Steal from the world [Source]
by Te
April 6, 2007

Disclaimers: Not mine.

Spoilers: Vague references to events up through
NIGHTWING #87 or so, as well as to events up through
BATMAN ADVENTURES v2 #12. Crossover time.

Summary: Dick believes in boundaries.

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content.

Author's Note: A sequel, of sorts to "My all and every day"
and Petra's "Enter as you please." I rather think both
would help for this one.

Acknowledgments: To Betty and Katarik for audiencing
and encouragement. Written explicitly *to* make Betty
smile. :D


He's thought about it, of course. It would pretty much be
impossible *not* to think about it, if only in terms of whether
or not he should either cut his hair even shorter or let it
grow out again --

See --

Dick believes in boundaries. It's not that he doesn't love his
family -- they're the only one he *has*, and they're all
wonderful people, really. Loving people, and -- once, not too
long ago, a young woman he'd been idly considering having
a relationship with -- as opposed to a flirtation over coffee
and local bands -- had asked, equally idly, if it was possible
to love someone or something too much.

They'd been discussing the lyrics of a song by one of the
bands in question, discussing the difference between love
and obsession -- they'd been talking about a *song*, and
the only thing Dick had been able to think of, all of a sudden,
was his... Bruce.

The guy who was never going to be his father, the guy
who'd made it kind of desperately -- if not *too* scarringly --
clear that he'd wanted anything but --

Bruce. He's never going to forget what it had been like to
kiss him, to be kissed until he was out of *breath*, and --
and he'd managed to keep his smile from looking sick -- lots
of reflective-*enough* surfaces to check in a coffee shop --
and he'd excused himself, and things... had petered out.

Not too scarring -- right.

So, he's thought about... it. A part of him is nothing --
absolutely *nothing* -- but relieved. To get mystical about
it, there almost had to be a Dick out there, somewhere, who
loved Bruce just as much as Bruce loved -- well. The idea of
him. The kid who tried to stay happy, stay light and loose
and okay, even as the world just got nastier, harder, and

*He* barely remembers what that kid *looked* like, much
less how he'd felt from the inside -- but all he has to do is
go back to Gotham to get a great big eyeful. The fact that
he hasn't is all about those boundaries. He doesn't need to
see it, smell it, or even get a glance of what it's *like* to live

He knows. He's -- to be honest --

He has always known exactly what was required *and*
desired -- from Bruce *and* Babs and Timmy -- and the fact
is that he loves his family a lot more *easily* from
Bludhaven than he ever did from up close.

Maybe he should send the dinosaur back. Bruce and his
anything-but-evil twin would probably appreciate it. Dick
snorts to himself and pets the tail of the thing. Some very
strange and obsessive person had once, many years ago,
carved in thousands and thousands of realistic-looking

Everybody needs armor.

Still -- he ought to at least check on them. The very specific
'them' which does *not* include Bruce. Bruce had gotten to
know the other Dick. The others... not so much.

Bonus -- if he heads over *there*, the chances of a surprise
visit *here* are much, much lower. Dick grabs the helmet
for his bike and whistles to himself, a little.


Okay -- no.

Just -- no.

The fact that there are no new bedrooms that have been
opened up and aired out -- creepy, but not, actually, a

The fact that there are not only clothes which would fit him,
but also some which would fit *Babs* in Bruce's bedroom --
again, not a surprise.

The fact that *Tim's* closet is half-empty --

Well, honestly, he'd been *expecting* that it would all be
one big *party*. It's Timmy, for God's sake. The kid carried
more condoms for himself than he did for the working girls.
He would've thought...

Well, he *had* thought that a happy, easy, and apparently
boundary-*free* Dick would be right up his -- it's gotta be
said -- alley. He'd -- Dick had *wanted* to be like that, or at
least a variety of *separate* they could both live with, and
he'd hoped...

Wow. He'd actually hoped. And he can't even blame the
years of lingering psychoactive toxins that Gotham calls an
atmosphere for *that*. Jesus, what the hell --

Dick sighs to himself. It's possible he'd timed all this a little
*too* well. He's not really in the right *kind* of civvies to
drop a dime on Bruce at WE, and, while Jim Gordon has
always liked him well enough, he really couldn't deal with
Babs being fake at him right now. It's too easy to be with
her when she's just being the daughter of the Commissioner.
It's too --

He *likes* her too much when she's doing that, and they
both know it, and it's not like he wants to piss her off --

At least, not until he's *sure* it's at least partly her fault
that they have a Robin gone walkabout.

No, it's time to deal with the warm-blooded blip some three
stories *below* him right now, judging by his palm-top. The
one that apparently doesn't merit Alfred stalking the place
with his shotgun. Or --

No. He'd given up on Alfred giving him the right kinds of
answers years ago.

Below, the Cave is itself. A little too warm for all the space
and stone until he lets himself adjust for climate control, a
little too huge to be believed, a little too -- full.

It's not a surprise that -- the other -- is on the gymnastics
equipment, and it's not even too weird. He had a solid two
years to watch Timmy making that equipment his own,
after all, and --

No, it's weird. The only times Timmy *didn't* acknowledge
his presence was when he was too fucked-up in his own
head to be able to handle anything but the motion of his
own body. He was *always* that good, and --

The other is *just* as good. Better, maybe -- but at this
level, the only way to be sure about *that* is to take it to
the street. Probably -- probably -- the other is just giving
himself time to cope with just who his audience is, so Dick
waits for the dismount, starts to clap --

He *is* good --

"Oh -- Jesus, I thought you were --" The laugh is soft and
admirably not-breathless. "I --"

"I'm pretty sure I don't want you to finish the original
thought," Dick says, and crosses his arms over his chest.

