *be* a way, and Tom will find it, use it, and be back in his own body in time to... something.

Tom knows the smile on his face isn't as friendly and welcoming as it could be, but it gets him into a limo which, in turn, gets him to the LexCorp building. He can't just get waved through the way he usually does, but the coveted green all-access pass -- there are exactly three of them -- gets him onto the one elevator that goes all the way up, and then Tom is in Lex's comfortably Spartan living room, resting on a couch which has almost certainly never had a jeans-clad ass on it before.

Tom smiles a little more and takes his shoes and socks off, letting himself lounge. It's been... three months since he's been here, what with everything his life throws at him.

He's *seen* Lex more recently than that, but they really haven't had any time to relax together, as opposed to wrangling good-naturedly over shared projects for the military, the world's police departments...

It's Lex's dream to take away the *need* for vigilantes, and he's certainly done a lot for the SCU here in Metropolis. But the monsters -- human and otherwise -- just get stronger, bigger, crazier, more determined...

Tom is *reasonably* sure it isn't his own proprietary insanity which makes him sure that it's a battle Lex can't win, but it's enough that he can watch Lex *try* -- and be very, very grateful for his efforts when the League goes up against one monster or another with the help of their more official allies.

He sits in lotus -- ignoring the fact that it's just enough easier to do in this body that it's noticeable. It won't be long.

He's in something of a half-assed meditative state when the door opens and Lex strides in smiling --

The smile doesn't fade, but it sharpens. "While I'm not in the habit of rejecting beautiful -- and flexible -- women who appear on my doorstep..."

"Lex," Tom says, and opens his eyes wide enough that Lex can note the color, and, perhaps, the person behind them.

Lex freezes, tensing all over -- "Tom."

"In the -- new and altogether too interesting -- flesh."

"What... you." Lex doesn't run to him, but he gets to the couch quickly, cupping Tom's face and tilting it up, studying him *hard*. "In retrospect, of course, it had to be you. Mercy is doing something for me in Vancouver, and you..." Lex shakes his head. "I suppose I thought that someone clever had found a way around my security, but mostly I was wondering... my God, you're beautiful."

Tom raises an eyebrow. "Thank you. *Help*."

Lex hums and nods, stroking down to Tom's shoulders and squeezing, moving -- "Up," he says, peremptory and sharp.

Tom unfolds and stands, raising his arms and letting Lex move him away from the couch, letting Lex strip him and move around and around, muttering measurements to himself and occasionally repeating 'beautiful.' "Lex."

"You have to give me... you woke up like this today?"

"I was ill for a few days beforehand in a minor way. I thought, perhaps, Dick had brought home a bug."

"How is he doing? I -- I still can't believe you have a *child*, but I suppose Bruce did need someone in his age group --"


"You *have* to allow me room to make these little comments from time to time -- they fester horribly otherwise and make me think terrible, terrible thoughts," he says, dropping into a crouch pushing his *face* against --

Tom's mound. "*Jesus*, Lex, this isn't what I need you for --"

"You came *here*. To *me*. You knew -- you forget nothing, Tom, no single comment I make, no offhand *remark*. You came *here* -- and you smell wonderful," he says, kissing Tom's mound and gripping Tom's *hips* --

"Did you notice the bio-container on the couch, Lex? There's a yummy, yummy mystery inside it *just* for you --"

"Of course you went to one of your pet scientists first -- one day you *will* tell me where you find such *tame* ones --"

"It's a mutagen, Lex. And I haven't the foggiest clue where it could've come from --"

"*Mutagen*. You..." Lex squeezes Tom's hips again. "You could find out that much, already? Even though it surely had time to go through your system?"

Tom waves a hand and thinks of the thin ice he's dancing on. "We've had some experience with that in trying to figure out how to counter the various things Poison Ivy throws at the people of Gotham."

"Poison Ivy," Lex grits, contemptuous and very clearly preparing to *preach* --

"Lex. If you say *one* thing about how people like her wouldn't exist without costumed vigilantes --"

"You'll walk out on me? Well, no, you don't *make* threats like that, but you *could*. And right now, I'm feeling rather... vulnerable," Lex says, leaning in again and breathing deep, breathing --

It's very, very hard not to think about all the ways Lex touches him when he's *preparing* to make love, the possessiveness and care, the curiosity and seemingly pathological need to map out new scars with first his fingertips and then his tongue --

This whole body is new to Lex -- to both of them -- and perhaps Tom should be grateful that Lex appears to *only* be focused on his mound.

"You're not aroused enough --"

"I'm in the wrong *body* --"

"You," Lex says, standing up and *jerking* Tom close, "are in an incredible body. All the strength of your male form, all of your damned *scars* --"

"Will you *focus*?"

"Will *you*? Sweet *Christ*, Tom, you're a marvel. You could inspire artists, madmen --"

"It's an entirely functional female body --"

"Entirely? Are you sure? Because I say again, Tom -- you are not. Aroused. Enough."

"Take me to a *lab* --"

"Oh, I will. I wouldn't miss that chance for -- something large and worth a great deal of money. But I'm not going to miss this chance, either," Lex says, tilting his head to the side and leaning in slowly, *cautiously*, just as if they haven't been involved since *high* school.

And *that* -- is enough to let Tom twist away and reach for his clothes --

"Where -- don't go."

An order, but he's known Lex long enough to know that sometimes he gives orders when he means to make *pleas*, and -- he shakes his head. "I think I *should* give you some time alone so that your *head* will be in the game --"

"A mutagen. Administered via unknown means -- though you would've already had yourself checked for injection sites. You don't remember breathing or drinking or eating anything strange, anything not also consumed by your hulking shadow of a cousin..."

Tom pauses with his jeans in his hand. "Exactly."

"You haven't been consorting with so-called superheroes or aliens of late, have you?"

Well. Tom rolls his eyes. "Yes, Lex. We had Wonder Woman over for a threesome and a round of croquet."

Lex snorts. "That *outfit* of hers -- well, I suppose she wanted to look good for the meat-and-potatoes crowd of this country. Maybe if her popularity slips she can go into professional wrestling --"


Lex raises his hands. "I know. I know. You think she's wonderful. You think it's just great that she communicates with frighteningly powerful beings who call themselves *gods* --" Lex stops and grits his teeth. "Make a bargain with me, Tom."

Tom crosses his arms under his breasts and *doesn't* wince at the feel of them, not even when Lex shivers and makes a soft sound. "I'm listening."

"I'll do everything in my power to discover what happened. I'll have Mercy take that container to the lab with my order that they're to work on nothing *but* duplicating and studying the thing until they've found a way... a way to *fix* it. I'll stand over them with a *whip* if I have to -- but I suspect my people will be slavering to discover the mechanism."

"Certainly, it raises interesting possibilities for the transgendered community."

Lex smiles -- almost beams. "A way around that barbaric *surgery* -- we could improve the lives of so *many* -- and if it was reversible, we could make millions on the cosmetic angle --"

"Take over the world *later*, Lex. What's my end of the bargain?"

Lex's smile gets brighter. And hotter. "We discover just how functional you are. You give me the fantasy I've had since I was a mindlessly hormonal *teenager*. You let me show you how much pleasure that body can give you. Repeatedly. Until you can't move from my bed and you're begging. You *know* how to beg," Lex says, and cups Tom's face. "Say yes to me."

And sometimes, when Lex gives orders... they are *only* orders. Tom thinks of Bruce home with Dick, doing things the world *needs* them to do, becoming more and more of a family until sometimes Tom wonders if there's a place for him, at all --

"I'd let you -- I'd *show* you -- Tom," and Lex strokes Tom's cheekbone and reaches to take Tom's hand with his other, bringing it to Lex's groin and bending --

He doesn't have to bend Tom's fingers. He doesn't --

He's hard, but he's been harder. He's warm, and Tom's body wants him to know that he'll still be sleek, perfect and hairless and obscene. Beautiful.


"You have to know that I'd help you, anyway, Tom. That I would... you came to *me*, and you've asked me for nothing for all these years, never so much as *wanted* anything I could have given you -- *give* me this, and I promise that you won't regret it," and before Tom can think of *anything* to say to that, Lex is petting his mouth, making Tom helplessly aware of how full it is right now, how soft and seemingly *ready* --

"Oh. I."

"You felt... something. A stirring, perhaps? A sense of contraction low in your abdomen?"

"I -- yes."

Lex licks his lips. "It will probably be a little while before that translates to *direct* sensation in your genitals... but then it might not be. Your clitoris might already be erect -- come to bed with me."

He could ask himself how it is that Lex *always* does this to him, how he's been able to just walk all over every last one of Tom's kinks and desires until he finds the thing that moves him *this* time --

But he knows. It's *Lex*, and every ounce of passion and confidence he can bring to bear. It's the *fact* that Lex wouldn't be like this with him if he didn't want Tom badly, if it didn't drive him those nights when he's alone -- or doing whatever he does with Mercy --

He --

Tom pulls back. He really doesn't want to think about Lex and Mercy, right now, but wouldn't he be doing the same things with Tom that he does with her? Using what he's *learned* --


And he *knows* why that throws him. He's never forgiven either of them for Lionel Luthor. Not Lex for giving the order, not Mercy for carrying it out to the full extent of her abilities -- until that painfully awful man was just a broken corpse covered in river-mud and rat bites.

"What in the *hell* are you thinking about that would put *that* look on your face? No, don't tell me -- *look* at me."

Tom closes his eyes --

Lex growls and squeezes Tom's face. "I will be very, very angry if I have to beg. And then I'll be terribly mean to everyone *except* you, and you hate it when I'm like that."

That -- Tom snorts and opens his eyes. "All right, Lex. I -- all right. I just found myself thinking about you and -- Mercy."

"Did you think she'd be jealous? I'm a paycheck and an interesting job description to her. Yes, sometimes I'm also a great fuck, but that has no bearing on *us*."

"How... I've never understood how you could have sex with someone you didn't care about."

"I *do* care about her. I care that she does her job to the very best of her abilities day and night, whenever I need her to -- and a part of you *only* wants to have this conversation right now so you can remember all those things about me you *don't* like."

"Sometimes it's good to have a *reminder*, Lex --"

"Like when I'm talking you into my bed. What will it take this time, hm? What do I need to *give*?"

"It's not -- we shouldn't be *like* that --"

"But we *are* -- and you made the rules up a long time ago. You and your *secrets*," Lex says, and for a moment he seems honestly *angry* -- but then he shakes his head and starts to strip. The sword scar on his chest has started to go as pale as all of his other scars, but it's there to remind Tom of years of hurt and raw determination, of blood and something that could *only* be termed sin --

Tom touches it, covers it with his hand and takes a moment to see how obvious his own hand is, how obviously *used* it is, even in this body. His calluses are slightly different, slightly *shifted*, but they're there, and they make Lex shudder and growl --

"You *know* I'll please you --"

"Yes --"

"You know I can take you places *no* one else can. That I'll growl and fucking *shout* for you," and Lex steps out of his shoes, toes out of his socks and kicks his pants aside.

*He'd* convinced Lex of the utility and attractiveness of boxer briefs, and Lex has always -- always -- worn them well. It takes nothing -- or perhaps everything -- to stroke down Lex's chest to his abdomen, to the place beneath his navel where no hair has *ever* been --

"Yes, Tom -- *remember*. And I could say something about how this wouldn't be necessary if you didn't keep running *away* from me --"

"Running back to my *life* --"

"We *are* each other's lives, Tom -- at least in part," Lex says, and his smile manages to be both rueful and *hungry*. "You need me."

"I've never denied that. But I need other things, as well."

"*Not* right now," Lex says, stepping close again and taking a deep breath. "I can smell you. How long do you think you'll be able to focus, knowing what I *could* be doing to you?"

"Long enough to get to the lab --"

"Once you're in my bedroom, I'll call Mercy and it will *all* be taken care of. She isn't paid to think about what I do in my free time, and so she won't. Let me make you scream again. Let me make you scream my *name*."

And Tom -- he can feel himself snarling, feel himself heating up all over in an arousal reaction that's only familiar, only *comfortable* --

Until something seizes *hard* inside him at the feel of Lex breathing, the feel of his smooth, perfect skin as Tom slips his fingers under the waistband of Lex's boxer briefs and he opens his mouth on a moan --

"Tom. No one wants me the way you do --"

"I have my doubts --"

"No one wants *you* the way *I* do, Tom."

"Again --"

The kiss is hard, but Tom can't help but be aware of the way his mouth is softening it for him, *easing* the force of it -- and making Lex groan as he shifts, jerks --

He's yanking down his briefs, and there's no possible thought for that, no way to respond other than to *grip* Lex, squeeze and stroke him harder while Lex bites Tom's lip, and --

Neither of them have their eyes closed, and that means Tom can see it when Lex's eyes narrow for the feel of Tom's thumb working the head of Lex's penis, can see him *want*, and, perhaps, *triumph*.

Tom pulls back but doesn't stop stroking --

"You should have... lipstick."

"I *don't* think so."

"I know just the shade --"

"You can keep it to yourself."

"I can't help but feel that it's wrong that I have more experience with makeup than *you* do."

Tom smiles and squeezes *hard* --

Lex grunts --

"Is this where I explain the definitions of homosexuality, cross-dressing, and gender dysphoria?"

"Oh, I'll *be* your girl, darling..."

And that -- he hasn't heard that voice in *years*, and it stops him dead, makes him laugh --

And, if anything, Lex's smile gets *more* triumphant, more satisfied, as if getting that reaction from him is proof that he's winning at life -- again.

"God, Lex... I never have any idea what the *hell* to do with you --"

"That's because sometimes you're a *painfully* slow learner, Tom. Let me catch you up," Lex says, and this kiss is a great deal more serious, designed to seduce and steal -- breath and thought --

He lets go of Lex's penis and *immediately* gets his wrists caught. They *aren't* significantly more slim than they had been last night, but they *feel* that way in Lex's hands -- *one* of Lex's hands, now. Bruce almost never touches him this way, almost never *takes* -- "Oh *fuck*, Lex --"

Lex's hum might as well be a purr as he cups Tom's --

Tom's fucking *breast*, and apparently the nipple is as sensitive as it looks, because all Lex is doing is *rubbing* it with his thumb --

"*That's* functional --"

"Lex --"

"One moment," he says, and kisses Tom again, lifts Tom's arms *high* above his head -- and slips his hand between Tom's legs, doing... something.

Something -- *wet*, and this body wants him to know that it's *just* right, that Lex needs to keep his hand *right* there so he can thrust against it --

Only that makes the good feeling *stop*, tease --

Tom growls and *forces* himself to stand still. "Do that *again*."

"With great pleasure," Lex says, and --

"Nn -- *fuck* --" His eyes don't roll back in his head, but that has far more to do with willpower than anything else. That --

It *must* be his clitoris, because he can't quite wrap his mind around anything else that would feel that good, that --

He's panting, and every few moments it catches on a low note coming out of his chest -- not low enough. Not -- Tom blushes and closes his eyes --

"No, not that. Not *yet*," and Lex *stops* --

"*Dammit*, Lex --"

"Come. To. Bed."

The sound of his own growl is deeply satisfying -- but not in any way that will allow him to forget what would be *better*. Three months without Lex inside him. A *season*, and now he can --

They can --

Tom opens his eyes. "Sometimes I think I might hate you, Lex."

Lex narrows his eyes. "The feeling has *always* been mutual. Let's *go*."

Tom breaks the hold Lex has on his wrists and walks to the bedroom, making a command decision not to think about his hips --

Until he starts crawling onto the bed and Lex *grabs* them, hauling back until his penis is in Tom's cleft and his sac slaps against Tom's -- vulva.

"Lex --"

"The view was far too good. Your ass is actually -- never mind. I *know* you don't want to think about that at the moment. Think about *this*," he says, and starts to thrust, and just --

Friction and *heat*, and the *wet* slap of his sac, the way it makes something spark and fade inside Tom, spark and flare -- "I want... Lex, *touch* me --"

"Say that again, Tom, I --"

"Fucking *touch* me --"

And sometimes Tom's reflexes are a little too good, because Lex's attempt to move him leads to them wrestling half-on the bed, sliding against each other and fighting for a grip, a hold, *dominance*. He tosses Lex off him and winds up sliding off the bed -- no, Lex grabs him around the ribs and *pulls*, and the effort not to make him pay for it *too* much --

No, he's not going to break Lex's straight, even nose. He's also not going to give Lex a black eye, or an interestingly dented cheekbone, which means that what he *is* going to do is wind up flat on his back with Lex's hands on his wrists, pressing down against the firm mattress as he spreads Tom's legs with his own.

Lex smiles like --

"Are you about to tie me to some railroad tracks? Paste on a fake mustache to twirl?"

"Mm... no. I'm about to lick you for a little while. There'll be some sucking, a fair amount of nibbling -- assuming you can handle that sort of touch with this body --"

"I can --" Except for how he doesn't *know* that --

"That line on your forehead is going to be somewhat cavernous when we're just a little bit older, but --"

"If you say *anything* about it being 'cute,' Lex, I stop trying not to *injure* you --"

"We can spar later. You can give me the black eye I so *richly* deserve, and then? I'll give you a *sound* spanking."

Tom -- blinks. "Spanking? Really?"

"Too much? Just enough...?" Lex squeezes Tom's wrists and grinds down against Tom's abdomen, letting his sac *slide* up over Tom's vulva.

It makes Tom want to spread his legs wider and it makes him want to flip Lex over and *ride* him. He pushes against Lex's hold, pleased to see his strength is, in fact, where it should be --

Lex frowns. "*Why* have I never tied you to anything?"

"Because you value your pretty face?"

"You let me take you, hurt you, take you *again* -- but I can't tie you? Blindfold you?"

That's my *work*-life, Lex -- no. "I -- haven't seen the appeal."

"Everything we do in this bed will be an experiment for you, Tom. Why not go all out?"

"Make the call."

"Tom --"

"*Make* the call, Lex. I'll -- think about it."

Lex searches him for a long moment, and there's a hint of something frantic and unsure in his eyes, something that makes Tom want to hold him the way they rarely manage, promise --

Promise things he can't. After another moment, Lex nods and rolls off of him, letting Tom flex his wrists a little, sit up --

Yes, he was going to think.

Lex keeps his phone on the other side of the room, and Tom knows from experience that the ring is loud enough to wake the dead. This allows him time to wake in -- relative -- comfort, and to be *completely* awake by the time he gets to the phone. Which almost certainly assures that people think very, very deeply before waking him for anything. Lex would probably say that it builds character and independent thinking in his subordinates, and certainly his company is doing far better than simply *well* --

That isn't what he's supposed to be thinking about. Tom shifts until he's up on his knees, wincing at the feel of his -- well, those would be his labia, moving against each other with the slickness of all the pre-come he's putting out.

He's rejected the more stylized methods of sexual contact -- no, that's not quite it. The fact is, this sort of thing hadn't come *up*, save for some joking around whenever he and Bruce practice escape artistry. There are times when Bruce has tied -- or chained -- him up when there's been a certain light in his eyes, a certain satisfaction that goes beyond a job well done enough to challenge Tom's ability to get free, but...

Bruce has always wanted him to *move*. The pain he gives pleasures them both, but Bruce has never suggested they try anything kinkier than biting and the kind of hard fucks which make sitting down interesting. When they studied the more common paraphilias, nothing in particular made Bruce sit up and ask if Tom had ever wanted to try this or that -- beyond Bruce's occasional fervent appreciation of the sight of Tom in heels and makeup for a disguise.

And... there *have* been times when Tom had found that strange, because he really had believed -- in his other life -- that Bruce *would* be kinkier than that, that he'd want to try everything at least once, no matter how odd it would turn out to be. Is it possible that he'd gotten to Bruce some variety of 'too young?' Certainly, the way he is with Dick makes him seem a lot better adjusted than he might otherwise be.

*Also* certainly -- it had never come up with either Harvey or Clark. Harvey had liked dirty talk and the occasional light slap to the penis. Clark is *relentlessly* oral -- but has yet to leave so much as a finger bruise.

And Lex...

Lex crawls back onto the bed, but pauses just out of easy range when Tom holds a hand up. He'd gone wild more than once in high school when Tom had allowed him to apply eyeliner, but that had boiled down to a lot of rough touches and, yes, *hard* fucks. There have been countless spars that led to Tom being on his hands and knees -- or bent over something -- but nothing like a *spanking*.

