The sweetness sounds within
by Te
January 7, 2010

Disclaimers: Very few things here are mine.

Spoilers: Uh. Maybe? If you squint? Well, there's some AU-ized Red Hood stuff, and a few other things from *old* storylines. Nothing big.

Timeline: It's nineteen-seventy-nine... for the most part. Bruce is nineteen... for the most part.

Summary: In which faith is tested, found wanting, shifted somewhat to the left, renewed, and confirmed. Also, people get laid.

Ratings Note/Warnings: Sexual content which mostly dovetails with the content some readers may find disturbing, annoying, and/or offensive. Specifically, if you're a devout Catholic, or devout other sort of Christian, you might want to give this one a miss. In my day-to-day life, I do my level best to treat other people's faiths with respect and dignity. The characters I write, however, are not me. Merry Christmas! (And all those other holidays, too.)

Author's Note: This isn't, actually, the story I wanted to write about Bruce and Roman collars. You'll probably like this one better than that one, though.

Acknowledgments: Much love and thanks to Pixie, Mildred, SV, and my Jack, who provided a great deal of audiencing and encouragement.


The dream begins with blackness. There is nothing new about this --

The dream begins with himself, lost. There is --

The dream is one of warmth, one --

It seems as though he'll be able to find somewhere to rest this time, it seems --

If he just walks --

There's a part of him which is aware enough to know that he is dreaming. This is the part which keeps a running commentary of all the things wrong with the dream:

The Cave is never this warm.

The floor of the Cave is never this even.

He never goes down to the Cave without a light of some kind. Never since the first time, and he is no child in this dream.

The dream continues without care for any of these points, however, and, in truth, Bruce has to admit that he's not surprised.

There have been many dreams like this --

He walks.

He walks, and more and more of him becomes convinced that this time there'll be an end. A place where the Cave will stop. A place where he can rest, shrouded in the warmth of his true home --

It's getting warmer.

It's --

It's growing *hot* --

"No, no, don't wake up, Bruce. This is good."

It's good to be good. It's what he's always wanted. He walks --

"Of course, we *could* talk..."

It's good to talk in the Cave, where it's dark and full and dark and *safe*. And Harvey --

He's always wanted to *show* Harvey --

"Man, we *really* need to get you a bigger --"

Bruce strikes without thinking, elbowing the intruder in the stomach --

"Oof, hey, no, *cuddles*!"

He's not supposed to *fight*, he's not -- "Who are you. What are you doing in the --" No, not that. "What are you doing in my cell?" 

The -- person blows out a breath against the back of his neck. "You know, I was about to say that it was a *good* thing that you realized that this awful, awful little room is a prison, but -- you didn't mean it that way, did you."

Bruce shivers -- internally. "If you don't move --" But he can't finish the thought. Something --

*Something* is brushing his leg through the pajama pants.

It doesn't feel like a hand or a foot. It --

And the man wraps his arm around Bruce's waist. "Be honest. You haven't had anything like this in a *long* time."

Harvey, in school --

Bruce had woken up from a nightmare --

Bruce had been weeping.

"In fact..." The man blows out another breath. "In fact, you're probably pretty starved for this. Aren't you?"

Bruce closes his eyes and -- no. This is not. This is nothing he's supposed to -- "Do you require assistance of some sort?"

"Hm? Oh, no, I'm fine. *You* aren't, but that's why I'm here."

"Please -- move."

The strange thing --

The most *recent* strange thing is that Bruce is absolutely positive that the man is smiling at him. Not just that: he's positive that the smile is bright, wide --

It would almost have to be *brilliant*, a marvel of cheer, joy --

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut. Bruce --

No one is ever *happy* --

"I'm not comfortable with you touching me like this --"

"Then how should I touch you, Bruce? I... mm. I'd like to know," the man says, and the insinuation is --

As unmistakable as the smile had been.

Bruce can't keep himself from blushing. This isn't --

He's not some --

He has repented *all* of his sins. He has confessed them duly, and has done his penance.

He hasn't had thoughts like this --

Harvey --

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut. "*Move*. *Away*. From me."

This time, the man shivers. "Your voice. It was almost --"


The thing which is neither a hand nor a foot slides down the length of Bruce's calf --

And then the man is gone. Or --

Bruce stands and turns --

And blinks. Several times. He --

The man --

The --

The being smiles, wry and soft, as his long, spade-ended tail switches and coils in the air. "I'm going to give you a little while to adjust, k?"

Bruce swallows and --

If he can just --

He looks the man over. He looks --

The man appears to be in either his very late teens or early twenties. He has long, thick black hair that flows down past his shoulders, blue eyes that flare with warmth and kindness, and a lean, sleekly muscled and well-formed body. That last is abundantly clear, as the man is quite, quite naked. His penis --

Bruce looks up -- and forces himself to deal with the fact that the man appears to have the horns of a full-grown mountain goat. They are slim, graceful things, black and curled backwards --

They grow out of his hairline --

"No," Bruce says, and turns to pull his robe out of the closet. There's a telephone in the hallway for their use, and it will be a simple matter to call nine-one-one --

"Don't go," the man says, and his voice is soft, gentle, almost --

Almost a sort of *caress* --

("You *sure* you're okay, big guy? It's not like I'm not awake *now* --"

"I'm sorry --"

"Ah, shut up with that. We all have bad nights, yeah?")

Maybe --

A man doesn't enter a seminary in the middle of the night if he doesn't have *some* sort of problem. Bruce takes a deep breath, turns on the light, and turns to face the man again --

And he's smiling as his tail lashes and coils with obvious excitement --

And Bruce remembers that he was going to assume that he was just hallucinating. Just --


"Oh -- you're thinking I'm not real."

"You're not."

"I really am, Bruce. I mean, you *were* touching me --"

"I'm dreaming."

"About a naked demon? Is that usual for you?" Lash goes his tail.

Switch, lash, lash --

"I mean -- obviously, I don't judge."

Bruce clenches his hands into fists and walks to his small window, which is situated high enough in the stone wall that even Bruce must crane his neck to see anything. Tonight, the view is of a bone-white moon and the bare branches of a tree clawing at the sky --

And the man --

The creature --

The dream moves behind Bruce and cups his shoulders -- and wraps his tail around Bruce's thigh.


"We could go outside?"

"Students aren't allowed --"

"No one would see us --"

"You -- you're trying to tempt me to break *curfew*?"

The dream presses his smile to Bruce's ear. "It's a start."

Bruce closes his eyes --

"Bruce --"


"Bruce... you need me."

The noise which comes out of him is a derisive laugh, and Bruce has a moment to sin with pride for that --

"No, no, I know it must seem just -- *incredibly* bizarre, but when I got this assignment --"

"You were *assigned* to me?"

"Sure. I mean, that's how it mostly works. I have a couple of colleagues working directly with me on your case --"


The dream steps back -- and spins Bruce around to face him with frightening ease. He cups Bruce's shoulders once more, raises his already well-arched brows, and cocks his head to the side. "Are you really surprised to find bureaucracy among *my* people, Bruce?"

His hair parts and flows past his horns --

There's so much *detail* --

His skin -- his skin is warm even through the material of the robe --

"Oh, see, that was *funny*, Bruce. I mean -- I think it was a *little* funny."

"I'm not... much. For humor."

The dream bites his lip, and every wrinkle and indentation is obvious and -- tempting.

Bruce closes his eyes and turns his head --

And immediately stiffens for the feel of the dream pressing his somewhat *beaked* nose just behind Bruce's ear.

"Move away."

The dream breathes deep, stroking Bruce's shoulders with restless care, heedless --

"Move *away* -- *hnh* --"

The dream had *licked* him. Just -- his tongue had touched him --

Bruce had never felt anything *like* that --

Bruce hadn't known what it *would* feel like --

Bruce shoves the dream away --

And the dream licks his teeth as he steps back with grace and ease. There's an avidity to his expression --

A *deep*-seated sharpness --

"I think..." The dream closes his eyes and seems to almost nuzzle the air as he flares his nostrils -- and then he opens his eyes again and smiles *brightly*. "Have you figured out what sort of demon I am, yet? I mean, I know the horns and tail are pretty generic, but Mom has her kinks, you know?"

Bruce frowns. "You -- have a mother?"

"Of course I -- oh." The dream winces, and Bruce wonders at how beautiful --

*No* one is beautiful when they wince --

"Are they why you're here right now, Bruce? I mean -- do you think you'll be closer to them once you take your vows?"

"Don't -- don't."

The dream bites his lip again and nods, looking troubled, looking --

"What -- what kind of demon are you?"

"Ah, well --" The dream points at his penis with both hands.

Bruce doesn't look. Bruce doesn't look. Bruce --

The dream's penis is erect and --

There is a bead of pre-ejaculate forming at the tip. Bruce -- swallows. And looks up again. "You're nothing like the incubi I've studied."

"Yeah, I know. I mean, I can't switch genders, and I really don't get into getting humans pregnant, and I *don't* fuck people who are *asleep* -- anyway. All of that business is just what some really *seriously* screwed-up humans came up with to a) excuse unwanted pregnancies, b) excuse wet dreams, and c) demonize -- as it were -- sexual activity even more than they already had. That's -- I mean, if you *believe* you belong in Hell? You're going to go there. We'll even do our best to make it just like what you -- the general you -- need it to be in order to fulfill your twisted, horrible fantasies. But really, even if you weren't assigned to me? I would've volunteered --"

"Wait," Bruce says, and holds up a hand. He doesn't actually have anything to say. He just --

Where is this coming from within him?

Had all that time he'd spent studying heresy as a child sunk metaphorical claws within him? Had he turned himself *into* a heretic?

What part of his mind could this dream be *coming* from?

Bruce moves back to the bed, lies down, and does his level best to put himself into a deeper sleep --

"You know, that's really kind of rude. I mean, we were in the middle of having a conversation --"

"I'm going to appropriate some holy water if you don't leave me alone."

"So you *do* believe I'm real?"

Bruce frowns --

And frowns more deeply when the bed dips with the dream's weight. "Listen --"


"*Bruce* --"

"You. I refuse to be scolded by a being who claims to be an *incubus*."

The dream sighs. "I *am* an incubus. And I'm here for *you* --"

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut --

And the dream drapes his lean, beautiful --

The dream is pressed to him, chest to thighs --

The dream pushes one leg *between* Bruce's thighs --

The dream hugs him.

His hair smells like incense.

His body --

"You know, Bruce... the thing about being an incubus? I can *tell* when people are hot for me. It's just one of the things I *am*."

"I am, in many ways, a weak vessel. I will bury myself in prayer until I find my strength."

"Or we could make out." The dream... wriggles.

Bruce begins reciting psalms in his head, forcing himself to do it in Latin, rather than using the beautiful phrases from the King James bible --

And the dream opens Bruce's eyes and holds them that way.

Bruce forces his focus inward --

"This isn't where you're supposed to be, Bruce. This... the *outside* world needs you. Needs what you can *give*."

(Yes. Come to me.)

Bruce winces and turns away --

(You cannot turn away from me -- )

Bruce screams prayers in his mind, as loudly as he can --

He can feel the dream *shaking* him --

He can smell the dream's *scent*, incense and spices --

But there is no scent in dreams. There --

Bruce sucks in a breath and opens his eyes --

And the dream --

The being --

The demon looks worried.

"What's your name?"

The demon blinks and smiles with surprised pleasure. "Um -- you really can't pronounce it. It's just -- your hyoid bone is a little too fragile. It would shatter if you tried. I've always liked the name 'Dick,' though. It really gets my point across, you know?"

Bruce suspects he looks pained --

And the demon begins to rock on top of him, tugging Bruce into half of a sit-up with each backwards rock before pushing him back down at the end of each forward motion.

"You -- Richard --"

The demon sticks his tongue out -- it isn't forked.

A part of Bruce's mind is insistent that this means the demon can't *lie* --

A part of Bruce's mind is made up entirely of magical thinking. While this part has been helpful in terms of letting Bruce come to terms with some aspects of the Church's doctrine --

The demon lets Bruce fall back to the bed and then cups Bruce's face. "If you call my name, I promise to put clothes on."

"You have no clothes --"

A pile of clothes -- including a t-shirt and a pair of jeans -- falls out of the air and lands on Bruce's pillow.

"Hm. I'm beginning to wonder what sort of incubus you are."

The demon smiles... wickedly. The moonlight seems to work its way further into this room than it usually goes solely to be able to gleam off the demon's teeth and horns and fingernails --

And Bruce allows himself to shiver once more. When faced with the unknown --

When faced with the unknown in a form which is -- demonstrably -- stronger physically than one's own --

When faced with demons, all men must know fear.

Mustn't they?

"Bruce, Bruce, *Bruce*. I? Am the most *effective* incubus in the whole department. There's no doubt in my mind that I'll eventually seduce you -- no one escapes my clutches --" And the demon makes his hands into -- blunt -- claws and -- "Rarr. Rarr." He then sets his hands on his thighs and cocks his head to the side. "Of course, if we *just* needed you to fuck someone, we could've sent nearly anyone -- you're about as hard-up as any seminarian I've ever seen, and I've seen *many*. But... we need more from you than that."

That -- "I won't surrender my soul --"

"Oh, we don't want that."

Bruce searches the demon for signs of lies --

Realizes what he's doing --

And pinches the bridge of his nose. "I don't believe you."

"Well -- I suppose what we want *could* be defined as your soul. Or -- pieces of it?" The demon bites his lip and begins to rock once more, humming thoughtfully -- "No, that still doesn't work. I mean, we have no intention of taking a piece of you into our dimensions --"


The demon pulls a pair of sunglasses out of the air and puts them on, apparently solely to look at him over them. "*Please* tell me you don't believe we all live under the earth's crust."

"I don't believe in *you*, either, Dick --"

And the demon beams at him --

And is suddenly dressed.

"Hm. Thank you."

"You're welcome, Bruce, really. I *knew* my name would sound great in your voice, but *hearing* it..." Dick sighs and tosses the sunglasses into -- nothing. "Anyway. We're not taking any bits of you back to our dimensions for safe-keeping. You -- all of you -- is needed in *this* plane of existence."

(Yes! Your path calls you to *me*!)

Bruce doesn't wince, or squeeze his eyes shut --

(All is futile! Meaningless! Come!)

Cold sweat tickles the hollow of his back --

(Only I will never leave you!)

Bruce groans helplessly and lets himself scream inside, lets --

He *fills* himself with screaming and watches the demon eye him worriedly --

And perhaps it's simply a factor of his existence that Bruce has begun to wonder when the demon --

When Dick will notice the madness within him and turn aside.

When --

("Big guy... big guy, is it every *night*?")

But how to answer that question?

How to provide truth without building fear and -- and *pity*?

He had, of course, *lied* --

And he had confessed that sin, as well... but he had never confessed it to Harvey, himself. He --

He is a weak vessel.

He is -- riddled with sin.

He --

"How must I banish you, Dick?"

Dick frowns more deeply -- and strokes Bruce's forehead with warm, rough fingers. He strokes the tops of Bruce's feet with his tail --

"You -- surely, there is some -- some way to --"

"No, there really isn't. I mean, here," Dick says, unbuttoning Bruce's top --

"Don't --"

"Shh, I'm not getting frisky. Just this," and he tugs out the silver crucifix Harvey had given him the day after the last night he had tried to convince Bruce away from the seminary. A year ago now...

And there is no scent of burning when Dick closes his hand around the crucifix, no sign of pain anywhere in Dick's beautiful eyes -- "It's because my faith isn't strong enough. Isn't it."

"Well... I guess you *could* see it that way? It's not *true* --"

"Then what *is* the truth?"

"Your religion is a big, fat lie. Just -- mountains of lardy, lardy lies, right there. And here. Do you mind?"

"What --"

Dick tugs on the chain around Bruce's neck --

"I can't. I -- it's a gift."

Dick raises his eyebrows -- then looks thoughtful for a moment. "Harvey Dent."

"Stay -- stay away from him --"

"Oh, don't worry. *He's* doing exactly what he needs to do. What this *world* needs him to do."

"*This* world?"

"There are others. Like mine, of course, but there are *also* all sorts of worlds just like this one, save that their Bruce Waynes are being -- no, I won't say it. I don't want you to freak out again," Dick says, and tucks Bruce's crucifix back under his pajama top and buttons the top back up again. "You *could* consider telling me what *is* freaking you out, though. I mean, there's nothing really helpful in your file."

"My... file."

"*Bureaucracy*, Bruce. *Everyone* has a file, and believe me, I've studied yours from top to bottom. Everything from your mother's favorite radio station, to the Christmas and birthday presents Alfred Pennyworth sent you over the years, to the names and abusive quirks of the teachers at that awful, awful Catholic elementary school Leslie sent you to --"

"Don't talk about Leslie!"

Dick raises his eyebrows. "I didn't say a *word* about her. The *school* she sent you to was just terrible, though."

"It was... very strict --"

"They punished you for paying attention to religious literature -- *and your own teachers* -- enough that you drew Lucifer as an angel in art class. I mean, really, that's just textbook fundie fail."

Fundie... fail. "It's important... important not to confuse literature with doctrine --"

"Do I need to get the sunglasses again?"

Bruce sets his jaw. "It's *also* important not to expose young children to things which they don't have the emotional, intellectual, and psychological wherewithal to -- to *deconstruct*."

Another head-cock. "And it's also important to encourage the other children to point and laugh at the child who dared to use his intellect...?"

That had been... difficult. That -- "There is -- there are no perfect humans. I'm sure the teacher took the matter up with her priest --"

"She really didn't."

"I -- what?"

"She was one of the people I checked on before coming to see you. I mean, that was choice sinning even for *this* church. She'd *told* you Lucifer was a fallen angel! But anyway. I asked her -- she's Mrs. Abner Wagner now, and, yes, she introduces herself that way -- and, after she'd broken a few votive candles and one *spectacularly* gruesome crucifix over my head, she settled down and answered a few of my questions."

"That... seems deeply... improbable."

Dick grins and -- bounces on Bruce.

"Please stop."

Dick raises his eyebrows and kneels up, peering ostentatiously down between his legs at Bruce's groin, which is somewhat tumescent.

*Too* tumescent, of course -- "We both already know --"

"That you haven't masturbated in seven months, two weeks, and three days?"

Bruce grits his teeth and just --

There has to be --

There is no such thing as a perfect human, and humanity played a large role in the creation of the Church. There were... there were bound to be mistakes made, misinterpretations of... of the will of God --

Perhaps --

Perhaps some other symbology altogether? He should study the writings of the early Christians...

Even though the pope is infallible, he's *chosen* by men --

And Dick is smiling at him softly, gently --

"What... what is it?"

"I made her tell me all about it."

"You -- how?"


"There's -- you --" Bruce stops, because... everything he can think of to say is pathetically predictable. Well, not everything. There's also the hopeless *stammering* -- and Bruce suspects that he's scowling.

He becomes sure of it when Dick strokes his mouth.

"Don't --"

Dick sucks in a breath and touches his tongue to his upper lip. "You're a beautiful young man."

That... was phrased oddly. "How old are you?"

This time, Dick's grin is distinctly... toothy. It's not that his teeth seem *especially* long and sharp, it's that the length and sharpness they *do* have is accentuated by the light of the moon. Or --

It could be magic. It could be --

Should he be less inquisitive? Should he go back to filling his mind with prayers until they become meaningless in his mind --

(There is no meaning without *struggle*!)

No, no, please no --

"And there you go again. You're not listed as being up for demonic *torment* -- other than the sexual variety, natch -- but you certainly have that look. Your nightmares are exactly as terrible as it says they are in the file, aren't they?"

"How *old* are you?"

"Mom measures her age *geologically*, but then, she also wasn't created until some *exceedingly* perverse Jewish men were looking for ways to scare their women into behaving --"

"You're saying. You're saying your mother is Lilith."

"Well. That's *one* of her names," and Dick winks and -- snuggles close again, draping himself over Bruce and sharing warmth, companionship --

"Please, I --"

"Shh, even *your* church doesn't get its panties in a bunch over cuddle. And let's not even *think* about how long it's been since you've had some of *that*."

("Ah, big guy, c'mere, gimme another hug, will ya?"

"Of course --"

"I'm thinkin'... I'm thinkin' this'll be a little harder to do once you get that collar."

"I'll always --"

"Shh, just give me this...")

And Harvey had buried his face against Bruce's throat --

Harvey had breathed deep as if he were hoping to scent cologne or -- something better --

Harvey had squeezed him so *tightly* --

But then he'd let go, and Bruce had gotten in the car and driven away.

Now, here --

He's never been as warm in this cell as he is right now. The other cells are much warmer, but then, the other cells all have at least *two* boys and all of their belongings. That sort of thing almost *has* to make a room warmer. Bruce had had a roommate, too, in the beginning of the year.

His nightmares had changed that.

His --

Here, now, Dick is humming a song Bruce can't even begin to recognize, and holding him, and showing every sign of finding Bruce to be a comfortable mattress --

"How -- old are you?"

"Six hundred thirty-seven. Two hundred forty-three thousand and twelve. One hour. These things are just a bit sketchy, Bruce."


"Well... all right. Look at it this way: the act of observing something is also the act of *changing* something. Humans -- every last one of you people -- observe the *hell* out of people like us. Even when you can't see us? You're thinking about us. Angels and demons, ghosts and spirits, gods and heroes -- you're making up stories about us every minute of every day. Now, in the dimension *I* come from? That sort of thing makes *ripples*. Some entities -- like myself and my colleagues and mom -- have been observed enough into one spiritual-intellectual-emotional 'form' that we don't change much anymore, except for our physical seemings. We *can* still change, but it would take the kind of messiah-level access to the human collective unconscious that humanity just isn't likely to produce at this point. I mean, you people are *brutal* with your prophets. More so than you *used* to be, even, and that's *saying* something.

"Anyway, I was born the first time one of your ancestors looked at a mountain goat when he had an erection. It's just that I was *born* the year after Lilith took a satyr for a lover. And that I was *created* when you opened your eyes and looked at me with hunger."

"I feel... more heretical by the second."


"Get out. Please."

"But --"

"I'm going to sleep."

"You can sleep *with* me --"

"Dick. If you don't leave, I will shout myself hoarse with prayer until the other students and Father Henry come rushing in. At which point you'll have to either risk observation you can't control merely by -- by looking *kind* --"

"Oh, *Bruce*, *please* --"


Dick is gone.

Dick is --

Bruce is alone.

And cold.

He pulls the covers up to his chin and prays more quietly, more...


He cups the crucifix in his hand until it warms.

He prays and begs for sleep to come, even if the dreams are black, even if his parents are there again, even if the blood soaks his pants --

Bruce groans quietly and squeezes his eyes shut.


He wakes an hour before dawn and allows himself leave to exercise his body to chase the chill away. He needs the time to come up with books to read and questions to ask. He --

His pajama top still smelled of incense and cinnamon when he woke.

And there were -- two -- long, black hairs on his pillow.

Just the same, Father Henry is a Jesuit, and holds no truck with 'superstitious hysteria.' Boys who are too eager to learn about exorcisms and the like don't tend to last very long in this seminary. However, if he were to phrase his questions as something... something more directly related to the *history* of church doctrine...

If he were to, perhaps, mention wanting something along the lines of an independent study...

Bruce nods to himself and continues to do push-ups. His memory has served him well here -- he's at the top of his class by a comfortable margin. This matters to him far less than he thought it would when he first began striving to make it so -- the actual work here is, thus far, no more challenging than what he was doing for his last two years at Exeter -- but it should also help him with his goals.

There *must* be something he can learn about incubi, something --

Something which will be enough to hold Dick at bay.

Bruce knows Dick will be *back*.

Bruce knows that he won't be able to stop himself from *listening* and *questioning* and --

It's dawn. Breakfast will be served soon.

Bruce does his last twenty push-ups and dresses for a run around the campus. At the four mile mark, it will be time to eat. After that, he'll shower and continue to prepare for a meeting with Father Henry. He will focus on those things and *only* those things --

And not on the third long, black hair that had been tickling his ear.

Bruce shivers and tells himself it's the cold.


He'd spent much of the day in St. Justin's impressive library. While there were many books Father Henry had suggested that won't help with Bruce's actual needs, he has borrowed some few of them anyway. He'll have to use them to write his eventual paper --

The paper which is a *lie* --

No, not that, not now. There must always be room for -- for doing what one must to protect one's *soul* --

("Bruce, there is *never* an excuse for violence! What do you think your parents would think?"

"But Leslie, they were beating up Eddie --"

"You should have run to the *teacher*!")

He'd done just that the next time, and the teacher had come, and taken the boys away for punishment.

And then the boys had attacked Bruce far away from any adult who could have reason to care --

Bruce swallows and stares at the scars on his knuckles --

Feels the twinge in his side which *must* be a phantom now -- ribs don't *become* arthritic, no matter how badly they were broken. Or... do they?

It's something worth studying --


No. No, because he wouldn't be doing it for the sake of maybe becoming a physician someday, at all. He doesn't know *what* he would be doing it for --

And, of course, that's another lie.

Sometimes Bruce believes that he uses his memory more to tot up the sins to confess to Father Henry on Tuesday evenings than for anything *else*. And --

Is that correct? It's important to remain *conscious* of one's sins, of course. It -- so many people lose *sight* of the things they've done wrong. If they didn't, they surely wouldn't be able to continue doing those same things over and over. If there's something like... like perfect understanding of one's own capacity for sin, then shouldn't there also be something like --

A loss of sin?

A state of grace?

Bruce covers his face with his hands and remembers the need which had taken him over when he'd felt -- and *heard* -- his rib crack. He had --

There had been a brick...

And the eldest of the three boys had wound up with a terrible concussion. The other two lost teeth.

Leslie hadn't spoken to him for a week. Leslie --

She had hired the first of the live-ins hours after Bruce had gotten home from the hospital. She'd obviously planned to do so before that day, but, when Bruce was nine years old, it was difficult to view the matter as anything but Leslie choosing to pay someone to stand between her and Bruce because she couldn't --

Because she didn't want to be near him, anymore.

For Leslie, there are rarely exceptions to rules. Or -- there are rarely exceptions to the rules *she's* made --

No, that sounds... terrible. Ungrateful.

Bruce adds that sin to the tally.

Within the Church, there are also rules without exceptions, but Leslie felt too betrayed by the Church's refusal to grant married couples the right to use birth control methods with better results than the rhythm method to be anything but nonplussed -- at best -- by Bruce's decision to enter the seminary. Even after he'd explained that he hoped the Church would help him with the violence in his heart --

(And *mine*! Your destiny is with *me*!)

The darkness can be so warm --

"I'm never alone in the dark," Bruce blurts, then blushes --

"You're goddamned right, you aren't alone," and the voice comes from behind him --

But, abruptly, there's a boy who appears to be no older than seventeen -- if built on a scale much like his own -- flying into a kneeling position on Bruce's desk. His left knee is about to tear the top three pages out of the notebook Bruce is using. His right knee has crunched open one of Bruce's pens.

He --

His wings are as broad and black and *leathery* --

Bruce breathes deep, says a prayer, and opens his eyes again --

To find that the boy is smirking at him... rather obnoxiously. His eyes are large, fringed with long, curling lashes, and a blue so soft and lovely that --

Bruce swallows and keeps --

His mouth is broad and generous, *sensual*. His body is as perfectly-formed as Dick's, though lithe grace has been replaced with muscularly heroic *power* -- especially in the long, thick thighs which the boy is even now stroking enticingly.

His penis is --

His penis is already erect. Thick and...

There's a certain upward curve and --

And Bruce knows he's been staring too long when the boy moves one hand to his scrotum and one hand to his penis. When he begins to --

"This -- sacrilege --"

"The sin of Onan had *nothing* to do with spankin' it, B."

'B?' "No, it -- I do know that the actual sin was Onan's failure to properly consummate his marriage to his late brother's wife --"

"And lemme just say that Israelites? Were fuckin' pervs."

"No, that -- you shouldn't --"

"Judge another culture based on one little myth...?" And the boy squeezes his genitals very hard and shows his *teeth*, but --

"There is more than one myth about the actions and inherent evil of incubi --"

The boy sighs and tosses his already tousled curls. His horns curve back in on themselves like a ram's, and his soft-looking tan ears thrust upward through the nest of his hair. In truth, *he* looks more like the son of a satyr than Dick had --

Bruce shakes his head and looks behind the boy, just to make *sure* that he sees bare human feet rather than cloven hooves --

"Hey, is *that* your kink?" The boy wiggles his toes --

And Bruce is hit by the sense memory of holding Harvey's foot in his lap while massaging out a vicious charley horse --

His foot had been so warm and smooth, but the sole had been much harder than Bruce's own --

Bruce had wanted to *bite* --

"You *can* suck on these if you want... but there's a price --"

"What's your name?" Bruce sits back in his chair and meets the boy's eyes, the boy -- "Who's *your* mother?"

"My *name* would break your throat just as bad as Dickie's would. Of course, if you want, I could write it down for you and you could try anyway. No skin off my nose," and the boy --

The *demon*, and there's no reason for him to make that mistake in his mind. No --

The demon's horns are as thick and intimidating as any demon could *wish*. And those wings --

No, focus. Specifically on the overly-casual way the demon is examining his -- human-looking fingernails --

"You told me a lie."

The demon looks at him from under his lashes, and his eyes -- twinkle. "Yeah, pretty much. You're gonna need your voice once you start doing what you need to be doing."

Bruce frowns. "I need nothing but to achieve something --"

"Something you've never had, maybe? What *does* this church's leadership have to say about achievement-seekers?"

That -- "The Church is riddled with the ambitious --"

"It sure as fuck is. That's not you."

"No, I -- I only wish... I have many weaknesses, and I hope to find... I know there is strength in faith. I've seen this with my own eyes."

The demon nods thoughtfully. "It's true that people with rock-solid faith can manage things other people can't. Hell, there are yous in all kinds of universes who do just that."

"I -- Dick implied that the other Bruces lived... secular lives."

"Oh, they totally do," the demon says, and flexes his wings before grinning. "Doesn't mean they don't have faith in things." And the demon offers his hand. "You can call me Jason."

"Are you... a fan of Greek mythology?"

The demon's --

Jason's grin is somewhat incendiary, sharp and wicked and pleased --

Bruce feels himself *blushing* --

"Well. My dad *is* a satyr."

"Like... like Dick?"

"Uh, huh. There's actually art of my dad in this one Italian museum. They didn't make him burly enough in the statue, but they did a great job with his hair and mouth --"

"The... the Barberini *faun*?"

Jason beams. "Yeah, that one! That artist was incredible. Really captured Dad's look of 'I'm gonna fuck the *life* out of the next person I see.' That look worked *great* on Mom."

"Who... Lilith."

"Uh, huh. Dickie is a great half-brother. He's the one who got me into this gig, really."

And this... this is --

None of the other students ever want to *speak* with him --

And maybe...

Maybe he can learn something which will save his soul. Yes, that's -- that's what he's doing. "What were you doing before?"

"Your basic torment, a few possessions. Brute force more than finesse. Not all demons can make themselves *felt* in this dimension, you know?"

He does now. "Why can you?"

Jason's grin is broad and knowing. "You know Dick only left you to be polite, right? You didn't chase him away."

Bruce raises an eyebrow. "So if I called everyone in this dormitory in here to observe you...?"

"They'd see you pointing and -- presumably -- shouting at an empty patch of air. I'd continue to talk to you, maybe jerk off in front of you, maybe wrestle with you a little... you'd look pretty spastic, especially since they wouldn't be able to *feel* me, either."

"How do I know that you're speaking the truth now?"

"Don't you just know?"

"I'm conversing with a being which should not exist, and which has been -- apparently -- traveling regularly between dimensions. I'm a nineteen-year-old boy with... any number of social difficulties --"

"And you're thinking I could snow you easily, yeah, I hear you," Jason says, nodding and looking distant. "I *could*. But we all agreed that we wouldn't. I mean, some people need the lies more than anything else, but you're really not one of them. I mean, you've been marinating yourself in lies for the past year, and all you've managed to do is fuck yourself up more than usual. There's no good there -- and a *lot* of good in us being straight with you."

Bruce -- takes a deep breath and crosses his legs.

Jason... looks Bruce over. Slowly, and with great appreciation.

"Please stop that. I have no intention of making love with you."

Jason sighs. "Or with anyone *else*. *Ever*. Man, do you have any *idea* how much that pisses people off?"

"Why should one man's chosen spirituality --"

"You? Were put on this earth to *fuck*. And humans have done all *kinds* of things which make an already fantastic thing even *better*. Safer, easier, more *fun*... not that your ancestors weren't doing up sex toys back when they were living in caves and shit. Because I can *show* you some of the stuff they made."

"There's no sign that stone age humans --"

"There totally is."

"I've *studied* --"

"And you're an *obsessive* motherfucker, too, I know --"

"I loathe that term --"

"Because you've kind of turned your parents into your personal saints, yeah, okay," and Jason makes a pushing motion with his large, square hands as he flexes his wings again. "I'll watch my mouth."

"Thank you. I..." Bruce shakes his head and stares down at the desk until he can -- think. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Jason says, and presses his hot, dry fingertips beneath Bruce's chin, lifting Bruce's head again. "You with me?"

"I'm listening. I-- I'm listening."

Jason nods, looking troubled -- and then he blows out a breath. His breath is scented with something very much like cumin, his hand with something muskier than that --

Could it be his natural scent?

How to *ask* something like that? How to even --

And Jason strokes Bruce's cheek against the grain, shivering for the rasp of stubble. His penis is still quite erect, still --

It twitches once as Bruce looks, and pre-ejaculate spatters Bruce's notes and the desk itself.


"No. No," Bruce says, and looks up again. "You were saying?"

"You wanted him, yeah? Harvey Dent?"

"I'm not -- with prayer and inner strength, homosexual tendencies can be overcome," Bruce says, and fights against the -- the *swirl* of darkness those thoughts bring, the need to never look within, the need --

(Your path will be a lonely one.)

Yes, that --

No, wait --

Bruce pinches the bridge of his nose. During the day, there are any number of distractions from thoughts like these, from --

"Uh. Out of curiosity..."

There -- there's a *warning* in the tone of Jason's voice. He has to *brace* himself --

"What does *Leslie* say about homosexuality?"

Bruce clenches his jaw -- no, not that. "I haven't asked her."

"And you expect me to believe that you don't know *anyway*? *You*?"

Leslie caring for the homosexual male prostitutes who come to her clinic --

Leslie marching in the Pride parade next to one of her nurses --

Leslie fearlessly -- always so *fearlessly* -- dressing down an obviously armed man who had come to her clinic for making a *comment* about that nurse --

And, that time, Bruce had caught himself closing his fist around a scalpel slowly, carefully --

Just in *case* --

But the man had satisfied himself with spitting on Leslie and walking out.

"Now here's the interesting question, B. Are you ashamed because you *do* know and you hate yourself for -- heh -- dissembling, or are you ashamed because a part of you has been swallowing Harvey Dent's cock for years?"

"There's -- there's no reason to be crude --"

"Look at me."

One -- must have the courage -- Bruce swallows back whatever noise wishes to come out of his mouth and looks up into Jason's eyes. There's --

There's something to be feared in the way they seem *gentle* in the light of the lamp --

Jason's body is scarred in several places -- including over his knuckles -- but he had said he'd lived a violent life before becoming an incubus --

And there are so many distractions Bruce can use to take himself from this moment, this time he has given himself to stare into Jason's eyes and -- wish.

"Oh, man, B, you -- fuck. Does Leslie *know* you've been thinking this way? Does she even know that you're queer?"

Bruce turns away --

Jason turns him *back*, and Bruce had grown accustomed to being *stronger* than most other people, *tougher* if no wiser --

"Please --"

"Don't beg me until it's real --"

"I have a *perfectly* real desire not to follow this -- this train of *thought* --"

"Heh. No, you don't."

"I'm not -- I'm not a *liar* --"

"You are, though. Sometimes. You're telling lies to yourself in order to keep from... what? Letting go? Letting yourself live?"

"If everyone were to give in to their baser urges, then we would live in a state of *chaos*."

"Yeah, but some urges? Aren't *base*. Some urges are just your heart's way of telling you what you need to *do*."

"And these Neolithic crafters of sex toys -- they were listening to their *hearts*?"

"Heh. Maybe. Maybe a nice stone phallus was the one thing keeping Og and Grag from jumping Dag."

"Meditation -- I mean. Prayer. Contemplation --"

"Have kept you from spanking it for a long damned time. Though you can't quite stop yourself from humping the bed in your sleep --"

"No --"

"Heh. Just kidding. A guy like you will probably manage to avoid that for at least another month or two."

Bruce feels himself flushing -- and realizes that he's clenched his hands into fists.

He realizes it by the way Jason is *staring* at his fists with avidity, desire --

"Jason --"

"Uh, huh, I'm listening," he says, looking up into Bruce's eyes once more and grinning sunnily. He is --

So beautiful.

He is the son of art and *myth* --

And he is looking at Bruce with desire.

Jason hisses a breath between his teeth. "You smell good, B."

"So -- do you."

A surprised smile -- "I'm glad you like it. I'm gonna be spending some time thinkin' about you sniffing me all over."

And that --

The memory comes unbidden, un*sought*. He is standing in the dorm room he'd shared with Harvey. He is close to the bunk beds. He is tall enough to press his face to Harvey's sheets without climbing the ladder --

He has his penis in hand --

And Harvey's scent had just --

The rich sweetness of cocoa butter. The tang of sweat because the sheets weren't due to be washed for another two days. The subtle musk of the oil Harvey sometimes used for his hair --

And Bruce had moaned aloud --

And Bruce had stroked himself *furiously* fast, hard and *fast*, as image after image filled his mind.

Harvey in the shower.

Harvey bending to tie his shoes.

Harvey circling his own nipples with his fingertips to demonstrate how some... some *girl* had touched him --

And Harvey had laughed at Bruce's blush, joked about finding Bruce a girl of his own --

Suddenly, Jason is straddling Bruce's *lap*, wings arched -- and then wrapped around the back of Bruce's chair. The only light is a sliver of pale moonlight from over the top of Jason's entirely size-appropriate wings, and all *it* does is silver the edges of Jason's *hair* --

"I -- can't see --"

"Do you need to...?" And Jason's voice is low, husky --

"You can smell me."

"Your *need*, B. Your... mm. Why don't you tell me what you wanted Harvey to do to you?"

"No. No --"

"Okay. You can tell me what you wanted to do to *Harvey*. *For* Harvey --"

"Please --"

"Shh, no *begging*," and Jason presses closer still, sharing his impossible fever-heat --

Making Bruce *sweat* --

"I -- I. I don't. This isn't --"

"It's not right. It's not..." A soft, wet sound --

Had Jason licked his lips? "Please --"

"Easy. Just -- easy," and Jason leans in --

So close --

Jason -- doesn't kiss him.

And Bruce knows that, were he to open his mouth at this moment --

Were he to *try* to say any of the quiet, reasonable, *sensible* and *correct* things --

He knows he would beg again. He knows --

And perhaps that's what Jason is waiting for. They're close enough to share *breath*, and the spice of Jason's is incredible, mouth-watering --

"It's not right, B."

"What -- what are you saying?"

"I'm not gonna use Harvey for this. I'm not gonna piggyback on the need you have for him, the hunger and the *love* you have for him... no," Jason says, leaning back and spreading his wings once more.

Bruce --

Bruce knows, perfectly well, that he looks stunned.

Possibly... poleaxed. "I appreciate your restraint," Bruce says, when he can. He does appreciate it. He --

The lamplight is making him blink, and Jason is looking at him as if he can *smell* how much Bruce --

How close Bruce was to giving in. Even if it was only for the length of a kiss.

Bruce has never been kissed on the mouth.

Bruce -- covers his face with his hands.

And is unsurprised when Jason tugs Bruce's hands away from himself and holds them in his own. Jason's expression is rueful and soft. "It's not like it's against the *rules* for us to use any and all means at our *disposal*... but."

"Are you saying you're too *noble* to use my weaknesses?"

"Aw, fuck no," Jason says, and grins crookedly. "I mean, when I'm working for my own relationships? Hell, yeah, I'm gonna make sure that whoever it is will be thinking of *me* when we're fucking around -- or at least not thinking of anyone we can't *agree* is hot as hell and worth fucking. This... well, I use people's obsessions against them -- and *for* them -- all the damned time. You're special, though."

Bruce knows he looks nonplussed. He doesn't do anything about it save for raising an eyebrow --

"Heh, yeah, now you're pissy. All right, look at it from my perspective: I don't just have to turn you, I have to *keep* you turned for the good of this *dimension* -- as well as a few others you'll be due to visit a lot sooner than you think."

"That -- it doesn't make sense --"

"No, it does. You're just not ready to believe in *everything* you're learning about the state of the multiverse right now."

"Multiverse -- that's a science-fiction --"

"Hey, the *moon*-landing was science-fiction not all that long ago. Not to even mention the atomic *bomb* -- but that's neither here nor there," Jason says, and cups Bruce's face with his hot and *rough* hands. "You -- god *damn*, you're hot. Uh. Where was I?"

Bruce frowns. "I don't suppose I could convince you to work harder on your language?"

"You really can't, no. But -- the other stuff -- I'm not gonna fuck with you, Bruce. You're too important for that. I mean, I don't think you're destined to be the love of my life or anything like that, but the things you do... the things you *can* do if you just get the hell outta *here*..." Jason shakes his head and smiles ruefully. "No, B. The two of us? Are gonna make *love*. Just like you said. And when we do? You're gonna be thinking about me, and I'm gonna thinking about you. And probably Dickie, because -- " Jason whistles. "Yeah."

"You... have sex with your *brother*?"

"Oh, like Harvey isn't the brother of your heart *anyway*."

Bruce blushes again --

"No, no, don't get all twisted up for *that*. I mean, shit, it's not like you were *raised* with the guy. The dimensions where *that* happens are all *kinds* of different, and --"

"What? There are... there are worlds where Harvey and I lived together?"

Jason blinks at him -- and smiles wryly before flying up to kneel on the desk again. "Yeah, I'm thinking I know why *that* makes you sound both eager and *sick*. God, you poor bastard. Look, you *know* that Harvey wants you, *too*, right?"

Bruce rears back. He can't --

That isn't --

"No. Don't. No --"

"It doesn't matter *what* kind of dimension it is, B. If there's a Bruce and a Harvey who got to know each other when they were teenagers? There's a whole big love thing. You guys..." Jason shakes his head and leans over to pluck Bruce's sketchbook from out of the drawer. He flips through with casual care and stops --

Bruce knows what image he's looking. He knows -- "I meant. I'm going to discard that one."

"Aw, don't --"

"I can't -- I can't."

"Okay, you can't have it *here* -- it *is* a little suspect for a place like this -- but c'mon," Jason says, and turns the sketch around so that Bruce can see what he'd memorized dozens of times, what he'd traced with his hands over and over long before he'd committed it to the page...

It's Harvey, and he has one short towel around his hips and another over his shoulders. He's smiling warmly, openly and easily --

He's reaching out --

He's *moments* away from telling Bruce to call him 'Harv' again, and not much longer than that away from pulling Bruce into a hug and promising forever, promising friendship and an end to loneliness --

A *caesura* between pain and privation --

"It -- I recognize that it's one of the best things I've ever done --"

"What do you think he'd say if he saw this?"

Bruce -- keeps himself from flinching. "I'm sure you'd like me to believe that he'd be... flattered or --"

"No, he'd probably freak right the hell out."

"Then --"

Jason *buffets* Bruce with one flap of his wings. "He'd freak *out* -- because he'd realize that he was right all along about how you looked at him, but also *not*, because he didn't know the *half* of it. He's a smart guy. He's got a few problems, but, fuck, who doesn't? He's smart enough to have figured out that you *do* want him, but right about now? He's thinking that you didn't want him *enough* --"

"No --"

"That you wanted -- this fucking *church* more than you wanted him. A *lot* more, because it's not like you *don't* know how he feels about most organized religion."

("Ah, hell, big guy! All they do is bleed poor people dry and encourage people not to do anything to make a better world out of the one they're living in now!"

"Harvey, the church has spent millions on charity in this city *alone* --"

"Oh, yeah, sure -- they even bought me winter coats a couple-few times. And damned well made me sit through a lecture about *sin* and *evil* for the privilege. Only it turns out that the evil sinners in the world look and sound a whole *hell* of a lot like the people who are just trying to get by and live the best lives they can for themselves and their *kids*."

"There -- no doctrine is perfect --"

"There ya go, big guy -- you can stop right there. You're asking me to swallow you giving up your *mind* for a doctrine made up by pinch-faced old men who spend more time sticking it to altar boys --"

"*Harvey* --"

"Don't -- fuck. I -- I can't talk about this now, big guy.")

And he had left the manor even though dinner hadn't yet been served --

He'd left Bruce *alone*, and that was something rare and awful, some -- some dark *jewel* of a thing -- but. Bruce jerks himself back to the ability to *focus* --

And Jason is flipping through the other sketches in the book. There are landscapes, and portraits of Father Henry and their other professors, a few sketches of students --

Dozens of sketches of Harvey's *hands* -- but.

"You spoke to him."

"Uh, huh. Showed up in his dorm room when his roomie was good and comatose with booze, scared the *fuck* out of him -- and calmed him *right* back down again when I told him that I was all about getting you the hell out of the priesthood track. I swear, I *barely* had to use any of my little tricks to get him to talk. He's all *for* you having a real life."

Bruce frowns. "I would think he'd need rather more assurance that you weren't about to try to get me to sell my soul."

"Hey, I told him like Dick told you. We don't *need* your soul. We just need you to do what you're *supposed* to be doing."

"I believe in free will --"

"So do I, so do I," Jason says, and makes another pushing motion with his hands. "You're *free* to do anything you want -- including walling up your brain, heart, and *cock* behind a damned *collar* -- but I gotta say, it would be a *damned* selfish thing for you to do."

Selfish --

This emotion is consternation. It can be nothing else -- no, there's also some measure of idiot *shock*.

"I honestly didn't expect you to say that."

Jason grins again. "Yeah, I know. And believe me, I can't *wait* to tell you what you should be doing with your time right now --"

(Your Mission is *here*!)

*No* --

(The time is now!)

I haven't --

I *won't* --

(The screams of the dying will ring in your soul until you come to me!)

" -- what? Seriously, that *wasn't* you zoning out on Harvey-sex."

"I'm -- I'm sorry --"

"Dickie *said* there's something fucked going on with you, and it's not that I didn't *believe* him, but -- fuck, he gets a little twitchy when he can't talk someone into the sack in less than an hour, you know? Well, you *don't* know, but --" Jason shakes his head. "What's riding you?"

Bruce... blanks himself. He takes himself deep *within* himself --

And then he looks up at Jason and raises an eyebrow.

"Uh. Okay, first off? That's fucking creepy. Stop it."

"A demon... is telling me to stop being creepy?"

"An entirely *non-creepy* demon is telling you to stop being creepy. I mean, it's not like I'm not trying here. The least you can do is give it *back*."

"You're... making an effort to show yourself to me this way?"

"Hey, don't forget how I started out in this dimension, B. Take a look," and Jason dips his head for a moment -- and then raises it.

For a moment, Bruce can see no difference. The curls are stilly dark and tousled. The horns are still thick and curving. The ears are still long and soft in appearance --

And his eyes are black *pits* --

No, they're liquid, almost -- almost *oily* --

No, they're nothing but empty *sockets* --

No, there are *lights* deep within those sockets, and they burn as cold as moonlight in the darkest parts of the winter, and they burn with *age*, weighty and *malevolent*.

Bruce can do nothing about the pound of his heart, so he doesn't try. "I take your point."

"I thought you might," Jason says, closing lids which hadn't *been* there a moment before --

And when he opens them again, his eyes are back. Blue and deep and *sweet* -- "How did you choose that color?"

"Hunh? It was chosen for me."

"By... your mother?"

"Nah, she likes us all just the way we are. This one artist guy watched me flying around his city one night -- this was St. Petersburg -- and he was so sure that he'd seen my eyes this color that, after that, they were. None of you humans have ever been able to bring yourselves to change 'em since then. Not that they really had to *be* changed when I was made -- heh, anyway."

"They're -- very beautiful."


Bruce blushes -- and breathes. "I'd like to -- I believe I'm going to sketch you."

"Well, I *guess* that's a way to get you kicked out of here sooner rather than later, but I really think you'd prefer it if you *walked* out. On your own two feet, even."

"Will... will you show me how you looked when you were a child?"

"You think I was a child?"

Bruce blinks. "I -- I assumed --"

"Heh, no, I'm playing. I can't do much with my *size*... but here's how I looked when I was *actually* seventeen," Jason says, breathing deep... and changing.

His forehead slopes and his jaw protrudes.

His flesh grows *feathers* -- brown and gold and orange.

His arms fuse with his newly-feathered wings, and his feet become claws.

He is strange, frightening and *strange* --

But when he opens his eyes and shows them dark and warm --

When he rumbles, low and friendly and welcoming --

Bruce shivers. "Thank you."

Jason jerks his chin at him -- and changes back, feathers falling in drifts before melting into the air. "But, you know, of *course* the earth is only six thousand years old. You buy that, right?"

"It -- only splinter groups adhere to that sort of dating now --"

Jason blows out a breath. "Yeah, I know. I just get twitched around people who shut their brains off, and, let's face it, that's *most* of your fellow students."

"The professors --"

"Have an *agenda*. They need to create warriors for the faith. Men who won't listen to *reason* about things like enforced celibacy and artificial hierarchies based more on politics than theology. Men who won't *question* when the 'infallible' guy starts spouting off about how *condoms* won't protect people from disease --"

"He's never said anything *like* that, Jason!"

Jason blinks --

Shutters himself --

And then snorts, curling his wings in on themselves as he snickers and pants.

"Share the joke...?"

"I -- uh. I kinda just gave you a spoiler. For the *next* pope, I mean. And man, he's going to have to put up with a *lot* of shit. Not that he won't deserve it. I mean, we're talking about a guy who helped cover up child sex abuse --"

"And he becomes *pope*?"

Jason cocks his head to the side and raises his thick eyebrows. "Knowing what you know about the history of this church, are you honestly *surprised* that you have to be ruthless to make it to the top?"

"This -- this isn't the days of the *Inquisition*. And, while it doesn't surprise me that there are aspects of the priesthood which would appeal to both the ruthless and -- and the hopelessly *perverse*, there are any number of *good* men who only wish to improve the lives of others by sharing their faith with them. You -- you must know that."

Jason waggles his head back and forth. "Yeah, that would do it for someone like you. You've *always* wanted to make life better for people."

"I want -- I've wanted to want that --"

"And it's a want you've had answered more than not, yeah?"


It takes him to a memory of sitting tailor-style as part of a semi-circle of other children facing his mother as she read to them from a book by Dr. Moose. All of the other children had been brown and interesting, with hair cut or braided or twisted into strange shapes --

But he hadn't been able to look away from his mother, who was as beautiful that day as she always was, hair piled on top of her head and pantsuit neat and tailored just so. She had smiled at him.

She had smiled at *all* of them, and made up funny voices for each of the characters, but she had *also* smiled at him, and *winked* when Bruce hadn't been able to keep from giggling --

And she had made many children happy that day, just as his father had made children happy by being able to tell them that their mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and grandparents would be all right, that they only needed *this* medicine, or *that* exercise...

Leslie has done the same countless times --

And, perhaps, there *is* some degree of selfishness in his decision to become a priest. His would be a life of service, true, but he'd *planned* to spend a great deal of his time in contemplation and study. There is much to learn, still, about the history of his chosen church, and there would be time to do just that when he wasn't preparing sermons or working in whatever sort of soup kitchens or youth centers his parish would have.

And, of course, he would have the money to staff those places in ways that would allow him still *more* time for study --

(Your path will be one of struggle! Come to me! COME!)

Bruce manages not to wince, or flinch, or --

"Okay, seriously, B, you *gotta* tell me what's going *on* with you!"

"No. No, I don't." I don't want you to see --

"What, so I'm the only one who has to pony up over here?"

Bruce stands up and raises an eyebrow. "You *are* the one actively trying to tempt me away from --"

"You haven't even *made* any vows, yet! And -- fuck, that's part of the *problem*."

Bruce frowns on the way to his hamper. "There... there's some sort of vow I'm supposed to take?"

"You are *so* not ready to hear about what you should be doing. I mean, the fact that you're hiding something that makes you *reek with terror* --"

"Fear. Fear is a part of being *human*, Jason --"

"I'm not *arguing* that. But humans should only smell like that when they're about to be messily *killed*, B."

Bruce swallows and begins to remove his clothing. He doesn't think. He doesn't --

He prays --

He catches himself reciting *Job* in his mind and makes note of his sin of *whining* for Father Henry. He --

"There are many ways to die."

"Uh. Yeah? Is this -- no, we would've had some information if you were actually *suicidal*."

"Would you?"

"Oh, yeah. It would've shown up in your loved ones."

Bruce frowns and tucks his shirt in the hamper. "Aren't many suicides' families surprised?"

"Oh, on a conscious level, sure. But there's *no* kind of grief like grief for a suicide, and the reason why it works *that* way..." Jason sighs. "Well, it's like what Dickie was telling you about the collective unconscious. *All* of you people are connected -- even the sociopaths have threads attaching them to the rest of the species. If they *didn't*, they'd freak fewer people out. There's this concept called the Uncanny Valley --"

"A robotics term, correct? I have to admit that I'm really not sure it will ever be an *issue*, considering what is and isn't possible with computing."

"Spoiler alert -- computers are gonna rule the *world* one day, and you *will* be alive to see it happen."

Bruce frowns. "Punch cards and vast, loud machines that solve equations more slowly than *I* do?"

"Heh. This is what I mean about the church being bad for you, B. You need to think *bigger*. Or, you know, *smaller*."

Bruce crouches to untie his shoes. "You're speaking in riddles."

"I can stop."

"Please do --"

"For a price," Jason says, and something about the *way* he's flapping his wings speaks of laughter *banked*.

"Hm. You're not even especially demonic when you're actively being demonic. It's an interesting trick."

"Eh, I've had time to practice. The price is this -- tell me what's fucking with you. I *promise* that I'll help you with it. If I can't? I'll get my *siblings* to help you with it."

"How. How many siblings --"

"Hundreds of thousands. C'mon, tell --"

"Hundreds of --" Bruce takes a deep breath and kicks out of his shoes before starting to work on his belt. Just --

Do they all look like --

Well, Jason and Dick don't truly look very much alike, at all. To say that they're both young men of above-average height with black hair and blue eyes --

But, of course they aren't men. Of course --

Bruce stops his hands from shaking and removes his belt --

And Jason is there to take it from his hand, and stroke the leather with his thumb, and -- "I wanna suck you pretty fucking bad, B."

Bruce winces and -- doesn't grip himself. "I didn't -- you said --"

"I know what I said. But *you* know that you're a beautiful boy, with -- fuck, an *incredible* mind that's just going to *waste* --"

"Has. Has it occurred to you that you truly desire one of the other Bruces of your acquaintance?"

"Oh, I want them, too. A lot of them, anyway. You all have a real serious problem with *burying* yourself in things -- anyway, that's not the important thing. The *important* thing is that I'm not gonna suck you off until you want me at least as much as you wanna pin your cock back. But I still need you to know that I want it. That I..." Jason drops to his knees and uses his wings to hold Bruce in *place* --

"*Jason* --"

Jason nuzzles the air *near* Bruce's groin. "Fuck, but you smell good to me, B. I don't always get *assigned* to people I *want* --"

"That's terrible. You shouldn't. Someone like you --"

"I'm an *incubus*, B --"

"You're -- very open, and kind and -- and obviously dedicated --" And Bruce grunts helplessly for the feel of Jason's powerful hands on his hips --

"Shh, easy, easy. Uh. You... yeah," Jason says, frowning and pressing a *hard* kiss to Bruce's penis through his clothes --

"*Hnh* -- "

"Let us take you out of here --"

"No, I can't -- "

Jason growls and flies back to the desk, kneeling and gripping his own thighs --

Staring *down* --


"Gimme a minute."

Bruce shivers and does just that, turning away to remove the rest of his clothes before putting on his pajamas. He is --

He aches.

He aches, and there *will* be a wet spot on his boxer shorts before long. The question is whether he'll leak enough to stain his pajama bottoms, as well --

Jason looks up and looks Bruce over with hunger, unmistakable *hunger* --

And a part of Bruce only wishes to know what will happen if he steps closer. Three paces would bring him within range. Within *reach* --

"What -- what do you do if you don't desire... someone you're assigned to?"

"Get to know 'em a little. Same as this, really. Only... only... sometimes I still don't want 'em. Not enough, anyway."

Bruce winces and swallows. "And then?"

Jason smiles ruefully. "I'm not exactly the Morningstar's whore, B. None of us Lilim are. I can walk out anytime I want, and *do* what I want. But -- there's always a purpose to these seductions. Always... always something which can be done *better* with the help of our bodies -- and some measure of our spirits." Jason sighs, and his smile gains distance. "I guess... I guess what I'm saying is that I like this job better than I've liked any of my others. That I *believe* in what I do -- and I have a whole lot of fun doing it. Even when it takes a little effort to get it up."

Bruce frowns and moves closer helplessly. He needs --

There were so *few* times when Harvey would *accept* his comfort, and Bruce knows he's clumsy at it, that he --

That he's *bad* at this --


But -- just a touch. Jason's hot, bare shoulder, and -- he can squeeze --

And shiver again when Jason cups Bruce's forearm and strokes with the grain of Bruce's hair. "Is this what you want, B? To be able to comfort people?"

"Yes. I -- it's one of the things. No one ever -- priests are supposed to be..."

"No one would stop you, maybe? Or think you're too strange?"

"I know. I know how much I needed touch when --" Bruce swallows again, squeezes again --

And the Jason simply is pressed against him. His powerful arms are wrapped around Bruce's waist and chest, and he's turned his cheek against Bruce's right pectoral. This close --

His penis is hot *pressure* against Bruce's thigh, and Bruce knows his own must feel the same against Jason's abdomen -- or. Less hot. Is that attractive? Could it be?

"Dickie's the master at this kind of seduction, but it's not like Mom *doesn't* spend our whole childhood cuddling us."

"I -- all of you?"

"She gets around. It's kind of her thing."

"I... see."

"Of course, she's pretty much always pregnant, so we all get used to cuddle where you're being *kicked*."

"I... suppose I could attempt to punch you in the abdomen?"

Jason snickers and wraps his wings around them, darkening and heating the world once more --

(To *me*!)

No! NO!

(The blood is on your hands!)

"Okay, seriously, B --"

"I can't. I can't. Please don't ask -- no, don't --"

But Jason has already pulled back to frown at him. "What would you do if you knew something was making *Harvey* terrified?"

"You don't -- Harvey is my -- friend."

"And I don't know you well enough to worry? Or I'm not good enough to be your friend?"

"No! I -- Please, I don't -- you're very -- you do what you feel is right. I... I've always believed hypocrisy to be a greater sin than most --" And the sense of alarm comes far too late, far --

"Aw, man, I didn't even mean to trick you into that one. Still -- you said it. And you *meant* it."

"I need -- to be better educated. I need to devote myself to prayer and -- and hope for guidance --"

"You *need* to trust your instincts."

"*Beasts* trust their instincts --"

"And -- *somehow* -- they manage to live their lives without fuckloads of existential *angst*."

"And *also* without *grace*!"

"Grace, yeah, sure. Do you seriously think the only people who exist in a state of grace on this planet do so through *your* church? *Seriously*?"

"The -- the very definition --"

Jason jabs Bruce's chest with his index finger. "Answer the question."

Bruce feels himself flush --

He doesn't want to *lie* --

"No. No, I don't think that way. I *do* think those people lead lives of -- of great service and spiritual fulfillment --"

"Most of 'em? Also get *laid*."

"There are -- any number of paths to grace. And -- internal rectitude," Bruce says, and he feels as if he's swallowing around his own heart, his own --

"You know what you're saying, right?"

"*Heresy* -- *nnh* -- Jason --"

"Okay, so maybe gripping your *cock* isn't really the best way to --" Jason shakes himself like a dog, ears twitching and curls flying -- "I want you *inside* me --"

"Please --"

Jason yanks his hand away -- and brings it to his face. Sniffs it.

*Nuzzles* it --

And moans. "Fucking -- what was I even *talking* about?"

"The systematic destruction of my faith?"

Jason snickers. "Oh, yeah, okay, there's *that*, and it's you, and we *need* -- heh," and Jason's grin is winning, easy, *broad* -- "Fuck, B, you don't know how much I *like* laughing on a job."

"You seem... it seems so easy for you."

Jason reaches up to cup Bruce's face with the hand he'd gripped Bruce's *penis* with --

The scent is embarrassing and warm at *once* --

And Bruce knows his thoughts were obvious by the *way* Jason narrows his eyes. The *thoughtful* heat in his gaze is enough to make Bruce want to drop to his own knees --

Many, many things have made him want to do that tonight. Bruce cups Jason's hand and tugs it away from his face --

"*That's* too much?"

"There is such a thing as cumulative effect," Bruce says, and raises an eyebrow.

Jason nods and sighs. "Okay, I hear you. I'm gonna let you get some rest soon so you can do some actual *thinking* about all of this... but, there are a few more things you should know."

"I'm listening." With all of myself -- no, not --

Yes, that.

Yes --

Jason studies him for a long moment. "Sometimes I wish I were more like Dick."

Bruce blinks. "You're equally beautiful, and -- obviously as intelligent and --"

"You're trying to make me feel better? Seriously?"

Bruce blushes -- "Yes."

The expression on Jason's face wouldn't be out of place on a deeply hormonal woman who has been brought face to face with a particularly puppyish puppy, and --

Bruce suspects he looks deeply sour. "Jason --"

"Well, you *are* adorable, B. Seriously, you make it work."

"Jason --"

"No, no, don't try to fight it, man. You're fuckin' *cute*."

"I just don't think you should *denigrate* --"

"And I'm totally not," Jason says, and punches *him* -- lightly. "I just want to be enough like him that I can snuggle -- *just* snuggle -- when I'm rock hard. As it is? I'm gonna have to fuck the hell out of *somebody* before I can even think straight."

"Do you have... other assignments?"

"Are you jealous...? Maybe a little...?"

Bruce scowls -- no. He frowns, and moves to lie on the bed. He pulls the covers up to his chin.

Jason sighs again. "Yeah, okay, act like Dickie, get the Dickie treatment. I'm sorry," he says, and flies over to kneel straddling Bruce's waist. He doesn't lower his body --

Bruce closes his eyes and breathes --

Spice. Musk. His own *need* --

Perhaps he should shower --

"I don't have any other assignments. I generally only do one at a time -- especially if it's someone like you, who needs all three of us."

Bruce blinks. "A third... brother?"

"Oh, yeah. The baby. Well, the baby of *our* group. There are a lot of Lilim among the ranks of the incubi and succubi, but we're not all close."

"I've always thought -- I've wanted. Brothers."

"Sisters, too?"

Bruce clutches the blanket -- and laughs at himself. "I'm even more hopeless with women than I am with men, Jason --"

"You can call me Jay sometimes."

"Oh. Yes?"

Jason's smile is crooked and soft. "Yeah. I mean, it's not like I didn't already give you a nickname."

Bruce swallows again. "So you did. I --" Don't want you to go. No. Bruce frowns --

And Jason traces the corners of Bruce's mouth with his fingertips and a frown of his own. "Tell me?"

"Musing... musing on the nature of loneliness," Bruce says, and tells himself that that's good enough, that it doesn't -- doesn't *grasp* or even truly lie --

"B... even if you chase us away for good somehow? Don't let yourself be alone. Just -- *make* friends in this stupid, poisonous church. Call Harvey and have a drink with him.*Something*."

"You don't believe I *can* chase you away --"

"No, I don't, but you're kind of... let's just say that I have *faith* in your ability to do the impossible. I just -- promise me you won't let yourself be alone."

"I'm not --"

"*Bruce*. *Please*."

His heart is pounding again. His --

Jason is *pleading*, and his eyes would say it even if his voice *hadn't* --

"I don't know how to stop being alone," Bruce *blurts* --


"I don't -- I never knew. Even. Even before they died, I was alone more than I wasn't. And I didn't want to be --"

(Never alone! Never! I have *promised*!)

Bruce groans helplessly --

"*Bruce*, please tell me --"

"Please -- please let me... not." For now. "For now." Wait --

"For now?"

Bruce winces again --

"Or is that just your way of blowing me off?"

"I don't -- want to chase you away," and Bruce squeezes his eyes shut and tries to swallow back everything --

He's *damning* himself --

He's *literally* damning himself, and he'd always thought he'd do that with a kiss. Just one --

Please, just *one* --

"I'll take it from here, little wing," and Dick's voice is gentle, low and soft --

Bruce can't make himself open his *eyes* --

"You sure, Dick? I mean. He wants --"

"He wants *you*... but you can't give him what he needs right now. Or...?"

Jason sighs and strokes Bruce's chest, his shoulders, his arms --

He *cups* Bruce's pectorals --

He *whimpers* -- "*Fuck*. B, I have to -- I --" And Jason kisses him, soft and wet and *open* --

Bruce gasps --

And even Jason's tongue is hot, even --

Bruce sucks because he *must* --

But Jason pulls back and *shakes* him. "Be *convinced*, asshole!"

Bruce opens his eyes -- and shakes his head.

Jason growls, extends his wings -- and is gone with one powerful flap.

Dick takes his place immediately, and begins alternating long, firm strokes with a casually skilled massage. He's humming something soft and slow to himself, and Bruce can't --

He's been kissed.

Jason had kissed him.

Jason desires him --

The beautiful boy -- no. He's a man, older by far than Bruce will ever *be*, but --

He *seems* a boy. Is it some factor of the magic within him? Some spell cast *on* him?

What possible reason could there be for *that*?