The other blinks and makes a face at him. "I think -- sure,
you know what I was going to *say*, but you..." He waves
a hand and runs the other back through his hair. "You
can't really blame me all that much, can you?"

"Where's Tim," Dick says, and he's not -- he's really *not*.

"Or... maybe you can? Look, if I'd had any idea that the
Bruce from my universe would be that..." The other shakes
his head. "I'm guessing *you* don't think so, but there
probably should be some way we can... greet each other?
Meet each other --"

"I don't really have the time," Dick says, and... maybe he
should say... something else? He shakes his head. "Look,
just tell me -- did he leave because... you're here?"

"He -- he was gone when I *got* here, I've never even -- I
mean, Babs talks to him every day," the other says, and
waves toward -- the portal. "We've said 'hi,' but... he didn't
say good-bye to you?"

Gone. To the other... "He went to *your* universe?"

"With -- the Bruce I really should've figured out a long time
ago wasn't really mine. I -- yeah," the other says, and --

It's a little like watching a cobra, or visiting one of Joker's
funhouses. The other approaches carefully, gracefully,
*openly*. Dick blocks the hand that wanted to be on his
shoulder at not quite the *last* second and shakes his
head again. "Can you get me over there?"

"You -- of course you want to bring him back, he's your little
brother, right?"

Kind of. Not really. Dick doesn't make a face, but he *wants*
to. "You left your own. Why are you assuming --"

"Tim is -- he's such a great... I didn't deserve a brother like
him, but I couldn't --" This laugh is, at least, a little less
open. "You know, I really want to reassure myself that you
understand, but you don't, do you?"

Dick shakes his head. "Just -- I need to talk to him --"

"Of course," the other says, and his hand actually twitches
to reach out --

"I -- when I was more like you..." Bruce balked hard enough
to knock it right out of me, he doesn't say. Everybody
changes. Everybody -- makes mistakes.

"Would you tell me?" And the other's eyes are wide and full
of nothing but the sincere desire to *listen* --

"No, I was never -- tell me how to *get* over there," he
says, and risks unfolding his arms.

The other's hands twitch *again* -- but all he does is smile
ruefully and nod. "I'd tell you to hug *my* little brother for
me, but I don't want you to injure each other, guy --
anyway," he says, and shakes himself like a dog. "It's
actually kind of terrifying how easy it is..."


The other Cave isn't any bigger or colder, but it *is* more
full. More trophies, more --

More signs of more *people*. That -- that Case.

It's a memorial, not a memory. Jason Todd...

It's not that he doesn't realize that he'd probably never met
anyone remotely like that, but he still has to rack his
memory a little.

"Dick -- no. You're -- you're from the other universe."

That voice -- he's moving before he can completely think
about, "what were you thinking -- why are you wearing
my unif -- you're from this universe." Right, Dick thinks,
and doesn't *quite* slap himself in the face with his palm.
"Your -- the other Dick sends his regards, and believe me
when I say that I can't possibly express the depth of them,"
Dick says, and offers his hand.

"No?" this Tim says, and his smile is good enough for the
*street* when he shakes Dick's hand. "That would explain...
a significant amount."

Dick raises his eyebrow. This kid's just -- wow. "You are...
would you be capable of acting like the Tim *I* know if it
wasn't -- life or death?"

It's not really what he wants to -- it doesn't have anything to
*do* with anything Dick needs to know, except for how it
absolutely does. And --

At first it just seems like this Tim is smiling at an increasingly
amusing joke, but the smile gets wider, wetter --

He tilts his head --

His hands go on his complete lack of hips -- "Wow, okay,
stop that. Right now. Please."

"I'm just getting *started* -- but -- yes, I think I'll stop. I
believe... your family did rather less disguise work than my

Really -- Dick snorts. "I may have to forgive the Bruce from
my neck of the woods for that dress, now."

"Well," Tim says, and his smile might as well be for a


"I'd feel no compunction about keeping your secret -- if
you'd like."

"No, hunh... that's. That's interesting."

"I try. Were you looking for... the other Tim?"

"Two of you -- I..." Dick shakes his head. "Do you both live

"*Live* here? I -- no. No, I really don't. That would be a
bit... much, I think."

More and more interesting. But -- "I kinda need to know,
kid -- what *do* you call each other?"

"'Kid...?' All right. Most of the time, I call him 'Robin.' He
calls me 'Tim.' Most of the time."

And more, and more, and more. Interesting, that is. Dick
watches Tim fold his arms under the cape. The affect is
patience, the *effect* is... anything but Robin. And the
moves... "You have to struggle for pretty much all the
acrobatics, don't you?"

A nod, and... "Robin has been very helpful. But I'd
understand if -- I'm making an assumption. *Are* you here
to try to take him back? It seems wrong to... Robins can be
rather necessary," he says, and doesn't --

He doesn't step back, but it feels as though he wants to. Hm.
"Why? Are you ready to get rid of him?"

"Hardly," Tim says. "He adds a certain... atmosphere. Just
the same -- I'd understand."

*Atmosphere*? Does he want to know? "Don't take this the
wrong way, but I kind of want to interrogate *you* for a
while," Dick says, and decides to give Tim one of his own

"Hm. There's a wrong way to take that...? I've been
dreadfully misinformed. But if you were wondering where
he is at present --"

"I was -- and am," Dick says, and folds his arms over his

"I --" Tim narrows his eyes behind the mask. "Capoeira?
Interesting. He's currently visiting Barbara at the
Clocktower -- I assume the Barbara from your universe is
usually more... physically present?"