Lex --

Tom's mind is full of images. Lit candles and silk scarves. Leather hoods and riding crops. Lipstick and... razor blades? Piercings? Extended bouts of bondage? Collars and leashes?

Calling him sir? Master? Daddy?


"I'm -- trying to figure out where my limits are."

"We could test that --"

"I would rather have at least *some* idea before getting... in the thick of things, as it were."

Lex nods, and his expression is... avid. Focused. *Heavy*, and the fact is that the unblinking stare is almost *always* effective. Though Tom has to admit --

*Tim* has to admit that it's mainly effective because it makes him feel pinned, exposed, known -- *and* wanted more than anything could be wanted remotely rationally. Pure hunger, and he's young again, *painfully* young, only it feels good, because it's the kind of youth that goes right through him, cracks him open and lets him *out*. "I don't know what you wouldn't do, Lex."

"With you? There are no limits. You *know* that --"

"I'm not talking about you pulling out a strap-on for me and bending over --"

"I could have one here in twenty minutes. *Gift*-wrapped -- if it meant that you'd let me do what I wanted with you. *To* you."

There is no reason whatsoever to hold back that shiver. No one to impress or frighten, no one to *lead* -- "Tie me."

"What else?"

"Ah -- blindfold."

Lex reaches out and cups Tim's face, pulls back and strokes restlessly, lips pressed together against words neither of them will ever say.

"And... we'll see. From there."

Lex nods and crawls close, kissing something that feels like thank you, like possession, like sweetness and pleasure and too many other things to *count*. Tim's hands are clenched into fists, but he needs to *use* this last opportunity to touch, to feel exactly how aroused Lex is, how slick --

To turn out of the kiss so he can lick his fingers -- and moan when Lex reaches between Tim's legs again. This time, he remembers to stay still and *feel* it, and perhaps it's a reward that the contact is rougher this time, *harder* --

"Does it hurt?"

"Nnh. No."

"Do you want it to?" And Lex does -- something, shifting until...

Tim thinks Lex is holding his clit between his thumb and forefinger, and it's a *little* like having the head of his cock held and teased, but it also feels a lot more sensitive, like the contact could quickly become almost explosive. "I don't -- think so. Not there."

Lex nods and *pinches*, and Tim hears himself make a noise that's much too high for what he wants to *communicate*.

He cuts himself off and pants, tries again for the next pinch, the next --

Still too high, still -- God, what is it going to sound like when Lex makes him *whimper*?

"Lex -- not. Not too much teasing. Please," Tim says, and feels himself blushing again. He shakes his head --

"This is teasing? Good to know," and Lex shifts his hand again, and starts --

Rubbing. *Fast*, and Tim thinks he might have an orgasm, might --

He's *straining* with the need to buck his hips against Lex's touch, which is really... could a vibrator be *much* different? Oh -- oh, God, Lex speeding *up* --

"Lex, I -- I --"

"What is it? Be *specific*."

"It's -- it's incredible, shuddery. I feel. I think I might be clenching? Inside my vagina --"

"You know I'm going to want to feel that, don't you? With my fingers, my tongue, *and* my cock?"

Cock. One little word, and the one Lex has preferred since at least high school, and it's not *really* dirty talk, but somehow it always hits him the same way, always makes him want to blush *for* Lex, apologize for trying to be someone he's not --

"When you *want* my cock, Tom... you just have to beg for it. I know you know that, too, but... mm. It feels very good to say," Lex says, and starts --

*Faster*, and Tim throws his head back, tensing for the feel of Bruce wrapping his hand around his throat --

Except that Bruce isn't here, and neither is Bruce's brother. If he wants Lex to squeeze his throat, he'll have to ask, and -- he never has. Would it be suspicious to do it now? It has always just seemed like something Lex *would* do eventually, whether or not Tim offered provocation. The closest he had come was a choke *hold* while they were sparring -- after Tim had gotten hard enough that he wasn't able to even *pretend* to try to win. He'd pushed up on his toes and slammed his ass back against Lex's groin --

Tim moans and reaches for Lex's other hand --

"You *could* pretend that you're already tied. That would be... interesting to watch," and Lex's voice is low, insinuating more than requesting --

It's just that they haven't *done* much in the way of getting each other off with *just* their hands *since* high school, and Tim wants -- "I want. I..."

"Yes, Tom...? You know, it's interesting -- I don't think your throat is any more lovely now than it usually is."

"Good to know, but." *Ask*. "Your hand... would go well *on* my throat."

Lex makes a soft sound and shifts -- "Would it."

Tim laughs. "If you *did* want me to come before tying me up --"

"I haven't decided. But I'll keep your advice in mind," Lex says, and *stops* --

"*Lex* --"

"Anger in your voice, impatience -- you've always been much too demanding for someone who won't come when I call."

"You *don't* call," Tim says, tilting his head forward with only a *twinge* of disappointment.

"Because you wouldn't come if I *did*," Lex says, and slides his fingers back -- *in*.

That. "Oh. Completely different. Ah..." Tim shakes his head and thinks about it, entirely aware of the line on his forehead and how cute it may or may not be right this moment --

"Please do tell me more."

"*Working* on it. Hm. It's... there's very much a sense of *room*. Of -- no, that's. I don't think I *could* take more --"

"I disagree," Lex says, and --

The thing which makes Tim grunt is almost certainly the feel of Lex spreading the two fingers he has inside -- *only* to the first knuckle -- apart. "Ah. Flexible, then."

"Very. No women for you? At *all*?"

Tim smiles and shakes his head. "Do you *really* think you wouldn't know?"

"You keep my spies so *busy*. Tell me. Do you like it?"

"I like it. I -- it seems... like an excellent thing to do with the body part in question."

"You're far too coherent --"

"You're asking me *questions* --"

"You don't *have* to answer them *well*," Lex says, slipping his fingers out --

"Fuck, you *tease* too much --"

"Very soon, I'll stop," Lex says, and swipes his fingers over Tim's nipples, one and then the other. "But I need you in the right state of mind," and he stares critically at Tim's breasts.


"I think... your nipples could be harder than they are right now."

"Lex --"

"Do me a favor and clench your fists for me. *Tightly*," he says, and pinches both Tim's nipples at once, *rolls* them between his fingers, and --

He's not looking at Tim's hands, but Tim knows he can tell that they aren't clenched into fists, that it's part of how he's reading Tim's body just in general --

Bruce --

Bruce isn't *here*, and Tim's nipples feel like spikes, hard and heavy, making the nerves inside pull and sing, making him shudders and clench *everywhere* --

"Like that. Like... hm. I did mention licking," and Lex moves his hands until he's cupping Tim's breasts, lifting them and leaning in, *breathing* on them --

"*Do* it, Lex."

Lex frowns and raises an eyebrow. "This is what I mean about the wrong state of mind, by the way --"

Tim snorts and brushes his -- fisted -- hands against the sides of Lex's scalp. "Give me a *reason* to beg."

"You want me. That's enough."

"I can *have* you --"

"Any time you want? You certainly *have* been playing the tune I dance to. Perhaps I have only myself to blame," Lex says, pulling back *without* licking Tim's nipples, and that --

It's a kind of *horror*, Tim thinks, a kind of internal seizing that doesn't match the ache in his genitals *or* his nipples. This is probably when he's supposed to call Lex's name in a questioning or even *worried* tone of voice, but...

Lex's fantasy. Lex's *wish*, from the time they were teenagers in *more* than just the semi-random firings of a somewhat bifurcated mind. Tim swallows and sits back on his heels, watching the muscles of Lex's back flex and shift as he reaches in the bedside table for...

Things. Should he be laying himself flat on the bed, spreading his legs and undoubtedly staining the duvet with his... effluvia? Has Mercy -- no, he's not thinking about her.

What he *should* be thinking of is how best to get what he wants -- penetration which, increasingly, is not *necessarily* of the anal variety. Lex's fingers had felt...

It had felt like his vagina really *wanted* to have something in it, despite the sense of tightness and a peculiar discomfort that may or may not have been centered in his inner labia. Hmm. Tim unclenches his fist and reaches between cautiously, wincing at the rather ridiculous amount of fluid -- "Oh." That would be his clitoris, and... there's the hood. Sensitive, but more in terms of how it moves against the clit.

Tim closes his eyes and works back -- aperture of urethra, and... sort of inner *walls* to his outer labia. The latter are no more sensitive than any flesh mostly hidden from the world should be, the former feels interestingly like how it had felt on his penis. Just -- *separate* from the good, undeniably sexual feelings from his clit.

Back, and... inner labia. Very sensitive, not especially designed for immediate, uncomplicated pleasure. They feel swollen, inflamed...

He touches himself and tries to learn, tries to *know*, so that he'll know what Lex is doing when.

He touches himself and calls up worn and fading memories of Steph, and how she might have felt if he'd ever touched her this way. More than once, he's wished he *had*, but he's never been able to escape the fact that that has far more to do with wanting more memories of her in general than with anything else.

Steph, he thinks, and pushes in with one cautious finger. Right now, you're four years old and pretending to be Superman while your useless father tries and fails to hold down a legitimate job. Your mother hasn't started popping pills, yet, and I can't watch you the way I want to, I can't risk anyone knowing --

And the sound he makes has some reassuring *depth*, but he thinks it still sounds more *stupid* than arousing. Lex is pinching his clit again, *holding* it --

"Lex, please --"

"Better, better. Tell me what you were thinking of. Tell me *who* --"

"My -- my girlfriend," Tim says, because there's no reason to hide that, no --

"The one... you lost. All right. I must confess, I was worried you were with Bruce again in your mind."

Tim opens his eyes. "He hasn't. We haven't -- with me in this body."

"You came to me," Lex says, testing and *tasting* the words. "For that alone, I'm going to make you come screaming."


Lex smiles, showing his teeth. "Hold out your wrists."

Tim does, and *then* looks down. Silk, of course, and Lex strokes Tim's wrists and arms with the length of it before tying... a very impressive knot. He'd need a fair amount of slack and time to use his teeth to make even a start at untying it. He can't help nodding --

"Your approval warms, of course," Lex says, and knots another length around Tim's other wrist before picking up the trailing ends and winding them around his hand, over and over. He jerks *up*, and Tim's breasts... bounce.

"I hope that's attractive to you."

"Very, I assure you," and Lex uses his other hand to trace light circles around his areolae, ticklish and somewhat shiver-inducing. "I think you'd probably enjoy being whipped -- at just the *right* moment."

"Ah... Lex?"

"Just musing aloud," he says, and *twists* one nipple hard --

Tim's hips jerk forward without his permission, and Tim thinks of the chafe of armor after he's been sweating *just* enough, being slammed to the ground, being punched in the face --


It's that sort of pain, sudden but *not* shocking, and Tim wants Lex's hand back on his clit. "Lex --"


Tim looks Lex in the eye and lets his mouth fall open, licks his lips -- "Please. Touch my clit."

"Not good enough," Lex says, and lets Tim's arms drop. "Get closer to the head of the bed and lie down."

And what makes you think I'll follow that order any better, Lex...?

It would be a *good* time for Lex to look smug and knowing, but he only looks patient, blandly hopeful, and that --

Tim shakes his head. "I need more."

"If it makes you feel any better, my calm has far more to do with the fact that I know -- *know* -- that I won't be letting you out of this bed until I've done everything I want to do with you than with anything else."

Tim feels his expression twist. "Why should that make me feel better, exactly...?"

"Because you know my will, Tom. Because you know *exactly* how far I'll go to *get* what I want. Obey me."

He... really has to admit that that tone, *those* words -- Tim lets himself shiver --

"There's going to come a time when you won't want me to stop what I'm doing --"

"We've passed that --"

"You *know* what I mean," Lex says, and traces a line -- a *collar* -- around Tim's throat. "I should've done this with you years ago. *Trained* you... the way you've trained me. Obey me... and, when you need me to, I won't stop for even a moment."

And... there's a part of him which wants to remember the cowl, wants to *cling* to it as if, perhaps, if he holds on tight enough he'll hear the whisper of the Bat, shoring him up and scouring him clean of all need save the one to --


But not this voice. Not -- Tim closes his eyes --

"Open your eyes."

Tim opens his eyes immediately -- and groans for doing it.

"You see? It's not difficult. Get to the head of the bed for me, Tom. Give me what I want."

Call me by my name and I'll do anything you *want* -- only. It's not that simple, and hasn't been for a very long time. Never fall, never *surrender*, and Tim thinks of kissing Bruce for the first time, of letting Lex lead him to assorted private areas knowing exactly what he wanted, knowing that he'd give it to him --

Is this so different? Isn't this what a part of him has been waiting for?

The question is -- is it *Tim* who's been waiting, or is it Tom? It *does* make a difference, at least for the compartments in his mind, and --

Lex's breathing is slow and steady enough that Tim knows he's rigidly controlling it, practicing a form of meditation Tim knows in his bones and doing it *well*, considering how hard he is, how long he's been waiting...

"Lex... did you want this when I had my own body?"

"I wanted it... differently. Is that what's keeping you from giving in? Do you feel like I'm cheating on you with this body? I promise you -- the *moment* you get your male body back, I will tie you down and tease you, torture you, hurt you, play with you, and *fuck* you until you *cry*."

*Clench*, all through him, and his breasts feel heavy and more full, somehow. His inner labia feel like *they'll* torture him as soon as he moves -- "I. Oh."

"Call it a failure of imagination on my part. Or call it the inevitable result of your never giving me enough time to refine my fantasies, *control* my desires --"

"You didn't seem to need much time today --"

"Thirteen *years*, Tom. Or did you think it was a passing fancy, only afflicting me at random moments when I saw a woman of slightly greater than average height with dark hair and blue, blue eyes...?"

Lex... really doesn't *do* passing fancies. Tim laughs and shakes his head --

"Go. To the head of the bed."

Now or never. Even if it's not really like that. Even if... Tim gives up and crawls, gauging the distance that would keep him from bumping against the headboard when Lex *does* fuck him... hm. "On my stomach or on my back?"

"Your back, first. Now."

Tim lies down and spreads his arms, staring up at the pale eggshell of the ceiling and working on his breathing --

Lex places a hand between his breasts and pushes. "The faster you surrender control, the easier it will be."

"Ah... for whom?"

"Both of us," Lex says, and presses harder. "I get to do what I want, you get to *let* me do what I want."

Tim closes his eyes -- opens them again --

"Good girl --"

"Not that. Not... that, Lex."

Lex frowns... but he nods. "That was still very, very good. Keep it up," he says, and seems to pause, all over, staring down at Tim --

Breathing deeply and leaning in, and Tim can't stop himself from rearing up for the kiss which -- fails to land. "Lex..."

"Almost right," he says, and bites Tom's lower lip *hard*, hard enough that Tim catches himself reaching for Lex, bending his arms *in* --

He slams them back down to the bed. "Please, I. I would like a kiss."

"Proof of my affections...? You're *here*, and I'm still interested despite the fact that you keep fighting me in irritating ways. That should be more than enough for you... after all this time."

Not in *this* body. Or -- Tim doesn't know. This -- *all* of this -- seems designed to *foment* insecurity, despite everything he's read about it over the years. Perhaps he's just not designed for it --

"Stop resisting," Lex says, soft and low, almost *breathed* against Tim's mouth. "Let me have you."

"You -- already do. You have for a long time --"

"A part of you, yes, and don't think I'm not grateful," and Lex sits up and ties Tim's wrist to the headboard -- there's a very short column with a knob on the end on either side -- letting Tim's arm hang and stroking the length of it with his fingertips. He straddles Tim's waist in order to tie the other. "I've had my satisfaction with you, pleasure so great I've *loathed* you --"

"Should I apologize?"

"Yes. But not until I'm spanking you."

Tim... swallows. "Lex, I don't think... I'm not really --"

"We don't have to bend you over my knee if that would be too much for you," and Lex ties the other wrist. "We could just... hmm. Bend your knees back to your chest."

Tim does it, feeling ridiculously exposed, slick and *cool* --

Lex braces one arm against the backs of Tim's knees, pushing them farther back -- "Here," he says, and slaps Tim's ass.

"Ah -- like this?"

"You can't tell me you don't know how good you look like this, Tom. Bent in half, slick and *shining* for me in the sunlight from the windows..." Lex slaps -- *spanks* again.

"I'm not sure --"

"Wait," Lex says, and starts spanking Tim in earnest, switching back and forth between cheeks and doing it *hard*.

A part of Tim is only analyzing the sensation, the mild sting becoming moderate, the wind from Lex's hand -- the rest of him is *stuck*. Bent, open, and *spanked*, over and over as Lex stares into his eyes, watching for *every* reaction.

A wince gets him squeezed. Closing his eyes makes Lex spank his outer labia, and that --

He can't do much more than rock, but *that* --

"You like that."

"It's a bit. A bit like having my sac spanked --"

Lex smiles and does it again, and *again*, and Tim thinks he can *feel* his clit struggling to retreat --

Struggling for *something*, and he can't control either the blush *or* the flush. He knows it's spilling down his chest, making him look even more obvious than he had before. Just --

This *position*, and the way he could hold it almost effortlessly even if Lex's arm wasn't there, the way he *would* hold it, because Lex wants him this way, because giving Lex what he wants is always so much *easier* than trying to go his own way --

"*Lex* --"

"That sound, yes. *That* tone," and Lex spanks him faster, moving between his ass and his labia, making him *sting*, and -- he's writhing now, rocking and twisting, fisting the silk tying his wrists and squeezing his eyes shut --

He *opens* them and Lex nods, pauses and *cups* Tim's vulva, squeezes and works his palm against Tim's clit through his outer labia. The sensation is diffuse, half-buried under the burning sting, the sense that his skin is raw, buzzing with all the feeling the spanking had given him. "Lex, please, I -- more?"

"Are you sorry, yet? For making me want you?"

Tim shakes his head and tries to lift his hips, grind against Lex's hand --

"I'll take that as a no," Lex says, and starts spanking again, letting his middle finger thump against Tim's clit and *slide* with every spank, and --

On top of the sting and the *embarrassment*, there's the pleasure that jerks and stabs him, suggesting that he probably can't come from this, but that he should try to get more, anyway, try --

"Perhaps I should use a paddle on you --"

"No! I mean. I -- please, Lex --"

"Just my hand, Tom? Are you sure you deserve a bare touch?"

And Tim thinks of the gauntlets, of how cool and slick they are, of how much of his adolescence he'd spent *dreaming* of them -- what *sort* of paddle would Lex have? Would there be more than one -- no, he doesn't want to *confuse* this with his other -- other -- life. "I think... that I'd take more pleasure from the personal touch."

Lex's smile kind of *quirks*. "You... have your own way of doing things. Including submission. I should remember that," Lex says, and starts spanking *hard*.

The impulse -- the *need* -- is to take it silently, to remember all the studies of torture which suggest that too much noise can just encourage in the same way too much *silence* can --

God, it *hurts*, and there's the fact that he's going to have to explain this, going to have to deal with Bruce's confusion and jealousy --

"*Lex* --"

"You feel... shamed by this."

"Yes --"

"You're afraid of what others would think of you. *Bruce* --"

"Please, Lex --"

"Apologize, Tom."

"I --" Tim swallows, squeezes his eyes shut --

Lex *stops*, and there *is* a moment of relief, but he's aching, needing inside and out, and the air is too cool, he's exposed and there's no context, no reason --

"Please. Please don't -- I." Tim bites his lip and searches Lex, looking for --

*What* is he looking for? What would make this easier, more sensible, more of something he can *live* with? Lex's eyes are the grey-blue of a sky before a serious storm, and that's no different than it's always been. They're *calmly* avid, deep and hungry --

Giving Lex what he wants has meant so *much* over the years, but what has it cost him to have to keep asking? "I'm sorry."

"Are you."

He -- doesn't squeeze his eyes shut again. "I'm sorry, Lex. I -- I was wrong -- *oh* --"

Lex pinches Tim's clit again, *holds* it. "What were you wrong about? Be specific."

"Wrong to. Deny you. To stay away. You make me feel --" Honesty, because it's good, because it's always so *good* -- "It's always so good with you, Lex. You always take me out of my head. I could never -- I tried to give you up --"

"Are you *sorry*."