Why would Bruce be *sent* someone like that?

What about him would make that seem tactically sound?

And something --

Something *lurches* within him, something that feels older and more cruel than anything else about him could ever be. Something cold and thick and frightening, and it's waking up, moving and preparing to *show* itself, and Bruce doesn't think he can --

"I'm *ridiculously* jealous, of course," Dick says, and gazes at him wryly from under his lashes, which curl less than Jason's, but are thicker.

Bruce -- is still very, very hard. "Dick --"

"Still," and Dick reaches into Bruce's top to grip the crucifix once more. "I'm even more jealous of *him*. I mean, he doesn't even have to stop *bleeding* to get you all hot under the -- heh -- collar."

"Dick, I'm not attracted to *Jesus*."

"Are you sure? You're just masochistic enough to go for that sort of thing. Which --"

And a coiled bullwhip lands on Bruce's chest --

"I can work with masochism."

Bruce frowns in distaste --

And the whip disappears. "All gone --"

"Thank you --"

"But don't knock it 'til you've tried it. In fact, not knocking it 'til you've *perfected* it is an even better plan."

And that -- there's something to be said for the capacity to joke, the capacity to joke with *him* -- Bruce sighs a laugh. "I take your point."

"Do you?" And Dick's smile is bright, somehow --

Somehow it almost seems to *spark* between them, and Bruce realizes that he had missed Dick's smiles, that he had longed for them with parts of himself --

How *can* he confess to this? Father Henry would surely wish to *know* who Bruce was having homosexual feelings toward, if only to help remove temptation --

It's not as if Dick and Jason would *accompany* him to Father Henry's office --

"Hey, what's wrong?"

"I'm wondering how I'm going to go about confessing these sins. It seems... it seems as though this must be part of your modus operandi."

"Making it tricky for people to confess without looking crazy? Well... yes. It works for us *extremely* well, actually," Dick says, and smiles ruefully. "Still, why would you *want* to erase all sign of us from your soul?"

"To regain grace, righteousness --"

Dick presses a hot, dry finger to Bruce's mouth. "Do you believe in love? Just nod or shake your head."

Bruce nods.

"Do you believe that love is holy?"

It must be. It *must* -- Bruce nods.

"Do you believe that all humans are capable of love?"

Bruce *starts* to nod -- but then shakes his head.

Dick smiles again. "Good answer. Some humans get... oh, a little twisted somewhere along the way. Sometimes the twist happens in utero, sometimes it happens when the child is really young... well. Jay started talking about it before you distracted him with all your wonderful *you*... anyway. Take sociopaths. They're human -- they're *incredibly* human, because, even though they're fundamentally broken in some respects, they still retain their connection to that which makes humanity itself," and Dick moves his finger.

"The... collective unconscious?"

"Something like that. The thing which allows humans to see each other and *know* each other. The thing which allows humans to *feel* each other -- if only for fleeting moments. And? The thing which allows humans to feel *us*, and shape us, and --"

"I -- I can't shape you."

Dick grins and raises his eyebrows. "Are you trying?"

"I -- don't wish to try --"

"Do it for me. Do... change the color of my eyes?"

"They're beautiful --"

"Not like little wing's. Not --" Dick sighs. "That artist spent the rest of his *life* searching for someone with eyes like Jay's, even though we *told* him that he'd created that color himself. *You* have the imagination of an artist --"

"I don't --"

Dick presses his finger to Bruce's mouth again. "You really do. You have no *idea* what you've done for Gotham -- and the rest of the *planet* -- in other dimensions. And all of it pales in comparison to what you've *dreamed*." He moves his finger away --

Bruce frowns. "Do you mean... I've thought about what could be done with the Wayne Foundation. Projects that could be undertaken with the help and guidance of the church --"


"I've... studied architecture to some extent. I've... sketched --"


"Dick --"

"I've -- I've mostly dreamed of *Harvey*, and there's nothing I would change --" Bruce winces for his lie --

And Dick smiles sharply. "I'm going to guess... you want him to lean on you more. You want him to share his hurts with you so you can... ease them."

"I wish. I wish you wouldn't make that sound like innuendo."

Dick cocks his head to the side, hair swinging thickly, *interestingly* -- "It's kind of in my job description, Bruce."

"I liked -- I liked being given a nickname -- I'm not sure why I said that aloud," Bruce says, and frowns at himself --

But Dick parts his lips and searches Bruce, breathing through his mouth and looking avid, hopeful --

"I can't -- I won't change you --"

"Try for me? Please?"

"I don't understand why you would *want* --"

"Bruce. You don't understand who you *are* to us. You don't --" Dick shakes his head and licks his lips. "Just my eyes. Please. It doesn't have to last. You won't *let* it last."

"But -- what if I come to believe that that's how you look?"

Dick grins sharply again. "You won't. Trust me."

And so --

They've asked for -- not little. They've asked for a great *deal*, but where is the danger in this?

Where is the *sin*?

It can't be witchcraft if it's only a matter of using one's own imagination to shape a -- a persistent *delusion*.

"Please, Bruce..."

Can it? Or -- could this be a matter of making him grow accustomed to wielding power? Could they be trying to make him into someone who... what? Goes around using his power to control people?

Injure them?


No. No. He needs to *see*, and then he can make a judgment. Then he can *think* beyond the sound of Dick's breath, the scent of his *spice* as he strokes Bruce's cheekbones with his thumbs --

Bruce tucks the thought away for a better time and focuses on Dick's beautiful eyes, imagining himself in the Caribbean, or --

No, the pictures of the Mediterranean were closer to this, more --

But he isn't supposed to focus. He's supposed to *alter*, and Dick would look *odd* with Jason's eyes --

Jay's eyes -- no.

But whose? Who else's eyes could be beautiful enough to be *worth* placing in Dick's face?

Bruce frowns and tries to think, but --

"Oh. Oh, Bruce..." And Dick kneels up and pulls a mirror out of the air, looking at himself in the light of the moon --

And beginning to rock.

"Is it. What did I do?"

"You..." And then Dick is laughing, musical and bright, soft and *bright* -- "You made me look like my *brother*," he says, and lowers the mirror enough --

His mother's eyes. Or -- not quite. His mother's eyes had been larger and sleepier, more *shrewd* than this.

Dick's expression is gentle and *eminently* wakeful. He --

"This... your other brother? The one I haven't met."

"Mm-hmm. I'd tell you his human name of choice, but... he can be very private about things like that. He can..." Dick sighs and lifts the mirror again -- but not far enough that Bruce can't see him batting lashes that have become thinner and more curved, eyes that *must* have a great deal of grey in their blue --

"Dick. I... you look too strange like that."

Dick raises his eyebrows again, and he looks --

He looks like a different person, like someone who had been washed out by the sun, or --

"Do you -- are you ever allowed sunlight?"

Dick smiles gently again, strokes Bruce's cheekbones and tosses the mirror into nothing, strokes with both hands -- "Change me back...?"

"Please, I --"

"Shh. I won't leave you --"

Bruce grunts and shivers --

Dick narrows his eyes *thoughtfully* -- and then they're back to normal. The thoughtfulness becomes heat, deep and hungry and *sweet* to some part of him which can taste things more deeply than his tongue. "Bruce... you have to listen to Jay."

"I -- he said many things --"

"Don't be alone. Don't *make* us leave you, but don't be alone --"

"You'll leave once you've finished -- finished *turning* me --"

Dick covers Bruce's mouth entirely and leans in, gripping Bruce's hips with his knees and letting his hair swing down and hide everything but his beautiful face, which seems --

Yes, Bruce remembers pictures he had seen of Rom in Eastern Europe. Dick has that look, and it must've been purposeful, must --

Or... perhaps someone in the Balkans had dreamed of someone just this beautiful? Someone strong and --

And *loving* --

Bruce knows that he's *pleading* with his eyes, but he can't seem to make himself stop --

"We have lovers, Bruce. We... Lilim don't *do* well without lovers. And while there are those of us who are content with leaving themselves open to wind and weather, to solar winds and radiation..." Dick smiles ruefully and shakes his head. "I'm not one of them, and neither are these brothers of mine. In some dimensions, you have a hard time understanding that, but this one... you know what it's like, don't you?"

Bruce *starts* to shake his head --

"No, no, you *know*. Because you've *ached* for touch, and you haven't... you haven't always been *faithful* to your dreams. Have you?"

And Bruce is blushing almost before the memory comes to the fore. Almost --

Lex had blown him kisses *many* times, but this time --

This time there hadn't been anyone else to see. This time his eyes had lost their slate-like qualities and gained something much warmer, much --

Bruce hadn't known *what* expression was on his face... but it had been enough to make Lex raise his eyebrows and take a step back -- before taking two steps forward and opening his mouth to say...


Harvey had stepped out from around the hall corner and joined Bruce, and Lex had walked away without a word.


But what had he wanted to *say*? What could he have *seen* in Bruce?

Other than the truth. Other --

Bruce closes his eyes --

"Please, Bruce. Please don't leave me yet..."

Bruce *opens* his eyes, and he knows he looks angry, but to be *manipulated* this way --

Dick's breathing is shaky and harsh --

Dick's eyes are wide and shining --

"We'll come back. We'll come to you and touch you and hold you. We'll *taste* you --"

Bruce shakes his head --

Dick uncovers Bruce's mouth -- and holds Bruce's head *still*. "You won't even. You won't even have to *call* us, Bruce. Once you take from us... once you allow us to *give* --"

"You -- you wish to *infect* --"

"We'll be in your *blood*, Bruce... and you'll be in ours --"

"No, please, that's --"

"Are you only allowed to taste one man? Are you..." Dick sighs a laugh. "I always forget that whole 'jealous god' bit. How is *that* supposed to be something worth worshipping?"

"There -- there's only one God --"

"If so, then you'd think it wouldn't matter *who* humans worshipped. The people who chose wrong could just go straight to Hell when they died, while the people who chose right could join their God in whatever bright and boring place He picked. Right?"

"It's -- it's the duty of Christians to spread the word of God, to save people from... from poor choices --"

"And the people who never get to speak to a Christian? The people who live lives of service and care and -- dare I say it -- grace?"

Bruce frowns. "I told Jason that there were many paths to righteousness --"

"And freaked right the hell out, because you're not supposed to be especially ecumenical in your approach. But... honestly, Bruce. *Why* devote yourself to a god that vengeful? That *selfish*?"

There is no virtue in vengeance --

(Come to me!)

There is --

(Children weep in the stink of their parents' blood!)

There is no virtue in *selfishness*, and what could be more selfish than allowing oneself to be blind to the cries of others?

To the cries of *innocents* --


(Yes. Yes, you see.)

"You looked -- you smell *terrified*, but also... satisfied?" Dick frowns, flaring his nostrils --

And then snorting air out of his nose before shaking his head, seemingly to clear it.

He opens his mouth --

"I'm all right," Bruce says, and smiles reassuringly --

"Bleh! That's *awful*!"

That -- was the smile he most often gave to Harvey when Harvey asked how he'd slept.

Harvey hadn't much cared for it, either.

Bruce sighs and moves Dick's hands from his face. "Please go."

"Bruce --"

"Or -- you could tell me something else about the universe. The multiverse --"

"You *have* to tell us --"

"I need do nothing, Dick. Not even listen to... to your wonderful voices."

"*Your* voice --"

"Please," Bruce says, and squeezes Dick's hands.

Dick frowns and shakes his head, horns gleaming in the moonlight. The spade-end of his tail is stroking Bruce's legs through the sheets, one and then the other and back again.

And again. And -- "I'm calm."

"Yes, you *are*. You're -- you're *resigned* to something that scares the *life* out of you --"

"Some things can't be helped --"

"And other things *can*. More things than your species generally realizes, and --" Dick sighs. "Do you know why I asked you to change me?"

"You wished to tempt me with power while also sharing an aspect of the truth about the multiverse."

"Well, there's *that*, but there's also..." Dick drops, cuddling close and kissing a short line across Bruce's right pectoral muscle --

"Dick --"

"I want to tempt you with yourself. I want to show you that there are more things in heaven and earth --"

"Shakespeare? At this moment?"

"He wrote a *lot* of pretty things --"

"Did you know him?"

"Personally? No. A lot of us enjoyed playing -- *ahem* -- merry Hell with his audiences after shows, though. You really have to love artists who manage to make new dreams... well. Let's just say he gave me a lot of... ah... cousins?" And Dick looks up to meet Bruce's eyes once more with brightness, a dancing light --

Such *beauty* --

"But Bruce... ah. Other Bruces dream when they're awake to make up for the monotony -- if I can even *use* that word -- of what they dream at night. You... you close yourself *off* during the day --"

"Is that why you don't come to me then?"

"Well, don't get me wrong -- most demons can't do much of *anything* with humanity while the sun is up. The faith against it is just too powerful --"

"Wait. If faith *against* something is powerful enough to create new reality, isn't faith *for* something equally powerful?"

More dancing, a brighter smile -- "Yes."

"So there *is* a God --"

"Oh, lots. Lots and lots and lots. They don't really *go* anywhere, even once you humans are *done* with them. I mean, you rarely create gods who can be killed, or who can die of old age, you know?"

Bruce swallows. He --

He had *hoped* --

To have the proof of what he had sought, to have something *tangible* he could strive toward, to have *grace* --

"Oh, Bruce, it's *okay*! You can have any god you *want* --"

"That's not -- it shouldn't *work* that way --"

"Why not? Immortality is immortality. Omnipotence is omnipotence. Omnipresence is -- really incredibly creepy when you put *any* thought into it, especially since the so-called Christian god you're trying so hard to worship doesn't really *do* anything with it --"

"It -- his son --"

"Yeah, yeah. Jesus saves. Jesus carries you through hard times. Jesus this and Jesus that. Did it ever occur to you that life would be a lot easier if they didn't make you jump through fiery hoops blindfolded just to get to the point where you could ask them a *question*? I mean, that's the dirty little secret behind the whole godhood *thing*, Bruce: Gods have *better* things to do than to get their hands all sticky paddling around in the lives of their peons. Now relax and cuddle me."

Bruce snorts despite himself --

Dick *beams* at him, tossing his head a bit like --

A bit like a goat, actually. "Are you... butting at the air?"

"Maybe a little. Maybe. I made you laaaugh..."

"Yes, you did. You... you speak of *cuddling* in the midst of doing your best to damn my immortal *soul* --"

"See, that's the thing, Bruce -- if your soul were immortal? We could just snag you at some other point in time -- some point where you weren't so *devout* about things -- and put you to work doing the things you need to do for your city and the dimension. But -- you're human."

"But if people believe their souls are immortal -- *many* people believe --"

"Not well enough. I mean, *how* is the vast majority of humanity going to manage faith like *that*? I can count on one *hand* the number of humans in the world who have any concept of what immortality is actually like, and most of those people are too *terrified* of the idea to do anything with it."

But that --

Bruce pauses to consider it, to consider beings that measure age the way stone does...

Does the world seem to change quickly? Achingly slowly?

Do they feel themselves surrounded by aliens?

Do they question the utility in visiting a world aliens have made? Some...

Some of them must *welcome* being fundamentally altered by those aliens, being given the chance to once again *belong* to the world --

This world, anyway.

Couldn't gods be the same? Or -- no. Perhaps once a god comes into being, they become automatically above their human 'parents.' Perhaps --

But how much heretical thought can he allow himself before he finds himself hopelessly tainted by it?

Has he already lost the opportunity to find grace?

And how much would he welcome an affirmative -- and positive -- answer to that question? How much, given how well the back of Dick's head fits against his palm, how sleek the skin of Dick's hip feels against his *other* palm...

Bruce shivers --

"It's all right, Bruce. I *promise* it is --"

(Come to me.)

No --

(You *know* you have followed false prophets!)

The church -- there are so many, so --

(I have already waited too long for you!)

He isn't supposed to let those parts of himself --

"-- *please*, Bruce --"

Bruce gasps and opens his eyes -- which are full of water, full --

Dick kisses it away from Bruce's left eye, hissing --

"Dick --"

"You taste like *loss*!"

"I do. I have. I -- please go."

"You *need* me --"

"I do -- no, I must -- you have to understand, Dick, I was keeping it at *bay* before you came!"

Dick rears back, baring his teeth -- and then he shakes himself and grips Bruce's shoulders. "What *is* it? You have to know how *powerful* we are, how powerful our *friends* are --"

"You can't -- you can't even *sense* it --"

"I can see its *footprints* and smell its *spoor* --" Dick growls and seems almost to *brandish* his horns. "We want to *help* you. Let us *destroy* it!"

(Only I will never leave you!)

"I -- I'm sorry," Bruce says, and closes his eyes.

And begins to pray, begins --

But he's reciting the Song of Solomon. He --

Dick's touch doesn't fade.

Dick's *scent* doesn't --

Dick whispers something Bruce won't let himself understand --

Dick kisses Bruce's *forehead* --

Harvey had done that --

Just once --

"When you're ready, Bruce. We'll be here." And Dick hugs him and goes. Dick --

There's a *fire* within him, and it would almost be a relief if it would go out again, if it would *leave* him --

Bruce turns on his side, curls in on himself, and dreams of a love which could be accepted, which could be *holy*...

Holy enough to gain him *notice* --

But God must be with them, God must --

Perhaps He had looked down on the creation he had been created by --

Perhaps he had been born demonic, born with powers that suggested still *more* powers to the humans he'd influenced, and been influenced by in turn.

Perhaps there had been an immediate state of flux, some... some bright moment between creation and Creation, between idea and dream, between --

But he doesn't know. He *can't* know, because he will always be mortal, and the only beings who care about creatures such as him are the ones who had been discarded and lost, turned away from by gods -- Gods --

Bruce moans and whispers poetry to himself and no one else.


Bruce is midway through his exercise routine before he becomes entirely aware that he's *awake*.

Somehow, he had opened his eyes, turned off his alarm, made his bed, and changed into sweats all without any sense of --

Anything. But what had he been thinking --

Oh, no. Oh --

He had been running over and over the dreams he'd had. He'd been --

Lex's soft mouth and hard smile.

Harvey's light-copper skin and the scent of his sweat.

Dick's silky hair and the cloying *seduction* of incense.

Jason --

Jason's kiss.

All of the above and more had run through his dreams last night, and, even now, Bruce is far more erect than not.

He isn't --

He must speak to someone outside of this room. He must --

Bruce takes off the sweats and dresses in his classroom clothes, instead -- no. He should shower --

But there would be no one else in the showers this early. And the heat --

The *steam* --

How many times had he seen Harvey through steam?

How many times had he tried and failed to *sketch* that?

Bruce shivers -- and realizes that his hands are clenched into fists. He --

He doesn't take off his clothes again.

He does --

He remembers --

Bruce remembers a conversation between two... two *drag* queens who had been walking along Giddings Street behind Bruce as he searched for the Christian book store that had advertised in the Herald. Giddings Street had turned out to be located in so-called Pinktown and --

And Bruce had continued walking past the bookstore, past everything *else* until he'd reached the *river* --

Because every word the two men --

But do they think of themselves as women? As something else altogether?

Every word they'd spoken had been a piece of another world, a glimpse of something strange and --


Bruce squeezes his eyes shut, opens his pants, and pushes his penis between his legs. The discomfort isn't surprising in the least. The *intensity* of it is enough to make him *blanch* -- though if it were as unmanning as a part of his mind is insisting, it would probably be a great deal *less* uncomfortable.

As it is, Bruce grits his teeth through the first minute and a half of it --

And then begins to lose his erection.

Bruce fills his mind with as many loathsome things as he can remember -- many of them from volunteering in Leslie's clinic --

By the four minute mark, he no longer has to 'tuck,' at all. He'll remember this.

Just as he'll remember Jason's outrage at the concept of celibacy.

Jason's *kiss* -- no.

No. Not that. Not now.

Bruce straightens his tie and checks the fall of his jacket. He's the only student who dresses this way for class, but none of the other students are especially casual. Bruce hates wearing neckties, but he'd had the thought that doing so could help him grow accustomed to the collar he'll wear --

If he can.

If he can reach that point of --


Bruce winces and goes. Father Henry has a private bathroom, but wakes early just the same. Usually he spends that time studying his own private interests -- he has, as he'd put it, a 'weakness' for politics and political science -- but there are times when he checks on the students. For that reason, Bruce walks through the dorm listening for Father Henry's distinctive whiskey-accented gravel of a voice instead of heading directly for his apartment --

He has many reasons for not going there first. None of them are good, however, so he forces himself in that direction, forces himself to knock, forces himself to knock more forcefully when he doesn't get a response --

And Father Henry opens the door after the fourth knock. He's smiling wryly, and his thinning, soft-looking hair is its usual poorly-controlled nest. "Now why, pray tell, did I *know* it was you, Bruce?"

"I'm not sure, Father."

Father Henry stares at him, gaining more wryness by the *moment* --

Bruce waits patiently, meeting Father Henry's eyes --

"I don't suppose this is a problem which can be saved for the confessional in a few days?"

Bruce clenches his fists -- no, he unclenches them. And he swallows. And -- "I don't think so."

Father Henry closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and then steps back from the door. "Then come on in. Can I offer you some coffee?"

"No, thank you."


"No. Thank you."

"Infectious good cheer?"

Bruce blinks at Father Henry. "Do I seem... more depressed than usual?"

"Frankly, Bruce, I don't think that's possible. But -- have a seat on the couch while I find what I did with my mug --"

"It appears to be on the kitchen island."

Father Henry blinks at *him*. "You... only had a moment to look at my apartment."


Father Henry touches his tongue to his upper lip, closes his eyes again for a long moment, and then goes to retrieve his mug. He sits down on the battered armchair -- it's a curious shade of mustard that sits on a diagonal to the couch -- crosses his legs, and looks expectant.

Now Bruce has to say... something.

Anything --

"I've had a... religious experience."

Father Henry narrows his eyes for a moment -- and then lifts his chin. At once, he is the focused, clear-eyed scholar who had made Bruce sure that this was where he belonged --

Who had made Bruce want to be sure.

"You don't seem comfortable with that phrase, Bruce."

Well. Bruce smiles ruefully --

And Father Henry blinks again. "Bruce...?"

"I..." Bruce grips his own knees -- Bruce stops that and folds his hands in his lap, correcting his posture as much as is possible. "I would be more comfortable with the phrase if it were... if it had been an experience more in tune with the theology I have studied to date."

Father Henry holds up a finger and sets his mug down before leaning back and steepling his fingers.

They have all come to know that as a sign that the man is thinking deeply and carefully, and so Bruce focuses on... other things.

The relative shabbiness of the furniture -- when compared with the more public buildings of the campus.

The ticking of the grandfather clock which nags at him -- *pulls* at something in him every time he's here, just as if a part of him misses his father's study. That room... he'd loathed that room for years, and never known why. Every other room either of his parents favored had *become* a favorite --

And he does not wish to think of them now.

The scent of Father Henry's coffee brings him to Leslie's office in his mind, brings him --

Every moment she'd shared with him over the years had been something --

Something to treasure against the times when her patients needed her more than he ever could, and when he'd failed to live up to her beliefs. Her needs? He doesn't know.

Alfred had sent Bruce some of the same books as the ones which line Father Henry's shelves -- they share a taste for nineteenth century literature, and for first editions.

The deep red leather-bound collection of Shakespeare's plays holds pride of place on Father Henry's shelves, and Bruce has imagined it would be the same for Alfred. Once, three years ago, Bruce had managed to convince Leslie to take a single vacation to London to see Alfred perform in King Lear, and --

And Alfred had looked at him with pride and affection --

And Alfred had looked at him with guilt, as well. It had shadowed his eyes -- Bruce had never imagined his eyes could hold shadows like that, because his letters were always bright things, *fond* things.

And he'd *been* fond -- but.

He'd asked Leslie why Alfred had looked at him like that --

("I'm sorry, Bruce. You're not old enough for that conversation, yet."

"When will I be?")

And Leslie had laughed without a trace of humor and stared into her half-empty mug of coffee. She'd stared for over two *minutes* --

("I don't know.")

Sometimes, now, Leslie's expression twists itself into something similar to the one she was wearing that day at the Savoy, but she hasn't said anymore about it.

Bruce hasn't asked. He -- he is a coward in many ways.

What will Dick and Jason say to him when they learn that? They have so *much* information about him. They have so much *access*...

And he is sitting in the living room of his *confessor* trying to come up with ways to impress -- or at least not *disgust* -- demons.

Beautiful, fascinating, loving, *promising*... demons.

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut --

"I think I need you to give me more detail, Bruce."

"I -- I had planned to," Bruce says, opening his eyes and forcing himself to focus on Father Henry again --

His smile is more than a little pained. "Yes, I imagine so. I, however, have been struck with a most unworthy thought."


"I believe... I believe I'm afraid, Bruce."

He *should* be -- but. "We don't have to --"

Father Henry holds up a hand. "I am your confessor, and that is the way it will stay. The fact that I find myself absolutely -- and irrationally -- positive that I do not wish to hear what you have to say is, thus, entirely irrelevant. Now go on."

Bruce swallows again and searches Father Henry's eyes --

"Bruce. Do it."

There's a pain in Bruce's hands -- he's clutching them together. He stops that, grips his knees, breathes -- "I have been... visited."

"By... dreams?"

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut again. "I believe. I believe they're more than simply dreams."

Father Henry sighs. "I suppose you would know... well. Tell me about these dreams."

"I --"

"I would think carefully about how you phrased your next several comments, Mr. Wayne."

And that -- wasn't Father Henry. Bruce opens his eyes and looks --

And there's a young-looking boy -- a boy who *cannot* be older than sixteen -- sitting beside him on the couch. His eyes are the blue-grey of certain storms, his mouth is small and pinched, his cheekbones are sharp, lovely --

Bruce swallows and --

The boy's horns point jauntily in opposite directions from his forehead. They are black, no more than three inches long, spiraled, and, were they to be extended, would form an 'x' over the boy's face. He is wearing a three-piece suit in an improbably jewel-toned green --

And he shows no sign of being inconvenienced by the fact that the sun has risen. Bruce catches himself *gaping* --

"-- is it? Bruce? Are you all right?" And Bruce sees Father Henry moving out of the corner of his eye.

He turns to face him, trying to think of something --

"You thought you heard something in the hall," the boy says, and examines his strange green fingernails --

They're painted. They --

"Go on, Bruce. Tell him."

Bruce blushes. "I thought. I thought I heard something in the hall."

"Good boy," and the boy shows his teeth. "Now tell him that your dreams embarrass you. That much is true enough, yes?"

Yes. Yes -- Bruce stares down at his knees. "My dreams... they're embarrassing."

Father Henry takes a relieved-sounding breath. "You have... perhaps there are sexual elements?"

"He really is *intimidated* by you, Mr. Wayne. Why do you suppose that is?"

"Because I'm... not well," Bruce says, and looks up at Father Henry --

"I'm sorry? I don't think I --"

"You. You did hear me, Father Henry. I think. I think there's something badly wrong with me."

"Oh, don't *even* --"

"Bruce, it's all right," Father Henry says, and takes a sip of coffee. "You... your childhood was more difficult than the vast majority of people can even imagine. And... well, we've discussed your sexuality before, of course."

Bruce nods.

"Have you been dreaming of your fellow students, Bruce?"

"Say yes," the boy says, cool and *forceful* --

Bruce grits his teeth -- "I don't. Want to lie."

Father Henry nods thoughtfully, and the expression of concern on his face is deep, heartfelt --

Bruce swallows. "I... I dream. The men in my dreams... tell me things. About... religion."

"You've been having homoerotic dreams in which theology is discussed?"

"Why, he makes it sound *sordid*," the boy says, and reaches over to scratch Bruce's thigh with his short, painted nails. "*That* was funny."

Bruce moves to catch the boy's hand against his thigh --

All he manages to do is clap his hand there --

"You can't *possibly* have believed that would work."

"Yes, I --" Did. "Yes, Father. I... the dreams are... convincing."

Father Henry frowns. "About homosexuality? Or the theology in question?"

"You've probably given that man half again as many grey hairs as he started the year with, you know."

"Yes," Bruce says. He does know. And --

Father Henry takes a deep breath. "Many cultures across the world have ascribed importance -- mystical importance -- to dreams --"

"And they were all right to do so," the boy says. "But that's neither here nor there."

" -- must remember that the Church is not in competition with the march of progress. We've learned much about the mechanism of dreams in recent years, and all of the studies suggest -- strongly -- that where dreams have the most meaning is within the individual having them. Do you understand, Bruce?"

"Yes. And I... don't doubt that."

"Well, let's tackle the old problem first. You've done a wonderful job resisting the urges you've felt, and it was my understanding that you were doing so with the help of prayer and study?"

"Yes, Father. I... prayer has been failing me, of late."

Father Henry takes a deep breath and nods. "You've masturbated, then."



"The desire... was very strong. And remains very strong. The fantasies are... vivid. I'm not sure I can call anything a 'fantasy' which seems to arrive in my mind fully formed --"

"Don't sell yourself short, Mr. Wayne. You have the capacity to dream worlds in moments. You... well. You've always been a hero of mine, to be honest," and the boy's expression -- what little of it Bruce can see without turning -- is rueful and moderately embarrassed. "I have to confess that I jumped at the chance for this... assignment... though of course you're rather more *dithery* than I ever believed possible."

Bruce swallows --

" -- saying, Bruce?"

Oh -- Bruce coughs into his hand to cover -- to try to cover and most likely fail, going by the expression of concern on Father Henry's face. "I'm sorry. I -- I don't want to whine about... I don't want to abdicate responsibility for my fantasies --"

"And *that* is what we call taking the exact wrong message," and the boy claws Bruce's thigh *twice*.

Bruce shivers. "And. I don't. The dreams feel real. They feel. I have sinned, Father."

Father Henry frowns again. "You know... I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an older gentleman who was deeply involved with AA. Are you familiar with the organization?"

"It's the Christianity-slap-happy organization which helps alcoholics off the bottle. All things considered, they do a fairly good job -- *and* they stay on-message more often than not, which is more than I can say about *your* church."

Bruce takes a deep breath. "They... cure alcoholics?"

Father Henry nods, and seems to be feeling some degree of pleasure. Perhaps for the 'proof' that Bruce has been paying attention to the outside world.

The guilt is... itself.

"They'd very much like to be able to cure alcoholics, but, for now, that remains impossible," Father Henry says, and finishes his coffee in one long gulp, then sighs. "No, what they do is help the afflicted come to terms with their terrible desires, and teach them how best to find their way to God and wellness --"

"Oh. Oh... is there something like that for homosexuality, Father?"

"Not *yet*, but there will be. If what you mean to ask is whether there will be places where men and women who loathe themselves can go to be deluded and encouraged in their self-loathing," and the boy's voice is snide, *biting* --

" -- afraid. But I believe I'll offer you some of their literature just the same. There have already been great strides in applying the lessons from AA to people who have, say, become addicted to narcotics. No, I brought them up because there's a certain sort of dream men and women in recovery -- that's the term they tend to use for the process of becoming whole again -- often have."

Bruce blinks. "What... this a dream they all share?"

"Nearly without exception. It's a fascinating phenomenon from a purely psychological standpoint... well. The dream, in this case, seems perfectly real in every way. There are no fantastic elements whatsoever -- just the person living his or her life and doing the things she or he would normally do. Where the dream shifts to something terrible -- something *painful* -- is that the person finds him or herself at a party, or in a bar, or in some other situation where alcohol is present. In the dream, the person indulges in alcohol. Everything -- *everything* -- is detailed. From the scent of the alcoholic beverage, to the way light travels through it, to the flavor, to the *effects*... and to the terrible -- seemingly *insurmountable* -- guilt. The person wakes up absolutely positive that they had broken their promises to their selves and their loved ones. More to the point, they can wake up feeling hopeless. If even their dreams are telling them to drink, who are they to deny it?"

Bruce frowns and nods. "You believe that I... that I'm having the equivalent of one of those dreams."

Father Henry spreads his hands. "There hasn't been nearly enough study into the nature of those people with homosexual tendencies for my tastes. We know that these tendencies often sprout up in people who have been sexually abused as children, but there are many people living as homosexuals who have never been abused, at all. We know that certain psychiatric disorders -- like depression and bipolar disorder -- often go hand-in-hand with homosexuality, but there are any number of cases where it doesn't. *We* know that living a homosexual lifestyle is an excellent way to lose one's covenant with God, but there are people out there -- reputable physicians! -- who insist that homosexuality isn't even a disorder --"


Father Henry sighs and waggles a finger. "Be careful, Bruce. You're an incredibly intelligent young man, but you *are* young and impressionable. I haven't brought up those other physicians with you before because I've wanted to protect you. I..." He shakes his head, tugs off his glasses, and cleans them with his handkerchief. "It may come to be known that homosexuality is simply another one of those things that unfortunates are born with, like port wine stains, or clubbed feet. In the end, we must remember that, just as those of us who are born disabled must struggle and strive to live good, productive lives, so must those of us who are born *ill*."

"You know, the fascinating thing is that he honestly *believes* he's giving you good advice," and the boy shakes his head, pinching his mouth still smaller. "Mr. Wayne... Bruce."

Bruce shivers --

He doesn't look. He doesn't look. He --

The boy is kneeling on the couch -- closer than he was before. When he sighs, his breath is hot and dry against Bruce's cheek --

"Bruce... you can't let yourself... you're not *sick*. Hundreds of *millions* of men all over the world have feelings like yours. Did you think that Gotham is the only city in the world with a Pinktown?"

The world is more than merely *cities* --

"Wouldn't *you* want to go to a place where you could live among people who understood you? Who felt the same things you do? Who could band together with you so that you all could protect yourselves against people like *him*?"

Bruce winces --

"Oh, Bruce, I know it's difficult," Father Henry says, smiling softly and leaning over to pat Bruce's knee twice. "As I've said, there are men of the cloth who struggle with the same feelings *you* have --"

"And some of that struggling involves *altar* boys..."

"-- talk to one of them?"

Bruce sucks in a sharp breath and -- "You... you would connect me to a priest who has homosexual tendencies?"

Father Henry smiles ruefully. "I'll have to talk to him first, of course, and ask him if he would *mind* sharing his secret with you, but I think he would be willing."

"Oh, joy. Another closet case. Look, Bruce -- in the future? People who say and do things like this will be *punchlines*. They'll be pitied for their *woeful* ignorance when they aren't simply brushed aside and derided for their bigotry --"

"-- you let me call him?"

Bruce nods slowly and focuses on not clenching his hands into fists --

The boy *hisses* --

And Bruce can't stop himself from checking to see if the boy has a forked tongue, or any other things which could --

Which could take away from his nearly vulpine beauty. Right now, he is clearly both angry and frustrated. His horns come to *wicked* points, and his hair does the same. It almost seems as though his head is covered in *spines*, but Bruce can see that it *is* hair, and --

"Bruce, do you think someone is listening in the hall?"

There's a demon on your couch, and a part of me is only thinking of ways I could ease his displeasure with me. No. Bruce turns back to Father Henry. "No, I'm sorry. I'm afraid I'm becoming... paranoid."

"Well, *that* was good, at least."

Father Henry's smile is rueful again. "That's understandable, considering your predicament. Still, paranoia has its own dangers. Now why don't you tell me about your theological questions?"

"I --"

The boy tugs on Bruce's jacket.

Bruce won't look. He won't --

If he were to just cut his eyes in that direction -- no. If he first *lowers* his gaze, then Father Henry won't be able to see Bruce look --

The boy is stripping himself. He --

He is revealing pale skin and a *lean* body, less lithe than spare. Fragile-looking --

No, the muscle is unmistakable, roped and lashed and --

And the boy has stopped with only his chest and upper abdomen exposed. There are some few scars, but the overall impression is of a pale and dangerous beauty, something --

Something one shouldn't turn one's back to. Bruce looks up to meet the boy's eyes --

And the boy raises an eyebrow as he tilts his chin up to bare his long -- and unscarred -- throat. He --

Bruce would like to *touch* --

" -- *more* embarrassing than the sexual aspects?"

Bruce pants and blushes -- "They -- the men..." Bruce swallows and --

"There is no heaven -- not the way *this* man would see it. But there is a place where gods dwell. Would you like to see it...?"

Bruce shivers --

"Bruce, come now, were the men *Satanists*? Buddhists? Mennonites? *Anglicans*?"

"You just know he's hoping for something to sink his teeth into. Tell him a few things about... oh, hm. I suppose you *wouldn't* know anything about Santeria. Well, there's always Vodou. Oh, I know! You've been shown golden tablets and --"

"They seem... they seem to be... pagans of some sort."

"There are *many* different varieties of pagan --"

"They..." Bruce folds his hands together again. "They spoke of Lilith as... as a sort of All-Mother."

"Oh, that's *interesting*. I haven't heard anything about *her* in a long time. Well, go on, what else is there?"

"Bruce. I *strongly* recommend you avoid denigrating our mother," the boy says, and his eyes are narrow and *hot*.

Bruce would *never* -- but Father Henry is curious. "They spoke about... they were adamant about the utility and holiness of sexuality."

"Well, you won't get much argument about that from me. Sex, when between a man and woman joined in God's love, is one of the purest sacraments given to man."

"Narrow-minded, pigheaded, bigoted --"

"As a matter of fact, Bruce," and Father Henry leans back in his chair and crosses his legs at the knee, "as much as you would be an adornment to the church as a priest, I would be lying to you if I said I hadn't thought about what you could do as a member of the laity -- especially if you found yourself a good woman to settle down with and had a few kids to fill up that huge manor house of yours."

"Because nooo, of *course* you can't just adopt less fortunate children, or share love and faith with a man who would share the same with *you* --"

Bruce winces --

"Now, now, don't make that face. I *do* think you'd make one heck of a priest, Bruce. It's just that I believe the same thing about any number of men --"

"And don't get me *started* about this church's history -- and *present* -- of blatant, *rampant* sexism."

" -- really are far better-suited to being fruitful and multiplying," and Father Henry chuckles. "You can't tell me that your parents wouldn't have wanted to see a few grandchildren someday."

Had they? His mother had worked with children extensively for the Wayne Foundation, and his father had had an abiding interest in the field of pediatrics, but they had shown no signs of excitement or interest any of the -- many -- times Bruce had mentioned a desire for a sibling. Then again, grandchildren are a different entity altogether...

"Well, and now you're thinking about it," and Father Henry chuckles more. "Just remember -- you need to find a good woman *first*."

"Yes, *that*, Bruce. A woman who could ignore the way you look at Harvey. A woman who could ignore the way you look at *Lex*."

He doesn't even *see* Lex anymore, and really --

Surely the demons would leave him be if he left the seminary to start a family?

(Only I will never leave you!)

Bruce grunts and covers his face with his hands --

"Here, now, what's that about?"

He can't --

(You *can*!)


And the boy's hand on his shoulder is warm even through Bruce's jacket and shirt, small and hard and *warm* -- "Tell him that you've never been able --"

"I've never. I've never met a woman I've found more --" Beautiful than his mother. No, not -- "I've never been able to... imagine myself with a woman."

The boy sighs. "I feel as though I should be pressing my advantage at this point... but. You *are* actually bisexual, Bruce. Ravenously so when you get going in certain psychologically fascinating directions. You *love* women, and fear them, and respect them, and want to put your tongue inside them. Your penis, too, but you mostly repress those desires."

Bruce -- blushes. *Deeply* --

"Oh, son..." Father Henry sighs. "You know, I've seen this before."

"Homosexuals who come to the church because they can't lead... normal lives?"

"I'm going to *smack* you for that one --"

"Now, Bruce, you have to be careful with that word. There *may* be such a thing as a born homosexual, but we don't know that, yet. And the church *certainly* doesn't acknowledge such a thing --"

"Then. Men with... powerful homosexual tendencies?"

"Exactly so --"

"You're speaking about over ten percent of the men in the world, Bruce. There are even studies available *now* which show that. I had Jason leave you a copy in -- heh -- the back of your closet."

Bruce nods and tries to will himself not to *sweat* with the need to read those studies -- but Father Henry is still talking. Still --

" -- let yourself grow accustomed to thinking of yourself as something other than strictly natural --"

"I'm going to *gore* him --"

"Oh, no, baby bro, that'll *kill* the shine on those cute little horns of yours."

Bruce feels his heart *thunder* --

And Jason lands on Bruce's other side, on the back of the couch. He's naked again --


He flaps his wings once --

And Father Henry's hair riffles in the wind.

Bruce's palms are sweating --

Bruce grips the couch cushion to either side of his hips --

Father Henry is still *talking* about -- something. Something --

Jason sighs. "Man, what kills me is that he's so *sure* of himself."

The boy huffs. "Men like him *never* ask important questions."

"Yeah, pretty much. They get a few of their questions answered when they're teenagers, someone they respect tells them exactly which questions can never be answered --"

"Or which can be answered by just the *right* interpretation of the *right* so-called holy book --"

"And then *wham*, a lifetime of *one* belief system, with cement poured in around the edges so nothing else can get in," and Jason turns to give Bruce a wry look. "And *this* is what you want for yourself."

"He's a good man. He."

Father Henry is blinking at him. "Bruce? Who's a good man?"

"*Good* men never stop *questioning*," the boy says, and -- "You know what? Fuck this."

"Whoa, hey, baby --"

The boy shimmers oddly before seeming to become perfectly firm and --

"Who -- what --"

"Henry Jacob Markham. Do you know what I am?"

Father Henry looks *terrified*, looks --

"Aw, man -- fine," and *Jason* shimmers --

And Father Henry blanches rather impressively, shrinking back against the chair.

"Father... Father Henry --"

"Bruce, who *are* these -- these --"

"*De-mons*," Jason says, in a slow and *deeply* obnoxious voice --

"Specifically, Lilim, Mr. Markham. Now, we've tolerated you filling Bruce's head with *garbage* --"

Father Henry scrambles up from his chair, tears the large and beautifully-rendered crucifix off the wall, and turns it on Jason and the other boy, waving it back and forth.

Bruce opens his mouth to tell him that it won't work -- but the other boy covers Bruce's mouth with hot, dry hand --

"He's ours, Mr. Markham."

"I cast you *out*!"

Jason rolls his eyes... and mimes masturbation with such *detail* --

Bruce blushes again --

"I - I -- yea, though I walk through the -- the valley --"

Jason flexes and flaps his wings *hard* -- and the crucifix flies out of Father Henry's hands --

"No --"

"Your faith isn't strong enough for --"

"Aw, fuck, Tim, don't be *mean* --"

"I'm a *demon*, Jay!"

"Still, this guy hasn't earned a lifetime of, like, self-doubt and shit," Jason says, and turns back to Father Henry. "Seriously, man, think *deeply* about asking a few *questions* about your church's doctrine and we'll call it even."

"Hmph. Bruce is still ours," the other -- Tim. His name is Tim, and that --

Jason sighs. "Yeah, there's that. He's totally ours. He -- well, let's just say that he's *important* to us and leave it at that, hunh?"

"You -- corrupters! I'll never let you have his soul!"

"Aw, that's --" Jason turns back to Tim. "You have to admit that's pretty good of him."

"We don't *want* his soul!"

"We totally do. Just, you know, not to drag it into *our* dimension," and Jason turns back to Father Henry. "Listen, we didn't have to show ourselves. We could've just kept working on Bruce until he either came with us or went nuts. But, you know, we're being straight with you --"

Father Henry grunts and rushes to pick up his crucifix --

"Oh, *come* on --" Tim sighs and stands, advancing on Father Henry in a brisk walk --

And then his suit melts away entirely, and Bruce can see --

Tim has the legs of a *goat*, black-furred and bent the wrong way --

His hooves are cloven and shine *green* --

His horns are *longer* --

"Fuckin' A. You *really* should've let Tim talk you out of here, B. I mean, he usually only shows that form to humans when he's *pissed*."

He has --

His short, twitching tail is far more adorable than intimidating, but taken with the whole --

Bruce stands. "Tim. Please -- please don't hurt --"

"I'm not going to *hurt* him," Tim says, and *yanks* the crucifix out of Father Henry's hands before pressing it to his chest. "Do you see? *Do* you?"

Father Henry pulls his *own* silver crucifix out from under his clothes --

"Oh, fine. Hiss! Snarl! Hiss more! I'm so wounded by your incredibly backwards faith! I've *met* Yehoshua. Do you have any *idea* how he feels about you people?"

Bruce blinks. "You've met --"

Tim raises a finger at him and glares.

"I'll... be silent. For now."

Tim narrows his eyes and glares more *forcefully* --

"Do... do you ever grow a beard?"

Tim blinks -- and smiles wryly. "Perhaps a goatee...?"

"You know, I never connected that word to actual goats before --"

"Just remember that I'm *not* a goat and we'll be fine," Tim says, and turns back to Father Henry. "The only reason why your church hasn't been visited with plagues and disasters is because your god doesn't *care*. *None* of the gods care once they get to their own dimension. Human beings are just too small and too *retarded* --"

"Baby --"

"Oh, *fine*. Too *stupid*. Too *short-sighted*. Too inclined toward pointing the sharp ends of sticks at your own *eyes*. *You* make your gods wise and all-knowing and then you expect them to stick around? *Your* species? Please. All you people have been doing since you turned Yehoshua into a demigod is going through the motions for beings who could not actually care less without being *dead* --"

"Lies! You *lie*! It -- it would be entirely reasonable for you to come in here and -- and --" Father Henry shudders and turns to Bruce. "Listen to me, Bruce. It's obviously important to them that you not become a priest. This tells me that you should *throw* yourself into your studies as you've done nothing else --"

"Yeah, no, we're not letting him do that," Jason says. "You have *no* idea what kind of life you're keeping him from, man."

"A life of service! A life of grace and -- and *dignity* even in the face of his *perversions* --"

This time, Tim's hiss is entirely real. "I've had *enough* of you! Do you have any idea how many homosexual and bisexual children and teenagers *kill* themselves because of people like you? How many per *year*?"

Father Henry jerks back. "D-despair --"

"Is a *sin*, yes. And so I can't help but find it *disgustingly* obscene that you and your *church* drive so many innocents to it."

"God *tests* us, and helps us to rise above the struggles he gives us --"

"Ah, so you believe in the gamesman god? The one who places wagers with the Adversary, and never mind the trouble and pain he causes?"

"The -- we must not take every word of the bible literally --"

"No?" Tim cocks his head to the side. "Then which words, Markham? Which are the *right* words?"

"The words of our Lord, the words of -- of inspiration and *power* --"

"Like -- no, no, I won't say it. *You'll* just drag out that old canard about the devil quoting scripture. He does, too. He's very fond of the poetry which can be found in certain so-called holy books. Still... you *have* to know what the Vatican would look like to a Christian who had *known* Yehoshua."

Father Henry stares at Tim for a long moment, fear and *pain* in his eyes, true *pain* --


Father Henry shivers, and never looks away from Tim. "I'm listening, son."

Bruce swallows. "I know... I know this must be... difficult --"

"I've begun to wonder if you drugged my *coffee* --"

"Nah. You've begun to *hope* he drugged your coffee. There's a difference."

"Of course," Tim says, and crosses his arms over his chest, "it's a very *slim* difference for beings like us. Before we leave, we'll make you believe that the cream you put in your coffee was tainted, and that you have, in fact, hallucinated this whole encounter."

"Uh, huh. You'll get yourself driven to the hospital, get your stomach pumped, maybe get interviewed for the local news..."

"And, by the time you return here, you'll have forgotten all about us."

Father Henry has begun to look distinctly *grey* -- "And you'll be free to continue tormenting Bruce."

"He belongs to *us*. He always has and he always will," Tim says, and hands Father Henry back his crucifix.

"Father Henry. I -- I'm sorry for bringing this --"

"No, Bruce," and Father Henry turns back to face him. "It's all right. They've handed us the key, you see. You simply have to continue to fight."

Bruce closes his eyes -- no. "I don't think I can."

"Oh... son. I can see that they have beauty, but look at them: poor reflections of your own inner beauty. This one couldn't even keep to his human form in the face of great frustration. Furthermore... well. While they can control *me*, they obviously can't control you, or they would've done so by --"

Jason sighs and points -- "B, sit."

Bruce sits.

*Tim* points -- "Now stand up. On *one* leg."

Bruce does so, because --

He doesn't know why, but --

Jason points again. "Spin around in a circle. On that one leg, still."

It necessitates him *jumping*, and -- "Please. Please stop --"

And Jason flies close and wraps his arms and wings around him. "Stand down. I'm sorry, B. You *have* to know we never want to do you this way."

Bruce shivers again. "I don't. I don't understand why you haven't -- "

Tim peels Jason's wing aside and presses close. "Never. Never break, never stray --"

*Jason* hisses --

"Right, I'm sorry, it's not time --" Tim licks his lips and searches Bruce, looking for --

Bruce doesn't know *what* he's looking for --

(Lie! He's looking for *me*!)

And Bruce feels something icy *clutch* his spine. It --

The Bat hadn't spoken to him so *directly* since --

Since the days when it had been easier to assume *nothing* was real. Since --

And now *both* Tim and Jason are looking at him strangely, studying him and --

But of course Bruce is sweating and *rigid*. He has to relax. He has to breathe. He has to -- distract. "Why won't you simply control me?"

"Because they need your *soul*, Bruce! They need --" Father Henry laughs somewhat hysterically. "Of course it doesn't *mean* anything if they frog-march you to your doom. You have to take each step on your own, make each *choice* on your own -- otherwise they'll never be able to take you!"

Jason rolls his eyes and unfold his wings from around them. "Way to make good psych theory into quasi-mystical *bullshit*," he says, and scowls at Father Henry for a long moment before turning back to him. "Look, it's real simple, B: you can lead a horse to water, but if you want that horse to save the world, then you're gonna have to give him some background."

"Save --"

"Easy, easy, we're getting there. I'm just saying -- we *need* you to go into this with your eyes open. And *you* need the same thing. You..." Jason smiles ruefully, crookedly -- "We want you to have *everything* you need."

And Bruce feels himself falling into Jason's eyes, feels himself *leaning* --


That was Father Henry. That --

And Bruce opens his eyes -- to find that he's leaning close to Jason, that he's breathing Jason's *breath* -- again.

Jason shivers -- and steps back, leaving Bruce cold, hungry, *needy* --

And Tim slips his hand into Bruce's own. "Come with me back to your room."

"I -- I have classes --"

"Say *no* to them, Bruce! Refuse them and break their power over -- no. No..."

Dick walks out of the air with a soft smile on his face and something much warmer in his eyes. He's still naked, but now there are plain gold bangles on his wrists and ankles, and slim gold rings around his throat. They tinkle and clink as he walks to Father Henry's chair, as he picks up Father Henry's mug and walks to the kitchen --

To refill it.

To --

"Still take three sugars, Father...?"

"You have -- you have no right to call me that --"

Dick sighs and flips his hair back over his shoulder. "Would you prefer it we simply drove you mad? Because we *could*..."

"Dick, no, *please* --"

Dick turns to him with his eyebrows up, looks Bruce over, and nods once. "It can be easy to forget how fond you humans can become of people who wound you."

Bruce frowns. "Father Henry has always been kind to me --"

"Oh, yes, by telling you you're *sick*, and a *pervert*, and that following your natural inclinations will lead to your being *hell-bound*." Tim's expression couldn't be more pinched without something desperately basic or acidic, and that --

Bruce touches Tim's face with the hand he's not holding. "You were... you were calming a moment ago..."

Tim blinks, perhaps for Bruce's fingertips on his cheek?

"Oh -- I didn't ask. I'm sorry," and Bruce moves --

Tim catches Bruce's hand and brings it back to his cheek. "This *is* my job."

Bruce winces --

And so do Jason and Dick. "Ooh, *wrong* approach, little brother. Bruce doesn't want to think of you just following orders."

"Oh -- that -- damn," Tim says, and moves Bruce's hand from his cheek. "I've only just started work as an incubus. I was mostly involved with the administrative aspects of things --" Tim sighs and kisses Bruce's fingertips. "I wouldn't have taken this assignment if I didn't want you to touch me."

Bruce shakes his head --

"*Really*, Bruce. You... you mean so much --"

"*Not* me --"

"Yes, Bruce, *resist* --"

"Father Henry... don't interrupt," Dick says, and gestures --

Father Henry sits back down on his chair and folds his hands on his lap.

Bruce frowns. "I -- was that truly necessary?"

Dick smiles at him ruefully. "I can't help it. I *always* want to hear my brothers talking," and he stirs Father Henry's coffee with his tail.

"Are you... have you done something..."

"Hm? Oh, my tail is clean -- I *just* got out of the shower. And no, there's nothing funny about the coffee. It... one sec," and Dick brings his tail to his mouth and laps away the coffee while his tail twitches and shivers. Finally, he catches it between his teeth and *sucks* --

"Man, I so don't get tired of watching that."

Tim sighs. "Exactly. It almost makes me wish for a longer tail of my own."

"You *could* grow one for yourself and then, like, stand in front of a stoned artist."

Tim makes a face. "The last time I did that, I wound up with *button* eyes."

"I said *stoned*, not *tripping*."

"Yes, yes. I was *new*."

Jason grins at Tim and chucks him under the chin. "You're *still* new. You'll *always* be new --"

"I will *not*!"

"What, I don't get a hoof-stomp for that? You *know* how much I love those --"

"Oh -- get *bent*, Jay --"

"Now *that* -- is an excellent idea," Jason says, and cups Bruce's hips from the back --

And that's when Bruce realizes that he's merely been standing here, that he's been staring, drinking them *in*. These -- these *brothers* --

This *family* --

Dick hands Father Henry the coffee mug and leans down to whisper in his ear --

"Dick --"

"Don't worry, Bruce. I'm only taking his memories of this and making them into a dream. Knowing him... well. His faith will be strengthened by this, and he'll be a bit more open-minded. Probably not in the ways which would make *Tim* happy --"

"I'm happy *now*!"

Dick's smile is slow and *sharp*. "Are you, little brother...?"

Tim narrows his eyes. "I *will* be."

"When Bruce touches you again...?"

Tim -- blushes. And lowers his head. Even the back of his neck is flushed --

"Touch him there," Jason whispers. "See what happens."

Bruce feels himself *twitch* -- "Jay..."

"You don't know what you mean --" Jason hisses a breath between his teeth. "You make me so *hungry*, B."

Bruce's *palms* ache --

And Tim is still looking down. Still -- waiting.

Bruce looks to Father Henry -- but he's sipping his coffee with a dreamy expression on his face --

And Dick winds his tail around Bruce's left thigh. He --

Bruce is surrounded. He --

Bruce swallows and touches the back of Tim's neck with just the tips of his fingers --

And Tim moans, loud and --

Hungry. "It -- you're that sensitive?"

Tim shivers and presses back against Bruce's touch, rubs back and forth -- and smiles with his eyes closed. He looks more drugged than Father *Henry* --

And then he opens his eyes, and the sense of dreamy warmth is gone, replaced by something sharp, something which can *cut* --

Something, perhaps, which could make one *wish* to bleed. "Tim..."

"It's my turn with you, Bruce. Let me show you... let me show you everything."

And Bruce -- he wants to study Tim's eyes, he thinks. He wants to catalog every difference they have from his mother's. He wants to know what will make them show heat, what will make them narrow in both pleasure and *rage* --

Tim gasps --

And Bruce realizes that he's *cupping* the back of Tim's neck. That --

"Come with me. Please."

"I --" Bruce swallows. And nods.

And Jason and Dick disappear with a rattle of jewelry and a buffet of air --

"Do you think Jay would be more attractive with more traditionally -- for certain values of the term -- angelic wings?"

Bruce blinks and follows Tim toward the door. "I'm... not sure. I'm having a difficult time picturing it."

"They do seem better-suited to blonds and redheads just in general."

"Oh... yes? Have you --"

Tim brings a finger to his lips and smiles. "There are actual students out there now," he whispers -- then shimmers.

Presumably, he'll now be invisible to everyone else, but...

No, he can wait to ask his questions. Especially since Tim is once again wearing the suit... and the legs and feet of a human male, judging by the drape of his pants and the shoes on his feet.

They walk -- and Tim never takes his hand away from Bruce's own. It's warm beyond the gross physical facts of it, though a part of Bruce is quite sure that he's being *led* as much as he's being enjoyed.

Both of those things --

Both of those things are pleasant. As much as he'd wanted a younger sibling, the desire was nothing compared to the one to -- somehow -- acquire an *older* one. Someone brave and brilliant and kind, someone strong and beautiful and wise, someone sharp and avid and inclined toward *sharing* the lessons he -- and it was always a he; Bruce can admit this -- had learned with his hapless and *bumbling* younger brother.

Bruce tries out the idea that he was looking for a lover, instead, but... no, he was too young for those sorts of thoughts. He was...

He'd never --

But if that mystery brother had ever *wanted* --

If Bruce could have been someone *needed* --

Bruce swallows and shivers, barely aware of the way he's nodding toward his fellow students, but aware *enough* to recognize the curious looks they're giving him, the sense --

"Those few who hadn't already decided that you were *quite* insane are almost certainly wondering if you have a cold."

"Can --" Can you read minds?

Tim smiles at him from over his shoulder. "You're an open book to me -- sometimes."

Oh. That --

"Never when you think you are."

But --

"You're working very, very hard to hide yourself from me right now. It sort of... hmm... highlights you? Once you relax, it will be impossible again."

He doesn't think he *will* relax.

"Perhaps," Tim says, and turns to walk backwards through the door of Bruce's dorm room, "you'll let me help." That last was muffled *by* the door in question --

And, for a moment, Bruce can only stare at the hand Tim was holding. He'd let go to walk through the door. He'd let go.

Bruce is -- free.

Bruce can run back to Father Henry and *convince* him that it wasn't a dream, that Bruce needs help, that Bruce *can* be helped --

"Bruce...?" That voice...

It was only *barely* a question. It was too soft, too *diffident*.

Tim is *new* at this, and he can't --

Bruce opens the door and walks in, closing and locking it behind him. And then he can't move, at all, because Tim is studying him desperately, *hungrily* --

"Tell me. Tell me who I am to you."

Tim opens his mouth -- no.

Tim parts his *lips*, and all sense of his mouth being pinched and ungenerous is gone. His lips look *soft*, deeply pink, *soft* --

"Please, Tim."

"I..." Tim squeezes his eyes shut, but only for a moment before he's smiling ruefully at Bruce. "Depending on the dimension, you're my brother, my lover, my father, my mentor, the man who *made* me... there's so much. And more than that, too."

Bruce frowns. "I'm a demon in other dimensions?"

If anything, the smile gains even more rue. "Only when you want to be. And I think you would say that it was *need* rather than want."

"I don't understand."

"No, I know. I... let me show you other things? *Do* you want to see where gods live? It's a little dangerous for humans, but I can hold you in my protection."

Bruce licks his lips and steps away from the door. He --

He touches Tim's face with his fingertips.

Tim lets his eyes slip closed and nuzzles Bruce's fingers, butts at his hand -- and licks Bruce's palm.

"*Tim* --"

"Should I apologize?"

"You. You said you were new --"

"I am. I... you're my first assignment -- don't --"

But Bruce had already moved his hand. He -- he doesn't want -- "You're an innocent."

Tim looks at him as if he *is* mad, but --

"I won't -- you *must* be young --"

"Bruce. I was born when Dick was."

That... is an odd way to put it. A *suspiciously* odd way to put it, considering what Dick had told him about the *fluidity* of a demon's age. "What -- precisely -- does that mean?"

Tim's smile is sharp and sly -- "Well. It means that I was something entirely different before Dick became... what he's become. And what he *will* become."

Bruce frowns his way through the beginnings of a *headache*, but -- "How... how experienced --"

"You're my first human."

"And... other... others?"

"I..." Tim closes his eyes and tilts his head back --

And hands -- *Jason's* hands -- reach through the air and *grip* Tim's horns, which are still quite elongated --

And the rest of Jason comes through --

He *presses* himself to Tim's body --

Tim's clothes *disappear* --

And a part of Bruce is only focusing on the fact that Tim's legs seem perfectly human, no more or less hairy than --

But Jason's hand is *large* on Tim's abdomen, and his other hand is even larger on Tim's throat. And he --

The kiss looks deep and hungry, affectionate, *dark*. Jason's wings are spread, but they don't *have* to be, and Bruce knows -- with all of himself -- that Jason is spreading them now because *Tim* wishes Bruce to be able to see and see *clearly*. This --

He's never *seen* two men kiss each other before. He hadn't --

Somehow the idea of it hadn't seemed *real* --

Tim moans --

Jason squeezes his *throat* --

Tim drags Jason's other hand to his penis, which is dark and erect. There's no curve, and the thickness would be --

Would feel --

It doesn't seem as if there would be a terrible *challenge*, and Bruce isn't at all surprised by the fact that his knees feel terribly weak and mostly *absent*.

But then Tim twists away from Jason --

Jason steps back into the air with only the *flash* of a smile --

"Does that answer your question?"

"He's your *brother*!" And then Bruce blinks *repeatedly*. He wasn't aware that he was going to *say* that. He -- "I'm sorry."

"You're *apologizing*?"

"I... don't wish to judge," Bruce says, and feels himself blushing, needing --

They had *kissed*, and it wasn't the first time they'd done it. That much had been (beautiful) obvious and --

And Tim has one hand on Bruce's chest. The other is petting *Bruce's* hand --

"Please. Tim --"

"You liked that."

"Yes. I. It's wrong."

"Because we're brothers?"

"It -- the taboo doesn't belong merely to *my* church --"

"You're absolutely right," and Tim strokes slow circles with his thumb against Bruce's palm. It --

So *hot* -- "Please --"

"I love him, Bruce. I always have."

Bruce looks up. "You -- you were doing... administrative work. He was... doing possessions. Torment."

Tim smiles softly, nostalgically... "I would take him his assignments myself, even though I didn't have to. I would dream of touching the curve of his horns, of biting the tips of his ears -- they're very soft."

"They -- look that way. Tim --"

"The other secretaries and I... we would talk about him. They weren't Lilim -- very *few* Lilim tend to be interested in paperwork --"

"But -- wait," Bruce says, stepping back --

Tim frowns and steps forward --

"Please. Please, wait --"

"You *like* it when I touch you --"

"I do. I do," and Bruce swallows and squeezes his eyes shut -- for a moment. He can't seem to convince himself to go without the sight of Tim --

He could be nearly Bruce's *age* --

They *all* could, only they know so much more about the world, they *understand* --


"No, don't -- I want -- please don't think I don't desire you."

Tim frowns and sniffs at the air -- "You smell -- hungry. Curious. More curious than hungry?"

Bruce smiles ruefully and backs up until he can sit on the bed --

"Oh --" Tim's smile is small, but very bright. He sits beside Bruce and holds Bruce's hand again -- "What do you want to ask?"

"Are you Dick's lover, as well -- that wasn't my question.'

Tim raises both eyebrows.

"I -- I can't seem to stop thinking of --" Bruce closes his mouth and shakes his head.

"He seduced me away from administration. He... well, he's very family-minded. In his free time, he tracks down other Lilim and gets to know them. When it was my turn..." Tim looks down and... blushes.

Bruce can't -- he strokes Tim's cheek. Just his cheek, even though he's nude and spare and so *small* --

Bruce watches his hand *shake* --

And Tim turns to look at him with wide eyes full of passion, hunger, *storms* --

"Please. Please tell me, Tim --"

"He walked in the office and we all stared. Incubi and succubi are all beautiful, of course, but we all knew -- it's so *strange* not to use his real name for this!"

"I -- I won't try to say it --"

Tim waves his free hand. "You wouldn't be able to help it. When people like us don't like our assignments, we use our true names so that the person... well, it's messy. Dick mentioned that, I think?"

Bruce nods. "But -- I would still prefer it if you used the most comfortable name."

Tim looks at him from under his lashes, wry and *fond* --

"If I -- if I'm so much to you, you must be even more to *me* --"

"Do you think so?"

"*Yes*. I. Already --" Bruce smiles ruefully. "I dreamed of someone like you when I was a boy."

"You still *are* a boy, but I take your point --"

"How -- how does he let you go? How do any of them do that?"

"Oh -- Bruce." Tim smiles ruefully and strokes Bruce's cheek -- it's stubbled. Bruce should have *shaved* --

"I'm sorry --"

Tim presses two fingers to Bruce's mouth and smiles. "There are... we aren't quite *legion*, but we do pop up here and there."

"There are... more of you?"

"Ah... sort of?" Tim blushes and looks away again. "It's almost time to show you the truth. But -- not quite."

"I'll be patient," Bruce says, and feels daring and grasping at once when he squeezes Tim's hand. When --

Bruce leans in. Just -- not to kiss.

Not to kiss.

He leans in and breathes deep by Tim's throat, searching --

"Oh. Bruce..."

The scent isn't spice, or incense. If anything, the scent is something sweet without being entirely... natural? "Your scent is like fruit which doesn't exist."

Tim snorts. "Have you sniffed *every* fruit in the world, Bruce?"

"No, I -- you know what I mean --"

"I do," and Tim turns and nuzzles Bruce's mouth -- and leans back before Bruce can convince himself to do the same. "You liked that."

"I need -- I want --" Bruce closes his mouth and shakes his head.

"Jay... Jay couldn't take it if you turned away from him after the two of you made love."

"He -- he's very..." Bruce frowns. "The words... are inadequate."

Tim smiles wryly. "They really are. I mean, I could talk about how beautiful Dick was when he walked into my office and sat on my desk and *smiled* at me -- I could talk about that all *day* -- but he's a professional in *every* way and he doesn't really..." Tim shakes his head. "He loves -- he's one of the best lovers, in *all* ways, I've ever *met*. But he also knows how to let go and move *on*. Jay's not as good at that."

Bruce tenses and -- "He -- has he been... hurt?"