Dick nods, and --

"I'll give you directions," Tim says, and pulls a notepad from
his belt. "The geography can be quite different between our

Really, it doesn't say anything at all beyond what he already
knows about his life and his *self* that he'd kind of like to
spar with this Tim. And he's reasonably sure that *his* "little
brother" probably felt the same -- hm. "That bruise on your
elbow --"

"A kick Robin assures me he learned from you. In several
different painful ways," Tim says, and hands over the sheet.

The handwriting is small, neat, and painfully utilitarian --
and if it's the way this Tim actually writes, Dick will eat the
damned portal. Both of them. Dick nods his thanks --

Tim nods back -- and gestures toward a bike. In blue and
black. "You shouldn't need much time to familiarize yourself
with it -- your other doesn't believe in quite as many tricks
and traps as I do."

You don't say. Dick finishes memorizing the sheet, hands it
back to Tim, and heads for the bike.


As it happens, there are parking spots in two of the four
areas this universe's Tim suggested. If there are cameras --
and he knows there are -- they aren't in any of the places
*he* would pick. He makes a point of standing up straight
and turning around like a tourist, and then he heads for the
tower proper.

From the outside, it looks like someone's project to resurrect
vintage -- slightly less absurd than most.

From the inside --

Well, he *isn't* inside before the E-M monitor he carries as
a matter of course -- it looks like a very boring, worn
keychain -- is humming a little frantically. He shuts it off
before it burns itself out.

He knows... not much. He'd used his access to Bruce's files
before even heading to -- his own -- Gotham -- of course.
He knows that this universe has a Batgirl, but one
significantly younger than he is. He knows that she's the
*third* Batgirl, and that Barbara was the first, but he knows
as much about the second as Bruce does -- which is

He knows that the Babs in this universe spends far more
time with computers than the one *he* knows ever has --
more than even the Tim from his universe, which is almost
certainly why he's here.

They --

The fact that they're *training* Tim somehow feels --

Of course, training never ends, not if you're remotely sane
about it. If he'd left Tim's training up to Bruce and Babs --
he couldn't have done it. He'd put off moving to Bludhaven
for an entire extra *year* just to make sure. And, of course,
Tim still had a lot to learn --

The comm currently tucked in the innocent-*seeming* boot
vibrates *hard*. He's nowhere near -- in any physical way --
anyone who could *make* that thing vibrate. But.

Dick drops to one knee, pretends to tug the boot straight,
palms the communicator, and places it in as subtly as he can
manage. The longer hair *had* had a use or two, and --

"Now why," Babs' older, colder? sister says, "should I grant
access to someone with a face like yours."

Chances are, she's talking about his expression. He still has
no idea where the camera is, but, since it's probably right
where the average person would face... he faces the door.
"Because you've got something which doesn't belong to

"A little brother, perhaps? Not since he realized there was --
something of -- a precedent for people who go by his name
visiting Bruce at WE."

"This -- is probably the wildest goose chase I've ever been
on," he says, and wonders how accustomed the people of
*this* Gotham are to people who stand around scowling
and muttering. He makes his expression more neutral.
"Look, I -- is it in the same place --"

"You could, if you wanted to, think of it as more of a 'choose
your own adventure,' Barbara says.

Barbara. And really -- "Do people ever call you 'Babs?'"

"Not," she says, "anymore," and there's a small click --

The lock on the door. All right, into the parlor it is. The short
hallway leads to an elevator, which opens as he gets there.
Intrigue, manipulation... "I'm tempted to put my rebreather
in," he says, for the benefit of the mics he -- predictably, at
this point, can't see.

"I almost never gas visitors," and the voice is coming from...
above and in front of him. The speakers blend almost
perfectly with the paint job in the elevator. "Good to know."

"I much prefer electrocution," she says, and laughs -- quiet
and low -- when Dick makes a show of moving to the precise
center of the car and checking the rubber soles of his boots.

The doors open again, and the place seems like a cross
between a generic apartment and a computer store. Or
possible like the apartment *of* a computer... or something.
There are work-tables everywhere, and everything looks
some degree of functional -- including the monitors just
below the ceiling which currently have arrows the same
shade of blue as the bird on the uniform he'd left in his own

Dick shakes his head, follows orders, and he's about to be
irritable about the *affectedness* of Barbara sitting down
facing away from him -- and then he notices the wheels.


Of course, it *is* still affected when Barbara turns around --
wheels around -- to face him, but -- "Did you do it this way
to get a better read on my reaction?"

The shrug is casual, and has nothing whatsoever to do with
the look in her eyes. "Cheap, but effective. It's impressive
how few people take note of the lack of stairs at the
entrances --"

"And the elevator." Dick nods and raises his hands in
something which could be construed as surrender, if the
person doing the construing wanted to. "It -- it wasn't a
*fall*, was it?"

"Your Batgirl might not wear heels, but I always did. And I
never fell," she says, "until the Joker shot me."

Dick nods again. That, at least, makes sense. "Have I
passed... enough tests?"

"I'm not sure that's possible, Dick, but you've certainly
moved on to the next stage of the exam," she says, and
gestures toward a work table with nothing on it save for
what looks to be scratch-paper. Covered with Tim's
handwriting, sketches...

"What *is* he trying to build?"

"He's disappointed with our demolitions equipment. What
have *you* been letting him do?"