Another pinch, harder, and the sound Tim makes is closer to a *mewl* than anything else --

"Answer me --"

"*Yes*. Wasted time, wasted -- I could've been with you --"

"*Say* it."

And what does it say that Lex needs this? That he *wants* this... as much as Tim wants it to be entirely true. "*Please*, Lex, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, spank me again, hurt me --"

"Oh. Good -- boy," Lex says and his raised eyebrow dares Tim to make an issue of the hesitation, of what wasn't -- quite -- said.

To *misbehave*. "Lex, I want. You're making me so -- aroused. Ah --"

"Hard. Here," and that's Lex's thumb *pressing* on his clit, pushing and making Tim wince and need to squirm --

"*Please* --"

"I'm going to spank you again."

"Oh -- God --"

"And you're going to *apologize* again. And again. Until I tell you to stop."

Somehow, it feels like the blush gets *deeper*, like -- what does he *look* like, right now?

"Do you understand?"

"Yes. Yes, Lex -- *fuck* --"

Lex, in with two fingers, in *deep*, and it makes Tim want to lower his legs, plant his feet and *arch* --

And then Lex starts to fuck him with his fingers, hard and -- *hard*, and a part of Tim is convinced that the feeling is wrong, that this is going to hurt him, change him --

But it's good, undeniably so. Friction without a burn, stretch without a need for caution, and the specifics are indescribable. There's something like a drumbeat inside him for every thrust that hits just right -- wrong?

There's something --

He wants to scream, wants to --

"Please, Lex, please fuck me, please, I'm sorry --"

"I'm *not* spanking you, yet, Tom."

And Simon didn't Say? Tim laughs, and it *moves* things inside him, turns the fuck into something that shakes him all over, makes him need to hold, clutch, *claw* --

His arms hurt. He -- he's yanking against the ties and getting nowhere. It doesn't tighten the straps around his wrists, it just doesn't do anything to loosen them, either --

"*Lex* --"

"Do you feel helpless, yet?"

"*Yes*. No -- I don't --"

And when Lex pulls out, Tim shouts, tosses his head --

And the first spank makes him shout again, try to rock, to arch --

"You know what you're supposed to do."

"*Please* --" No. "I'm sorry, Lex, I'm so sorry --"

"This suits you, you know. You were born to submit... to someone suitable," Lex says, pausing the spanks to pinch Tim's clit between his fingers and -- tap on it with another finger, fast and hard.

Tim grunts and tries to *understand* the feeling, the sense of it as being much larger and more profound than it is --

"I didn't tell you to stop."

Fear, *need*, and -- he doesn't want Lex to stop. He -- "I'm sorry. For stopping, I -- a new feeling --"

"I *don't* want your explanations right now."

"I'm *sorry*, oh, God, *please* --"

*In* again, and Tim bangs his head against the pillow and wants something harder, something that *hurts* to make for the lack of pain from Lex's thrusts, Lex's *pushes* --

"S-sorry. I don't know -- please, Lex, don't make me -- I --"

"Don't make you? What? Come this way?"

*Can* he? Tim tries to breathe --


"I don't know, God, Lex, I'm sorry --"

"You can stop apologizing. *I* won't stop..." Lex laughs softly and pulls out again, fast -- too *fast* -- "I don't think I'll stop at all, now," he says, and starts spanking Tim again, hard *cracks* of his palm against Tim's ass, and it seems like anyone would be able to hear this.

Most of Lex's staff is right *downstairs*, and it doesn't matter that Tim knows that they can't hear anything, that they have no idea that he's bent in half and gasping, shouting for the pain --

And the pleasure when Lex starts spanking his vulva again, a broader and somehow *louder* feeling than the taps on his clit, and not having anything specific to say just makes him want to say too many *other* things, to confess and be punished for everything he's done, every lie he's told, every *secret* --

"*Please*. Fuck me, fuck me hard, Lex, take me --"

"Not yet. Plant your feet on the bed and spread -- wider than that. I know you *can*. Oh, Tom. You make such a *beautiful* woman."

"God, *Lex* --"

"It's the truth, and I must confess that it's frustrating that you'll never be able to understand that the way I do. Open your eyes."

Tim does, and Lex is smiling down at him, warm and pleased, satisfied in ways Tim can't touch -- "Lex. I need -- I think I need you inside me --"

"I know you do. But you're here to serve my needs at the moment," Lex says, and moves until he's between Tim's legs. He strokes Tim's inner thighs and pushes Tim's legs apart even more --

"Ah -- hurts --"

"Good. We both know you deserve the pain for what you've done -- and haven't done."

And Tim knows he's frowning, that he's pleading with his eyes -- when will this end? What happens if Tim tries to call a halt, exactly? "I -- we don't have a safeword."

"Noticed that, did you? You should know me well enough by now to know that I won't hurt you physically in any way you can't take -- and enjoy. As for the emotional question..." Lex reaches out and strokes the skin beneath Tim's eyes, making it seem soft and fragile, *vulnerable* -- "You've never cried for me."

"Is that. What you want?"

"I'm honestly unsure. Which, to me, is all the more reason to see if I can make it happen," he says, and frowns at Tim critically, again. "This body of yours is fresh, new-minted... yes, I think..." He moves to the bedside table again, pulling out a moderately-sized anal plug and a bottle of lubricant. "Don't worry -- I haven't had cause to use *this* one, yet," and he slicks the thing.

"Lex... you know what I'd rather have."

"And you know that I don't care -- at the moment. It really is a shame that you have so *much* experience with anal sex. This sort of thing really deserves a shiver of apprehension."

"I'm sorry?"

"Don't backslide on me, now, Tom. Remember: state of mind is everything," and Lex moves between Tim's legs. "Lift up."

Tim does and the first push is -- disconcertingly shocking. It *should* go right in with, perhaps, a little of that burn he's loved since before he ever *knew* Lex. But --

"You are, perhaps, starting to understand...?"

"I'm not sure -- I don't think I can *take* that, Lex --"

"Oh, you can. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that you *will*," Lex says, and pushes hard, making Tim clench and try to bring his legs together -- "*Don't* do that."

"Lex, please --"

"If you don't fight, you won't tear. Neither of us wants you to tear, so... be reasonable," he says, smiling and *pushing* --

God --

"*Relax* --"

"*Lex* --"

"A little more than thirteen years ago, I asked you to think carefully about whether you wanted to be involved with me. I gave you quite some time to do it."

"I know. I -- I'm sorry, Lex, please -- God, I *can't* --"

"You want this. You're so wet you've already left a stain on my duvet. You're flushed and sweating. And a moment ago you were begging me to fuck you."

"Not. Not like." Tim shakes his head and lets out the groan --

"Oh, Tom. It really is impressive that you can make that sound *without* relaxing even a little. What shall I offer to make you give this to me?"

"There's. There's such a thing as the *impossible*, Lex --"

"You know better than that," he says, and he sounds almost *disappointed* --

But it's Lex, and nothing is impossible. He did know that. He -- he breathes, tensing for Lex ordering him not to, ordering him to keep losing his *control*, but --

"Yes. Like that --"

"*Ah* --" And Tim knows that was just the tapered end, that it might not have even been *all* of the tapered end. But -- *in*, and it burns, and he can feel his body --

He can feel *this* body trying to reject, trying to force him to clench more --

He *breathes*, and Lex doesn't stop pushing even for a moment. He's *holding* the pressure, and every exhale means the thing is deeper inside him, stretching him *more* --

"Lovely. After this, I'm -- finally -- going to lick you. Though I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep it up before I'll want other things."

Other things, and -- a part of him is *already* trained, rising sharp and *hopeful* for the fuck --

The fuck he's *getting*, because Lex is rocking the thing back and forth, relieving him and *torturing* --

"Lex, please, *please* --"

"Keep. Breathing."

Tim gasps and nods, and doesn't think about safewords or the lack of same, the *risk* of this, and how he should've always known something like this was coming. A friendly, long-distance relationship with months between encounters with someone like *Lex*.

Someone who had asked, demanded, *built* a place for Tim in his life, for Tom --

Tim groans again and feels the thing slipping deeper, past the resistance and to the point where it can *keep* sliding -- "Oh, *God* --"

"Focus. On being full. On being *taken* where I can see you, where I can have you... mm. It really was *long* past time for you to know what it means to belong to me."

Belong -- he belongs to Bruce and to the Mission, and if sometimes he can't remember which of those comes first, then that's only natural. It's a strange, *wild* life, and he doesn't *need* it to be any wilder, he --

This is supposed to be a safe place for him, a safe --

He hasn't *believed* in safety for a very long time, but still. He's *himself* here, no longer a ghost in his own machine. He's alive and has desires, affections, a sense of place --

"You're fighting again. It's *possible* that I shouldn't find that so attractive, that I am, in fact, shooting myself in the *cock*, but --" Lex *shoves* --

Tim screams and --

Tim *keeps* screaming, because there's something --

His whole body, starting with the center of him, starting --

All over, God, all *over* --

And it's the helpless, *tight* clench of his vagina and ass that lets him know that he's coming, that he *was* coming --

Oh, God, and it's still thrumming through him, making him shake and jerk --

And scream *again* when the plug is all the way in, when Lex kisses him hard, licking into Tim's mouth and twisting and pulling Tim's nipples.

Lex *hums* into his mouth, and Tim can *just* feel the head of Lex's penis brushing against his labia --

He can feel himself *speared*, stretched open around some unnatural *thing*, and now he's whimpering, begging with all of himself. He's *afraid* of what it will feel like when Lex pulls the plug out, but it has to come out, has to *free* him --

And the kiss just keeps on going, and gradually Tim realizes that Lex is stroking him, his arms and shoulders, his face --

Lex is trying to *soothe* him, and it would be laughable if he could imagine doing *anything* to jar the plug inside him. It --

Lex cups the back of Tim's head and *lifts* him into another kiss, and this one is slow, serious and less hard than it could be. It's a lot like the way they kiss when they're singularly failing to say goodbye to each other again, when Lex use lips and tongue to say everything he *can't* directly into Tim's mouth, and it makes Tim squeeze his eyes shut and whimper more, shift and struggle and try not to make the thing inside him --

Oh, God, the *stretch*, and knowing that he *would* be able to take it in his own body just makes it worse, makes it harder --

"It's all right, Tom. It's -- that was perfect. Far better than I could have imagined."

"*Lex*, I." Tim shakes his head and tries to -- he *sobs*, and Lex kisses him again, harder this time, fucking Tim's mouth with his tongue and squeezing Tim's shoulders hard before pulling back and licking his lips.

Tim doesn't know *what's* in his eyes right now, but he knows it can't be anything good, respectable --

"Please, Lex. It's. I think it's too much."

"I think you can take more. You're -- mm. *Resilient* in every possible way," and Lex's voice is soft, *admiring*.

Tim doesn't whimper again, but the gasps sound terrible, sound -- he's still *shaking* --

"Do you know what the hardest thing about this is, Tom? For me?"

"I -- tell me. Please."

Lex nods. "It's that you *do* know exactly what I could give you. You've *always* known, and you've still rejected me, held me at a distance for whenever you *choose* to give yourself to me, to share the scraps from your plate for your faithful, hungry *dog* --"

"Lex, you're my *friend*. You know -- you have to know --"

"Do I...? Perhaps what I feel is inevitable. I grew up needy, and you gave me a *taste* -- and then the world proved that a taste is all I'd ever have --"

"Did it ever occur to you that you maybe -- *maybe* -- completely fail at looking for companionship in anything like the appropriate places?"

Lex narrows his eyes. "Signs of recovery. Some things are too good to last," Lex says, pushing up onto his knees and looking down at Tim, again. "Tell me where *you've* looked, Tom. You left California, landed in Gotham, and pretty much immediately began fucking your charmingly child-like cousin --" Lex holds up a hand to forestall protest. "You let him share his *other* George with you, and the three of you had a fine time together in that drafty old pile crumbling genteelly on Gotham's edge. There were never any other lovers, never so much as a *sign* of you looking beyond incest --"

"Maybe I didn't have to. There's such a thing as *luck*, Lex. And Bruce --" Tim shakes his head and takes a breath -- and shudders for the stretch. "I. I've never defended my relationship with him to you and I'm not going to start now. I've loved him... I fell in love."

"Why can't you just be using him? Why can't you just *take* what you need and come to *me*?"

And that... some honesty burns too much. Tim closes his eyes -- but only for a moment. Lex's expression is angry, desperate, hurt and *lonely* -- "I've never wanted you to hurt --"

"That's not *good* enough --"

"*Lex*. The things I feel for you... the things we've never said --"

"*Don't* say them. I --" Lex sucks in a breath and clenches his jaw, his fists --

And deliberately relaxes his whole body while Tim watches, leaving a desperately attractive man with an arousal that seems to *clash* with the rest of him. And -- "I'm not using you, either. Save to the extent that we use each other to get... something like what we need."

"'Something like.'" Lex laughs softly and traces Tim's features, pausing with his fingertips on Tim's mouth. "My beautiful woman --"

"*Lex* --"

"*Everything* I want... and still can't have. I've changed my mind. I'm going to spank you again."

Tim feels something *seize* -- that's fear. "Lex. The plug --"

"Will make it better. And worse."

"Are you punishing me for not *loving* you enough?"

"*Don't* --" Lex takes another sharp breath and shakes his head. "Don't think of it that way --"

"How *should* I think about it, Lex? You -- the distance between us has, if anything, given us an *incredible* sex life --"

"It has always been far too good with you. Far too *much* -- and we're going to push that, Tom. We're going to see just how far we *can* take it."

Do I have a choice? And why, exactly, can't he ask that question aloud? Is he honestly afraid that Lex would say no and he'd have to fight? He couldn't break the headboard no matter how hard he pulled at it -- that sort of thing is *Bruce's* demesne. But -- there's just enough slack for his left wrist that, if he were to dislocate his thumb, he could get free and -- hurt Lex.

Hurt him more. And --

"Lex. Just -- we can make *love*. You can enjoy this body, teach *me* to enjoy it until I feel like *killing* myself --"

"That's what we're doing. Bend your knees back to your chest."

"Lex --"

"Please, Tom. Don't fight me for this. Don't -- let me have this. *All* of it. We. We both know you're not going to stay."

That. *That* -- and Tim realizes that he'd been tensed by the way it feels when he slumps. He closes his eyes. "I don't want to be hurt that way. For that *reason*."

"You want to be hurt because I can't help myself, because it's just another way for you to know you *control* me --"

"*No*. I -- dammit, Lex, it *is* about control, but it's the way we lose it together, the way we can give ourselves leave to do anything, be anything, the way you touch me because you *want* me, and know that I want you just --"

Hand on his throat, and there's something paradoxically soothing about the way his hips buck for it the *moment* Lex tightens his grip enough that Tim can't breathe.

Fine. *Let* Lex have this, too, let him know what Bruce gives him, what it feels like --

"My God, you're actually -- I didn't think you were joking, but I had no idea... Tom, that's fucking *dangerous*."

Tim opens his eyes and raises an eyebrow --

Lex waves his free hand, taking in the room, the tableau they're making -- "This is kid stuff. The worst that would happen -- *could* happen -- is that you'd have a few faintly bloody trips to the *toilet*. But *this*? Are you *insane*?"

Tim pushes against Lex's hand, letting his eyes narrow and his legs fan apart --

"Jesus. Jesus *fucking* Christ, I --" Lex *yanks* his hand back --

"Lex --"

"*No*. I could hurt you. I could *kill* you like that --"

"You *might* make me lose consciousness --"

"You *might* not start breathing again after I let go and slip into a damned coma. Just -- *brain* damage, Tom! Did Bruce introduce you to this? Do you let him -- those fucking *hands* of his --"

"Bruce didn't show me. But Bruce does do this for me, yes."

Lex snarls. "You know *better* than this, Tom. You -- risking your fucking *life* all the time for --" Lex stops himself and shakes his head. "Are you some kind of idiot adrenaline junkie? Do you get *off* on treating yourself like this?"

"*You're* the one who wants to hurt me --"

"I'm the one who wants to make you come so hard you don't *leave*, damn you," and Lex moves off the bed and starts to pace, cutting sharp tracks around the room and gritting his teeth, growling and tense and --

Somewhat less aroused than he had been. Tim tries to sit up -- "*Fuck* --"

"Don't *do* that. Until I tell you to. I --" Lex stops and covers his face with one hand, tapping his foot and humming in the way that almost always means that he's either incredibly pleased or thinking about eviscerating someone.

Tim knows where he's placing his money. He takes a breath and settles -- carefully -- back onto his back. "Obviously, we don't have to do it."

"You're fucking right we don't have to. I can't believe you -- and *Bruce*," Lex says, and starts to pace again. "You were doing this in *school*, weren't you?"

"Sometimes, yes. It tends to make me come hard enough to black out."

"Who the hell *taught* you to -- tell me. I promise I won't kill him. I might make sure he never has another job, but --"

"Lex. I taught *myself*. I like the sensation. I like the rush. It -- makes me feel warm."

"Warm. *Warm* --" Lex stalks back to the bed and glares down at Tim.

Tim looks back with his eyebrow up.

"The things you do to yourself. To your beautiful body -- scars aren't a goddamned badge of *honor*. They're what happens when you make a *mistake*. They're -- they're fucking proofs of *failure* --"

"And survival," Tim says, and lets his gaze fall on the pale white stripe across Lex's left pectoral --

Lex covers it and growls. "It's *obscene* that you still have all of your scars --"

"I'm sorry I'm not fucking *perfect* for you --"

"You don't have to be -- you never have to be -- fuck, fuck, *fuck* --"

"Lex --"

And Lex is back on the bed, over him, pressing him down and holding him there, knees nudged up against Tim's thighs and pushing them wider apart, hands on Tim's shoulders -- "You won't take the perfect life from me because you don't want it. You want to live in the dirt and the muck, the fucking pain and *fear* --"

"I live in Wayne *Manor*, you asshole, not a goddamned alley --"

And Lex -- his eyes widen almost comically and he jerks back, sitting on his heels -- and then he blanks his features. "I'm sorry. I -- lost control in a way neither of us enjoy."

There's something there. It's -- Tim's not sure what it is, at all, but it's something, and it may or may not have anything to do with the *fascinating* job they're doing at renegotiating their relationship. "Lex...?"

"It's nothing. It's --" Lex shakes his head and smiles. "All right, it's not nothing. But it *is* the same thing it always is -- you deserve *better* than Bruce Wayne. The fact that he let you *go* this morning --"

"The fact that he's less fascinated by the idea of me being female does *not* mean there's anything wrong with him. Unless you *really* want to piss me off."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "Maybe I should. I never have. Not even when I took care of the problem of my father."

Tim winces. "Lex..."

"No, *let's* talk about this just a little. You never raged at all for that, did you? Never so much as *cursed* when you heard the news --"

"I was sad, not angry."

"That's so -- soft. So *tender*, but where *were* you? Traveling the world with Bruce --"

"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you. I -- I've thought about it often. What I could've done, or said --"

"But you know that's not good enough. That there's *nothing* you can do to make up --"

"For not needing you enough?"

Lex smiles, sharp, harsh, and just possibly cutting himself to ribbons on it. "That's a better word, at least," Lex says, reaching down to *grip* Tim's face. "I don't blame you for my father. I'm not that much of an asshole."

"I know, Lex."

"Let me spank you again. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by what the plug does for the sensations."

"I. Sometimes I just want to wrap my legs around you and beg you to fuck me."

"You *do* that -- and you'll do that again, today."

"I mean... when I'm not here. It's an ache. You... there are parts of me which belong only to you, Lex --"

"Don't --"

"You have to *know*. This isn't -- it's never been a game for me. Not even in the very beginning."

"Then let me do what I *want* --"

"Oh, I will. That was never -- really -- in question," Tim says, and works his wrists in the restraints. "It's just... sometimes I think you believe I'm lying when I'm really telling the truth. And -- somehow -- I've noticed that that happens most often when we're discussing my feelings for you."

Lex looks down and away, and he's backlit. It gives his skin a faintly rosy tinge and makes it utterly impossible to see his expression. Bruce does that sort of thing *habitually*, but... never with light.

"I think I'm just going to keep saying it, Lex. I think I *have* to --"

"You *don't* have to do anything, at all --"

"Other than beg and scream and come for you?"