Tim smiles ruefully and turns to kneel facing Bruce. He cups Bruce's face and kneels *up* enough that they can be eye-to-eye --

"Please --"

"Those are his stories to tell, Bruce," and Tim's voice is gentle and *soothing*, but --

But Bruce still can't help closing his hands into fists. He --

This is why Leslie could never quite *accept* him --

And Tim has reached down to stroke Bruce's fist as if --

"All of you. All of you seem... attracted to violence."

Tim gives him another look from under his lashes. "It's what we are."

"You... but you were a *secretary*. And you're an *incubus* now --"

"And Dick was *always* an incubus, and Jay was really *born* to love people..." Tim sighs and brings Bruce's right fist to his mouth.

Bruce starts to relax his hand --

Tim curls it back up again and licks Bruce's knuckles. "Old scars. *Telling* scars. Bruce... does it ever rise within you?"

(Yes! *I* will be your brother!)

"N-no, I --"

"Does it ever... call you?"

Bruce *tries* to yank his hand away, but Tim's grip is too strong. Tim --

Bruce is *weak* compared to Tim and his brothers --

(I will make you strong!)

"Bruce... does it have a name?"

"No -- please, Tim --"

"You denied my brothers. You... you're denying *yourself*. And I understand that that's something you have to do -- *every* Bruce finds some way to do that -- but this isn't the right way --"

"You don't think there *is* a right way --"

Tim *grips* Bruce's wrist. His hand isn't big enough to go all the way around, but the grip is unbreakable just the same -- "There is."

Bruce laughs despite himself -- "I suppose that's one more thing you can tell me?"

"You know, we've answered a *lot* of your questions -- but fine, no, we didn't answer the ones most important to *you* right now," Tim says, sighing and relaxing his grip --

"Oh -- you didn't --"

"Have to...?" Tim shows his teeth for this smile -- and they don't come to points. They don't *look* as sharp as a part of Bruce -- his *skin* -- knows they'll feel --

"I -- I have no control --"

"*That's* a lie. Oh, Bruce. We *know* what it looks like when you've lost control --"

"Have I -- has my demon self made love to you?"

Tim takes a quick, *heavy*-seeming breath --

"Is that -- was that a yes?"

"He's never touched *my* skin. He's never -- he's never heard *me* cry out... but he's had something quite similar."

Bruce frowns. "I don't understand. Do you mean -- other versions of yourself?"

Tim sighs and closes his hand around Bruce's wrist again. "You're not ready for that --"

"I *am* --"

"You must -- you have to *come* to us --"

(To *me*!)

Bruce doesn't *flinch*, but --

"And that! That, right there, is something else you have to give us. Bruce, we will tear it *apart*. It will *never* bother you again!"

And then he'll be alone --

Or, perhaps, they'll team *up* --

Bruce shudders, internally *and* externally --

"*Bruce* --"

"Why. Why are *demons* interested in the lives of humans when gods aren't?"

Tim's expression is pinched once more, *unhappy* --

And Bruce can't keep himself from trying to stroke the trouble away, trying to -- to *ease*, yes, and if it's a euphemism --

If he's fooling himself --

Tim catches Bruce's stroking fingers between his teeth and licks them with his hot, wet tongue --

And a part of Bruce is lost to the memory -- too *brief* -- of sucking Jason's tongue, of being desired, being *kissed* --

Tim growls and shakes his head as he bites. He is a beast with *prey* --

Has Bruce dreamed of being hunted? Would his mind admit to something like that?

How will he know his own sins if he never confesses them? How will -

"*Hnh* -- Tim --"

Tim is *sucking* Bruce's fingers --

Tim has taken three of them *deep* in his mouth --

Bruce's short fingernails *must* be tickling the back of his throat -- 

But when Tim opens his eyes, all Bruce can think of is how it would feel if his penis were --

Tim's mouth is so *hot* and --

Bruce feels himself twitch in his *pants*, and that -- he tugs his fingers out of Tim's mouth as carefully as he can --

Tim pants -- and his smile seems *less* dangerous than his eyes, but not by much. "We won't always let you put us off, Bruce."

"You know -- so much about me already --"

"You're *not* afraid of losing more privacy -- oh. Oh, how did we not *see*?" Tim stands and begins to pace, form losing cohesion as he does --

No, there are smoky patterns forming and reforming under his skin, seemingly as he gets more and more excited? Bruce isn't sure, but --

"Are you -- do you have many different forms?"

"Oh -- we all do," Tim says, and waves a hand. "It comes with the territory. There are no real limits to what can be done with one of us -- some few have *become* gods, and --" Tim stops and stares at him. "You're afraid of what will happen if we find out which being is tormenting you, that much is obvious."

"I -- I never said -- "

"You didn't *have* to. No, I..." Tim bites his lip and begins to pace again. It's an odd rhythm --

His hips are broader. He --

He has *breasts* --

"Tim --"

"One *moment*, Bruce -- oh." Tim smiles down at himself -- and turns to smile at him. "You like this."

"No, I -- you -- your *voice* --"

"Softer. *Sweeter*. Kinder?"

Bruce shakes his head and swallows --

And Tim turns fully before standing hipshot and --

His pubic hair is a near-perfect *triangle*. His labia majora --

Bruce looks *up* -- and his areolae are darker than they were when he was male, larger and more oval --

Bruce looks and --

Tim comes *closer* --

"Please don't --"

"Don't be afraid, Bruce. Don't -- oh, wait, I was *thinking*," and Tim waves a hand and shimmers himself back to male --

Back to someone with the legs of a goat --

Back to someone who appears *entirely* human, because even the horns are missing --

"Dick -- Dick said he couldn't *make* himself female --"

"Yes, well, *he* can't. Yet," Tim says, and smiles at him *sharply*. "You can change that."

"I -- no -- "

Tim brings a finger to his own lips. "I'm almost there."

"That's -- deeply frightening --"

"Oh, Bruce. It's not like we'll ever let you *go*. Or even do anything *remotely* like leaving you in peace."

"When you --" But Dick *and* Jason had said they --

Tim gasps. "You -- that's it, isn't it?"

Bruce feels himself blushing deeply and shakes his head --

"Whatever it is -- you think it will make us *leave* you!"

"No -- please --"

"You -- you *care* -- oh, Bruce --" And Tim ripples with different shapes, different clothes, different *colors* --

And then he's straddling Bruce's lap and cupping Bruce's face, then he's pressed close and *kissing* Bruce -- but not on the mouth. Not --

His forehead and his cheeks, his ears and his chin --

"Of course -- of course, I picked this up from *Dick* -- oh, Bruce, do you need him now?"

"No, I --"

"Do you want him? He'll hold you, and massage you -- everyone says my touch is too clinical --"

Bruce kisses Tim.

Bruce -- he kisses Tim, and pushes his hands into his spiked and terrifying hair --

He breathes in the scent of fruit and health --

He kisses Tim, and listens to Tim moan, and feels him so hot, so close and so *hot* --

And Bruce is the one moaning when he opens his mouth, when he *offers* his tongue --

Tim hums and sucks it, claws at Bruce's cheeks -- and moves Bruce easily, pushing and shoving until Bruce is fully on the bed, until Bruce is on his *back*, and a part of Bruce only wants to know how to make the kiss more *exciting*, more needful --

Tim pulls back --

"No, *please* --"

"You're trying to *distract* me!"

"No -- I only --"

"Wanted to kiss me right then? Wanted --" Tim blinks, expression going distant once more as he ripples --

Flows --

And flows back to something like himself, though his horns are a full five inches long and look as sharp as *needles*. "The question becomes what you *think* could chase us away from you. You're -- well, you're who you *are*, and considering what Leslie's said about you --"

"You spoke to *Leslie*?"

"I had to spend a great *deal* of time convincing her she wasn't hallucinating, and then even longer convincing her that she'd just had a really *odd* dream. That limited our time together... well. She's afraid of the darkness within you. That -- well. That was more clear than *anything* else. She thinks you're dangerously violent and something of a ticking time bomb. Being as how you're *you* and Leslie was your only guardian..." Tim cocks his head to the side -- his hair is back in place -- and taps a finger on Bruce's collarbone. "Yes... yes, you *agree* with Leslie. More to the point, you almost certainly feel that there's something *objectively* wrong with *all* violence --"

"There *is* --"

"Meaning that a part of you would be vastly surprised if someone you cared for felt differently. Correct?"

That -- the *vicious* accuracy of that analysis --

"Of course, there are also the parts of you which wouldn't be surprised, at all, and so are thus *terrified* of everything I'm saying --"

"Yes. Yes, I'm a *coward* --"

"You are *not*. You -- were never meant to be Leslie Thompkins' child. She really wasn't meant to have *any* children."

"She's my *guardian*, and I won't -- I won't hear anything bad --"

"No, no, not that. I mean, *my* mother has sex with everything she's not closely related to, but I still don't especially like hearing people *insult* her. She was a wonderful parent to me and my siblings, and she still *is*, and -- anyway --"

"She -- she doesn't believe in incest?"

"Well, she gets pregnant every time she makes love -- unless she's *already* pregnant -- and... it's not pretty when they are close relatives. You know how that works."

Bruce blinks -- and nods. "I know -- I wasn't a very good ward --"

"You were *yourself*, and Leslie was *herself*. I mean, in some dimensions she leads a life far more like Mohandas Gandhi's than like the one she leads now, and it *suits* her. I think -- you know that, too, right?"

"Yes. She... she has always been dedicated to higher causes --"

"People like that..." Tim bites his lip and strokes Bruce's cheeks. "I enjoyed that kiss."

Bruce grunts -- helplessly. "I -- yes?"

Tim looks at him from under his lashes again --

They were *thinner* when he appeared female --

"I want you, Bruce. I want you -- well. I've thought about just laying myself out on your bed or the floor. Or bending over your desk --"

Bruce swallows. "You. Please --"

Tim *grinds* his hips. "You could fuck me with your tongue. I'd like that --"

Bruce grunts *again* -- "It's. It's dirty --"

"You've wanted it."

"Yes. Yes, but --"

""The Devil's Kiss.' Rather over the top... but it can make almost anyone feel unholy in their attractiveness. Their... palatability...?"

Bruce shakes his head, but he can't help thinking about it. He can't --

He'd *heard* about analingus -- sometimes it's seemed like every kind of church-disapproved sex was available in Gotham proper, or at least available to be *studied*--

He'd heard about it and immediately thought of -- Lex, not Harvey. Harvey had seemed too healthy, too --


Bruce squeezes his eyes shut and tries to find *something* resembling prayer in his mind, something other than Tim's outrage at Father Henry's --


Ignorance --

"Bruce..." And that was a whisper more than anything else, a breath against his lips -- "Here..."

And Tim slips his tongue into Bruce's mouth, licks Bruce's teeth and *teases* Bruce's tongue in small, somehow *tight* motions. He's hardly moving his tongue, at all. He treating Bruce's mouth like --

Like something with hardly any give. Like --

Bruce feels himself *clench* and he --

He hasn't felt that since the last time he'd seen Harvey, and then Harvey had been playing with -- not lifting -- the few weights Bruce kept in his room. Leslie had wanted him to exercise more --

And Harvey was so strong, so obviously *strong* despite being significantly *leaner* than Bruce --

And Bruce had thought about being touched, and moved --

Bruce had thought about being *manhandled* and *forced* --

Bruce groans again and *grips* Tim's face, pulls him closer and kisses him hard, shoves his tongue into *his* mouth --

Tim whimpers and clutches Bruce's waist with his *thighs* --

Bruce *thrusts* his tongue, and loses himself to the feel of slick motion, a small *opening* --

And, abruptly, nothing matters more than being able to feel more of Tim, being able to touch and *have*. If Tim calls a halt to make Bruce talk more about his childhood, or theology, or -- or *anything* --

Bruce doesn't know *what* he'd do, but it would have to be something drastic, something --

And Bruce's *heart* seizes when Tim turns out of the kiss, but he's only moaning as he nuzzles Bruce, as he drags his mouth and cheeks over Bruce's *stubble* --

"Tim -- I want --"

"Anything, Bruce. *Anything*," and his voice is so low, so *fervent* --

And Bruce remembers wrestling with Harvey before he knew he desired him, remembers the pure physical *joy* of it -- and maneuvers Tim onto his back.

"Oh -- *Bruce* --"

"Is this. May I." But Bruce can't finish a *thought* when Tim tilts his head back to bare his throat, his lovely *throat* --

Dick's flesh is more olive here, Jason's throat more *columnar* --

"Please, Bruce, *bite* --"

"*Nnh* -- I'm sorry --"

"No, do that again, *thrust* again --"

"Against. Your thigh?"

"I feel you -- you're so *warm* there even through your clothes --"

"Then. I --" Bruce shakes his head and *buries* his face against Tim's throat before starting to thrust, starting --

He *had* thrust against his mattress more than once, but that had been in the manor, and there was no one beneath him, no one even close enough to share their *scent*.

Tim is sweetness in his nose, in his throat when he can't keep himself from breathing in through his mouth --

"Tim -- please, Tim --"

"Ohn -- *tell* me, tell me what you'd like --"

"I -- please want, I need you to *want* -- "

"I *do*," and Tim pushes his hands into Bruce's hair, Tim tugs and cards and tugs *more* -- "Please *bite* -- *ahn* --"

And his flesh feels so taut, so --

Bruce doesn't *know* if there's a difference between Tim and a human male in this respect --

Doesn't know if anyone else could feel so strong and vulnerable at *once* --

Bruce bites *harder* --

And Tim cries out and wriggles under Bruce, writhes and *pushes* --

Bruce pulls back -- "I'm sorry, please let me --"

"No, no, I need more of you, so much *more*," and Tim claws at Bruce's jacket --

The fabric *tears* -- "*Tim* --"

"Take -- take these *off*!"

And there's something cold within Bruce for that. Something --

He wouldn't just be having sex with a demon; he'd be having sex with a demon and *admitting* to it. He --


Bruce -- doesn't squeeze his eyes shut again. He turns to look down into Tim's eyes, finding a grey in them that speaks of winter and cold, loneliness and *cold* -- but could that be what lies within himself? Is he... projecting? Is that even the word?

But there's *worry* in Tim's eyes, fear and --

"I want. I want to make love with you."

*Tim* closes his eyes for a moment -- and he's smiling ruefully when he opens them again. "Bruce... I'll forgive you if you have to turn back from me."

"N-no. I shouldn't -- I mean, *you* shouldn't --"

"But I do. And I will. We'll *never* leave you."

Bruce -- can't. He pushes his face against Tim's throat and pants, clutches at Tim's arms, *holds* himself against Tim's legs --

"Bruce, it's all right, I promise it's all right --"

"You can't -- I *need* --"

"I understand, Bruce. I -- I know the thing inside you wants you to be violent, and I know you fear that more than anything else, and I know *why* you do. It's all okay. Let us *show* you," Tim says, twisting his arms free and stroking the back of Bruce's head, the jut of Bruce's right shoulder blade --

"I... Tim. I don't know -- I don't know how to do -- any of this."

Tim laughs softly -- it's almost a giggle --

"*Please* --"

"You were doing fine. Follow your *instincts*, Bruce. Show me what you *want* -- "

"Tell -- please tell me *something*, give me an *order* --"

Tim shivers and grunts -- "Taste me."

*Where* -- but Tim didn't specify. He didn't --

Bruce licks a long stripe over Tim's throat, seizing for the salt, the *sense* of sweat unshed --

"*Bruce* --"

Bruce sucks at Tim's pulse point --

He does it again on the other side of Tim's throat --

He *bites* Tim's wrists --

"*Hnh* -- oh, *Bruce* --"

"You sound -- so *young* --"

"I always will. I always -- it's how I'm *made* --"

Bruce moans and licks the insides of Tim's elbows --

The flesh feels so *tender* there --

He bites --

"Ohn -- *fuck* --"

"Tell me -- tell me how they make love to you --"

"My -- my brothers?"

"*Please*," Bruce says, and surprises himself with the ability to meet Tim's eyes, to -- "You showed me your *kiss* --"

"My kisses -- my kisses have more *teeth*, usually --"

Bruce darts in and bites Tim's lower *lip* --

Tim *bucks*, and that means -- does that mean he should bite harder?

Bruce *sucks*, instead, and licks, and thrusts into Tim's mouth --

"Mm -- *mmm* --" And Tim moans into the kiss --

Tim grabs Bruce's hips and *moves* him -- until Bruce can feel Tim's penis through --

Through his *pants* --

He can't stop himself from *thrusting* --

And Tim grunts into Bruce's mouth over and over again, grunts *rhythmically* --

Turns out of the kiss and *pants* --

"*Please*, Tim --"

"Dick -- Dick loves this --"

"No, I -- I'm *selfish* --"

"Take -- at least your *pants* --"

"I can't -- I don't want to *stop*, Tim!"

And Tim gasps and searches him --

Frowns *deeply* --

"*Please*, Tim --"

And suddenly Bruce is on his back on the *floor*. Tim is cradling Bruce's head with one hand and working on Bruce's belt with the other --

No, he's using both hands --

The belt is gone --

Bruce's pants are *open* --

And, when Bruce catches Tim's hands in his own, he realizes that he has no idea what he wants to have happen --

No, that's a lie. He wants Tim's hot hands and hotter mouth. He wants Tim's *teeth* all over --

All over.

"Bruce. Let me --"

"No --"

"*Please* --"

"I mean. I mean. Let *me*," Bruce says, and thinks about horses and water, damnation and beauty -- "Let me."

Tim licks his lips -- and kneels up with his hands on his thighs.

"You're so. I don't. I don't want to hurt you --"

"You won't," Tim says, and smiles wryly. "Well. I suppose you could reject me *utterly* --"

"I couldn't. I don't -- I hardly *know* you, but I couldn't."

Tim parts his lips -- the lower one is *faintly* swollen -- and then nods. "I feel it, Bruce. The parts of you... the parts of you which made me."

"No, I -- not me --"

"They're in you, though. You could..." Tim swallows and then laughs briefly. "Please."

"Yes --"

"I mean -- ah." And Tim nods toward Bruce's groin --

And Bruce remembers what he was doing, what -- "You're beautiful. You're... you're very *sharp*, and I -- I want you know that I wouldn't use you, that I wouldn't..." Bruce licks his lips. "I wouldn't take you for granted --"

"Bruce --"

"Yes," Bruce says, lying back and lifting his hips so he can get his pants down -- and *then* he remembers his shoes --

But only because Tim is taking them and Bruce's socks down. And --

Just a stroke to the sole of his foot --

"Tim --"

"Please. More."

Bruce shivers and pulls his boxers down *with* his pants --

Tim moans and grips Bruce's *ankles* --


"You... I need you --"

"I need you, as well. I -- I *want* to be the man who made you," Bruce blurts, and blushes -- "I'm sorry --"

"I *like* the way I was made," Tim says, and tugs Bruce's pants off the rest of the way before moving up to straddle Bruce's thighs. "And -- you can be. You can..." Tim licks his lips and *grips* Bruce's penis --

"*Tim* --"

"You can make *another* me. Maybe... maybe stronger or more beautiful --"

"No, I -- just you --"

Tim cocks his head to the side --

His horns grow another inch -- and he begins to stroke. He --

"Please, Tim --"

"Do you not like this?"

"I want -- I -- you'll make me lose control very quickly --"

"I want that --"

"I want *you*," and Bruce grips Tim's wrist --

Tim moans and blushes -- "Bruce... I want you inside me."

"Jay -- Jay said --"

"Once -- once we were in you..." Tim shakes his head and licks his lips. "Please."

Bruce hears himself panting -- "How. How can I please you? *Pleasure* you."

Tim's horns curl back on themselves like Dick's --

Tim's horns *disappear* --

Tim's legs grow thick fur and then lose it just that quickly --

His horns grow back but stop at three inches --

His eyes change *shape*, over and over again -- but they never lose their stormy color, their --

"Please --"

"I can't -- you have to --" Tim shakes his head and rocks closer, pressing his penis against Bruce's own, *holding* them together --

"Oh -- *Tim* --"

Tim moans -- "You're so -- *slick*. I --" He licks his lips and closes his eyes --

He grows large, soft-looking breasts that fade immediately --

He *thrusts* against Bruce, into his own hand --

"Yes, Tim, yes -- you feel so *wonderful* --"

"Jay -- Jay *loves* this -- he squeezes so *hard* --"

Bruce *grunts* -- "Do it -- *hnh* -- I -- oh. Your -- your *power* --"

"Oh, Bruce -- Bruce, it feels -- I need --"

"*Tell* me --"

Tim whimpers and tosses his head, hair growing and thickening and thinning and *fading* --

"Beautiful, all of you, every -- every *form* --"

Tim giggles and opens his mouth to reveal dozens of needle-teeth --

Bruce gasps and *bucks* --

And Tim raises his eyebrows -- and touches his tongue to his teeth. He bleeds immediately, dripping on both of their penises --

"Don't *hurt* yourself, you mustn't -- oh -- oh, Tim, that *stroke* --"

Fast, hard --

Harder than Tim's *thrusts* --

"It doesn't -- it only hurts if I *want* it to," Tim says, and his teeth are back to --

But could that truly be called normal?

Does he like the taste of blood? His own over that of others?

Could --

But his penis is hot and *adamant* against Bruce's own, his hand is hard and strong, so impossibly --

But wouldn't an older brother's hand *have* to feel that way?

Bruce groans and throws his head back, lost to images and sense memories, lost to dreams he'd peopled with different Harveys in the mornings after, because otherwise there would've been no faces, at all.

The touch --

He wasn't *alone* in those dreams, and he was never cold. He had *brothers*, and he was never without them, never --

There were no doubts or *fears* --

"Bruce, *please* --"

And he *must* look at Tim again, must see him as he shifts and changes -- no, Bruce focuses on his beautiful eyes, on the *need* in them, the *desperation* -- "I'm here --"

"Need you, *need* you --"

"I won't -- I won't *leave* --"

And Tim cries out, voice breaking high and sharp as he stiffens --

As he arches *back* --

As he ejaculates, spilling heat all over Bruce's penis and abdomen and *chest* --

"I want -- Tim, I *want* --"

"Oh, Bruce, *yes* --" And Tim lets go and moves back, away --

"Please, no --"

"*Let* me," Tim says, and his eyes are hot, focused, *deep* --

And he's holding Bruce's penis again, bending it --

Bending it back toward his dangerous *mouth* --

"I can't -- I won't -- Tim, I don't know if I *can*."

Tim closes his eyes and pants, tongue lengthening, *sharpening* --

He *tickles* the meatus with the tip of his tongue --

He shivers and *growls* -- and when he opens his eyes again his pupils are *slitted* in the midst of the blue-grey --

"Tim... I need -- which form is *you*?"

Tim growls softly --

His teeth form needles once more --

"Please, Tim --"

"I change, Bruce. It's... what I am," and Tim opens his mouth wide --

Shifts his teeth back to blunt, human-looking shapes --

And swallows Bruce *whole*. That --

He'd *heard* of it, but it hadn't seemed *possible*. It --

Perhaps Tim had done something to his throat? Perhaps --

But then Tim *does* do something with his throat, and Bruce hears himself *shout*. He does it again --

Bruce claps a hand over his mouth --

And Tim does it over and *over* again, all while dragging his pointed tongue against the underside of his penis, all while groaning in his *chest* --

Groaning with *pleasure* --

But wouldn't *he* make the same sort of sounds? If given the *chance* to pleasure a lover like this --

Oh, like *this* --

"Please," Bruce says, and *then* remembers that his hand is over his mouth --

But Tim opens his eyes and -- stabs him. *Thrusts* into him with his gaze --

Bruce moans and shakes his head --

Tim cups Bruce's *scrotum* --

"*Please*," and this time Bruce moves his hand --

And regrets it, because Tim's squeeze blackens the world and fills it with stars, nebulae --

And then he simply *is* looking at a view of the universe no camera could ever catch --

He's traveling far, being *yanked* along in hard, *rough* pulses --

A part of him knows that he's being pleasured, still, that the *act* of being made love to -- the feelings and attendant emotions -- are making it *possible* for him to travel this way --

To *see* --

Shapes in the black, powers and strange *tides* --

And the universe grows larger and more strange --

And the universe grows eyes, millions --

*Trillions* --

He is seen he is known he is --


God --

And suddenly Bruce is gasping and writhing on his own floor. The light is the weak, grey sunlight of winter, the floor is nearly *icy* against his sweat-slick skin, and there's a beautiful boy --

A beautiful man --

A beautiful *demon* sucking and -- and *taking* himself --

Bruce *claws* at the floor -- no --

Bruce strokes Tim's hollowed cheeks --

His hands are shaking --

Tim's eyes are human-seeming once more, focused on him with such -- such *hunger* --

"What -- what can I *do*?"

In answer - if it *is* an answer -- Tim sucks *harder* --

And Bruce can't -- "I'm sorry, I'm so --" But he has to thrust, needs to --

That beautiful *mouth* --

And now Tim is moaning aloud, a moan that gets chopped, *stuttered* by Bruce's thrusts --

Movement --

"Fuck, I love that sound more than almost *anything*," and Jason lifts Bruce up against him --

Wraps his arms around him --

"Jay, I -- he's so --"

"He needs you. You made him *crazy*. Look."

Bruce does -- and strange runes and patterns are flaring and fading and flaring again on Tim's skin even as he *works* himself on Bruce's penis --

Even as Bruce works *him* --

"Hold his hair. Really... really *grip* it."

"But --"

"Do it. He won't stop to ask you for it. You -- do it."

Bruce opens his mouth --

Bruce groans and does it, feeling himself tickled and *stroked* by the wild brush of Tim's hair, feeling his wrists *chafed* against the spiral-etched horns --

"Those runes and stuff... those are his *seams*, Bruce. That's where he's made -- and can be unmade."

"*No* -- he mustn't --"

"He's strong, don't worry. But he's showing you. He's *teaching* you. And I don't think he's even shown those to Dick, yet -- heh, no, he hasn't. Which, Dick wants you to know, is the *only* reason why he isn't here now to help," and Jay cups Bruce's pectorals. "Come for him."

"I want -- I *ache* --"

"Let go. Give him... give him that..."

"I don't -- I can't just --"

"Come in his mouth...?" And Jason leans over Bruce's shoulder enough that Bruce can see his smile. "Let him taste you, B. And then taste *him*."

Bruce's penis twitches --

Twitches in Tim's *mouth*, and Tim is moaning again --

His eyes are --

He seems almost *drugged* --

And Bruce is thrusting harder. Faster and more *raggedly* --

"Oh, *yeah*, B. Is that how you're gonna give it to him in his pretty little ass?"

Bruce grunts *again* -- "*Please* --"

"He wants it. He wants it like *I* do. Think about it."

"Bent. Bent over my *desk* -- *hnh* -- *hnh* --"

And Jason is thrusting against Bruce's back --

And Tim is -- is *pumping* Bruce's scrotum --

"That's what he told you, B?"

"*Yes* --"

"Give it to him. Show him -- show him how you're *gonna* do him."

And it's necessary, *imperative* to hold Tim's hair even more cruelly --

To hold him *still*, because he needs Tim to take, he needs Tim to take *him* --

Tim whimpers --

Jason moans and bites Bruce's *throat* --

"Please --"

"Give it up, B --"

"*Please* --"

And then Tim grips Bruce's hips and squeezes *hard* --

And the world becomes bright and hot, tight and -- and *loud* --

Jason claps a hand over Bruce's mouth --

And Bruce realizes that he's screaming even as he spends himself in Tim's beautiful mouth --

No, it was his *throat*, because his mouth is much less tight, and he can't --

He's being tasted, known and *tasted* --

The trillion eyes of *God* --

But he would feel that regard if it were on him again, he would know it *unmistakably* for something cold and alien and dangerous.

This -- *this* is every warmth in the world, this is something his body understands *implicitly*, something it approves of as much as exercise or fine food or --

And even falling back down into himself from the *heights* is warm, because Jason is stroking him all over --

And Tim is licking him clean, one short, pointed-tongue lap after another.

Bruce tries his best to catch his breath -- no, not yet. He releases Tim's hair and cups his lovely face, instead. His lips are red and swollen, and the light in his eyes --

That's warmth, as well.

Bruce smiles helplessly. "Please. May I hold you?"

Tim crawls closer on his knees and presses their bodies together. Tim is hard again, and he rests his head on Bruce's shoulder --

Bruce isn't sure where to put his *hands* --

There are so many places he wishes to touch, but what's appropriate for *this* moment? What's *best*?

"You okay, B?"

"I --" Bruce shakes his head and cups the back of Tim's neck with one hand and his hip with the other.

Tim makes a soft noise and presses closer still --

And Jason sighs in his ear. "You need a bigger bed, B."

"I -- for --" Bruce blushes and squeezes Tim --

"You do, you know," Tim says, and kisses Bruce's cheek. "Even just for *you* that bed is too small."

"It's adequate --"

"'Adequate?' Seriously?" And Jason nips Bruce's ear. "Make *room* for yourself a little."

"Are you... are you trying to tempt me toward hedonism?"

Tim pulls back enough to smile at him with *sweet* sharpness. "Is it working?"

Bruce frowns. "I can understand the symbolism. I -- I would *like* to make room for you -- for all of you --"

"But you don't think you can, B?" And Jason's tone is only casual on the *surface* --

"Jay --"

"No, Tim, let him answer the question."

Bruce takes a deep breath and thinks of -- everything.

Father Henry drinking coffee and musing on a dream he'd never hand.

The rings around Dick's neck.

Jason's powerful hands on Bruce's biceps --

Tim's *forgiving* eyes --

"I need. I need to know. What you want of me."

Tim cups Bruce's face. "It's need, Bruce. The world's need --"

"Please -- please stop appealing to my pride."

Jason leans in and nuzzles Bruce's ear. "You always could've used more of that sin."

Bruce shudders. "You -- please. Please don't --"

And both Tim and Jason lean back, *away* --

"Oh, no --"

"Be specific, B -- what do you need?"

"You. I need -- all of you. But also some sign, some... I can't do this if it's only pleasure."

Tim and Jason share a wry look -- "Bruce. Do you realize how *amazingly* screwed-up that is?"

Bruce frowns in confusion --

And Jason claps his shoulder. "So apparently we're taking baby steps here. Hide your seams, baby bro. It's time to call in big brother."

Tim is dressed in the green suit once more -- though the rune on his right cheek takes time to fade. Bruce reaches out to touch it -- "Maker's mark," Tim says, and covers Bruce's hand with his own before nuzzling it.

"Why -- why do you wear clothes?"

Tim smiles. "Do you not like them?"

"They're wonderful -- if rather non-traditional in color. But I'm curious."

"My body -- ah. My bodies aren't for just anyone, Bruce."

Jason snickers. "He's *real* damned new at the incubus thing, B."

Tim gestures -- it *looks* obscene, but it doesn't seem to be any one of the *American* -- or Americanized immigrant -- gestures Bruce is familiar with --

And why should it be?

Bruce reaches out to hold Tim again -- and then remembers that he's sticky with sweat and other fluids. He drops his arms --

"Oh, hey, no, what's that about?"

"I don't want to... muss." Even Tim's wild hair is all in place --

"I'm not *actually* wearing clothes, Bruce. It's all right," and Tim presses close again. It *feels* like he's wearing something like linen -- far too light for the season -- but Bruce is willing to go with the idea that everything is an illusion --


Not everything. Not --

(You have wasted *time*!)

Bruce knows he's holding Tim much too hard, but the Bat is turning over in him, stretching and *reaching* --

It knows Bruce is *weak* right now, knows --

Can it feel his nakedness? Does it know...?

Or perhaps it can feel the way Jason and Tim are holding him, holding him still and -- and *secure* --

Holding him in place?

And Bruce smells Dick before he can open his eyes, incense and spices as he moves to hold Bruce, as well --

(They will never *understand*!)

Please, no, please --

(Only I --)

"Shh," Dick says, kissing Bruce's cheek and ear, and at first Bruce thinks the Bat had finally spoken loud enough to be heard outside of his head --

But then Bruce realizes that he's groaning and whimpering like something pained, that he's shaking, sweating --

"Dick --"

"I hear everything, little brother. The fear and the violence, the guilt and the fact that he's being *ridden*..." Dick sighs and butts against Bruce's shoulder. "No more, Bruce. You have to --"

"*You* have to -- I have questions --"

"And I have answers. But let's get out of here?"

"My -- I have to --" His classes. His professors. His --

Everything he'd thrown aside for Tim's touch, for the scent of fruit and the taste --

He *hadn't* tasted --

And he's still gripping Tim, still --

There's a bead of sweat on the side of his throat. There --

Bruce groans and licks --

And dimly -- only dimly -- he hears Tim make a soft, surprised noise. The rest is a rush of wind, and --

He's being carried, being --

The world is full of runes --

Bruce reaches out to touch (know) them, because they're (Tim) beautiful and he must prove that he's worthy, must show that he *can* save the world --

He touches --

The wind *howls* --

And the runes have been replaced with black, with cold and *pain* --

(To me!)

And the Bat has never been louder, never --

(You must call to me!)

He's in its domain. Somehow, he had stepped through --

(The time has come! Call my name!)

But Bruce knows what will happen if he does. He'll be entered in preparation to be steered and guided. He'll be --

He'll *see* it every time he looks in the mirror, and everything he touches will be touched by the Bat, as well.

He'll *taste* it -- no, wait. The hints of salt in his mouth. The sharp *tang* of sweat from someone inhuman --


The taste is protection, or --

The taste is a different world than this. If he allows it to lead him --

Brother, oh, brother, *please* --

Bruce runs, and the blackness becomes solid under him -- cold stone and *grit* --

No, the salt, the *tang* --

And it seems to take hours before the first runes appear, *days* before there's more light than just what the runes themselves shed --

(They will not wait for you! You've failed them!)

No, no, *please* --

The taste fades in his mouth. There's nothing but his own saliva, his own *fear* --

The stone crumbles and *melts* beneath his feet --

"Only I will never leave you," and it's close, so *close*, flying beside him and reaching to take his hand --

The cold is impossible and so *dark* --

And then the world is full of blood, thick and stinking of metal, of flesh *torn* --


Bruce opens his mouth to scream for help --

And swallows blood. *Hot* blood, electric and sharp --

(No, no, *no*!)

The light comes back to the world, the *heat* --

And pain, bright and brief along the inside of his cheek. A scratch?

"*Swallow*, Bruce..." Dick's voice --

It's been so *long* --

Bruce opens his eyes -- and all three of them are there, looking down at him with near-identical worried expressions --

And Bruce's mouth is filling --

The blood seems *spiced* now, like something to be consumed in the midst of dark ritual --

And Jason is petting Bruce's throat. "Swallow and you'll be safe, B."

*Safe*? There is no safety --

Tim grips him by the *hair* -- "Swallow and it can't *get* you. Not without somehow managing to kill all three of us."

Bruce tenses helplessly --

Dick sighs and pets Bruce's chest. "It's all right, Bruce. We wouldn't be very good demons if we didn't know how to defend ourselves from very *bad* demons. Swallow. Please."

"You've *almost* had enough already, B. Just --" Jason shakes his head and squeezes Bruce's throat gently. "We'll never hurt you."

"We need you too much for that, Bruce," Tim says, and smiles ruefully. "We always will. And now that our blood has mingled... please, Bruce. Taste us. *Have* us."

It sounds like so much more than merely *blood* -- no. It *is* more, and it's too late to be frightened.

Isn't it?

Bruce closes his eyes and swallows --

And his mind's eye fills with shadows; long, viciously sensitive ears, hollow eyes and a gaping mouth --

Open only to scream from the other side of what appears to be a translucent -- and *thick* -- wall. It's speaking -- Bruce *knows* it's speaking --

It's beating at the wall and *howling* --

But it's silent. It --

Even the vast and terrible beating of its *wings* is silent --

Dick hisses between his teeth. "Nasty."

"Fuck yeah. *That's* what's been after you, B?" Jason strokes Bruce's throat again --

And Bruce opens his eyes. "You. You see it."

Jason looks at him like he's *mad* --

"Please. Please, not that."

Jason seems more *confused* than anything else --

"Oh, Bruce. Did you think it wasn't *real*?" And Dick sits back on Bruce's hips and grips Bruce's hands.

"You couldn't -- you couldn't hear it --"

"Or see it, or smell it..." Tim shakes his head and scratches Bruce's scalp in soothingly ticklish motions. "Unacceptable."

"Yeah, I really should've seen it coming," Jason says. "It's not like I didn't do my share of cloaking when I was on the torment beat."

Dick tugs Bruce up into a seated position --

And then he and his brothers are holding him and butting him and --

And the taste of blood in his mouth seems too corrupt for something this warm, this gentle --

"I'm all right --"

"You *will* be all right, Bruce," Dick says, and licks the corners of Bruce's mouth. "We'll take care of you."

Bruce frowns --

And Jason licks his forehead. "Don't do that, B. It's okay, now --"

"What -- is cloaking?"

"Uh. You sure you wanna know that?"

"He wants to know *everything*," Tim says, and he sounds both irritated and proud. "I vote we tell him."

Dick hums thoughtfully. "Jay?"

"Yeah, okay. It's not like we're gonna leave him to stew after *this*."

"Then I agree, as well," Dick says, and smiles at Bruce wryly. "But there's a price."

Bruce shivers. "Haven't I proved I would pay?"

"Take us home, Bruce. Take us to your *real* home."

Bruce tenses, waiting for the Bat to say --


Anything at all. Any --

Bruce shivers again and swallows --

"Hey, no, did we not get that thing?"

"Oh, we did, little wing. Bruce was just *expecting* it then. Weren't you?"

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut -- but only for a moment before he nods. And then he stands, naked from the waist down and surrounded by -- beauty.

Beauty which presses close *again* --

"I need -- to dress. And leave a note... of some kind..."

Dick smiles gently and cups Bruce's face. "You'll call tomorrow. Let's go."

"My clothes --"

Tim scratches Bruce's hip. "We could take you just like this, Bruce..."

"Nah, baby bro, I want the road trip," Jason says, breathing deep -- and revealing himself as a beautiful boy -- with *slightly* elongated ears. And no horns or wings.

Bruce reaches to stroke Jason's ear --

It's still quite velvety -- but.


"In a... uh. I guess you could call it a pocket dimension? It won't hold long -- but it's only a ninety minute drive, yeah?"

Bruce swallows and nods -- and turns to find Dick tying on a headband not unlike something some young bohemian would have worn eight to ten years ago. He winks -- and is abruptly wearing bell-bottomed jeans and a t-shirt with a peace sign. His tail and horns are --

"In the same pocket dimension as Jay's accessories, actually. They'll keep each other company."

Jason is now wearing jeans, thick boots, a plain white t-shirt, and a hip-length, black leather jacket.

*Tim* is wearing his suit -- but now it's burgundy instead of green. Tim holds out Bruce's suit pants, and --

"You don't think we'll be... conspicuous?"

Dick kisses his cheek, hot and *wet*. "We know how to be subtle sometimes. I *promise*."

Bruce nods and dresses himself. He feels... he feels faintly *empty*, as if there's something missing from the back of his skull, or perhaps low in his abdominal cavity.

He feels --

He's not being *led* in this moment, and while he had resisted the vast majority of the Bat's commands and edicts --

While he had *run* --

The pressure had always been there. The fact that it's not now --

The fact that he's *alone* --

Bruce crouches to tie his shoes, closes his eyes and searches --

And the wall is there, and the *Bat* is there, shifting shadows and snarling, flying and *clawing* --

And suddenly Dick is beside him, naked save for the bangles once more. He rests his head on Bruce's shoulder and wraps an arm around his waist. "When a demon cloaks, what he's truly doing is *lightly* possessing someone -- preferably someone with a weak sense of themselves and their personal reality. In other words, a child or someone with severe mental and/or emotional deficiencies. It's amazingly effective. It's easy -- *many* families of demons can do it -- and it gives that demon the ability to move freely through this dimension -- no matter how weak he, she, or it would normally be. The only limitation is that it has to be a *gentle* kind of possession, because even damaged humans will fight the yoke if it's too heavy. There's also the fact that the demon can easily become addicted to living inside the human in question... and the fact that the demon might... hmm... forget himself and let himself get killed when the human does."

The Bat is *thrashing* --

"Is that -- was it weak from being inside me?"

"It's actually really strong. It's been feeding on you *and* something else. Something... well, let's just say that we wouldn't be surprised to find out that there's some sort of mystical thingamagilla somewhere near wherever you spent a lot of time. Like, oh, the Cave?"

Bruce shivers. "You know it."

"With all of myself... though I don't know all of the *Cave*. That's always been for you."

"Even now?"

Dick smiles up at him. "Not anymore. We're *going* to keep you safe."

Safe --

The Bat is *screaming* --

"What... what will you do with it?"

"Interrogate it, for a start. Tim and Jay have a way with that sort of thing, and we want to make sure it doesn't have any... hmm... *tendrils* wandering around scaring the hell out of *other* children. We also want to know what it *wants* from you --"

"You -- you all knew that it could catch me if I tasted Tim."

Dick closes his eyes and hugs Bruce. "We knew that it would make a play -- if there was something truly there other than your own terrible pain."

"Dick --"

"We also knew that the three of us could take *anything* small enough to live within a teenaged boy -- no matter how large and special that teenaged boy is."

"You manipulated me --"

"Please, Bruce -- we only wanted to *free* you -- and to live within you."

Bruce -- breathes. And looks behind him to find Jason and Tim lurking in the shadows --

He doesn't *need* shadows in his own *mind* --

And the world is as bright as it is in the sun-room, only warmer. Like this, the Bat seems much smaller --

"It's definitely from one of the darkling families," Tim says, reaching out to touch Bruce -- he drops his hand.

Bruce frowns. "Why --"

"You're angry with us right now, B. We can -- well. We know all about it."

Angry. He doesn't feel --

But he had exchanged one *lack* of privacy for another, and *these* demons won't leave him merely for screams or --

They won't leave him.

They won't -- leave him.

Bruce feels himself blush and opens his eyes --

And he's standing in his room again, and the world is the grey of coming snow, and cold which isn't *quite* instantly debilitating. The demons --

The brothers are in a line facing him from six feet away. They're all looking directly at him. They're all --


And they won't leave him --

"What. What of your other assignments?"

Tim and Jason look to Dick, who smiles with *warm* ruefulness. "My career is... ah... important to me? That isn't actually a question," Dick says, and cups Jason's shoulder with one hand and Tim's with the other. "I think you'll find me other things to do with my time --"

"I don't want to take you from --"

"Bruce. Don't lie to us. You can do *anything* but lie to us," and Dick pushes Jason and Tim toward him before following them. "We're here for you... and there's a new demon born nearly every time a human gets a certain *kind* of imaginative."

"That's... acutely horrifying."

Dick's smile grows wider as he releases his brothers' shoulders and cups Bruce's face. "Some of us *like* big families... boss."

Bruce frowns --

And Jason smacks the back of Dick's head. "Too *soon*, Dickie."

Dick -- giggles. And leans in to nuzzle against Bruce's nose. "Almost, though. Very, very... almost. Let's go home."


Dick and Tim spend the entire drive bickering good-naturedly about which radio station Jason should tune to.

How they decided it would be Jason who'd take the passenger seat is beyond him, but Jason had happily switched from one station to another to another -- when not stroking Bruce's thigh in motions which alternated between soothing and promising.


Now they're in the manor, and it's colder than Bruce remembers it being, but that makes sense: Leslie needs far less of it heated with Bruce away. Still, Bruce knows where to find the thermostats, and, more than that, there's still some of last year's firewood in the garage.

Bruce had wanted to move his parents' armoires into his bedroom after... after, but Leslie hadn't allowed it. She had distributed some of their favorite clothes in Bruce's closet, instead, and that had been...

Bruce had spent a great deal of time sitting in that closet.

Still, all of that means that his fireplace is unblocked. Dick insists on piling the wood and lighting the fire -- Bruce couldn't see how he'd done it -- and Jason snickers.

"Home sweet home, yeah?"

"Little wing, are you trying to make Bruce think we come from the fiery Abyss?"

"Heh. Maaaybe a little?"

Dick wags a finger at him and stands, brushing off his hands and melting his clothes away -- and bringing back his bangles, horns, and tail.

"Yeah, it *is* about time for that," Jason says, stretching with a pleased groan. His wings and horns *grow* out of him once more, and his clothes disappear.

Tim --

Tim is examining the few bookshelves Bruce has in here with a level of focus and attention which suggests that he believes he will be tested on what he finds. And which makes Bruce wonder if he *should* be testing *himself* on it.

Dick cups Bruce's waist and rests his head on Bruce's shoulder. "Do you want him again?"

"Yes, I -- I mean --"

"Don't take it back. He's beautiful. He's..." Dick sighs and seems to almost *wriggle* close. "I could see it in his eyes. The *need* in him. The desire to touch and be touched..."

That -- "I have my doubts that that's ever something you have to look especially hard for."

Jason snickers and -- uses the rough texture of his horns to scratch his ears. "He sure as fuck has to work for *you*, B."

"No, I --"

"You don't need me, yet. You... I'm not made for you," Dick says, and slips his hands into Bruce's *pockets* --

"You're -- the most beautiful --"

"But I'm... hmm... capricious and playful in the wrong ways. Hungry in the wrong ways. *Needy* in the wrong ways --"

"Dick, *no* --"


Bruce tugs Dick's hands from his pockets and turns to face him, taking in -- a wickedly playful expression with darkness beneath it. Or... could the darkness be playful, too? He cups the side of Dick's throat, forcing the bangles above and below his hand --

They have no *clasps* --

But that's a lesser miracle compared to the sight -- the *fact* -- of the being in front of him, the being who has offered him touch and endless companionship -- "Hell -- Hell is loneliness."

"I agree, boss --"

"No -- no. Tim said that I had *made* him in some other dimension --"

"You did," Tim says. "And I... I think a part of me needed just that."

To be made? Or made anew... Bruce sets the thought aside for later and refocuses on Dick. "If I made you --"

"You did. Or, well. Made me *again*," and Dick smiles at him, butts at the air. "But you didn't make me for *yourself*."

Bruce frowns. "But why?"

Dick leans in and sniffs the side of Bruce's throat, forcing Bruce to put more pressure on *his* throat -- "You've always been generous to a *fault*."

Oh, but -- of course he'd want someone like Dick to have the world --

But how had he even come *up* with the *idea* to make someone like Dick? How is that --

"It's all right, Bruce, I *promise*."

"It's not. I don't -- you *must* not feel that I desire you --"


"Of course, I desire you differently, but --"

Dick licks Bruce's throat --

And Bruce's penis twitches.

"Oh... ooh. Can I...?"

"Dick --"

"We can talk about the serious things *later*. Right now... right now you want me *most*," he says, and *cups* Bruce through his pants --

"I -- the heat of you -- all of you --"

"Just me right now, boss --"

"Why -- why *that* epithet?"

"Because I can't call you Maker yet," and Dick *strokes* Bruce through his pants. "You're so *big* --"

"You -- you could be any size --"

"Do you *want* me bigger...?"

Bruce grunts and reaches down to still Dick's hand -- but not to move it. "You're perfect."

"Bruce --"

"You're *perfect*," Bruce says, and tries to will Dick to believe it, to know it as he knows how devastatingly *attractive* he is --

And Dick moans, long and low. His *hands* shake. "Oh -- oh, *Maker* --"


Dick giggles and tosses his hair before beginning to strip Bruce, and all Bruce can think --

It's a Friday. It --

Leslie had gone into her main clinic at eight o'clock this morning and she won't leave until nine o'clock at *night* -- and then she'll only do it to tour the *satellite* clinics.

When Bruce was in junior high school, she would try to be home by midnight, but even then she wouldn't always *succeed* --

The manor is theirs. All -- Bruce looks around --

Tim and Jason are gone.

"*My* turn now, boss. You... heh. I already *know* that's just fine with you," and Dick winds Bruce's tie around his throat, knotting it with a perfect Windsor before going back to stripping him.

He doesn't let Bruce help.

He --

He pushes and *shoves* Bruce until Bruce is on his back on the bed which now seems *terrifyingly* large --

Sinfully large?

Where to *begin* listing his sins today?

What to do with the part of him -- growing larger by the moment -- which wants him to *only* list those things which make him *feel* shamed?

He *can't* feel shamed for what he had done with Tim, save in the way that he'd done so little to provide pleasure.

He wishes he hadn't *bothered* Father Henry, but more because Dick had felt the need to cloud his mind than for any other reason.

It *is* shameful to miss school, but how to even begin to make up for all the time he'd *wasted* forcing teachers to try to educate him in a path he'd never --

He'd never belonged on that path, at all, and somehow, without the Bat calling to him and *demanding* *of* him...

Somehow, now that he has the ability to breathe and think and --

And Dick is lying beside him on his elbow with his cheek resting on his fist. He's smiling expectantly. He --

"I'm sorry --"

Dick shakes his head.

"I'm... not sorry...?"

Dick *nods*. "Why don't you tell me what you want --"

"I --"

Dick presses two fingers to Bruce's lips. "Tell me what you want with my *brothers*."

Bruce frowns and cups Dick's wrist in preparation for tugging his hand away --

But Dick keeps his hand there easily. "It's all right, Bruce. It..." Dick licks his lips. "It'll turn me on even more... and I *will* make you tell me what you want with me," and *then* Dick moves his fingers.

"I -- it seems... wasteful."

"With them not here...? We're all connected now, Bruce. We..." Dick lets his eyes slip most of the way closed and... undulates. "Do you know what they're doing right now? Do you want to see?"

Bruce feels himself *leaking*, but -- "Are they -- are they making love?"

Dick licks his teeth. "Yes. Yeah. They... mm. They do it all the *time*."

And Bruce's mind fills with -- shadows. *Heat* --

Where? The darkness seems so *complete* in the places the strange golden-red lights don't reach --

And then Bruce sees that the lights come from two holes into nothingness --

*Hears* the rasp of flesh on stone -- *oh* -- "They're in the *Cave*?"

Dick smiles broadly and traces strange patterns (runes, they're --) on Bruce's chest. "The Bat was feeding on the... ah... *energy* there for much too long. Just like drinking from one bottle for too long will inevitably lead to saliva being mixed with whatever else is in the bottle... well. It needs to be purified."

Bruce looks at Dick.

"Are you about to question my *definition* of purification, boss?"

"*Yes* --"

"Ah, ah, ah. Mom would *never* let me date someone that prejudiced."

His mother -- oh. "You grew up with -- with lovemaking as the ultimate sacrament?"

Dick grins and nods. "To be *bestowed* upon the worthy. To be used to make the *unworthy* better. To be given to the world in exchange for... well. Not much of anything."

"Dick -- what do demons *get* out of meddling in human affairs?"

Dick butts Bruce's arm. "I can think of *one* thing I'm getting."

"Dick --"

"I know, I know, *you* don't think you're much of a prize, but..." And Dick licks his lips and stares at Bruce *avidly*, *hungrily* -- "I'm going to make you mine, and so is Jason. Tim already snared you forever and ever and *ever*...." Dick sighs. "It's true that not all demons -- or even all *Lilim* -- are as romantically inclined as *we* are... but, well. Demons do get made and remade constantly. Mostly by *your* people. And, if there's one thing all of you different humans can agree on? It's that demons like to meddle. Pick nearly any culture in the world, and there's at least *one* very detailed story about one of *my* people getting up to mischief. They might not *call* us demons, and there's no telling *what* you'll make us look like --"

"I don't -- how did I -- did some other Bruce make *you*?"

"Is it so strange?"

"You -- *you're* strange, perfect, beautiful... even when I imagined someone kind and warm and seductive, I never could have..." Bruce frowns and shakes his head.

Dick parts his lips and breathes slowly, shakily --


"Tell me -- tell me about my brothers --"

"Show me --"

Red-shot darkness once more --

And that's Tim's voice crying out, Tim's body writhing, Tim's wet, open mouth --

Somehow, Bruce is *close* to him. Somehow --

Somehow *Bruce* is making him make these sounds, these rhythmic and desperate *sounds* --

Actually, it's me, B. You -- *unh*. You're along for the *ride*.

In Jason, he's *in* Jason --

And Bruce can feel his heat, Bruce can feel the weight of his wings, the ache in them that comes when he's making love, when he needs to *hold* --

C'mon, B. Take the *good* stuff --

The feel --

So *tight*, and this is the real heat, this is friction and *welcome* --

And then Bruce is *bellowing*, because he'd never thought --

He'd never *felt* --

And it takes much too long to realize the connection is broken. It --

Bruce opens his eyes, and the reason why he still feels tightness and heat is because Dick is *sucking* him. Just the head, just --



Bruce arches helplessly -- no, he has to --

He wants more than *this*, and so he sits up and cups Dick's face as gently as he can manage. He tugs --

"I *know* you don't want little wing right now -- not as much as you want *me*."

"I want. I want -- to *give* pleasure. Surely, that must be *allowed*?"

Dick pants, eyes flaring almost *silver* --


"Please. Please -- please *touch*, please shape, please --"

"I don't want to change you --"

"Make me *better* for you, Bruce! You -- I know you can *teach* me --"

Bruce pulls Dick into a kiss. He's aware, on a very low and *basic* level, that were he to grip a human's upper arms the way he's gripping Dick's, there would be bruising. He's aware that he's less kissing than *taking* Dick's mouth --

He must. He *must*. And --

And wrestling hadn't *failed* him with Tim, wrestling had given *pleasure* --

Bruce lifts and *moves* Dick, laying *him* down on his back and kissing more, kissing *deeper* --

Dick strokes him everywhere he can *reach*, lifts Bruce easily with his arch --

And then his tail is tickling Bruce's *scrotum*.

Bruce has never laughed while *grunting* before, and he's happy about that -- it's an utterly ridiculous noise.

Still, it's enough to allow him to allow *Dick* to slow down the kiss, and change it to something new and *sleek*, somehow, something just wet enough to make everything *smooth* --

But does he want that? Or --

Is this Dick's favorite kiss?

Bruce opens his eyes, meaning to study Dick's own, but Dick's eyes are closed as he arches and takes, arches and *licks* --

Bruce sucks Dick's tongue --

And Dick opens his eyes to show himself hungry, *pleased* --

Bruce moans and cups Dick's face, giving Dick all of his weight --

"Oh -- *yes*, Bruce --"

He can't keep himself from *thrusting* for that --

Dick *growls*, but it sounds less angry than *wanting* --

"Tell me, you have to *tell* me -- "

"Tell *me* --"

"Tim. Tim said he would bend over my *desk* --"

Dick parts his lips, showing canines which seem significantly *sharper* than they had a moment before -- "He will."

"I don't -- I don't know if I can go *back* there --"

"But there's a desk *here*. There's... this nice bed," Dick says, and cups Bruce's hips the way Tim had --

"Tim told me you liked -- *hnh* --"

Dick gasps for the feel --

Or is it the slide of their penises together?

The sweat between them?

Their *scents*?

"I love it, I love it so *much*," and Dick whimpers and rocks beneath Bruce, writhes and *undulates* again -- "Please please --"

"Dick --"

"*Show* me, show me what you want --"

"I don't *know* --"

"You *do*," Dick says, wriggling and pushing --

But Bruce has no chance to move before Dick's long legs are wrapped around his waist --

No, one around his waist and the other around his *chest* --

They're so *close* now, and the heat is immense, desperation-inducing --

Or at least that's the expression on Dick's face, and the one he can feel on his own, at least --

Bruce can't stop *shaking* --

"Please, Bruce --"

"Is this. Will this --"

"It feels so good, Bruce. It's what I *want*."

"You should. You should always have --" But the rest of that is a groan, helpless and --

Bruce thrusts --

Bruce grunts and *bucks*, moving Dick further up the bed --

"Oh, *Bruce* --"

"Your -- your bangles. Pressing into my *skin* --"

"I'll take them, move them --"

"No. *No* --" And the rhythm demands itself, and even knowing that that makes no sense --

Even -- even *aware* of himself as something held, something *moved* --

Dick moans and tosses his head --

Dick moans more *loudly* and clutches at Bruce's arms -- but Bruce needs to move them, needs --

If he can just press down on Dick's shoulders --

"*Bruce* --"

"I have to -- I need you *here* --"

"I'll stay -- I'll stay I'll stay I'll stay --"

Bruce hears himself whimper and blushes, *clutches* -- "So *beautiful* --"

"You -- oh, *Maker*, I've waited -- waited so *long* --"

"Never -- not for *me* --"

And Dick's eyes fly open --

Dick gazes at him and *searches* with his gaze --

"Dick, *please* --"

"Yes, Bruce, I -- it's you, you won't make me wait, you won't make me *need* -- oh, *harder* --"

And it's *frightening* to thrust this hard, to use muscle and bone to *punish* with his body -- no, not that. This is pleasure for Dick, this --

It's all *right* for it to feel this good, for him to hold *on* --

Dick tightens his grip with his legs --

Dick cries out for every --

Every thrust --

"*Dick* --"

"*Please* --" And then Dick is tossing his head, reaching up to cup Bruce's face --

And it feels as though they're pulling each *other* into the kiss, as though it's something needed equally, something equally *important* --

But Dick is *speaking* into the kiss, licking Bruce and saying things which *feel* as though they're on the edge of understanding, as though the language itself is less foreign than inhuman --

Dick croons and growls, cries out and *rumbles* --

And Bruce can't keep himself from cupping Dick's throat to *feel* it even as he thrusts faster and *harder* --

He needs this. He needs --

He's *always* needed to give *pleasure*, and so his body's warning of imminent orgasm feels like a betrayal. Dick is enjoying this so *much* --

Bruce doesn't want this to *end* -- but --

He can warn. He can -- "Dick -- *Dick* --"

Dick slurs and babbles something liquid and *hot*, and it feels like being splashed in the face --

But what would it be like to have Dick do *that* to him? What --

Oh --

Oh -- "Dick, I -- *nnh* --" Loud, that was --

And *he's* crying out now --

"Oh, Bruce, *yes* --"

"*Please* --"

"Don't stop, don't *stop* --"

He's *ejaculating*, and it feels profound and dangerous, at once. It feels *intense*, if the precise opposite of unmanning --

Dick looks so *happy* --

And that, more than anything else, is what allows Bruce to keep thrusting. He feels hypersensitized -- to the point where every drag of his penis against Dick's own is making him *shout* -- but this --

Dick is tossing his *head* --

Dick's hair is obscuring some of his beautiful face --

"Dick, *please* --"

"Anything, almost anything --"

"*Show* me --"

And Dick's hair ripples away from his face --

Dick's eyes are open wide -- and showing everything. Every moment of pleasure for the *press* of their penises together and every moment of near-panicked desperation as Bruce pulls back for another thrust --

Another --

*Another* --

"Dick... please. Please tell me how I may give you -- *mm* --"

Pulled into another kiss, and this time there's no question which of them is driving it. Dick coaxes Bruce's tongue into his mouth and then sucks it in pulses, taking Bruce back to the feel of Tim's mouth as Tim forced him to *travel* -- but this is not that, he knows.

Dick needs Bruce to be *sure* of what he would be doing if he had Bruce's penis in his mouth --

Dick needs him not -- not to *stop* --

And so Bruce forces the thrust of his tongue to match the thrust of his hips --

Dick cries out --

Dick shudders and *clutches* with his legs to the point where Bruce's *ribs* creak --

"*Dick* --"

"I'm sorry -- oh, *fuck* --"

That for Bruce thrusting even harder, even as he *fights* against Dick's hold --

And now Dick's shouts are arrhythmic and hungry, now --

But what could make Dick's pleasure greater?

"I -- I long to *kneel* for Jay --"

"*Bruce* --" And for a moment Dick clutches him hard enough to cause a *worrying* amount of pain --

But then he's clutching the bed --

*Beating* at the bed with his fists even as he plants his feet -- "Hold -- hold *on* --"

Bruce does so, gripping Dick's shoulders -- no, his hair with one hand and his shoulder with the other --

"Maker -- *ohn* --"

And Dick's ejaculate is hot, *slick* against Bruce's chest and abdomen --

Dick's cries are loud and sweet and *abandoned* --

And so Bruce settles for kissing Dick's throat until he's finished and panting --

But Dick grips *Bruce's* hair, and wraps the other arm around him -- "Please --"

"It's all right," Bruce says, and kisses Dick's pulse point --

Dick shivers and croons -- "Oh -- that was so *perfect* --"

"Was it?"

Dick rolls them onto their sides and *looks* at him.

"It's just -- I've always thought that a proper sexual performance would involve *effort*."

Dick glares at him.

"At the very least --"

Dick covers Bruce's mouth with his palm --

Bruce drags his teeth over the meat of it --

And Dick's fading flush comes back in full as he searches Bruce and pants more. His bangles jingle and chime, and Bruce wants --

He isn't sure *what* he wants. There are so many *images* --

"You -- I won't tell you there aren't things that require effort. I'll just tell you that the effort should always feel *exactly* that good -- or maybe you shouldn't be doing that particular --"

Bruce pulls back. "What. What particular things? Be *specific* --"

"Will you suck me?"

"Yes --"

"Will you..." Dick bites his lower lip, but it seems to have far less -- infinitely less -- to do with embarrassment than it has to do with the pleasure taken in the *act*. And that --

"Yes, Dick. I *will* --"

"Oh -- touch me --"

And Bruce kneels up and pushes Dick onto his back again, strokes and squeezes and *enjoys* his sleek skin --

No, he grips Dick's *horns*, tilting Dick's head back until he can kiss his mouth, his chin --

"Oh -- I love that --"

"It's yours," Bruce says, aware that he's frowning, but equally aware that there's altogether too much he doesn't *know*. "Tell me *how* to touch you --"

"Rub -- rub my nipples --"

Bruce uses his writing callus to do it --

Dick shivers and moans, pulls his knees up and plants his feet --

"No -- not that --"


"I need --" Bruce frowns and squeezes Dick's horns farewell before crawling back and straightening Dick's legs --

It seems so *strange* that his hair feels like normal human hair, that his skin is as unsettling and wondrous a map of textures and sensations as Bruce's own --

Bruce kisses the inner edges of Dick's knees, licks for the taste of --

A salt he has no name for.

"Oh -- fuck, Bruce, what do you want?"

"Everything," Bruce says, and *then* checks that answer --

It was true. It was --

"Please. Everything," and Bruce licks a line up Dick's inner thigh --

Dick's moan is musical and sweet -- "I -- Jay wants to suck you --"

"Yes. Yes, I." Bruce shivers and kisses Dick's scrotum, nibbles there --

And that feeling is Dick's tail stroking the back of Bruce's *neck* --

"Tell me. Please tell me more --"

"I *reamed* him, Bruce. I --"

Bruce growls and *sucks* Dick's scrotum --

Dick groans and pushes his hands into Bruce's hair -- "I made him beg, I made him hurt, I made him tell me what he *wanted* --"

And Bruce can see it --

Bruce can *taste* it, because Dick's body is lean and beautiful and ready for all things, *many* things at the very least -- but.

Bruce pulls back --

"Nnh -- Bruce --"

"I need -- does he *enjoy* --"

"Fuck, yeah, I do," Jason says from the doorway --

And he folds his wings in to enter, stretches them out again to fly himself to just beneath the ceiling --

"I *love* this view."

"Dick on his back...? Or *Bruce's* back?" And that's *Tim* in the doorway, and somehow his suit isn't at all rumpled, somehow he looks neat and -- and almost *shaped* into something professional --

But what kind of Bruce could have done that?

What kind of Bruce --

But, of course, he'd imagined just that. A brother who could always be correct, when that's what was called-for. A brother who would find it all effortless where not actively *pleasurable* --

And Dick wraps his arms and tail around Bruce and butts at Bruce's cheek --

"I'm sorry --"

"I know you still want me. You're just... distracted?"

"I..." Bruce blushes and looks down --

And even Dick's *foot* is shapely. Less fine-boned than architecturally perfect --

His bangled ankle is slim and strong at *once*, wonderful in his *hand* --

"I don't understand -- he must have been working on you for months. *Years*. *All* of you."

The brothers share a long look, a *troubled* and *rueful* look --

"What? What is it? Please tell me --"

"Ah -- it's just --" Tim cuts himself off and shakes his head.

"No, bro, I think we gotta say it," and Jason lands, using his wing to usher Tim further into the room.

Tim sighs --

And Dick squeezes him. "Let us hold you?"

"I -- " Bruce smiles ruefully. "I'm not sure I know how to say no to that."

Dick smiles at him brightly -- and kisses him. It's a soft and affectionate -- no. 'Affectionate' is too impersonal a word. It's a *loving* kiss, with a lot of quiet sounds of appreciation and pleasure, and Bruce thinks that it's teaching him more about kissing in general than he'd ever thought possible.

All the while, Dick moves him gently toward the headboard, pressing Bruce's back against it --

And his body knows that that's *Tim's* body pressed to his left side, Tim's small, hard hand on his abdomen where he's still slick --

But that sound --

That moan is Jason, those wet sounds --

Dick turns him out of the kiss to see Tim *feeding* Jason his and Dick's mingled ejaculate. Bruce shivers. "Is that. Is that desirable?"

Their smiles are wicked things, *hot* things --

And Dick is painting Bruce's lips with warm ejaculate, over and over and *over* again -- "Lick."

"Dick --"


"I want -- I want to be able to *listen*, to *understand* --"

"We won't leave you, B. There's time, I promise," and Jason stretches and flexes his wings until it seems the only light in the world is warm, the only space is that which is *shared* --

Jason is kneeling between Bruce's *legs* -- and Bruce hadn't meant to lick his lips, but doing so --

Bruce groans and pants, licks *more* --

And those are Tim's fingers between his lips, so hard and slim --

And those are Jason's fingers, and the salt of them is heady *and* heavy, and Bruce isn't sure --

He tastes *himself*, of course, and it's true that he'd done but little of that before, and that it's *different* from the fingertips of a lover, but there's also --

That flavor can't possibly be *human*. It has *undertones* of Dick's spiced scent, overtones of thick, heavy masculinity --

Bruce groans and turns away from Jason's fingers to kiss Dick, to lick his mouth, to caress his beautiful face --

No, he nuzzles Dick's aquiline nose --

Dick whimpers and tilts his head back, and Bruce needs to chase, to catch and kiss again --

Again -

And to *touch* --

"*Bruce* --"

"Please --"

"Ohn -- oh, you're begging --"

"Yes -- yes, I'm *begging*, Dick," and Bruce squeezes Dick's penis as hard as he can make himself --

Dick shouts and drums his *heels* --

And Jason moans. "I want that. I *want* it --"

Bruce reaches blindly with his other hand --

Jason *clutches* it -- "Uh. You're gonna. We can totally talk *now* --"

Tim hums. "Or not."