"Me? Nothing but work. Bruce -- the Bruce in my universe..."
Dick shakes his head. "How are you used to this? You're
training him, you're *teaching* him how to put his insane
ideas into workable configurations --"

"It seemed like the thing to do. We're all always looking for
new toys, and the other Tim's innovations tend toward the
vehicular and *defensive*. He's here, he's Robin, and we're
*going* to use him."

When he looks, one of Barbara's (small, scarred, obviously
powerful) hands is toying with the wheel. "I -- what?"

"You were about to try to get a look at my back. I -- was
about to be helpful."

"You don't make many new friends, do you?"

For a moment, she looks shocked enough that he's --
almost -- tempted to apologize, but -- "On the contrary," she
says, and gestures at their surroundings. "I *make* them
all the time."

"Quiet, obedient, and unconcerned with the way of all flesh?"

Her smile is... familiar, but only that. It's quieter, like
everything he's seen in and of this universe other than his --
other. Her smile is expectant, too. Waiting for his next

"How much paralysis are we talking about?"

Her hum is... approving. Faintly. "Total below the knees. A
certain amount of my time is given to working the remaining
muscle tissue in my calves to keep my feet from trying to
curl in on themselves. I like shoes."

Dick nods. "Above the knees, you have... feeling? Some
degree of movement?"

"There are parts of my thighs you could set fire to and if I
was blindfolded and asleep..." She shrugs. "Other parts --
patches -- simply feel 'asleep' most of the time."

"Annoying as hell?"

"Most of my pants are some degree of textured on the
insides. It helps."

That's a yes. "And sexually?"

Barbara's smile is predatory enough to let Dick know that
he'd passed another test, which is... frankly bizarre.

This may not be *Babs*, but it's still Barbara. "Unless I'm
overstepping my bounds," he says, leaning back in his chair
and folding his hands.

"I get by," she says, and turns the chair so that they're
facing each other. "So tell me why you're Robin-hunting,
and maybe I'll find a way to lure him into a trap for you."

"Tim -- your Tim -- seems to think it would be possible for
me to talk him into coming back. Or that it would, at least,
be rational to try."

"Tim's a good boy who misses his big brother terribly," she
says, and the pattern she's tracing on the table with her
fingernail may or may not be a heart. "The boy who doesn't
seem to mind being referred to as 'Timmy' -- seems to be
another story."

Dick snorts. "Is this where you tell me that *Tim* was too
polite to tell me that he hasn't even mentioned... any of us?"

"Well, I wouldn't say *that*," she says, and wheels herself --
no handles on the back of the chair, very obvious marks
where handles might once have been, possibly *highlighted*
marks -- toward the kitchen.


"Let's see," she says, and pushes a button that moves the
section of countertop which holds *only* a coffee maker and
several mugs down to her level. "We know that you're the
hardass who did the lion's share of his training, we know
that you 'ditched' Gotham for Bludhaven on your own, just
as you quit being Robin on your own -- and even stopped
being a vigilante for a while. We know that -- by some
definitions -- you can be a pissy *bitch* --"

"Remind me why I miss him?" He -- he misses him. Well,

"You trained him," she says, "you hurt him, you abused him,
you bruised him and scarred him -- probably --"

A batarang slash on his left shoulder blade. His hands -- all
over his hands --

"You shaped and changed him. He's yours. And Bruce had
no right to take him," and the coffee she brings to the table
is dark and strong and not enough of a distraction.

"But I should just let him go if that's what he needs to do."

Another shrug. "I'm never going to be comfortable with
these little... *rifts* in spacetime. In my experience, they
always wind up biting people in the ass, assuming they
didn't start that way."

"Mm. Thanks for the coffee."

"Thanks for taking my little hints about not helping."

"How long...?"

"Just about four years."

"Your -- family doesn't seem like the type to take all that
long to catch clues," he says, and takes a big, not-quite-
burning swallow.

"You'd think so, wouldn't you? But -- have you actually
spoken to... your other?"

"Briefly, this morning -- you dated him."

"Until a few weeks before he left the universe, actually,"
she says, and --

And it's instinct, more than anything else. Perhaps a little bit
of hunch. It's not quite the same smile as the one she'd had
when he first saw her, and it's not exactly -- or even
mostly -- humorless, and it's still a joke which never needed
to be told. Or -- someone would think that. "I kinda feel a
little inadequate. I barely left my *hemisphere* when I was
on the rebound."

When it's a good laugh -- and he knows this one is -- her
eyes slip closed and her hands -- move. Just a little

Maybe it's Batgirl. Maybe it's just the part of her which had
to *become* Batgirl. "Do you miss him?"

"Every day. But I'd rather have him happy than here."

"Not both?"

She spreads her arms, and there's something -- there are
some*things* -- between her sleeves and her arms.


"It wasn't in the cards. I'd say something about how we
maybe waited too long, but -- Timmy didn't fail to mention
your 'flameout' with -- my other."

"I -- used to think we didn't wait long *enough*."

"Mm," Barbara says, and sips her own coffee. "Feel better?"

"I --" Dick puts his coffee down and reaches across the
table. "I'm Dick. You're fascinating -- but I'd rather have a

"Barbara," she says, and when she reaches, the edges of the
things under her shirt become clear. Escrima sticks. Still a
fighter -- just in case the feel of her hands hadn't clued him
in. "And don't you have enough names?"

"I *have* -- I've had a lot of fucked-up relationships, and I
think you have, too. The reason why I'm here was stupid
from the word go, but I'm here."

"So you are," she says, and taps at his hand twice with one
short, squared off nail.