"Not even that," Lex says, and strokes a line up Tim's inner thigh.

"I'll always need you. More than I can have you -- and before you protest that, I have *responsibilities*. And yes, I take pleasure from them, and yes, I love them -- but that doesn't make them stop being things I *need* to do --"

"Say yes to me."

"Lex --"

"Say. Yes to me."

("You can't always pick your battles, but when you can, you should.")

And how long has it been since he's had Batman's voice in his head? *He's* --

Not Batman. Not here. And Lex doesn't want this from him... yet. "Yes."

Lex smiles, soft and fond and pleased. "Say it again...?"

"Yes, Lex. I -- yes. Please."

"Knees up."

Tim does it, and the *shift* inside makes him groan, makes him *need*, because the plug *can't* just slip out of him, but it can still *try* -- and make it feel like *everything* inside him is moving --

And knowing that the spank was coming does nothing against the need to clench --

And shout --

And gasp for the next spank, and the one after that, and -- *would* this be better if he were over Lex's knees, kicking like a child and rubbing against Lex's thigh --

God, the image *shouldn't* make him groan, but --

"That's right. That's just right --"

"*Lex* --"

"You can call my name as much as you wish. I *never* get tired of it."

"Lex, please, my -- oh God, I can't stop clenching --"

"Is that a complaint? Perhaps I should get you a bigger toy --"

"*No* -- no, please, Lex, please -- oh *fuck*, that burn --"

"Inside or out? And beg me again --"

"*Both*, I -- please, *please* --"

"Please what?"

Tim bangs his head against the pillow and tries not to cry out for the way the spanks are making him want to writhe, want to *move* despite the *thing* inside him --

"*Answer* --"

"Fuck me, fuck me, please *fuck* me --"

"Oh, it's such a pleasure to say no to you. *Spread*."

Tim moans and does it, knowing -- "Oh, *God* --"

Not another spank, but *in*, and Lex is fucking him almost hard enough, *giving* him almost enough, but he knows it won't *last* --

"Please, please don't stop --"

"Not good enough," Lex says, pulling out and spanking his mound, his lips -- and the wet sounds are terrible, *hot*, reminding him that penetration is possible without pain, without feeling overstuffed and *helpless* --

"*Please* fuck me, Lex, God, I -- what do you *want* --"

"*More*. You should know that by now," and Lex starts focusing on Tim's ass again.

The plug is torture, stretch -- impossible to ignore for even a *moment*. Tim's trying to relax, but this body insists that it can't be done, that he *has* to clench, writhe, cry *out* --

Lex's name, over and over, because that's what he wants to hear, *needs* to hear, and isn't it always better to know he *can* give Lex what he needs? That he can be *good* just by being honest, just by *giving* --

Pain and hunger --

Fullness and emptiness at *once* --

And the sounds he's making are almost wails, animal and high --

"You don't *sound* like yourself --"

"What? I -- Lex, please, I *can't* --"

Lex growls and shoves *in* again, twisting and moving his fingers, *fucking* --

And Tim feels himself arching back, calling out again, trying to *convince*, to do everything he can to make Lex need to keep going, to take --

He promised he *wouldn't* stop when Tim needed --

"I *need* you, Lex, I need you not to -- not to stop --"

"You don't need it *enough*, but that's all right. I *can* be a little merciful. You have sixty seconds to come."

"I -- *what*? *Hnn* --"

Lex spanks with his other hand, alternating the rhythm with the fuck, forcing --

The plug is moving in him, and that means he *can't* focus on just the way Lex is fucking him, pushing in -- oh, God, Lex has to be able to *feel* the plug from inside his vagina, has to -- "*Please*, Lex --"

"You should beg like that in your real --" Lex growls and fucks Tim *harder*, and --

God, it's what he needs, what he *wants*, even with the plug inside him, even with the stretch that might make him *cry* --

He's sobbing with it, desperate, and he can't keep track of how much time has passed, can't do anything but *feel* this, everything at once, and he wants to be choked, wants Lex's *penis* inside him --

Please, just -- something that makes *sense*, something that can explain the terrible and perfect intensity, the way it almost feels like he's floating away from his body, this body, pushed on waves of --

It's pleasure, whether or not he wants to admit it. It's the sting and stretch and *fuck*, the drumbeat inside him and Lex, Lex *controlling* everything so he doesn't have to, doesn't have to *think* --

And Tim knows that he's begging again, that he's crying out and needing --

"Ten seconds."

Oh --

Oh, God, no, he needs --

Only -- he's still floating, still getting *higher* on this, on all the sensations *and* on the fear of what will happen if he *doesn't* come on time. What would he say?

What would Lex *do*?

And the thought makes him clench too hard, makes him sob and yank at the silk ties, and something --

A throb, and then another, and then it's too fast to count, too *much*, because it's his whole body, his --

Oh, *please* --

He's screaming again, shuddering and trying to buck, clenching and struggling and --

And nothing, because the orgasm is the best, the worst, the most perfect -- and it just keeps *going*, rolling through him until he's tensed all over, whimpering for the feel of the plug, Lex's fingers --

And Lex thrusts in *hard*, *shoving* another scream out of him and making him shake until he finally collapses, feet planted and knees fanned out because he *can't* get into any other position.

"Now," Lex says, and --

"Oh, *fuck*, you -- your *mouth* --"

Lex *hums*, right against Tim's clit as he sucks --

As he sucks *hard*, and it's too soon after his orgasm, but this body doesn't seem to realize that or *care*, because --

Oh, *God* --

Tim scrabbles with his feet, tries to arch, push against those soft lips, feel Lex's *mouth* --

Lex pulls back. "Did I say you could do that?"

"Oh -- I'm sorry, Lex, I -- please --"

"It's fascinating how much you taste like yourself. The flavor is perhaps a little broader, somewhat less... hm. *Thick*. I won't say it's more reminiscent of the sea -- it *isn't* -- but I can see how a less imaginative individual could be tempted to make that comparison."

And what is he supposed to say to that? Hm. "Would you like... you could tie my ankles."

Lex narrows his eyes and cups Tim's knees. "Feeling generous...?"

"Ah... perhaps? I might just be trying to limit how much damage I can do to my chances of having you inside me."

"There you are," Lex says, and again his smile is soft, almost... loving.

"I never *left* --"

"Save, perhaps, in that way where you left your body, entirely."

False modesty has never, ever been one of Lex's failings. "I'm not sure how I feel about coming on command."

"You do it with me fairly often, Tom --"

"When you're inside me. And one of us is touching my *penis*."

Lex hums and swipes two fingers just to the side of Tim's clit before painting a pattern of swirls on Tim's abdomen and between his breasts. "There is that. All right -- I won't make you come on command again until I'm fucking you."

"Ah -- thank you. And the plug?"

"Stays in, I think. It seems to do such wonders."

Tim feels himself flushing -- "I think it's more accurate to say that I'm coming *despite* the plug --"

"Really, Tom...? Be honest."

The stretch, the sense of being overfull, the discomfort... that makes Tim hot all over. He can ignore it at the moment -- he's back down to a slow, rhythmic *throb* -- but... "I -- all right."

"Do you remember how long you made me wait to fuck you for the first time?"

"We were in *school*, Lex," Tim says, and shifts a little to ease an old strain in his back. "I barely -- I *didn't* let Bruce fuck me, either."

"But you went home to the manor over break and he *had* you, then. Did you let Harvey fuck you, too?"

Let. It hadn't seemed *like* a 'let' as opposed to an *imperative*. Bruce's need had been so -- "That's -- why are we talking about this, exactly?"

"Meaning yes, you did. I just think we need to put this into context. Your desires and my own, my *patience* versus your own."

Tim closes his eyes. He'd *gone* to Metropolis... for the second half of the break. "I'm sorry, Lex. It wasn't meant as a slight, and I *don't* regret not letting us get into something that *involved* at school --"

"Then you're not sorry, at all."

Tim grips the ties and uses them to help him sit up straight, gritting his teeth against the feel of the plug. "I *am* sorry for denying you something you wanted from me. Something I *could* have given -- if all other things had been equal."

Lex narrows his eyes again and crawls closer, slipping one hand down and back until he's *pushing* on the plug --

"God, *Lex* --"

"You think far too many things are set in stone. You -- you have always needed a large helping of *possibility* --"

"Some things *are* set in stone, Lex --"

"Your responsibilities. Your work. Your -- love. Well, what about this, Tom?" And Lex starts *working* the plug inside him, thrusting --

"Oh -- oh, God --"

"What about how much you need this? Need *me*, and the things I can do for you? *To* you."

"*You're* set in stone, Lex. I -- I told Bruce years ago --"

Lex -- stops. "You told Bruce *what*."

"That I needed you. That he'd have to accept that. That I would go to you and be with you -- I." Tim pants and tries to stop clenching against the *fear* of Lex fucking him with the plug again --


"That I would make love to you, that I cared about you, *needed* you --"

"He tried to keep me away from you."

"*No* -- yes. He --" Tim shakes his head and lets himself slide back down again, whimpering --

"That *wasn't* an answer --"

"He didn't -- he's never understood what I felt for you, how I could be with someone like you. He -- sometimes he would push Harvey at me as an -- alternative," Tim says, and when he opens his eyes again, Lex looks incredulous and angry at once --

"Harvey. Instead of *me*."

Yes, well, Lex has a *point* -- but so had Bruce. Tim gives himself a moment to get his breathing back under control, to -- "*Lex* --"

Lex is fucking him again with the plug, hard and steady and -- not fast. Fast would be easier to deal with, would keep him from feeling *every* individual sensation --

"Lex, I -- please don't, please --"

"You need it for every moment you so much as *considered* replacing me --"

"I never *did* consider -- oh, God, Lex, God, please, *please* --"

"Then why the *hell* did you have sex with *Harvey* --"

"Bruce wanted it. Bruce -- I love him, Lex, I'd do anything --"

"And if I presented some random male to you and demanded that you spread for him --"

"Nnh -- it wasn't *like* that. Harvey -- my friend, he was my friend, *is* my friend --"

"But that wasn't why you had *sex* with him. I --" Lex growls and fucks Tim *hard* --

"*Lex* --"

"You give him too *much* --"

"Please, Lex, I can't -- hurts --"

"*Like* the pain," Lex says. "Think of *Harvey*. Think of Bruce's fucking hand around your *throat* --"

"*You*, Lex, I'm here with --" And the rest of that is a scream, and another, and Tim wonders if it would be better if this body *couldn't* take it, if he could feel himself tearing as opposed to stretching, *aching* --

"I should bring Mercy in here and make you go *down* on her --"

That -- "I'd *leave* --"

Lex growls again and -- stops.

But Tim can't stop clenching again, can't -- he can keep himself from whimpering, but the moans won't stop, one after another as he shakes his head, as Lex --

He can *feel* Lex staring at him, and maybe --

Definitely he shouldn't have been quite that honest, but it always feels so right, always --

"Things -- I can say. I can be..." Tim moans again and shudders all over. He just doesn't seem to be getting *used* to the plug, and knowing how long it had taken to stretch his ass the first time, to make himself ready for something he knew in his heart he'd never have --

It does *nothing* against the *years* he'd spent having anal sex *comfortably*, uncomplicated and *pleasurably* --

"Lex," Tim says, opening his eyes and -- his lashes are wet. Tim blinks and growls --

"You. How many times. With Harvey."

"I never counted."

Lex squeezes his eyes shut and grits his teeth. "I don't *believe* you --"

"I never *counted* --"

"Not *that*, you -- you --" Lex punches the bed between Tim's legs. "Was it payment? You sleep with Harvey and Bruce shuts up about me?"

"I." Tim shakes his head. "Would that honestly make it *better* for you? Jesus fucking *Christ*, Lex, I don't get on you about all the women you fuck --"

"I *don't* -- fuck them just because someone else *wants* me to."

"It was good with Harvey, Lex. *Every* time. And we were *both* doing it for Bruce, because we loved him and we knew it made him happy. And that was the most important thing."

"What kind of fucking *hold* -- you're a grown *man* now. You could *take* the company for yourself and the only one who would even say a word about it is Lucius fucking *Fox* -- and *not* his son. You could do whatever you *wanted* --"

"I *am* doing what I want. Every day I'm with you and every day I'm not. You can't *change* me, Lex. You can't make me into you, and." Tim takes a breath and clenches his hands into fists. "You wouldn't want me if you could."

"I *know* that. I -- God fucking *dammit*. Don't you think I know that? Don't you think I've *realized* that?" And Lex is panting, staring -- *glaring*.

He's as hard as Tim has ever seen him, and there's a vein standing out on his forehead, and --

And the fact that this *wouldn't* be any easier if they were sparring just makes it hurt more, makes it ache and makes him need -- 

"Lex. *Be* with me. Leave all the rest of this aside, because it's just getting in the way. Fuck me, take me -- hurt me if it turns you on, but the past is the *past*. Have I ever made you relive something you didn't want to? Have I ever blamed you --"

"*Yes* --" Lex stops himself and laughs, shaking his head. "But I can't blame *you* for that. My lighter half. My hopeful dreamer. My -- does he make you feel clean, Tom? Young? *Good*?"

"*You* -- make me feel young. In ways I can't explain. I --" Tim thinks about sitting up again, but -- his ass is a little too strident on that subject at the moment. "He makes me feel loved, Lex. In a different way... in a different way than you do."

And he's expecting Lex to protest that, to say something cruel or just *rageful* -- but he doesn't. He just looks at Tim, staring into his eyes and waiting, or...

Tim doesn't know, but it's *different*. There's something quiet about that for all the *roil* of feelings Tim knows is just beneath the surface. You make me two people, he doesn't say, because it's not true. "You -- you let me be someone I can't be, most of the time."


"Yes, but -- a lot more than that, as well --"

"He loves you better than I do," Lex says, quiet and -- *final*.

"*No*, Lex. I don't make value judgments like that. I *can't* make them. It's just different, and when it's combined with my --"

"With your responsibilities. In Gotham," and Lex nods. "Stop there. Just -- stop. I." Lex closes his eyes for a long moment and then moves to the head of the bed to untie Tim's wrists.


"You don't know -- you don't know what it means that you sound honestly regretful for this. But it means quite a lot," Lex says, and kisses Tim's palm, soft and wet, before moving to the other side.

"Lex, don't -- I don't want you to stop --"

"Because you need me. I know. But I can't do -- this," and when the other wrist is free, he kisses *that* palm.

"I -- is it that you need me to beg again --"

"*No*. Not that. Not that, either," Lex says, pulling Tim up onto his knees, into a straddle of Lex's long, lean thighs --

"Lex --"

The kiss is soft, but not especially *easy*. Tim has to reach for it, almost *push* for it --

And he whimpers when Lex cups his ass, because he can feel every callus on Lex's hand, because his ass feels *hot*, used in all the wrong ways --

"It's all right," Lex says. "It's -- I want this, too," and his voice is low and rough, *harsh* -- if only on himself. And --

It feels like cheating to wrap his arms around Lex's neck and press close. Lex's chest is smooth and warm against his nipples, Lex's hands are *gentle*, and it's even more wrong to moan like this and take more. It's not for Tim, *this* isn't for Tim --

Lex sucks Tim's lower lip and shivers, slips his fingers into Tim's cleft and *strokes* --

"*Lex* --"

"But this is hard for you. It shouldn't be. It -- this is what it's like with Bruce, isn't it? This is what you have every *day* --"

"Y-yes, but --"

"But not with me." Lex's eyes narrow in a smile that seems to *hurt*, but he only kisses Tim again, kisses --

Kisses Tom?

Is that who he is, right now? Who he's supposed to be?

Tim moans and clutches Lex too hard, shuddering and *whimpering* into the kiss, shaking his head helplessly --

"Is this what you want?"

"I don't -- I don't know. It feels like -- I can't --"

"Is it only all right if I'm pushing you? If I'm hurting you and *working* you --" Lex moans and kisses Tim again, harder this time, and a part of Tim relaxes for it because he *has* to, because it's Lex and it should always hurt, always be a little *wrong* --

Except that it *still* manages to be gentle, and Lex is cupping the back of Tim's head with his other hand even as he strokes, *eases* --

He pushes on the plug just enough to make it stop *pulling* inside Tim, and that --

Tim gasps and shudders again, pushes closer because he has to, and Lex's penis is hot and hard against Tim's abdomen, slick and so tempting, so -- "Let me. Let me suck you, or --"

"Abase yourself a bit?" Lex licks his lips. "I was going to touch you this way after I'd finished with you. After I'd *taken* you, and while you were still shivering and making those wonderful, awful sobbing sounds --"

"Lex, I --"

"You wouldn't have been able to think. You wouldn't -- you'd have barely been able to *see*, and so it wouldn't matter how I touched you. It wouldn't *count*."

"We can -- we can still do it that way, Lex. This doesn't have to --"

"Mean anything? But it *does* have to. It -- Tom, you make me feel so *fucking* much. And then you're not here to deal with it, to deal with *me*. And when you *are* here -- we fuck until we're too sore to keep doing it and then you *leave* again, leave me with --" Lex groans and kisses Tim again, and this time it's like one of their usual kisses, aggressive and sharp, hard enough that their teeth bump and scrape against each other --

Tim lets himself be as hungry as he wants to be for it, lets himself push and rub against Lex like the needy animal he is --

And Lex slows it down, eases it *back* until Tim is whimpering again, until he wants --

He doesn't know *what* he wants, but a part of him is in the Cave showers with Bruce --

A part of him is with Bruce in their bedroom, held close and loved so much, so endlessly --

"Tom," Lex says, and it's the same tone Bruce uses, the same breathy sense of being more than what he is, more than he ever could be --

"God, *no*, Lex --"

"The wrong body. I see that, now. I -- that doesn't mean I won't fuck you, though. You shouldn't worry. I'll do it just as hard as you want --"

"That's not -- that's not it --"

"Tom," he says again, and it's like being inside a bell in the process of being struck, it's like being *home*. The right name --

The *wrong* name, and all the wrong feelings, because he can't resist this, can't imagine ever --

"I'll give you what you need," Lex says -- *vows*, and Tim is shaking when Lex lays him down on the bed, clenching and groaning --

Groaning into Lex's mouth as those hands stroke him all over. The right hands, the wrong body --

The *wrong* hands, and everything is too much, too *easy* as Lex pulls back again, as he smiles and caresses --

"Lex, *please* --"

"I -- I can't seem to make myself say it, yet. But I will," he says, and it's enough of a threat to make Tim clench, fear, feel himself in the *right* place --

"Oh, God, I -- do it, Lex, please do it hard --"

"I'll say it to you with -- with all of myself. And *only* to you," and Lex moves down and spreads Tim's legs again -- "And you'll still leave me. But you'll *remember*."

Tim wants to shake his head -- he wants to *stop* shaking, stop arching up --

Lex moves to the side of the bed, and a part of Tim is hoping for a riding crop, a gag, a collar, *something* --  but it's only a condom.

"Please, Lex. Please don't."

Lex pauses with the condom in his hand, but he doesn't look at Tim. He's tense to the point of shuddering and Tim can feel -- too much *hurt*.

He sits up, wincing and clenching --

"Tom --"

"I don't. I want *you*, Lex. Not -- not what you think I need from you --"

"And if this is me?" Soft voice, mild -- he's backlit again, and --

And Tim can't help thinking of all those times in the beginning, when Lex would periodically be taken by a sense of wonder and pleased surprise so strong that it would almost be a *scent* in the air, a taste on the back of Tim's tongue --

Lex had always ruthlessly suppressed those moments, pushing away from Tim and getting dressed, not looking at Tim as Tim slipped out of his bed -- and then they would be casual with each other, friendly and light. And.

Tim had taken it for granted that he'd just cut that out of himself, that he'd gotten used to the idea of sex with someone who cared about him and... dealt with it the same way he dealt with other messy things, other *difficult* things --

"Tom. You -- I need you to answer me."

And not even the hardness in Lex's voice is enough to take away *from* the need, honest and bone-deep. He has to -- cope. "If it is you... then I've been working from some inaccurate data."

Lex's smile shifts the light-fuzzed outline of his face. "I tend to bring Mercy with me when it's time to deal with someone who has presented me with inaccurate data."