"Or not, yeah. But this is important stuff. It's -- we --"

Dick pulls back and moans. "We've been looking for you *forever*, Bruce."

"What? I..." Bruce leans in to kiss the corner of Dick's mouth --

And the other side --

He sucks Dick's swollen lower lip --

"Fuck, that's so *hot*. He's making *love* to you --"

Dick shivers and clutches Bruce's shoulders, rocks into Bruce's fist, pulls back. "He is. He is and I --" Dick groans like he's hurt and shakes his head. "We've been *looking* for you since we were born... into the forms we have now. We -- *I* gave us this assignment."

Bruce thinks --

Bruce *strokes* Dick's penis, tries to learn its every nuance --

The foreskin is *deeply* olive, thin and -- and tender-seeming --

Dick whimpers -- "*Bruce* --"

"Tell me -- tell me how that *worked*. You were -- a Bruce made you --"

"We weren't good enough," Tim says, and he's pressed to Bruce's back --

His penis is hard and *hot*, but -- "*Tim* --"

"Ohn -- it's true, boss. He didn't *want* us once he had us."

"That's not possible --"

"He *had* a Dick, a Tim, and a me. He *modeled* us on them, B -- and we didn't live up to the originals -- *fuck* --"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to squeeze --"

"No, I --" Jason moans and covers Bruce's hand with his own. "You're so *strong* --"

"*You* -- *all* of you --"

"You're *human*," Tim says, and the needles of his teeth *dent* Bruce's ear, but don't break the skin. "We're not."

"Never -- never, never," Dick says, and strokes Bruce's arm -- "Oh, please --"

"We'll never be good enough, B, we'll never -- but we can be for *you* --"

"*Please*," Bruce says, and he doesn't know where to turn, which of them to comfort, to touch and hold -- "Please, come *closer* --"

And they're *all* pressed to him, and Bruce has never regretted having only two arms before. He must touch, and show --

"You're all so beautiful and perfect, so -- I *need* you --"

And the brothers moan together, nuzzle and butt at him --

"We'll *never* leave you --"

"You're ours, you're *ours* --"

"We're *yours* --"

"Just love us --"

"And we'll love you --"

"Forever --"

"And ever --"

"Keep you --"

"Never cold, never alone --"

"Never never --"

And, finally, Bruce comes up with a workable solution: He pulls Tim tight against the left side of his body, uses the rest of the length of that arm to crush Dick to Tim *and* to himself, and clutches Jason with the other arm --

"Oh, *boss* --"

And then he's being kissed, petted and coddled, nuzzled and butted once more --

Jason's ears are softer and warmer than velvet could ever be --

Tim's horn pricks Bruce's shoulder --

Dick licks the blood away -- and kisses him, humming and pressing closer *still*, somehow -- but.

What of --

Bruce shivers and draws back --

"B?" And Jason's hand is large and strong on Bruce's throat. "What's wrong?"

"I've thought -- what of the Dick, Jason, and Tim who will be born... have they already been born? Are there... signs of them? Here, I mean."

Dick smiles ruefully. "Of course you're worried about them."

Oh -- he must think Bruce *wants* -- "No! I -- it's only... if something happened to them that made them require a Bruce, somehow --"

"The woman who would've been the human Dick's mother became pregnant as a teenager and had a miscarriage so violent..." Tim shakes his head. "She's alive, but she'll never be able to have children. She certainly didn't bear a child three years ago."

Bruce winces --

Jason sighs. "As for the human *Jason*..." Jason smiles ruefully. "His parents still have a *shot* to meet up and breed, I guess... assuming the father comes out of that nasty coma he's been in since he pissed off the wrong gang."

"That's -- that's *terrible*," and Bruce feels something --

He *doesn't* feel the Bat rise in him, and that's terrifying --

But much less so than the fact that there's something *else* which rises, something that he can only identify as darker parts of himself, parts which --

It's just that Gotham needs so *much* --

It's just that there have *always* been parts of him which didn't -- *couldn't* -- truly listen to Leslie's beliefs --

And the brothers are caressing his fists just as if they can feel --

But they're connected now, aren't they? They can *tell* -- and they approve.

"Boys -- *men* --"

"Neither, B," and Jason's smile is wide and wet. "But we'll help you. Do you understand?"

His heart is beating so *quickly* --

And Tim strokes a line over his knuckles. "We were made for this, too."

Bruce shakes his head, but isn't even sure what he's *denying* --

And Dick presses his smile against Bruce's ear. "They were his partners. First Dick, then Jason, then Tim. He trained them, armed them, dressed them up, and took them out fight his war with him."

That --

The timeline doesn't -- "They were *boys* compared to him!"

"Heh. *Talented* boys, B."

"*Powerful* boys."

"Dedicated boys," Dick says, and cups Bruce's hip. "But we can be dedicated, too, Bruce."

Tim shows his needle teeth -- "Never stray. Never break. Never *surrender*... to anyone but you."

Jason leans in and licks stripes over Bruce's cheeks before licking his lips. "You don't know how long we've been searching for you, B. You don't know how long we spent *knowing* we'd never *have* you."

"No --"

"Really yes, boss. See, it would've been one thing if the Maker had made it possible for us to do more than edge sideways *around* his Mission *sometimes* --"

"He *made* us moral, B --"

"He *constrained* us. We couldn't take just any Bruce."

"And there were Bruces in dimensions we couldn't reach --"

"And so *many* Bruces who already had the human boys. His loves."

"And --" Tim smiles ruefully. "While it's true that we resent our human others --"

"Like fire on our *sacs*, sometimes --"

"We really couldn't..." Dick smiles, too. "They tend to be very good people."

"Like you," Tim says, and lifts Bruce's hand to his face for nuzzles, *licks* --

Such beauty *surrounding* him -- but. "I -- would have been alone here."

Dick nods, and his smile gains hollowness. "That was the worst, I think. Those Bruces we could see and smell and almost *taste* --"

"But not touch," Jason says, and presses his palms to Bruce's pectorals. "Never touch."

"We threw ourselves into our work -- there are *always* things for demons to do -- when he rejected us," and Tim kisses Bruce's knuckles one by one. "For millennia."

Bruce opens his mouth --

"Time is -- well, it's not the *opposite* of linear, but it'll give you one fuck of a headache if you let it. Basically, we were made this after having been made other things... but this is what stuck. For the most part. Neither of us were prepared for Dick coming back for us."

"Certainly not for the *way* he came back."

Bruce nods and turns to Dick --

"I never stopped searching, boss. Even when I was working. Even when I was *resting* --" Dick growls and butts Bruce's shoulder, murmuring something --

Something that makes Jason *drop* Bruce onto his back --

That makes Tim climb on top of him and rest his cheek against Bruce's chest --

And Jason and Dick push close to Bruce's sides. "Boss... if we could have this every night --"

"Every day and night --"

"Night and fucking *day* --"

"It would, I think, start to be enough," Dick says, and smiles again. "But only because of how we were made."

Bruce shakes his head. "I don't want to believe I could be so *selfish*. I don't -- you're all so wonderful --"

"You made us this way, B."

"You *called* us to you, and told us who we were, and what we looked like."

Tim licks Bruce's nipple. "You shared your fantasies of how we tasted."

"Your memories of how we fucking *smelled*."

"How we smelled at different *times*, even, boss."

"But --" Bruce frowns. "No human *could* smell so perfect --"

"And that was part of the problem, I believe," Tim says, and scratches Bruce's pectoral with his teeth *lightly*. "You made us at the height of your idealism --"

"And, to be fair, at the height of a *nasty* fever," Dick says, twining his fingers with Bruce's own --

"And so we were bound to come out a little warped. A little... over the top."

"Yes, *that*," and Tim spreads his legs around Bruce's waist and digs in with his knees --

"Tim --"

"Do you like that?"

Bruce shivers. "Very much."

Tim smiles -- showing human teeth. "You're always going to be a *good* man, Bruce."

"The best," Dick says, and squeezes Bruce's hand. "That's why you couldn't love us."

"Yeah. We looked *way* too much like versions of the boys he loved that he'd, well, *warped*."

"We looked ugly to him."

"We looked like his failure."

"Our touch made him *flinch*."

And the brothers shiver as one, pressing closer --

"Will you love us, Bruce...?"

"Tim, I --"

"Go *easy*, little brother. We've given him a *lot* to deal with," Dick says, and reaches to grip Tim's shoulder with his free hand.

"What the man said, bro. We have to give him time."

Tim frowns and nods. "I'm sorry --"

"No. No, don't apologize, and don't -- don't make excuses for me. I will *never* treat you as... as inferior *models*. I will never make you work just for my *attention*. I need you *all*," Bruce says, and tries to pull all of them close once more, tries to simply *have* them -- "You're all so -- I can't be without you. I have no idea what I'm going to tell Leslie --"

"And Harvey. He *really* needs to know what you're about," Jason says, and covers Bruce's leg with one of his own.

"I -- do you think so?"

"We *know* so," Dick says. "We... well. In most dimensions you turn away from him for your Mission."

"The *Bat's* Mission, perhaps...?" And Tim kneels up and cocks his head to the side. "It would make sense. That sort of demon rarely allows space to their prisoners, even if not doing so means that the demon will constantly be in a state of starvation."

Dick blinks. "I didn't think you guys had *time* to interrogate it."

Jason snickers. "We totally didn't. But Tim absolutely had time to drag me to his library-pocket so he could check out a few of his bestiaries."

Dick snorts. "I love you, little brother."

"It was a reasonable thing to do!"

"It totally was, bro. Wasn't it, B?"

Bruce strokes Tim's thigh with the hand Dick isn't holding. "In any other set of circumstances, I would've been tempted to do the same."

Tim continues to look aggrieved for a long moment -- but then he bites his lip and covers Bruce's hand with his own. "It feeds on youth and innocence -- if it is, indeed, what I think it is. It would've almost certainly turned you away from people who could provide... hmm... reality checks?"

"I'm not sure I know that term, but I can deduce its meaning from context. Harvey... Harvey has always tried to help me be more a part of the larger world, yes."

The brothers nod --

And then Dick laughs. "*How* did we miss this in the Maker? It's so *obvious*."

Jason sighs. "You got that right. I mean, the signs were all right there. Still -- the Maker had over twenty years on *this* Bruce. All the time in the world to learn how to hide his terror reactions."

Dick whips his tail toward his face and begins to chew on the spade-end.

"We --" Tim frowns and scratches Bruce's abdomen. "We have to save the Maker."

"Will he thank us for that, bro?"

"I -- maybe not. Still. We've racked our brains trying to figure out why he won't just *give* himself his human us --"

"And that could very well be the answer," Dick says, then sighs and nods once. "We have to save him. Even though the fact that he *wasn't* saved before is probably what led to our existence."

Bruce clutches at them helplessly --

"We'll come back --"

"Always always --

"Not all of us have to go --"

"-- never leave you --"

"Never -- "

"It's -- heh. It's pretty much *exactly* how we're made, B."

Bruce takes a deep breath and forces himself to nod. "Yes, I -- I do understand. And you should all go --"

"But --"

"I need you to be *safe*. That -- that *thing* has had twenty more years to learn tricks to defend itself... and it has, perhaps, seen you coming."

The brothers share a long look --

And then they simply *are* surrounding the bed. Dick is holding two slim, sturdy-looking, and *smoking* swords. Tim is holding a long spear with a viciously barbed point --

And Jason is holding --

Holding --

"Aw, hell, B, it's okay," and the guns in his hands... become machetes etched with shifting runes. "I'll just borrow these from baby bro."

Tim blushes and looks down. "I got them for you, anyway."

Jason beams -- and leans over to bite Tim's ear and growl softly before kissing him and turning back to Bruce. "I got used to those things when I was on the torment beat. Never again. Never ever."

Bruce swallows. "I -- I don't judge you."

Jason's expression is soft and almost hurt. "We'll follow *your* rules, B."

"I. I wasn't aware that I *had* rules --"

"Oh, you absolutely do, boss. We'll help you figure them out."

"Precisely," Tim says, and spins his spear, seemingly just to test his facility with the weapon.

Jason rolls his head on his neck and shoves the machetes through two loops which simply *are* hanging from a belt at his hips. "We ready?"

"Oh, I *do* think --"

"Wait -- I --" Bruce sits up, licks his lips, and gives himself a moment to *look* at them, to see them beautiful and *stern* as they prepare themselves to go to the rescue of the man who had done the worst possible thing to them. Dick is curious and waiting.

Tim is interested and poised on the edge of a *spring*.

And Jason -- his restlessness is at *war* with his desire to know --

Bruce shakes his head and smiles ruefully. "I'm sorry. I -- it can wait. Please, all of you, be *safe*."

They -- all of them -- smile at him *sharply*. Dick clashes his swords together twice. "Be back soon, boss."

The others nod --

And then they all step backwards into nothingness, leaving Bruce --

It is, perhaps, the nature of *this* particular sort of beast -- or of the type of man he is -- that his *first* thought is the urge, powerful and *vast*, to sweep absolutely all of the past several days into the category of 'fever dream.'

Doesn't he feel essentially weakened?

Hasn't he found himself doing things he'd promised himself he never would, as well as things he'd never known he'd *have* to promise never to do?

Isn't he full of --

Well, Leslie would finish that statement in a deeply *crude* way -- there are times when he's wondered if that was one of her favorite phrases -- and she would be correct.

He's less weak than *alone in his mind* for the first time since --

He doesn't want to think about how long it's been. He doesn't -- but perhaps he should.

Perhaps he should force himself to remember all the times he'd run along the grounds to certain places which seemed (thinner) more full than others, all the times he'd stopped there, or there, and knelt on the grass to listen to deep murmurs that seemed as though they should shake the *earth* -- but never even disturbed the butterflies which would occasionally land near Bruce while he knelt, as still as he could.

He could never *hear* the exact words, then, but he knew they all translated to 'come to me.'

He'd promised himself he never would --

Perhaps the brothers will teach him how to make better promises to himself. Perhaps --

Perhaps they'll also teach him to grow accustomed to *smiling* at the turn of his thoughts, because this feels decidedly *odd* --

As does laughing at his own ridiculousness.

What *doesn't* feel odd is the need to tense, to pull himself *in* -- just as if he'll be scolded for taking even a moment's simple *joy* --

But there's nothing within *to* scold, anymore. He's been... saved.


Of everything but responsibility, and he wouldn't be himself, he thinks, if he ever truly wanted that. For now --

For now, there are things he must do.

First, he writes a letter to the Chancellor, apologizing for the necessity of his resigning from the seminary. He speaks -- succinctly and honestly -- of his sense that he has an entirely different calling, and promises to pay his tuition for the length of the year.

His second letter is to Father Henry, and is somewhat longer. He speaks specifically of his doubts about certain aspects of Catholic doctrine, and his sense that he would be no true priest of the faith, no matter how well he learned and parroted *what* he learned, until such time as he could come to grips with those doubts -- which is something that he knows he will never do within the seminary, as opposed to outside in the world. He ends with his heartfelt thanks for all of the man's help and care, and with an invitation for further correspondence which makes him cringe -- but only because it will take a great deal of effort for Tim not to take such a thing as potential backsliding.

Bruce has no doubt whatsoever that Tim punishes backsliding severely --

Bruce also has a smile on his face again.

He allows it to stay there as he showers and dresses himself again --

(And as he hopes, quietly and greedily, that the brothers will return before he *finishes* dressing himself --)

He finishes tying his shoes without incident, however, and sighs with helpless and rueful good cheer before heading down the stairs, toward the phones. Leslie keeps one in her bedroom -- the bedroom which *had* been Alfred's, once -- and the other in the study.

Bruce doesn't go into Leslie's private quarters --

And what will she *think*?

She doesn't *believe* in gods or demons or angels or anything *like* that. She *barely* believes in the concept of the human soul --

But, of course the brothers had already visited her, and gained something like her approval. And Leslie has been disturbed by the vast and echoing *emptiness* of the manor in the past.

*And* -- she has never entertained the slightest prejudice against homosexuality. She'll almost certainly have something to say about the fact that Bruce wants to be involved with --

That Bruce *is* involved with *three* men, two of whom look strikingly younger than he does --

And all of whom are supernatural creatures who wish to help him with his mission -- *his* mission -- to make a war on crime and on Gotham's worst criminals. That --

It might be enough to make Leslie *leave* him, but he's an adult now, and he --

Bruce shivers, unsurprised to find himself just outside Leslie's bedroom door with his hand on the door itself.

She isn't here, and that conversation doesn't have to be the *first* one they have, for all that it does have to happen soon.

He also isn't surprised to find himself listening for the Bat. He --

It's not as if he doesn't know what the thing would be *saying* now --

How is he going to train without --

No. If nothing else, the brothers will know what he needs to teach himself, and will almost certainly have better, more practical advice for him than running himself breathless in the dark while holding a heavy rock.

Why, exactly, had that seemed like a good idea for so long?

Bruce laughs quietly and starts moving toward the study. The answer is a simple one: The Bat had never truly wanted Bruce to be ready to help others. Not as much as it wanted Bruce to be ready to give himself over entirely, to kneel and beg for guidance, and to be *taken* over.

The Bat had seemed so wise and *sure*. The Bat had spoken of both loneliness and *justice* --

But isn't it said that those people who exploit children *always* know precisely what to say to gain those children's trust? Certainly, Leslie had warned any number of children against just that. How do the exploiters *learn*?

There's such a thing as innate charm -- Bruce had seen it in other children from a very young age, and wanted it or something like it for himself *badly* -- but...

Could that be it? An inborn ease with matters of companionship blended with just the 'right' sort of abuse?

What could *that* mean? How could abuse ever make a person long to inflict it on another *child*?

Why hasn't he studied *psychology* more?

Of course, the answer to *that* question is perfectly... itself. Father Henry had spoken of reputable psychiatrists who believe that homosexuality isn't a disease, but Leslie had rejected the entire field for what had gone into the DSM-III on the matter, and the DSM-III is what he'd seen -- along with the often terrible results of the homosexual prostitution trade -- in Leslie's clinic.

Does Leslie know that Bruce is --

Well, Tim had *said* he was bisexual, but what if something vastly important and small had changed within him between dimensions? No, that's irrelevant right now.

The question is if Leslie would've been as angry and disappointed with him if she *hadn't* known Bruce was wrestling with homosexuality. She'd never been --

She had told him from the beginning that she would never try to take the place of Bruce's parents, and she had kept that promise well. His mother might have asked him for a *detailed* answer about why he planned to attend the seminary. His father would have almost certainly demanded he reconsider for the sake of Wayne Enterprises -- Lucius Fox had told him in no uncertain terms that he'd continue holding the company in Bruce's name until such time as he'd *graduated* from the seminary. Leslie...

Leslie had talked to him about the many problematic -- to her, and, Bruce has to admit, to the parts of himself Bruce *enjoys* most -- aspects of Catholic doctrine, and, once Bruce had begun speaking about the peace he'd gained through study and prayer --

Once Bruce *failed* to mention how much more that peace had to do with the few Eastern styles of meditation he'd found mention of in a misfiled book at the nearest branch of the Gotham public library than with anything *resembling* the many prayers he'd already memorized --

She had spoken of the church's long and bloody history of prejudice and oppression. She had spoken of the church's less bloody, but still difficult *present* of withholding charitable services to those people who didn't subscribe to Catholic doctrine... and Bruce had spoken of bringing change from within, and promised that he would never abandon the Foundation.

After that...

After that, Leslie had turned away from him. Not entirely -- but enough that it was difficult to be sure whether or not she was still thinking of *that* conversation. As opposed to one Bruce was too young for.

Bruce had thanked Leslie for everything she had done for him, and everything she had taught. Bruce had *started* to speak of his hopes that the church would help him turn away from violence -- he'd even managed to get most of the salient paragraph he'd planned out weeks ahead of time *out* --

But, by then, the Bat had been shouting its threats and accusations and imprecations --

And Leslie had been miles away in her clinic, thinking about the people she could *actually* save.

He doesn't know how to tell Leslie that he'd never wanted her to save him.

He doesn't --

Bruce pauses with his hand on the telephone's receiver. He's halfway into the large, uncomfortable chair his father had favored to keep telephone conversations short, and --

And he'd never wanted Leslie to save him.

And the only thing he'd *truly* wanted the Catholic *church* to save him from was the voice in his mind, the terrible -- *thing* in his mind.

Bruce blinks and breathes, searching himself --

He'd run *away*. Not to the church so much as *from* the Bat, from the place just below his feet --

The place which had been purified by two brothers who love each other and see no harm in it, *cause* no harm *with* it.

Two brothers out of the three who love him, and who wish to touch and be touched, hold and be held --

And Bruce isn't surprised to find himself stroking the receiver as if it's made of something far more responsive than bakelite. He closes his eyes and smiles --

Imagines --

But are they safe now?

Are they at war?

Would he *know*?

Bruce closes his eyes more firmly and searches the darkness within himself --

But it's not entirely dark, anymore. There are lights, holes into a different and much, much brighter reality --

Three of them, to be precise. He chooses the one which feels most familiar --

And finds himself in a battle *with* darkness, a blackness so complete --

So full and *awful* --

We got this, B. We totally should've *told* you that you could check in on us, but --

And then something rocks him/them, something sends him/them *flying* --

Mother*fucker* -- sorry, B. Uh. Give us a few?

Are you *okay* --

Oh, yeah. My existence is -- heh -- charmed by the fact that Tim and Dickie are holding on to it. And I'm holding on to *theirs*. And to this great, big knife.

And he/they are moving again, leaping in and bellowing --

The blackness is losing cohesion --

No, it's losing strips of itself, each strip burning to ash and then something much less than that, much less *true* --

And Jason is pushing him back --

You're not ready to hear the sound it's gonna make when we imprison it.

What --

Trust me. This one's had its way for *way* too long. Go call Harvey.

And Bruce -- opens his eyes to find himself crouched on the floor of the study and *gripping* the phone. He shivers --

But looking within shows him those same three holes into brightness --

And the brothers wish to protect him. He can accept that for now, though there are things they *won't* always be able to keep from him, no matter how much they desire to --

No matter how they're made?

If they're designed to protect -- and Bruce has no doubt that they are -- wouldn't it be cruel to deny them the opportunity to do so? They -- no, they were based on the partners of another Bruce, and thus, presumably, based on people who were accustomed to Bruce risking his life for others.

Certainly, that would help explain their overwhelmingly positive responses to any hint of violence within him. Perhaps it's reasonable for them to protect him from the being that had sunk its claws into him and held him *fast* for over half his life in this dimension, and over three-quarters of his life in that other one.

What *will* the other Bruce say about it? Will he lash out at them yet again?

Will he offer *hurt*?

He must --

Bruce slips back into Jason, and jerks like something electrocuted, because there's a sound --

A feeling --

Sound-feeling-TOUCH --

Aw, fuck, B --

Bruce gasps and pulls back --

Jason *pushes* --

And then Bruce is on his back and Jason is kneeling over him, holding him down and *searching* him --

His right horn is broken off at the halfway mark and his right ear seems almost *charred* --

"*Jay* --"

"Shh, it's okay, it's okay. It decided to use Dick's power against us, even though doing so made it weaker. I'm already healing."

"But --"

"It's *okay*, B. And don't worry about the others, either -- that thing's trussed-up and *locked* up, and it's gonna stay that way. Now. Tell me if *you're* okay?"

"I --" Bruce shakes his head and reaches up to touch --

"Careful --"

"Oh -- does it hurt?"

Jason smiles ruefully. "Like fuck, actually. Well, like a *good* fuck -- uh. Except bad?" Jason snickers and shakes himself like a dog. "Getting bits of me burned off sucked *hard*, but that pain's done. What's hurting me is healing up, because all the little nerves are growing back and shit. Better than the alternative, though. Heh. You'd miss my horn?"

"And... and your soft and lovely ear --"

"Man, you and Tim and my *ears*," and Jason twitches them while waggling his eyebrows.

Bruce laughs despite himself. "I just -- I didn't mean to come back at that point, but I wanted to tell you -- *all* of you -- not to let that other Bruce berate you, or -- or hurt you again."

Jason stops waggling his eyebrows. His expression turns soft, warm --

"You shouldn't -- don't ever let anyone hurt you."

"Only you, B --"

"No, *not* me --"

But Jason kisses him, grinds down against him --

And it feels like every possible part of his mind and body is awake now, awake the way it wasn't and *couldn't* have been without this touch, this kiss --

Bruce moans and cups Jason's face, careful of his broken horn, his burnt ear --

He must not be *hurt* --

Jason pulls back with a gasp -- "Fuck, B --"

"I need -- don't ever let me *hurt* you --"

"Okay, okay --"

"*Please* --"

Jason moans and shakes his head --

"*Jay* --"

"I'm made -- it -- we're *vulnerable* to you --"

"*No* --"

"*All* lovers are vulnerable to each other," Dick says, stepping out of the air and crouching beside them. His swords are broken off near the hilts and appear to be partially *frozen* -- "It's all right, boss. We won't let you walk all over us or anything like that."

"Exactly," Tim says, and sets the pieces of his spear down on -- the pieces crumble to dust. "Damn."

Dick sighs. "We're going to have to head to the armory, guys."

Jason snorts and sits back, pulling Bruce into a seated position. "Dickie, man, have you *seen* Tim's *personal* armory?"

Dick blinks and turns to Tim. "How *much* are you holding out on me on any given day, little brother?"

Tim blushes and pushes his -- cold -- hand into Bruce's own --

Bruce squeezes --

And Tim sighs and smiles ruefully. "It's just that you have things to *do*, Dick."

"So does *Jay*!"

"I totally have less to do than you do, man."

Dick glares at both of his brothers --

Jason snickers --

Tim shifts on his knees -- and then sighs again. "I do... ah. Well. There were a few angelic weapons available on the market --"

"Angelic -- *what*?"

Tim coughs into his fist. "When you do the Morningstar's paperwork, you get to find out about his garage sales quicker than most."

That -- Bruce *joins* Dick in staring at Tim incredulously --

And Jason snickers more and shoves Tim playfully. "That's *not* where you got those poor, gorgeous machetes from."

"Well... no. Really, I just have an *interest* in supernatural weaponry. And a knack for finding it at affordable prices," and Tim sniffs lightly and tugs his hand back before brushing off his shirt cuffs ostentatiously -- and unnecessarily. Not only is Tim the only one of them who's dressed, he's also the only one who looks unharmed.

Dick's bangles are twisted and *fused* together --

And then they're back to normal and Dick is winking at him --

And Jason is groaning and tossing his head -- his horn is back to normal, though his ear still seems a little pink. Bruce reaches out to grip his shoulders and wishes -- powerfully and deeply -- that he knew how to offer anything resembling therapeutic massage.

Dick leans in to kiss the back of Bruce's right hand --

Tim strokes Bruce's knuckles on the left hand -- "We'll teach you everything we know, Bruce," he says, and stands with Dick.

"Oh, I --"

"Don't worry, boss," Dick says, and grins. "We're not going *too* far."

"But you really do need to eat something --"

"And we know -- in our evil-filled bones -- that Leslie hasn't learned how to cook *or* how to come home for dinner at a reasonable hour --"

"Well, to be fair, Dickie, she totally doesn't know Bruce is home."

Dick sticks his tongue out at Jason. "I don't *want* to be fair."

Tim hums and moves to hug Dick, resting his head on Dick's shoulder. "So what *did* the Maker say...?"

Dick stiffens and looks away from Bruce.

"Aw, fucking hell --"

"Never again," Tim says, and hugs Dick harder. "I'm sorry. I'm often -- I'm flip at the wrong times --"

"He made you with a *harsh* sense of humor, little brother," Dick says, and bends in to kiss Tim's forehead. "Don't apologize for it --"

"But --"

"I like it," and Dick's voice is no more gentle than his pose and touch as he kisses Tim again and rubs the back of Tim's neck. "Let's go take something delicious out of the freezer, k?"

Tim nuzzles Dick's chest, obviously still troubled --

What *had* that selfish, terrible man said?

What had he *done*?

Dick looks up at him again -- and Bruce can see why Tim is still troubled. Dick's eyes are too dark, too *hollow* --

"Aw, Dickie --" Jason growls and stands, pulling Bruce with him. "This is why you should've taken Tim *with* you to see him."

"And expose him to that? *Again*? He's our little *brother* -- ow --"

Tim is, currently, holding Dick's wrist between his needle teeth. There isn't *much* of a flow of blood, but there is some. In this light, it's neither more nor less red than a human's, but Bruce is only tempted to taste it for sexual reasons. He doesn't truly wish to risk feeling the Bat again --

Though now there just *are* parts of him which know that it -- 'it' -- doesn't work that way, that he would be safe, secure --


Dick sighs and smiles ruefully at him. "Can't blame a guy for trying -- *yow* -- but apparently little brother can absolutely blame a guy for just being *protective* --"

"*Too* protective, Dickie."

"I'm the *oldest* -- gyah, Tim, I *need* that hand! I'm -- I'm *seductive* with it."

Tim glares at Dick from over his mouthful, and now there's more blood flowing, both into his mouth and down Tim's chin onto his suit. Each droplet sinks in and spreads --

The entire suit turns the color of *dried* blood --

And Jason snickers again. "Better give it up, Dickie. He's prepared for the long haul."

Dick sighs and frowns, gaining an almost *schoolmarm*-like expression before he slumps and nods. "Next time -- if there *is* a next time -- I bring *all* of you with me --"

"Including me, Dick?"

Dick blinks. "You'd -- want to. That wasn't a question, because you're you and you already know we're yours," and, when he smiles, it's not *believable* that it's winter, or that it could ever truly be cold. "You want to protect us."

"I -- always, yes."

Jason hugs Bruce around the chest, stroking Bruce's back and nuzzling Bruce's cheek. "You make me almost want to be human."

Bruce blinks. "But -- is that possible?"

"Ah -- hm. Sort of?" Tim smiles ruefully and licks the blood away from Dick's wrist. "What's possible is for us to be... reborn as human."

"Or to have already been reborn," Dick says, and pulls Tim close once more.

"Or to be in the *process* of being reborn -- don't worry. We'd tell you if we were doing that."

"And you'd definitely notice," Tim says, and looks for stray droplets and runnels of blood before pressing Dick's hand to his chest. "What with the disappearance, the clap of air filling the vacuum where we'd been --"

"Wait, why doesn't that already *happen*?"

"Oh, it does. But we usually open a... hmm... gate *before* we leave. It equalizes the pressure nicely -- and subtly. In any event. We could become the children most likely to grow into people like us, judging by their genetic profiles and the... hmm... shape of their souls?" Tim smiles again. "There's no telling what we'd *look* like, though --"

"And there's no telling how you would be raised," Bruce says, and nods thoughtfully --

And Jason kisses Bruce's jaw. "Would you want it? Maybe for me and --"

"No. Please," and he cups Jason's face and offers his own rueful smile. "I couldn't -- I've only just come to know you as you are."

Jason's smile is sharp. "As we *could* be, you mean."

Bruce frowns. "I hope -- I hope it's as you prefer?"

"Well -- *yow* -- fucking A, Dickie!" And Jason rubs the back of his head where Dick had slapped him with his tail --

"Be *nice*," and Dick looks up to smile wryly at him. "These are the forms we know will please you."

"The forms which will make you dream," Tim says, and raises an arched brow --

"The forms which make you *need* -- even when you don't take --"

"I can't -- I can't not... take."

Jason parts his lips and breathes in through his mouth. "Yeah, B?" His penis is lengthening against Bruce's thigh. *Hardening* --

"Jay --" And Bruce cuts himself off for the sound of his voice, so low and needy --

"No -- fuck. Say my name again --"


"You... uh." Jason shakes himself all over and turns to look at his brothers --

But Tim is already in the doorway, and Dick is walking backwards toward it, waving at them with one hand and his tail.

"Nice. But -- Fuck, I should be making you call your *man*."

Bruce frowns. "He's not -- we aren't --"

"But you can have him, B. I *want* you to have him, to make things right that went wrong -- uh --"

"What does that mean?"

Jason growls and pushes Bruce down on the -- slightly -- more comfortable couch before bringing Bruce the telephone. "*Call*."

"Jason --"

"No, call me *Jay*, and --" Jason shakes his head and drops to a crouch at Bruce's feet before pushing Bruce's knees apart and edging closer --

"Oh. But you could join me *on* the couch --"

"Not without sucking you off."

Bruce blinks --

Considers --

"You don't think the position you're in now --"

Jason groans and *shoves* his face against Bruce's groin -- "Fuck, the way you *smell* --"

At least, that's what Bruce *thinks* Jason had said. The muffling is an issue and --

And it feels wonderful to cup the back of Jason's head, to card through his dark and shining curls...

"Were you... were you ever born as one of the Fallen?"

Jason nuzzles him -- and pulls back. "Yeah. I mean -- sometimes. I mean... it's complicated? Human ideas about the Fallen stopped being secure before they even *started* being secure. And, of course, there had *been* people who saw me as an angel before -- usually an angel of vengeance -- but... yeah. Why? Don't like my wings?"

That -- Bruce raises an eyebrow --

"You are *so* fucking hot when you do that. And it isn't even just because Tim's trained me."

Bruce raises his eyebrow *higher* --

And Jason grins broadly. "I *like* it when you're happy. And -- you're also telling me to remember who and what took over your brain for the last eleven years or so, but you gotta go with me on the idea that you might not want too many *reminders* of that."

Well... Bruce coughs into his fist and simply accepts the fact that he's blushing. "I've always thought that bird-like wings were ill-suited to mammals. Or -- beings which appeared to be mammals."

"Hey, some of those people don't even have *nipples*."

Bruce winces in distaste --

"Yeah, *exactly*. You don't know how many Fallen were jumping for joy once they didn't have to deal with feathers anymore -- and once they *did* have to deal with primary, secondary, and tertiary sexual characteristics."

"I... have to admit that I've thought it would be a relief to be without my genitalia. That it would be wonderful to be capable of *pure* love."

Jason gives him a look both skeptical and contemptuous, but --

"You've never wanted to be free of your desire for -- that other Bruce?"

"Well, I -- wait. You hate him, don't you?"

"I'm -- not sure I'm comfortable calling it hate --"

"But you do. You think -- you think he's the worst *possible* you."

Bruce smiles helplessly. "If I expressed a thought like that, I would be asking -- *begging* -- to either be shown one even more monstrous, or to *become* someone like that. He -- he has a responsibility to all of you --"

"He's our *Maker*, not our father," Jason says -- but he's blushing. He --

Oh... Bruce nods once.

Jason shakes his head. "Oh -- fuck, no, don't think that way --"

"I -- can't be your father --"

"I know, *we* know, and we don't need that from you -- oh."

Bruce strokes Jason's cheek, the bridge of his nose, his lower lip --

Jason shivers -- "B..."

"I would like to be everyone he has failed to be. I would like to fill you where... where he's left you *empty* --"

"Nnh -- *fuck* --"

"I want to give you *everything*, Jay --"

"You love us. You totally -- *how*?"

Bruce laughs helplessly --

And Jason moans and kisses a path up Bruce's thigh and down the other --

Tugs Bruce's shirt out of his pants and opens the bottom three buttons with deft ease --

And his mouth is hot and *faintly* wet on Bruce's abdomen, making Bruce twitch and sigh --

He was honestly expecting to *grunt* --

He --

Jason's kisses are soft things, wet and becoming more so with each touch, each brush, each *dip* of Jason's tongue into Bruce's navel --

And Bruce is already panting, he's --

He has to stroke Jason's face, tug his hair, pet his velvety ears and imagine them between his teeth --

But surely Jason wouldn't enjoy that as much as he enjoys other things? Other -- other *touches* --

"Jason -- Jay. *Please* --"

But Jay immediately moves to open Bruce's *pants*, and that --

"No, no, come *up* here --"

"I meant -- I wanted to --" And Jason looks at him with desperation in his eyes, *need* --

"I have to touch you, Jay."

"He never. He never *did*. Just -- the *air* next to my face, my chest -- "

And so it's necessary to bend down and grab Jason's biceps before *pulling* --

"I'm coming, I'm coming -- *soon*, heh." And Jason bends back -- more lithely than Bruce would've guessed -- to set the phone on the floor --

And Bruce can't wait before he's stroking and scratching at the humped plane of Jason's abdomen, at all the muscle and the relatively *sparse* hair --

"Would you -- fuck, I need --"

"*Tell* me," Bruce says, and *grips* Jason's waist --

No, his hips, so lean and *strong* --

"*Please* tell me, because I -- there's so much I *want* --"

"Fuck, I wanna give it to you, wanna give you --"

"*Jay* --"

Jason *whimpers* then -- and brings Bruce's hands to his horns.

"Oh. There?"

"Just -- just for a little -- let me *feel* --"

And now Bruce *must* squeeze them, and stroke their rough-etched surfaces -- no, more. He leans in and takes the relatively smooth tip of the freshly-healed left horn between his lips --

Jason bucks and *grinds* against him -- "Fuck, be *careful* --"

Bruce hums --

And Jason yanks his head back and away --

"Jay --"

"Can't -- I. Uh. Too much."

Bruce licks his lips, tasting a strange salt and feeling a faint sense of hypersensitivity -- "I'm sorry."

"Uh... heh." Jason grins and raises his eyebrows. "Are you?"

"Did you enjoy --"

"You could get me off that way."

Bruce takes a deep breath and gives himself a *moment* to imagine -- "Then no. I'm not sorry."

Jason licks his lips and nods, then strokes his own chest and abdomen --

"Let me --"

"You can do anything you want to me. *Anything*."

Bruce feels himself *twitch* --

And Jason looks down at his groin. "Yeah. Want me like that. *Just* like that --"

"I do. I -- please tell me how to please you --"

"Letting me suck you off --"

"But --"

"And then fucking me. That..." Jason *bites* his lip and begins stroking himself in rough jerks.

"Oh. Jay. I've never --"

"I'll show you. I mean. It's not rocket science, B," and Jason squeezes himself hard, strokes *faster* --

"Will you. You've done it before?"

Jason pauses and raises his eyebrows again. "Didn't Dickie tell you?"

Bruce tries to remember, tries to think of anything other than how *close* Jason is, how he *smells* -- "I... probably. I'm sorry -- oh," and Jason grasps Bruce's wrist and tugs it close --

And Bruce's hand *grips* Jason's penis almost without his having to think about it.

"He -- he does me *hard*, B. He's never." Jason pushes into Bruce's fist --

Bruce *squeezes*. "Never?"

Jason groans and tilts his head back, rolls it on his neck --

Bruce leans in and kisses and licks Jason's throat, Jason's *powerful* neck --

To hold up those horns --

Bruce *bites* Jason's throat --

"*Fuck* me -- ohn -- God, Dick's never *gentle* -- *hnh* --"

Bruce has to hold on, has to hold Jason against him, even though it means letting go of his thick and heavy penis. He has to kiss, and suck, and bite Jason's strong jaw --

"*Bruce* -- I -- it's *okay* --"

"You *like* that." He can't make it a question --

"Love it, love it so much. He's my big *brother* --"

"I want. I want to be your brother, too --"

Jason gasps, whimpers and pushes against Bruce's hold --

"*Please* --"

"Lemme *kiss* you, B," and Jason finally manhandles Bruce away --

Bruce whimpers helplessly --

"Oh, Bruce, no, it's *okay*, I promise --" And Jason keeps talking once his mouth is pressed to Bruce's own, but it's impossible to parse. And impossible to even *try* once Jason coaxes Bruce's tongue into his mouth --

Once Bruce can *take* with his tongue, but --

Bruce pulls back -- "I *need* you, Jay --"

*Jason* whimpers -- "Yeah. Yeah, okay, no waiting," and Jason stands for just long enough to open Bruce's pants and *yank* them down, heedless of whether or not they'll tear -- "Oh, *B*, look -- I want --"

"*Anything* --"

*Another* whimper -- "Fuck, just a *taste*," and Jason drops to his knees and swallows Bruce *whole* --

"*Jay* --"

Jason groans in his chest, nods and sucks hard, so --

So *hard* --

And Bruce isn't surprised to hear himself moaning and panting, but he'd harbored *some* hope that he would be able to hold on to his resolve and provide --


The look in Jason's eyes is almost *drugged*, hungry and satisfied at once even as he *works* his mouth and throat on Bruce's penis --

As he grips Bruce's hips to hold them *still* -- oh. Oh, Bruce had been trying to *thrust* --

"I'm sorry --"

Jason shakes his head *violently* --

Sucks *harder* --

"*Jay*, I -- I'll ejaculate --"

Jason claws Bruce's *hips* --

Bruce thrusts -- and does it again, and again --

He squeezes eyes shut against the incredible *flood* of pleasure, the *sleek* friction and impossible heat --

He still can't control himself, or his reactions, or even the desperate and *starved* noises he's making --

No --

"Jay -- *Jay* --"

Jason's response is a moan chopped to insensibility by Bruce's own thrusts -- no. Jason's *real* response is to force Bruce to thrust faster, take *harder* --

"*Please*, Jay --"

And then Jason presses what feels like two fingers behind Bruce's scrotum and starts to rub hard --

Hard *circles* --

And Bruce can't form words, or Jason's name. Bruce can't keep his *eyes* closed, but he also can't focus. Heat. *Pleasure* --

That --

This *must* be prostate stimulation --

He'd wanted to do this with *Harvey*, but had had no idea *how* -- but now the images come fast, furious and somehow so *vivid*:

Harvey sitting where he is now.

Harvey laughing with Jason as they touch each other.

Harvey *beckoning* him even as he stimulates *himself* --

And somehow the fantasy is real around him -- no. It's more detailed than reality, because Bruce can feel the exact temperature of the air, can smell the books as more than merely the background scent of every room his parents had truly loved. He can smell Harvey's cocoa butter lotion *and* the ridiculously expensive cologne he'd purchased for Harvey because he knew the scent would complement Harvey's own --

And he can feel Jason's arms around him from the back, feel Jason's roughly affectionate and *hungry* touches -- and Bruce *thinks* that means that Jason has made his fantasy that much more true and -- and *devastating* --

You deserve truth, B, and Jason's *lips* don't move when he speaks --

They don't move at *all* --

They're busy. Like my tongue. And my teeth --

And the fantasy flickers like the old television in the rectory, replacing itself with an image of himself from *outside* himself as he tosses his head and plunges in and in and *in* to Jason's welcoming mouth --

Jason's *tooth*-filled mouth --

Bruce hears himself *shout* -- and then he's back in the world of the fantasy, closer to Harvey -- whose deep brown eyes are no less desperate than Jason's own had been, which is *wrong* --

No, B. He *wants* you.

No. No, he has -- he has *female* lovers --

And jerks off thinking of you. He *told* me.

And the Harvey on the couch now has *both* hands at his groin. He's stroking his long, dark-copper penis *while* squeezing and tugging on his scrotum --

His lips are parted -- no. He's saying Bruce's name --

*Whispering* Bruce's name --

"Jay -- Jay, I can't *have* this fantasy --"

You *really* can, and Jason's scent of cumin and aroused male is all around him as he presses closer, as he nuzzles Bruce's ear -- It's keeping you hard for me. You're *willing* yourself not to come yet... and your willpower is the best.

Bruce swallows and stares at Harvey's perfect face, his beautiful face --

Apparently, some of the students at his college call him *Apollo* --

Bruce could *join* him --

Jason hisses and hugs Bruce hard --

You. You felt that.

We're together. And I... you can visit all the time, B. And he'll visit you.

But there is the work. The -- I've waited so long. And I can't wait longer.

But you can have *this* -- fantasy and reality -- because he told me he's wanted you since you were both *fourteen*.

And suddenly the tall and rangy-bodied Harvey on the couch is the lean and tall-for-his-age Harvey who had smiled as though his life were *beginning* on the first day of school at Exeter, and who had taken Bruce under his wing a bare few days later.

It hadn't taken long for Bruce to start fantasizing about being *close* to Harvey, and closer than that.

It hadn't taken long to dream of curling up in his bed in the manor with Harvey behind him --

And that had happened exactly once, because Bruce had spent the night *painfully* erect and reeling with the realization of what he *truly* wanted from Harvey, what he'd wanted to *take* --

What he wanted you to take. What you could've *given*.

But why --

He knows why Harvey never asked, and why he'd never hinted. He's had to be so *careful* --

No one would question him spending time here with you. Especially if you made sure the two of you would be seen on the town --

I can't *leave* the three of you --

Exactly. You *can't*. We'll always be a thought away. We'll never, ever leave.

That --

Bruce finds himself turning back to the Harvey on the couch helplessly and *inexorably* --

And he's nineteen again, beauty *finished* as opposed to merely caught in glimpses and moments of purely physical perfection. Bruce strips the rest of the fantasy's clothes away --

And there are his abdominal muscles, which *look* as powerful as Jason's do, even with that thin layer of fat over them. There are his long and graceful fingers, now sticky and shining with pre-ejaculate. There is his *mouth*, lips soft and broad and sensual, *parted* -

*Jay* --

Right... right here, B. God *damn*, you make him hot.

Please, I need you -- and that's just how he *looks* --

In your *extremely* horny gaze -- uh. What do you need?

Bruce turns away from Harvey, and wonders what part of his mind and soul needed to hear Harvey's moan for that --

Could he be cruel, too? Is there a way he could be changed away from that the way the brothers can be changed? Bruce tucks the thought away for later and focuses on Jason --

And now he can see how Jason is swallowing rhythmically, how his lips are *tightening* rhythmically --

"Oh. Jay..."

Jason looks up and searches him --

Jason shakes his head and points toward the fantasy of Harvey --

But Bruce has to kiss Jason, has to pull him close and moan for the way he can't *feel* him anywhere but his head. The reality on the other side of the fantasy: Jason is too far *away* from Bruce's arms and hands right now. Still, Bruce can *speak*. "I need *you* right now. I need to see you, and feel you --"

The groan is muffled and mostly *lost* --

And Bruce is inside his own body --

Bruce is shouting and twisting even as he *thrusts* --

Jason is staring up at him with his eyes wide and full of something that looks like *doubt* -

"No, Jay, you, only *you* in this moment -- *nnh* --"

And then grunts are the only noises which will come out of him, then --

It's hard to focus on anything but heat and powerful -- powerful *sucks*. The press of Jason's fingers and the needy twitch of Bruce's penis. He wants to know if Jason likes the way it feels in his mouth, if he wants more or if he wants to hold Bruce *still*. He --

"Want -- *need* --" And Bruce wants to say more, wants to speak of beauty and wonder, of the *miracles* Jason and his brothers are --

So lovely, so --

No religion which could deny them could ever be *true* -- "*Please* -- *oh* --"

And Jason pulls back just to suckle the head of Bruce's penis, to moan and hum and stroke through the saliva-slickness with his fingers --

No, to slip those fingers into his mouth *beside* Bruce's penis --

"*Jay* --"

Jason nods and opens his eyes, showing them filled with pleading, with so much --

"*Beautiful* --"

And then Jason pulls his fingers out and -- pushes them at Bruce's anus. Pushes --

But it's what Jason wants from him. It --

"You. You'll show me?"

Jason nods, and his face is flushed, his eyes *dark* --

And Bruce can't do anything but smile and pant and spread his legs *wider* --

Jason's eyes roll back in his head -- but only for a moment before he's focused and pushing --

Pushing *in*, and the burn of that finger -- and Bruce *knows* it's only one -- is phenomenal, strange, *dangerous* --

"Jay --"

Jay holds up a finger on his other hand --

"I'll wait. I -- I trust -- *oh*!"

And for a long moment Bruce can't be sure *what* Jason had done -- his senses feel too *scrambled* -- but they gradually come back to him enough that he can watch Jason *taking* his own mouth with Bruce's penis --

And feel Jason taking *him* in the same rhythm with his finger.

It's incredible, hot and the best possible sort of uncomfortable -- because it makes him want and *need* to move like *this*, like he needs more of exactly what he's getting --

He does, he *does* --

And how could anything be better than this? How --

Oh, to be *opened* by a lover, to be made *ready* --

"*Jay* --"

He's always wanted to be made *ready*, he's always needed the touch of someone wise, someone knowing and *wise* --

"Please -- *brother* --"

And Jason cries out around him -- and now the speed of his mouth is inhuman and sweet at once --

The speed of his finger seemingly *dangerous* --

And Bruce feels as though he's been on the edge of orgasm for long enough for it to qualify as torture, but he wouldn't surrender a single *moment*. It feels as though he could see the secrets of the *universe* were he to look away from Jason's face --

But Jason's face is the only secret he desires, with its beautiful, bluntly masculine planes, and the lines of concentration as he... tries not to hurt Bruce? Tries to drive Bruce mad? "Please, Jay, I -- "

But then he's shouting and blind, shouting and *aching* --

That -- that was his *prostate*, but the sensation was so intense, so --

It comes again, and Bruce can feel himself clawing at the couch --

Again and everything is darkness and heat --

*Again* -- but this time Jason's light is all around him, all *through* him --

Please, oh, please --

He can't --

He can't speak other than to yell, to *bellow* --

Please don't *stop* --

Never ever.

Bruce feels himself stiffen and tense --

Look at me?

Bruce *forces* his eyes open, and meets Jason's gaze --

Jason looks so *happy* --

He's made his brother *happy* --

And then something powerful and *brutal* clutches the base of Bruce's spine and takes his vision -- and it takes far too long to realize that it's an orgasm rather than a vicious *attack* --

Though perhaps that's why he's gasping moderately hysterical laughter between grunts and *spurts* into Jason's hungry mouth. It --

He feels so *wonderful* --

And slumping against the back of the couch makes Bruce feel debauched and lazy -- no, not that. He sits up and reaches to pull Jason into a kneeling straddle of Bruce's lap --

"I really did mean to just take a taste," Jason says, licking his lips and smiling down at him.

That... "To be fair, Jay, you never specified what you wanted a taste *of*."

Jason snickers and shoves Bruce playfully --

Bruce hums and urges Jason to curl his wings between Bruce and the light --

"Fuck, yeah. Here," and now Bruce is in a hot, spiced darkness. A darkness filled with his own sex-musk...

Are scents like this truly maddening? Or is he allowing himself to think that they are in order to allow himself the freedom to touch, to squeeze and pinch --

"Oh -- fuck, B --"

Bruce increases the pressure on Jason's nipples. "Do you like this?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I -- *hnh* -- please..."

Bruce gives himself a moment to enjoy the feel of a droplet of sweat trickling down his spine -- sweat earned from *pleasure* -- "Jay... will you cry out when I'm inside you?"

Jason whimpers and nods *rapidly* -- "Yeah, yeah, I really will --"

"And... you'll enjoy that, too?"

"Please, B --"

"I want -- you must *tell* me --"

Jason groans and tosses his head. "*Everything*, B, I promise -- I'll give you everything and love it, love every second --"

"I never -- he never should have made you *wait*, or doubt --"

"Forget him. *You're* our Bruce."

Bruce blinks. "So easily?"

Jason snorts, pants -- "Uh... no. Actually. Please don't -- I just wanna think about *you*."

"But you'll tell me if there's anything I can do? Or not do?"

"Yeah, I promise, I swear, please touch me more -- *nnh* --"

That for another pinch, but --

Bruce needs more. Much more. Perhaps it's easier than it should be to lay Jason down on the couch --

And Bruce doesn't like all the *light* -- save that it allows him to see Jason's body more clearly -- wait -- "Are you all right on your back?"

"I'm good, it's fine, *please* --"

Necessary to kiss Jason as he touches, to map his beautiful body with his palms and fingertips --

Such *heat* -- especially at his groin, and it takes so little to make Jason begin to moan and *pump* --

Moan into Bruce's *mouth* --

Bruce kisses Jason harder, takes his mouth with his tongue, strokes his thickly erect penis --

"Bruce -- *Bruce* --"

"Yes, I want -- I want your *sounds* --"

"You're so -- fuck, I dreamed of you so *much* --"

"I'm yours," Bruce says, and feels free, light, *happy* --

Could anything like this last -- no, not that. He won't -- he won't *cheat* himself with fear, not now that Jason and his brothers have given him so much. They'd even given their *weapons* for him, leaving themselves vulnerable --

He'll learn everything to protect them. He'll make himself better and stronger, someone to be proud of --

"*Please*, B -- oh, *fuck* --"

That for a bite to the throat, and so Bruce does it again --

"Want you to *mark* me --"

Bruce bites as hard as he *dares* --

Jason shouts and bucks beneath him, pushes a hand into Bruce's hair and pulls him *closer* -- "Fuck me, *fuck* me --"

Bruce licks the flesh between his teeth --

Jason shudders and wraps one leg around Bruce's waist -- "*Please* --"

Bruce pulls back and pants, searching Jason's eyes and finding lust, *need* -- "Tell me. Show me. Show me how to take you --"

Jason whimpers and reaches into nothingness -- and pulls out a sleek and futuristic-seeming bottle of... something. The fluid within is clear and flows somewhat more slowly than syrup, judging by what happens when Jason turns the bottle sideways -- "Ah, fuck, this stuff doesn't even *exist* here, yet. Uh. Forget it?"

"Is it... some sort of..." Bruce shakes his head. "It should be easy for me to forget, considering the fact that I'm at a loss as to what it could --"

"Lube, B. Designed to give people an easier ride when they're fucking. But *this* brand, as awesome as it is, doesn't belong *here*. So," and Jason tosses the bottle back into nothingness and reaches into a different part of the air to pull out -- a tube of K-Y medical lubricant.

"That's much more familiar --"

"Yeah, I bet Leslie uses a lot of this -- and probably gives even more away --"

"Please. I don't --"

"Wanna think about your guardian, yeah, I hear you. Sorry --"

"It's all right --"

"Kneel up and gimme your hand."

He's going to --

He's going to penetrate Jason with his finger. Or -- perhaps with more than one. And then he's going to be using his *penis* --

Which is rising for the occasion *quickly*. Bruce smiles helplessly --

And Jason moans and shivers. "Please, B. I need this *bad* --"

"Yes, of course," and Bruce offers his right hand --

And Jason slicks the first three fingers thoroughly. "I won't need more than that, but *you* will to keep your cock from getting raw, I think -- fuck, I don't know. This is from *Tim's* stash."

"We don't -- I wouldn't mind using the other --"

"Can't get into bad anachronism-causing habits. You never know what will wind up causing chaos," Jason says, and pushes Bruce's hand down toward his groin.

"But -- aren't you changing the future already?"

Jason grins and throws one leg over the back of the couch and plants the other foot on the floor. "We're pushing you -- and this world -- along a track it would've gone along anyway, all other things being the same. It might get tricky once we start fixing things that 'should' go wrong in your life, but by then? This dimension will be *secure* as a new, non-chaotic path. There's only one being who cares about that kind of thing, and right now ze is busy being a god -- it happens periodically when enough people in enough dimensions *believe* in hir enough. Anyway, ze might get pissy about us once hir godhead term is up, but, like I said, we'll be secure by then."

"And -- if you're not?"

And Jason's grin fades to something hard, something determined and not at all unlike his expression when he was about to fight the Bat possessing his Maker.


"Nothing's gonna take us away from you. Do you believe we can do anything, B?"

"I --"

"Heh. *Start*. Because a great big fraction of us is made out of love and need for *you* -- and we'll do anything to keep that, and protect that. It's half of our *core*. The other half is the need to fight your war... and the little *spark* that makes us Lilim. B... tell yourself we can do anything short of becoming gods. Tell it again and again and *again*. And then we can *guarantee* that nothing will ever separate us." And then Jason looks to his own thigh --

And Bruce realizes that he's clutching it with his dry hand. "I -- I'm sorry --"


"I need you. Jay, I *love* you. All of you --"

"Say it, B."

"You -- you can do anything --"

"Except leave you."

Bruce frowns and grips Jason's thigh more firmly --

"You don't know how good that *feels*, B --"

"*Show* me --"

And Bruce has just enough time to hear himself gasp before he's looking at himself --

He's looking at the *one*, at *Bruce*, and he's everything promised, everything *meant*. He's smart and kind and loving, he's protective and hungry for *him*, and he has to understand how necessary he is, has to never --

Always --

And the way Bruce touches him makes it feel like he's just as desperate as *Jason* is --

Bruce needs him and loves him --

Bruce is so *human*, and that means their time is *short*, but he and his brothers will make it as long as possible, Bruce will *let* them do it because the love is there, finally *there* --

The love means Jay is just right --

The love means that Bruce will never turn *away* --

And every touch is heat and power and *answer*, every touch is proof that all the waiting *meant* something, every touch is *his* -- except for the ones which belong to his brothers, but aren't those his, too? Because all he has to do is open himself --

And his brothers are right there, looking through his eyes and needing *with* him, because Bruce is in him with his *conscious* mind, but his unconscious mind is still controlling Bruce's *body* --

And he's still clutching.

And *reaching* --

Ah, fuck, *touch* me --

And Bruce is reeling in his own body, somehow colder than he'd been and lost to the knowledge that he's --

Important. Bruce strokes Jason's thigh, and knows that his touch is too slow, too cautious and hesitant --

"Fuck, *please* --"

"I don't -- I'm just a man. Not even a man --"

"You're ours and I'm *yours* --"

"Yes, but -- oh --"

Jason sits up and grips Bruce's wrists, squeezing firmly -- "Listen. Just --"

"I'm listening --"

"I don't -- all lovers are important *to* their lovers. The fact that you're more, that who you are *makes* you more --" Jason shakes his head and licks his lips. "It doesn't have to make a *difference* --"

"It does to you. And -- to the others?"

Jason shudders and pants -- "Yeah. I -- I'm sorry, I didn't mean --"

"I *asked* --"

"Please don't freak out. *Please* don't, because you never have to worry about -- fuck, about *anything*. Just be *our* Bruce, okay?"

"I *am* --"

"Just that, B. I promise. Nothing else," and now Jason is stroking Bruce's forearms, squeezing periodically --

His eyes are still so hungry --

And Bruce has to kiss him, has to work his arms free and cup his face, hold him close while he moans --

While they *both* moan, because every time the head of Jason's penis drags against Bruce's thigh, Bruce feels *marked*. "Jay..."

"Mine. Mine, *please* --"

"Yours --"

"Need you, B. Please don't make me *wait* --"

"I'm sorry," Bruce says, and kisses Jason again to keep him from telling him not to be -- but. "I've wiped off all the lubricant --"

"Gotcha covered," and Jason slicks Bruce's fingers again, lies back and *spreads* again --

"I want to taste you everywhere," Bruce blurts, and he can feel himself blushing as he reaches --

"You can, you -- not *now* --"

"Yes, I --" And then Bruce is grunting for the feel of Jason's heat, which is noticeably more intense near his anus, and --

Just the feel of the flesh there, so taut and puckered --

"Aw, fuck, *teasing* me --"


Jason groans -- "Yeah, yeah, that, too, but --"


"*Now* -- *ahn* --"

"Is. Is two fingers always the right choice?"

Jason opens his mouth -- and groans, tossing his head.

"Please, Jay --"

"It's always -- always for *me* --"

"Yes --"

"Unless. Dickie has been doin' me. Or. Fuck, I want you to hurt me *anyway* --"

"*Jay* --"

Jason growls and sits up on his elbows, tossing his hair out of his eyes. "I wanna feel you, B. As much as I *can*."

"I want. I want the same --"

"And I hurt you before, didn't I?"

Bruce clenches *hard* -- "I. A burn --"

"You liked it."

"I want *more* --"

Jason groans -- "We'll give it to you. All the *time*. But *please* --"

Bruce twists his fingers experimentally --

"*Fuck* --"

"Jay --"

"*More*, *fuck* me --"

Bruce pants out a breath and rests his free hand on Jason's abdomen, giving himself the feel of heavy muscle and thick hair --

The feel of a *man* --

"*Please* --"

"*Yes*," and Bruce starts to thrust, twisting his fingers a quarter-turn and then back again for every one --

Jason gasps and squeezes his eyes shut --

Grunts and moans --

And when he opens his eyes again, he looks almost stunned, almost *hurt* --

"Jay, *tell* me --"

"You're in me --"

"*Yes*, I --" Bruce licks his lips and tries not to blink -- "You're so beautiful --"

"Love me -- I -- *fuck* --"

"I *do*," and Bruce doesn't think it means the right thing to take Jason harder and faster --

Jason cries out and falls back --

"Yes, you -- please tell me you *like* this --"

"Love it, fucking -- don't *stop* --"

"I -- I want to penetrate you with my penis --"

"Then *definitely* stop," and Jason gasps a laugh, stops meeting Bruce's thrusts -- no, he begins again immediately, stroking his own body and squeezing his penis --

"*Jay* --"

"Ohn, I -- you don't want me to? You got me so *hard*, B --"

"I want --" Bruce frowns and tries to think, tries to come up with some way to end that sentence which isn't simply '*more*' -- "I don't know what I want."

Jason pants and squeezes his eyes shut again --

And then he sits up on his elbows and reaches between his legs to grip Bruce's wrist and stop him.

"Oh -- don't *do* that, Jay --"

"You don't want me to come until you're in me," Jason says, and *then* opens his eyes. "Yeah?"

Bruce opens his mouth -- and a groan comes out. He shakes his head -- it seems so *selfish* --

And Jason grins *sharply*. "You want me to really... really *need* that big, thick cock of yours. Yeah?"

"You -- your own --"

Jason *presents* Bruce his penis with a casual flick of his wrist, and that --

Bruce drops to his knees next to the couch and takes Jason's penis into his mouth as carefully as he can *force* himself to do it -- which isn't very. He coughs nearly immediately --

"B, wait --"

"You and Tim both -- I need --" Bruce shakes his head and takes just the tip in, tonguing at the meatus for that inhuman taste, that wonderful --

"*Ohn* -- *fuck* -- just -- okay, you can, but I need you to fuck me, *too* --"

And, for a moment, every part of Bruce's mind focuses on the problem of how to make that work, on trying to find a way to do the physically impossible --

The brothers do such things all the time --

"Please -- B, don't stop --"

Bruce sucks harder -- and *then* realizes that he'd stopped thrusting. He can't --

"Aw -- *yeah* -- oh, fuck, that's so *good* --"

Bruce hums in pleasure --

"B -- oh, B, I'm gonna come *quick* --"

And Bruce hadn't *meant* to pull off, but --

"Heh, *thought* so."

Bruce whimpers -- "*Jay* --" He knows he sounds *betrayed*, but --

"It's okay, I promise," and Jason pushes Bruce down onto his back --

Jason knocks the *couch* back with a flex of his wings --

Jason pulls the K-Y out of the air again and uses it to slick Bruce's penis -- "Better safe than sorry, yeah?"

"You -- I'll *learn* from you."

Jason grins and rises up -- "Yeah, you will. Until I have nothing left to teach and you're teaching *me*."

"Always --"

"*Always*," Jason says, gripping Bruce's penis and -- he shakes his head and lets go. "Guide it in for me?"

Bruce's penis twitches and Bruce hears himself moan. "I'm afraid --"

"You can't hurt me like this. Not more than I *want*."

Bruce groans something which may have *once* been a laugh -- "I'm still afraid."

"Of it feeling wrong? Or feeling *right*?"

"Either. Both. *Neither*. Jay, tell me you're *sure* --"

"As sure as I am about fighting, fucking, family..." Jason licks his lips. "I'm gonna come all *over* you."

This time, Bruce grips his penis before it can twitch hard enough to leave him *entirely* mindless -- "The scent of you --"

"What he made. You can gimme something else --"

"No, I -- only if you *want* --"

"I want your mark all over me. I wanna belong to someone who -- who loves me," and Jason frowns and looks down --

And Bruce concentrates on the scent of fresh sweat and musk, filtering out the scent of cumin and other spices until he can think of... coffee, rich and dark the way the nurses make it at Leslie's clinic. Not much of it. Just a hint --

"Hunh? You -- oh, *Bruce* --"

Bruce opens his eyes -- and the scent from his imagination is there, surrounding and filling him -- "Do you like it?"

"Do *you*?"

Bruce breathes deep -- and catches himself pulling Jason closer --

Jason giggles -- and snorts. "Oh -- fuck. Okay, I'm getting that you'd probably take being called 'Maker' really badly, but -- thank you."

"You're welcome. I -- I'm worried about my ability to come up with scents for the others --"

"You can mark them *other* ways. They'll help you pick and I -- " Jason giggles again. "Fuck, you don't know --"

"I'm starting to," Bruce says, and squeezes Jason's slick hands with his own.

Jason searches him -- and smiles brightly.

"You -- you've never looked so young as you do now," Bruce *blurts* --

"Yeah, hunh...?"

And that -- "Ah... not anymore."

Jason shows his teeth in a viciously sharp smile --

"You -- from Tim?"

"Yes and no. Mostly from the -- from that other Bruce. But... did you like it? How young I looked?"

Bruce blushes helplessly. Just --

He knows he should've seen that *coming*, but -- he hadn't.

"It's okay, you know. We're always gonna be *way* older than you. Nothing can change that -- even if you change the way we look --"

"Perfect. All of you --"

"And nothing you ever would've imagined wanting until you actually met people like this. Your fantasies... your fantasies mostly have darker skin and eyes, yeah? Darker than yours, I mean."