He lets go. "I am. And it occurs to me that this doesn't have
to be a wasted trip."

The eyebrow she raises makes her look -- seem -- she's
older than he is, by some strange twist of the universes that
made them both. As if there always had to be a Batgirl,
somehow, with just that hair, and just those eyes --

No, the eyes are different, and he wants to know if they
belong to Oracle or just to *this* woman, right here -- "Tell
me more about 'adventure?'"

"What -- exactly -- do you want to know," she says, and --

One of her hands is still on the table. That's -- she's
attracted. And she gets by. There isn't much else he
*needs* to know -- it would be just as stupid to pretend this
isn't Barbara as it would be to pretend she was Babs.

And she hadn't asked what he *needed* to know. Nice of
her to put 'want' right out on the table like that, really. "I
want to know what you do," he says, and lets one of his
own hands rest near hers.

She pulls away --

She *wheels* away, and there's absolutely nothing to tell
him not to follow and more than enough to tell him *to* do
it. The back of the chair is just high enough to *hint* at
the way the muscles move in her back when she's moving,
and her hair is long enough to make her shoulders a tease.
They are...

They're in a very specific sort of gym, and there's a part of
him which wants to make sure it's perfect, that it has
*enough* -- but there's a bar above parallel bars, and the
escrima sticks stand out naked and a little sleek under her
sleeves when she reaches. "You don't normally dress this
way," he says.

"I don't normally have visitors," she says, and swings her
weight upright with easy grace. "Like you."

"I feel --"

"Watch," she says, and she hasn't moved along the bars a
yard before he realizes --

Of course her legs aren't taped, but they normally would be.
It's a little obscene to watch them trail behind her, useless
and *slack* -- they're hurting her speed, her ability to
*move* -- "May I?" He's already crouched beside her.

She -- pauses, and her arms are corded, hard, unforgiving
things. He's not touching her. It's...

He's not -- "Just -- here," he says, and cups his hands just
beyond her thighs. When he looks up -- all the way -- this
time --

Her eyes are amused, and her face shows no sign of strain.
"All right."

The warmth through her jeans is right, the feel is -- *her*.
This part of her, and oh yes, there are others. He's walking
backwards and crouched, and her legs -- her *back* -- "I
didn't think this through," he says, laughing.


"I can't see your back. Your shoulder blades --"

"No," she says, and her turn is a controlled *whip*. Almost
half her weight -- no, less, because of musculature. "You

Dick hears himself grunt -- it's a laugh and it's a bit more
than that, too. He knows himself, and he knows he's really
only human --

And her hum tells him she knows it, too.

"If I lift your legs at an angle..."

"Did you want me to -- stand and give you twenty?"

"Is that all you got?"

"Hmm. Lift," she says, and it takes a moment's thought. She
can't help him, so he has to place his arm pretty exactly --

Her calves are soft, warm and soft, and once the angle is
about forty-five degrees --

"Good boy," she says, and starts to swing. The part of him
which wants to help her do it is stupid and slow, the rest of
him is focused on the perfection of her arms, unlocked
elbows and raw, muscular strength.

"I want you on a pommel horse," he says, because he can't
stop himself.

"I don't have a partner for that -- sort of thing," she says,
and when the back of her shirt lifts on this swinging twist,
he can see scars, and he can see where the perfection
stops, changes, stills...

"But you would, if there was someone you... wanted, in that

This laugh is strained -- but only until she finishes the turn
which -- he has to *move* around her, fast and careful,
because her legs inscribe something like a *cone* on the air,
in the air -- she doesn't wear perfume.

"I would, too," he says, and follows her path, learns it --

"What else would you do, Dick?"

Learns -- she's *pacing*, using him to circle her the way
she wants -- "Stop."

"Why," she says, and does three quick, snapping push-ups.
*Restless* -- "Why should I?"

And really, it's maybe a little too much to stand this slowly,
to not let *go* with his hands, to stroke his way up and not
stop until he feels muscle, tension --


"Barbara," he says, and breathes in sweat and woman, old
chalk and electronics equipment. "I want to take
advantage --"

"Of me?"

He has it on reasonable authority that this smile is one
which is only infuriating at the *wrong* time --


It's not the wrong time. "Of the fact that you're exactly
strong enough to stay *right* there for some as-yet-
undetermined -- by me -- length of time."

"Then I suppose you'd better kiss me."

It's tempting to tease -- this close, he can see the faded
ghosts of freckles across the bridge of her nose, and he
can almost *taste* the sweat on the thin skin beneath her
eyes, behind those glasses --

It's enough -- if only for right *this* moment -- to feel the
cold of her wire-rims on his cheek as he moves in. Her lips
are as soft as Babs' ever were, but the intent behind them
is much harder, firm and tough, something to work against,
*move* against --

And when Dick squeezes her waist, she licks his teeth, once,
twice, he opens and she pushes, slick and matter-of-fact.
She kisses --

Babs had kissed like it was precisely what they were
supposed to be doing, sweet and sly and easy, teasing.
Barbara --

Barbara kisses like she's testing him, tasting him, studying
him -- "Tell me when I should stop," he says, and drops
back down enough to lick the insides of her elbows -- salt,
soap. The hairs on her arms are ticklish against his mouth,
and she shakes -- once, briefly -- when he digs his teeth in
against her forearm.

This is going to stop being playful pretty soon. This -- her
waist --

Kissing her there gets her another shake, kissing her again
makes her move. He looks up, definitely not playing
anymore --

"Simon," she says, "didn't say a *word*."