"I... bring Bruce. He looms extremely effectively."

"Yes, well, he --"

"Had to be good for something, yes, I know. Lex... I need to know if this is what you truly want with me, or if... if it's just another way for you to try to break me."

"I never wanted to *break* you, Tom --"

"Fine, strike that," Tim says, and waves a hand. "You wanted to open me up and see exactly how I worked, so you could see if you could make a few adjustments. I won't say that people don't work that way -- you've managed to *surround* yourself with people who *do* -- but *I* don't work that way."

"You've always been... unique."

And why can't that sound more like an insult? That would *help*, but -- "I'm *not*, Lex. There's -- God, a whole world out there full of people --"

"Good, wonderful, innocent people --I *still* haven't forgotten. I -- I've built my *life* on that assumption --"

"It's not a damned *assumption*, Lex -- I. No, I'm sorry, we're not having that argument now, and I don't doubt... you've always been so good," Tim says, and covers his face with his hand just for a moment --

Lex tugs it away, and twines Tim's fingers with his own. "Be with me. *This* way. Everything... it's still an experiment, Tom. It never has to happen again. *None* of this has to happen again --"

"And if I want it to?"

Lex -- is still fucking *backlit*, but he squeezes Tim's hand painfully hard. "You. Shouldn't say things like that unless you already know you mean them."

"A part of me lives to be on my hands and knees for you, Lex. That's -- I came to terms with that a long time ago --"

"Tom --"

"This *body*... is making a terrible difference. I think I probably would've coped with this a lot better if you were spanking my *penis*... but that's really not the point. I've enjoyed this. I've -- it was the kind of challenging that *works* for me, with you -- and only with you. As for the rest... I'm willing to try. I just don't want you to snatch it away again. I *can* take whatever you give me, but I don't want to play the game where I have to guess which Lex I'm going to get," Tim says, taking a breath and realizing that he means it, even if he is doing the psychological equivalent of getting peas in his mashed potatoes. Tim laughs to himself, *at* himself --


"This -- this is a *mess*, Lex. And -- stop using the light from the window to play games with me. Please."

Lex grunts and shifts. "Reflex. I'm sorry," he says, and he looks...

There are the lines at the corners of his eyes and mouth, the ruthlessly *set* definition of his body, but he looks young, just the same, and -- "I suppose we could pretend to be teenagers, again."

Lex -- makes a face.

"I meant *without* the attendant trauma, drama, and dorm mothers. Though Mercy might appreciate changing her look from power suits to cardigans and argyle socks."

"I'm going to need to do something about this erection relatively soon, Tom, but I was hoping to avoid the 'having it retract into my body' option."

Tim smiles. "Sorry. Ish. But... what's it going to be, Lex? I didn't come here expecting to redefine our relationship, but, as you've said, I'm not calling the shots, today."

"Aren't you?"

"*Lex* --"

"All right. All right. I want -- more. You know that. There's nothing I can *do* about you knowing that because, once again, you've stripped me of a great deal of hard-won control. I'm not sure if I can *take* more from you, but I'm willing to try, because the alternative is continuing to let things... fester. Unattractively."

Tim nods. "So we experiment," he says, and tugs on Lex's hand. "And you stop trying to hide from me. And I stop -- stop resisting just because you're reminding me of the other life I tend to wear."

"Your... other life. Yes, there *is* that," Lex says, and his smile becomes tight and hard. "There's none of that here. There's only *me*. And everything I can give you."

Which is... everything. Almost. The image in Tim's mind is himself, backed against a closet groaning with capes and cowls. He locks it -- and leaves the key right where it is. He'll need it later. "Kiss me again. The way -- *exactly* the way you want to."


"*Live* with it. Or, I don't know, *punish* me for it --"

And the kiss is wonderfully full-bodied -- or just a deeply affectionate tackle. He's bent back to the bed with his toes touching his own ass, and Lex doesn't seem remotely inclined to let him move into a less uncomfortable position, which --

Lex. Lex all *over*, and Tim doesn't bother to do a thing about his smile, even though it's making the kiss incredibly messy. Especially since it makes Lex growl and *thrust* against him, the shaft of his penis pushing between Tim's lips and sliding --

Moving --

*Grinding*, and it doesn't matter that he's come twice, that he still has a huge *thing* up his ass, or even that it's not *his* ass. It's *Lex*, and that means it's time to be as wild and hungry as he wants to be, time to claw and clutch and *grab*, dig his short nails into the meat of Lex's ass and bite --

"*Mine*," Lex says, and laughing just gets his throat bitten, sucked hard and *marked* --

"*Lex* --"

"*Take* it," and he bites again, *gives* Tim a collar with his lips and teeth, traces it with his tongue and does it again --

And the stretch is getting uncomfortable, so he *bucks*, shoves and bites Lex's shoulder when it seems like it might work --

"*Fuck*, yes --"

"*Mine*," Tim says, and rolls them, noting his slight clumsiness with a deep resentment he's *not* going to let himself think about at the moment. It's enough to straddle Lex's thighs and grab his penis, stroke it and squeeze --

"Tom. *Tom* --"

"Where's the *condom*?"

Lex pulls it out from a fold in the sheets and opens it with the ease of practice Tim is *also* not going to think about. He watches Lex roll it on and licks his lips, wishes he'd taken just a moment to *suck* --

And then Lex is *lifting* him, grunting with the effort and moving him -- "*Ride* me, you controlling little bitch --"

"*Make* me -- oh, *fuck* yes --"

"Don't *wait*," and Lex lifts Tim again and *pulls* him back down onto his penis, and the feel --

The -- God, the plug, only suddenly it's a lot less *important*, because Lex is in deep, perfect, hard and *hot* --

"I said *ride* me," Lex says, pinching Tim's clit --

"Sorry -- fuck, Lex, it's so --"

"*Now* --"

Tim nods and does it, and he can hear himself moaning and cursing, but the feel --

Not even all the fingering had *prepared* him for this, for the thick and perfect *length* of Lex, and the way this body wants -- needs --

"*Lex* --"

"*Faster*," he says, pinching *harder*, and Tim has a moment to wonder if he *can* do this with anything resembling his usual grace. Just --

A struck bell, a beaten drum -- his cervix? G-spot? No, that wouldn't really work in this *position* -- but --

God, it feels like he's being fucked in *both* holes, and he knows that it's just because he's clenching rhythmically, but it's a difficult feeling to escape --

He doesn't *want* to escape it. He --

He lets himself drop, bracing himself on Lex's shoulders and *fucking* himself on Lex's penis, Lex's thick and wonderful cock --

"Open your eyes for me. *Look* at me --"

"*Lex*," and Tim does it, stares at Lex as he winces and snarls, as he smiles for what *must* be an extremely fuck-stupid expression on Tim's face. "You feel -- God, I --"

"You were *always* born to be -- to be *fucked*, Tom. I could see it on you, *taste* it on you --"

"*Please* --"

"If you want more, *take* it -- *hn* --"

An excellent idea, save for the fact that he'd have to stop clenching quite this much in order to *get* it -- or he could just ignore his body and --

And make himself *shout* for the friction, the *press* of the plug against Lex's penis --

For the way Lex is still gripping his hips, a threat to take *over* for all that he's nowhere near as strong as Bruce --

"Come *on*, Tom --"

More, then, and more, and Lex is panting, squeezing hard, banging his head back against the bed because it *is* just that good, just that *right*, and there's the moment he always feels with Lex sooner or later, the sense that *this* time he won't be able to walk away, to give this *up* --

"Don't. *Stop* --"

"Lex, I need you, I need you so much --"

"You *do*, and it's -- fuck, it's *past* time you *realize* that. The *second* you slow down I'm rolling you over and taking you from the back --"

"*Lex* --"

"*Hard*, you -- God, you *whore* --"

Tim snorts, gasps and clenches on *purpose* --

"*That* counts," and Lex pulls Tim *off* --

"God, please, *no* --"

"*Yes*," and it's a fight, another wrestling match, though Tim's body doesn't seem to be sure about its *goals* --

They move together, hump and push, clutch and *haul*. Lex bites Tim's throat while Tim squeezes his sac. Lex shoves Tim back and *grinds* against Tim's mound while Tim tries a leg-lock --

He succeeds and manages to get over Lex again, manages to get a kiss while Lex yanks on Tim's hair --

And Lex wins *handily* by grabbing the plug and *shoving* it in, making Tim tense and shout, *freeze* --

And then he's down on his stomach, and has just enough time to push up onto his knees before Lex *shoves* in, sliding in deep and making Tim almost *bark* with need --

"Like *that*. Didn't I promise you?"

"*Lex* --"

"Say *yes* --"

"*Yes*, Lex, you promised, please take me, fuck me --"

Lex growls and grabs the back of Tim's neck, pushing Tim down as he shoves in and *in* --

"Don't stop, please don't *stop* --"

"Too *slick*, I -- God, Tom --"

"Whose *fault* is that, you fucking pussy-tease?"

Lex laughs, cracked and a little *high* -- and *yanks* the plug out --

Tim screams and clenches, needing and *not* coming --

Lex curses and pulls *out* --

And *shoves* himself into Tim's ass, making Tim scream again, bang his fists on the bed and scream *more* until his voice cracks and there's only air --

And then there's no *air*, because Lex is fucking him without so much as a pause, without hesitation or *care* --

Tim gasps in a breath and feels himself tighten, loosen again -- he's not *ready* for Lex's penis, but he has it anyway, has to *take* it --

"*Tom*. Tom, so sweet, so perfect --"

"*Please* --"

"I will *not* stop right now, so don't bother asking. But you -- hn. You should feel *free* to scream my name --"

"*Lex* --"

"Good *boy* --"

And it's in *no* way revenge to slam back against Lex, but it feels good to do it, anyway, feels *right*, like the first time --

Fuck, the slap of Lex's sac against him, rhythmic and wet, hard and *tight*, so *fucking* tight --

This is going to kill him. This -- nothing that burns this much can possibly be *survivable*, especially when taken against how empty he feels vaginally, the swing of his breasts, the *ache* in his clit -- "Lex, please, God, *please* --"

"Do you like it?"

"I -- can't *tell* --"

Lex laughs again and keeps *thrusting* -- "I should be. More gentle. I should --"

"*Lex* --"

"I should show you how *good* I can be, but -- my God, Tom, you feel so *sweet* --"

"G-good. Fuck -- God, Lex, I don't -- I don't know if I can *come* this way --"

"Then I'll make you come some *other* way -- *after* --"

Tim hears himself making a choked noise, hears himself *gurgle* --

"So *tight* for me. I always forget -- but of course you're tighter now. *Hotter* --"

"Lex. Lex --"

"Tell me to touch your c -- your clit --"

"Were you. You were about to say *cock* --"

"*Sue* me," Lex says, and tightens his grip on the back of Tim's neck, hard enough to *hurt* --

"*Please* --"

"*Say* it."

"Touch my clit, touch -- fuck, make me come again, torture me, don't *stop* --"

"You *always* show such initiative when you're given -- *mm*. A little *push*," and Lex *stops*, holding himself inside Tim, forcing Tim to *feel* how big he is, how hard and hot and *impossible*.

Every clench makes Tim cry out, every throb makes him *whimper*, and Lex --

Is giving him a reach-around. There's no other way to describe it, no other way to *think* about it. Even the *way* he's touching Tim's clit -- holding it between two fingers and *jerking* --

"You. You miss my real *body* --"

"Shut *up*, Tom --"

"*No*. You're all -- God, you're all *talk* --"

"Are you *complaining*? Jesus, you bitch, shut up and *come* for me --"

Tim snorts and rocks back against Lex *carefully*, doing his best not to jar Lex's fingers, to take away from the sharp *pulses* of pleasure -- "Fuck me. Come on, don't make me just *feel* you -- oh, that *flex* --"

"You *should* just feel me -- God, I want you to feel me in your fucking *lungs* --"

"If you want me not to breathe -- *ow*, not -- not that hard on my clit, Lex --"

"Sorry. I -- not that. I *won't* give you that."

"All right. I -- but," and Tim keeps rocking, keeps *moving*, and the slow friction is making him sweat and gasp, making him *need* more. "I've almost stopped *hurting* again --"

"Keep. Keep that up and I do you so slowly you *cry* more --"

"God, Lex, *don't* -- oh. *Oh* --"

"This, then," and Lex isn't pinching, anymore. He's moving his finger against Tim's clit *fast*, practically *vibrating* --

"Nnh -- God, so many sex toys make more *sense*, now --"

Another laugh and Lex flexes inside him again, burns him and makes Tim *need* --

"*Please*, Lex, you promised, you --"

"*Come*, and I'll fuck you all you want, I'll -- please do it for me. *Please*."

Tim squeezes his eyes shut and nods, holding his breath for it, for the ache and burns and *thrumming* pleasure, and he knows that if he wasn't on his elbows he'd be *falling* right now --

"Hot. *Wrong*. You don't look like yourself, don't feel --"

"Me. It's *me*, Lex --"

"Yes, in this body I -- God, I *need* you, Tom, you have to understand --"

"I *do*, I --" Tim gasps in another breath and feels himself tighten around Lex, feels his clit seem to swell with all the need, all the *sensation*, and his vagina --

He's too empty, but Lex has *other* condoms, Lex could fuck him that way, again --

Lex could fuck his *mouth*, put Tim on his knees --

Put Tim over his lap and spank --

Lex --

And Tim is gasping again before he wants to, because something trips, seizes --

"Oh, God --"

"*Yes*, Tom, do it, *come* --"

Clenching around Lex and shouting, shaking and he needs the friction, needs the *fuck* --

And Lex moves his hand too soon and *gives* it to him, holding Tim's hips and slamming in, over and over. He's *forcing* Tim open, and there's no escape from the fact that the only slick, here, is his own, the only preparation what the plug had given him --

He's screaming again as the end of the orgasm rolls through him, but he can't stop his hips, can't keep Lex from doing this, doing *him*, and it's a fire burning up the length of his spine, it's sweat pattering onto his back and the smooth feel of Lex's mound against him again --

*Again* --

"*More*, Tom --"

"D-don't stop, don't -- you're so good, Lex, so much, so fucking *big* in me --"

And Lex's laughter is the same music it always is, Lex's ability to *see* the humor even when Tim is being honest and -- bald with it. It's nothing new for Lex to leave him unable to make love to *anyone* else for a day or two after an encounter, but it still *feels* that way.

A new body, but he's still back in their first time, bent over Lex's bureau and unable not to reach back --

He reaches back --

Screaming and clawing at Lex's moving hip --

He digs in with his fingers --

"*Lex*, *Lex*, mine, fuck -- *mine*, don't stop, give me everything --"

"I always *do* --"

"*Come* in me --"

Lex grunts and shudders, *pauses* --

"Don't *fight* it --"

"I want. Tom, I want --"

"There'll be other *chances*," Tim says, and God, he *knows* he's tempting fate, but he needs this now, needs Lex to lose it in him the way he always should, the way they *both* need --

"*Tom*," and Lex's voice is hurt, high and desperate --

"*Here*, Lex, here for you, always for you --"

And the rest comes out as pained and hungry *noise*, because Lex is fucking him again, arrhythmic and *rough*. He's close, and Tim knows that means he should stay as still as he can, that he should *let* Lex, but there's no way to stop himself from trying to catch the rhythm that isn't there, trying to *give* as much as take --

"Can't stop, Lex, can't --"

"Don't. God, Tom, I need you, give you -- give you *anything* --"

"I *know* --"

Lex growls and starts pulling Tim onto him, starts --

One *hard* pull, and Tim is sitting on Lex's lap again, bouncing on his penis while Lex licks and bites the back of Tim's neck, while he groans and shakes -- "It's good, Lex, it's -- I can't give this up, I *won't* --"

"*Tom* --" And Lex shudders, wrapping one arm around Tim's ribs and pulling Tim *back*. He's moving both of them with the shudder, with the *fuck* --

He's coming, and even if Tim couldn't feel the flex and twitch of his penis, he'd still have *that* moan of Lex's, so low and so good, so -- yes, *sweet*, and Tim pets Lex's arm, reaches down to pet his thighs --

Gets *clutched*, and focuses on the feel of Lex inside him, the perfection of pain and throbbing heat.

It won't last. It --

There. Lex is already evening out his breathing, wordlessly urging Tim to do the same. When they're breathing in time, Lex pulls out, and Tim allows himself a shudder --

"Lie down for me?"

Tim raises an eyebrow but does it, and Lex joins him after tossing the condom, resting on his side and laying his hand between Tim's breasts. There's a thoughtful expression on Lex's face, and, after a moment, he shifts until he has one leg over Tim's. Tim smiles. "Comfortable?"

"Working on it. I -- Bruce probably does this spontaneously."

"I'm not with Bruce at the moment."

"No, you're not," Lex says, and leans in to -- bite Tim's shoulder. Lightly. "I feel as though this is useless --"

"Lex --"

"As I'm only acclimating myself to a body you won't have for very long."

Tim smiles ruefully. "From your mouth... to some potentially benevolent being's ears."

"Mm. You'll be -- cured," Lex says. "Rest assured. Do you like this? Cuddling?"

"Often," Tim says, and rolls himself into a stretch, lifting one leg and then the other --

"Very attractive."

"I'm glad you appreciate it. Let's..." Tim turns on his side and cups Lex's face, stroking the edges of his frown. "If it doesn't feel natural, Lex --"

"I want -- I want this. With you," he says, and leans in to kiss Tim lightly -- warmly.

"Lex," Tim says, because he can, and kisses Lex back --

Lex growls and moves, rolling onto his back. "I feel -- overly needy. Uncomfortable."

"You're warm. Sleek and attractive. I like pressing my body against yours. I like being close to you."

"Who are you -- trying to convince," Lex says, frowning *darkly*.

"Touch me, Lex. Be -- hmm. Possessive."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "I'm frankly not sure how I could be *more* so without collaring you -- and I'd give you a very long leash."

"Mm. You could tug it during board meetings. Idly, of course. We wouldn't want the board to get the wrong idea."

Lex smiles, broad and *pleased* -- and shifts, pushing Tom over onto his back again and stroking, pressing and squeezing. "Would you?"

Tim smiles back. "I'd consider it. Those people *need* a little shaking up. We shouldn't have to make ourselves conservative to please them."

"Mm," and Lex cups Tim's breasts and squeezes them *hard* --

"Oh -- Lex..."

"Yes. It was necessary, at first. We wouldn't have wanted a vote of no-confidence, to lose control of our companies... mm," Lex says again, and touches Tim's face, his throat...

"We've both got our boards by the proverbial short hairs, at the moment."

"Hair. Would you grow yours for me, Tom? I liked the way you had it in school..."

And how many times had he been grateful that he'd been too busy to cut it before being sent back to the past? "Not longer?"

"Oh. Much longer -- but I could compromise," and Lex lifts Tim's head so he can push his hand through Tim's hair. "Your hair isn't very thick, but you keep it quite healthy --"

"I'm vain."

"But you never use a stylist. I -- notice these things," and Lex laughs ruefully and lets Tim rest his head on the pillow again. "I'd like to see it longer. Down your back, a little...?"

Dick... Dick had hated the cowl with his long hair, but his was much thicker. Unruly. "I'll... consider it."

"Really? I wouldn't -- I never thought to ask," and Lex sounds thoughtful again and looks -- worried.


"It occurs to me..." Lex frowns again and strokes Tim almost restlessly, squeezing Tim's shoulders and pressing him down against the bed -- "The fact that it would be impossible for you to give me a substantive answer to the question of just how *many* things I could've had from you if I'd asked for them doesn't mean I don't *want* that answer."

"Ah... understood. Obviously, I couldn't have really grown my hair, before --"

"You keep it so *short*. So -- does Bruce like it this way?"

"Ah -- he hasn't said either way. But I do know that he's considered... shaving. To be more like you."

Lex snorts. "I -- that's a *terrible* image and I think I want to spank you for it. But then -- I nearly always want to spank you. And... I could've had that."

"Yes. I would've balked, and you would've convinced me, and that would've been that."

"But no balk at all for your hair..." Lex shakes his head and sits back a little, enough that he can comfortably stroke Tim's abdomen, dip his finger in the navel, scratch gently at Tim's mound -- "A PA?"

"You want me pierced?"