Bruce squeezes his penis *hard* --

Jason winces with lust --

"I... I never imagined myself as beautiful --"

"You should've, B. You... fuck, you look so good. You -- you've got this little patch of stubble right here," and Jason strokes the spot on Bruce's jaw which seems to never shave completely bare. "And you've got these fucking *icy* eyes, but they get so *soft* sometimes --"

"When I -- I need you. I love you --"

"I can feel it. Hell, now I can *smell* it. But you... your big hands. When I'm riding you, you gotta hold my hips."

Bruce's vision *blanks* -- and then he realizes that he's all but *strangling* his own penis --

But easing his grip just lets it twitch and twitch *more* --

"Oh. Oh, *yeah*," Jason says, and his own penis is twitching -- "*Right* now," and he shuffles forward on his knees and lowers himself just enough --

Just enough that Bruce can drag the head of his penis along his cleft --

"*Bruce* --"

"You feel --"

"So *hard* --"

"So *hot*, Jay, I -- I'm lined up --"

"*Nnh* -- *fuck* -- oh, fuck, you're so *big* -- don't even think about apologizing --"

"I'm not -- all the way in --"

Jason laughs, breathless and sweet -- "Yeah, B, make me take it *all* --"

"Oh, *Jay* --" And Bruce moves his hands to Jason's hips --

This time, Jason lowers himself enough that Bruce has no *choice* about thrusting. His body demands it in the same way it would demand a sneeze, or a breath --

No, nothing like that, nothing so *simple* as that. Jason is *tight* around him, sleek and hot inside even as he works Bruce with raw, muscular *force* --

No, Jason is grunting for every clench, he --

"Jay, are you -- I'm *helpless* --"

"Me, *too*, oh -- fuck, B, I gotta move --"

"*Wait*," Bruce says, and doesn't know *why* -- but his hands do. They shape themselves more tightly to Jason's hips, and just that small motion seems to be enough to drive Bruce to thrust up faster, *more* --

"*Bruce* --"

"Like -- like *this*?"

"Yeah -- please, *yeah* --" And Jason's eyes are closed, Jason is baring his teeth and --

And stroking himself. He -- "What if -- I told you to stop?"

Jason shouts -- "I -- I'll do it --"

"No, I -- not *yet* --"

Jason whimpers and shakes all over, gasps and --

And then they're shouting together, because Jason's clenches are harder, more -- more *violent* -- "Do you -- do this to Dick?"

"Yeah, fuck me, I -- I mean --"

"It's -- involuntary?"

"Need it, B, need *you* --"

"Let me..."

Bruce hasn't been strong *all* his life -- he was pubescent before he began gaining his father's size and strength -- but he's been strong for long enough to know that he can sit up from this position, and *lift* Jason --

"Fuck -- *fuck* --"

And pull him back down --

"*Bruce* --"

And lift him again --

"Ohn, fuck, don't pull out, don't pull *out* --"

"I *won't*," Bruce says, and thrusts *while* pulling --

And Jason's shout is almost frightening -- but not frightening enough to keep him from imagining how Tim would sound in this moment, how *Dick* would sound --

Harvey -- but would Harvey ever allow *this*?

All signs point to yes, boss.

Dick --

Shh, I was *never* here.

And there's a push -- that leaves him back in his thrusting, shaking, *needing* body --

Leaves him staring at Jason's face, which is screwed up with concentration and, perhaps, the intensity of this experience --

"I *want* this, Jay --"

"Yours -- *please* --"

"*Masturbate* yourself --"

Jason whines and does it, working his hand between them fast and hard, and then harder than *that*. His knuckles are digging in against Bruce's abdomen --

And Bruce realizes that a *large* part of him would become *unspeakably* aroused if he and Jason were to ever... not fight. Spar, perhaps?

Allies... it's something allies would --

But no, Jason will be his *partner*, and so will Dick and --

I think you should fuck him harder.

*Tim*, I want --

You're making him *happy*. It's been so long...

You -- all of you must -- I need --

Make him open his eyes for you.

And this time the push drops him back into a *shaking* body --

A *rutting* body, because a part of him is utterly convinced that Jason is becoming *tighter* with each thrust -- physics and biology be *damned* --

Jason is clenching for every --

Jason is clenching multiple *times* for every thrust, whining high in his throat and stroking himself so fast, so --

"Jay, open your eyes --"

"*B* --"

"Tim -- he said --"

Jason cries out and opens his eyes --

There's a *tear* at the corner of the right -- Bruce licks it away and stares, ignoring the growing fatigue in his arms, ignoring everything but the *lovingly* desperate light in Jason's eyes and the pleasure which would bring Bruce to his knees were he not already on the floor. "Beautiful..."

"B. You. I need -- I need faster."

He means 'faster than Bruce can give like this,' and that's something to mourn, but it's far more something to *anticipate*. "A moment -- a moment more --"

"Yeah, okay -- *mm* --"

Kissing Jason is the same pleasure it's been every time. His mouth is sensual and mobile, hungry and *open*, and while there's a part of Bruce which only wants to stop and find a better way to describe it -- or at least to describe the way it moves him and makes him want to take up sketching again -- the vast majority of him only wants to enjoy it in this moment, and this one --

And every moment there is until Jason whimpers and shakes his head, until he pulls *back* --

"Now, Jay?"

Jason pants and grips his own thighs --

Squeezes his eyes shut again --

"*Open* them --"

"Fuck, *B*, *down* --"

Bruce drops onto his back --

Jason flexes and spreads his wings --

And then Jason is clutching Bruce's shoulders and --

Riding, he'd called it riding, and it's --

Bruce opens his mouth to call Jason's name, but the only thing that comes out are shouts, each louder and more desperate than the last. The friction --

The *heat* --

And Jason's cries are that of an adolescent being *injured*, but he's smiling openly like something --

Someone holy, someone sure and *happy* --

"Jay, don't *stop* --"

"Nnh -- *nnh* -- won't. Fucking *can't*. Oh, B, just let us do this *again* --"

"Every -- every *hour* --"

Jason gasps a laugh -- and then keeps laughing even as he shudders and squeezes Bruce's shoulders. And Bruce's *penis* --

"Oh, *Jay*, it *aches* --"

"*Fuck*, I -- I can't stop --"

"*Don't* --"

And then Jason meets Bruce's eyes --

Even his *wings* are shivering --

"B... *need* you -- "

"*Take* --"

"That -- that *voice* -- *hnh* --" And Jason stills --

Clenches rapidly and *randomly* as Bruce bucks and thrusts helplessly --

And then Jason is crying out over and over as he ejaculates, spattering Bruce's chest and *chin* with semen Bruce needs to *taste*.

Salt and *thick* masculinity -- had the other Bruce designed this flavor for Jason, as well? Did he like it, or was he punishing himself -- no. The other Bruce had never *touched*, somehow never --

Jason collapses on Bruce and pants, whimpers and licks Bruce's face -- "Bruce -- fuck, Bruce, I need you to *come* in me --"

"Could you... would your wings hurt too much if I took you hard while you were on your back?"

"Can I -- hands and knees?"

Bruce feels himself blushing again --

And Jason grins at him, loose and sly at once. "So that's a yes."

"It seems... disrespect-- *nnh* -- *Jay* --"

"Or I could just hold you like this. *Milk* you like this...?"

Bruce blushes *harder* --

"You're so fucking *hot*. C'mon, do me like an *animal*, B --"

"Not -- you're no *animal* --"

Jason kisses him *hard* -- but only briefly. "Let me be *your* animal, B. Just for a little while."

Bruce pants and --

He has to hold himself *back* from thrusting --

"That -- pleasure?"

"Fuck, yeah. Make me *yours* --"

"You *are* mine --"

"*Hnh* -- fucking -- *do* me, B --"

"Get -- get into position," Bruce says, trying to pull on something like sternness, or -- entitlement? He doesn't know, but it makes Jason pant -- and move.

The loss of him leaves Bruce's penis feeling cold and his *self* feeling *bereft* --

But he can move, as well. He can crawl along this carpet and fight back memories of all the times he'd avoided this room even though his father was here --

What would he *say*?

How would he *touch* --



"I -- became lost. It won't last," Bruce says, cupping Jason's buttocks and stroking, giving himself the feel of the colorless, downy hairs --

Giving himself the sight --

So *round*, so muscular --

"Every -- every *angle* of you is beautiful --"

"Yours, B, c'mon, make me *feel* it --"

"*Jay*." And Bruce was only *trying* the voice --

But Jason hangs his head and spreads his knees farther apart. "Love it, love getting *commanded* --"

"Oh. Yes...?" Bruce will never tell Jason that he'd modeled the voice after the one the Bat used in his mind --

But Jason snorts breathlessly. "I *promise* to try to forget that. And yeah. I *love* taking orders from people I respect, and I absolutely swear to tell you all about it after you *ream* me."

Bruce's penis twitches -- and spatters the backs of Jason's thighs with pre-ejaculate. And -- that says everything which needs to be said. "Jay. *Spread* yourself."

"*Yes*, Maker --"

"Not -- not that --"

"Sorry, so -- yes, *Bruce*," and Jay spreads his buttocks with one hand, exposing a flexing, spasming hole shining with lubricant and, perhaps, Bruce's pre-ejaculate.

Bruce licks his lips -- and promises himself at least one kiss there after a thorough shower. For now -- "Say... say 'please' again."

"Does it do it for you --"


Jason's anus clenches *shut* --


"*Please* -- *ohn* --"

Too easy, it was too *easy* to thrust in, then, because now he's deep and he can't --

How can he possibly hold on to the persona of a *disciplinarian*? He can't even *breathe* deeply -- and he certainly can't stop thrusting --

"*Nnh* -- B -- oh, Bruce, *yes* --"

"Is it -- is it what you wanted --"

"*Harder*, make me *take* it --"

"*Quiet*," Bruce tries, but he doesn't mean it, he could never --

But it makes Jason go rigid and clench *randomly* --

It makes Jason *shake* -- enough that it feels a kind of necessary to grip his hips again, to *try* to hold them still for the moments it takes for Jason to still them himself --

No. Not his hips. Not --

Bruce grips Jason's *wings*, right where they grow out of his broad and muscular back --

"Oh, *fuck* --"

"*Now*, Jay --"

And then Bruce starts to shove, to *slam* in, and he feels so much worse than rude, so much --

But Jason is crying out *yes* and Bruce's *name* again and again, Jason is beating at the floor with his fist, Jason is --

So beautiful, so -- so *willing* and *strong* --

So perfect for him --

And for that other Bruce. For -- *no*, only Jay, only the two of *them* in this moment, this perfect --

And when Bruce licks his lips he realizes that he's been saying at least some of this *aloud* --

And in here, too!

Dick, don't distract him.

His dick won't *let* us disturb him, little brother.

He's a *Bruce*.

Oh. Damn. True --

And the push seems to *force* him to bend over Jason's back --

Close enough that he can lick the back of Jason's neck -- no. He *bites* --

"*B* --"

He clutches and he *bites* --

He loves, he wants and he loves --

Jason's wings flex and *shiver*, and Bruce won't let go, Bruce *can't* let go --

"Gonna -- gonna get me *off* again --"

And Bruce is hit with the sense memory of Jason's semen spattering him --

The fantasy of it hitting his face, his mouth --

And he can't stop himself from thrusting even harder, from *moving* Jason with his thrusts --

"Fuck -- *fuck*, you're gonna -- I don't even -- I *hate* the gods and you make me -- c'mon, B, fill me *up* --"

"*Jay* --"

"It *hurts* --"

"I want -- I would give you pain like this -- every *day* --"

"Not every hour?"

"*Anything* --"

"Gotta -- gotta save some for my *brothers*," and Jason laughs again --

Groans and clenches --

And this time an increasingly panicked and *desperate* part of Bruce's mind insists that Jason won't let him go, won't let him *thrust* again, will just *hold* him.

Bruce *pulls* Jason's wings, pleads, tries to -- "Need -- need to *move* --"

Jason *grunts* --

Freedom, and Bruce tries to find his rhythm again --

He can't. He can't do anything but shove and rut like worst sort of animal --

He was supposed to make *Jason* feel like an animal --

He can't even *hear* Jason anymore -- because he's bellowing as he thrusts, because he's lost everything --

There's no --

Control --

Only heat, only the blinding *heat* that's making Bruce feel liquid and tempered at once, dangerous and *helpless* --

Oh, *please* --

And it doesn't matter whether or not that was aloud, because Jason reaches back with one hand to hold Bruce's hip, to guide --

Oh, but he can --

Bruce shifts enough that he can drag his penis along Jason's prostate --

And now Jason's cries join his own, Jason's clenches grow *violent* --

"*Please*, B --!"

Bruce hears his shout getting choked off and wonders -- but not for long. Orgasm makes him *slam* in, arching his back and throwing his head back for a scream without a single *fraction* of discipline --

Orgasm makes him blind and somewhat *spastic* --

Orgasm takes everything *away* from him -- but then the light becomes the warm and *perfect* one of the brothers --

They're all so *close* now --

Always --

Forever --

-- never leave --

And Bruce was waiting to fall back into his body, but it's more like being gently *placed* within it --

And Dick and Tim are there, holding him upright and smiling at him. Tim has a bite mark low on his throat -- but it's fading to a bruise even as Bruce watches. Bruce reaches to touch it --

And Tim presses it against Bruce's fingers with a smile. "We heal quickly. That's the sort of thing which builds... kinks."

Bruce swallows and turns back to Jason -- who is braced on his hands and knees with his head hanging as he pants. Bruce *strokes* his wings. "Jay..."

"Nnh. I'm here. I'm... all the way here. Heh. My ass *stings*," he says, kneeling up --

Bruce slips out far more than he *wants* to -- and they moan together.

"Are you hard enough to slip back in, B?"

"I... am honestly unsure."

"Wanna --"

"*Yes*," Bruce says, gripping himself and tugging Jason back until he sits down on Bruce's lap. The sensitivity is enough to make Bruce gasp. The intimacy is enough --

With all of them right *here* --

And Dick takes one of Bruce's arms and wraps it around Jason's waist. Tim does the same with the other, and really --

"I believe I would have figured out this particular protocol on my own, given time."

Jason snickers. "You don't need to do *anything* on your own, B. That's kinda the point."

So it is. Bruce smiles, thinks of Dick -- and turns it against Jason's cheek --

"Fuck, I *love* that."

"Do you love this? Being held, I mean?"

Jason grins and laughs softly. "I am *awesome* at cuddle when there's a cock up my ass, B. You'll see."

"You don't think you're --"

"Hn. He's absolutely selling himself short," Tim says, and his eyes seem almost to *glitter* with sharpness. "He's also excellent at cuddling when he has his penis in *my* ass."

Dick sighs. "And mine, too. He's *very* good at cuddling me after he's fucked me blind."

Jason snickers. "Hey. You're supposed to be saying *awesome* things about my cuddle at non-fucking-related times. B here wants to build our self-images *up*."

"I truly do --"

Dick butts Bruce's shoulder and smiles brilliantly. "Then cuddle him at a non-fucking-related time. He's *good* at it. He'll just say dirty things to distract from how much he likes being held."

"Oh -- that -- should I have --"

"You should've absolutely done what you *did*, B. *Most* of the time I say dirty shit 'cause I'm thinking dirty *thoughts*."

Bruce squeezes Jason because it seems perfectly necessary. It feels wonderful in every way, but -- "Never... please never seduce me when you only wish to spend time with me. I'm -- I'm very bad at noticing undercurrents like that. I always have been."

"I -- heh. Hey, baby bro."

"Yes, Jay...?"

"I think what B just said is that we're not allowed to be subtle. *Ever*."

Tim blinks and holds up a finger --

And opens and closes his mouth several times --

And frowns *sorrowfully* before looking at Bruce with a plea in his eyes.

Jason snickers -- and gets glared at.

Dick coughs suspiciously into his hand -- and Tim crosses his arms over his chest. "I'm *new* at this! Of course I'm going to be subtle sometimes! I -- there's nothing wrong with subtle!"

Bruce squeezes Jason one more time and then reaches over to pat Tim's thigh. "I thought you were very blatant when you begin taking your clothes off in Father Henry's living room."

"I -- ah. Really? You're not just saying that?"

"No, absolutely not. It was... well, in some ways it seemed more threatening than explicitly sexual, but it truly did get your point across."

Tim takes a deep breath and nods once. "I thought it would, but -- well. *Dick* said that we should save the stripping for the last resort, or just show up naked."

"Oh, no, little brother, I was just telling you what works for *me*. You should absolutely cultivate your own style."

Tim narrows his eyes and seems to search Dick for mockery --

But Dick gains an expression of soft devotion -- in the seconds before he *whips* his tail out and wraps Tim in its tight -- and tightening -- coils.


"Would you have stayed still long enough for me to hug you in other ways?"

"No -- *maybe*!" And Tim growls and flashes his needle-teeth.

Jason snickers again. "Yeah, I'm thinking 'seduction that feels like a mortal threat to the sac' should *totally* be your style."

"Oh, I -- fuck you."

"Get in line," Jason says, and clenches seemingly *solely* to make Bruce grunt.

It makes Dick and Tim look at him *speculatively* -- but then Tim glares at Jason. "Why isn't threatening *your* style? You -- you're *incredibly* menacing sometimes!"

"Eh, *you* know it's just an act --"

"It isn't an *act* --"

"*Most* of the time --"

"*Sometimes*," Tim says, and glares even more hotly. "I was fighting *with* you this afternoon."

"That's for an *enemy* --"

"And I delivered your *assignments*."

"I had to be impressive for the Morningstar's minion!"

"I was not a *minion*!"

"Okay, okay, bad way to put it, I get you, please don't stab me with your horns, okay?"

Tim flares his nostrils -- and his horns do seem to be a solid inch longer and, somehow, more belligerent. "What did you mean?"

Jason raises his hands and makes a soothing gesture. "Baby bro? I love you, and you are totally getting way more upset than is -- strictly -- necessary."

Tim blushes. "I'm not -- it's just -- tell me what you meant? By the minion comment?"

Jason smiles ruefully and reaches to cup Tim's face. Tim's eyes are wide and worried --

He looks so *young* --

"You spent a lot of time away from other Lilim, baby bro."

"I -- I know that. I was never very... I'm not *good* at family."

"And that's fine, because lots of people are like that. It's just -- even though I never, *ever* forget you're my brother? Sometimes I *do* forget that you're Lilim -- as opposed to one of the Morningstar's men."

Tim frowns. "How... how does that work?"

"You went to the guy's *garage* sales. And none of the family reunions."

"I visit with Mother all the time!"

"You totally do -- she told me you visit more than *I* do -- but... you know you're not like the average Lilim."

Tim looks away --

"No, no, there's nothing *wrong* with that. You're totally better than average, and even before we were *this*, I loved you. You *know* that. I wanted to impress the guy who got close to the *Morningstar* -- not because I really give two shits about what *he* thinks about me, but because you'd managed something the vast fucking majority of us just *didn't*. And you know *that*, too."

"I do. I just." Tim looks up and smiles ruefully at all of them. "I want to be good at what I do. I was good at... at bookkeeping, and the administrative and secretarial work, and even at some of the diplomacy, but... I want to be good at this, too."

Bruce squeezes Tim's thigh, strokes it and squeezes again. "If my opinion could matter --"

"*Bruce*," Dick and Jason say simultaneously --

"It matters," Tim says. "It... you gave Jay a new scent. Will you give me... I mean. I don't actually know if I want to smell entirely different, but --"

"Whatever you'd like. You... all of you, but especially you, taught me much that I will not forget --"

"But that's not really -- I mean, I was supposed to *seduce* you, Bruce --"

"Forgive me, Tim, but I've often thought that good teachers could be the most purely and powerfully seductive people on the *planet*."

Dick coughs suspiciously again --

But this time Tim just smiles gently. "We wouldn't know *anything* about that."

Bruce blinks. "I'm... sorry?"

"Oh, yeah. Not a *damned* thing."

Dick *titters* --

"Aw, man, Dickie, guys with balls should *not* be allowed to make that sound."

"Hmph. I *disagree*. Vehemently, even," Dick says, and then turns to Bruce. "The original models were the Maker's *partners*... but first they were his students. You might say we have an ingrained kink for learning from someone dedicated."

Bruce frowns. "That's... horrifically *narcissistic* of him to do that to all of you. I promise, I'll take it from you --"

Dick holds up a hand, then unwinds Tim and begins stroking Bruce with his tail. "I'm not sure if it *was* narcissistic. Or... well, it would have to go *deep*, considering how *appalled* he was when we asked him to, if not touch us, then teach us. He's a very smart man -- all of your innate brilliance matched with decades of human -- and otherwise -- observation. I'm almost certain that he told himself what made us terrible was how unlike we were to the originals... but the truth is that we're far more like them than not."

"The *other* reason I brought up the Uncanny Valley thing before, B. The closer we get to human while still being *inhuman*, the closer we get to the Robins while still being *Lilim*... the more fucked-up we look."

"The more terrible."

"The more... loathsome," Tim says, and smiles ruefully. "But I'd never want to lose my need to learn from you, Bruce. You don't know... well. We can *show* you how good it feels."

Bruce frowns. "I... Jay showed me how he sees me. It's..."

"Uncomfortable?" Dick leans in and nuzzles Bruce's cheek. "I know I freaked right the hell out the first time a target started worshipping me. Hell, the first *fifty* times it happened."

"But you got used to it? I -- no, don't -- please, I don't want to be worshipped."

Tim rests a hand on Bruce's shoulder and squeezes. "Even... even if we're only worshipping the idea of you?"

"The spaces you inhabit, boss."

"The... uh. The Bruceness of you. For *extreme* lack of a better term."

Bruce wraps his arms around Jason's waist again and gives in to the urge to catch the edge of his right wing between his teeth --

"Oh, man, I like that. Do it harder?"

Bruce bites down -- and both of Jason's wings shiver in the seconds before he tosses his head and curls his wings in to gather his brothers closer.


"I'm listening? I mean. That's not a question."

Bruce blinks. "Are you sure?"

"Heh. No. Okay, here's the deal, B: there wouldn't be so many gods -- or so many demons and other creatures that Mom never runs out of people to fuck -- if humans didn't need to believe in things. We wouldn't be who we are if we hadn't been *made* by humans who need to believe in things. And we wouldn't be who we are if we didn't need to believe in things, too."

"I -- oh."

"Let us choose who we build our faith around, boss."

"Yes, please --"

"We won't ever --"

"-- you'll never be --"

"-- a god we need --"

"-- need you too much for that --"

"-- won't have to do miracles --"

"Just love us."

"Please please."



Bruce tries to -- no. "Jay, please bring your brothers closer?"

"Heh. *No* problem," and Jason flexes his wings and uses them to drag Dick and Tim close enough that Bruce can squeeze their waists --

"You *could've* just *asked* us to come closer, boss."

"*Baby* steps, Dickie. He's just figuring out that he *can* ask us for things."

Tim blinks. "I -- really?"

"It seems... impossible, still. Or -- ungrateful for the gifts you've already given. And I do love you all. I can't imagine -- please. Stay with me and I promise I'll give everything in my power *to* give. And I'll find ways to give you everything else, too."

Dick and Tim hug him from the sides, slipping under Jason's wings. Jason reaches back and hugs Bruce's neck -- "You *are* our brother, B."

"Always always."

Dick sighs. "Brothers should always be *exactly* this close. And sisters, too, of course."

"Fuck, yeah."

Tim... hums noncommittally.

Jason snorts. "Do not even *make* me bring up Steph, baby bro."

"Ooh, no, we like Steph! We can bring her up all the time!"

"We totally can. *Especially* when Tim is acting all queerer-than-thou."

Tim huffs. "I *am* queerer than you! Than *all* of you!"

"Not too queer for our *ridiculously* hot sister Steph."

Bruce blinks and tries to imagine her -- he fails, utterly. "Is she... she's Lilim?"

"Uh, huh. A little older than Tim, except when she's younger."

"And sometimes they're the same age."

Bruce frowns -- and then decides to take it all at face value. "Why --" He turns to Tim. "Why don't you wish to speak of her?"

Tim *blushes* --

"Oh -- of course, we don't have to --"

"She's -- one of us," Tim says, and looks up ruefully. "Only... the Maker made her *later*."

"Oh, I... no, I'm not sure what I should take from that. Is she all right?"

Jason snorts. "Better than *us*."

"By a long road, boss. The Maker made her *independent*."

"And, to be fair, kinda perpetually pissy."

"But not at us."

"Well, sometimes at Tim," Jason says, and reaches out to ruffle Tim's hair. "She's focused."

"She's a perfectly -- there's nothing wrong with her," Tim says, and glares somewhat indiscriminately.

"I'm sure she's wonderful --"

Dick sighs. "She *really* is. And she has *fantastic* racks."

"You got that right."

Tim... hums.

"Dickie, smack him with your tail."

"*Dick*. I will bite it *off*."

Dick... pets Tim with his tail. "In *any* event, we *tried* to get her to come along with us on our mission..."

"But she turned us down flat. Something about already having too many Makers."

Dick sighs again. "I can't even *imagine* what that must feel like. That... that *freedom*."

"Seriously. She doesn't even get *antsy* when the rest of us can feel the Maker losing the thread a little."

"I've *seen* her ignore a summons."

"We *all* have," Jason says, and shakes his head. "It's fucking freaky --"

"She misses him," Tim blurts -- and then frowns direfully. "Don't even *think* of telling her I told you. But -- it gets to her when she hears the two of you talk about how independent she is."

"She... misses him?"


"But --"

"She *misses* him. And feels it when he needs... when he needs the girl she isn't."

Jason turns enough to frown at Tim. "But... if she misses him --"

"She still *hates* him for changing her into that. She can't *stand* the scent of shea butter. Well, she distinctly *remembers* hating it, but now that she smells like it constantly; she can't."

Bruce raises his hand. It -- it seems the thing to do --

And Dick snorts. "We're being confusing, aren't we?"

"Perhaps... perhaps a little. Though I must admit that I care more about that now than I would if I weren't softening."

"And that is a tragedy on *so* many damned levels, you don't even know," Jason says, and winks at him.

Bruce smiles helplessly -- and then remembers. "He can *summon* you all?"

"We don't *have* to go, B."

"We feel it when he does, but... he never means it," Tim says, and looks down.

"He never wants *us*. As opposed to the people he won't let himself have," and Dick smiles ruefully again.

"Does he -- he's cruel to you."

And now *none* of them are looking at him. Bruce pulls Dick and Tim closer still, turns to kiss Jason's wrist -- "Don't go. Please. Don't ever let him hurt you again."

"One of the reasons..." Tim licks his lips and looks up once more. The bruise on his throat has faded -- nearly -- to nothing, and his eyes are sad. "It's one of the reasons why we want you to change us. The more of a hand you have in who we are... the less we'll feel him."

"Need him."

"Love --" Dick cuts himself off with a laugh. "It'll get easier, Bruce. I *know* it will."

"Because... you've experienced this before?"

Dick reaches out and strokes Bruce's stubble. "Because I have faith."

"Dick --"

"Faith is pretty important, B."

"Yes, of course, but --"

"It's the one lever that's *consistently* moved the world over the millennia. Even money fails every now and again, after all, and sex... sex is *small* compared to *faith*."

That -- hm. Bruce raises an eyebrow at Tim.

Tim looks at him *curiously* -- and then blinks rapidly. "I... ah. I *do* take your point, Bruce, but if it were only sex we seduced you with, you'd be rather less invested in our never returning to the Maker."

And that's entirely true. "I only... I don't want any of you to be hurt, and I don't want to disappoint you."

Tim smiles. "We understand that. Just... I'm sure your parents believed in you."

"Yeah, that, B. They looked at you and saw their life, their future, the proof of how much they loved each other -- and probably a million other things."

"Mm-hm. I talked to Mom about it and she said she thought she'd never need anything but sex until the *moment* the first of the Lilim was born, boss. After that... heh. She gained a new faith. It fails every time one of us dies, and it rises every time one of us is born. For those of us who get made and remade over and over again... well, she said it was like gaining more family without the pain."

"Yes, that. I may not be much for the larger family gatherings, Bruce, but I would do anything for Mother that didn't involve injuring you, and I would do anything for you that didn't involve injuring Mother. Isn't that what family means?"

"It's just another part of faith, or... maybe that's the other way around? Heh, I don't know. I just know that we're *making* each other family, and that's something worth believing in. With all of myself."

"And me," Dick says, and nuzzles Bruce's shoulder.

"And me," and Tim smiles at him again. "I... I'm going to be telling Steph about you. If she knew she could *really* be free... well."

"I would never... I would do nearly anything she asked to help her be free of that man. And. Are there others?"

The brothers share a long look --

And then Jason nods and sighs and kneels up --

"Oh --"

"Damn, should I have warned for that?"

"I --" Bruce laughs quietly. "I suppose I really should have seen it coming."

"Heh. I..." And Jason turns, cups Bruce's face, and kisses him. It's long, it's slow, it's --

Oh, in *front* of his brothers --

My brother, too.

All of them --

All of *us* --

Bruce moans and kisses Jason harder, wondering if this will be the time when Dick and Tim don't leave, if this --

But could he survive it?

Remember, boss -- we have *faith* in you.

Fuck, yeah.


You don't even *use* that word --

I was trying it out!

It didn't work.

I've always liked that word --

And then Jason is being yanked away as he laughs -- and Tim is straddling his lap. "You'll like Steph, Bruce. She's wonderful."

"Your care for her recommends her already."

Tim cocks his head to the side and smiles, showing teeth that lengthen and sharpen -- and then seem to *snap* themselves back to a human configuration. "The Maker is *extremely* needy."

Bruce blinks. "I... had picked that up -- oh. You mean there *are* others?"

"Not yet, B, but we all think it's just a matter of time," and Jason sighs and stands -- lifting Dick by the horns with an exaggerated grunt --

"You *beast*!"

Jason grunts... extravagantly. And Tim stands and lifts *him* -- "Let's go eat."

"Oh, God, yes, *food*. We made food! We... well, we think it's food."

"It certainly *smelled* like human food," Tim says, and his eyes are merry and bright enough to make Bruce wish to follow him absolutely everywhere, including the kitchen. Although --

"'Human food?'"

Tim wrinkles his nose.

"Human food is *totally* delicious sometimes," Jason says.

"Yes! And can be used for any number of absolutely delightful activities."

It turns out that it was possible for Tim to wrinkle his nose even more. Hm.

"What do you like to eat, Tim?"

Tim blinks. "Well. Um. Nothing, actually."

"Nothing, at *all*?"

"Does the blood and ejaculate of males both human and demonic count?"

"Hey, what about --"

Tim hisses at Jason. "Steph and I don't *do* that. Often. Anyway, yes. I really get everything I need from those two things. Well, more than I need, since I don't actually need anything -- anyway," and Tim blushes.

Dick throws an arm around Bruce's shoulders. "I, unlike little brother, have prepared food for humans before. I prefer doing it while wearing frilly little aprons, but one must make *do*," he says in a very *familiar* --

Bruce stops in the hall.

Tim and Dick tug him gently and Jason pushes, but --

"You know *Alfred*?"

"Ah -- yes and no."

"We have all of the originals' memories --"

"-- grew *up* with Alfred --"

" -- kind of the mom --"

"We miss him."

"Bring him home?"


Bruce frowns. "You're saying that -- that the other Bruce was raised by Alfred *and* Leslie?" And he still came out so *terribly*?

"Well -- ah. Mostly Alfred," Tim says, and tugs Bruce's hand again. "Leslie was there, but --"

"Not really *there* there."

"Yeah. That. Uh -- it's totally not Alfred's fault."

"Exactly. Alfred is Alfred."

"Alfred bakes us things."

"Which Tim doesn't eat, because he's fucking *crazy* --"

"And he always has rooms made up for us --"

"And sometimes he'll have tea with us --"

"*Serious* tea. With sandwiches and everything."

"While the Maker just sits there and *pretends* --"

"It's not Alfred's fault. Is what we're saying," Dick says, and tugs Bruce's other hand. "The food will get cold!"

Bruce frowns and nods, letting himself be led... but. Alfred is the kindest, warmest --

Well, he's not as warm as --

He's warm in different *ways* than the (his) brothers, and that's entirely correct and appropriate.

He feels *guilty* for something Leslie thinks Bruce is too young for --

But which can be nothing other, Bruce realizes, than the fact that he hadn't stayed. Perhaps his parents had asked him to stay? No, they *had*, but it hadn't been to take care of Bruce -- not entirely.

He's not even sure they *would've* chosen anyone other than Leslie to raise him, since Alfred had been a treasured employee, but Leslie had been his father's closest friend, and had even been a confidante of his mother's. Leslie had let him read the letters they'd both sent her whenever they went on vacation together.

If Alfred had had similar letters, he surely would've shown them to Bruce, *too*.

There's no *reason* for Alfred to feel guilty, and Bruce will tell him that the next time he gets a chance to write a letter -- or. Would it be more proper to have a conversation like that over the phone? It would almost *have* to be --

Dick clears his throat, and Bruce looks up to find him smiling hopefully at him and pointing down.

Specifically at the kitchen table, where they're all sitting -- Jason is straddling his chair to accommodate his wings -- and where there's a plate with... hm.

There's an orange, segmented and spread artistically around the circumference of a serving platter. Well -- possibly three oranges.

There's what appears to be chocolate sauce drizzled in loops and swirls.

And there's a baguette filled with four small, un-sliced steaks and what certainly appears to be an entire bottle of the grainy mustard Leslie prefers above all others.

Bruce licks his lips --

And his brothers exhale in relief. Dick claps his hands. "I was worried about the chocolate sauce, but if it looks good to you, then we've done our jobs."

Bruce smiles as best as he can --

And Tim looks at him suspiciously. "Your appetite hasn't been whetted, has it."

"No, no! It all looks wonderful! I'm just not sure... hm. If. Ah. If I can eat it all."

Jason claps him on the shoulder. "You gotta keep your strength up, B. Don't worry, we'll keep you company for every last bite."

Is it... some sort of revenge? No, no, they all seem too hopeful for that. And --

And they certainly hadn't *had* to cook for him.

And it's all technically food. And --


Bruce begins to eat, willing himself to remember what the cooks at Exeter had served, and how he had coped with that even though he could call up memories of *all* the wonderful things Luz had cooked for him and Leslie when he was home.

Luz had been one of Leslie's nurses, but hadn't been happy in her work despite making many good friends -- Leslie herself among them. It was better for everyone when Luz came to work at the manor, especially since she never let Bruce just methodically shovel food into himself, and had even taught him to cook a few things himself --


Oh -- Tim is frowning at him. Bruce smiles. "Yes, Tim?"

"Are you trying to distract yourself from the food?"

Bruce feels his body prickle with sweat. He -- "No! Of course not," Bruce says, and smiles at each of them in turn.

They all look skeptical.

Bruce resolves to have Luz teach him just a few more things.


After dinner, Bruce kisses them all as much to clear his palate as to share the love he feels for them, and they graciously pretend that they can't hear his thoughts -- or his ominously grumbling stomach.

During -- and after -- that, they help him with a letter to Alfred asking him if they could speak on the telephone sometime, since that feels like the most reasonable way to go about it. Dick and Jason are both rather vehemently against that plan -- they think Bruce should just call Alfred *immediately* -- but Tim stands at his side, and even offers suggestions on wording which he assures Bruce will make him sound less creepy.

By then, Dick and Jason have rejoined the general conversation, and agree overall with Tim's choices.

It is, by far, the easiest letter he's ever written -- even though it takes just as much time, overall.

After *that*, Bruce moves to put on warmer clothes --

And Jason smacks the back of his head for not telling them he was cold. The others glare at him for the time it takes for Jason to disappear and reappear -- and for the time it takes until the strange bangs and creaks of the heating system settle to the more subtle sounds of it working.

Dick stops glaring, then.

Tim doesn't stop until Bruce is wearing a sweater, a light scarf, and two pairs of socks.

"It... hm."

Tim narrows his eyes at him. "What."

"Ah... I'm afraid I was thinking of making love. And. The difficulties therein."

Tim's eyes *widen* --

And Dick drapes himself over Bruce in a configuration that doesn't seem strictly possible. "We'll keep you warm, boss."

Jason brushes Bruce's papers aside and sits on Bruce's desk with his legs spread. "Fuck, yeah. You never have to be cold *again*."

Tim touches Bruce's face with his -- warm -- fingertips. "What they said. Though..." Tim flares his nostrils. "You're not as aroused as you could be."

Bruce blushes. "I -- had only been thinking of the possibilities... and apparent lack thereof. I..." Bruce shakes his head. "You're all so wonderfully desirable, so intelligent and *strong*... I don't ever want to be without --"

They hug him. They hold him *tightly* --

Bruce's chair creaks from the weight --

There are extremely sharp teeth denting his right ear --

And Bruce has to admit that it's no longer a *possibility* that he'll grow accustomed to this, but a simple fact of his existence. This pleasure is one some part of him had needed, some small and hungry part --

Human, B.

That would suggest that you -- all of you -- *don't* need it --

Tch. Boss. The fact that *you* need it has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not *we* need it.

True --

Love isn't a zero-sum game, and Tim pulls back and smiles at him. "I... have no idea how to express how happy it made me when I realized I could love someone other than the Maker."

The others make affirming noises, and that --

Bruce pulls back enough that he can look at all of them. "You didn't know that from the time before he made you this?"

Tim shakes his head. "I was a different person then."

Dick smiles ruefully. "No one had ever made me this *focused* before, boss."

"You got that right. Most of the really imaginative *and* willful humans spend too much time thinking about... uh... negative possibilities, maybe?"

"Yes, *that*," Dick says, and his smile turns wry. "They assume we have someone else, or are incapable of love a human would understand --"

"Or are focused beyond everything else on the Morningstar --"

"Or are just, you know, *mean*."

Tim sighs and moves Dick bodily until he's only sitting on *one* of Bruce's thighs, then sits on the other.

Dick looks at him with a great *deal* of proud fondness which Tim seems inclined to pretend he had not seen --

And so Tim is blushing when he looks up at Bruce with an expression both serious and *determined* --

Bruce kisses him softly, once and again --

Tim shivers and moans -- "I -- was going to say something. Ah." And then Tim pants twice, growls, and darts in to bite Bruce's lip, holding it firmly between human teeth while shivering again --

Jason flexes his wings and curls them around all of them. "What baby bro was *probably* gonna say was something about how they usually *forget* to make us love them, even though you'd think they'd do that first thing."

"Mm-hm. Although, there are some people out there who *try* to make us love them -- hell, that try to make us their *slaves* -- but it pretty much never works."

Bruce frowns and considers... no, he's not sure. "Why not?"

They smile at him sharply. "Should we *really* give you our secrets, Bruce...?" And Tim looks at him from under his lashes.

"Oh --"

"I mean *really*, B. That'd be kinda bad form on our parts."

"What if you used it against the *next* poor, unsuspecting incubus to come along...?"

"Oh -- I'd never --"

Tim hums. "Never...?"

Bruce frowns more deeply. "Even -- even if I *lost* you all, I'd never want to *enslave* anyone --"

Tim stops him with two fingers on his mouth. "That's the secret."

"Uh, huh. That, right there, is why it never works."

Bruce looks back and forth between them --

And Dick sighs and -- snuggles closer. "Love isn't a switch that can be turned on and off. It isn't even a *series* of switches. Love -- the kind that can make a willing slave -- doesn't work without knowledge of the other person and what they like and dislike, what they believe and what they wish they didn't believe, what they dream and what they'd prefer not to dream about..." Dick shrugs. "The people who try to enslave us forget all about those things. They forget that we're *people* on top of being the embodiment of demonic sexuality, and they usually set out to make... horny little dolls."

"Uh, huh. I mean, this wouldn't have worked if we weren't crazy fucking malleable, and if the Maker didn't have will like *no* other human I've seen, but the Maker *also* dreamed us as fully-realized people. So much so that the dream *called* us without there being anything like an assignment."

Tim tilts his head to the side and rubs at Bruce's light stubble with his palm. "It's my theory... well, Dick was already seductive and loving -- even before the Maker named him --"

"Wait, the Maker gave you --"

Tim covers Bruce's mouth again. "We like these names, which are the names of our human models. If for no other reason than that they tend to make the Maker *wildly* uncomfortable."

"Heh. Damned straight."

And Dick smiles sharply and waggles his eyebrows, which --

Well, that other Bruce deserves a great *deal* of discomfort -- and far worse. And if they like those names --

Bruce nods -- and kisses Tim's fingers.

Tim blushes again and *presses* his fingers to Bruce's mouth in another sort of kiss entirely.

Bruce smiles and takes Tim's hand in his own. "Please, go on."

Tim smiles and shivers, and his suit turns the color of a ripe plum, while his shirt turns a vivid violet strongly reminiscent of the foxglove Bruce's mother had had in the gardens.

"Ooh, little *brother*. You're giving him your colors?"

Tim hisses at Dick. "They're perfectly -- nice colors."

"Yes, they are --"

This time, Tim stops him with a kiss, warm and hard and loving -- and all too brief. "Anyway..."

"Yes, Tim?"

"Oh -- don't sound like that."

Bruce frowns. "Like what?"

"Like you *want* me," Tim says, and glares at him. Which --

Is definitely confusing. Bruce turns to Dick --

Who presses on Bruce's nose and makes a beeping noise. Jason smacks Dick with his wing --

And blows out a breath. "You know we're kinda... uh. Helpless. Right?"

"I -- tell me how to change that --"

"Maybe later, B --"

"Definitely later," Tim says, and turns Bruce back to face him. "When Steph comes."

"But --"

"I know you understand, boss. You've always wanted to belong to something -- or someone," Dick says, and smiles ruefully.

"Of course, but -- have you? *Before* he changed you, I mean," and Bruce sits back as much as he can, taking them all in --

And they look at each other ruefully, lovingly --

Such wonderful *brothers* -- "Please tell me?"

Jason sighs. "Yeah, well -- like Tim was saying. Dickie was always crazy affectionate and loving and seductive and shit, and I was always... always *hungry*, you know? And violent, and really kinda needy. And Tim was always really *good* at the detail work and really kinda bad at the seduction while still being *incredibly* fucking hot --"

"*Jay* --"

"Did *you* see you in those glasses you used to wear?"

"Yes! The Morningstar happens to really *like* mirrors!"

"Yeah, but did you see you with *my* eyes?"

Tim turns to glare at Jason --

And Jason waggles his eyebrows and kicks his feet a little. Which --

"I've always found spectacles very attractive --"

And, abruptly, Jason is wearing horn-rimmed glasses, Tim is wearing wire-rimmed glasses, and Dick is wearing robin's-egg-blue-tinted round --

Bruce believes they're called 'granny glasses.' And... Bruce clears his throat.

"We're mostly kidding, B."


Tim coughs. "Yes. Kidding. Mostly."

"Would you... ah. Hm." Bruce reaches out to trace the frames of Dick's glasses. "You're all very attractive, of course, but -- I've grown accustomed to... no, that's not right. If you're comfortable wearing those, you should wear them."

Jason pushes his glasses down his nose and gives Bruce a skeptical look from over them. "We're making *you* uncomfortable."

"I would like. I would like to free you all."

Tim rests a hand on Bruce's chest. "We'd still want to -- need to -- please you."

Dick sighs and spreads Tim's fingers on Bruce's chest with his own. "Maybe live for it a little."

"But --"

"It's love, B. Even just you *wanting* us free --"

"There just aren't that many targets who *would* --"

"-- best, the best --"

"And we love you --"

"-- want you *happy* --"

"Wait," Dick says, leaning back and studying Bruce. "Would you want us more if we were free?"

Bruce frowns. "I'm -- I'm not sure that's *possible*, Dick --"

Dick grins. "Wanna try it out?"

"Dick --"

"Dickie, seriously, what if it *upsets* him?"

Dick shakes his head and smiles more broadly. "He's better than that, Jay."

"Even the *Maker* never freed us --"

"He --"

"I'm better than him," Bruce blurts. "I'll always be -- he's too cowardly to let himself love you, too -- too *tainted* by his fears and greed and lusts. Please. *Let me*."

Jason frowns and looks down at the floor. Tim looks worried, too, though more about Jason than Bruce. He moves from Bruce's thigh to sit next to Jason --

He hugs Jason, pricking his shoulder with a horn and then licking the blood away before the wound heals.

"You're not worried, bro?"

"I am. I -- I'm terrified, actually. But I think. I think it will be all right."

Jason squeezes his eyes shut and takes a deep breath before opening them again and looking to Tim. "We just got him --"

"I know."

"We got him like *this*."

"I *know*, Jay, but -- I think. I think he'll always second-guess us. I think he'll always wonder if it's possible that we're only... only *approving* of him because we're bound."

Jason frowns at *him* --

And Bruce nods. "I'd wonder. I'd wonder if it wouldn't be more natural for you to leave."

Dick kisses Bruce's cheek. "Never, boss. Just..." He sighs and turns Bruce to face him, and his eyes are soft and blue and lovely, so *lovely* --

"Dick --"

"Shh, not yet. I --" He blushes then, and licks his lips. "Tell him, Tim."

"Think. Think of us loving each other."

"I do --"

"More," Tim says, and twines his fingers with Jason's. "Think of us loving each other, and living lives... I don't know. Lives that *don't* revolve around your Mission."

"All right --"

"And --" Jason clears his throat and frowns before taking a deep breath and nodding. "Just think of us being free. That's it."

Bruce blinks. "Truly?"

Jason's smile is crooked and rueful. "Yeah. Just remember to love us --"

"I do -- I will *always* --"

"Remember to love us even when we don't need you every *second*. *Please*."

"Oh. Oh, Jay --"

"Please. Do it now, B."


"Now --"

"-- now now --"

"*Please* --"

Bruce closes his eyes and fills his mind with --

Sunlight. The scent of mown grass and wildflowers. Sunlight so bright he'd given himself a headache --

But he'd discovered that his mother's perfume smelled even more wonderful when she was sweating, and that his father looked even more large and manly and perfect when he was shading his eyes and looking into the distance.

It hurts to take his parents away from the scene, but not to give it to the brothers.

There is Dick, teasing butterflies with his tail as he kisses Jason's shoulder. There is Tim, painstakingly winding wildflowers into a crown for Jason. Dick and Tim smile at each other --

Dick tackles Tim across Jason's body --

Jason wraps them both in a hug with his wings and they are happy, so happy, whole and complete and *full* with the knowledge that there is even more family for them, even more *love* --

But what does Lilith look like? No, not that, not yet, he's not here and they *are*.

They're so *full*, and later they'll work on projects, and decide *which* human to give their attentions to. They'll argue good-naturedly, and tease, and laugh, and they will never be bored or unsure or -- anything else terrible.

Nothing can call them away from each other without them wishing it so. Nothing can *change* them without them wishing it so. And they never --

They're never *hurt*, never *rejected* --

No, none of that here. When they need more from the worlds in which they live, they go to join their brothers and sisters in their projects, and their lives are full of so much *laughter*.

All is *well* --

And they are free.

They are free.

Again again *AGAIN*!

They are *free*!

But the image shatters under the sounds of their groans --

Dick *whimpers* --

No, what has he *done*? Bruce opens his eyes and strokes Dick with one hand, reaching for Tim and Jason with the other --

They shiver nearly as *one* --

"Please, all of you, are you all *right*?"

Another shiver --

"I -- heh. Yeah, we're good. I... had totally forgotten what that felt like," Jason says, and scrubs a hand over his face.

"Oh -- hollering *hellbeasts*, yes," and Dick stands up and shakes himself all over.

Tim -- Tim is still panting and looking away. Bruce stands and rests a hand on his knee --

And Tim clutches at it painfully hard. Bruce bites back a wince. "Tim..."

"I'm -- okay. I'm okay."

Dick and Jason stiffen and immediately turn to Tim -- "You're totally not okay."

"Little brother, what *is* it?"

Tim *sobs* --

"No, oh, no, tell me what I've done -- no, tell me how to *fix* --"

"It's not *you*," Tim says, yanking his hand away and covering his face. His suit is the color of a fresh *bruise* --

And Dick and Jason move to flank him. Jason starts to lift his wing to hide Tim from him -- and then he turns and smiles ruefully at Bruce. "Sorry, B. Force of habit."

"It's all right --"

"No, it really isn't. But -- uh. Give us a minute, maybe?"

"Of course --"

"*No*," Tim says, shoving his brothers away and moving to stand in front of Bruce. He's glaring, but his eyes are damp and his fists are clenched --

He looks so *small*, and he never should -- and never mind the size he presents himself as being. "Please, Tim --"

"I was never. I was never *beholden* before. And it's lasted -- so long. Not all that long in *some* dimensions, but... centuries in the ones I tend to frequent. *Millennia*."

Bruce nods and reaches out to touch his face -- he stops --

"*No*," Tim says, and drags Bruce's hand to his cheek. "You don't -- you were what I *had*. I mean. The Morningstar offered to free me --"

"Wait, *what*?"

"He can *do* that?"

"He *would* do that?"

This time, Tim's hiss is loud and somewhat all-encompassing. Though that could be the way he seems to have unhinged his *jaw* --

"Okay, *okay*, baby bro, we'll shut up --"

"But you really have to tell us that story --"

Tim growls like an indeterminate mammal who has just been *mildly* wounded, and intends to create far more damage than it has incurred. Bruce thinks seriously about stepping *back* --

And then Tim's hand just *is* locked around Bruce's wrist.

"It's all right, Tim. I just -- I didn't want to be... an irritant?"

"An... irritant. I... heh." Tim smiles wryly and shakes his head. "You were what I had. You were -- a constant. Even the Morningstar changes all the time, depending on tides of belief and -- and *literature*, and of course I can't stay the same even when I *try* -- but there was you. And now you're gone."

"*No* --"

"I -- no, I know you're not... not *gone*, but --"

"The leash is gone."

"The fucking *yoke* is gone."

Tim's expression crumples in on itself, and that --

Bruce wraps his arms around Tim and pulls him close --

"I change so *much* --"

"You're always beautiful," Bruce says. "You're always strong and wise and brave and -- so brilliant --"

"No, no -- you *feel* things and you don't -- fuck, I don't even know what I'm *saying*."

"I'll never leave you. I -- even when you wish me gone, I'll still love you --"

"You don't *know* that, Bruce! You're *human*!"

Bruce holds Tim tighter, heedless of the tears Tim's horns are rending in Bruce's clothes and flesh. "I know that I can be constant. I know that you've given me every reason --"

"You were the one *thing*, and now -- I don't even know why I didn't *predict* this!"

"Because he was that far *in* you, baby bro. It's -- me *and* Dickie are fucked-up some, too, but we've both had experience with being beholden. I -- can I touch you, yet?"

Tim shivers and presses closer to *him* --

"It's all right, Tim. I won't -- I won't ever *leave* you --"

Dick pushes against Bruce's side. "It's true, little brother. He needs us. Maybe even more than he loves us."

"What. What happens when he *doesn't*?"

"Tim --"

Dick reaches up and covers Bruce's mouth. "He freed *us*, little brother. There's nothing he can do to free *himself*."

Tim frowns --

"I know, I know, baby bro. He's a Bruce, and that makes him able to do seriously scary things other humans just can't. But *when* have we *ever* seen him fall out of love?"

Tim takes a sharp breath, blinks rapidly, and then steps back to stare up at Bruce.

Bruce tries to will himself to look *reassuring* --

You kinda look more desperate, B.

Which, funnily enough, still makes me all happy in my pants.

You -- you're not even *wearing* pants --

I'm wearing *metaphorical* pants, little brother.

I --

Check in with your internal systems, baby bro. Are *you* happy in your pants for that look?

Of course I am! Oh. Hm. And Tim steps back even more and looks Bruce over. "This is. It doesn't feel like what I feel for... either you or Dick or Steph. I don't. Is it because he's human?"

Jason wraps his arms around Tim from behind and kisses his temple. "I'm pretty sure it's because he's *different*."

"That's what I mean --"

"No, little brother," Dick says, and moves his hand from Bruce's mouth to Bruce's chest. "I don't know how you managed to live this long without loving an incredibly large number of people --"


"Okay, paperwork is *an* answer -- " Dick laughs quietly. "I'm just saying. Nobody loves two -- or more -- people the exact same way."

Tim opens his mouth --

"And don't even *think* of protesting that, because you'd just *hiss* at me if I tried to hug you as much as Jason does, just as Jason would get hissed at if he gave you as much seduction advice as I do."

"But that's -- I mean -- all right, fine. I -- I'm sorry for being so -- emotional."

Jason kisses Tim again. "It's totally okay. Bruce did something huge."

"Hugely huge, even."

"*Gihugeously* huge."

Tim laughs, seemingly despite himself, and then smiles up at Bruce. "You still love us."

"Yes. Please."

Dick raises his eyebrows. "What do you need, boss?"

"To know... where the boundaries are, I believe --"

"Exactly where they were before. You can ask us for anything. You can *demand* anything -- because we know in our *bones* now that you'd never ask or demand anything that would hurt us."

Jason grins. "Never ever, yeah?"

"Yes --" And Bruce's stomach cramps hard enough that he seems to be able to feel the blood draining from his face.


"Are you okay?"

"Ah... I believe I need... to use the restroom." For a very long time --

"Oh! Oh! I know this one!" And Dick reaches into nothingness and pulls out a large and oddly-formed beige root. "It's ginger! Eat this whole thing and you'll be fine!"

"The... whole..." Bruce licks his lips. "Perhaps... I'll take it with me," and Bruce tucks it into his pocket before walking -- very, very briskly --

"Hey, do you need us to come with?"

"No! I mean... ah. I'll be fine," Bruce says, pausing at the door and pulling a smile onto his face before turning to face his wonderful and *free* brothers.

Dick has both thumbs up.

Jason seems moments away from flying over.

Tim looks *suspicious* --

Bruce goes.

And brings a chair to wedge under the bathroom doorknob.


The ginger burns Bruce's mouth badly enough that he wonders what it will do to the other end of his digestive tract when it eventually comes out, but he has to admit it's helping.

Now, all he has to do is never eat chocolate sauce or mustard again, while somehow not alerting the brothers of this culinary choice.

It seems possible to distract them -- certainly, they haven't brought up his calling Harvey --

The brothers look up as one, despite the fact that they all seemed focused on their different books a moment ago.

And they're all glaring at him.

Bruce raises his hands in surrender, puts his book back on the shelf, and begins walking back to the study. He wonders, mostly idly, if they pay attention to every stray thought, or if there are certain... keywords, perhaps?

"The latter, mostly," Tim says, and puts an arm through Bruce's own. "Do you like this?"

"I -- do you?"

Tim smiles up at him from under his lashes -- and the suit he was wearing becomes a -- tasteful -- tourmaline-green silk negligee. It suits his small, slim body well, though it doesn't disguise his -- relative -- lack of curves. It --

Bruce swallows.

"Mm, I thought so."

"It's only... my father bought such things for my mother."

Tim blushes and -- no. Tim *colors* and turns away.

Bruce stops them in the hall and moves in front of Tim before dropping to one knee. "I would spend the rest of my life with you. I *want* to spend the rest of my life with you."

Tim parts his lips and looks into Bruce's eyes --


"You should know... I'm free now."

"Yes, I -- it was obscene for you not to be --"

"Bruce... I could drive you mad for me -- with Dick's help -- and then leave you. There's a part of me which wants to do just that."

Bruce frowns. "Even though you love me?"

"I do. I -- so *much*," and Tim bites his lip. "I *couldn't* do anything to really hurt you -- or anyone *else* -- before. I'd forgotten what it was like to have to *choose* to be good."

"I. I freed you from that other Bruce, as well."

"You couldn't *tell*?" Tim laughs and covers his face for a moment. "I -- I suppose you could say that I'm remembering that I'm a demon. It would *hurt* me to hurt you, but the urge..."

Bruce reaches to take Tim's free hand in his own. "I trust you."

"Bruce --"

"I *trust* you, Tim. You... you weren't only a loving, wonderful person because of that awful man's *hold* on you. I see it in your *eyes*."

"Bruce, I can *change* my eyes!"

"Then show me. Show me the... monster within you? The beast who gained the Morningstar's favor."

"Just -- no *wonder* he offered to free me. I was -- I was *trapped* --"

"But you aren't now. Please, Tim. Show me every darkness. I promise to show you my own."

Tim gasps and searches him, *studies* him --

And Bruce smiles wryly. "I told myself that I was trying to escape the Bat when I went to the seminary, but the truth is... the Bat would not have been able to take so much of me were there not darknesses that lived within me and yearned for... release, perhaps. That other Bruce wouldn't have been able to call to you without those dark spaces. And... perhaps you would not look so young."

"Bruce, you're no *monster*!"

Bruce kisses Tim's hand. "Not now. Not yet. But -- there are clearly versions of me who've grown up to be just that."

"No -- no, those other -- they all fight for *justice* --"

"And hurt the people they love by rejecting them willfully --"

"He doesn't love *us* --"

"Even worse," Bruce says, and turns Tim's hand over to kiss the palm. "At least, with the humans you and your brothers were modeled on, he gives them the gift of his regard as he undoubtedly wounds them time and again. You... you he treated as irrelevancies."

"You -- you could never do that to anyone --"

"Perhaps not," and Bruce looks up to smile into Tim's wide eyes. "Certainly, I'm grateful to all of you for giving me something to watch for. But... there are other things. Violence and vengeance, for a start," and Bruce fills his mind with the carefully hoarded and treasured fantasy of beating that faceless man with his own gun until he truly *becomes* faceless --

Of growing and *becoming* until his fists and feet are even more perfect weapons --

Of the *sounds* of blows impacting flesh time and again and *again* --

Of the pained and *liquid* cries for mercy that never comes --

Never ever...

And Tim shivers, penis rising beneath the negligee and nipples hardening. "Brother..."

Bruce grunts. "Brother," he says, leaning in to nuzzle, to breathe and *sniff* --

But Tim's hand is adamant in his hair, painful, *cruel* --

"*Let* me --"

"After. After you call Harvey, we can have... everything," Tim says, and his voice is low and *heavy*...

"Let go of my hair."

"Is that an order?"

Bruce looks up, and uses his memories of the Bat to make it unblinking. "Yes."

Tim makes a sound that's somewhere between a cry and a *growl* -- and lets go.

Bruce takes the opportunity to grab Tim's hips and *yank* him close enough that he can kiss Tim's penis through the silk --

Which disappears immediately, giving him sleek, hot, *hardening* flesh --

The scent of something male, something -- vastly inhuman, somehow --

No, *not* somehow. Tim is a demon who smells of sweetness, and Bruce will remember this, and remember this urge to abase himself --

No, to *worship* --

Tim growls again and scratches Bruce's scalp --

Bruce licks and nibbles and kisses the shaft -- and then lifts it so that he may nuzzle Tim's scrotum, which is dark-fuzzed and *tightening* --

"*Bruce* --"

"*Wait*," Bruce says, and takes Tim's scrotum into his mouth so that he may suckle and *hold* --

And now Tim is petting Bruce's head, cupping and pulling Bruce closer even as he pants --

Beautiful *boy* --

For you I'll never change --

Bruce groans around his mouthful and pulls back, stares up at Tim hungrily and, yes, *desperately* -- "Then it's true. I'm *that* sort of monster?"

Tim smiles sadly and strokes Bruce's cheeks with his fingertips. "So few Bruces do anything about it. They certainly don't prey on... civilians."

"But --"

"Bruce, don't --"

"There are some few who prey on their partners. The -- the boys they took in and trained."

And Tim is dressed again. Dressed *oddly*, because his suit looks very... old. Very --

"You're wearing my *father's* clothes? I have no -- no desire --"

"I could look like him, Bruce --"

"Don't --"

"I could... I could touch you the way --"


Tim opens his mouth and Bruce feels himself start to *shake* --

A part of Bruce wonders only who *told* --

No one. No one.

We're made to be detectives --

Among other things --

That we have *no* intention of giving up --

-- it's okay, B --

-- stay forever, boss, don't --

"Don't worry," Tim says, offering a hand and a rueful smile as he changes his suit to a more modern cut. "I'm sorry."

Bruce allows himself to be helped to his feet. "Had I... had I grown to... had I trespassed?"

Tim squeezes his eyes shut and closes the small distance between them with a hug -- one that doesn't tear Bruce's clothes or flesh again, because he tilts his head back carefully. "You did nothing wrong."

"Then --"

"I only -- you're not a monster."

"But --"

"You'll have us, and there'll never be..." Tim shakes his head and holds on more tightly. "There's nothing wrong with fantasy."

Bruce closes his eyes and clutches at Tim, at his lean, hard body --

His *small*, *youthful* body --

"I should... want you to look older."

"Should you?"

"Tim --"

"Think about it for a moment, Bruce," and Tim pushes back with ease -- but only enough to meet Bruce's eyes. "This is how I looked when we met. More to the point, we've told you that we *like* looking this way. That it *suits* us far more than other forms would. Why on earth would you want to take away something we enjoy?"

Bruce frowns and strokes Tim's cheekbones, the point of his chin --

He knows he's frowning direfully, but --

"I don't. I find Dick beautiful. Exceedingly beautiful --"

Thanks, boss!

"And -- and Jason, of course. He looks. Only his eyes make him look younger than myself, and even then -- they don't seem young all the time, or even *often*."

"But I look even younger than the sixteen the human Tim was when I was made. I know, Bruce. And I know you find me beautiful, and immensely desirable --"

"Yes. Please --"

Tim reaches up to cover Bruce's mouth again. "You freed me. And I have every intention of staying in this form -- more or less -- until I find some other which suits me better. Not to torment you, or even to hurt you, but --"

"But --" Bruce shakes his head and steps back from Tim's hand, since he knows he wouldn't be able to move it. "You would have me *accept* this about myself?"

Tim smiles wryly. "Better, by far, than burying it so deep that it comes back to haunt you when you least expect it. Bruce. We love you too much to let you hurt an actual child. You're *ours* -- and we're yours. You want us to protect the world from you. Don't you?"

"I. I want to be able to offer protection of my own --"

"And you will. But every Bruce needs help -- of one sort or another. I... you know yourself better than most."

"I've had -- your help. I..." Bruce laughs quietly and covers his face -- but only for a moment.

And, yes, it does help when Tim steps close and hugs him again -- and more than that when he pricks Bruce with his horns again. It doesn't feel as though he's drawn blood this time, but the pain --

The undeniable *reality* --

Bruce turns enough to kiss the base of Tim's horns --

"Oh, careful --"

"Of course," Bruce says, and breathes on Tim there, just to see --

Gooseflesh rising around the horns -- and the horns themselves grow slightly longer.

"I... am in your power. I accept that with all of myself," Bruce says, and leans back enough to smile into Tim's eyes. "I trust you."

"Then trust me -- all of us -- to give you what you want. And what you need."

Bruce frowns --

And Tim pushes up on his toes and kisses it off Bruce's mouth -- one threatening brush of needle-teeth at a time -- until Bruce is laughing.

"Tim... I have one more question on this matter, and then I promise to leave it be."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Yes?"

"Does it arouse *you* to appear that age?"

Tim pricks his tongue with his teeth --

Licks his lips red --

*Shows* his teeth --

Licks his lips *clean* --

"What do you think?"

And that... was an honest question. That much is clear by the hungry -- and non-sexual -- look in Tim's eyes. Bruce nods in acknowledgment and considers it, turning away from the beautiful being in front of him in order to help himself concentrate.

And he *is* beautiful, and perfectly young -- even in terms of his emotional reactions... hm. Not *conventionally* young, perhaps -- Bruce has doubts that Tim would find any common ground with the people Bruce had attended Exeter with, other than Harvey and perhaps Lex -- but still...

Not adult. Not... experienced. Hm. "I believe you enjoy being the youngest sibling."

"Yes. And?"

Bruce smiles and turns back to face Tim. "I believe you've manipulated your brothers -- and perhaps Steph? -- into *always* treating you as the youngest sibling."

"Oh... absolutely. And?"

"I believe you came to enjoy being beholden to that other Bruce in at least a few ways -- including the opportunity to have an unimpeded view of his sexuality."

"Which was -- is -- Byzantine in its complexity. One more?"

Bruce inclines his head. "You share at least some aspects of that sexuality... but you've understood that about yourself for a very, very long time."

Tim smiles broadly, sharply, *happily* --

Hey, what was that, B?

-- got all *quiet* --

-- don't *like* quiet --

We were discussing a private matter. Perhaps Bruce will tell you all about it later.

Uh. Wha?

*Naughty* little brother --

-- totally gonna *ask* him --

I'm afraid that I must, at this time, keep Tim's confidence.

It shouldn't be *possible* to feel scowls when one is on an entirely different *floor* than the people doing the scowling --

It's called *telepathy*, B. And no fair keeping secrets!

I --

He kinda has to, little wing.

He does *not* --

Tim said it was private. He's *Bruce*. He's gonna respect that *forever*.

Aw, *damn* it. I -- fine, Tim. You watch what happens the next time you want a secret outta me.

Tim smiles -- and covers his mouth to conceal it. Badly, considering the *bright* light in his pale eyes --

Oh, and now you're *laughing* at me? Asshole.

All yours, Jay.

And Dickie's. And Steph's. And *Bruce's* --

Tim hums and rocks on his heels. You'll always be the first.

Bruce blinks -- and Tim colors. But Bruce knows he's telling the truth. He'd know even if he couldn't feel Jason's warmth, Jason's need and pleasure and *love* for Tim --

Baby bro...

Tim closes his eyes for a moment, then takes a deep breath, straightens his posture, and meets Bruce's eyes. I need it to be only Bruce who knows this for now. But... once more than one person knows a secret... well. It won't be long. I promise.

From Jason and Dick come waves of acceptance -- and persistent curiosity.

Bruce strokes the slightly raised flesh around Tim's horns. "You have my silence until it's no longer needed."

Tim smiles softly and brings Bruce's hand to his mouth for a kiss. "Let's call Harvey."

Bruce nods and lets himself be led back to the study. Leslie will probably be home within an hour or two -- it's *that* late --

"*Have* you thought about what you'll tell her about us?"

"The truth, of course."