Or maybe he is. It's just that this game has different *rules*.
The smile on his face now -- he's not sure what it is. It feels
a little wilder than what he was hoping for, what he was
thinking of, but she's still moving *away* -- and she looks
nothing but appreciative when he stands up and jumps
*over* the bar to get to her other side.

Her tricep seems to thrum between his teeth, and the back
of her neck is saltier, saltiest -- not, when he licks, when he
doesn't *stop* her with his licking -- "You are so -- fine," he
says, and walks back and up and over the locked chair that
wants to trip him.

"Here," she says, sitting down and touching a place just
between the firm line of her jaw and her throat.

"Preferences?" And he's down again, nuzzling there --

"Your teeth -- mm," and when he tries for the same position
on the other side, she *tilts* her throat --

None of these bites will mark, but she hasn't said harder or
softer. She --

"*Here*," she says, and this time she's got one blunt finger
on her cheek.

Downy, more freckles, she shivers when he licks, presses
close when he kisses. She's -- she's moving again, and it's
incredibly tempting to balance on his knees to either side of
her thighs and keep working *that* way --

"No," she says. "Keep -- moving."

"Your wish," and from behind --

"Dick --"

That was almost a growl, and he's taking notes on this,
especially because all he'd done was scrape his teeth *just*
under the collar of her shirt, all he does --

It's impossibly *dirty* to slide his hands down her working
arms until he can grip, press those escrima sticks to her
skin -- they have to be warm from her skin, sleek and hard
as the abdomen he can *just* get to, just for a second, just
enough to tug at her blouse with his teeth --

She doesn't *stop*, and so he has a choice between moving
and getting run *over* --

But she hadn't said a word about slowing her *down*, so
there's nothing stopping him from pressing his fingers to her
temples, stroking down to the pressure points behind her
ears --

"Don't start boring me *now*, Dick --"

And when he slides his hands beneath her shirt to her
breasts and bends to kiss her from above and behind --

It's a moan, and it's the first one, and it makes him bite her
lower lip and *squeeze* her breasts through the bra --
sports bra, practical, easy --

"I wouldn't dream of it," and he's got her shirt open to the
waist, and he can use his *face* to nudge and nuzzle it off
one shoulder, the other -- scars and creamy skin, not
enough sunlight, more freckles --

She's still *moving*, but he can get in front of her, get her
speed -- get it again when she slows, again when she
speeds, dive in to bite when she touches her own
collarbone --

And trip when the backs of his knees hit the bed. She
laughs, shoves him until he falls entirely -- the bed is *just*
soft enough that his elbows don't complain. "Got me where
you want me?"

"Perhaps," she says, and toys with the fly of her jeans. She's
not pointing, but he -- isn't very difficult to train. Especially
because she's left him *just* enough room to slide back off
the bed and down to his knees.

He leans in --

And she stops him with a hand in his hair. She doesn't stop
plucking at her fly with the other.

"You," he says, "have my utmost attention, Barbara."

"Good. Then catch me by the hips and pull my body

Soft --

The fact that it feels like the biggest tragedy in this building
is the fact that he can't feel *enough* of her through her
jeans when he pulls is, he thinks --

It's *exactly* what she wants, and exactly what anyone with
a functioning brain would give her -- hm. "How much *was*
my 'little brother' hitting on you?"

"An impressive amount," she says, brushing his hands aside
and using her own to spread her thighs, "considering his
extracurricular activities in Bristol."

"I'd make excuses for him, but -- he's got good instincts for
a pervert," he says, and covers the hand she has at her fly
with one of his own.

"Mm. He *did* go right for my breasts at least twice."

"At least...?"

"It's difficult to be sure just where he was headed the third
time, being as how I hit him while he was still in-flight."

"You realize," he says, and pops the first button, "that some
people only find that sort of thing encouraging?"

"Really...? How curious. Open another, then stop."

Dick nods and watches her eyes. Watches her -- narrow,
and -- there's *something* she's enjoying, but whether it's
the place on her mound he's touching indirectly or the way
he looks on his knees, or something entirely private --

"Come here."

He can't be sure, and, in the end, he doesn't care. This kiss
is all the ways they are and aren't naked, all the ways they
do and don't know each other. She doesn't hesitate to suck
*just* the tip of his tongue.

He doesn't hesitate to stroke the short hairs at the back of
her neck, the place which isn't sweaty from a cowl anymore,
but it still a *place* --

Timmy would fit in her lap and be absolutely okay with that.
Dick -- he'd look a little ridiculous, but... that has nothing to
do with how he'd *feel*. "May I...?"

This laugh is... throaty. Chesty. Low and deep -- somewhere
he'd like to touch. "My lap? All right."

"Should I call you 'mommy?'"

"I -- have enough names," she says, and reaches down to
spread her legs even wider, making a space for him --

So long as he's willing to let his legs dangle and let her
support the weight of his upper body -- which he absolutely
is. "Mm --"

"But let me get back to you on that just the same," and the
flex of her arm behind his neck is more than enough reason
to push back a little, let her *show* him --

Lift him --

Let him lie, again, ass resting on the chair between her
thighs, and he can't really reach her fly anymore, but she
smiles down at him when he puts an arm around her
shoulders -- and she smiles even wider when he uses his
free hand to tap at his own fly.

That smile is as good as a 'yes,' if not quite as good as a
command. He does it as slow as he can make himself, one
button at a time, maybe a little flourish with his fingers --

This close, every laugh moves both of them.