"Answer the question."

"Yes, *sir* --"

"Don't do that," Lex says, frowning again. "Obey or don't. Don't tease."

Tim raises an eyebrow -- there's something there he'd like to consider more deeply at another time. "All right. I'd -- consider it. I'd have to do a great deal of research on the matter before making a decision. I'd want to know about relative safety, incidence of infection, loss of sensitivity, *gain* of sensitivity..." Tim waves a hand. "Et cetera."

"But you'd still consider doing it for me."

"Yes," Tim says. "I... I don't consider it to be a major question. You're my -- I care about you, and if it would make you happy..."

"And me? Is there anything you would... change?"

Tim smiles. "Sometimes I miss the eyeliner."

"Oh... now *that* would be a fascinating board meeting."

Tim snorts, and strokes Lex's thighs. "I'd attend if I had to fly from *Australia*."

"Yes, but would *you* wear eyeliner, too? Oh, the *rumors* that would fly..." And Lex's smile is almost beatific. He really does *enjoy* making people talk... the way *he* wants them to talk.

"I have to admit -- the rumors about the two of us have been more useful than not."

"Mm. I imagine they *do* take the pressure off you and Bruce to acquire steady female lovers," Lex says, cupping Tim's waist and lifting slightly before setting Tim down again.

"Lex -- how *much* do you like this body?"

"Would you consider keeping it --"

"No. Just -- no."

Lex's smile turns wry. "I had to ask. But... I find myself missing your male form rather more than I had expected to. It's just as infuriating as you might imagine."

Expected. How much time had he had to *form* expectations -- no, that's not really a question. Lex had had *enough* time to do so, and that's that. "I did notice that you seemed... conflicted."

"Your sore ass is excellent proof of that, I imagine."

Tim shivers. "That was... I really didn't think that was possible."

Lex strokes up to Tim's breasts again, rubbing Tim's nipples with his thumbs and pressing the breasts together...

"Did you want to fuck me there?"

"I want to fuck you everywhere I can, and in every possible way," Lex says, letting go of Tim's breasts to tap the bridge of his nose. "Learn that."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "I suppose we could --"

"Not... for a little while," Lex says, frowning and backing off. Off the *bed*.

Tim sits up on his elbows. "We could spend that 'little while' in bed together --"

"You're going to want to... we should go to the lab. I had an observation chamber built for the microbiology lab. I've been told that it makes the worker bees feel more like worker goldfish, but I really don't care."

Tim laughs. "Lex... there's no one like you."

Lex's smile is a little too *tight*, but it's there. "Come. I had Mercy order some clothes in your approximate size -- they should be waiting in the living room."

Cuddle time *very* much over. "As you wish," Tim says, standing and stretching a little more -- and taking a moment to really *feel* his ass. Which is... mm. "I need a shower --"

"No. Please. I'd like to be able to smell you for a little while longer."

"I'd rather not have your *employees* smell me --"

"The virility -- and excellent taste -- of the CEO is the sort of thing that keeps the stock riding high. Besides -- no one knows that you're *you*. And no one would believe it if they *did* know," Lex says, and rests his palm at the small of Tom's back. "Humor me."

And there was something a little frenetic in Lex's tone, but... he *can* be impatient. "All right, Lex," Tim says and heads toward the living room, small hairs rising a little at the thought of Mercy being there *waiting* --

In another world, Batman owes Mercy any number of mild to moderate injuries for the things she does. But he's not that Batman, and Mercy has, to his knowledge, only acted as an assassin *once*.

If he's not going to take the man who ordered the death to task for it, he can't do anything about the weapon, either. He copes, and dresses -- in a power suit. The shoulder pads are only a little distressing at this point in his life, and he has to admit that the thing is of very high quality. Lex had helped with the -- lovely -- brassiere and the stockings, and the shoes' heels aren't especially high.

Tim tries a walk around the room --

"So you *do* cross-dress for Bruce."

"From time to time," Tim says, and pushes a hand back through his hair, checking the fall of the skirt and making sure the slit doesn't show the tops of his stockings --

"Often *enough*," Lex says, and crosses his arms over his chest. "You should have makeup."

"I'm going for the fresh and natural look."

"You're getting a little old for that, darling."

Tim flips Lex off and takes a moment to hate himself for wondering if he should be getting regular spa treatments for those times when he *does* have to go undercover --

And Lex is smirking.

"Sit and *spin*, Lex --"

"Would you do it for me? I'd have clothes tailored specially for you, and -- all right, I'd like to hike a skirt -- or dress -- up and jerk you off."

And... why not? He's good at it, it doesn't make him feel especially challenged in terms of his masculinity -- not even with *Bruce*, who goes into full courtly mode even if Tim is only wearing a dress in the *Cave*. "Yes."

Lex -- clenches his fists. And nods. "Let me straighten your hair -- no hairspray for you, I take it?"

Tim shudders -- the eighties will be over *eventually*. "Fresh and *natural*."

"You'll be a sensation," Lex says, and adjusts Tim's hair until it's in two short wings over his forehead. "I..." Lex licks his lips, a brief flicker of pink. "You're beautiful."

"Thank you. Let's go."

Lex keeps his hand on the small of Tim's back as they move through the building, and he does, in fact, detour through the marketing offices. Making an Appearance -- and making his employees hop to impressively.

He's friendly but cool with them, and Tim has to admit that he tends to be much the same. *Bruce* is always warm, and he's reasonably sure that people believe it's *only* Bruce who knows the small details of their lives -- or that Tom has to study beforehand to know them.

It's a question of style, and the assumptions made tend to be useful ones. When there's a problem, it's *Tom* who handles it. When someone needs to be let go for whatever reason, it's Bruce. It all creates a useful sense of distance and mild fear, and -- hmm.

Is Lex presenting him as another Mercy? Are people wondering if they're going to have their legs broken --

No, Mercy doesn't go that far. Yet. And, perhaps, she never will. Tim keeps his smile small and ambiguous, and gradually starts feeling like a visiting head of state -- except that no, he's no one right now other than Lex's lover. Would Lex prefer it that way?

Tim is *reasonably* sure that Lex wouldn't, but there's also the question of what Lex *thinks* he would prefer -- or should prefer. And that makes him want to laugh at Lex, at both of them and their *issues*, but it also makes him want to hold Lex and make promises he can't keep, whether or not he'd be able to stay.

When they get to the lab -- and the observation area -- Lex is silent. From this height, the people in the lab *do* look a bit small -- but not really insectile, thankfully.

They're all in containment suits, though, and that -- "I wasn't aware the compound was that dangerous."

"No one wants to risk gender reassignment."

"If we're assuming that the compound *did* cause the problem --"

"We are," Lex says, tensing hard and flipping a switch --

*Staying* tense, but now they can hear what the scientists are talking about, and really, that never stops being... interesting.

Very --

The thing is, it's impossible to escape from the fact that they're speaking about it *familiarly*. They call it one forty-nine as if there were a one through one forty-eight.

They speak of its apparent *efficacy*.




"*Lex*. You. Did you -- you did this to me. You *did* this to me --"

"Yes," Lex says, and flips the switch again, leaving them in silence, in --

"Close the curtain. Shade. Whatever it is --"

"Tom --"

"I'm going to *hurt* you, Lex, so *close* the fucking *curtain* --"

Lex flips another switch, and the window darkens impressively -- "I wonder," Lex says, "if you'll use some of the things you learned when you were traveling the world."

Tim growls and closes the short distance between them. "Tell me *why*," he says, and it's the wrong voice on a number of levels, too high *and* too gritted and --

"Don't you *dare* use that voice with me, Tom --"

"I'll use whatever voice I *like*. You *poisoned* me --"

"I tested the compound on myself first," Lex says, clipped and curt. "You'll be back to normal in another twenty-four to forty-eight hours."

He should have known. He --

A friend who's a biochemist. A *friend*, and -- it must've been at that last gala. They'd shared a toast between Tom's short speech and Tom's need to disappear onto the Gotham streets --

"God *damn* you, Lex," Tim says, and his fists are clenched, he's tense and wants to hit, to *break* -- but he has more control than that. He's *always* had more control than that, and it's not going to change --

"Even now, you're relatively calm. Even -- do you have *any* idea how frustrating that is, Tom?"

"Oh -- fucking leave *off* with your pathetic fucking *angst* about how much you care about me. You can't deal with the fact that you love me, and so you just *had* to find a way to punish me for it, to --" Tim jabs Lex's chest and growls again, this time for the need to touch, to *strangle*. To feel the crush of Lex's windpipe against his hand, the heat as the blood rushed to his face --

"It wasn't -- it wasn't meant as a punishment."

Tim snorts. "Really, Lex? Because if it was a gift, you really ought to leave that sort of thing to your personal fucking shopper --"


"What *about* him? Because if it's time to argue about your sad little hatred of vigilantes --"

"No pause. Not even a blink," Lex says, and crosses his arms over his chest. "I suppose you *would* have learned to keep that sort of thing hidden."

"What the hell are you *talking* about --"

"There's a -- very well hidden, you should be proud -- budget for WE R&D that includes some very, very interesting materials, inventions... things that the Batman uses for his *work*, Tom. Don't bother denying it -- I've been poring over your books for this for the better part of two *years*."

Shit. *Shit* -- "Who and *what* my company chooses to support --"

"Oh, *please*. Your scars. Your fucking *training*. I've had the best, but you took it one step further. You..." Lex shakes his head. "Stop fucking lying to me. Right now."

Lex knows. Lex -- knows.

Lex *did* this to him --

Lex *knows* -- and Tom draws himself up to his full height and thinks thoughts about presence, loom --

"So there you are. There -- you fucking *bastard* --"

"Watch. What you say to me."

"*Don't* use that voice --"

"I'll use whatever I *like*," Tom says, kicking Lex into a stumble and slamming him against a wall with his forearm pressed to Lex's throat.

Lex moves to use his hands against him --

"Move and I break your hands, Luthor."

And it's true enough that Lex's eyes widen in the dimness, that Lex *snarls* -- "You're being childish. But then, what should I expect from someone who habitually wears his underwear outside his clothes and swings between buildings on a piece of string?"

"Tell me why you did it."

Lex sucks in a breath --


"You have to ask?"

And it's the easiest thing in the world to shift, shift his *hold* and bounce Lex's head against the wall --

"*Fuck* --"

"*Answer* me," Tom says, and thinks about the network Lex had so helpfully built, and all of the vulnerabilities he can exploit until he can tear LexCorp to the *ground* --

"*Fine*," Lex says, and he's snarling again. "You talk about your *life*, your *responsibilities* -- I decided it was high time for you to take a *fucking* vacation so you can actually think about what you're doing. What you're *risking* --"

"It's *my* life," Tim says -- no. He narrows his eyes and opens the closet door in his mind, letting the Bat out the way it wants to be, the way it *needs* to be. And shouldn't he have guessed this? Shouldn't --

It's Lex *fucking* Luthor, a man with few limits and fewer *scruples*. He'd left Lex out of the list of people who'd had access to him who *would* do such a thing, and, yes, now he's paying for it.

And he'll *keep* paying for it --

"I *tested* it, not just on myself but on dozens of volunteers --"

"A gag order for them."

"Their silence for a significant amount of cash, yes," Lex says. "It's a wonderful invention, Tom. Sexual and gender freedom for the whole world -- and the compound is incredibly cheap to manufacture -- fucking *ow*, stop banging my head against the wall --"

"Stop pretending this is for the good of the world," Tom grits. "Stop -- I can never trust you again," Tim says, because it comes out too hurt for anything like Tom, much less Batman --

Tim backs off and smoothes his hands over his clothes -- Lex's clothes, but he's damned well going to wear them until he gets out of here.

He moves to the door --

"Trust. *Trust*. You -- how fucking *dare* you talk about trust when you've been lying to me for fucking *years*?"

"I *never* told you I wasn't a vigilante --"

Lex's laugh is more of a bark than anything else, sharp and incredulous. "Oh, yes. You just let me go on about my beliefs to you, let me *share* myself with you when all the while you were running around Gotham in grey and blue *tights* --"

"I'm not having this conversation with you, Lex. Or any other --"

Lex growls and grabs Tim's shoulder, and doesn't let go even after Tim elbows him hard in the stomach. He curses instead, *tugs* --

Tim drops, spins, and does a *real* sweep, knocking Lex off his feet and onto his ass. "Stay *down*."

"*Tom* --"

"*No*," Tom says, for everyone inside his head, and keeps walking.

Lex doesn't follow him to the penthouse, but Tom doesn't waste time. He strips off the borrowed clothes and gets back into his jeans and shirt. He takes a cab to the airport, as he's disinclined to wait for a limo, and waits in the jet for it to be finished refueling.

The phone rings, and he ignores it -- anyone who needs to speak to him right now can damned well use one of the comms. He pours himself a drink and then stares at it for ten minutes.

He pours it back in the bottle and forces himself into something like a meditative state.

Once back in Gotham, he explains what happened to Bruce as briefly as possible, noting Bruce's anger on his behalf as one more nail in the coffin of possibility, otherwise known as Tim Drake.

He manages not to push Dick too hard, but it's difficult. He can smell him, he can see the shape of the man he'll become in Dick's small, strong body --

And Dick can see his discomfort and anger, and it hurts him. Tom doesn't know what to do about that, even if Tim does, and when he starts his own workout, he can see Bruce crouched in front of Dick and explaining...


He throws himself into things a little helplessly, noting his clumsiness in this body, noting that any good he does will be lost when the compound wears off --

If it wears off --

Oh, but Lex had tested it. On himself and on others. The records were probably accessible all along, but he'd had *other* things to focus on, here and for the League, and --

He'd trusted Lex. Trusted the man who'd spent years trying to murder Superman, supporting and *creating* monsters right and left. Trusted the man who'd built a beautiful, wonderful clone -- and programmed him to kill and hurt. And while none of those things had happened here... well, wasn't it just a matter of time?

And Lex *knows*. The most dangerous man in the world has a rope around Tom's neck, around Bruce's and Dick's --

There's nothing stopping him from telling the world but whatever pathetic twist of sentiment he has left after years of deceit --

There's nothing stopping him, and then it will be all over. Assuming he and Bruce and Dick survive --

They'll take Dick away from them. They'll -- he'll be in another one of those *group* homes for God only knows how long -- no, there'll be someone to adopt him. There'll be too much publicity for anything else, and --

Alfred, waiting with a telephone on a tray. Tom flips down from the uneven bars, flubbing his landing just enough to piss himself off.

"It's Lex Luthor, sir."

"I'm not going to talk to him, Alfred. He's the one who --" Tom lifts his shirt and slaps his palm against the tape holding his breasts down.

"Indeed, sir? Still, he was most insistent. And spoke of... secrets."

Tom snarls and feels the rope tighten around his neck, feels it digging *in* --

He snatches the phone off the hook. "What. Do you want."

"Your real voice, for a start," Lex says, and there's something off about the connection --

"Are you on your jet?"

"I said your *real* --"

"*You* don't call the shots here, Luthor. Not now and not ever again."

Lex growls. "Would you just --" He sighs. "I'm on the jet. I'm coming to you, and we're going to *talk*."

"We have *nothing* to say to each other --"

"I beg to differ. You're in a dangerous position, here, Tom --"

"And you're making threats to the wrong *fucking* person."

"I'm not -- I would never fucking *threaten* you, Tom --"

"Then what. Are. You. Saying."

"That -- *motherfucking* voice might work on the street, but I'm not two-bit thug with a stolen gun --"

"No. You're worse. And I can't believe it took me this long to see it. *Goodbye*," Tim says, and slams the phone down, clenching his fists and trying to control his breathing, his *self* --

"Was that wise, Master Tom?"

"No. But it was necessary," Tom says, and unclenches his fists. "Begin preparations for Starfall."

"Sir --"

"*Now*, Alfred. I'm not going to let Luthor take our good work away. Not *any* of it."

"And what of Master *Dick*? Are you planning to take him out of school as *well* as training him to be a weapon? Were you going to allow him anything resembling a childhood between hiding in bunkers all over this *benighted* city?"

Dick needs the *Titans*, not school -- no, they don't exist, yet, if they ever will, though Oliver's trip to that reservation is coming up, Iris' nephew has begun visiting more -- "Alfred. Some things are more important --"

"I will *not* be a party to this, Master Tom. If you wish to slice your own life in twain, there is nothing I can do or say about it. Master Dick is, however, an entirely different story --"

"Alfred --"

"When you embarked upon a sexual relationship with your brother, I said nothing. When you decided to cut your education short and begin traveling the world, I said very little. When you then decided to dress up like a giant *bat* so as to better terrorize the citizens of this city, I *again* kept my own counsel. But so help me, I will *not* allow you to ruin another child's life for your so-called *mission*."

Another child. Another -- "You blame me for Bruce."

"Yes, Master Tom, sometimes I do," Alfred says, and his eyes are dark and flat with something very much like *hate*.

Tom shakes his head. "You don't understand what drives us. You've never understood -- and you don't have to. I'll make the preparations, myself --"

The phone rings again.

Alfred stares at him. *Glares*. God, Alfred --

Another ring.

"Pick. It. Up."

"Alfred --"

Another ring, and Alfred's lip curls. "*You* chose to pursue a sexual relationship with this man, all without letting Master Bruce go. You have never been completely honest about where you come from --"

"I lost my entire *world* --"

"And you've *taken* this one for your own. Well. That makes it your responsibility and no one else's, *sir*. Pick. Up. The. Phone."

Alfred. Alfred hates him, and he'd never known, never guessed --

"*Do* it --"

Tom picks up the phone --

"*Listen* to me, damn you. I'll never do anything to hurt you. I'll never do anything to put you in *danger* --"

"Lex --"

"*Yes*, *use* my fucking name, you psychotic *ass*."

Tom bites his lip, and Alfred... there's nothing in his eyes but blank servitude, which means that he's waiting, that Tom has fucked up *badly* and there's nothing --

There's nothing.

"I'll meet you. The Chilton, in your usual suite."

"*Thank* you --"

"Don't call again."

Tom hangs up the phone and raises an eyebrow at Alfred, who only continues to stare at him -- through him -- for a long moment before inclining his head and walking away. Would Alfred have forgiven him if he hadn't brought Dick into this life?

Would it have even been possible?

He's -- he'd taken Alfred for granted, trusting in the timeline moving more or less as it should to smooth over the emotional difficulties, especially with Bruce and Dick getting along so well --

Bruce has been so *happy* since Dick has been with them, so willing to share of himself and the entirety of their world --

Does Alfred honestly think that Bruce could've led a normal life if it hadn't been for him? Does he have a point? Tom hadn't had to push Bruce *much* over the years, but there *had* been some pushing. Some...

No, he's in his *own* universe -- or something that had started *out* as his own universe before something he'd said or done had caused it to branch and change. If Alfred wants to think that Bruce being Batman is his fault, if that's what helps him sleep at night -- so be it.

He has other things to worry about.

Tom showers, and when he's done Bruce is waiting with the tape for his chest. He's much more gentle with it than Tom had planned on being, but -- that's Bruce, who would only hate him if he ever learned the whole of the truth.

Tom closes his eyes and keeps his breathing steady, and when Bruce is done he kisses Tom's mouth, and his cheeks, and his eyelids. Tom steps into Bruce's arms and just -- holds on.

Bruce is wearing the undershirt and boxer-briefs which will go under his uniform, and he feels wonderful, warm and right and everything Tom Wayne should ever, ever need.

"I'm sorry he hurt you."

"I -- I know," Tom says, and rubs his face against Bruce's chest. "He thought he was giving me... a wake-up call."

"He poisoned you."

"Yes. Yes, he did. Knowingly and with forethought. He tested it first -- on multiple people -- but he still poisoned me. And I should've seen it coming."

Bruce pulls back and frowns. "You're not thinking of -- of going back to him again, are you?"

Tim Drake shouldn't have to die, Bruce. There should be *someone* who can know him, and love him, all of him -- "Right now, all I'm thinking about is how to fix this mess I've gotten us into."

Bruce strokes Tim's hair and nods. "How do you think he discovered the secret?"

"He's had spies on me for years, but he would've said something if any of them had made the connection. No, I think he just finally put two and two together. My scars, my absences, my refusal to leave Gotham, the few grainy pictures that have been taken of us, my martial arts abilities..." Tom shakes his head. "I think, perhaps, that this kind of thing is inevitable if you're close to anyone for any significant length of time, which... I should've known better."