"That we're demons who researched you, stalked you, and then led you away from the priesthood?"


"And into a life which will be filled with violence and fear?"


Tim bites his lip -- with human-shaped teeth. He seems far less troubled than amused, however.

"Perhaps... well. I'll discuss the matter of the lifetime of violence with her at another time."

"Maybe for the best."

"I'll... she'll probably need time to grow accustomed to all of you --"


"And -- have I mentioned that I'm a terrible coward? I truly am."

Tim smiles and pushes Bruce down on the chair and pushes the telephone closer.

"I mean -- I -- oh. I don't think I know Harvey's *phone* number --"

You've totally never used it, have you?

Well... "I'll just go find my address book --"

Tim holds up the index finger of one hand and uses the other to pull the address book out of yet another hole to nowhere.

"You... had already appropriated it?"

"You never do know what one will find comes in handy," Tim says, and straddles Bruce's lap. "Call."

Bruce flips through to the one written-on page in the book and does just that. The phone rings three times before Bruce remembers that it's exactly this late in *New Haven*, too --

But then Harvey picks up and says hello --

"I'm sorry." It's just -- it seems like the only thing *to* say --

"Uh. What? Hey -- Bruce, is that you?"


"You're *calling* me?"

"I'm sorry --"

"Don't apologize, don't -- don't even *think* about apologizing," Harvey says, and then grunts -- "Lemme just sit up and think for a minute --"

"If it's too late --"

"Nah, I planned to wake up five minutes from now. Little nap, that's all --"

"If you're busy --"

"Big guy. Bruce. Are you listening?"

"Of course --"

"What's *wrong*?"

Oh. Well. That... is an entirely reasonable question for Harvey to ask. "Nothing," Bruce says, and smiles.

"Are you smiling?"


Harvey groans. "Oh, man, I could *hear* that smile. It's the smile that means you think you've actually *answered* a question."

"I... didn't?"

"No, big guy, you really didn't."

"I'm sorry --"

"Stop apologizing. I actually live for those smiles more than a little. Uh. Are you -- no, there's no phones in the rooms at that prison you're shut up in. You're in the hallway somewhere and *anyone* could wander past --"

"Actually --"

"Bruce. Do you need me to come get you?"

And Bruce... feels his heart seize. Harvey doesn't even have a *car*, but Bruce knows that he would take the train to the stop nearest the seminary and then pay for a taxi the rest of the way --

Using *all* of his money if he had to --

*koff*helovesyou*koff koff*

"-- guy? Are you listening? Hell, I'll be there --"

"Harv, no, it's fine. And I'm not -- I'm not at the seminary. Anymore."

And the thing is, Bruce is absolutely positive that he can hear Harvey blinking at him. He wonders if it was the same for his apparently very *dim* smile.


"Big guy... is it a vacation?"

"No --"

"A little... a little time off for you?"

"No, Harv, I've -- dropped out." And, really, putting it that way --

Tim kisses his cheek and smiles sharply at him --

And Harvey takes a very shaky breath. "Wow. I... uh. Was it something I said?"

Bruce smiles helplessly. "In part, yes. I was also... there were other people making similar arguments --"

"Like Leslie, yeah?"

"Well... ah. One of the people... he said he'd visited you. Recently."

Harvey is silent --

"He... is the sort of person whom anyone would find... memorable."


"Someone... someone who spoke to you about trying to convince me --"

"Bruce, that was a -- dream. Uh. A really... really fucking *vivid* dream -- holy fucking -- no. No. Tell me what he *looks* like."

"Blue eyes --"


"Black hair which is... very curly --"

"All right."

"A rather... rather muscular physique. Which he... tends to expose."

Harvey coughs. "Get -- get to the part that's a dream."

"Ram's horns. Long, soft ears. And... leathery wings."

"Oh -- the complete opposite of Jesus. I -- are you *serious*, Bruce?"

"One of his brothers is with me now, actually --"

"He has *brothers*? I mean -- I'm not -- that was a *dream*. It *had* to be a dream!"

"Harv --"

"I told him -- *fuck*, Bruce, don't -- don't freak out, okay?"

Bruce frowns. "I won't. I'm *not*, Harv."

"Not --" Harvey's laugh isn't an especially happy one. "So maybe he *didn't* tell you everything I said and I'm freaking you out *now*?"

"I'm not -- I don't understand --"

Tim squeezes Bruce's shoulders. "He's worried that you'll be upset with him for wanting you."

"But --"

"Whoa, whoa, who's that in the background?"

"His name is Tim, Harv. He's one of Jason's brothers."

"Because -- he definitely has brothers. Oh -- Christ. Except not." Another unhappy laugh -- "What are *his* horns like?"

"Quite sharp, and... somewhat reminiscent of an antelope's, though I couldn't say for sure which species --"

Harvey groans.

"Harv? It's all right. They really *don't* seem to want my soul for anything in particular."

"What *do* they want?"

Bruce opens his mouth --

But Tim takes the receiver and presses his fingers to Bruce's lips. "We want *him*, Mr. Dent. He has... well, it would be fair to say that he's done everything we could ever want -- including freeing us from the person who *owned* us."

"Owned -- some guy owned *demons*? Was he some kind of wizard? Did you -- hell, you know Dr. Fate hangs out *in* Gotham, yeah?" And Harvey's voice is tinny with distance, but perfectly clear --

And Tim smiles. "He isn't a wizard, no, and, truly, no one *but* Bruce could have freed us."

"And in return you freed him?"

Tim strokes Bruce's mouth. "Hopefully forever."

"Wait, how *old* are you?"

"Approximately one hour. Sometimes sixteen. Most often -- eighty-five thousand, four hundred forty-six."

"So -- apparently you're gonna bullshit me?"

"Hardly, Mr. Dent. It's my hope that all of us will be able to have an entirely positive relationship. An hour ago, Bruce freed us, and thus allowed us to be completely new people. Sixteen years ago -- in another dimension -- the model for the body I wear was born. Eighty-five thousand years ago or so, Lilith gave birth to me, and then slung me on her very strong back while she looked for the next being to seduce. She sang me songs in every language from every dimension she knew, and named me a name only she, myself, and all of my brothers and sisters could ever pronounce. Time is... fluid, for lack of a better word."

"I... can't believe I'm listening to this. Could you -- not to be rude or anything to the apparently supernatural creature who's *real* damned close to my best friend in the only dimension I know about -- but could you give me *back* to that best friend?"

"Of course, Mr. Dent --"

"Wait, do you have a last name?"

Tim's smile is sharp. "'Of the Lilim.'"

"Oh, that's just wonderful. What does the *devil* call you?"

"If you're referring to the Morningstar --"

"You do realize that you're making *me* want to join a seminary, right?"

Tim hums and smiles more broadly. "I don't think you'd be very suited for it... Mr. Dent."

This time, Harvey's laugh is much more cheerful, and Bruce can't help but smile. He reaches for the receiver --

And Tim licks his fingers. "Mr. Dent... please call me Tim? I'd appreciate it a great deal. You're very important to Bruce --"

"And Bruce is important to you?"

"I love him. *We* love him. We've been waiting for him for... a very long time. In every way."

Harvey *must* be frowning --

"What does that mean? Waiting for him."

"We knew -- for various reasons which can absolutely be discussed at a later time, and, perhaps, in person -- that he was the only one who could be for us. Who could free us -- and who could love us in return."

"Wait, *what*?"

Tim hands the receiver back --

"Harv, it's all right, I --"

"Is it, big guy? Because it *sounds* like you're being *seduced* by *demons*."

"I -- I plan on living with them --"


"They've already -- well, Tim has already been to see Leslie about me --"

"*Bruce* --"

"Harv. I... I do love them."

"That's it, I'm coming down --"

"Maybe... well, it is the weekend, but don't you have to study? And -- I'll come get you --"

"You actually want to *visit* -- what the -- the *hell* did they do to you?"

Bruce blushes, but -- "I've always wanted. I've always wanted to be with you."

Harvey is silent.

Harvey is -- much too silent --

Keep it steady, boss. This is pretty new for him, too.

But -- Harvey has been with many women --

And we are *so* not in the era where that kind of thing actually helps most people with *this* kind of thing, B. Give him another second.

And so Bruce waits --

It feels like an *eternity* -- but, of course, he could never truly know what *that* feels like. Bruce quiets himself internally --

And listens to Harvey take another shaky breath. "That's. That's what you're saying? You're... homosexual?"

Bruce has trouble breathing himself, but -- he can speak. "Harv, I -- Tim seems to have reason to believe that I'm *bisexual*, but I've never... I've never thought about women sexually."

"Hn. Give it time."

"Big guy... you've thought about men that way? Before meeting these... brothers?"

"Yes, Harv --"

"W-who -- fuck, no, I'm not asking, I'm *not* asking --"

"You. And -- and others --"

"*Fuck* -- *What* others?"

"I... Lex. Not really... I mean, the others were all fleeting thoughts --"

Harvey coughs. It sounds a lot like a laugh being strangled and *beaten* --

Maaaybe you could've left the Lex part out. And Dick sounds amused --

And Tim looks *ruefully* amused --

"Harv --"

"Wait. Did -- that *asshole* hit on you?"


"Yes, *Lex*. And you know, his father just died *real* damned suspiciously --"

"Harv, I'm sure -- I'm sure he's no *murderer*." But is he sure? He'd been at the seminary when the news came.

Tim is looking at him very *blandly*, and that's no help at *all* --

"I mean -- do you have any... well, if you had proof, it wouldn't be a suspicious death --"

"Okay, fine, he probably didn't do it -- answer the *question*."

That *look* --

And the unspoken words.

"Never... never in the way you mean, Harv --"

"What does *that* mean?"

Bruce closes his eyes and takes a deep breath --

"*Bruce* --"

"It means -- that I was probably imagining things. It was only one moment, Harv."

"I think I *remember* that moment, and I'm -- aw, hell, big guy, you can't want *me*."

"I know -- I know you have your career to think of, and I'd never -- I'd never pressure you, or anything like that --"

"I *know* you wouldn't. I..." Harvey sighs. "Gimme a sec."

"All right, Harv," and Bruce listens to Harvey setting the receiver down and walking -- somewhere.

Bruce can't tell where, since he knows nothing about the layout of Harvey's dorm room. *Why* doesn't he know that? A friend -- a *real* friend -- ought to know things like that.

And not just to better set the stage for a fantasy.

Bruce *waits* -- and doesn't really breathe until Harvey picks up the receiver again.

"Okay. Okay. I locked the door. The roomie's gonna hate that, but he'll just have to deal. It'll give me some warning if someone comes by."

Bruce swallows. "All right, Harv, but -- I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

Another laugh. "Bruce. Uh. It's -- you gotta know it's kinda late for that."

Bruce winces --

"Ah, no, no, don't worry and don't apologize. I think maybe we were overdue for this conversation --"

"We don't have to *have* it --"

"We do. At least. At least for long enough for me to tell you how crazy you make me, how the thought of you buttoning yourself up forever and not making love to *anyone* made me want to beat the hell out of everyone I saw, how I jerk *off* thinking about -- about your fucking *chest* --"

"Oh. Oh, Harv --"

"Do you. Do you think about me? When you do it?"

Bruce blushes and swallows. "I haven't... I haven't masturbated in eight months --"

"*Bruce* --"

"The last time -- I was thinking about your scent. I was... imagining how your groin might smell."

Harvey *growls* --

"Harv --"

"We can't. We can. We -- *fuck* -- how *long* have you --"

"Since. Since I've known you. But I didn't understand my feelings until the night you shared my bed --"

"You never went to *sleep* that night, I could tell the next day --"

"I was.... in a welter of self-loathing and fear --"

"You chased me *away* --"

"I didn't want you to see --"

"I knew. I -- fuck. I *knew*, Bruce."

Bruce frowns. "But you never -- did you not want to risk your future career?"

"I didn't know anything *about* my career back --" Harvey cuts himself off with a laugh. "Okay, that's not even a little true. I knew. I just couldn't make myself believe it. You -- you were so innocent."

"I dreamed of touching you. *Tasting* you --"

"Fucking me?"

Bruce licks his lips -- and, when he turns, Tim is studying him avidly, *hotly*. "I -- never. It was always making love --"

"You know what I mean --"

"I thought -- yes. And. And you penetrating me."

Harvey groans. "You -- uh. Heh. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised that I'm hard as hell right now?"

"Oh, Harv. I -- if you give me directions --"

"No. I'm coming to *you*, big guy. I -- hell. I *do* have studying to do --"

"All the more reason for me to come to you. There -- I'm sure there are many hotels near your school --"

"Hotels are full of people who *talk*, Bruce -- hell. I'm not ashamed of you. I could never be --"

"I *know*, Harv. I -- I could rent a house. Or an apartment for a time --"

"Because money really is *that* meaningless to you --"

"You've never let me *help* --"

"And you still can't."

"*Harv* --"

"No, Bruce," Harvey says, and his voice is low and *firm*. "I gotta make my own way. You know that."

"Then at least let me make *my* own way *beside* you."

"I -- heh. You -- you're absolutely right," Harvey says and there's a sound of springs creaking and settling --

"Are you. Are you lying down again?"

"That is *exactly* what I'm doing. I'm also taking down my pants a little, and if anyone shows up I'm going to start calling you Christine, because there are absolutely no women in this area named Bruce."

Bruce laughs helplessly. "Are you quite sure?"

"Oh, yeah, I've done an *exhaustive* check. And -- fuck. You can come."

"Right now...?"

"No, I -- wait. You were just making a little innuendo, weren't you."

"It... was rather weak --"

"But it *was* an innuendo -- do I wanna know what you've been up to with. Wait, are they brothers by *blood*?"

"Yes. It seemed quite shocking at first -- "

"At *first*?"

Tim smiles. "Humans are incredibly adaptable, Mr. Dent," Tim says, pitching his voice to carry. "They can get used to anything."

Harvey snorts. "Because I didn't *ask* if he was still there. Right. Uh. Tim?"

Bruce hands the receiver to Tim --

"Yes, Mr. Dent?"

"How *much* does this -- what Bruce and I have between us -- bother you?"

"Far less than it did when he owned us --"

"That doesn't --"

"*And*, Mr. Dent, even then it was a quite small amount. I'm rather new to the field of being an incubus, but I'm not at all new to being of the Lilim."

"Uh... hm. I gotta tell you, Tim, I'm nowhere near as religiously educated as our mutual friend --"

"Lover, Mr. Dent. He's our lover."

"What -- *all* of you?"

"And you," Tim says, shifting and settling until his groin is pressed to Bruce's own. Even through their pants, his heat is incredible. "In many ways, you were Bruce's first."

"I haven't even -- fuck. I do know what you're saying. What -- what *do* you want from him?"

"What we have."

"And where *exactly* do I come into that?"

Tim smiles again and traces the corners of Bruce's mouth. "Bruce... there's something he needs to do. Not just for us -- for the world."

"Uh... okay, you had me for a minute there, but what are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the hopes and dreams and... hn... *calling* Bruce has had for most of his life. The calling he's going to tell you all about once you're alone together."

"What -- I. Okay, I need Bruce again --"

"Of course," Tim says, and grinds his hips in a hard circle. "I'm going to leave so the two of you have privacy in just a moment, but there's one more thing I have to tell you."

"I'm listening."

"We'll never leave him. We'll always be a thought away for him, because, even though he doesn't own us, there's blood between all of us. He can't summon us like slaves, but he can call us and we'll come to him immediately if we possibly can. We'll never leave him."

"You -- heh. You said that twice."

Tim smiles again and closes his eyes for a moment. "So I did. We'll give you your time with him... but we'll never be far away."

"And -- if I hurt him?"

Tim's teeth lengthen and sharpen, gleam *wetly* -- "Don't do it."

"Okay, your voice just -- because that was a threat."

"A veiled one, but yes. You have the potential to hurt him badly, Mr. Dent... and that's a conversation the two of *us* will have in private someday. Someday soon, I hope."

Harvey exhales sharply. "Yeah. Yeah, I think we will talk, Tim."

"Good. Until then... goodnight."

"Uh. Right back at you? That wasn't a question."

"Hn. Noted." And Tim hands the receiver back -- and kisses Bruce firmly, keeping his mouth closed until Bruce can feel the needle-teeth shifting back to something much safer --

And Bruce can't help but moan when Tim pushes his tongue into Bruce's mouth, when Bruce can suck and lick and suck *harder* --

*Tim* moans -- and licks his way out of Bruce's mouth and across Bruce's cheek before standing and walking to the door.

Walking *oddly* --

Only it doesn't seem odd, at all, when his suit becomes a negligee again. It seems -- perfect.

"You still there, big guy?"

Harvey's voice --

Bruce tears his gaze -- his *mind* -- away from the calculated sway of Tim's lean hips and presses the receiver to his ear. "Harv, I'm sorry --"

"You still can't apologize, big guy --"

"But --"

"I like the way you moan."

Bruce blinks. "Harv?"

"I remember. You used to try to be quiet when we were jerking off together..." Harvey's voice is low and *breathy* --

"I -- I was trying to --"

"Be polite?"

"Yes?" Bruce laughs quietly. "I realize now that that was more than a little foolish."

"Heh. Maybe yes, maybe no. *Definitely* I wouldn't have been able to keep myself from sucking you off if you'd moaned like you just moaned for Tim."

"Oh --"

"He kissed you?"

"Yes, Harv --"

"Anything else?"

"I... we were pressed together. Our groins, I mean."

Harvey makes a soft, indeterminate noise -- "Did you like that?"

"Yes. They -- they're warm. All of them."

"Yeah, I remember that Jason guy being like a *furnace* -- heh. I'm not like that."

"No. You're. I've wanted to touch you --"

"Where, big guy."

"Everywhere --"

"That's --" A small, wet sound -- "That's a *frustrating* answer, but I'm getting that it was a true one. I want... would you tell me a fantasy? Something..." Harvey sighs. "Does it do it for you to know that I'm laying here holding my dick?"

Bruce grunts. "Harv --"

"Yes or no, big guy."

"It. It's very arousing. I want to be *near* you --"

"You think... maybe you can drive up here tomorrow."

"*Yes* --"

"And. Heh. You can get one of your *new* friends to do the driving at night. Except not Tim, because he sounds about thirteen."

Bruce *coughs* a laugh --

"Uh, huh, and that tells me he also *looks* young. It's just his personality that's ancient beyond freakin' words, yeah?"

"He told me --" Much that he can't say, but... "He told me that he enjoys the form he's currently wearing."

"They can *shape-shift*?"

"They've told me that they can be altered solely by human will and belief -- and have urged me to test that. I... I changed Jason's scent."

"You -- just by *believing* hard enough?"

"And -- willing. They also seem to be able to change small things about their appearance themselves for limited periods of time. Though Tim seems to have the most control over that sort of thing."

"Nnh. Does he change for you?"

"Some -- mostly his. Clothes."

"You dress him up?"

"Harv --"

"Tell me. Please."

"Oh -- this is arousing *you* --"

Harvey snickers. "Just as an aside? I don't tend to hold my dick when I'm *not* horny."

"Yes, I think I'd remember that --"

And Harvey snickers again --

And Bruce smiles because he *must* --

"Bruce... take your dick out. Lemme see it."

"You -- you mean to pretend --"

"Yeah. Yeah. It's what we can have tonight. Right *now*. Yeah?"

Bruce tries and fails to control his breathing --

"God, fuck, Bruce, I can *hear* that --"

"I'm. Not sorry. I'll -- I'm undoing my pants," Bruce says, and holds the receiver between his shoulder and his face the way he's seen Leslie do countless times. He does that to give himself the use of both hands, but -- "My hands feel... immensely stupid --"

"You're already that hot?"

Hot. Yes. That would explain... so much. "And -- and erect."

Harvey moans briefly -- "I've never *seen* that. Never -- not when your dick was *out*."

"I'm sorry --"

"Don't *apologize*. It's -- it's on me. I didn't *let* myself see you. Are you out yet?"

"Not --"


Bruce grunts again and nearly rips the zipper off its *track* -- but he manages to get his pants open and his penis out over the waistband of his briefs. "I've -- my briefs will be stained --"


"Yes --"

Another wet sound -- "How much of that's for me versus how much for tiny Tim?"

"Harv --"

"Is he tiny? Thin? He *sounds* thin. I don't know what the fuck that even *means* --"

"He's -- very lean. Muscular, though."

"Short? He *also* sounds short."

"Yes, he's. I believe he's no more than five-feet-five-inches or five-feet-six-inches --"

"You like *that*?"

Bruce closes his eyes and thinks of Tim's power, his --

His hips in Bruce's *hands* --

"Yes. Yes, Harv, on him --"

"Tell me. Tell me about dressing him up --"

"Harv, I want to talk about *you* --"

"Need -- I need to know what gets you *off* --"

"Your scent. Your. Your beautiful hands --"

"My *hands*?" Harvey chokes on laughter -- "Okay, no, wait, now I'm thinking about *your* hands, which are just -- *huge*. Like all of you. Is your dick all big for me, big guy?"

"Certainly. Certainly... I'm quite erect."

"And leaking, you said. You want me to taste you?"

Bruce's penis twitches --

Bruce *grips* it --

And Bruce moans for his own touch.

"Oh. Oh yeah. I want -- I'm stroking myself now, big guy."


"Just. Just a little. *Slow*."

"Should I --"

"Yeah. Yeah, 'cause I wouldn't be able to keep from jerking you off. Just. Hot in my *hand* --"

"You. I want to touch *you* --"

"You were gonna tell me a *fantasy*, Bruce --"

"Your mouth --"

"On you?"

"We -- we're kissing each other --"

"You like to kiss --"

"*Yes* --"

"I like it, too. I like -- your mouth always looks hard. *Too* hard. Wanna soften you up a little... c'mon, gimme more --"

"Harv, I -- please..."

"Please what?"

That -- is an excellent question. Bruce laughs and squeezes himself until he has to groan --

"Tell me, tell me --"

"Your voice. Your -- please, I want your sounds --"

"I want your *fantasies*. I wanna know 'em by heart so I can make 'em real, *show* you how good it can be with me --"

Bruce groans again and begins to stroke himself -- "I. I can't seem to stroke *slowly*, Harv --"

"You're that turned on?"

"*Yes* --"

"Then I'll tell you one of *my* fantasies."

"Oh, *please* --"

"But you have to promise --"

"*Anything*, Harv --"

"Not anything. Not -- just that you'll *tell* me. And that, when you can't talk, you'll *show* me."

"*Yes*, Harv --"

"Fuck -- fuck, yeah, nothing slow and gentle here. Want you *bad*, big guy --"

"You can have me --"

"I jerked off in the bathroom that night, Bruce. That's the only reason I could sleep --"

Bruce gasps -- "Oh. I could've had your *scent* --"

Harvey *moans* -- "Yeah, yeah you could've. I'm *sorry* --"

"No, don't -- just tell me --"

"I was thinking about your dick in my mouth, big guy. I was thinking -- and then your big hands on my head. Holding me right *there*."

Bruce *whimpers* --

"Yeah. Yeah, everybody likes that. Well, almost everybody. *Sane* people --"

"Harv --"

"Babbling, yeah, I know -- you're fucking me a little. Slow, like."

"Oh. Your mouth?"

"Yeah. And my throat. Have -- have they done that to you?"

"*Yes* -- I. Yes. Two --"

"Because there are -- no, how *many* of them?"

"Three -- though they say... they say that there's a woman who is the fourth who was owned --"

"And they didn't bring *her*?"

"She -- didn't wish to come --"

"Okay, no, leaving my sudden and freaking *bizarre* fantasies out of this --"


Harvey's laugh is breathless and low. "No, no, think about your hands in my hair --"

"It's so -- it's always been so thick, so --"

"You used to stare at me while I was combing it -- don't apologize."

"I -- all right --"

"Just tell me if it was my hands or my hair --"

"Both. It was. I've dreamed of you letting me -- letting me comb it for you --"

"Oh, *Bruce*, you -- go on. Stroke yourself faster for me."

"Harv -- oh -- oh, Harv, it's so -- I'm blushing --"

"So am *I*. No one like you, big guy. No one -- I want you so *bad* --"

"*Harv* --"

"I would -- I would think about you thrusting faster. Really. Really *giving* it to me --"

"You want. You'd want me to be *rough*?"

Harvey only pants for a long moment -- "You only like it gentle?"

"I -- no. I. I don't want to -- they're all very *strong*, Harv, and they heal *quickly* --"

"I wouldn't let you *hurt* me --"

"But -- by accident --"

"Shh, big guy, just -- think about that sweet friction on your dick --"

"Please --"

"Think about me sucking you *hard* --"

Bruce feels himself spasm and grunts, squeezes himself and doesn't stop stroking, never stops --

Never never...

Bruce moans and begs -- no, that wasn't aloud, Harvey couldn't *hear*. He opens his mouth --

And another moan comes out, and another --

"Bruce, you're gonna make me come so *hard* --"

"Want -- I *want* --"

"Maybe -- maybe you'd suck *me* after?"

"Please, *yes* --"

"Fuck, I -- just the thought of your big, hard mouth on me --"

"You -- do you *want* --"

"Fuck, yeah, I do, big guy. Want you to suck me. Want you to *hold* me in your mouth, in your throat -- "

"Please --"

"Want you to *love* it --"

"Harv, I love *you* --"

And *Harvey* whimpers -- "Gonna. Gonna run outta language *quick* --"

"I want -- all of your sounds --"

"Maybe. Maybe I could shout 'em into your ear while I'm doin' you, hunh? Balls deep in you and just -- just --"

And Bruce hears himself crying out --

But he only knows he's crying out a second time by the strain in his throat and chest, only --

He's *seizing* inside as the pleasure drives him -- drives him so --

Heat and *light*, and the last time the pleasure had been so great for a masturbatory orgasm had been the last time Harvey had done this with him --

They'd both been *lying* to each other --

And Bruce's hearing comes back just in time --

"*Do* it, Bruce, c'mon, *come on* --"

And Bruce watches himself spurting on the *carpet* --

Twice *more* --

"*Harv* --"

"One -- one *sec* -- ah, *fuck*, big guy, *say* something!"

And a part of Bruce wants to ask *what*, but the rest -- the rest is, perhaps, not so dim. "I want you to... to feel my *strength*, Harv --"

"Yeah. *Yeah* --"

"I want to -- hold you *down* as I --"

Harvey *shouts* then, and Bruce can hear his bedsprings creaking madly --

He must be *thrusting* into his fist --

"You've always been so *beautiful*, Harv --"

Another shout --

The bedsprings creak *alarmingly* --

And then Harvey is panting in his ear as he fumbles with the receiver --

Wet sounds --

"Harv. Harv, are you licking your fingers?"

A *popping* sound. "Fuck, yeah, big guy. I'm telling myself I'm tasting *you*."

Bruce's penis twitches *again*, but -- "I -- hm."

"What's -- heh -- up?"

"Well -- how did you think to put the receiver *down*?"

"I -- heh. Practice? Big guy, the only way I want to hear about you not jerking off for most of a damned year is if you wind up with some kind of horrible dick disease. And since you're not ever gonna catch one of *those*... you get me?"

"Loud and clear, I assure you. Though a great deal of my mind is taken up with the question of where the carpet-cleaning products are."

Harvey snickers. "Oh -- man. You're in that *study* of yours, aren't you."

"I'm afraid so. The carpet is dark enough that the semen appears rather *painfully* obscene."

"Semen does that, big guy. You'll get used to it."

Bruce hums noncommittally.

Harvey snickers more -- and then sighs. "Tomorrow, yeah?"

"Oh -- I want to leave first thing in the morning --"

"Call it first thing in the afternoon. It'll only take you about three and a half hours to get here, and I'll be taking my exams all day."

"Oh! I'm keeping you from your rest --"

"I *had* my rest, big guy. You're keeping me from *studying*."

"*Harv* --"

"However, since I'm *exactly* the same kind of hardnosed, serious-minded student you remember *ever* so clearly from Exeter, you're only keeping me from going over my excellent notes with a fine-toothed comb... for the fifth time."

Well... that is a great deal less guilt-inducing. "Then you'll get more sleep?"

"In just about... three hours. I'm fine, big guy. I haven't even had any serious -- uh. Anyway. I'm fine."

Nightmares. He's talking about his *nightmares* -- "Are you sure?"

Harvey sighs -- and Bruce thinks he can feel the crooked, fond smile which is almost certainly on Harvey's face. "I'm sure. I -- do you really have a secret from me?"

Bruce blushes again. "I..."

"That's a yes. You... what got you to tell *demons* about it?"

"I didn't, Harv. They -- they knew all about it. From Bruces in other dimensions."

"Other -- right. Okay, then. But you're gonna tell me?"

Bruce smiles ruefully. "Yes, Harv. But -- I have to admit that I'm worried about you looking at me strangely when I do. And -- feeling differently about me."

"Big guy, the only thing that would make me stop caring -- stop *loving* you is if I found out that you had somehow started hurting people who didn't deserve it. Since you can't even bring yourself to hurt people who *do* deserve it --"

"I. I used to get into fights. With -- bullies."

And Harvey is *silent* -- but Bruce can force himself to deal with the fact that he'd said something surprising.

And that's exactly what he does. He waits --


"Yes, Harv. I would've continued to do it if it didn't make Leslie so -- if it didn't disappoint her."

"*That's* the only reason you stopped?"

"Yes, Harv."

"Not -- not for your academic career or... anything else?"

"No, Harv."

"I -- wow," and the bedsprings creak again as Harvey... sits up?

Bruce doesn't know.

"So right now I'm getting how you could keep a secret from me," Harvey says, and laughs softly. It doesn't sound like a comfortable laugh.

"I'm --"

"Are you about to apologize again?"

"Yes, Harv. I... take it that you don't want me to?"

"Got it in one, big guy. You definitely -- heh. Okay. So maybe I've got a few secrets from you that need to be shared, too."

"Oh -- please. I want everything about you, Harv." Including your *father* --

"Yeah, hunh? Well, I think you can have it. Just like... just like I can have you?"

"Yes. Please."

Harvey sighs again, and there's a sound -- he's scrubbing a hand over his face, and he must not have shaved for most of a day. "We can't. We can't date or anything like that."

"I know --"

"Even though -- even though I've had fantasies about that, too."

Bruce blinks. "Harv?"

Another dark laugh. "Ah, leave it. We'll talk about that, too, I promise."

Bruce takes a deep breath. "All right, Harv."

"One more question before I make you hang up first."


"Would you have told me any of this without the demons pushing you to do it?"

"They -- they've been making it abundantly clear that I've been a fool about relationships and... very many other things --"

"So that's a no. I... hell. What if it's a *bad* idea for us to be letting ourselves go like this? What if -- God, I don't even *know* --"

"I do. I know, Harv --"


Bruce smiles and reaches out to touch the air where Harvey's face isn't. "They've given me love, both with themselves and with you. They've allowed me to feel everything I was too frightened to feel, and everything I was too -- too closed-*off* to feel. And nothing that feels like this... I don't think I could bring myself to regret it, Harv."

"No matter what?"

"No matter what. I love you."

Harvey exhales. "I -- hell. I love you, too. And I think I'm gonna need a whole lot more curse words."

"Oh. Hm. Perhaps some few from other languages?"

"Heh. They look at you funny up here if you speak too much Yiddish or Spanish, big guy. Especially with skin like *mine*."

Bruce frowns. "I've never. Will you talk to me about that, too, Harv?"

"I -- you want me to?"

"I'd like to understand. Better than I do now, at least. You -- you've hinted about it at times, and of course I've seen how certain professors and dorm mothers have treated you."

Harvey sighs again. "So you have. But listen, big guy, that had as much to do with class -- and how much of it I *don't* have --"

"*Harv* --"

"Yeah, yeah, I *know*. I'll talk about it. I promise."

"Thank you, Harv."

"Can't believe you're thanking me for *that* --"

"*Everything*, Harv. For -- for as long as you can give it to me."

Harvey takes a sharp breath. "Okay, listen. I'll call you at around noon tomorrow --"

"Oh, I can call you --"

"You *can*, but since I don't know *exactly* what time I'll be free and done with my research on which hotels are on the *other* side of the city? I'll do the calling."

"Oh --" Of course he would need to pick the hotel. "As you say, Harv."

"As I say. Oh, Bruce. Okay. I promise I'll pick a few nice ones. And -- there's a whole lot of great restaurants around we can try -- hang up on me."


Harvey laughs again. "Remember how many times we stayed up 'til half past late just talking?"

"Of course --"

"We can't do that tonight."

"Harv -- every moment with you is wonderful."

"*Bruce* -- God, I give up. Except for how I don't. Good *night*."

Bruce smiles. "Good night, Harv."

"You still haven't --"

Bruce hangs up, feels guilty for nearly twenty seconds --

And Jason steps out of the air holding -- cleaning products. "Yeah, twenty seconds is about all you're allowed these days, B."

"I could always choose to feel guilty during a time when all of you are busy with other things --"

"But you *won't*, because you *love* us," Jason says, and gestures for Bruce to stand. "C'mon. Do you have *any* experience with this stuff?"

Bruce stands and fixes his clothes. "I'm not a fool in *every* respect, Jay. Luz has allowed me to help her with her duties for years now."

Jason blinks -- and then shakes himself like a dog. "Okay, *there's* something -- wait, do you know how to cook for yourself, too?"

"Simple things, yes. Luz has complimented me on my rice and beans and empanadillas -- only with the pre-prepared discs, of course..." Bruce trails off because Jason is *staring* at him.

"Did... I say something strange? Are other Bruces poor at cooking Puerto Rican foods?"

"Uh. Let's just say -- uh. Yeah. That's exactly it," and Jason thrusts the rag and the spray cleanser into Bruce's hands. "We checked. Leslie's hit the back roads. She drives *slowly*, but she'll still be here soon."

"Oh! Yes," Bruce says, and crouches by the worst of the spatters. He double-checks that it *is* the carpet cleanser -- not doing so once had led to there being large, unfortunate bleach 'stains' on a Persian that had belonged to his grandfather -- and sets to work.

It only takes a few minutes, but Bruce still wishes they owned one of those carpet steamers. Renting is fine for the most part --

"B. You're cleaning up spooge, not trying to destroy DNA evidence."


Jason grins and waggles his eyebrows. "It's totally the technical term."

"I see. And... DNA *evidence*?"

"Uh... crap. Give it time. By which I mean don't think about it now. Where do you want us to be when you spring us on Leslie?"

Bruce considers -- "She's always seemed to prefer serious conversations to take place in the kitchen. Oh -- I forgot to wash the dishes --"

"Dickie took care of that. There was totally an old, yellowing, frilly apron in one of the attics in this place. He's thrilled."

Bruce nods thoughtfully. "I'll have to make sure to find him a new one. Do you think he would like one in any particular color?"

"Robin's egg blue. He loves it. *Way* too much."

Bruce makes note of that. "And you? It seems strange not to know your favorite foods and colors --"

"Wouldn't you rather know my favorite positions to fuck in?"

Bruce's penis twitches -- somewhat unrealistically. Somewhat.

Jason beams at Bruce's groin as if it had just done a *trick*, and really --

"Jay --"

"The Maker made me *convinced* that I love chili dogs and Neapolitan ice cream, and there's nothing wrong with 'em. *I* love mildly -- not seriously, *mildly* -- bitter beer, Cackles bars -- and you probably shouldn't let Dickie cook with 'em, just as an aside -- and..." Jason's expression wrinkles in thought -- "And corned beef." He nods. "Yeah, those are my favorites. Colors... I like my eyes --"

"They're beautiful --"

"*And* the color looks good on me. That kind of thing is important in my line of work. The Maker wants me to love green, but some of those shades are fucking *sickly*. I still have to like them --"

Bruce opens his mouth --

"Until I let you fix it," Jason says, and winks. "Won't take long. Here, what do you think we should wear for Leslie? She's totally pulling into the garage."

"Well... what did Tim wear before?"

"His suit. The burgundy one. You want *me* in a suit?"

"Only if it would --"

"Make me feel comfortable. I hear you. It's just -- Dickie and I are naked pretty much all the time. I was born naked and I stay that way."

Bruce nods. "Then naked you should stay."

"Seriously? For your *guardian*?"

Bruce smiles. "Leslie is a doctor, Jay. While you do have parts she's never seen on a... humanoid being before, I feel comfortable that she'll be able to handle it while retaining her usual professionalism."

Jason bites his lip, takes the cleaning products back, and pushes them into a hole that leads --

Nowhere Bruce can see. Presumably he'll be able to find them again. "Shall we?"

"Uh... yeah," and Jason shakes his head before folding his wings behind himself and leading Bruce out of the study. Bruce follows, giving himself leave to enjoy the play of muscles in Jason's thighs and calves and the small regions of his back which are actually exposed.

He's a beautiful being in every way, of course, and Bruce has to admit that the way he had pushed Bruce to be with Harvey from the very beginning of their acquaintance --

Not that that had been so long --

But it was something Bruce couldn't help but respect, and crave, and --

"Okay, no," Jason says, stopping and turning to stare at him. "You want me *naked*?"

Bruce blinks. "I want you *comfortable*, and you said --"

"Like I can't want to make a good impression?"

"You made an excellent impression on *me* --"

"That's because you're a giant fucking *perv*, B!"

"I -- hm. You don't think she would enjoy you aesthetically?"

Jason looks at him as though he's quite mad, which, given the events of the past few days, is entirely possible.

"Or... you could wear clothes?"

"Damned right I can," and suddenly Jason is wearing jeans and sneakers which look extremely poor in terms of their arch support. His socks look perfectly warm, though, and he's naked from the waist up.

"Do you... like that?"

Jason narrows his eyes at him --

"I think the jeans are very flattering! And. Don't those sneakers hurt your feet?"

Jason is back to looking at him as though he's mad, but, at this point, it seems like an improvement.

Oh, it is, boss. But hurry! She's coming!

Bruce takes Jason's elbow --

"Uh. I'm not Tim."

"Oh. Of course. I'm terribly --" Sorry, except that trying to form that word would take away from his ability to give himself to Jason's kiss, which is soft, wet, and warm, so *warm* --

Jason hums and pulls back. "These are new jeans and everything, you know."

"They're definitely a perfect fit."

Jason looks down at himself and twists back and forth for a moment -- and then he's barefoot again. There is just a bit of hair on his big toes. "I actually really hate shoes."


"Those just seemed to fit, you know?"

"I could definitely see the --"

*Hurry*. She's giving me such a *look*!

It could be the fact that you're wearing nothing but an *apron*, Dickie.

Shows what you know. I *also* found a ribbon for my tail.

Jason snorts and leads Bruce at a jog through the manor until they reach the kitchen --

"-- young man. You're obviously in need of *something*, so why don't you tell me what -- oh, Bruce. Are these friends of yours?" And Leslie's voice is as calm and level as it always is, but she's blinking rather too much. She's definitely somewhat worried.

As such, Bruce squeezes Jason's hand before stepping away from him and making a -- hopefully -- soothing gesture. "It's all right, Leslie. These... ah, beings are indeed my friends."

Leslie gives him a look of consternation before turning to take in Jason and Dick once more. Her gaze lingers on the ribbon near the end of Dick's tail, which is a white that absolutely doesn't match that of the sadly aged apron. After that, she takes a quick, deep breath and seems to center herself at speed. Leslie has always been wonderful at meditating -- she had taught Bruce everything he knows about it --

And now she's looking at him expectantly.

He wonders where Tim is --

*Focus*, boss!

Of course. "I... met them at seminary."

Leslie blinks. Once.

"Or -- rather, it would be more apt to say that they *came* to me while I was at the seminary."

Leslie continues to look at him.

"Well... well. They're demons, you see --"

"They're *metahumans*, Bruce --"

"I'm afraid not," Tim says, and walks into the kitchen from the hall entrance -- with a present in his hands. It's wrapped in red foil paper and there's a small, curly ribbon wrapped around *that* --

"Ooh, more ribbon --"

"*No*, Dick," and Tim glares at him before turning back to Leslie with a polite smile. "You might remember me from your dreams?"

This time, Leslie blinks twice. And narrows her eyes. "Young man --"

"Not really," and Tim smiles ruefully and offers the present. "We're all quite ancient by your reckoning -- in some respects, anyway. That which forms the core of us was old before human society existed in any measurable way. We're demons."

Leslie narrows her eyes more and opens her mouth --

Bruce clears his throat. "It's true, Leslie. I mean... I suppose it's possible that they could be metahumans with incredibly specific and odd powers and a vast knowledge of Judeo-Christian theology --"

"Bruce," Leslie says, and her voice is gentle, with the rough edges of the single malt whiskey she indulges in when telling Bruce stories about his parents -- "Bruce. Don't you think that would be a good thing to bone up on for anyone wishing to become close to you at speed?"

Bruce frowns. "Leslie --"

"Heh. We could show you the hell dimensions, if you want," and Jason crosses his arms over his chest.

Tim smiles. "Many people have found such journeys deeply educational."

Dick -- blows a 'raspberry' at both of them. "Be *nice*. She's just worried about *Bruce*. Right, Dr. Thompkins?"

Leslie raises an eyebrow at Dick. "Yes, as a matter of fact. Is there something you could offer to *alleviate* that worry?"

Dick bites his lip and blushes. "Mostly the tour of the hell dimensions. I mean --" Dick sketches an oval in the air --

And a kind of *portal* appears, which shows --

Greyness. Bleak, cold, *unrelenting* greyness. Grey sand, grey sky, pale grey coin of a sun, grey-dusted dead trees --

And the desperate moans of the lost.

"Or this," Jason says, and both Bruce and Leslie are forced to step back from the waves of oven-heat. There's no flame, but there's a great deal of... magma, perhaps? The ground visible -- such as it is -- is white and blue and *flowing* --

The screams are impossible and *terrible* --

"You probably wouldn't be surprised to know how many people demand this kinda thing from their hell experience," Jason says, and nods to Tim --

Who sets the present down on the table and gestures until the portal shows... an office. There are what look to be sleek, incredibly futuristic computers, and dark, sensible carpeting, and beautifully-carved desks. There's soft, inoffensive music playing, and mirrors every three feet.

There's a staggeringly beautiful man studying himself in one of those mirrors. Only his profile is visible, but there's a certain lack of... steadiness?

For a moment, Bruce is quite sure that the man's skin has the darkness of the middle east, but a blink makes him fair and golden, and another blink gives him skin which seems almost blue-black.

He is bearded.

He is clean-shaven.

He is *smiling*, and Bruce is abruptly positive that nothing good could happen if the man (beast) turned to face them, if he *saw* --

"What." Leslie swallows. "What is this?"

"That's the office where I used to work. Hm. It looks like the Morningstar is having some personnel difficulties at the moment --"

And the man (BEAST) laughs heartily, silently --

You probably don't want to hear that, boss.

Definitely not, B. Just. Uh. You know what? "Bruce. Leslie. *Close your eyes*."

"What --"

Bruce covers Leslie's eyes and then squeezes his own shut, just in time for the BEAST to smile at him --

Just the corner just the corner --

He didn't *see* --

Bruce Wayne... how are you? And there's cheer and charm and *warmth* in that voice, that --

There's a wealth of experience and *pleasure* in that voice --

There's --

Tim clears his throat in Bruce's mind. He's mine, sir.

A sigh, and it feels like warmth and *wind*, feels --

Bruce can feel himself being *eroded* --


And Bruce can feel himself being put back together again, one piece at a time, one grain of *sand* at a time --

Thank you, sir.

Of course, little one, darling one... will you come back to me when this one fails and falls? Or will you change him?

I haven't yet decided, sir.

A hum, and it seems to shiver its way into everywhere Bruce is poorly put together, seems to tear at every *seam* --

He will not beg. He will not --

He will stand *strong* --

Little one... may you choose quickly and well in all things. May you enjoy each and every one of your possessions. May you... prosper.

Thank you kindly, sir. You have my best wishes, and my utmost respect, as ever.

The laugh --

The laugh will *break* him if he lets it --

Even if he *doesn't* let it --

But then there's a different heat surrounding him, flowing through him, healing him and *solidifying* him once more. Bruce clings to it desperately until the laughter fades to terrifying echoes and then to nothing at all.

He clings until he can hear *himself* again. The pound of his heart and his panting breaths --

He clings until he can hear the brothers telling him that he's all right, that it's over, that --

Bruce stands as soon as he realizes that he'd been crouching and does his best to regulate his breathing. When he can't seem to focus on any one thing in the kitchen, he squeezes his eyes shut. Vision can wait. Now --

Now there is the solidity of the tiled floor, and the draft through the kitchen window they keep forgetting to fix, and the sound of ice in a glass --

Bruce opens his eyes, and Leslie is pouring herself a whiskey on the rocks. There are *two* glasses, actually --

"Ah... Leslie?"

"Yes, Bruce."

"Is that other glass for me?"

"Very *much* so, Bruce," she says, and her smile is tight and small and very bright.

It reminds him of Tim's smiles --

Some of his smiles.

His least frightening smiles. Bruce laughs internally --

And his brothers come to crowd him and pet him and hold him. He could never fear this warmth. "I believe I'll eschew the alcohol for the time being, Leslie."

Leslie raises an eyebrow at him -- she moves until Bruce can see her doing it over Tim's head.

"I mean it. I'd rather... I'd rather not feel less... solid. At the moment."

Leslie shudders and downs her drink in one swallow before pouring another. This one she only sips before fixing her gaze on Tim. "And what was *that* about?"

"A miscalculation on my part, Dr. Thompkins. I hadn't expected the Morningstar to... miss me."

Jason smacks the back of Tim's head. "Dumbass."

"It was a reasonable assumption to *make*!"

"He's got a point, little wing."

Jason glares at Dick.

Dick raises both eyebrows and lashes his tail.

"He's an *extremely* miss-able guy, Dickie!"

"But we're talking about the *Morningstar*, little wing. He... well. He's not really in one of his warm phases. You have to admit that."

"And even when he *is* in a warm phase, he was still just my *employer*," Tim says, and rubs the back of his head.

Jason opens his mouth --

Bruce clears his throat firmly. "I think we can all agree that the... hm... *degree* of the Morningstar's reaction was surprising?"

"Boss... are you trying to make peace?" And Dick *weaves* his tail. Seductively.

"Yes? I mean... yes. I am."

Dick butts his shoulder and grins.

Jason butts his other shoulder.

Tim -- nuzzles Bruce's chest. Bruce pets Tim's hair --

"Is *that* where all those blood stains are from?"

Oh, dear. He really should've changed his shirt. "Yes, but --"

"Bruce, honestly, are you *trying* to make more work for Luz? I thought you'd been *fighting*."

"I definitely -- I haven't been fighting, Leslie, but --"

Dick *jabs* him in the back with his tail, and Bruce remembers that he wasn't going to bring that up, yet.

"I -- I know how to get blood stains out of clothes, and I'll be able to use bleach to help it along..."

And Leslie is frowning at him just as if she knows there's something he isn't saying. It isn't the most *noble* way to deal with a situation like this, but Bruce has always observed that offering one conversational 'bombshell' is an excellent way to distract someone from other bombshells one doesn't want that person to know about. To that end:

"I want -- Jason, Dick, and Tim are going to be living with me from now on," Bruce says, and squeezes Jason and Dick against him. Wait -- "I mean --" He nods to Jason. "This is Jason. His demon name is apparently fatal to pronounce, but the name Jason pleases him." He nods to Dick. "This is Dick, and the same holds true for him." He nods to Tim. "This is Tim. He hasn't been an incubus for very long, at all, but he's really quite good at his job."

Leslie is showing consternation again. It probably shouldn't feel like an improvement.

Really not, B. Doesn't mean it *isn't* an improvement, though. And Jason winks at him.

Bruce smiles helplessly and then turns back to Leslie. "Do you have... any questions?"

Leslie's laugh is somewhat choked. "Bruce. These... beings --"

"Demons, Dr. Thompkins."

"Tim. May I call you Tim?"

Tim inclines his head to Leslie. "Of course."

Leslie inclines her head in turn. "Tim. If I were to entertain the idea that you were all demons --"

"We totally are."

"Really, really."

"I mean, it's kind of our *thing*, Dr. Thompkins."

"-- how we're made --"

"-- what we are --"

"-- will be --"

"-- forever."

"And ever."

"And ever," Tim says, and smiles ruefully. "Don't get me wrong -- I can understand how someone as decidedly secular as you've always been would be less than eager to accept this sort of thing, but it really is important that you do."

"And why is that?"

"For B's sake, Doc. I mean, we love him, and he loves us, but he also loves *you*, and needs you in his life, and all that good stuff, you know? It's important that we all meet each other on level ground."

"Mm-hmm." And Dick butts Bruce's shoulder again before turning back to Leslie. "We have to understand each other if we're all going to be family."

Leslie blinks again.

Bruce clears his *throat* again. "Family... I've wanted... you know what I've wanted."

"Of *course* I do, Bruce, but --" Leslie's gaze sweeps over all of them before settling on Dick. "Family, you said."

"Yes, Dr. Thompkins. We already have... well, it's the biggest family in *most* dimensions, really. Mom -- known to humans as Lilith -- gives birth *often*, you know?"

"Lilith... I... yes, go on," Leslie says, and rubs her temple for a moment.

Dick beams and offers her a small bottle with his tail --

The bottle turns out to be aspirin. Leslie snorts and shakes two out. "Thank you kindly. *Go on*."

"Sure. Personally, I never get tired of being with my family. I have the assignments I do for fun and to keep my hand in, and I *had* our search for a Bruce who could be ours, but, for the most part, I traveled around and around to get to know my siblings as well as possible --"

"And he *really* means that --"

Dick smacks Jason with his tail --

Jason snickers --

Tim hisses at both of them --

"*Boys*," Leslie says, and claps twice. "Pay *attention*."

The brothers blink, stare at each other, stare at *Leslie* --

"Uh. You realize that you're a *fraction* of our ages, right? Like -- not even a *big* fraction --"

"I *realize* that you were acting immaturely in the middle of a *very* important conversation."

Jason blinks again --

"She's got us there, little wing."

"*Ahem*. I'm sorry about that," Tim says. "What Dick was saying is that family is very important to him, and to all of us, as well. I've never been much for the larger family gatherings, but I quite enjoy spending time with Mother, and I can't wait to introduce Bruce to her."

"Oh -- I'd love to."

And the brothers -- *his* brothers -- all smile at him.

Bruce blushes --

And they press closer.

"We love him, Doc," Jason says. "He's the one. The *only* human who's ever really meant anything *like* this much. We'll never hurt him, and we'll always make sure he has what he needs. *Everything* he needs."


"*Always* --"

Leslie holds up a hand. "I take it that I should assume my ward is no longer a virgin?"

Bruce --

Bruce can't feel the top of his head, anymore. Also -- also he thinks most of the blood in his body is now *in* his head --

Specifically his *cheeks* --

"*Leslie* --"

"All *right*, Bruce, I'm sorry. I was starting to worry about you. *More* than I usually do," and Leslie's expression is wry as she takes in all of them once more. "Demons."

"Yes, Dr. Thompkins," Dick says. "But we try to be friendly."

"Yeah. I mean, sure, I *used* to spend all my time tormenting sinners in pretty horrible ways, but I've gotten pretty used to just seducing people here and there."

"Indeed," Tim says. "While we didn't really *start* caring for the fates of people we didn't have direct contact with until we were enslaved -- long story -- now that Bruce has freed us, we find that we'd like to keep it up."

Dick grins. "Maybe even forever."

"Definitely as long as we can have Bruce."

And they all look at him --

And Bruce smiles. "Always."

The hug comes from multiple angles at once --

And involves being shallowly stabbed --

And groped --

It's a wonderful hug, and he'd like to have at least one of the same sort every day.

We got you covered, B.

So you do. But...

And the brothers step back as one, allowing Bruce to walk closer to Leslie and take her hand in both of his own. "They helped me see that you and Harvey were right all along, Leslie. They used your arguments and their knowledge of my innermost thoughts to plead a case... well. I needed to be convinced. Tomorrow, I'm going to send the letter resigning my place at the seminary. It's already written."

"Bruce. It --" Leslie uses her free hand to rub her temple for another moment. "It doesn't seem quite right to allow oneself to be convinced away from the priesthood by actual *demons*."

Bruce laughs. "True, but... well, no. It's truth. They've given me truth and forced truth out of me. They've *shown* me a god, and I want no part of *any* of them. They -- the gods don't *care* for us, Leslie. You were right about *that*, too --"

Leslie holds up her free hand to stop him --

And Bruce squeezes her hand and steps back, waiting.

It only takes a few moments for Leslie to begin laughing somewhat rustily. It sounds more like *coughing* than hilarity --

I think it's all right, Bruce. She doesn't seem like the type to laugh where there's no humor whatsoever.

And that is absolute truth, so Bruce waits a little longer --

"Oh, *Bruce*. If anyone could precipitate a crisis of *faith* within me, it would have to be *you*," Leslie says, smiling and wiping small tears from her cheeks.

Bruce smiles ruefully. "I did have help."

"Of course you did. Of course you *do*. What on *earth* are you going to tell *Luz*? She was *raised* Catholic!"

"Leslie, you told me that she was the one who told *you* about some of the abuses of the church."

"Bruce, there's a very large difference between being disenchanted with one particular church and being willing to accept *actual demons* into one's life."

"She's got a point, B."

Bruce nods thoughtfully. "Perhaps she can meet them one at a time?"

Leslie opens her mouth -- and closes it again. And pats Bruce's shoulder.

"That... wasn't a good answer?"

"No, Bruce. No, it wasn't. Still -- there could've been *worse* answers. Luz has *nothing* against metahumans, Bruce. You could consider --"

"Leslie, I won't *lie* to Luz! She's -- she's very important to me."

"And to *me*. But --" Leslie closes her mouth again and shakes her head. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, I suppose," she says, and drains her glass. "I think it's time for tea."

"Ooh! I love making tea!" And Dick sounds absolutely determined --

And Bruce knows he looks frightened. He blanks his expression as much as possible before turning to smile at Dick. "As do I. Perhaps you'll allow me to do the honors this time."

"But I make *good* --"

"I'm sure you do! I'm... sure. But. Ah. Well, I can *show* you how I like my tea, and how Leslie likes *her* tea."

"Experimentation --"

"Is *not* for the last cup of tea of the night," Leslie says *sternly*, and -- she's always been very intelligent, of course.

Tim looks *deeply* suspicious of the whole thing, and so Bruce makes a point of being exact and *pedantic* about making the tea --

"No thyme?"

"Not... for this formulation --"

"What about salt? Nice sea salt!"

Bruce shivers. "I don't... care for... that."

Dick bites his lip and lashes his tail in thought.

"Dick --"

"Stew meat?"

Bruce licks his lips. "Perhaps... another time."

Dick smiles somewhat slyly and rubs Bruce's abdomen with the spade-end of his tail. "The ginger helped, right?"

"Yes! Quite." He's not sure how much he'll be able to taste for the next several days, but it definitely helped. Hm. Perhaps he should be letting Dick cook for him *while* his taste buds recover?

It's definitely *a* thought --

And now Jason is giving him a sly look. A look which suggests he *understands* human reactions to Dick's cooking --

Bruce narrows his eyes at Jason --

And Jason shoves his hands in his pockets and begins to whistle quietly.

Hm. That --

"Bruce, I believe eighty-seven stirs are *enough* for my tea," Leslie says. "And aren't you going to get anything for -- your... lovers?"

"We're good, Doc," Jason says. "We really only eat human food on special occasions."

"Like when Alfred's cooking," Dick says, and brings Leslie her tea.

Tim smiles up at Bruce. "We're all going to see him very soon now."

Bruce blinks over his cup. "We are? But I have that letter for him --"

"Not *that* Alfred, boss. The Alfred in the Maker's dimension."

"Oh. *Tonight*?"

"We kinda have to say goodbye, B."

"At least to Alfred."

"-- always good to us --"

"-- never cruel --"

"-- but the Maker has to know --"

"-- that we won't come --"

"-- ever never."

Bruce frowns and nods. "And I do want to give him a piece of my mind."

And Leslie is staring at all of them. "What are you *talking* about? You want to take Bruce to another *dimension*?"

Dick sits on the table --

"In a *chair*, young man!"

"Yeep, okay, okay," Dick says, and follows orders. "And it would only be for a little while. We have to go to the dimension where we were made into *this* to tell the person -- well, to tell the *Bruce* who made us goodbye. And Bruce wants to tell him off for how he's treated us."

Leslie frowns. "And *Alfred's* with that Bruce?"

"Yeah. In most dimensions he's the one who raised Bruce, Doc."

And Leslie's frown becomes much deeper and more *severe*. "And you say that Bruce treats you cruelly?"

"He never *says* anything, but -- hn. He never says anything," Tim says, and shifts until he is furred and hoofed from the waist down before pressing closer.

It's a terrible time to wish to be naked -- or at least naked enough to *feel* Tim's fur -- but Bruce has, recently, started coming to terms with the vicissitudes of being a teenager.

Bruce hides his smile in a sip of tea --

But the brothers all look at him with pleased smiles on *their* faces anyway.

*His* brothers. He must grow accustomed to that... but perhaps not so quickly. He wants to have the time to be surprised anew, again and again. For now --

"He pretends they don't exist, Leslie. He doesn't allow them their personhood."

"He gave them these forms, *enslaved* them, and then *ignored* them?"

"Yes --"

"All right, let's go," Leslie says, standing up and moving to retrieve her *coat*.


"That behavior is *unacceptable*, Bruce. You know that."

Bruce licks his lips. "I do, but --"

"No *buts*."

Bruce looks to the brothers --

And they all look too stunned to do or say anything against it. Bruce turns back to Leslie. "I'm. I'm not sure if it's *safe* --"

"If it's safe enough for you, then it's safe enough for *me*," she says, and turns to the brothers. "Well? Let's *go*."

Jason stops blinking and shakes himself all over. "Uh. Sure," he says, and draws a *rectangle* in the air --

And it becomes large enough to be a door. A door into the *Cave*. Bruce would know those scents *anywhere* --

The sound of the bats *screeching* --

And... generators? *Something* large and electric, judging by the hum. He steps through --

And alarms go off immediately --

And Jason grips him by the chest and flies him up in the air. "This part's a little tricky. Don't worry, Tim and Dick will keep the Doc safe."

"All right --"

And suddenly there are small, metal *things* flying at him out of nowhere -- but Jason dodges handily --

And dodges the *larger* metal things which appear to be stylized *bats* --

But could that be an effective throwing weapon? Not too sharp, of course. More designed for *blunt* physical trauma than something as permanent and terrible as death...

And the bat could be a kind of *signature* --

"I love you so much, B. Hey, look, there's the guy Tim's based on. We've never come while one of them is here, but -- special occasion, yeah?" And Jason flies them over a small, lean boy wearing... very strange clothes in red, gold, green, and black.

The domino hides his eyes and part of his cheeks and brow, but it's still obviously Tim -- if a slightly taller one than his own. His stance is openly belligerent, but there was something of a twitch at the corner of his mouth that suggests shock.

Jason takes them down for a landing near the other Tim --

And he pulls out three of the small bat-things and spins a staff.

Bruce raises his hands --

And Jason does, too. "Take it easy, Robin. I'm not even gonna try to tell you I'm the real Jason."

"That's an extremely intelligent tack to take with me. What about the Bruce Wayne clone?"

Bruce opens his mouth --

"So not a clone. A Bruce from another dimension. *Our* Bruce, now. He wanted to talk to yours. So do we."

The other Tim -- Robin, and is that some sort of code name? -- makes a moue of distaste. "I'm not currently in possession of any Bruce Waynes, so I'm afraid you've come to the wrong place."

Bruce blinks -- and then realizes. "You're protecting a secret identity, of course. You feel that you *need* to protect one --"

"He sure does. And, hey, I can go with that -- considering what *your* future career will be -- but --"

"Bruce, what *is* this place? What are you *wearing*? What have you been *doing* with your life?" And Leslie's incredulous anger is immediately recognizable --

To 'Robin,' as well, considering the slight tightening of his brow which strongly suggests a rather powerful blink.

"I -- wow," and Jason snorts and shakes his head. "I totally didn't expect to feel like I'd need to protect that guy tonight."

Bruce likes 'that guy' rather more than 'the Maker' --

And Jason gives him a sly look which seems to be perfectly designed to make Bruce blush.

"You. You brought a Dr. Thompkins with you." Robin sounds his *own* sort of incredulous --

"Uh. Pretty much, yeah. She insisted, and we --"

"Are you *listening* to me, Bruce? Take off that ridiculous, pointy-eared monstrosity and *look* at me!"

Pointy-eared? Bruce turns towards Leslie's voice --

And there is, indeed, a very large man with Bruce's exact jawline standing with his back turned to Leslie. And he's wearing a pointy-eared, black... thing.

With an extremely voluminous cape. Which is also black. The *boots* are black, but they look both practical and -- attractive --

'Cool,' B. The word is 'cool.'

Bruce hums noncommittally and watches the -- thankfully brief -- farce of Leslie trying to get around in front of the other Bruce while the other Bruce turns in increasingly tight circles --

It *is* brief, and, when it stops, Leslie reaches up to -- presumably -- yank the cowl off the man's face. It doesn't work --

"What is that thing *made* of?"

"Proprietary material," the other Bruce says, and smiles tightly --

And Robin relaxes his posture minutely. "Your use of *that* voice suggests our company was expected...?"

"Never that. But... known. To a certain extent," and he touches a spot on the underside of the thing on his head, causing a loosening which allows the thing to be pulled back with ease. The other Bruce's face is mostly unlined, save at the corners of his mouth and eyes, but there is a significant amount of grey in his hair.

Almost as much as his -- *their* -- father had had that night. Almost --

Bruce chases the thoughts away as best he can --

And Jason curls his right wing around his back. "It's okay, B," he whispers.

"Is it?"

"An excellent question," the other Bruce says, and turns his gaze on *him*. "Are you aware of what these creatures are?"

"Creatures -- Bruce, you're being needlessly offensive, and I confess that I understand that not at all."

The other Bruce raises an eyebrow, and then turns back to Leslie. "They're demons, Leslie. More than that -- and less. The forms they take are due to a moment of profound weakness on my part. I was fevered and lonely -- and I mean to make no excuse. The creatures came to me and allowed themselves to be given pleasing shapes --"

"'Pleasing,' Bruce...? Is that how you want to put it?" And that was Tim's voice -- *his* Tim's, though Bruce isn't entirely sure how to tell the difference --

Little brother is *way* more relaxed than stick-boy, boss.

That -- definitely *could* be it. Bruce turns to find Tim walking down the stairs with Dick and -- a much older Alfred. He seems well, and pleased, though -- or amused?

He's carrying a very large tray --

He never lets us carry *anything*. And -- heh. Check out Robin.

Bruce turns enough to take him in with his peripheral vision -- and then turns the rest of the way, because Robin is actually slack-jawed. His stance has lost most, if not all of its belligerence --

"Robin." And the other Bruce's voice has a tone of command --

But all Robin does is close his mouth and hold up one finger to the man before walking to meet the others at the foot of the stairs.

Tim smiles sharply and jogs down the steps, graceful with his hooves -- ah, he's caused his knees to bend the human way again. When he reaches the foot, he offers Robin his hand --

"*Robin* --"

"Forgive me if I don't shake quite yet," Robin says, and narrows his eyes enough that the gesture is visible even behind his domino --

Visible to *you*, maybe, boss.

Bruce nods in acknowledgment and watches *his* Tim's expression twist with a wry unhappiness.

"He never acknowledges us, you know. Not by name and not with anything else. *Alfred* does, and now you have. Will you continue?"

"That depends entirely on what you plan to do with those horns, hooves, and whatever other surprises you have up your well-tailored sleeve."

"Hn. Thank you. And I come in peace. We're here to say goodbye to your Bruce."

"I really don't feel comfortable claiming the man --"

"You should," Dick says, and strokes Tim's shoulder with his tail. "He's yours."

"And Dick Grayson's," Tim says, and slips a finger between the waistband of Dick's apron and his warm, sleek skin.

"And -- heh. Jason Peter Todd's. Of course, Bruce really needs to go *get* him --"

"What. What are you talking about?" And Robin turns to give Jason a *hard* look.

Jason raises his eyebrows. "You're invested. Interesting --"

"What are you *talking* --"

"*Robin*. They're *demons*. They *lie*."

Robin narrows his eyes -- and then takes a quick breath and proceeds to start disarming himself. It's a process which seems as though it will take a very long time --

"*Robin* --"

"*Bruce*. Why the *hell* is that child so heavily *armed*?"

The other Bruce winces --

And Alfred steps past him with a *bright* wink and moves to set his tray down on the large table not far from the *very* large computers.

Or. Is it just one computer? He's *heard* that computers can be very large --

"Dr. Thompkins. I must confess that the same question has often come to the forefront of my mind --"

"And *you*. You're his guardian and you're *allowing* this? Allowing him to -- to co-opt children and turn *them* into war machines?"

Alfred raises an eyebrow. "Dr. Thompkins, I have not been Master Bruce's guardian since his eighteenth birthday. I am his friend, his occasional confidant, and his valet --"

"*Don't* give me that," Leslie says, and strides over to wag a finger in Alfred's face. "You were the most important influence in Bruce's life --"

"Forgive me for interrupting, Dr. Thompkins, but 'were' truly is the operative word. Bruce traveled the world after graduating from high school -- very much against my advice -- and found other influences altogether. Though not other schools of thought than the one which had consumed him since the night his parents were murdered. I..." Alfred turns to look at him shrewdly.

"Yes, Alfred?"

He smiles softly. "You are... twenty?"


Alfred nods once. "You have not yet begun the journey which turned our Master Bruce from a desperately obsessive young man to a desperately obsessive weapon. What, if I may ask, stopped you?"