She likes the show -- likes the fact that it's his first impulse
to give it to her --

Likes *him*, for everything that means, whether or not it
should, so he makes sure she's watching his face before he
cups himself through his briefs, and makes sure she can
*see* everything passing over his face.

"Oh -- yes," and there's something *entirely* yes about her
lifting him again, getting him in range for a kiss -- she's
fucking his mouth, shameless and kind of *rough*, and Dick
squeezes himself into a moan for that tongue, something to
echo around her mouth, make her teeth itch, make her
need to kiss him even harder

"Did you want me to jerk off for you? Because --"

"Mm... no," she says, and knocks his hand away from
himself with just a little too much -- perfect -- force --

"Okay, then -- *oh*, Jesus, fucking -- your hands --"
Opening him up, getting him *out* --

It feels a little like everything was leading right here, like
she was telegraphing *just* this squeeze, just that stroke,
from the time he walked in. She was showing off her hands,
too, making him *ready* for this touch --

And when she kisses him again, she *also* strokes faster --
too fast -- "This -- you should slow down -- a little --"

"No, I don't think so. Kiss me," and apparently he's either
too slow or just slow *enough*, because she bites him,
upper and lower lip --

Bites him again --

Squeezes on *every* downstroke --

"Barbara -- I -- you're gonna make me look like a *kid*
here -- ow, Jesus *yes* --"

Another bite, and she's fucking his mouth with the exact
same rhythm she's using on his dick, and he wants to
move, push up into it -- this position won't let him do
*much*, but he could --

He can stay right here and take his punishment like a good
*boy*, because when she hums it just goes right through
him, hard little knot of sound in his spine, his throat, his
dick --

And then she *moans* for him, and he'd really like to know
what the hell he'd done to make it *that* good, but it's
entirely possible that it's just the way he's clutching at her
working shoulder.

Too hard, but --

Too hard doesn't count for this place, or this woman, so
maybe he can just -- just --

"Fuck, *Oracle* --"

Maybe he can just wind up with his head thrown back over
her arm, because she's using the kind of speed on him that's
only for showers, lubricant, adrenaline, (Bruce) --

She's --

She's *got* him, and the only thing to do about that is
moan exactly the way he wants to, grind back against all
that power and never mind anything but the way she's
going to yank the orgasm right out of him --

Right --

"Oh -- fucking God, at least -- aim me -- *fuck* --"

It says something that he was expecting that last *pull* to
make him shoot himself in his own face, but there's a wet
splatter -- floor, thank God -- *that* way which is making
him -- he can see --

"Oh... God. Hope you got traction on these wheels, babe --

"All weather radials -- of a sort," she says, laughing again,
eyes slipping half-closed again, and --

"Oh, too much too -- Barbara -- Oracle --" The slide of her
hand is just *mean*, because -- well, because it makes
him --

'Writhe' would be a generous way to put it.

'Wriggle' is closer --

"You'd probably find it easier to balance if you were back on
your knees," she says, and she's a very smart woman and
absolutely correct, besides. And helpful, for certain values --
he's too *sensitive* for that slide --

She's laughing *around* her sticky fingers --

And he lands with a shameful *thump*, but not a painful
one, and her thighs are still -- exactly where she'd placed

"I could get used to this," he says, once he's straightened up
a little and can run his fingers down her thighs -- the left
one twitches. Once. "I could -- I think I need *direction*,

"Do you?" She pops the rest of the buttons on her fly with
one hand, *licks* her other hand, and, "that would be...

Mm. Time to take the initiative. Absolutely -- time to get up
close enough to lick her right hand, her left, taste himself,
get his fingers under the waistband of her jeans -- wait.

*One* hand under the waistband of her jeans, the other
under her ass. She's exactly as heavier-than-she-looks as
she should be, which is more than enough reason to yank
her jeans down fast. And her face...

She's sucking and licking at her fingers again -- at
*precisely* the places where *he* was licking -- "Can you
take a little chafing if I just pull the jeans down the rest of
the way from here?"

"Convince me I should."

"I -- plan on tongue-fucking you until you order me to suck
your clit, instead."

"Mm. Charmer. *Do* it," she says, and he wants to do
something to *soothe* the hiss she lets out when he finally
gets her pants out of the way -- pins and needles, annoying
as hell, he *remembers* --

But he hasn't even touched her skin again before she has
her hands in his hair. That's -- impressively *rude*, really,
but he's willing to bet his other had loved it. He --

He could get used to it, definitely, because her aim is
perfect, and all he has to do is stick his tongue *out* --

Salt, heat, *wet*, something almost tangy -- sweat and the
proof that she's been doing nothing but getting off on
*him* for at least a little while. He'd like to have a little
more evidence, a little more *data* for the file he's working
up on Barbara and sex, but more than that --

"*Dick* --"

More than *that*, he wants to tell her all about every
random thought in his head, and this -- is the perfect time
to do it without having to worry about the quiz that comes
later, and possibly has a tazer attached to the last question.

Laughing makes her hands shake on his head, and faster
makes her start scratching and petting him, *at* him --

He pulls back long enough to take a breath and dives back
in, unhindered by the thighs which just aren't moving --
can't move --

Possibly he'd be more rude with his hands, too. Possibly --

Her hands are saying as much as his tongue is, and
somehow it just feels *right* to hold on to nothing but the
wheels of her chair, to *do* nothing but what he can with
his tongue and the bones of his face --

"You -- don't -- don't stop --"

He really, *really* won't, because, in the end, he knows just
as much about how things are working beneath her pale
skin as he does with any woman, and 'don't stop' is one of
the few -- the best -- guarantees.