"He's not... you know I don't mind you being with members of the League or other heroes this way. We've talked about it, and I understand, and I -- well, we have *Clark*."

Tom smiles. "Yes, we really, really do. And I have to try to make that enough for me, now. Let's get suited up."

Bruce squeezes him tighter for a long moment, and, after a while, Tom feels a small hand on his hip. Dick.

He pushes away from Bruce and crouches down in front of Dick, cupping his shoulders. "I'm sorry I've been so out of sorts today, Dick. You should know, you've done nothing wrong."

"I know -- Bruce said." Dick bites his lip and wraps his arms around Tom's neck, squeezing tightly. "I don't care if you *are* a woman, Tom. I love you, and -- everything is going to be all right."

Comforting him. Trying to -- of course he would. "Dick," Tom says, and strokes Dick's back, giving himself leave to just live in the scent of him, a little, the feel of his body against Tom's own.

His family.

Suiting up feels disturbingly like putting on his own skin, despite the suit's tightness around his hips and the way the cowl doesn't *quite* sit perfectly. In the mirror, he'd pass muster for the vast majority of the people who'd see him if he were to patrol -- considering the fact that they'd be seeing him in the dark while also being in the process of getting injured -- but he's not going to patrol tonight.

He's just going --

He's going to make a point.

He takes the smaller car, leaving Bruce to finish preparing himself -- he often lets Dick help with his suit's catches and assorted traps -- and moving into the city.

He's *not* patrolling, but it's Gotham, and so it's necessary to stop an armed robbery in progress and to beat an attempted rapist unconscious. Still, he's on Lex's balcony before too much time has passed, and Lex had left the door open. He mollifies the part of him which is screaming trap by pulling three shuriken, but there's no sign of Mercy, at all.

Only Lex, with a drink in hand. Judging by his color, it's not his first.


"I knew you'd come to me this way. I just -- I knew," Lex says, and knocks back the rest of his drink before moving smoothly to his feet and walking close, holding up his hands. "I'm too drunk to give you a fight, Tom. You know that, right?"

His eyes are wide and a little glassy. Tom nods and tucks away the shuriken.

"I just want to..." Lex moves around him, touching the armor, the cape... "I remember when you offered those boots to the Defense Department. I couldn't believe they didn't take them."

"We weren't the low bidder."

"There's economy and then there's *stupidity*. I -- the cape is armored, as well. Fascinating material."


"The material or me?" Lex laughs softly. "And that cowl... could absolutely stop a bullet. Has it?"

"Not yet."

Lex nods and stops in front of Tom again. As always, when he's in the cape and cowl, it's somewhat strange to see people taller than he is... though Lex doesn't seem to be feeling his advantage.

"What do you want, Lex."

"The same thing -- the same thing I always want. God, okay, it was *phenomenally* stupid to do that to you without asking if you wanted to try it. I admit that, and I'm -- I'm sorry."

Tom shakes his head.

"Dammit, I'm *sorry* -- just. You do this, every *fucking* night. You risk your life to do a job the cops are *paid* for in this town -- and don't think I haven't been paying attention. I *know* exactly how much you and Bruce and James Gordon have done to modernize and clean up the department. I followed *your* example with the SCU, and I always wanted -- I wanted the two of us to synch up, to make our cities sisters --"

"Lex --"

"All right, all right, you don't want to talk about that. You -- you're pissed at me, and probably hurt. You don't think you can trust me, and all of that is *fair*, but --"

"There *are* no buts," Tom says, and crosses his arms over his chest.

It makes Lex look panicked, enraged -- he stalks back to the table, picks up his empty glass --

It explodes against the fireplace, leaving a stain. "Theatrics aren't going to work --"

"Take off the cowl. The -- please. Please, take it off."

"It won't make a difference, Luthor --"

"Take off the *fucking* cowl and use my *name*. I -- I'm not my *father*, Tom, and I'll never be him, never -- I made sure it was fucking *safe*. I'll never use your secrets against you. I'll never *hurt* you --"

"You already did," Tim says, and pushes the cowl back --

"God, so wrong, what I did -- I need you, Tom, I need --" And Lex is there, cupping Tim's face and leaning in --

Tim steps back, and tries to hold onto separation, the feel of himself in this armor, in this place --

Tim doesn't get a *say*, except for when Lex is there needing, wanting --

Except --

"I *love* you --"

"Lex, don't."

"That's it? That -- just a 'Lex, don't?'" Lex scrubs a hand back over his scalp -- and Tim can *count* the number of times he's seen Lex do that where someone else could see, *anyone* else --

"That doesn't have anything to do with this," Tim says, and his voice is flat, *almost* right --

"It has *everything* to do with this. I just had to make you *stop* for a moment, Tom, I had to make you see --"

"That it would be fun to be a woman, Lex?"

"*No*. I -- *no*," Lex says, and his pacing isn't as smooth as it could be. It's fueled by alcohol and it shows in the way his feet tangle together for a moment, in the *ruthless* and shaky way he straightens himself out -- he turns back to face Tim --

He comes close again, but doesn't touch --

"You had to see that anything could happen to you at any time --"

"I *knew* that --"

"This life you lead, these *people* you surround yourself with. They're all *insane*, at *best*. Throwing around *magic*, of all things --"

"*Lex*, it's my. Fucking. *Life* --"

"Yes. Yes, it's yours, and maybe --" Lex closes his eyes for a moment and breathes deeply once, twice. He opens his eyes and they're serious, pleading. "Maybe I *did* want to change you, a little. Maybe -- I *had* that fantasy, and I had the opportunity, and I thought to myself -- it serves him right. All the lies, all the damned secrets when I've given *everything* to this, offered everything I am --"

"And that, *right* there, is why this isn't going to work anymore. I care about you, Lex. I *do* love you --"

"God, Tom, I -- say it. Say it again."

Tim sucks in a breath. "I love you. I've always -- you've had me from the beginning. But this isn't going to *work*, because you never stop *resenting* me for having a life of my own --"

"I don't *want* to change you. I realize that, now. I could never -- I wouldn't be able to *stand* you if you were always by my side --"

"*I've* known that for years --"

"Fuck, I'm *slow*. I'm fucking *damaged*, and stupid, and I *do* like to shoot myself in the cock, thank you very much. Forgive me."

"I can't."

"Give me another *chance* --"

"I *can't*, Lex! What am I going to do the next time you decide that I haven't abased myself enough? The next time you look at my life and find it *wanting*? The next time you get pissed the fuck *off* because I won't let you *own* me?"

"I won't --"

"You *will* -- and God, Lex, God --" Tim sucks in another breath and pushes a hand back through his hair. He was going to grow it long, let Bruce braid it and brush it, let Lex fucking *come* in it if he wanted to -- "I love you. I love your anger, your passion, your blind fucking *insane* bouts of rage, and the fact that you want to punish the world for it. I love you for *exactly* who you are --"

"I feel the *same*, dammit --"

"I have a family now, Lex. I -- if anything, my responsibilities are even greater --"

"Haven't I proved I would *wait* for you, Tom? That I would -- God, I've *counted* the nights I've wanted you and you weren't there, the days when we could've been working together -- you're the only *one*."

Tim closes his eyes, and takes -- just a moment to imagine Lex discovering the *real* secret. Maybe one of his spies would track down Tommy Wayne in the dwindling rainforest, maybe one of his pet scientists would mention an anomaly that pops up when he looks at the mid-seventies and seems to center *awfully* close to Lex himself --

Just a moment, and Lex would be so *pleased*. It would *fulfill* something for him, a dream of Tom being just as manipulative and fucking *dangerous* as he is, and that --

That has always been true, and Tim has always *known* it, always felt it within himself and held *onto* it when he thought he'd go crazy, when he'd thought he'd start screaming and never stop because he didn't *want* to kill himself, didn't want to bury himself *alive* --

"Tom," Lex says, and cups his face again. "I will. I will fucking *accept* the fact that you need to run around in heavily-armored long underwear and get shot at by people even more insane than you are. I'll -- fuck, I'll stop speaking out against Superman, vigilantes -- oh. He's your friend, isn't he? The alien? The press *does* like to go on about that. World's *Finest* --"

"He's my friend, yes, Lex. We're also occasional lovers."

"With the *alien* -- I." Lex doesn't tighten his grip on Tom's face, but his hands are *shaking* with the need to do so.

"You see, Lex?"

"I *don't*. You love *me*. I give you what no one else can, what no one else *will*. I will *deal* with the fact that you like to suck alien cock --"

Tim shakes his head. "You shouldn't have to. Just as I shouldn't have to deal with your jealousy --"

"But doesn't it warm you, at all? Doesn't it make you feel good to know that you *have* me? That I -- fucking *burn*, and *ache*, and... yes, *rage* --"

"It makes me wish I could be with you more. It makes me -- Lex, I've only ever wanted you to be happier. And -- I've given myself thirteen years to make it happen. I think that counts as a pretty good fucking try," Tim says, and reaches up to move Lex's hands from his face.

The gauntlets look obscene next to Lex's skin, but Tim manages to keep the shudder internal, and --

"We'll work together. Our projects mean too much for us to do otherwise."

Lex is staring at Tim's hands.

"We -- we can try to socialize, at times. There are always those damned parties. I."

Lex is -- still staring, and he's hardly breathing at all, hardly *blinking* -- dammit.

It shouldn't *feel* like this. It shouldn't -- Lex had betrayed him, spied on him, dumped a *mutagen* into his system and then let him believe that they could be better, more to each other, *better*. He'd given Lex everything he *could* give, hurt Bruce countless times, ignored a fucking *murder* -- even though his own parents had been brutally killed. Even though --

They're alive, here, and sometimes Tom Wayne gets to have lunch with Jack Drake and the rest of the marketing team. Once, on a *very* special occasion, Janet Wilkes had gotten drunk enough to hit on Bruce.

And... what if Tom hadn't figured it out? Lex hadn't had to break the secret the way he had -- certainly, all the talk in the lab would've come to a screeching halt if Lex had just walked in, or had Mercy explain to the scientists that they had a choice between playing dumb and losing their jobs.

"Lex... why did you tell me? *Were* you going to tell me?"

Lex blinks and looks up, searching Tim -- and clenching his hands into fists. He isn't glassy-eyed, anymore. "The original plan was to insist that you had to stay in Metropolis for a few days for more tests to be done. Blood work, urinalysis..." Lex waves a hand. "At the end, your body would've begun changing back on its own, and I would've presented you with the compound for joint marketing, as we only discovered it when our shared team -- the one working on immune system strengtheners -- stumbled down a particularly twisty and blind scientific alley. We would've had a wonderful, satisfying weekend, and you would have... I don't know," he says, quietly. "I knew you'd be angry, but I also knew I'd be able to throw *Batman* back in your face. I thought, perhaps, we would call it even."

"And I would stop being Batman?"

"You -- I've never been able to change a *thing* about you, and I didn't think I would start now. You bring out everything good in me -- and, all right, a great *deal* of the bad, but --"

"Lex, you've only ever needed a *friend* --"

"And you've *been* my friend. You write, you call, you *come* to me, and we're together, and you remind me that there's nothing I want more, nothing anyone could give me that would be like --" Lex grabs Tim's hands and brings them to his own face, and they look even more terrible there than they'd looked against Lex's hands.

Lex's skin has always been so *pale*, so sensitive to damage -- "Don't," Tim says, and pulls his hands back carefully --

"Do you want me to beg?"

"*No* --"

"Then what *do* you want? All these years, and there has to be something, something to make you stay -- you *love* me --"

"I do."

"Don't -- don't say it like it's not enough, like it means nothing -- God, that's why I never wanted to hear you say it, *before*."

Tim winces and curls his hands at his sides --

"*Damn* you. What am I supposed to --" Lex cuts himself off and turns away, body as tense as Tim has ever seen it, and it hurts, it hurts too *much* --

"Lex --"


Tim feels something seize, and knows what it is, what it means, what he's *demanded* from this --

He goes.

He goes home, and throws himself into the training regimen he uses whenever he benches himself for a night. It's hard -- somewhat brutal -- and it's effective. By the time he's done, both Dick and Alfred have left the Cave and the idea of pausing to take a shower seems like a torture built from exhaustion and pain. He does it, anyway, and --

Bruce isn't home, yet.

He goes to his own, little-used room. It doesn't smell quite as empty and lifeless as a hotel room, but it's lonely enough to suit him.

He sleeps.

He works, and he works, and Bruce celebrates the return of Tom's real body by asking him to put on the tourmaline-green cocktail dress. He lets Bruce fix his makeup and hair, and they painstakingly drag the stereo to the ballroom and dance to the classical music station.

Dick cuts in repeatedly, and tells them stories about Devon, from the circus, who had all the best dresses *and* suits. And sometimes stitched them together.

After Dick is asleep, they make love in the library, and tell stories about Harvey, and resolve to call him the next day. The dress, as ever, survives the night handily, and is returned to Alfred for care and safekeeping.

The weeks pass, and Tom spends more time in his room. Not whole nights, but parts of them. He reads there on days when he's not training, and he works on his drawing, and he doesn't speak to Alfred overmuch.

When Bruce notices the latter, he demands to know what's wrong, and that -- he'd predicted that. He tells Bruce that he and Alfred had a disagreement about their lifestyle, which is the absolute truth, and that it will smooth over eventually -- which he's reasonably sure is a bald-faced lie.

It makes Bruce worry, and that makes it necessary to distract him. They take Harvey and Gilda out for drinks, dinner, and dancing, and it's difficult to be sure how many stares and flashbulbs go off for the Waynes, as opposed to for the star of the D.A.'s office.

Joker gets out *again*, and there are bodies on the streets. Poisoned bodies, bomb-shattered bodies, hyena-savaged bodies --

The signal goes up, but they're already working, already *searching*, and the Wayne Foundation has been slowly buying up old amusement parks and toy factories and turning them into community centers of various stripes, but --

It's Gotham, and there are always places to hide.

As it happens, he's the one who gets 'lucky' enough to find the man. The *creature*, and his minions --

There's fairness and then there's reality, and, as Tom was already wearing his rebreather, it's a simple matter to fill the small teddy bear factory with a sleeping agent.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work as well on Joker as it does on the rest, and Tom is too slow to keep him from squirting several of his own unconscious henchmen with sulfuric acid. Well, this is what *happens* if you're stupid enough to work for the Joker, but it might get them sympathy points in front of a jury. Tom uses a bolo to tie Joker's ankles, a batarang to *finally* knock him out, and *then* he moves close enough to hog-tie the man.

Lex would pull strings to have him placed in gen-pop in one of the state prisons. A day ought to do it. Twelve *hours* ought to do it, because if the guards didn't take care of him, any one of the inmates would.

A simple 'mistake' on some paperwork from the D.A.'s office, a napping judge -- or one who's wide awake --

Problem solved.

Lex would --

He doesn't think about Lex. He zip-strips the rest of the gang, calls in to Bruce, and then calls Gordon directly. He has plans to *form* a Major Crimes Unit, but they're just dreams right now -- tied up in Gotham's perennial budgetary red tape.

As is the protocol, he stays until the police arrive -- on the same catwalk he'd used to launch his gas pellets -- and then he flies. There are other things to do.

The weeks pass, and Dick gets better, faster, stronger -- *taller*, and there's some sadness for that, because when Dick tries on his old costume, it doesn't fit. It doesn't fit nearly to the point of *obscenity*, but Tim manages to hold him through the tears, just the same.

After, Dick is embarrassed and gruff, and insists on working on the weights for an hour past the point when he should really stop. It --

Dick has *seen* him working himself to exhaustion, and hypocrisy just isn't the best sort of foundation for child-rearing. Still, he talks to Dick about it, and explains that sometimes pain makes people do stupid things -- even when they're usually quite intelligent. He explains that it's important to them -- and to Gotham -- that Dick try to avoid injury as much as possible, and when he's done, Dick gives him a shrewd look and agrees to quit.

And promises to remind Tom of this the next time he catches him breaking his own rules, which is exactly what he deserves.

He watches Bruce teach Dick kicks and punches that they'd spent weeks learning together. He watches Dick pick them up with a speed that's almost dazzling, almost *frightening*.

He teaches Dick strikes and touches that assassins would find useful, things he had picked up in the darker areas of their travels, things he had *truly* picked up in his other life --

He's not thinking of his other life.

Bruce sketches a dozen, three dozen different uniform designs for Dick, all using Dick's favorite colors. One of them looks so much like Tim Drake's first Robin suit that Tom has to spend time alone again, has to stop thinking, has to --

He meditates, and tells Bruce a true story about a twenty-four year old Dick Grayson, a story about the teacher he misses sometimes so much it *aches* --

Bruce holds him close, and they make love in their room, they make love outside by the pool, they make love in the Cave, and sometimes the expression on Dick's face when he catches them together is thoughtful, wide-eyed, speculative --


And then there's the first shared board meeting in months, and Tom realizes fifteen minutes before it's due to begin that he hasn't cut his *hair* in months, that while it's still a respectable length for his age and the era --

Tom growls internally, and suspects he looks like he plans to eviscerate someone -- or someone's *company*. Possibly he just looks like he's going to start firing all the cokeheads instead of hustling them off to WE-sponsored rehab. He blanks his expression and waits, and Lex walks in ten minutes later, turning at the door to say something to someone Tim can't see who is almost certainly Mercy --

He's wearing eyeliner.

He's --

Tim isn't staring, and he's not --

*Tom* doesn't stare, and he starts the meeting as soon as everyone is sitting down, instead of giving people time to chat -- or stare at Lex.

They move through the agenda quickly and smoothly, though Tom lets Bruce field some of the budget questions while he goes over and *over* the agenda, while he looks over the faces of the board members, the way Lex's people seem determined to pretend that's nothing wrong or strange, the way his and Bruce's people seem equally determined to *look* questions at Tom, as if he knows --

He does know.

And when it's Lex's turn to present the progress report, he does so smoothly, calmly, and -- directly to Tom.

To Tim.

To --

A part of him is only grateful for the years of training, grateful to be *able* to take in the necessary information even though Lex isn't letting him off the hook. There's no possible *way* Tom can look away from Lex without losing face, or giving the entirely wrong impression to too many powerful people.

He holds himself still, nodding in the right places, and, when it's time, asking the right questions.

He holds himself still.

Eventually, Lucius takes over the questioning, and the rest of the WE board members allow him to do so, having learned -- some of them the hard way -- to defer to his judgment.

And Lex -- finally breaks eye contact.

Tom catches himself breathing more easily, and Bruce brushes Tom's knee with his own. Yes, time to be calm, to relax, and guide this meeting to a friendly and fruitful conclusion for the sake of both their companies, and all they can do together.

The next meeting will be in Metropolis, and --


When it's time, he and Bruce stand and shake hands all around, and there's nothing special about Lex's handshake, save for the fact that Lex's hand is warm, and in his own, and his eyeliner is dark and perfectly-applied, giving his eyes that *dramatic* look that had helped make high school so interesting, making Tim need --

*Tom* turns away, and moves to Bruce's side --

"Go to him," Bruce says quietly.

"Bruce, I don't --"

"You've been distant, depressed, and somewhat impossible to live with," Bruce says through his teeth as he smiles at people on the other side of the room.

"*Bruce* --"

"*Go* to him. You. You need him," Bruce says, and stares down at him. "Please."

And it's impossible to keep the frown off his face, to -- "I can do better, Bruce. I'm -- it just takes time to get over --"

"I will never understand. But I *believe*. And -- I will always need your happiness," Bruce says, stepping back and smiling for the board members again, leaving Tom to deal, to --

To *deal*.

Lex is talking to several of his own board members, who are clustered around him as if proximity will bestow intelligence. Tom can almost --

Tim can almost feel them wondering if Lex had just had a late night, if their fearless leader had taken to clubbing at one of the more scandalous places, if, perhaps, a new dress code was about to be instituted...

Tim walks over, and Lex turns to face him, eyes wide even when considered against the eyeliner, and --

"If you'll excuse me," Tim says to the other men, "Lex and I need to discuss a few things in private."