Bruce blushes and turns to Leslie --

And Alfred looks thoughtful for a moment -- and then nods again. "Yes. Ultimately, that makes a great deal of objective sense," and he turns back to Leslie. "You have my congratulations, Dr. Thompkins. I have very good reason to believe that the feat you've managed has failed to be duplicated in any number of alternate dimensions."

"Yeah, pretty much never, Al," Jason says, and strokes Bruce with his wing. "And there are a lot of good reasons for that."

"Indeed, sir? *That* is what you intend with this Bruce?"

That makes Jason blush and, when Bruce looks, Tim and Dick are turned slightly away. They should never be *ashamed* --

"Alfred," Bruce says, and then clears his throat to keep his voice from being *small*. "Alfred, it's my decision --"

"*What* decision?" And Leslie turns on *him* --

But he can be strong, and sure, and -- "The obsession is mine, as well, Leslie. I... I chose the priesthood in --"

"You did *what*? Ah -- never mind," Robin says, and continues adding to the intimidating pile of weapons at his feet. He has begun working on his exceedingly loud belt --

It's totally practical, B. You don't even know what he can store in there.

I'm not sure if I *want* --

"*Bruce*. What are you saying."

"Oh -- Leslie." Don't stammer. Don't -- he won't lick his lips. "I -- you know I chose the priesthood in large part to -- to *actively* reject the violence within me --"

"There are other *ways*, Bruce!" And Leslie looks more *worried* than angry, but --

Bruce stands straight. "I reject them all."

"*Bruce* --"

"I will learn new methods of meditation. I will teach myself the -- the ways of *peace*. And I will co-opt them for my war."

And Leslie looks as if he'd *punched* her, as if --

He's never wanted to *hurt* her --

Go to her, boss.

Show her you're still her boy.

But be careful...

Of what?

In answer, there's a quiet hum of *presence* within him, as if his beautiful brothers only wish to offer support because...

Because they have nothing else in this moment?

Bruce shakes it off and closes the distance between Leslie and himself. He cups her lean shoulders and squeezes gently. "Leslie. You've always been as much of a mother to me as I could ever accept. A father, too --"

"Bruce, you..." Leslie turns away from him, a frown making her seem much, much older --

"Leslie," the other Bruce says in a voice that seems *meant* to be gentle, "there's nothing you could have done."

Leslie steps away from Bruce and waves the other Bruce off, crossing her arms over her chest and staring back toward the portal they'd all entered through. "Was this what you meant by 'dangerous,' Bruce?"

Bruce fights back the urge to say it isn't true, that he won't, that he *will* be the man Leslie wishes him to be --

And the feeling of presence grows stronger. *Greater*.

He can only be himself, and, ultimately, any other choice would be beneath him. "Not consciously," he says, and surprises himself with the steadiness of his voice. "However, I knew what sort of life this Bruce had made for himself --"

"And for children, too," Leslie says, and turns to look at the other Bruce again. "Presumably, the *human* Jason and Dick grew up and moved away?"

"Jason. Jason is *dead* --"

"*Bruce* --"

"Really fucking not," Jason says, and glares at the other Bruce. "He's with --"

"*Lies*! I will not hear your *lies*!"

"Oh, come the fuck *on*! Would you at least check his *incredibly fucking empty* grave?"

"Anyone -- any sick creature could -- I will not speak to you," the other Bruce says, and turns to Leslie. "After a madman brutally murdered Jason Todd --"

"He was brought back to life in one of those weird as shit supernatural *fuck-ups* you people deal with every fucking *day* --"

"I promised myself I would never take another partner!" And Bruce is shouting now, seemingly moments away from covering his ears and squeezing his eyes shut. "I held to the promise for as long as I could --"

"But then I stepped in," Robin says, finally bare save for a pair of simple white briefs. "Jason."

"*Robin* --"

"*Shut* it, Bruce," and Robin turns to Jason. "Jason is your name, too?"

"Yah-huh. For now, anyway."

Robin nods, and offers his hand. "My name is Timothy Jackson Drake. I go by Tim. I'm meeting you without weapons or threat --"

"Or pants."

Robin smiles, but it's a miserly thing. "Indeed. Please. Tell me where I can find our Jason. Please."

"*Robin*. I *order* you --"

"Bruce. So help me, I will *destroy* you if you do not shut the hell *up*," Robin says, and never turns away from Jason --

"Protocol *Alpha*!"

And Robin jerks, slips *instantly* into a combative stance -- and stills, before turning back to the other Bruce. "God damn you." He turns back to Jason. "*Fast* --"

"Talia. She's got 'im training with the League of Assassins *right* now. In... Dickie?"

"Jussst a sec," Dick says. He's looking into a hole in the air and muttering quietly to himself -- "He's a *bitch* to keep track of, really. They keep moving him in and out of lead-lined and magically-dampened facilities -- and we can't do a damned thing about the latter."

Robin nods. "And the former?"

Dick smiles darkly. "Frankly? Your Bruce made us far too pissy to retrieve him *for* him. You, now --"


Tim cocks his head to the side. "I have all of your memories -- up to a point. You never knew him. Why do you care?"

Another miserly smile. "You don't have my emotions."

"Not in the slightest -- your memories were quite enough, thank you. I do recall you spending a great deal of time with... the memorial."

"The Case," Robin says, and nods toward --

A tall, cylindrical case with a light shining on a red, gold, and green costume which --

The other Bruce couldn't have *possibly* expected a teenaged boy to go outside dressed like that, could he? Is it possible that the other Bruce's sexuality is even more twisted than his own?

Oh, I'd say that's a big ol' maybe, boss.

Definitely maybe.

Absolutely. Also, it's *stunted*.

Like a freakin' bonsai, only, you know, not pretty.

Oooh, little wing, you like horticulture, too?

Dickie... do not buy me a little tree. Just don't.

But --

Find the *kid*.

Hmph. Also, I think this is going well --




Bruce blinks at the feel of Dick seemingly pulling himself -- slightly -- away *inside* of him --

And Robin is studying him openly.

"Yes, Robin?"

Robin smiles slightly more broadly. "I won't ever be 'Tim' to you. Will I."

Bruce blinks --

"I'm sorry, that was an irrelevancy. Are you in constant communication with your lovers?"

He'd never said --

Robin raises an eyebrow at him.

"I -- suppose we were being obvious?"

Robin nods once. "Will you answer my question?"

"We've shared blood, Robin. The resultant telepathy has been fascinatingly easy to grow accustomed to."

"Hn. You were, perhaps, born to be... adaptable," Robin says, and walks to join Dick at his hole in the air. At a distance, it becomes impossible not to notice his many scars. Most appear minor -- and experience in Leslie's clinic reminds Bruce that those were probably wounds of *moderate* severity -- but several appear quite terrible. Quite --

He does not look his age, but Bruce honestly isn't sure how much of that thought is self-delusion --

And Tim smiles at him sharply. "I think you'll find that the other Bruce wrestles with that very question *often*."

"And that you never do?"

Tim closes his eyes and tilts his head back, and it turns his smile into something almost *soft*. "I wouldn't say never. Look," and he nods toward the table.

Alfred is speaking to Leslie with a quiet urgency which is *nearly* belied by the stonily *grim* look on her face --

And Bruce is working at his console as if nothing were happening. As if no one were *here*.

That -- no.

Bruce moves to join the man, spinning the chair around --


"You're *going* to talk to me, Bruce. If you don't --" Bruce stops himself with a laugh. "Do you know, this is the first time in years I've regretted not having a reasonably frightening threat to hand."

The other Bruce narrows his eyes -- and Bruce can *feel* that it's meant to be a smile. "It won't be the last."

"I suppose not. I -- what possible reason could you have for --"

"Rejecting congress with demons? Bruce. *You* were the one who attended a *seminary*."

Bruce grits his teeth -- stops. "We were raised to treat people as *individuals*."

"My last experience with a demon involved a worldwide crisis. The death toll was in the thousands. The damage was measured in *billions*. The psychological toll..." The other Bruce grunts. "I need make no excuses for an entirely practical decision."

"*Practical*? You *called* them to you --"

"Bruce --"

"You changed them into your *partners*!"

"No," the other Bruce says, and shows his teeth. "They could never be that. The one that calls itself Jason now taunted me with the real Jason's eyes while I laid feverish and *weak* --"

"He's had those eyes for well over a *century* --"

"Or so he's told you. Did your teachers simply not *cover* the essential mendacity of demons?"

"They've told me no lies --"

"They've told you that they love you. That they need you. That they'll never leave you. And that last is what tugged the most at your resolve, I believe. Even Leslie has turned her back on you from time to time."

Bruce inhales sharply --

"And she'll do it again, and again, and --"

"Forgive me, Bruce, but I believe your Leslie would appreciate you more if you weren't selfish, half-mad, and deluded."

The other Bruce laughs briefly, a harsh sound even rustier than Leslie's had been. "Deluded."

"You believe you've taken the better path with the brothers --"

"The *demons*."

"You believe you've proven yourself *strong* in the face of... what? Debauchery? When *is* the last time you've made love to anyone at all?"

"Rather less recently than you have, Bruce, but I tend to treasure every day I don't traffic with *Hellspawn*."

"They're *Lilim*, Bruce --"

"And that makes them demons," the other Bruce says, and shakes his head. "You've seen their cruelty."

Bruce frowns, utterly confused -- but. "You believe they're lying about the human Jason."

The other Bruce grits his teeth and turns toward the console. "The *true* Jason."

"What *reason* would they have --"

"Demons need no reason to *torment*, man! Remember your *theology*!" And that was more of a *growl* than anything else --

And Jason has openly *admitted* to spending many years -- perhaps centuries -- tormenting people who had displeased other demons. Perhaps even the Morningstar (BEAST) himself -- *but*. "You changed them."

"That's what they *told* --"

"You *enslaved* them, Bruce! You trapped them in the bodies of boys and that of a young man you desire sexually --"

"Perhaps," the other Bruce says, "you'll be moved to say that even more loudly."

"Oh -- I'm *strongly* tempted to tell you to get *over* yourself. Certainly, *Harvey* would --"

And the other Bruce winces and turns away as if *struck*. What --

Uh. About that...

Jason, what is it?

He. Well, the major reason why -- *one* of the major reasons why -- we're big on you and Harvey being good and honest with each other is that Harvey kind of... well...

*Jay* --

You know how Bruce is kind of a big, mean, stupid *mass* of neuroses? Harvey turns out worse.

But --

Much worse.

*How* --

Like -- goes crazy and tortures and kills a whole lot of people. That kind of worse.

*Bruce* jerks --

And the other Bruce offers another black and humorless breath of laughter. "So they've told you. I wonder. Will you do what's necessary to keep him from hurting others?"

Bruce shudders -- no. He controls himself. "What do you mean by that."

The other Bruce turns to face him, and the smile in his eyes is a razor wielded by someone -- someone mad.

"What do you *mean* --"

"Will you let them teach you how to kill? Demons tend to be very, very good at that sort of --"

"That's *obscene*! That's *worse* than obscene!"

"By Harvey's thirty-third birthday -- the time when he'd wished, as a teenager, to have achieved the District Attorney's office -- he'd murdered forty-seven people. Forgive me -- it was possible to *prove* that he'd murdered forty-seven people. There were far more deaths whose circumstances proved... ambiguous."

"No --"

"You'll remember his nightmares, Bruce."

"He could *never* --"

"You'll remember the bruises he tried to hide when he was a teenager."

"Stop it --"

"You'll remember all the times you told yourself that it was none of your business to ask about the rage which sometimes blossomed in his... in his beautiful eyes..." And the other Bruce trails off, staring at absolutely nothing --

Or at a memory he can't help but retain.

Or a memory he feels it's his *duty* to retain --

"Yeah, likely," Jason says, flying over and landing close enough to hug Bruce from the side while folding his wings back. "It won't happen."

Are you -- sure. He can't be sure. He can't ever be --

"You *can* be sure --"

The other Bruce makes a *derisive* sound --

"Hey, fuck you sideways. I'm about to give the man who actually cares about me advice no one had the guts to give *you* when you were his age," and Jason turns to him. "You ready?"

Is he -- no. "Yes."

"Don't leave him."

"I -- I don't *wish* to, but --"

"Yeah, yeah, world travel and all that. Totally necessary. *But*? He knows about *us*, B. And he *will* know just how good we are at folding space to make travel nice and fast and painless."

Bruce blinks rapidly. "I... could see him at any time he wished me to."

Jason grins. "Uh, huh. And he can see *you* whenever he needs to. Whenever you *both* need to, because, let's face it," he says, and points to the other Bruce, "that's what happens when you don't do the things you need to do."

The other Bruce smiles darkly. "You might consider how easily I've been dismissed --"

"Easily? *Easily*? You fucking *bastard* -- no. No. It's not me to get pissy for something like that. It's your motherfucking *Jason Todd*, so -- take it from me, B. Free me."

"Of course," Bruce says, and rests his hand on Jason's chest. "Tell me --"

"Jason Todd has some serious fucking rage issues. Now, I'm not saying I don't get mad, but *you* don't need to drive me the *bad* kind of crazy just to get off. So. Look for the really *weak* shit --"

"He's not *weak*!"

"Heh. So you *do* admit that he just might be alive, hunh, *Dad*?" Jason turns back to him. "That's the other thing. Bruce *adopted* the human Jason. Didn't stop him from fucking the kid blind, but it *did* make the kid *good* and confused --"

The other Bruce stands and stalks away, into the darkness.

"*Fuck* him. Help me, B."

Bruce pushes his confusion and *terror* away and closes his eyes, picturing Jason angry, but not out of control. He is an adult, and has been so for many, many millennia. He allows his emotions free rein, but does not allow them to rule him in ways which leads to others being hurt --

Okay, maybe a little much. Eeease it back some.

Of course. The Jason in his mind is angry, vengeance incarnate as he flies after... after...

Men. Men who have hurt *children*. Jason believes in innocence. Jason treasures --

Just a few more notches to the left, B.

Of course. The Jason in his mind believes there's a place for innocence in this world and many others, and, more to the point, believes that there are those who deserve to suffer for their crimes, who *must* suffer.

The Jason in his mind offers pain and damage systematically and with joy in his heart.

The Jason in his mind is angry at these men, but also cannot help but appreciate them for what they are: canvases on which he can work a brutal and *lasting* art.

Still the rage boils within him and demands *release*, but Jason knows that he will find it with the screams of these men as they suffer the attentions of their fellow prisoners --


Jason will never lose control. Jason will retain his core principles at all times.

Jason need not kill.

Jason need not kill.

Jason --

Yeah, not likely.

Bruce jerks away from the bloody and beautiful fantasy and turns to blink at Jason, who is smiling wryly and wagging a scolding finger. "Jay --"

"None of that, B. *You* don't ever need to kill. You *won't* ever kill so long as any of us have a say in the matter."


Jason cups Bruce's face with his large, square hands. "I love you. And I'm of the Lilim. Those two things are *never* gonna change."

"I... don't want you to kill, Jay --"

"I know, B. And most of the time it won't happen. But... uh... heh. We're gonna tell you stories about *all* the nasty, nasty recidivists who make the people of Gotham suffer. The ones who never *stay* caught. The ones who make a mockery of the entire justice system solely by *existing* --"

"*Jay* --"

Jason presses two fingers to Bruce's mouth. "Shh. We'll tell you everything we know and then some, B. And you're still not gonna want to kill, because it's not in you and never *could* be. But you *are* gonna remember that it's all *through* us. Okay?" And Jason raises his thick eyebrows and pulls his fingers back.

"Is. Is it the price I must pay, at last?"

Jason smiles gently. "No, B. The *price* is that you'll still love us. Always."

Bruce tries to *breathe* --

"Yeah. We're demons. We're... well, we kinda have to be led to the whole being-good trough, and, even then, we might not drink. But we're also the people you love with all of yourself."

"Yes. Yes. Please, Jay."

Jason shakes his head, but the expression in his eyes is so *gentle* -- "We'll love you forever, B. You're the one, and we'll do almost anything for you. Right down to changing the makeup of who we are. But some things we wouldn't change for anyone or anything -- not even Mom, even if Mom would somehow *need* us to change those things. Do you understand?"


"Yeah, B. *Your* demons. So... breathe," and Jason thumps Bruce's chest --

And suddenly Bruce *needs* to take a deep breath, and another, and another after that. He feels himself calming *despite* himself, and Jason is watching him patiently.

Lovingly. "You know, there's a funny little thing... well, okay, *you* might not find it funny, but it's something you need to know just the same. Okay?"

Bruce braces himself as best he can and nods.

"Dick Grayson once beat a criminal so badly that his heart stopped. Dick was twenty-five at the time. Others managed to revive him, but that guy was *good* and dead for long enough to develop some interesting brain damage... but that's another story. Tim Drake did the same thing -- only it was to an assassin. *He* was *fifteen* at the time. Jason Todd didn't *directly* kill anyone while he was Bruce's partner... but he damned sure let a man who had hospitalized his girlfriend, and then terrified her into killing herself, fall from a very, very great height. When he was fourteen."

Bruce swallows. "All... all of them?"

Jason cups Bruce's cheek. "Not Stephanie Brown. I mean, she put people in traction pretty much all the time... but her self-control is iron-clad. Of course, the downright *hilarious* thing? Is that that little fact *escaped* that other Bruce when he made *Steph* into what she is. She hates the fact that she can still kill, B. And she hates the fact that she has to hate it."

"I'll free her --"

"And she'll thank you for it. But she'll do what she needs to do."

Bruce closes his eyes for a moment and imagines a world where there could be no need for killing, where good people would *never* feel that need --

"We'll help you start building it, B --"

"Soon?" And Bruce opens his eyes and searches Jason's own --

And Jason smiles and jerks his head toward where Tim is standing with Dick and Robin -- who is nearly entirely dressed again.


"Dickie's found a few possible senseis for you to train under, and this one fantastic French detective... well, we'll get you there. But first we're gonna help Robin bring Jason Todd home."

"What -- you said he was training with assassins. What if he doesn't wish to come back to a life of vigilantism?"

"Oh, he wants to. It's in his blood so deep that I can't look in the *mirror* without wanting to beat the shit out of a criminal, and no, I don't want you to free me from that, because I like having things in common with you. No, Jason Todd... well, he was beaten *nearly* to death with a crowbar --"

"*No* --"

"And then blown up when he couldn't manage to defuse a bomb. He lost his mother in that same explosion --"

"Oh, God --"

"-- and nothing's tried to bring *her* back. Well, she was actually partially responsible for his death -- and *not* by accident -- so maybe there's justice. He remembers all of that, and the pain of his body knitting itself back together, and the *horrific* pain of his heart starting again. And he remembers every *second* of having to dig himself out of the earth before he died a second time."

The horror of that --

The incredible *fortitude* -- but. That isn't why Jason is telling him about this. "You're saying that he's troubled now."

"'Troubled.' That's definitely *a* word for it."

"I meant --"

"No, no, I know what you meant. It's just -- heh." Jason gives him a wry smile. "You freed us, B. You *gave* yourself to us and you *freed* us. I *can't* resent the kid anymore, and now... now I'm worried that this Bruce won't be able to give him what he needs."

Bruce frowns and considers. That makes perfect, terrible sense. On the one hand, the other Bruce had *adopted* Jason Todd, had made the boy his *son*. On the other hand, the other Bruce is so hidebound that he'd allowed the boy to be kidnapped by assassins, to be kept *away* from him while the boy learned things *no* one should know -- all because he refused to listen to a being he had personally twisted into someone who could only love him.

Added to the above is the fact -- hm.

"Jason... how old was Jason Todd when he and Bruce began their sexual relationship? Was he already Bruce's son?"

"You sure you want answers to those questions, B?"

Bruce winces. "Now that you ask... no. But I must know."

Jason nods once and crosses his arms over his chest. "Thirteen. The night after the day Bruce told the kid that he was ready to join Bruce on the street. And about a week after the adoption went through."

"I. I believe I feel sick."

"Anyone decent would, but... for what it's worth? As of the moment when I was made into this and thus stopped getting the feed of his memories? Jason remembers being in love with Bruce like no one and nothing else, and realizing -- starting to realize -- that Bruce was in love with him, too. Not that that should *really* make anything better, but..." Jason shrugs.

"It does for you?"

Jason smiles ruefully again. "One day an older man makes love with a thirteen-year-old kid and it's true love. Hearts and flowers and everything else. The next day that older man makes love with a different thirteen-year-old and it's statutory rape, and a serious motherfucking problem in need of -- at least -- a beating or two. The next day that older man *fucks* still another thirteen-year-old, and it's nothing but rape, and that older man's balls enjoy their new lives as earrings for the man in question while his penis disappears entirely." 

Bruce opens his mouth --

"And is it always easy for you to make that distinction, Jason?" Leslie still looks at least fifteen years older than she had when they'd used the portal, but her voice is strong and steady.

And Bruce can't help but wonder and *fear* how much she'd heard --

Enough that I'm pretty sure she's thinking about calling the cops, B. That *really* can't happen. And Jason turns to her. "Is it always easy for you to call it rape every time? Even knowing what convicted child molesters face in prison? And I know you *do* know --"

"Yes. It's always easy. There's such a thing as an age of consent for a *reason* --"

"Funny how the states can't really agree about what that number should *be* --"

"Some states are incorrect. It's just that simple. Now, answer my question."

Jason sighs, breathing deeply -- "No, it's not that easy. The part of me which is still Jason Todd spent a lot of time going back and forth about it and coming up with a decision to treat each situation on an individual basis, because the last thing he wanted to be was a hypocrite."

"He was a *child*!"

"Who'd been hooking for most of a year before Bruce picked him up. Not that that's anything *like* an introduction to mature sexuality, but still. He'd be pretty damned pissy if you tried to take responsibility away from him."

Leslie shows her teeth. "Yes, predators *vastly* enjoy instilling in their victims a sense that they had somehow chosen their abuse by the way they had dressed, or behaved, or spoken. And, of course, if their bodies take pleasure in what's been done to them, it could never be rape --"

"You *know* that wasn't what I was saying --"

"*Do* I?" Leslie cocks her head to the side. "You wear the form of a boy who had been introduced to incestuous rape, and have many of his emotional responses, too. These responses include anger, violence, heightened sexuality --"

"I'm a *demon*. Specifically a *sex* demon."

"Yes, that. Of course, I'm struck by the question of how you in *particular* were called to this universe -- and to that form."

Jason flares his nostrils and rears back --

And Bruce must accept that Leslie has a point. Perhaps a different demon entirely would've been drawn to the Jason Todd-shaped empty space the other Bruce had created in the fabric of the universe had Jason Todd himself not been shaped by so much *problematic* sexuality. Still -- "Leslie... I believe you have to ask how much harm any given Bruce would do, as well."

Leslie's smile is tight and *hard* for him. "You don't think I have, Bruce? Alfred has spent the past half hour talking to me about all the *good* this world's Bruce and his *partners* have done with his relentless violence and obsession with childish flights of -- of vigilante *pornography*. Alfred would accept no argument in the alternative... even though I understand now that Alfred must have known about the sexual abuse by Bruce of a minor. Or... was it only one? Were there others, Jason?"

"*No*, Leslie. That's what's *wrong* with him --"

"Forgive me if I find myself in *deep* disagreement. No, I'm forced to come to the conclusion that this dimension's Alfred is either a pimp, a procurer, or the worst sort of enabler --"

"*Leslie* --"

"Are you going to argue *that*, Jason? Truly?"

Jason closes his eyes and seems to be counting slowly, or perhaps meditating -- he opens his eyes. "It happens in nearly every universe, Leslie."

Leslie's expression seems to crack like a mask for a moment, another -- she firms it once more. "You're lying."


"You --"

"He dies in nearly every universe, too, Leslie. Some of them get to come back and grow up, and they pretty much never stop being in love with their Bruces. And the Bruces never stop --"

"It's not *love*," Leslie says, and advances on Jason another stop. "You're *ancient*. You've *seen* what this does to children, children all over the *world* --"

"Yeah. I have. And I've also seen dimensions where Jason never becomes Bruce's partner," Jason says, and smiles darkly. "Wanna take a look?"

Leslie clenches her fists and jaw. "Are you about to make an argument about 'necessary sacrifices,' Jason?"

"Nah. Only gods really care about sacrifices -- and then not for very long. I'm just saying that *objectively*? The world's better off when Jason Todd and Bruce Wayne are working *together*. Hell, when Bruce has a partner, full stop."

"Then let him... let him do what he feels he needs to do with *adults*," Leslie says, and turns to him. "You're *capable*, aren't you, Bruce?"

Bruce frowns. "Of... keeping myself to appropriate relationships?"

Leslie closes her eyes -- but only for slightly longer than the length of a blink. "Yes."

Bruce looks to Jason --

"Answer for *yourself*!"

Bruce jumps for that internally -- he can't *not* -- but... "Leslie... one of the reasons why I'm grateful to -- to my new brothers is that they will make it so that I never need be faced with the proof of the answer to that question."

"You got that right, B."

"No," Leslie says, and steps back once.

And again.

And --

"Leslie --"

"That's not how you were *raised* --"

"You sure about that, Leslie?"

"Jason, no, don't --"

And then Jason gestures strangely... and Bruce finds himself needing to sit down. Just to sit, and to...


Well, there's a chair right there, and it seems to be sized to his proportions, and most chairs aren't --

It's gonna be okay.

Bruce sits, and folds his arms on the console, and rests his head on his arms.

That's perfect, B.

There are voices --

The voices aren't important.

What's important is that the sun is shining, and the lemony light speaks of spring, and breezes that will smell of dead leaves being blown away to reveal fresh green shoots and buds.

It's not the first bright day of the season, or even the fourth. The mud was still unpleasant on those days, and persistent, as well. Alfred doesn't like it when Bruce tracks mud in the house, and it *is* very ugly, so, after Bruce carefully ties on his sneakers -- it had taken Mother *forever* to teach him -- he walks outside in big and careful circles and paths.

He walks, even though he wants to run, because the ground has to be tested. He remembers this from last year, when he'd *thought* the ground was finally dry enough, but had wound up slipping and falling in a muddy patch. Even taking his shoes *and* socks off in the foyer hadn't been enough to keep him from making a terrible mess. So he's careful.

Still, there are butterflies, and he likes to chase those. Bees, too, but it's not very intelligent to chase those. He knows that now. There are...

Are there other things to chase? Maybe... maybe people?

He's seen other children chasing each other in parks and on city streets near his father's offices, and there must be games --

"I'll play with you."

That voice hadn't come from -- he doesn't know, and maybe you're not supposed to talk with voices you don't --

"You know me," and the man slips out of shadows which Bruce hadn't known existed and comes to crouch in front of him. He's an odd sort of man, with horns, and long hair, and a tail.

Bruce walks around to get a better look at the tail --

And the man laughs. He sounds a little like Bruce's mother, though his voice is deeper. There's... there's music in the laugh.

Bruce likes that. Still, he walks back around to view the man from the front. "I don't know you. I would remember a naked person with a tail."

The man bites his lip and drums his fingertips on his knees. His fingers are very long, but not freakish. "Bruce..."

"How do you know my name?"

"You're my brother. Or... you will be when you're older."

Bruce thinks about that for a moment, because it doesn't seem to make much sense. "You're my younger brother? I don't think that's possible."

The man smiles, and it's warm and soft and --

And Bruce wants to smile, too. He --

It's a very nice smile, and it comes with a touch. The man's fingertips are on Bruce's cheek, and they're warm and dry. His smile grows wider. "So smooth... is this what you remember of this time?"

He doesn't know what that -- "Yes," Bruce says, but it doesn't feel like sound like --

"Shh, it's okay. I won't ask any more questions like that."

Bruce nods. "You have to answer my question, sir."

"Oh -- call me Dick?"

Bruce makes a face. "That's a bad word. I don't use bad words."

The man *grins* -- and his eyes are bright and happy, the way his father's eyes get when his mother laughs. "It's *also* a nickname for Richard. For a long time, it was *only* a nickname for Richard."

"Richard is a nice name --"

And the man makes a face of his own. It looks very silly when an adult does it. Bruce will remember that.

"I have to ask my parents if it's okay to call someone... that word."

Dick -- the man smiles kind of crookedly. "Okay. You can also call me Yz."


"Close. *Yz*," he says, and it's almost a buzz and almost a bite. "It's short for my other name, which you can't say because it would hurt your throat."

Bruce nods. He doesn't want to hurt his throat. "Yz?"

Another *bright* smile -- "Perfect. Can I show you a game I know?"

"How are you my brother? Will Mother have another baby?"

"I'm not your brother like that. We'll share other blood."

Bruce frowns. "I don't understand."

Yz touches his face again. "You will. I promise. Play a game with me?"

Bruce turns to look back at the house for a moment. "I don't want to play bad games."

Yz tilts his head to the side -- "All right. Nothing that would get *either* of us in trouble."

"When adults get in trouble they go to jail. And then to prison."

"Some of them just go straight to Hell --"

"That's a bad word --"

"It's a bad *place*. Sometimes. Depending on what you believe, what you fear, what you want, what you need..." Yz waves a hand. "It's pretty fluid."

Bruce frowns again --

And Yz smiles ruefully. "Okay, that didn't make any sense, right?"

"No, it didn't."

"I'm sorry," Yz says, and -- hugs him.

It's not like Mother's or Father's hugs, at all. There's nothing awkward about it, and there's nothing --

It doesn't feel like there's anything he's supposed to do or not do.

It doesn't feel like there's anything he can get wrong.

It doesn't make him think of his bedroom when it's dark and quiet and quiet, the way it can only get when there's no one awake to walk on the soft carpets.

Father isn't here to look at him with that thing in his eyes which always means... something.

Bruce isn't sure what.

It's a warm hug, though, and Yz is rocking him back and forth and humming a song Bruce thinks he might know. It's a song which doesn't seem to have any words, or maybe not important words?

Bruce hums, too, and Yz hums louder and squeezes him tighter for a moment before letting go and standing up. His eyes ask Bruce again to play, and --

And Bruce nods.

Yz runs toward the trees, looking back over his shoulder frequently to grin and *urge*.

Bruce can tell that Yz could run much faster if he wished to do so, and wonders if it's still fun to be chased if you know you *can't* be caught unless you want to be. Or --

Is being caught part of the fun? He isn't sure. He'll have to see when it's his turn to be chased. Bruce runs --

And runs --

And runs *faster*, because now Yz is running backwards and making very silly faces --

And when he tries to make the silly faces, he winds up tripping because he can't concentrate --

But Yz is right there to lift him up in his surprisingly strong arms and keep Bruce from biting his tongue.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome," Yz says, and then flies Bruce back and forth through the air while making whooshing noises.

"Oh -- I'm too old for this."


"Is that a word?"

"It's one and a *half* words," Yz says, and flies Bruce faster.

"It -- I think I'm too *big* for this, Yz --"


"Father said that definitely wasn't a word."

"He did, hunh?" And Yz dips him low over the ground, and somehow that makes it more obvious how *fast* Bruce is being moved. It --



"I -- I'm not sure --"

"I won't drop you."

"Are you sure?"

And Yz turns Bruce in the air and flies him up and up until Bruce is looking down on his smiling face. His --

"I think you're beautiful," Bruce blurts, and knows all through himself that it wasn't the right thing to say --

But Yz smiles even more broadly. "I think you're beautiful, too. I think you're the most beautiful brother I've ever had."

Bruce frowns. "But I'm not your brother, yet."

"Always, Bruce."

"Are you sure?"

"Always always," Yz says, and when he sets Bruce down again on his feet, Bruce doesn't even sway or trip. "Run! Run, sweet brother!"

Bruce laughs helplessly, smiles and runs and runs --

And Yz catches him by the old elm which Father says might fall in Bruce's lifetime --

And Yz catches him by the patch of mushrooms Alfred says he's not to eat --

And Yz catches him by the little stream full of rocks that Bruce always trips on, and by then Bruce is laughing so much that he's breathless, whooping for air, flailing randomly --

But Yz still easily catches him by the waist and lifts him high. "Brother, it's time to go back."

Are you-- "Yes, I imagine so," and the voice isn't his own --

And his *body* isn't his own --

And it isn't spring, at all, here, and he's deep underground, buried in the blackness --

But not alone, boss.

Never alone.

Never ever --

And Bruce gasps and opens his eyes -- to find himself surrounded by his brothers. He's still in the other Bruce's chair, and it seems wrong to be comfortable in a place like this --

"It's practical," Tim says, and brings Bruce's hand to his furred thigh. "Resting on comfortable furniture allows you to work harder physically once you're up again."

And of course that makes sense. Bruce strokes Tim's thigh and leans back enough to take all of them in. "How long...?"

"Only a few minutes, boss."

"Yeah, B. I think it'll probably be a good idea for you to talk about all this stuff with *someone* at some point --"

"I can't. I don't. It's not --" Bruce grits his teeth. "Yes, I believe you're right."

Jason smiles ruefully. "I'm betting Harvey would be a real good listener."

Bruce blinks. "Do you really think so?"

"*I* have my doubts about that, little wing."

"Hey, no, Harvey *knows* how this stuff works --"

"And he'd also step in front of a moving *train* if it meant that it might not hurt Bruce. And our brother isn't ready to hear the kinds of things Harvey would say about Thomas Wayne."

And Jason and Tim wince deeply.

"But... Harvey has always been very respectful of my parents' memory."

Tim covers Bruce's hand on his thigh. "That would... well, that would stop."

"No --"

"Yeah, B. Uh. I gotta say, *I* have a few bad feelings about Thomas Wayne. I'm just not gonna say them until you're *past* ready to hear them."

Bruce frowns. "He never. He never hurt me --"

Dick kisses him briefly and sharply. "We'll think about who you can speak with. It might just turn out to be us, and... we would like that."

"Are you sure?"

Dick smiles warmly and strokes Bruce's face --

"Is... is 'Yz' really the short form of your true name?"

"Mm-hm. It's the third of twenty-three syllables."

"Twenty -- I see?"

Dick laughs softly. "It's also... well. It's 'Yz' in *this* dimension."

"It... changes?"

"A true name is true at all times, in all ways, brother," and Dick traces light patterns on Bruce's cheeks. "As we change, so do our names. In your dimension, there are no syllables safe for humans to pronounce, at all."

Bruce nods. "And so I'll continue to call you Dick."

"Please do. And we want all of you, Bruce. We're just not sure we're the best people to *help*."

"How could you not be?"

The brothers look at each other --

And then Tim lifts Bruce out of the chair and pulls him into a clear enough space that he can be -- thoroughly hugged.

Jason's wings make the space they share close and warm...

And Bruce doesn't have to think about other kinds of darkness, or touches which confused more than... more than anything else --

Are you sure?

Not *now*, little brother!

And Tim hisses within him, sibilant and somehow *obviously* apologetic -- though that could be the prick of his horns. Bruce holds them all as best as he can.

It's all right, he thinks as clearly as he can. I promise I will... I will attack these thoughts and memories. I promise I will best them.

Oh, *boss* --

After all, they belong to no beast save the one which has *always* lived within me, and I need no weapons to face that save for the ones I was born with.

And *us*, B.

We'll be your weapons --

-- always --

-- keep you safe--

I will be strong. I will be sure. And I will call for help when it is needed.


I promise. I -- vow. And I need to speak with Leslie --


"Maybe not," and Tim strokes his hip.

Bruce frowns and pushes them gently away from him -- and when Jason folds his wings, Leslie is sitting at the table with Alfred. Alfred is speaking too quietly to be heard again, but this time his expression is less urgent than concerned. And Leslie has been weeping. That -- that much is clear by the swelling beneath her eyes and the redness shot through the sclerae. "I have to go to --"

Tim locks his hand around Bruce's wrist. "You've given her a lot to think about."

"And we haven't eased the load, B."

"And..." Dick shakes his head and butts Bruce's shoulder lightly. "She needs time, I think."

"But --"

"If she didn't," Tim says, and squeezes Bruce's wrist, "then I believe she would've ordered us to wake you sooner than we did."

"You... put me to sleep in order to keep me from being a part of the conversation you had with her."

"Yeah, B."

Bruce nods. "You were telling her what you knew -- and what you've come to suspect -- about my relationship with my father. That's how you had begun."

Jason sighs and nods.

"He..." Bruce swallows. "He was her closest friend. She hasn't *made* close friends since his death."

"I know, boss," and Dick rests a hand on Bruce's shoulder. "Give her time. She's not ready to see you as the confidant she needs. *This* Alfred has been a Leslie's confidant for a very long time."

Bruce blinks and takes a breath. "That... that's better than I'd hoped."

Dick butts him again. "We don't want her to be hurt."

"We know you love her."

"Yeah, B. She's important to you, and that means her general wellbeing is important to *us*."

"Even though we disagree with her about... any number of things," and Tim's smile is wry.

Dick sighs. "Yeah. Boss... she might need time away from you while you're training."

Bruce doesn't want to *hear* that -- but. Bruce firms his jaw and nods. "I understand. I'll do everything I can to make things easier for her."

Jason claps him on the shoulder. "We'll help. For now, though..." And he nods toward Robin, who is now fully dressed again, and is also wearing a strange covering over his mouth and nose -- hm.

"Is there some sort of air filter under there?"

Dick beams at him. "Yep! Our memories -- *all* of our memories -- tell us that Talia isn't above using airborne contaminants."

"But all of you will be all right?"

"Heh. Do the honors, baby bro."

"As you say," Tim says, and winks at Bruce before shoving his hand into nothingness -- and pulling out two large falchions which radiate enough heat and light to make it difficult to look at them directly --

Difficult and presumably dangerous for an enemy. Bruce nods in approval as Tim hands them to Dick.

Next, Tim retrieves a cutlass with a moderately ornate grip -- which immediately turns liquid and *grips* Jason's hand. The pistol that seems to go with it is almost laughably old-fashioned... save for the strange and decidedly eldritch glow coming from the bag of shot he hands Jason next. "Be... hn... careful with those, Jay. The compound where he's being held is deep in the Sahara, but there are still innocents within a few dozen miles."

Jason smiles sharply. "You got it, baby bro."

Lastly, Tim pulls out what appears to be a staff much like Robin's, save that there's enough current running through it that Bruce's hair tries to stand on end despite the fact that Tim is several feet away.

Tim spins it --

"I'd rather you not do that near the supercomputer," the other Bruce says, and steps out of the shadows *behind* the supercomputer.

Bruce manages to keep himself from starting, but his brothers stiffen and tense --

"Is there a reason why we should care what you want...?" And Dick's voice is as hot and difficult as the swords he holds.

The other Bruce closes his eyes for a long moment. When he opens them, there is a bleakness within them that Bruce knows with all of himself. "I'm sorry."

Dick's nostrils flare -- and he turns on his heels and starts to walk away --

"Wait. Please."

"You can't command me anymore, Maker," but Dick still pauses.

"Don't -- you remember Neron. At least, if you --"

"He tortured you with the sound of the crowbar hitting Jason's body," Dick says, and looks back over his shoulder. "You should know, the Morningstar didn't treat him lightly when he was back in reach."

The other Bruce bares his teeth -- and then blanks his expression. "Why. Why not?"

"Because you -- and *most* of your allies -- were never approved targets," Tim says, and folds his staff down to something that fits in the loop which suddenly just is at his hip. "I should know. I used to do the paperwork for that sort of thing."

"Do you expect me to believe --" Bruce hisses between his teeth and looks down for a moment. "I'm sorry," he says again, and looks up. "Would you tell me who among my allies --"

"Jason Blood," Jason says, and locks the cutlass within his own loop. It releases his hand after a moment. "He -- and Etrigan -- have pissed off a lot of the wrong people."

"Diana of Themyscira," Dick says, and sheaths his falchions. "But that's more politics than blood."

Tim shows his teeth. "Hal Jordan. That's blood *and* politics... and I can't help but wonder how much you know about that. Maker."

The other Bruce takes a deep breath and inclines his head. "Thank you for the warning. Though... Jordan is dead."

Tim smiles more broadly. "Not all of him. Yet."

"You would take pleasure in his suffering?"

Tim cocks his head to the side. "You would judge for that? You who have padded your and your partners' jocks with *exceedingly* absorbent material for just those moments when the pleasure inherent to brutality grows *messy*?"

Bruce blinks and turns to stare at the other Bruce --

And he narrows his eyes in a wintry smile. "You'll learn," he says, and turns back to Tim. "Death is problematic enough without needing to worry about exceedingly bloodthirsty demons waiting beyond it... Tim."

Tim blinks several times -- and Dick wraps his tail around Tim's waist to offer comfort and support.

"Do you want to know what's waiting for --"

"No," the other Bruce says, and inclines his head again. "Thank you."

Jason crosses his arms over his chest and smirks. "We'd tell you. No charge, even."

Another cold smile. "I'd rather know what's waiting for... him," and he turns to look at *him* again.

"I have no desire to know the answer to that question. Whatever comes, I will have lived with my life with as few regrets as possible."

The other Bruce raises an eyebrow. "You believe you'll have the luxury of a life without regret, Bruce? Just what, precisely, do you think you'll be doing with your nights?"

"Helping. In whatever way I can," Bruce says, but he feels himself blushing -- no. The blush doesn't matter. "I understand that I will make mistakes, and for those there *will* be regret. But not for my personal life."

"With demons."

"With love, Bruce. Or have you forgotten entirely --"

"No," the other Bruce says, and turns to Dick. "I have not forgotten anything, not matter how much I've wished -- " He stops and shakes his head once. "Please. Allow me to come with you."

Dick's nostrils flare once more and he turns to stare at the floor. Tim and Jason immediately move to flank him, and Jason hides them all with his wings. If they are speaking, Bruce doesn't know --

He doesn't deserve it, B. That's all we're talking about.

Are you all right?

The sighs within him are heavy with hurt. *Years* of hurt --

So many.

So many.

So many.

And the other Bruce had never so much as thanked them for freeing him from *possession* --

Tim's hiss is harsh and *bright* --

I can't, and Dick pushes away from his brothers and moves to close the distance between him and the other Bruce. "The answer is no."

The other Bruce grunts in obvious pain --

"Be happy that we're bringing him back *here*, Maker. And don't you *ever* give us a reason to come back," and Dick gestures to his brothers and walks to join Robin, stripping off the apron and tossing it to *him* --

He leaves the ribbon where it is.

Jason and Tim squeeze his shoulders before following Dick, and the other Bruce breathes raggedly and stares at all of them with a hunger --

Bruce knows that hunger, as well. He knows -- he folds the apron and puts it in his pocket. "They won't allow -- your Tim to be hurt, if it's possibly within their power to avoid it."

"He isn't mine."

"Bruce --"

"He isn't *mine*," the other Bruce growls. "He never has been. But I am his, and Dick's, and --" He swallows another growl and stares at his thickly-gloved hands. "From the very first moment I saw him, I knew I would be... damned."

"The human Jason?"

"The -- *Dick*. He was so much..." And the other Bruce trails off to watch the brothers and Robin leap through the portal. "I wish. I wish so much that I could pray."

And that... "In truth, I was never any good at it, either."

A grunt which may or may not be a laugh. "I have... no idea whatsoever why I found that to be surprising," and the other Bruce turns to look at him.

Bruce takes the opportunity to examine him closely. Like Leslie, he looks significantly older than he had when they had all arrived. He also looks... pleased. As he should. "What will you do to heal your Jason?"

"He told me that he belonged to me, you know. He told me that I had... that I had *made* him. I..." He shakes his head once and turns. "Come with me, please."


"I'm going to tell you a few things which will make the next year easier for you. Please."

"All right." Bruce follows the other Bruce deeper into the Cave, past athletic equipment of every possible stripe, including deeply intimidating gymnastics equipment --

"I taught myself how to use that equipment with the help of almost universally poorly-written books. You'll have the demons, and their memories are my partners' own. There is still more you'll need to learn that they *don't* know --"

"It's my plan to continue studying for the rest of my life."

The other Bruce nods -- and leads them past the lighted areas. He stops abruptly. "Wait for your eyes to adjust."

"All right."

"I loved them both in a moment. Dick as he smiled at the crowd from atop the trapeze platform. Jason as he systematically removed the hubcaps and tires from my car. Not any of the civilian cars Bruce Wayne uses to keep the world from guessing my secrets, but from the large and deeply frightening -- I should know; I *built* it to be that way -- car known in his neighborhood to belong to the *Batman*. The vast majority of hardened criminals in this city are afraid to *touch* that car... but Jason was stealing the tires."

Bruce laughs helplessly --

"Yes. That was my reaction, as well. Along with a pain in my heart that made me want to weep and an ache in my groin that... well. I was blind with it. So much so that he nearly got away from me before I could chase him down. I knew I had to have him in my life in any way he would allow. When he fought me with strength and a bravery which knew fear but was utterly unbowed by it... it all seemed so perfect. So *correct*."

And Bruce has to think about that for a moment. Because -- "Do you talk to them like this?"

"Yes. When I'm drugged or exhausted."

"*Bruce* --"

"Walk forward," he says, and, after a moment, Bruce realizes that he can see again. It's an empty space... and five crudely but effectively carved stairs leading up into the night.

"I'm not familiar with this entrance."

"Because you never spent much time within view of Alfred's -- within view of Leslie's bedroom windows. It's approximately three hundred yards away from the window directly across from your Leslie's bedroom door, in nearly a straight line. It's also the easiest entrance to use to bring various equipment down into the Cave."

Oh. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," the other Bruce says, and turns to walk back the way he had come, veering left some hundred yards away from the uneven bars. There's a trophy case in a badly lighted section containing an extremely strange men's business suit.

Half of it is a rich brown which would look very nice on Harvey, and half of it is a lurid red. There are a brown shoe and a red shoe which obviously go with the suit. There is a handkerchief with two different patterns. There is a *tie* with two different patterns. "Is this... something one of your enemies wore?"

The other Bruce shows his teeth. "It's what *Harvey* -- and he called himself Two-Face -- wore after the first time he escaped from Arkham Asylum."

"They -- they put him *there*? That place is half *condemned*!"

"Mm. It will be renovated before long. I highly recommend you take a discreet but *direct* hand in those renovations, as any number of contractors have allowed themselves to be bribed by once and future... patients, and you *will* need it to be as secure and functional as possible. I also recommend paying -- discreetly -- for extensive self-defense courses for the guards, nurses, doctors, and support staff. They'll need it. Badly."

Bruce frowns. "If it's that easy to escape, why isn't another facility entirely built?"

"I've campaigned assiduously for just that. However, my public reputation is terrible, and Gotham itself is perennially low on funds. The state government is never especially forthcoming, either."

"*Why* is your reputation terrible?"

Bruce reaches out to touch the glass of the case, frowning powerfully. "I had to keep the secret. Once you officially begin working as a vigilante -- assuming you train as well as Bruces across the multiverse tend to do -- you'll make a name for yourself. You'll have enemies crawling out of the proverbial woodwork, and while not all of them would strike out at your loved ones in revenge for what you've done to them, a fair number of them would. Your secret identity will be a matter of life and death not only for you, but for Leslie, Harvey... where is your Alfred?"

"I -- he went back to England not long after my parents were murdered."

The other Bruce nods once. "England is not Jupiter, Bruce. He *will* be a target."

Bruce swallows. "Understood. You've made Bruce Wayne into someone no one would suspect was the Batman."

"Precisely," and the other Bruce seems to be studying the suit for answers. Or perhaps for further pain. "I believed I was keeping him safe. Furthermore, I believed that I needed no true allies in the war I was fighting, and I also... I was also proud of myself for being able to fool even Harvey with the persona I had crafted with Alfred's help. You'll need him, by the way. For countless reasons."

"My brothers have already asked me to bring him home to us. They love him."

"And their mother, and you."

"And their other brothers and sisters. You... you twisted another of them, by the way."

The other Bruce tenses -- and then relaxes himself deliberately. "Stephanie Brown. She... that particular demon has never visited me."

"I'm going to free her. Chances are, she never will."

"Thank you."

"Don't thank me for that. You -- please be more careful."

The other Bruce turns to smile sharply at him. "With my desires, Bruce...? I thought I had been. Certainly, I've been entirely continent with all of them save Jason."

"You've made no friend of your Tim that way."

"I have hurt him time and again to teach him lessons I learned in blood and pain. Lessons he *must* learn if he is to be my successor."

Bruce blinks. "But --"

"He's small, young, and generally unprepossessing. But he has a frighteningly sharp analytical mind, a gift for weaponry of various sorts, an unwavering devotion to justice, and a ruthless disregard for any and everything which would stand in the way of the Mission. He will do well, and, before then, I will do everything in my power to make sure he is safe from the mistakes I made."

And that means... "You trust no one anymore."

The other Bruce shows his teeth -- and taps on the case with one short fingernail.

"If you had brought him in --"

"Do you truly believe you can keep him from breaking, Bruce? Is your faith in yourself that strong?"

"I'll have *help*."

"Don't think I haven't asked myself 'what if' on more than one occasion. Each time, my mind is filled with the image of Alfred with two small, smoking holes in his forehead, or Leslie with twinned knives sprouting from her chest like nightmarish plants... he beat Dick nearly to death once. Dick was in his guise as Robin, but it's impossible to forget just the same. Just as it's impossible to forget that Jason would have never been in my life had Harvey not murdered his father after lengthy, creative torture."

And Bruce --

A part of him feels he must try to bring Harvey into the gory fantasies the other Bruce is building in his mind. It's not a *complicated* lesson the man is trying to teach, for all that it's a hard one:

Perfect trust is a luxury ones such as them could never allow themselves. It's a *sensible* lesson. It's just -- "Unspeakable."

The other Bruce raises an eyebrow.

"They know you don't trust them, Bruce. They -- they can't *not* know it."

"I've never said anything --"

"Do you really believe you would've *had* to? They know you don't trust them and it *wounds* them."

"No --"

"They probably believe they've done something *wrong*, Bruce! They -- they'd probably *keep* believing it even if you told them the *truth*."

The other Bruce shakes his head. "They know I love them, and respect them --"

"Is that what you believe? Or what you tell yourself?"

The other Bruce growls -- stops and blanks his expression.

Bruce nods. "I thought so --"

"You're *painfully* young --"

"And you -- you've *taken* their youth away from them and given them nothing in *return*."

"I've given them a *purpose* --"

"Were you always this... this..." Bruce shakes his head. "No, I have to go back to 'deluded.' *Willfully* deluded. You know perfectly well that purpose and *respect* isn't enough. If it were... if it were, then your Tim wouldn't have *damned* you."

The other Bruce stares at him coldly for a long moment, but Bruce knows now that it's far more of a placeholder for an expression than an *actual* expression. To that end, he raises an eyebrow -- coldly -- and waits.

And waits --

"Teenagers have a marvelous capacity for believing they understand everything there is to know about the world they live in."

Harvey would at least be *tempted* to roll his eyes, but Bruce does not have to. "I know precisely how ignorant I am, Bruce. By which I mean, I know that I'm exactly ignorant enough to not know all the *ways* I'm ignorant. But -- we aren't that different. We *can't* be. Before Harvey, our lives were filled with duty and respect. And we suffered for it."

The other Bruce tightens his jaw -- and turns back to the case. "I hated Tim at first. He intruded on my grief, and shared little but uncomfortable truths. Truths I had been too cowardly and grief-stricken to face on my own. He had no right. He --" He grits his teeth and turns to walk away again.

Bruce follows --

"He was physically weak, small, and had dangerous psychological weaknesses. In truth, he is still afflicted by all of those things."

"*What* psychological weaknesses?"

A fluorescent gives Bruce the gleam of the other Bruce's teeth. "He's obsessive, fear-driven, and has rather sketchy conceptions about the privacy of others, and whether or not it should be maintained."

"That sounds --" Terrible, *but* -- "That sounds like *you*. And me, of course --"

"I don't think it's wrong of me to have hoped that my successor would have fewer weaknesses than I do. Or at least *different* ones."

Bruce nods thoughtfully. "You desire him, but you can't love him."

"I didn't say that," and the other Bruce stops by the sort of triple mirror one would find in a department store, or tailor's shop. "You need this for those times when wounds in awkward places need to be examined. Consider mirroring an entire room. Be prepared to need to break every single mirror periodically."

Bruce blinks and stares at the other Bruce.

He shows his teeth again. "I'm sorry; I'll be more plain: be prepared to loathe yourself with every fiber of your being. Tim is a beautiful young man, inside and out. Every second I spent hating him is a *stain* on my own soul. He loves... he loves with a passion and purity of spirit that can't be broken -- *won't* be broken -- by anything save his own indomitable will. The care he takes for his loved ones -- no matter how much he must sacrifice -- is perfectly stunning. He would give over anything to a lover. Anything save the *Mission*," the other Bruce says, and balls his hands into fists.

"Are you *angry* at him for that?"

"Dick and Jay... Bruce always meant more to them than Batman. Tim makes Batman real even... even when I do not wish him to be so." And, oddly, there is a *patient* look on the other Bruce's face. Something --

Oh. "You used the Bat to... to shore yourself *up* --"


"The Bat allowed you to be *safe* around Tim --"

"Never 'safe.' There is no safety in this life --"

"Don't *quote* the thing --"

"Let's move before I break more mirrors," and the other Bruce walks on, taking them to a case holding a coiled whip. "Armor the suit, front and back. Armor the suit *everywhere*, and learn how to move in it. You'll need it all -- even when you're absolutely positive that you won't."

"And the significance of the whip?"

"An on-again, off-again, excitingly unhealthy sexual relationship. With a woman."

Bruce blinks.

"Hn. Yes. I remember when I would've been just as surprised. You'll know her when -- if -- you see her. I have no advice to give save to urge you to have the best possible armor. Take that as you would."

"The Bat --"

"No, Bruce. I won't speak further about that."

Bruce fights back a growl. "Were you honestly *unkind* to the brothers for freeing you?"

"A prisoner in solitary confinement will -- almost certainly -- develop powerfully emotional relationships with rats, cockroaches, his own mattress... well. You take my point," the other Bruce says, and turns to walk away again.

Bruce catches him by the shoulder -- and becomes aware of a dozen physical vulnerabilities. And *painfully* aware that he just doesn't know *all* the ways he's made himself vulnerable. Still. "You're not alone."

"He damned me tonight. It's not the first time."

"He still *works* with you. Hell, he allows himself to be nearly nude --"

"And entirely nude. The Mission requires both of those things --"

"My Tim knows that he desires you. That he *loves* you --"

"I don't. I don't want to be his mistake," the other Bruce says, and lowers his head to stare at the floor.

That -- Bruce squeezes the other Bruce's shoulder as hard as he can --

"Begin strengthening your hands immediately. They will never be as strong as you wish them to be, but they'll become adequate quite quickly."

"Bruce --"

"Barring surprising advancement, computers will be nearly useless for your needs for most of a decade. Don't waste your time on them until such time as you can use them to store detailed information about assorted criminals more efficiently than you can remember that information."

"All right, but --"

"They love each other, don't they. The brothers, I mean. They... they tempted me with visions of them making love with each other..." The other Bruce swallows and turns even further away. "My fantasies... I've wanted my partners to have each other. To love and make love..."

"Have they?"

"Dick and Jason. I don't... Tim and Jason have never met. Tim has been in love with Dick since he was three years old --"


That makes the other Bruce smile, and tilt his head back. "Tim met Dick the same day I did, but under far happier circumstances. He was, apparently, a remarkable toddler... and he spent his entire childhood studying Dick's life and, by extension, my own. He learned the secret when he was *nine*... do you see why I fear him still?"

"You *love* him, Bruce. You -- you admire and desire and *need* him --"

The other Bruce breathes in sharply. "Yes, I always will. I always will. Tim has thus far kept his love for Dick a secret. I've thought. I've thought of betraying him --"

"*Bruce* --"

"Dick would... Dick would give him everything. Dick would love him, and hold him in his love. Dick would take him *from* me. Ultimately, it's that which keeps me from breaking Tim's trust. More than I already have in other ways, I mean. Hm. I think I'll *kick* the mirrors next time. It will allow my knuckles time to heal."

Bruce lets his hand fall from the other Bruce's shoulder.

The other Bruce turns to smile at him wryly. "You're wondering, perhaps, what to do in order to avoid growing into me? You've made a fine start... I hope. For your sake."

"Where is Dick?"

"In Blüdhaven, doing an excellent job of keeping that city from becoming entirely irredeemable. I... he allowed me to send him there."

"Is Gotham so quiet that that could be *allowed*?"

The other Bruce shows his teeth again. "Never. But... the human refuse coming in from Blüdhaven was making life more difficult here than it needed to be --"

"And you were afraid of losing your control."

"Of course. He is... he's cut his hair, but he seems to grow more beautiful with every new line, every fresh scar..."

"And he's told you that he's yours."

"I adopted him. Last year."

"Oh... Bruce..."

"Insanity. To repeat a given action -- an action with a known result -- over and over while believing that, somehow, a different result will occur. Perhaps I'll adopt Tim, too, someday."

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut -- no. Not that. "*Are* you their father?"

"Yes. I am... so proud. So... sometimes, when I fantasize about their touches, the touches themselves are entirely innocent. A hug. A hand-clasp. A smile... a smile can be a touch... but you know that already. Don't you?"

Bruce nods.

The other Bruce nods back. "I wish... I wish to break. My control. My resolve. My *vows*. I wish to *shatter*, and let myself become bestial, let myself become a creature made solely of hungers and *greed*. I wish to glut myself in their bodies and drink down their... their every *cry*."

"Yes. Yes, I --"

"You don't know. You never will."

"*Bruce* --"

"Your lovers came to you blooded and *endlessly* knowledgeable and willing. Dick was an *innocent* when he came to me. A *child* in a beautiful, flexible, *lithe* body. Jason... by the night we first made love, he had started to believe that, perhaps, I wasn't like the men who had used him for their base and criminal lusts. And Tim..." The other Bruce's smile is more of a slap than a touch -- "Tim is no child, but he is a virgin. And when *he* is drugged, he wraps his arms around my neck, sighs, and tells stories of High Romance, tales of the Dark Knight and his faithful squire... hn. You don't know."

And Bruce... wishes he didn't know what the other Bruce means. With all of himself. With --

"Hmm. So you *do* find all of that moving. Never meet the eyes of an orphan, Bruce."

"I won't --"

"Never meet their *eyes*. Turn away from their tears and ignore their innocent bravery. Walk away from the pain you'll be able to *smell* and fill your mind with... with..." And the other Bruce laughs darkly. "But they took the Bat from you first."

"Y-yes. I tried -- I tried to hide --"

"But you'd had but little practice at it. Leslie has never been as observant as Alfred. Not for matters such as this. Her temple is the body, whereas Alfred's has always been the mind," and the other Bruce nods and leads them to the portal.

It looks out on nothing but shifting -- no. Within the sands is a building of some sort. It's the same *color* as the sand, and is even irregularly shaped. It's only possible to discern *some* of the shape of the thing, and then only because of the glowing, smoking, ragged hole in it.

There are bodies there, but all of them are still showing signs of movement. A gift -- though whether it's for him or for Robin's sensibilities is a question for another --

"*Why* does no one tell me anything?"

Dick -- and not Dick, because the man jogging down the stairs has hair which doesn't quite reach his shoulders, and lacks horns and a tail. His features are the same, though the expression of *resigned* irritation is one which is new to him.

"Dick. You're needed --"

"I'm *needed* right here, because Alfred called me and he *never actually does that*," and Dick jabs the other Bruce's chest. "What's going *on*? Who -- wait," and Dick turns to face him. "Are you a clone?"

"No. I'm from --"

"Another universe?"

"Yes, I --"

"Is it really scary there? Giant bugs? Giant dinosaurs? Totalitarian regime led by Lex Luthor? Kal-El? Any of this sounding familiar?"


"Don't *quell* me, boss, this is important background information!" And Dick raises his eyebrows expectantly.

"There... seem to be few differences, save that I was raised by Leslie Thompkins after my parents were killed," and Bruce nods toward where Leslie is still -- but she's gone. She --

"She walked back through the portal seventeen minutes ago. I believe she still needs... time," the other Bruce says gently.

Bruce frowns and nods --

And Dick cups his shoulders and squeezes. "Hey, it's all right. Universe-hopping is hard for anyone. *Believe* me, I know," and Dick's smile is crooked and endearing and stunningly beautiful.

It's incredibly difficult not to stroke his smile lines, or pull him close, or kiss the flesh near -- the horns he does not actually have. This is not his Dick, for all that the similarities are almost painful to see and not acknowledge. Bruce takes a breath and inclines his head. "Thank you for your consideration --"

"You -- are *incredibly* adorable, actually. Boss, were you this adorable at -- eighteen?"

"Nineteen --"

"Were you? Were you were you were --"


Dick blows out an annoyed breath and turns to the other Bruce, crossing his arms over his chest. "*Fine*. Why am I hearing about this from *Alfred*?"

"The other Bruce will be returning to his universe as soon as his... companions return."

Dick stares expectantly at the other Bruce.

The other Bruce stares back.

Dick narrows his eyes hotly --

The other Bruce breathes a soft, rueful laugh and cups Dick's face --

And Dick jerks in obvious shock, steps back, and slips into a combative position. "Who *are* you?"

The other Bruce looks *pained* -- "Myself. I have been... changed. Recently. I still haven't the faintest clue how to explain it to you. Or anyone else, for that matter," and he turns to face *him*. "Simply giving myself to them would be met with reactions like this one *universally*, Bruce --"

"That's your own *fault* --"

"I make no denial of that --"

"Wait, *wait*," Dick says, and stares back and forth between them *without* altering the belligerence of his pose. "What do you mean *giving* yourself? Who *are* you? What -- *explain something*!"

"Dick --"


The other Bruce closes his eyes and nods, then opens them again and fixes his gaze on Dick. "I was possessed by a demon when I was eight years old."

"You -- okay, that does happen. When did you get rid of it?"

"Three other demons -- his companions -- passed into this dimension and forcibly ripped it out of me. Yesterday."

"You. It was in you for nearly forty years."


"That's what you're saying to me right now."

"Yes, Dick --"

"You're saying that you've had a *demon* in you for *four freaking decades* and you're *not* saying that it was physically impossible for you to *tell* me."

The other Bruce winces slightly. "It told me..." He shakes his head. "It was my sole companion for a very long time. It helped me. It gave me strength."

Dick takes a sharp breath and stands straight. "'Strength.'"


"And considering how this started -- you're talking about it giving you the *strength* not to laugh when I'm being ridiculous and not to *touch* me when I'm being adorable."

The other Bruce narrows his eyes in a smile. "Among other things."

It isn't a smile when Dick narrows his own eyes again. He turns -- giving the other Bruce his *side*, not his back -- back to him. "Your companions are demons."

"Yes. Incubi, and sons of Lilith."

Dick blinks rapidly, and his lashes are as long and lovely as his own Dick's -- and that shouldn't be surprising. "That... well. This is *really* problematic, but I gotta say that I think a Bruce taking up with sex demons at a young age bodes well for that Bruce's future relationships. So. Good on you?"

Bruce smiles. "I think so, yes. It helps that one of them looks like you. And goes by your name."

Dick's jaw drops -- he closes his mouth and turns back to the other Bruce --

He opens his mouth, wags a finger, and closes his mouth again --

He turns back to *him* and -- "And the others...?"

"Jason and Tim."

Dick licks the edges of his teeth and nods slowly before turning back to the other Bruce. "What did you do."

The other Bruce looks -- proud. *Thrilled*. "They came to me when I was feverish and lonely. One of them... one of them already had Jason's eyes."

"Jason's -- so you gave it --"

"Him, please," Bruce says.

"Sorry, you're right, *him*. You gave *him* Jason's everything else?"

"Dick. You have an incredible grasp of the situation after only a few minutes --"

"Are you *complimenting* me now?"

The other Bruce winces. "Yes. I mean it --"

"I *know* you do! That's your honest face! I -- *augh*." And Dick storms away from them, striding toward the supercomputer, where Alfred is dusting. Which...

"You make your Alfred *dust*?"

The other Bruce raises an eyebrow. "He's been known to do terrible things to the food of people who try to stop him. I take it your Alfred has an entirely different sort of career?"

"He's with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Bruce!"

He smiles, clearly imagining it -- "Yes. Yes, that's correct."

"And you're --"

"Different, yes," and the other Bruce turns to watch Dick, who is pacing in gracefully precise arcs and loops while gesticulating wildly. "I did mention the length of time it took for me to fall in love with him, didn't I?"

That -- "I see."

"Did you, perhaps, think I was exaggerating for effect?"

Bruce knows his expression is sour, but -- "It may shock you, Bruce, but I'm rather nonplussed by the idea that I have the capacity to fall in love with children. Even incredibly beautiful children."

"He's no child now." There's *relish* in his voice, and --



"What were you planning to do with Tim when we arrived?"

"Have a long, honest talk about our relationship, and then, perhaps, convince him to make love with me."

"But -- this past *hour* --"

"Sometimes..." The other Bruce shows his teeth again. "Sometimes, I enjoy living in the skin of a better man."

"Were you trying to -- no. You weren't trying to impress me. You were making one last effort to convince yourself away from what you *want*."

"And, according to you and your lovers, what I need. They are so beautiful. I was going to. I was going to use this," the other Bruce says, and winces again. "Jason is. Jason has been gone for so long."

"You were going to use this to help you forget Jason?"

"If I could. If, somehow --" The other Bruce shakes his head and turns to face Bruce fully. "The Bat was powerless around Jay. From the very first moment. Hours and days and weeks of *peace*... with the price that I burned in every last one of those moments. Without it, without its stony *chill*..."

Bruce closes his eyes for a moment. "You're burning again."

"Oh, yes. And to do so without Jay near... without his relentlessly foul mouth and his raw sexual *power* --"

"They're bringing him *back*, Bruce."

"How can I believe that? How could I even --"

"Whoa, whoa, *whoa*. Who's bringing who back?" And Dick stares back and forth between them --

"There was a time when I knew that you would never be able to sneak up on me --"

"Stop *complimenting* me and answer a *question*!"

Bruce breathes another laugh. "Dick... the other Bruce's companions believe... have led me to believe... I can't," and the other Bruce turns his back -- but doesn't walk away.