Especially when Barbara takes her hands out of his hair and
covers Dick's hands again -- *pushes* Dick's hands, unlocks
the wheels and starts -- moving?

No, really -- he isn't sure whether it's bad form or *not* to
grab her hands again, to -- she's good enough to twist their
hands around, *squeeze* his -- and possibly --

Probably definitely he's growling now, crawling and moving
to compensate for Babs' random decision to escape -- or --
no. Oracle in the grip on his fingers, in the fact that she
could've let go again, moved again --

Her hands are back in his hair, and he can't -- he has to hold
*her* now, not the chair, has to feel every muscle group
bunching and flexing and *working* in her abdomen, all the
thrusting she can't do, that she *wants* to --

He growls again and the yell is almost strangled, ongoing,
sinking lower, flatter into its own sort of growl, or maybe a
moan -- and the flutter of her sex against his lips is --
quieter than what he was expecting, but it's *there*. The
only question is whether or not he should keep going --

The move that sits him back on his heels would've been
more effective as a kick rather than a strike, but it's --
honestly more than effective enough. Dick rubs his head.
"So I *should* apologize?"

"I..." Nothing.

He looks at her, and she seems almost dazed, maybe a little
on the blink-y side. "You...?"

"You..." She shakes her head, then does it again -- faster.
And then she covers her face with her hands --

And seems to decide she'd rather just push her hair back.
It's a bit fuller from all the shaking, clouding with sweat --
and the two high, sharp spots of color on her cheeks are
an excellent excuse to lick his lips. And wipe his face with
the back of his hand. "I can be patient."

"Don't brag, I -- I've had more *intense* orgasms from
otherwise inanimate objects. But..."

And she could dump them in pots of boiling water after,
and -- *enough* of this smile is in his eyes. "But...?"

Her laugh is as rough as a cop's. "But I like your instincts.
You'll -- go far, I think."

Instinct: the difference between the quick, the dead, and the
well-fucked. "I like the sound of that. Oracle."

"Mm. Nightwing," she says, and gestures to the tangle of her
jeans and panties. "Perhaps you could give me a hand."

Of some sort, certainly.


Of course, the trail is completely cold by the time he leaves
the Clocktower, but it's less important than it could be.
Tim -- the one he helped to *build* -- lives in the manor.

Sooner or later (he already knows it'll be just past dawn,
sometime between the end of the patrol and the start of a
day for alter egos and lies), he's *going* to be able to track
the kid down, and then they'll...

Well, they probably won't talk. He's better at doing that with
Tim than he ever has been with... pretty much anyone, but
that's not actually saying all that much. And --

How the hell had Bruce been able to just let Tim *go*?
Without so much as a word, without even trying to look
past his... other-universe *prize* --

No, he's not going to let himself get angry. Anger is not only
pointless about some things, it's also time-consuming, and if
he hangs out here too long, he'll feel a desperate need to

There's a city back in his own universe which *needs* him.
If not all of him then, at least -- most.


The other Tim isn't any more suited-up than he was when
Dick left earlier, but he feels more like business, somehow.
Dick leaves the bike where he found it, looks it over --

The other Tim is there, with a cloth and (of course) the
same cleaner they use back home. Dick nods his thanks and
gets to work. The other Tim -- well, he helps.

"He and Bruce are already gone," he says. "I'm sorry."

Well, helps with the *bike*. "It's all right. I know how to find

"Bruce has already replaced all of his tracers -- ah, you
were speaking about trying again another time."

Dick shakes his head. "Do *you* put up with the tracers?"

"I like to think of them as insurance," Tim says, and smiles
at him from the other side of the bike. "Especially because
Bruce puts up with my own."

Dick snorts and rubs at the last smudge he can see, and
heads for the gas tanks. "I keep forgetting I'm in the
*wrong* universe. Thanks, Tim -- I needed that ice water in
my shorts."

"I do my best," he says, and takes the can. "I have it from
here, if you want to... you're welcome any time."

Dick -- it's honest, or at least it feels that way. It's just... "I
haven't really asked you how it feels to be just one of the
Robins, plural."

"Hm. It has its moments, and -- I wonder if it isn't easier
than it is to be only one of the Nightwings?"

Heh. Well -- "So long as your brother stays the hell out of
the 'haven? I'm fine."

"Your reputation must be pretty impressive by this point. I'd
keep an eye out for criminals who favor speedsters."

God -- point. "I think that's enough ice water for now, kid,"
he says, and heads for the portal. "And -- thanks for the

"You're welcome," he says, and Dick thinks about asking
just *whose* idea it was to leave this Tim here to see him
off, and -- stops thinking.

Home, or the part of it which is still *his* Cave -- enough
his Cave.

There's no one here -- it's just enough later in the year
*here* that everyone is already off on their own patrols. He
scrawls 'call me' on Babs' locker --

He *starts* to do it, and stops himself -- she is who she is,
and, while he's pretty sure she'll be amused if she finds
out -- or figures out -- any large proportion of what he was
doing in the other universe, it's the kind of amusement he
can't really deal with anymore.

He tacks a note to the cowl of one of Bruce's spare uniforms,
instead. It says something that this is a conversation he'd
actually prefer to have with the man who wanted a better
version of him, but --

It says a lot, or maybe too much, or maybe he just needs a
little more ice water. He and Bruce have to talk sometime...

And the next time he changes universes, maybe he'll bring
along some of his own electronic and mechanical friends.

They could call it 'workshopping.'

Dick laughs, quiet enough for an empty Cave, and starts his
own bike up. The 'haven is calling.