The others almost melt away with a chorus of 'of course' and 'fine job' and other platitudes that make it abundantly clear that Lex has produced a board packed with -- if not entirely comprised of -- of yes-men as a buffer between himself and any sharks who might try to do something similar to what he himself had done --

Lex uses their bodies to hide a stroke of his fingertips over Tim's knuckles, and Tim doesn't shiver.

"Your office, Tom...?"

"Please," Tim says, and means it with more of himself than he can credit, deal with, anything --

They go, and Tim closes the door behind him, locks it, and stares at Lex, stares something like his fill until his body starts screaming at him to blink.

And Lex turns away and brings his hands to his collar, undoing his tie --

"Wait," Tim says. "Just -- wait."

Lex closes his eyes. "I was -- you know what I was hoping."

"I'm not sure I do. I'm." Tim pushes himself back against the door, claws at it, a little. "I've just been told that I've become... difficult to live with. Without you."

Lex frowns and turns back to face him. "You're here -- *we're* here because Bruce told you to come?"

"Yes and no. I miss you. But I was willing to keep missing you."


"Lex... do you still want. The same things?"


"*Lex* -- can we kill the power games for a moment?"

"It's not --" Lex clenches his fists and stares down at the floor. "All right. You've proven that the... softer emotions we feel aren't enough to make it work between us. I was going with the idea that what you truly wanted -- and what you would accept -- was the rest."

"No. That's not... that's not what I meant. At any point. Or -- hell," Tim says, and thinks about telling Lex that love wasn't good enough, that he couldn't trust, couldn't forgive --

He *can't*, but he does, anyway, and maybe that has more to do with what Lex gives him than with any objective sort of *reasoning*, but --

"I've spent the last few months telling myself I wasn't thinking about you, Lex. It worked -- except for how, now that I think about it, even Dick has noticed that I'm something of a mess."

Lex nods. "I've fired eighteen people, and rehired seventeen. The last -- and best -- one told me to shove it up my ass."

Tim winces. "We're being unprofessional."

"You handled yourself well, today."

"You manipulated me into not looking away from you."

"I'm not a very good person," Lex says, and moves closer to Tim -- close enough to touch Tim's hair. "Is this for me?"


"I think I hate it."

Tim snorts. "Make up your fucking *mind*."

"You don't have the right mentality for longer hair, Tom. You're neat to the point of fastidiousness, controlled and controlling -- the fact that it's my kink doesn't mean that it's right for you."

"I like the eyeliner."

"It always did work on me," Lex says, and twines a lock of Tim's hair around his index finger. "I'd wear it to every meeting if it meant I could have you, again."

"You can."

"Tom --"

"There's something. There's another secret about me that you don't know, even with all your spies and research and stalking. I don't know how to tell you -- I've never told Bruce and I never will -- but I want to tell *you*, because I think you'd understand. I don't know if I'll ever be able to, if I'll ever have the guts to say it out loud --"

"What -- have you killed someone?"

And Lex would immediately go there, wouldn't he? The part of him which always wants to know what he thinks he's doing flares and shouts, beats its fists against the rest -- "No, Lex. It's nothing like that, but it explains a lot about me, and why I am who I am. I'm not going to play a guessing game with you; I just want to acknowledge that it's there, and that it's one of the things that makes me need you. Because you're the only one."

Lex frowns and nods slowly, thoughtfully... "I never did think I knew everything about you. Not even when I figured out your nighttime activities. God, when do you *sleep*?"

"I could ask the same question --"

"You know what I mean," Lex says, and rests his hand on Tim's shoulder.

Tim nods. "There's a reason why I always schedule these meetings for the afternoon."

"You're tempting me to schedule the next one for six-thirty in the morning, just to see if you show up with flattened, sweaty hair and a subtle hint of kevlar."

"I'd never forgive you."

"What's one more crime?" And Lex gets more of Tim's hair in his hand and pulls until Tim is tilting his head back. "Tell me exactly what you want from me."

"No secrets -- even as I keep my own. No surprises -- save for the eyeliner. You. I -- you. All of you," Tim says, and feels his heart beating too fast, too *hard* --

Lex rests his other hand on Tim's chest.

"What do you want from me?"

"For you to constantly redefine your limits with regard to me. For you to give me everything you can stand to -- and at least some of the things you can't. I want your anger and your fear. I want." Lex's jaw is tight and his eyes... burn.


"You know what I want. You know everything -- and you really shouldn't need me to say it again."

Tim nods, because Lex is right, because -- "You can have it. I love you."

"It will never be enough," Lex says, and pushes, presses hard against Tim's chest --

"It won't lie down and die, either," and Tim covers Lex's hand with his own, pushing it down and down until Lex... has him by the balls. "God, I love you."

"I have another meeting in three hours, which means I need to be at the airport in... forty-five minutes."

Tim nods and breathes -- lets himself gasp and moan, just a little.

"Tom --"

"Let me suck you off."

"I --" Lex shakes his head and kisses him, shoving in with his tongue and making a space for himself in Tim's mouth, forcing him to be open, welcoming --

It doesn't matter that he would've been, anyway, that this is something he's *wanted* for too long, too damned *long* --

It doesn't matter, because Lex should always be pushing and shoving and forcing, Lex should always be *making* him do what's wanted and needed, and --

And Tim groans, because Lex is *working* Tim's sac through his pants, making Tim hard -- harder -- even as he coaxes Tim's tongue into his own mouth where it can be licked and sucked --

Lex pulls back. "I want *more* --"

"Forty-three *minutes* --"

"Your *ass* --"

"Will be here," Tim says, and knocks Lex's hands aside before dropping to his knees, and --

Just a moment for this, to look up and up and see Lex frowning down at him, to smile and press his face against Lex's groin, feel him hard and hot, feel the position *and* the moment, just to be here, have --

"Lex," and his voice is rough and low to his own ears, his skin is heating up beneath his clothes, prickling with sweat and need -- "Not enough time --"

Lex growls and bucks his hips, bulge dragging against Tim's cheek -- "Then don't *waste* it, you --"

"Bitch? Whore? Slut?" Tim smiles and opens Lex's pants, noting the boxer briefs and taking them as proof of continued influence, affection and need -- "Pick one."

"I -- I think I'll go with slut, today," and Lex grips Tim by the hair -- "Choke yourself on my cock. Take what you *need*."

Hard now, impossible and heavy, aching -- "Lex --"

"Don't *talk*," he says, *yanking* Tim's hair --

And it becomes imperative to take just a *sip* of air before swallowing Lex down, to lose himself to the beat of his own heart, to the need that works through him at the taste, the feel --

Lex has always been so *thick*, and it never stops being what he wants, something just *right*, because Bruce is just enough *bigger* that Tim forgets that it's *not* actually entirely comfortable to take Lex, that there's *enough* of a challenge --

Tim hums and swallows, letting his eyes roll back in his head and sucking, licking, pressing his lips against Lex's smooth mound and groaning deep in his chest for it, for everything --

"Somehow I'd forgotten. How much you *like* this --"

Tim opens his eyes and forces himself to focus, raising an eyebrow --

"You make the act into a reward I give you. That's -- irrational. Strange. If you stop, I will take off my belt and *whip* you -- *hnh* --"

Digging his nails in against Lex's hips is nearly always a good idea, especially since *this* time it makes Lex --

"Fuck -- you -- you should be *under* me* --"

*Thrust*, and it's too soon and too good, too *much*, and Tom isn't -- quite -- thinking about the things he had to retrain himself to do, retrain himself to *take* after getting this body back --

"On. On your knees is a start. God, I -- *slut* --"

And Lex pulls out of his throat *just* enough to let Tim moan before choking him again, taking --

"Don't you ever -- you can't *leave*, Tom --"

It's true, and has always *been* true --

"Next time. I hunt you down and fuck you until you don't know *how* to say no. I'll call in the motherfucking *Justice* League if I have to -- "

*Lex* --

"I'll make Superman drag you to my penthouse. I'll -- Tom. *Tom* --"

Yours, Tim thinks, and works his head on Lex, fucking his own mouth until --

"God, dirty, manipulative --"

Until he can do it faster, *better* --

Until Lex is moaning as he thrusts, as he takes and *takes* -- "Your mouth. Your beautiful, perfect mouth --"

For *you* --

"Never anyone like this, *anything* -- you should let me. Come on your *face*."

They've done that before, but not especially often, and usually --

Lex growls and shudders, thrusts harder -- "You should never be *messy*, unless -- mm. Unless the definition is more about the way you sprawl on my bed, the way you smile even when you're. You're fucking *concentrating* on what I've made you feel..."

And Tim grabs Lex's ass and pulls, tries to encourage a faster rhythm, a harder *fuck* --

"I'll *have* all your secrets one day, Tom. And -- you won't be able to hide. You won't be able to *hide* from me -- God, don't fucking *stop* --"

He doesn't, and he *won't*, because the lack of air is making him think of Bruce's hands, the position is making him think of countless beatings given while he wore Batman, while he treated the city's criminal element to every ounce of rigidly-controlled rage --

This is loss. This is hunger and purity, truth and the kind of beauty that pulls no punches and gives no *quarter*. Lex should always be over him -- even if he never, ever tries to *loom*.

Lex should never *stop*, and always be this hard for him, this desperate and *cruel*, because the way he's yanking Tim's hair is making Tim's eyes water, and the way he's fucking Tim is making his throat sore and an old injury in his jaw twinge and complain in the best possible way.

He wants to jerk himself off. He wants to touch nothing but Lex.

He wants --

"Should've -- mm. Should've fucked Mercy on the plane -- and that made you suck harder." Lex laughs and moans. "You shouldn't send messages like that. I might -- might just get the wrong *idea*..."

Tim opens his eyes and stares into Lex, glares and struggles not to lose himself in the *storm* of Lex's eyes, the concentration and curiosity -- Will Kon ever exist? Is there something he could do to *make* him exist?

"And this is the *problem* with letting you do this. You're thinking too much, you little slut, and you *know* that sort of thing isn't -- hnn. *Allowed*," Lex says, taking Tim's head in both hands and holding it *still* --

Tim claws Lex's hips again --

Lex fucks Tim's *face*, steady and hard, and there's a pulse of numb soreness in Tim's lips to go with the pain in his jaw and the increasing desperation from the lack of air.

Lex is down to curses and grunts, and this part never lasts long enough, never --

God, he wants to be bent over his desk, wants Lex to spank him again, shove another plug in his ass, make him *scream* --

And sometimes Clark comes *close* to asking about his relationship with Lex, close enough that Tim knows he sometimes listens -- whether or not he ever watches is a question for another *lifetime* -- and the idea of trying to explain it to him...

Well, he thinks he probably *could* explain it to Clark in a far more useful way than he's ever been able to even imagine explaining it to Bruce. Clark spends a significant portion of life pretending to be more of an icon than a man, and *vastly* appreciates every moment he's allowed to only be himself. Bruce -- the Bruce he'd helped to create -- is almost never anyone save himself, which is something made of both pride and fear.

Bruce is never going to understand why Tom would need to ever *be* anyone save himself, and Tom will never be able to regret that. The alternative is so much better, so warm and good in so many different ways that aren't *this* --

But Lex's hands are shaking on Tim's head, Lex's rhythm gone to something ragged and difficult, painful and necessary --

Tim opens his eyes again, but Lex's are shut tight as he imagines... something. Perhaps Tim on his *hands* and knees, perhaps the way Tim smiles in the moments before Lex shoves in, the way he begs --

Tim knows that it's *him* in Lex's mind, and there's no escape from either that or the feelings it brings. Right now, he's doing everything possible to *please* Lex. Right now, Tim belongs to Lex, and the moments never last long enough. The moments never *can* last long enough --

Lex cries out --

Lex briefly finds a *new* rhythm, fast and a lot *less* hard than what had come before, and Tim swallows as quickly as he can, gags and chokes and never *stops*, because the coffee in him is going to *stay* there, because --

Lex is coming while he thrusts, slicking Tim's mouth before shoving in *deep* one last time, holding Tim's head *rigidly* still and twitching, spasming --

Pulling out fast enough to make Tim cough and gasp and cough *more*. Too soon. Not *enough* --

Lex hauls Tim to his feet and drags him across the room to Tim's desk --

"As always, I'm deeply, deeply tempted to do this on Bruce's --"

"But -- you won't," Tim says, panting and yanking at his fly while Lex strokes his face and chest, his thighs --

*Open*, and Lex pulls him out and pushes until Tim is sitting on the edge of his desk -- "Right there," Lex says, gripping Tim's shoulder in one hand and his penis in the other. "I thought I couldn't have this. I -- you made me think --"

"I know --"

"You're a stupid *bastard* -- but then, so am I."

"I know that, too -- do it fast, Lex, do *me* --"

"High school. And I remember the way you used to obviously *revel* in having my cock in your hand --"

"It's -- a very nice penis. Jesus, Lex, you make me -- mm. I won't last."

"No, you won't," and the kiss is sweet and hard, messy and wonderful with the sound and feel of Lex groaning into his mouth, licking Tim's teeth and tongue --

Stroking him hard and *fast*, expert with years of practice --

"When are you coming back to Metropolis?"

Tim throws his head back and moans, tries to think --

"*Answer* me --"

"Time. There'll be time the week after next -- but I'm going to want to tour your labs --"

"Done," Lex says, and kisses him again, squeezes Tim's shoulder and licks Tim's mouth, bites his lips. "I have *presents* for you."

"Oh, Lex, you --" Tim shakes his head. "It's good, you don't have to -- we don't have to --"

"Oh, yes, we really do. I'm going to tie you up, remember? I'm going to *cane* you."

"*Jesus*, Lex --"

"*With* a plug in you. Something much too large, of course -- oh, you're blushing. You -- I love you," and Lex kisses him again. "Love --" Another kiss -- "*My* love* --"

"Yours," Tim agrees, and starts fucking Lex's fist, starts wondering about things like safewords -- and having to use one solely to keep himself healthy enough for patrol --

"God, not *enough*," Lex says, letting go --

"*Lex* --"

"Stand *up* --"

Tim does it without thinking, and his pants fall down around his ankles just as Lex yanks down his boxer-briefs --

"*Now* sit again, right on the edge -- good boy. *Good* boy, and what do good boys get?"

"Disturbing urges to call you Daddy?"

"Heh. Try this, instead," Lex says, and pushes two fingers into Tim's ass, slow and *burning* --

"My *God* --"

"*Yes*," Lex says. "Stay *right* there," and Lex starts stroking Tim's penis again with his other hand, starts *fucking* him --

"*Lex* --"

"*Again* --"

"*Please*, Lex --"

"Don't *stop*, Tom --"

And the best possible way to respond to that is to throw his head back again and yell, scream, beg and curse and *plead* as Lex takes him higher again, as Lex makes everything in his mind make sense, as he *simplifies* Tim's world until he's just one person in one well-used body, hurting and needing the way he should be for this man.

There are no other options and there never were, and, perhaps, today is the last day he'll ever try to pretend otherwise, try to pretend that he can't compromise just *exactly* as far as he wants to.

He tells Lex to do it harder and gets called a slut again. He begs Lex to never stop and gets kissed, bitten and mouthed at until his lips feel impossibly swollen, until he's as obvious as he can possibly *be*: clothes around his ankles, skin flushed all the way beneath his shirt, legs spread as *wide* as they can go --

Lex --

Bruce, and the only thing Tim can do to thank him for this is to be *better*, be Tom from the moment Lex lets go of him to the moment it's time to go to Lex again, be *this* --

And Tim feels himself smiling and doesn't stop, *can't* stop --

Tim hears himself *yell* again, hears it echo from the high ceiling and thanks God for soundproofed offices with locks on the door, thanks the universe for allowing him this and everything else -- comes shouting and shaking, kicking back against the desk and *arching* --



Lex, and this time when he's kissed, he pries his hands off the edge of the desk and wraps his arms around Lex's neck, wishing for time to do more than promise with his body and press close --

But Lex presses closer and holds him, *hugs* and kisses, and maybe those promises can count for something. They kiss and shuffle and hobble into the washroom, completely fail at not getting water on their suit jackets, and keep kissing until Tim's internal clock tells him that Lex has to leave *now* or risk being unconscionably late for his meeting, as opposed to simply very late.

And when Tim pulls back, Lex smiles at him like he knows everything in Tim's mind -- "The weekend after next."

"Assuming no fires need to be fought."

"You have underlings --"

"Batman," Tim says, using the Voice, "has no secretary."

"And whose fault is that?"

And that... if Lex had somehow decided to become a vigilante, he *would* have a secretary, a vice president in charge of explosives, a staff constantly working on uniform improvements -- certainly, that's how he'd handled supervillainy. Tim shakes his head and adjusts his tie. "Enjoy your day, Lex."

Lex bows slightly. "And you yours, Tom. Shall we leave with my arm around your shoulders, laughing like idiots all the way?"

Tim moves up beside Lex and plasters on his most good-natured smile.

Lex wraps his arm around him and does the same. It's a bit like living in a small corner of his own body again, and he wonders --

No, he knows that Lex feels the same. He's been a ghost in his personal machine since he was old enough to think. Tim takes a deep breath and pulls on Tom, who in turn opens the door.

His outer office is filled with worried-looking LexCorp board members, and his and Bruce's executive assistant looks harried and pissed. Tom laughs a little archly. "Looks like you need to keep your people on a tighter *leash*, Lex."

"Oh, they'd only enjoy it. Gentlemen, I assume you're ready to leave?"

They stand, nearly as one.

"And that's that." Lex squeezes Tom's shoulder. "Always a pleasure, Tom."

"And a privilege, Lex."

Tom watches Lex lead his people out toward the elevators and then turns to Carmen. "Everything all right?"

"They were trying to get me to *interrupt* you," she says, scandalized to the point of gaining a rather deeper color on her expertly made-up cheeks.

"Mm. I do believe Lex would've had someone's head for that. Possibly mine for hiring you," Tom says, smiling to soften the words --

Carmen laughs. "Oh, I wouldn't *dream* of interrupting you when you're in with Mr. Luthor, Mr. Wayne."

Possibly -- mainly -- because there are things Carmen simply never needs to see.

"Um... if I may ask?"

"Yes, Carmen?"

"Will you be planning any new projects with Mr. Luthor? I mean, I know I'm not in that end of the business, but I thought, perhaps..." She blushes harder. "Well, I was having lunch in the atrium, and I remembered that the formal conference room and the old offices around it almost never get used, anymore." 

Tom nods. "Thomas Wayne put some money into modernizing them, but that was almost twenty years ago. Were you thinking we should invite LexCorp to use them?"

"They're just empty space now, but if you were to move some of them here, it could save on private jet time. Um. If that sounds like something that would work for you."

Tom smiles. "You know, Lex has had an office for me for years that I've never used... it really would be only fair. That's an excellent thought, Carmen. Thank you. I'll bring it up with Lex when we speak again."

And she smiles broadly and adjusts her glasses. She may not be conversant with several different schools of martial arts, but she's a very, very good assistant.

"Ah... in the meantime...?"

"Your brother is touring R&D, Mr. Wayne."

"Thank you, I think I'll join him. Buzz down if there's anything big."

"Yes, sir."

Tom knocks twice on Carmen's desk and goes, helplessly noting the spring in his step and the ache in his jaw.

There will undoubtedly be something new and wonderful waiting for them there, something they can use on the street or something they can use to make a better Gotham and, by extension, a better world.

This afternoon, he'll spar with Bruce until they're covered with sweat and just tired *enough* that it would be both useful *and* satisfying to stop and answer Dick's questions, to teach and *show*.

Tonight, they'll have the city, and after that...

After that, they'll have each other again, and Tom will apologize until Bruce makes him stop -- in one way or another -- and then they'll *have* each other, until Lex's scent is lost or obscured under their own --

And then it will all begin again, because he's human and weak and needy, and because, perhaps, they all are in their own ways.

But there's no one like Bruce, and sometimes Tom wonders if he's here to learn and *re-learn* that every day, to find ways to thank him for it, love him for it --

And when he finds Bruce, he's talking to one the laboratory assistants -- making him blush and stammer and cough until Bruce turns some of his attention on Tom, who is, at least, used to the force of it.

Bruce's smile is small, bright, and accepting.

Tom smiles back, and knows his thanks are in his eyes by the way Bruce nods.

They move closer, and settle in to listen.