"All right, *you* talk. Now. Now now now --"

"My lovers believe that Jason Todd is alive. And in that compound," Bruce says, and points to the open portal.

"All right, that *does* explain the new and exciting view and why the *fuck* are you still *here*, Bruce?"

The other Bruce stiffens --

And Bruce rests a careful hand on Dick's shoulder. "They wouldn't allow him to join them."

Dick frowns at both of them. "Why *not*?"

"Because --"

"I've wounded them. Countless times," the other Bruce says, and his voice is low and rough. "I gave them... I gave them your shapes, and those desires I knew about. They *took* your memories -- up until the point --"

"Fuck. You. *Look* at me!"

The other Bruce turns back to Dick, and his eyes are wide, *wild* --

But Dick doesn't step back or falter or pause -- "Why? Why did you do all of that?"

"I needed you. I needed all of you."

Dick narrows his eyes once more. "We -- you were alone."


"And you needed us. You -- what aren't you saying," Dick says, and swallows, and --

His fear is obvious enough to *nearly* be a scent --

"Dick... there's so much we should talk about --"

"Yes, *this*, Bruce!"

"Before. *Before* this --"

"*Bruce* --"

"I've been in love with you since you were thirteen years old. Since. Since the night we met. The night the demons came to me... that night I longed for your touch. For your *kiss*."

Dick rears back -- "And Jason's."


"And *Tim's*."

"*Yes*, Dick --"

If asked later, Bruce will say, "and then Bruce and Dick fought." There isn't much more that he could add to that, beyond being sure that Dick had thrown the first punch, and that it's all really quite fast and impressive. Dick's flexibility makes a part of Bruce's mind which Bruce suspects will *always* be at least slightly lust-addled imagine his own Dick dancing. Dick's obviously *confused* roil of emotions makes him wish his own Dick were there to offer physical contact and affection. The other Bruce...

He is fighting defensively only. The fact that it's taken this long to be sure of that is problematic to an extreme --

He has much to learn. *That* is a truth he's sure of, since he can't be sure that Dick hadn't just kicked straight up into the air far enough to bump his own beautiful nose --

The other Bruce trips Dick --

Dick rolls and --

Bruce pounces and *pins* Dick -- "You weren't trying to hurt me."

He *wasn't*?

"Tell me *why* --"

Dick growls -- "You *know* why --"

"Please *tell* me --"

"No. *No*. *Move*," Dick says, and shoves at the other Bruce --

And he catches Dick's wrists and pins them easily. "I love you. I love you and I've always --" The other Bruce swallows and shakes his head. "The other Dick... the demon. He's affectionate. Ridiculous. Cheerful. Family-minded. And he loves me -- no. Not me. Not now. The demons love *him* now, and he'll be able to give them that love in return because he does not have *you*."

"You -- *damnit*, Bruce --"

"Love me again. Love me -- I *burn*, Dick --"

"For Jason, it was always for *Jay* --"

"And you. And Tim --" And the sound the other Bruce makes is choked and *wounded* --

"Oh -- oh, Bruce --"

"I could -- the Bat let me hold this *back* --"

"You called it the *Bat*?"

The other Bruce laughs wildly. "I was *eight*. It was black and had pointy ears and it lived in a *cave*."

*Dick* laughs then, but there are tears in his eyes -- "I would've done anything --"

"I know --"

"*Anything* --"

"I *know*, and I'm so sorry, and I don't even know if I *should* be. This isn't *right*. What I want -- what I've always *wanted* --"

"Let me go --"

"*Please*, Dick --"

Dick moans and *fights*, and Bruce can't help but try to come between, to *help* --

But he doesn't make it more than a step closer before Bruce lets go --

And Dick shouts, loud and harsh -- and claws at the other Bruce's chest armor before sitting up enough to grab his face and pull him in for a kiss that looks painful, desperate, wounded and wounding --

The other Bruce groans and clearly tries to make it more gentle, more -- loving.

Bruce turns away --

No, he turns toward the portal. He watches for his loves --

Does he sound like that when he groans?

Does he -- that panting growl. Could it even be *attractive* to a lover?

"Oh, God -- oh, God, *please* --"

"*Dick* --"

"It's not mine, it's never *mine* -- *nnh* --"

Movement out of the corner of his eye, and Bruce doesn't meant to turn but --

The other Bruce is cupping Dick's groin through his jeans. He's *squeezing* --

And Dick's lips are parted. His eyes are wide and shocked and *hungry* --


Dick pants -- and laughs with musical hysteria. "Yes, that *is* what you have in your hand -- fuck, take the *gauntlet* off --"

"I don't --"

"*Please* --"

"I don't want to let *go*, Dick!"

The sound Dick makes is animal -- and desperately familiar. Had his brothers taken memories of such things from the other Bruce's partners? Or had Bruce somehow *known*?

It's a *frightening* question -- but no more frightening than the desire to move the other Bruce's hand and replace it with his own. Such passion. Such *beauty* --

But this beauty is human, and that --

Is it less desirable? More?

Another frightening question, and Bruce thinks he may have had enough of those for the night. He turns away from the sound of more kisses (wet kisses, *hard* kisses) --

He focuses on the portal -- just in time to watch another part of the structure get blown out onto the sand. Bodies fly and fall --

And then there's only one body, rising on powerful wings. Jason, and he's holding... someone.

Someone *struggling*. Could Jason be lifting an assassin into the air in preparation for dropping him? That seems excessively cruel --

Oh, Dick and Tim are running towards the portal, too --

Dick seems to be holding Robin in his arms --

And Jason is close enough, now, that Bruce can see that he's holding another Jason. The human Jason is *larger* than his brother, though his hair is shorter and streaked with white --

And Bruce and Dick are still kissing.

Bruce clears his throat -- and the other Bruce pulls back, covering Dick's mouth with his hand.

"I'm listening, Bruce."

"I'm *insulted* -- wait, *Jay* --"

"Yes, they're coming," Bruce says, and steps further back from the portal --

"This -- Dick."

"Oh -- God. You've used that voice with me before --"

"When I've been weak --"

"Not *weak* --"

"Dick. Tell me this isn't finished."

Dick takes a shaky breath --

Dick moans and scrambles to his feet -- and closes his fly.

"Please, Dick --"

"It's not *finished*! I just --" Dick shakes his head wildly and moves to stand at *his* side -- "Oh. *Wings*?"

"Yes. He's beautiful --"

"Holy -- he's holding *Jay*. That -- I'd know that scowl -- *Bruce* --"

"I'm here," the other Bruce says from *behind* them -- "I'm. Oh. He's angry --"

"He's *always* angry --"

"He's *not* always planning to commit homicide. Step back, both of you," and the other Bruce's *tone* is calm and professional, but his actual voice is shaking.

"Boss, he's not even -- it's *Jay* -- and his hair looks *extremely* cool, but I know that's neither here nor there --"

"Incoming," Jason says, folding his wings in as he flies through the portal. Jason winks at him and Bruce can't help but smile --

And he sets the human Jason down in front of them --

"Careful, he's *cranky*."

But the human Jason doesn't say a word, or move other than to stand gracefully out of his crouch.

Dick starts for him --

But the other Bruce holds him back. "No. Wait."

"No! *No* waiting! Bruce --"

"Jay. We mean you no harm."

The human Jason cocks his head slowly to the side -- and shows even white teeth.

His own Jason has a *crooked* front tooth -- and is pulling Bruce back and away and into the sky. "Jay --"

"He's *that* dangerous right now."

Bruce turns to study the human Jason more carefully -- noting with a fraction of himself that his Dick sets Robin down well behind the human Dick, and that Tim stays behind the human Jason with his staff held *exceedingly* belligerently -- and takes in his clothes. Loose, flowing trousers, belted over an obviously well-muscled midriff. A tight t-shirt which has been slashed to several individual ribbons, showing a frightening number of scars --

"You'll have even more," Jason says, and licks Bruce's ear. "Hot."

Bruce nods and tries to make sense of the human Jason's posture, which seems both loose and indefinably *ready*. His eyes --

His eyes are dark with a rage which looks almost *cold*, but --

"I'm -- not sure what I'm looking for, Jay."

"Mostly his eyes. See how he's scoped out the position of everyone in the room?"

"Yes. And -- he seems very angry?"

"He's the wrong kind of angry, B. He should be flushed, maybe sweating enough that his hair curls despite how short it is... that kind of thing."

"He's too cold."

"Uh, huh. Now, if it were up to me? We'd leave these guys *just* like this, but the human Tim's a good little guy, and I'm betting the human Dick is, too?"

"Much like our brother. Possibly even more passionate."

"I suppose that explains why he's packing heat?" And Jason leans over Bruce's shoulder enough to show the waggle of his eyebrows.

"I thought he and the other Bruce would make love right there," Bruce says, and points.

Jason snorts --

And the other Bruce steps toward the human Jason and raises his hands in something like surrender --

And the human Jason sneers --

And the other Bruce groans. "Jay."

"My name... is Jason."

The other Bruce swallows and nods. "Will you... tell me why you never contacted us?"

"Heh. I... no, I don't think I will. Anything else? I've got a plane to catch."

"Jay --"

"*Jason*. *Learn* it."


"Not anymore."


"Heh. That's what I call Talia. When I wanna get her *good* and juicy, that is. Anything else? Maybe some editorial additions from the peanut gallery?"

"Little wing --" But Dick stops when the other Bruce holds up a hand --

And the human Jason finally laughs for more than the length of a breath. "Now *that* was *good* and predictable. Still running after Daddy, Dickie...?"

"Still listening -- provisionally -- to the orders and requests of the man I love and respect most in the world. The man who -- and I quote -- 'turned a two-bit street punk into something real and special and --'"

"Shut the fuck up."

"Hit a nerve, did I? *Jason*?" And Dick knocks the other Bruce's hand aside and steps forward --

"Just one more, Dickie. We can play."

Dick snorts derisively. "I don't play with League of Assassin toys. They *break* too easily."

The human Jason tilts his head back enough to jut his strong chin -- and then nods and turns back to the other Bruce. "So you finally gave it up for him. Was it everything you used to pretend not to dream about?"


"Ooh, *Daddy*, that's kinda mean to  --"

"You weren't there."

The human Jason's teeth click shut and he blinks --

And Dick laughs again. "Remembering a little more, little wing? What home looks like?"

"My *home* is with --" and the human Jason growls and moves incomprehensibly --

And Dick has a blade clapped between his palms. It was aimed at his *eye* -- and Dick tosses it like refuse. "Care to try again?"

The human Jason looks to the other Bruce -- "Since fucking *when* do you trust him that much?"

The other Bruce smiles sharply *and* darkly. "I've recently had the demon which possessed me for the better part of forty years forcibly exorcised from my soul. Please, allow me to tell you all about it."

It is abundantly clear that the human Jason wasn't expecting that answer, but he recovers after a moment just the same. "You saying that's why you fucked me blind so often, Daddy? Because the devil made you do it?"

"The precise opposite. It was always wildly opposed to having you in my life. You... you quieted it solely by staying near to me. Every kiss made it howl in impotent -- and *silent* -- rage, and even when you would strike me I would smile for the blessed silence. Jason. I've missed you with all of myself. I've loved you in your absence. I've been tormented by still other demons with the sound of that crowbar striking you over and over again. I have hated you --"

"Go -- go with *that* --"

"-- for the seconds it took for me to remember your smiles, your laughs, your rough fingertips and your rougher shouts --"

"*Jesus*, Daddy, get a fucking *grip* --"

And Dick *titters* -- "I know what *I'd* like to get a grip on... or did Talia make you forget all about me, little wing? Remember when I held you down so Kory could ride you?"

"Fucking -- fucking *bitch* --"

"Remember when you stole Roy's beer and convinced me to drink enough of it that I finally -- *finally* -- told you what you meant to me? *Everything* you meant to me?"

And the human Jason shudders all over --

"There we go," and Jason kisses his ear.

"Yes, he does seem to be... warming."

"He's terrified. Which, well, in this family? He fucking should be. But let's stay just a little bit longer," and he nods down at the crowd --

Which Robin is pushing through. A large amount of his hair seems to be *burned off* --

"What --"

"He actually insisted on taking point in some spots. Because we're *civilians*, you see. Eh. He'll look pretty severe with short hair. It'll work on him -- "

"What the fuck do *you* want, kid?"

Robin offers one of his miserly smiles and tugs the R-shaped blade --

Shuriken. Sort of.

All right. Robin spins the thing over his knuckles twice and then offers it to the human Jason.

"Now me... I would've waited before giving him more edged weapons," his Jason whispers, "but it's probably just a Tim *thing* to say 'I love you' with things which can kill you."

Bruce nods. It does make sense --

"What the fuck am I supposed to do with *this*?" The words *and* tone lack welcome of any sort, but the human Jason's eyes are wide and almost stricken.

Robin puts up the lenses on his domino -- somehow -- but Bruce can't see *his* eyes from this angle --

He's showing everything, Bruce. He...

Little brother is *deeply* impressed with the depth of feeling in our partially-singed erstwhile ally... and so am I, boss.

"I don't *know* you, kid --"

"I know. I've always -- I've always wanted that to be different."

"Stalker. You're the fucking --" The human Jason cuts himself off with a growl, takes the shuriken, and pins it back to Robin's chest --

And Robin gasps.

"Don't *even* --"

"Says the guy who teared up when I gave him *my* old uniform?"

"You couldn't even fucking *see* my -- fuck *off* --"

And the human Dick titters again. "Unlikely... Jay."

This time, there's no warning save the *slight* narrowing of the human Jason's eyes --

But the other Bruce is there, holding the human Jason's arms and kissing his cheek --

"No means *no* --"

"Then say yes. Say -- you told me it would be forever --"

"You *always* tell the money-man what he wants to hear --"

The other Bruce grunts -- and laughs. "You told me I should buy you a new bike every other time I thought of telling you how much I love you."

"I don't see *enough* fucking bikes -- let *go* --"

"Come back," and the other Bruce leans in to whisper in the human Jason's reddening ear. It grows even *redder* --

Holy *hell*, that's filthy. Jay, cover Bruce's ears.

He can't hear *anyway* --

Still, he's too young for that.

What --

I *disagree*.

That's because you keep *stabbing* him, little brother --

I'm very confused --

And the human Jason groans aloud and shudders again, twisting himself free --

The other Bruce catches him again --

And the human Jason darts in to bite Bruce's lower lip. There's a trickle of blood down his chin --

The human Jason shudders *violently* -- and licks the blood up and into a kiss. He and the other Bruce are clutching at each other, struggling seemingly to get *closer* to each other --

And the human Dick sighs. "And *that's* why you never go down to the Cave when there's a sock hanging on the clock, little brother."

"Hn. And here I thought it was only for the nights when there's new Catwoman footage."

The human Dick snorts --

"Or workout footage of you from Barbara."

The human Dick *blushes* --

And Robin hums and rocks on his heels. "So it *wasn't* a bluff."

"I'll give you a -- bluff? Something. Come *here* --" and the human Dick gathers Robin close, lifts him off his feet and kisses him all over his face --

"*Dick* --"

"Can we talk about how you're not going home tonight?"

"What -- why -- what are you *talking* -- *gyah* --"

And the other Bruce pulls Robin close by the stiffened collar of his strange tunic -- and *then* pulls away from kissing the human Jason... whose lip is also bleeding. "Even blood, Jay. *Everything*."

The human Jason pants and licks his lips -- and then stares down at Robin. "And every*one*, B?"

A dark and *hot* smile. "Perhaps not... quite everyone. But certainly all of you. Together, please."

The human Jason squeezes his eyes shut -- and then looks up at *them*. "Get out."

Jason snickers. "You sure, tough guy? Looks like you might need a little *help*."

Narrowed eyes and a *flash* of cold --

The other Bruce grips the human Jason's shoulder with his free hand --

And the human Jason snorts and offers an obscene gesture. In duplicate.

"Hn," and Tim folds his staff down to a small, ominously crackling twig and steps out from behind the human Jason.

Dick sighs and flips his hair back over his shoulder. "Yes, little brother, I believe our work *is* done at the moment." He turns to the other Bruce. "Maker. Never again."

The other Bruce breathes in sharply... and inclines his head.

Dick nods and then turns to kiss the human Dick on the cheek. "Thanks for your... you," he says, and strides toward the portal leading back to Bruce's own dimension. Tim closes the portal leading to the Sahara and follows --

And Jason flies them through.

There's no sign of Leslie in the kitchen -- even the tea cups have been washed and put away, and Bruce suspects that wouldn't be the case if she wanted to continue speaking with him tonight. There's a caduceus set neatly on the table which appears to have been carved from serpentine -- Tim's present. He doesn't --

He doesn't want to lose Leslie --

And Dick reaches up to take him from Jason with ease and warmth.

"I'm definitely too big for this."

"It's adorable that you continue to think so," Dick says, and hugs him close, kissing Bruce's cheeks and humming --

Humming something beautiful. Bruce hums it with him, helpless not to be lulled -- wait.

Don't wait.

You never have to wait for *us*.

We love you --

-- should rest for tomorrow --

-- Harvey Harvey Harvey --

Would you have me *only* rest?

Dick pulls back -- and his hair is shorter. And the clothes he's wearing are the human Dick's. "I know you liked him."

"I --"

Jason spins him around and shows himself taller with short, white-streaked hair.

"I -- hm. Do you like that?"

"Do you? Daddy?"

Tim pushes Jason back and away, and he's not wearing the strangely colorful suit Robin had worn, but his hair isn't spiked in all directions anymore, and his eyes are wide and full and *young*, painfully *young* -- "This is how he looked at the human Jason... but we know he's been saving a look like this for the other Bruce, too."

Bruce frowns and covers Tim's eyes. "Please --"

"Or not," Jason says, and slips back into his usual form. Dick and Tim do the same, and Dick wraps his tail around Bruce's waist and squeezes.

"We had to be sure."

"We never really meant to hit you with all *three* of those guys."

"Indeed," Tim says, and tugs Bruce's hand away from his eyes, which are back to being sharp and dangerous. "They can have... an effect."

Jason snorts. "What he said. I mean, think about it -- we wouldn't have wound *up* in that dimension if the other Bruce hadn't thought to himself 'yes, my partners *are* demonic in their ability to make me come all over myself.'"

"And really, when you've got a *you* saying something like that, boss..."

"It's serious," Tim says, and takes Bruce's hand in his own. "Upstairs?"

Bruce squeezes Tim's hand. "Are you all right? All of you, I mean."

Dick butts his shoulder. "Absolutely."

"Uh, huh. The worst part was when the human Jason tried to use me as a knife block, but, you know, I've been dealing with that since *flint* was the material of choice for stabby things. We're good."

"And emotionally?"

They smile at him slyly --

They share a darkly *warm* look --

"You love us just the way we are... brother."

"You wouldn't choose the original models over us... brother."

"And you'd rather spend more time with us than get some seriously necessary rest, bro. So, you know. I think we're good," and Jason pushes him toward the kitchen door --

And Tim and Dick pull him --

They don't even *pause* by Leslie's closed door --

They begin stripping him before they're even in Bruce's *bedroom* --

And Bruce is naked on the bed while his brothers range around the bed and smile --

And stretch --

And crawl toward him with obvious *intent*. Bruce feels himself rising again and reflexively wills himself to stop -- but that urge only lasts until Dick frowns. "I'm sorry."

Dick grins. "Reflex, I know," and Dick licks the top of Bruce's foot.

"Oh. That's -- ticklish?"

"Is that a question, B?" And Jason strokes the space beyond Bruce's knee with the tip of one finger. That --

Bruce breathes a laugh. "Yes, I -- yes, it's ticklish."

Tim cups Bruce's face and turns him to face him. His lips are parted and his eyes are almost sleepy with hunger.

"Oh, Tim. Tell me --"

He hisses -- and laughs. "You touched me earlier. You made me hard for you..."

Bruce grunts. "And I didn't give you enough pleasure. Please, let me --"

The kiss is hard and hot, deep, and it feels as if Tim is reaching within him for everything which makes him who he is --

"Oh, yeah, B. Fuck him with your unstinting sense of *duty*."

Dick -- titters. "Spank him with your rock-hard need for justice!"

Bruce... wonders if he was wrong about there not being a place for obscene gestures --

And Dick and Jason laugh with loud pleasure and begin to caress him everywhere they can reach. Tim presses closer and coaxes Bruce's tongue into his mouth --

Tim moans and opens his eyes -- 

And Bruce realizes he was staring, that he was aching for just *this* view: pale, blue-grey eyes focused hungrily on his own and demanding *more*.

Bruce yanks Tim closer still and rolls him clumsily under his body --

Jason cups Bruce's scrotum from the back --

Dick cups the back of Bruce's *neck* --

"I'm listening," Bruce says, because he's growing more practiced at understanding nonverbal communication --

And Jason snorts --

And Tim growls. "I was *busy* with --"

"We know, we know, little brother, but..."

"We kinda need to know *exactly* what Bruce wants. And how he wants it."

"After all, we know what *we* want --"

"And that's everything, B --"

"All the *time*, boss --"

"Please. Please --"

Bruce groans and gives into the need to thrust against Tim's thigh, so bare and sleek again --

"Do you *want* the fur?"

Bruce leans in to kiss Tim's cheeks. "Anything which *pleases* you," and he kisses Tim's mouth, and the point of his chin, oh --

He kisses Tim's throat, and licks --

"Oh -- fuck, B, *bite* his throat --"

"Do it *hard*, boss --"

Bruce growls and follows orders --

And Tim wraps his arms around Bruce and claws Bruce's *back*, offers stripes of bright pain --

"*Jesus*, baby bro --"

"No, no, little wing. I..." And Dick groans and licks at the scratches, making Bruce jump from heat and *stinging* pain, *strange* pleasure. Bruce bites harder, and teases the flesh between his teeth with his tongue --

He needs more.

He needs --

Bruce breaks off the bite and drags Tim's slim and perfect body further down the bed, enough that he can press their groins together as he'd done with Dick --

Tim growls and flashes his needle-teeth --

"*Tell* me, Tim --"

"Tell *us*," Jason says, and squeezes Bruce's scrotum *firmly* --

Firmly enough to make Bruce grunt and thrust and *sweat* --

"Oh -- *damn*, I wanna fuck you, B..."

"Nnh -- please. I -- *please* --"

"I can't -- I want to, but you're -- " And that wet sound is Jason licking his lips. Bruce *knows* it is --

And Dick is *sucking* at Bruce's scratches --

"You're too *small*, you know that --"

"Make me *bigger*, Jay. You know I desire that --"

"That's what you want tonight, B?"

"I want -- I want to pleasure you *all* -- *mm* --"

And this kiss is soft, *ravenous* and *wet* --

Bruce thrusts into Tim's mouth with the same rhythm he's using for his hips, strains to keep his groin in contact with Tim's own --

He gives up and drags Tim up again, thrusts between Tim's thighs and makes love to his beautiful mouth, that sweet and dangerous *bow* -- until the feel of a tongue in his *anus* makes him shout and clutch brutally at Tim's wrists --

Tim hisses again --

Dick kisses his scratches -- and moans. "He's sharing you with us, boss. He's --" Dick whimpers and thrusts against Bruce's side -- "You're so *tight* --"

"Nuh -- oh. Oh, Bruce, don't make Jay stop, don't -- oh, you *like* it --"

"I -- I don't know --"

"We can feel you *shiver*, boss --"

"We can feel you *clench*."

Jason groans then, and the vibration --

The feel of warm air --

Bruce feels himself loosen *alarmingly* -- alarmingly, that is, until he remembers that that's precisely what he wants. Bruce blushes and laughs against the smooth skin of Tim's cheek. "I... it's strange."

"But you like it --"

"I *do*," Bruce says, and shifts cautiously back --

And something about the *feel* of Jason's hands changes. They're still dry and very warm, they're still *powerful*, but now they're somehow large enough to cup Bruce's hips *while* holding his buttocks spread. They --


Just wait, B.

He will. He *must*. He -- no, he was pleasuring Tim, doing something --

Something which may or may not have been this wet, this *achingly* wet and *hot* --

In you, B.

So deep...


What --

Please --

And then Bruce is shouting again, because Jason's tongue is no longer remotely human in its seeming. It's thicker and *longer* --

It's stabbing *into* him like the tongue of a demon from some -- some feverishly orgiastic *woodcut*, and Bruce can't be silent, can't do anything but shout and squeeze Tim's wrists --

"I'll help, boss..."

And Dick and Tim are giggling together as Dick drags Tim further up the bed until Bruce is holding his wrists near his hips --

Until the head of his straight and beautiful penis is dragging across Bruce's lips --

Bruce catches the head in his mouth and sucks hard, trying to express, to *share* --

So *deep* --

*In* you --

Yes, yes, *please* --

Gonna fuck you *hard* one day, B. Gonna do you 'til you fuckin' *cry*.

Should that truly be making Bruce sob *now*? He must give *pleasure* --

What do you think you're doing now? Making us do your taxes?

And laughing makes him cough around Tim's penis --


In here, in here...

Love you so much --

Please suck, please *suck* --

And Tim cries out in his mind, shatters something --

The walls between you. Feel...

He's so -- so *hot*, so --

The taste of Tim so salt and *male* --

And his penis is being loved, made love to by someone --

Loves him, oh he loves him --

Feels so perfect, so --

But is it his?

Does it matter? Could anything matter other than the pleasure of human heat --

*Demon* heat --

Tongue and lips and teeth --

Teeth --

"*Bruce* --"

And Bruce snaps back into himself for Tim's cry, or perhaps for the feel of sharp-clawed fingers in his hair --

"Be *careful*, little brother --"

"Can't -- *can't* -- oh, he's --"

He's dragging his teeth up and down Tim's *shaft*. He's --

Bruce groans and starts to pull back --

And Tim sinks his claws into Bruce's scalp in half a dozen places --

And Dick *yanks* Tim's hands away --

And Jason begins to *thrust* into Bruce's anus, begins to --

To take him --

Bruce growls and does his best to *swallow* Tim's penis. Only being taken utterly could *possibly* express --

"Bruce -- *Bruce* --"

Yes, Tim, I must -- I *will* pleasure you --

Tim makes a *yowling* sound and struggles with Dick --

Until Dick kisses Tim hard, and Tim begins thrusting -- begins taking Bruce's *mouth* --

Yes, *please* --

We got you, B. Here...And Jason *wiggles* his tongue --

Bruce growls again --

Again --

Bruce *sucks*, and tries to work his head in rhythm to Tim's thrusts -- but he can't make himself slow *down* enough for that, can't --

And Tim is crying out over and over again --

And Bruce feels loose and open and *needy*, so --

And it could only be better if he were somehow pleasuring Dick, too, somehow *giving* to Dick --

Ooh, *boss*. Let go of Tim's right wrist...

Bruce squeezes it goodbye and does so -- and then Dick's foreskin is sliding against Bruce's palm --

Stroke me *meanly*, boss...

Bruce has no idea what that means --

Different for everyone, B. Improvise.

Indeed. He squeezes *firmly* and goes for a slow and *roughly* rhythmic stroke --

"Oh, *Bruce* --"

"*Bruce* --"

"*Bruce*. Heh. Time to play," Jason says, and the loss of his tongue makes Bruce whimper and *shake* --

But Jason's fingers are slick and warm --

Jason's fingers are pressing --

Oh, *in* --

So thick, so --

Bruce groans and sucks, tries to lick, to *share* --

We feel --

You need us --

-- never leave --

Oh, *brother* --

*Please* --!

But there are no words in the sounds Tim is making outside of Bruce's mind, and no rhythm to his ragged thrusts --

Can't hurt won't hurt oh *Bruce* --

And Bruce tries to *feel* soothing, tries to make them all believe that it's all right, that everything is, every *touch*. Dick's penis is long and lean in his hand --

Jason's fingers are opening him *wide* --

And Tim has made Bruce's lips numb and his throat *ache*, but there must be more, there must --

Oh, to feel Tim's *semen* splash his throat --

"Oh -- *do* it, little brother --"

"Yeah, baby, c'mon, give it *up*..."

"*Ahn* -- *ahn*!"

And suddenly there's an image in his mind of himself pressing his fingers behind Tim's scrotum --

*Do* it, B. He'll go off like a *rocket*.

And that's all he needs, all he could ever --

He releases Tim's wrist and lets all of his weight rest on the bed and Tim's lower abdomen. It takes a moment to *maneuver*, a moment to lose contact with --

But Dick and Jay have *both* stopped thrusting to allow him to --

Oh, such *brothers* -- ! He can concentrate, and he can shift enough to press his fingers just *there* --

"*Bruce*! Oh -- *ohn* --" And then Tim's sounds become strangled things, thin and desperate and impossibly sexual.

He wants to wrap his hand around Tim's slim throat while stroking him, he wants to bend Tim over --

He wants to make love to Tim in that negligee, and he wants to do it slowly and *tenderly*, more tender than his sucks, his strokes of Dick's wonderful penis --

There ain't *nothin'* tender about the way you're clenching up tight for me, B. Promise you'll do it *just* like this when I'm fucking you with my *cock*.

Yes --

Oh, *please*, yes, because Jason is twisting his fingers, Jason is *crooking* his fingers --

And Bruce crooks his fingers and presses harder --

And Dick twines his fingers with Tim's own --

And Bruce dreams of Tim's fingers wound in his hair while he massages and *forces* his fingers against the thin and sensitive flesh --

Again --

*Again*, and Tim is screaming for him, slamming into Bruce's mouth, struggling against Dick's *hold* --

And ejaculating into Bruce's mouth, one *hot* splash after another, one --

Oh, to be marked like this --

Forever known *just* like this --

Brother --

Oh, brother, just like --


Bruce sucks as hard as he *can* -- and is rewarded with one more spurt of ejaculate. He hums and works his head on Tim's penis, slicking it with Tim's own semen and making his mouth ache and need --

More. More --

Bruce pulls off and turns to Dick --

"Ooh, not *yet*, boss --"

"Please --"

"You're not *desperate* enough, B," Jason says, and emphasizes his words with a thrust that makes Bruce cry out --

And then he does it several more times until Bruce is having difficulty focusing on anything but the wonderful *burn* in his rectum, the sense of being taken by someone who loves him --

"*Always*. You don't know how *good* you feel --"

"I know -- I know how good *you* felt -- *Jay* --"

Crooked fingers and a *grunt* -- "Fuck, yeah, B. I love you and I *need* you. Gonna open you up as fast as I *can*."

"Yes -- *please* --"

"Oh -- Bruce," and Tim tilts Bruce's head up and smiles down at him.

Bruce smiles back. "Tim. I *taste* you."

Tim parts his lips and lengthens his teeth. "You made me feel... you felt it briefly?"

"Yes, I -- *nnh* -- *Jay* --"

"Heh. No, no, go ahead and talk, B. I'll just do my thing over *here* --"


"Gonna come for me, B?"

"I -- you're making -- I feel --"

"You feel what?"

"*Burning*. That other Bruce, he burned --"

"Not like you, boss. Not... mmm. That other Bruce was buried under too many years of *cold*," and Dick moves Bruce's hand from his penis --

"Please --"

"Shh, just for a little while," and Dick cuddles close to Bruce's side --

And Tim rests Bruce's head in his lap -- furred again, so *soft* --

Bruce strokes and nuzzles, giving himself over to the pleasure of it, the simple, perfect *pleasure* --

Oh, brother, just like that...

*Yes*, brother, let us *please* you...

Love, so much love --

Burn, I -- oh, it *aches* --

It has to --

We love you --

Please, never stop, never --

-- won't leave won't leave --

So -- and your scents *drown* me --

-- do you like a dog in the *street* --

And Bruce spreads his legs wider helplessly, *needfully* --

*Brother* --

I need, please I need so *badly* --

And there is a pause within him, a caesura of intense *study*, because the brothers are knowing him inside and out, because his brothers love him and need every moment --

Even when you're alone --

-- not alone --

-- never ever --

Little wing. Give him another finger...

And Jason groans, loud outside and *thrumming* inside --

*Please* --

If he can take another finger --

No, Jay. He'd just want you to fuck him, and he *can't* take that.

*Please*, I'll do -- I'll do anything at all --

Fuck, he's *begging*, you know I can't --

Shh... And Dick rises from Bruce's side and moves down the bed -- "I've got you, Jay. I won't let you go too far."

"Dick --"

"He needs it, little wing. He needs it to *hurt*."

Please. Please. "*Please*, I ache so *much*," and Bruce's voice is unfamiliar to his own ears, less aroused than lost, less lost than *helpless*, even muffled by the soft black fur on Tim's thighs --

Even with Tim stroking him so gently, cradling him so --

Brothers, my brothers --

"All yours, B. You -- one more finger. Just one --"

Bruce groans and feels himself flex, feels himself *clench* around Jason's fingers and can't --

"C'mon, B, let me in --"

"I'm trying, I want -- please don't think I don't *want* --"

"I know you *need* it, B, so open *up*," Jason says, and he's pulling out most of the way --

He's pushing with *three*, and for a moment Bruce can't believe it, can't *accept* --

And those are Dick's hands massaging his back --

Tim's hands stroking him as carefully as a mother with her child --

And Bruce realizes that he isn't breathing. For a moment, the idea of doing so is too frightening to *contemplate* -- but then he remembers what will happen if he does. He blushes and breathes deeply --

And the exhale becomes a loud and *helpless* groan halfway through. He --

"So fucking *tight* --"

"You -- do you *like* --"

"Wanna fuck you so bad I can *taste* it, B --"

"Taste -- taste *you* --"

"Yeah, you can, we can -- do anything we *want*, yeah?"

Bruce nods and groans, he can't --

Words --

"*Please*, Jay, please *take* --"

"Can't -- can't fuck you like this, B. You're *too* tight --"

And Bruce knows his moan is *mournful*, but, the ache --

The incredible *ache*, and he's been erect for so long that his penis feels like a *weight*, vast and impossible --

"What -- what you *can* --"

"Yeah, yeah, I hear you, B. I know you need me and it feels so fucking *perfect*," and Jason begins to *rock* his fingers back and forth. There is none of the friction that had been making Bruce *shake*, but the pressure is there --

The incredible *girth* of those fingers is there --

And something like *half* the sensation of being taken, being held and --

Dick pushes Bruce's shoulders down and *holds* them there --

"We can *make* you take it, Bruce," Tim says, and his voice is gently *thoughtful*.

"I -- I --"

"You couldn't do anything about it, boss."

"You could... nn. You *said* you were all ours."

"I don't know how you *expect* us to take something like that, Bruce, but..."

"*But*," and Dick moves one hand to the back of Bruce's neck and *squeezes*. "We can smell you, you know."

"Oh, yeah. You're fillin' us right up, B."

"Making us take *you*," and Tim begins to *scratch* Bruce's scalp. Far lighter than before, but -- 

But --

"We should *really* return the favor. Right, B?"

Bruce pants and moans, tries to push up -- nothing.

"Answer us, boss."

"Or else."

And Bruce feels his *heart* seize, because a part of his mind is only now -- after all that has come -- acknowledging the fact that he is trafficking with demons. It's almost *laughable* --

Or it would be if it weren't so maddening, so -- frightening and large and *thick* --

No, those are Jason's fingers, Jason's *will* --

The fact --

His *loss* of the facts --

So thick, so hot and *thick* --

And Dick is squeezing harder --

And Tim is *scratching* harder --

But Jason is rocking his fingers faster, *harder*, and Bruce doesn't know what to *say* --

"Say yes."

"Say always."

"Fucking *beg* to get off --"

"Yes, brothers, *please* --"


"*Always*," Bruce says, and it's more of a *sob* than a word --

Just as his next several cries are more sobs than anything else, because that's Dick's free hand on his penis, and Dick's expert *stroke* as he gathers the copious pre-ejaculate, as he slicks Bruce, as he squeezes and *works* Bruce --

No, that's Jason, beautiful Jay, perfect --

And that's Tim's *thumb* in Bruce's mouth, and all he can do is suckle like a babe between cries, all he can do is drool and mouth and beg with all of himself, beg until the only words are slurred pleas for more, *always* more --

But Dick begins stroking him faster --

And Bruce begins to feel incrementally *looser* --

Loose enough for *friction* --

"Aw, *fuck*, that's so good, that's so fucking *good* --"

Yes, yes, *please* --

"Give it up for us, boss. You know you need to."

"You know we'll take it."

"Everything, B. *Everything*."

And Bruce opens his mouth around Tim's thumb -- and begins to shout. Once for every thrust, every stroke, and of course Dick and Jason would find each other's rhythms easily, of course they'd be able to shift and change --

And Tim starts taking Bruce's mouth with his thumb, starts --

His sounds are *messy* on top of being muffled. He -- he's nothing but a creature of sexuality, of sexual *gluttony*, and no sin has ever been *sweeter* --

"Here you go, boss," and Dick *presses* on the head of Bruce's penis, turning the ache much brighter, much --

Sharper --

And Bruce's vision leaves him in a flash of white as a kind and loving vise tightens around his spine --

As Jason begins *vibrating* his fingers --

As Bruce sucks and shouts and *spurts*. His own semen feels impossibly hot coming out, and it's just another reason to cry out as his vision returns in pornographic flashes:

His own semen in the palm Dick's holding in front of his face.

Tim's furred sheath and scrotum.

Tim's pink tongue *lapping* at the semen even as Bruce spurts one more *time* --

"You are *such* a good boy," Jason says, and slowly lessens the vibration and rocking until Bruce can still *himself* -- oh.

He hadn't realized that he'd been rocking his *hips* --

"You gave it up so fucking right --" And Jason takes a deep breath. "C'mon, you, too. Breathe."

It's then that Bruce hears himself panting -- and feels himself clenching. There's no way Jason can pull out, and Bruce needs him to do just that. All the looseness he'd felt -- seemed to feel? -- as Jason took him is gone, leaving Bruce with rapidly increasing *pain*.

"Ooh, yeah, you need sleep and a refill on your endorphins," Dick says, and strokes Bruce's back. "Breathe."

"Yes, Bruce. Hn. Fill yourself with my scent."

That sounds like an excellent idea, and Bruce does so, burying his face against Tim's groin to further distract himself --

But nothing can distract from the *incredible* feeling of loss that comes when Jason pulls out.

"Oh, B... I *promise* I'll stay in just as soon as you can handle it."

"I -- I know --"

"And we're not going *anywhere*, boss," Dick says, and lies beside him again. Jason takes Bruce other side --

And he's using some sort of damp cloth -- it doesn't appear to be a handkerchief -- on his hand. There's a scent of aloe coming from it --

"Stop paying attention, B. This kind totally doesn't exist here, yet."

"It's... some sort of cleansing wipe?"

"*Exactly* that. Mostly marketed for babies around now. They're mass-produced to be sturdy and effective, but still disposable. The other Bruce came up with some which worked better for his needs than others, and, once he had partners, began stashing them discreetly around the house."

Bruce frowns and tries to -- oh. "He... acknowledged... ah... teenaged sexuality?"

"Hnn. Sort of."

"Not enough for the human Dick's needs."

"*Waaay* too much for the human Jason's needs," and Jason snickers and tosses the wipe easily into the wastebasket next to the desk. "After a while, the kid started trying to get erections in private. Just to see if they could *stay* private."

"Oh... dear --"

And Jason strokes him. "It was an experiment that didn't last very long. Mainly because jerking off? Could not even come *close* to comparing to what Bruce was giving him."

Tim sighs. "I *almost* wish we had stayed long enough to get *those* memories."

Bruce starts to kneel up -- but Dick and Jason hold him down. All right. "You wish to know what lovemaking would be like with the other Bruce?"

Tim's expression twists to something sour. "I was mainly thinking about what *fucking* would be like --"

"But you *realized* that you'd never get that, little brother...?"

Tim sighs again. "Yes, I suppose," and he turns to smile at Bruce. "What are you planning to do for my brothers?"

Bruce opens his mouth -- and his penis twitches powerfully enough to make him moan.

His brothers smile at him sharply. Very --

"You're all so *beautiful*."

Dick's expression softens and he cuddles closer. "For you, for you --"

"And for us."

"Definitely. It's not like these seemings don't work in other places."

"Even *with* my more goatish appendages, and that was *deeply* surprising."

"Aw, c'mon, baby bro, *everybody* likes it when you rock the Pan look."

"Amazingly enough, Jay? Demons don't really count for that sort of metric."

Dick sighs. "If demons don't count? Neither should Bruces."

"But --"

"Damned right," Jason says. "Bruces are fucking *twisted*."

Tim scowls. "Our Bruce is perfectly well-adjusted now."

Silence -- but Dick and Jason are very clearly trying to hold in laughter. Bruce hums and kneels up to cup Tim's face and kiss him softly. "I'm very glad you think so."

"What? You're -- you're all *actualized*. And you're doing sane things like making love --"

"To demons."

"Kinda evil demons, at that."

"We're not that evil! I know! I'm working at it!"

Dick kneels up and strokes the spiked brush of Tim's hair. "And you're doing *very* well, little brother."

"Oh, yeah. I mean, you terrify him way less than we do. Mostly."

Tim's expression turns sour again, and that --

Bruce kisses his mouth, and his cheeks, and his temples --

Tim growls and Bruce pulls back --

"That didn't mean stop!"

Bruce smiles and goes back to kissing Tim everywhere his scowl reaches --

And Jason kisses a line from Bruce's shoulder to his elbow before pulling back and licking his lips. "So what *is* it about cranky people which does it for you, B?"

"Oh, yes, the human Dick has been dying to get an answer to that question for *years*."

"The human Jason totally has a reflex to get hard every time he gets pissy now. His Bruce was *that* focused. He was probably forcing himself to think of maggots or some shit tonight."

"Hn. The human Dick's tactical use of 'dirty talk' was really inspired, when you think about it."

Dick blows on his fingernails and pretends to buff them on his bare chest. "I taught him everything he knows."

Bruce blinks. "Did you?"

Dick winks. "Not even a little. He really would've made a *wonderful* demon. But...?"

And they all look at him expectantly.

Oh, yes, the attractiveness of anger --


Well... to explain it would be difficult and possibly unhelpful, but...

Bruce closes his eyes and fills his mind with the image of Harvey ranting eloquently and passionately about some point in history, or some answer given in class which expressed the given student's ignorance and elitism, or some *painfully* ignorant comment from a professor --

Or a dorm mother --

Or the *headmaster* --

And always Harvey is standing straight and tall, and always his deep brown eyes are *hot* with passion, and always his motions are clipped and deft and --

And the brothers are looking at him with near-identical expressions of 'you're adorable.'

Well. There's also...


Yes yes?

Here, Lex is making a mockery of the 'manly virtues' Exeter was supposed to instill in all of them, but, even as he gestures languidly and purrs... his eyes are genuinely angry. Genuinely *passionate*.

Here, Lex is baring his teeth at the back of their gym teacher, and the shape of his skull has never seemed more sleekly *dangerous*.

And here --

Dick coughs into his fist.

Tim licks his lips.

And Jason stares at him.

"That's... strange?"

"No! It's just..." And Dick bites his lip and turns to share a somewhat panicked look with Jason and Tim.

Bruce sits back on his heels and waits --

"There's nothing wrong with desiring him," Tim says, in an exceedingly *pedantic* tone.

"No, yes, exactly," Dick says, and smiles.

"And -- uh. He's got -- I mean. He's really smart."

"Yes! Yes, little wing, he is. And he has a certain --"

"Well. He *is* attractive. Physically, I mean," Tim says, and turns his nose up slightly.

"You... all dislike him?"

Another shared look --

And Dick coughs into his fist again. "We didn't realize --"

"Before, I mean --"

"How *much* you wanted him. I mean, seriously, B, you just gave him half of one of your sexuality's *foundations*," Jason says, and sits up to *plead* with him with his eyes.

"Oh. I... that much?"

His brothers nod as one. And that --

"It's only... he's fascinating. I could never be sure how much of the image he put across was a lie, and I'm usually quite *good* at that."

"Yes, and..." Tim licks his lips. "I can see how a mystery could... ah."

"I -- you're all so very *tense* --"

His brothers take deep breaths and smile up at him innocently.

Bruce has never wanted to frown while laughing before, but he can accept the fact that there will be many firsts with his beautiful brothers.

Who are looking at him fondly again.

"Perhaps you could *tell* me why he's not an appropriate choice...?"

"Well --"


"He's..." And Tim frowns. "Why *don't* we fix that, too?"

"Baby bro, I don't know if we *can* fix that --"

"Exactly. I mean. He's kind of -- Jay, help me out --"

"He doesn't have the same rock-solid *foundation* with Bruce that Harvey has. That -- it has to make a difference, yeah?"

Tim frowns *stubbornly*, but all of this talk of fixing --

"Tell me, please. Will he... will he go mad, as well?"

"I -- it depends on the definition?" And Dick has an expression of pained *exactitude*.

"He's kind of a mad *scientist*. I mean, I think we can all agree with that, yeah?" And Jason looks back and forth between them all --

And Tim crosses his arms over his chest. "He makes perfectly sane choices with regards to his plans and overarching ambitions."

"Baby bro, you are *so* not going back to the Morningstar anytime soon."

"I'll go where I please!"

"Yeah, but *don't* please that. Or -- fuck, you know what I --"

Tim hisses at Jason --

"Don't *hiss* at me. We're trying to be *good*, here, remember?"

"'Good' and 'evil' are just *words* --"

"Words that are kinda fucking *important* to our *brother*, Tim!"

"*Lex* is important to our brother --"

"If -- if he's done something terrible..." But Bruce can't finish that thought.

Not even when his brothers *slump* nearly as one and look everywhere save at *him*. But --

"Please, tell me. Harvey... were Harvey's suspicions correct?"

Dick looks up and smiles ruefully. "It'll never be proven."

"Never ever."

"Never --" Tim sighs. "He did it. He *always* does it."

"Not in those dimensions where -- uh. Never mind," Jason says, and winces.

Bruce frowns. "How. How can you be sure?"

"It's really..." Dick gestures oddly, fingers tangling and releasing -- "It's a defining moment of his life. Years of psychological and emotional torture --"

"The man was a *toad*," Tim says, and draws himself up. "Sooner or later, one of your future allies would've at least *tried* to kill him."

Bruce shakes his head and draws himself back --

"Oh, Bruce --" And Tim just *is* straddling Bruce's lap and cupping his face. "He's still passionate. He's still -- still *brilliant*. Still *beautiful*."

"He -- his *father* --"

"*Tortured* him --"

"Hey, baby bro, *why* are you defending him? You were --"

"Bruce *loved* him. Can't you see?" And Tim strokes Bruce restlessly, *firmly* --

"Tim. I could never --"

Tim bites Bruce's lip. "Never never. Never *say* that. You don't know -- at least talk to him."

"C'mon, baby bro, this is fundamental Bruce-ology here. You don't *do* what he did --"

"No, wait, little wing, I think Tim has a point. I..." Dick frowns at him and tilts his head to the side. "Is this part of what buries you, boss?"

"I don't -- know what you mean --"

Another rueful smile. "I think you do. I think --" Dick shakes his head. "Losing two of the most important parts of your adolescence to madness and evil would damage *anyone*."

"And teach them not to trust," Tim says, and seems to be trying to *force* his points into Bruce's mind via the press of his fingertips. "Not to love."

"Never love."

"Never -- fuck, yeah, I can see it," Jason says and pushes a hand back through his hair. "It -- we talked about killing, boss."

Bruce winces and tugs on Tim's wrists until Tim stops massaging his face.

Tim frowns -- "We have to."

"Have to have to."

"It's better than torture --"

"Always. And you -- you *will* torture people, boss."

"That's just the kind of interrogation you'll have to *do* --"

"But *killing*," Bruce says, and frowns at all of them. "His own *father*!"

"It's huge, yeah. It's not like other killings."

"There is... there are signs that it haunts him for the rest of his life. In some ways," Dick says. "Bruce --"

"It *should* haunt him! It should *torment* him!"

"Look, B, you don't even want to *know* from the Eumenides. Seriously. *Everyone* was relieved when they retired."

"Yes," Tim says, and squeezes Bruce's hands. "They were impossible to control. They -- when gods create things, it's never especially -- well, that's neither here nor there. The point is -- don't let this close you off."

"I *must* --"

"No, boss, you *don't*. You make the choices. You control *everything*. And you're allowed to make exceptions."

"No --"

"Exceptions are *human*, B --"

"I must -- I must mete justice out fairly. *Impartially* and  --"

"But not *blindly*," Jason says, and pushes a hand back through his hair. "If every human lived the same kind of life with the same kinds of circumstances, then demons wouldn't even *exist*, you know?"

"Yes, Bruce. I..." Tim leans in and nuzzles Bruce's cheek before leaning in to kiss his ear -- "If you treat every criminal the same way, you'll make no true inroads. Or -- you will, and then you'll reach a stopping point. A point beyond which you won't be able to *go* --"

"Because no one will thank you for beating the killer of a violent child molester into confessing."

"Or dangling the man who steals food to feed his children over the side of a roof."

"Or, you know, beating the crap out of another *vigilante*."

Bruce winces and draws himself back. There's a part of him -- large and *secure* -- which has only listened to every word his brothers have said and has accepted it. All it can *do* is accept.

The rest of him is remembering his father's laugh, so low and seemingly pleased with everything which could *make* him laugh.

It had been wonderful to laugh with him always, even those times when Bruce had been --

Had been *confused*, and --

Cold. And --

It had all felt so *strange*, and surely his brothers could explain --


The Bat --! But... not. That was his *own* voice, as low and implacable as his father's at his most angry --


But he must *understand* --

"B...? Where are you?"

"We can't feel you --"

"Come back --"

And it feels almost as if something is *shoving* him back to --

And his brothers are surrounding him, touching him and staring at him *worriedly* --

"I'm all right. I... I believe a part of my mind is somewhat focused on keeping me from thinking very deeply about my father."

Dick and Tim wince powerfully -- and Jason nods slowly. "I can see it. You've had that fucking Bat in your head for long enough that there's a place hollowed out in your soul where you can hide."

Bruce blinks. "Is that... repairable? I'd rather not *hide* from myself."

"Yeah, but it'll take some time. The main thing is that you have to show us where it *is* so we can pull you out of there."

"It -- I mean *I* seemed to be willing to *push* me out of that place."

"But that might not always be true, boss," Dick says, and butts his shoulder. "Let me," he says, resting his palm on Bruce's chest and pressing -- oddly.

It almost seems as though a part of his hand is *inside* Bruce, even though there's no blood --

"It's okay --"

"Dick knows what he's doing --"

"-- done this before. You never know *what* you're going to find in a target -- and what you'll be able to use," and Dick winks at him sunnily. "This should only take -- ooh. Well, look at that."

"What --" But Bruce's mind fills with the image of a rose, lurid red in a sea of blackness. The bloom appears both fancifully soft and *complex*, and reaching out --

Reaching in --

There's death.

(There's always death.)

Death and *decay*, right at the heart of the bloom. It doesn't appear to be spreading, but the rose is almost disintegrating there, leaving a view to a deeper, more *complete* darkness.

Bruce reaches further --

"Ah-ah-ah," Dick says and does *something* --

And when Bruce opens his eyes, Dick's hand is inside him to the *wrist*.

"Don't panic, boss."

"Yeah, that wouldn't really be a good idea --"

"You think of yourself as a *flower*?"

Bruce blinks. "No...?"

"But --"

"Let him focus on not panicking, baby bro."

"I'm *distracting* him!"

Jason wags his head back and forth before raising his eyebrows. "Is it working?"

"Oh, yes. I'm definitely focused more on thinking about why I might consider myself to be a rose than I am on thinking about what Dick may be doing to my internal organs."

"Well, that's good! Sorry, baby bro."

"You're forgiven. *Provisionally*," and Tim tosses his hair. "In any event, Dick is manipulating your soul far more than he's manipulating your organs, but, well, it's still better for you not to panic."

"Then I won't. Perhaps... Mother always liked roses very much. And Father would bring them to her often?"

"That *could* be why... hm." Tim cocks his head to the side thoughtfully.

"Yes, Tim?"

"I believe -- gimme just one more second -- I *believe* little brother is thinking about the horticultural habits of other Bruces of our acquaintance."

Tim smiles wryly. "Indeed."

Jason *snickers*. "Oh -- oh, man -- for his *birthday* --"

Tim coughs a laugh --

"Do *not* make me giggle while I'm playing with our brother's *soul*, please."

"Oh, yes, please don't," Bruce says, and pets Dick's hair in what he hopes are soothing strokes.

"Sorry, sorry. It's just -- uh. Yeah. Roses." And Jason coughs into his fist. 

Tim licks his lips. "Yes. Roses. Well."

"Whose birthday were you considering?"

Jason and Tim share a look --

"Well, why not, yeah? An alien. He crash-landed on this planet about twelve-thirteen years ago as a baby, and is being raised by an older farming couple in Kansas."

Bruce blinks. "And no one has *noticed*?"

"Well, he *looks* just like a really pretty -- and *big* -- human. But he has some pretty crazy superpowers, and he's just gonna get stronger and stronger as he ages. In most dimensions, he winds up being your best friend -- and one of the world's greatest heroes."

"Oh, yes. And, one year, on the anniversary of his ship crashing on this planet, you gave him a rose for his birthday. A rose you had -- painstakingly -- cultivated to be the same color as the uniform he wore to act as a vigilante."

Bruce blinks *more* -- "And... he isn't more than only a friend to me in those universes?"

Jason and Tim share another look --

"There's kind of a hint -- possibly even a cheat-sheet. Possibly even a *codex* -- of unresolved sexual tension there. Especially considering what the guy -- his name is Clark Kent -- gets up to with Dick Grayson," Dick says, and does something --

It feels like there are *two* of him. It feels as if he'd see himself if he looked to the side, as if he'd see everything, *know* everything --

"Ooh, not just yet, boss," and Dick *grunts* --

And there's only one of him again. Bruce takes a deep breath --

And Dick pulls his hand out of him. "There, all set."

"Am I healed?"

"Well, no. I can't actually do that," and Dick smiles ruefully. "What I can do -- and what I *did* do -- was put a little... oh, let's call it a bell, in your soul that will ring when you go there, and ring really *loudly* when you're stuck there. So we'll be able to find you."

"And free you."

"And get you to, you know, heal it a little yourself."

Bruce nods. That seems very useful. He strokes his own chest, but can feel nothing different. Not that he expected to, but --

He doesn't know.

It's exceedingly disconcerting to think that the Bat had been *consuming* him over the years, but truly, what *had* he thought it was doing in there? Some consideration must be given for the fact that Bruce hadn't even known it was *real* much of the time, but...

How many Bruces have been possessed in the same manner by the same sort of creature?

Just how *much* of the Bruce who had *shaped* his brothers had gone down that creature's maw?

How much is *left*?

Dick wraps his arms around Bruce from the side and rests his chin on Bruce's shoulder. "It helps that you're so *big*."

"Heh. Huuuge."

Tim touches his tongue to his upper lip. "Adequate. More than."

Bruce blushes. "I -- I'm serious --"

"So are we, B. Every single human has a world inside them, but most people's worlds are pretty damned small, when you get right down to it. Still, that leaves all *kinds* of people -- artists, crazy people, certain kinds of addicts, that kind of thing -- who contain *huge* worlds."



"Heh. And then? There are the people like *you*," Jason says, and leans back against the headboard before stroking down his own broad and beautiful chest --

Abdomen --

He *grips* his own penis and strokes it back to hardness so quickly that it's difficult to believe he had *softened*. "You... you're huge, B."

"A guy could get lost in you," Dick says, and crawls on his hands and knees up the bed and between Jason's broad, muscular thighs.

"Sometimes it seems like the best possible way of doing this," Tim says, brushing Jason's hand away and gripping Jason's penis himself. "Getting lost, I mean," and he tilts Jason's penis toward Dick's mouth.

"It's definitely one of the better deaths *I* can think of," and Dick dips his head -- and licks Jason's penis from root to tip.

Jason *grunts* --

And Bruce hears himself pant. He -- he must focus on what they're *saying* --

"Not really, B. You can just watch," and Jason reaches to wind Dick's hair around his *fist*.

"Oh. I --"

"I know *I* like watching," Tim says, and smiles *extremely* sharply --

"It can be almost as good --" And then Dick is *gulping* because Jason has *hauled* him onto his penis --

"Almost as good as *doing*, B," and Jason licks his lips and tightens his grip on Dick's hair.

"You. You're so beautiful --"

"All of us, Bruce...?" And Tim moves his hand --

And Jason forces his penis that much *deeper* --

"Yes. Yes, please," Bruce says, and tries not to reach for himself --

Tries not to *touch* --

"Oh, Bruce... let go."

Bruce hears himself *gasp* -- and remembers. It's all over. It's all --

No more *privation* --

He reaches for himself --

But Tim knocks his hand away and smiles. "There are still *some* rules, Bruce."

Bruce blinks stupidly -- he can *feel* the dimness of his own expression. "I... am not allowed to masturbate?"

"Mm-mm," Dick says, and shakes his head --

Jason snickers and *gasps* -- "Aw -- fuck, that's so --"

"Good. So... mm," and Tim wraps his small, hot hand around Bruce's penis and begins to stroke. "You may masturbate."

"I -- yes?"

"When we *tell* you to, B."

Dick groans and nods *wildly*, horns gleaming in the dawn sunlight --

"And when you need to, of course," Tim says, and rubs light circles on the head with his thumb. "We'd never think to get between you and... hm... proper maintenance."

"Baby bro. He's not a *cyborg*."

"He can be whatever he wants to be," Tim says serenely, and stops stroking to lick his fingers with his pointed pink tongue.

Bruce leans in helplessly --

And Tim makes him suck his own fingers. "There'll be any number of advances in software, hardware, *wetware*... well. Keep it in mind."

"*Tim* --"

Tim hisses at Jason --

Jason snorts -- "Fuckin' *perv* -- *nnh*, oh, yeah, Dickie, make me *pay* for talking shit."

Bruce pulls back -- "Oh. What --"

"He's using his *teeth*, B. C'mon, Tim, let him get closer."

Tim *grips* Bruce's penis and *tugs* Bruce further up the bed by it --

"I -- I'm capable of following --"

"Your cock? Fuck, yeah, you are," and Jason winks -- and begins to move Dick's head up and down and up again --

*Down* again --

"I want -- that. I..." Bruce licks his still-swollen lips --

"I keep my hair this length for just that reason," Tim says, and begins to stroke Bruce again --

"Oh. I..." Bruce moans and squeezes his eyes shut --

"Don't do that --"

Bruce opens his eyes and leans in to kiss Tim, to bite his beautiful mouth and kiss him harder --

Tim makes a surprised noise but gives the kiss back, licking and humming --

Jason cries out --

Tim *pushes* Bruce out of the kiss --

And Dick has apparently used his strength to pull back from Jason's penis in order to focus his attentions on Jason's heavy scrotum. Dick is *nibbling* the soft and vulnerable flesh --

"Nnh -- fuck, that's so *good*."

Bruce moans. "I want -- *hnh* -- *Tim* --"

"Yes...?" Tim is *squeezing* Bruce's scrotum, and the pain is dark, somehow, heavy and -- ultimately far less unmanning than the pleasure.

"Please," Bruce says, and reaches to stroke Tim's soft cheek.

Tim turns to lick and suck Bruce's fingers -- and begins to squeeze Bruce's scrotum *rhythmically*. It's impossible not to pump his hips for it, for all that the only stimulation for his penis is the occasional brush against the inside of Tim's lean forearm, and that's rapidly becoming a kind of *torment* --

Lex --

And Tim raises an eyebrow -- and smiles around Bruce's fingers.

Bruce has a moment to wonder what the smile means --

A *brief* moment to *fear* --

And then it's Lex sucking his fingers, soft, pink mouth *stretched* around them as the pale sunlight gleams on his naked scalp --

As he strokes his own pale and hairless --

All over, all over --

"Aw, *Jesus*, are you *encouraging* him?"

'Lex's' always surprisingly broad shoulders shake once with unvoiced laughter, and his slate-colored eyes have a wryly *hot* expression --

It's too easy to *see* --

Too --

And 'Lex' pulls off and licks his lips --

'Lex' looks down and thus calls Bruce's attention to that large, square hand wrapping itself around Bruce's --

"What a marvelous specimen this is, Brucie. Where *have* you been keeping it, hm...?"

Bruce gasps, and he knows he *ought* to have expected that voice --

That purringly *seductive* voice, and it's so much more honest than Lex's usual, so much more --

More --

"Oh, yes, in *those* delightful individuals. Well..."

Bruce's penis *twitches* -- "I -- please --"

"What *I* would like to know," 'Lex' says, and drags his thumbnail up and down the underside of Bruce's penis, "is what I'd have to do to get a turn of my own. Darling."

"*Please* --"

'Lex' purses his lips. "Begging already...?"

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut --

"Don't do *that* --"

"Tim. *Please*. Only you. Only -- and your brothers --"

"Hn. Noted," Tim says in his own voice, and the hand around Bruce's penis shifts back to Tim's own. "Open your eyes again...?"

He's *afraid* to -- he does it, and Tim is studying him avidly, *knowingly*. And that can only mean --

"You. You took that from some heretofore unexamined part of my mind. Didn't you?"

Tim nods once and smiles more broadly. "It took a *little* improvisation, but you even know where all of his *beauty* marks are located."

"I --"

"Nn. *Fuck*. This is why I don't go *looking* in there until I'm *invited*, baby bro --"

"I can't even wrap my *mind* around the massiveness of that lie, Jay --"

Jason snickers and gasps -- "I -- uh -- no, back on my *cock*, Dickie --"

Dick lets himself be pulled away from Jason's scrotum -- but then stills and smiles broadly and *wetly*. "In my *ass*, little wing."

Jason grunts and pumps at the air, pre-ejaculate spattering Dick's face and hair --

And Bruce is panting once more, *twitching* --

"You wanna see that, B? See what you're gonna get just as soon as you're --"

"*Yes*," Bruce blurts. "I -- *please*."

Jason licks his lips slowly and grins. "Beg for it...?"

Bruce blushes --

Tim squeezes him *viciously* --

"*Please*! I -- please. Please *take* your brother."

"Ooh. Again. More," and Jason unwinds his fist from Dick's hair and stands on the mattress.

He's so tall this way, so large and *powerfully* sexual. Bruce leans in to nuzzle his penis --

And Jason holds him away.


"Please *what*?"

Bruce pants and licks his lips. "Please let me --"

"Nuh-uh. The *other* thing, B."

Bruce groans and glances at Dick -- just in time to see Dick settling himself on his elbows and knees with his hair hiding his -- his beautiful face --

Dick laughs softly and moves his hair --

And Jason grips Bruce's hair and *forces* Bruce to look up at him. "Gimme what I *want*, B. Do it --"

"*Always* -- I -- please take him, Jay. Please -- please take your brother passionately and --"

"Hard, B...?"

Bruce groans -- "Does he -- does he like --"


"*Hard*, Jay, please -- please make him cry *out*, his beautiful voice -- *mm* --" And Bruce *has* to suck, because the first three inches of Jason's penis are in his mouth, nestled in his mouth --

Bruce groans and sucks and sucks *harder* --

Bruce *bucks* for the feel of Tim twisting his *nipple* --

And then Bruce gasps, because Jason pulls out and drops to his knees behind Dick, Jason pulls the lubricant out of the air and slicks himself almost perfunctorily --

"Now," Tim says, and *swallows* him --

And Jason *shoves* in --

And Bruce shouts and tries to strangle another. He must *hear*, must --

Dick has thrown his head back --

Jason's flexing his wings and *grunting* --

Tim is *urging* Bruce to --

Jason pulls out almost all the way -- and then wraps his fists around Dick's *horns* --

"Oh, *little* wing --"

"*Scream*," Jason says, and *slams* in --

And Bruce thrusts because he *must* --

And Dick seems to be crying out to the rising *sun* --

And Tim is *gripping* Bruce's buttocks --

And Jason is holding Dick's horns like -- like *reins*, or --

Bruce doesn't know, but Dick is tossing his head and crying out for every vicious thrust, every --

Oh, he hadn't *stretched* Dick before --

But Dick, perhaps, isn't very... very *tight*...

And now Bruce is lost to images of taking Dick just as Jason is doing, of slamming in and in while Dick shouts and winces in *pained* pleasure. And that --

That can't be *correct* --

And suddenly Tim lets go of Bruce's buttocks and yanks Bruce's hands down to his head --

And his eyes are wide and *focused* with lust --

And his mouth is so -- so *hot* --

"Do you --" But Tim *sucks*, and all of Bruce's words become moans. Perhaps this isn't the *time* for words. Perhaps...

Bruce wraps his fists around *Tim's* horns --

Tim nods.

Bruce licks his lips and uses his relatively pathetic strength to hold Tim *still* while he thrusts carefully --

But that doesn't last. It *can't* last under the -- the *assault* of Jason's effortful grunts and Dick's cries --

And the sleek and *hot* welcome of Tim's throat. Tim --

Tim narrows his eyes in *knowing* pleasure and makes a come-on gesture with his hand --

"Tim -- Tim, I want -- I can't *focus* --"

"You don't. Fucking. *Have* to," Jason says, and then goes back to grunting like he's being *hit* --

"You -- oh, Jay, *harder* -- you can take it all, boss -- "

Every last moment.

Every last *touch*.

Every fuckin' *inch* --

And Bruce's hips answer the call with desperate *grace*, allowing Bruce to slide in and in and in over and over, allowing Bruce to move as though this is a dance or --

Something beautiful, something --

His brothers, his perfect *brothers* --

And Jason yanks Dick's head back enough that Dick's screams are *strangled* --

And Tim slips his fingers down Bruce's cleft and *presses* on Bruce's anus --

And Jason *roars* his pleasure, *laughs* his pleasure and lets go of one of Dick's horns for long enough to *slap* Dick's buttocks --

And Tim pulls *off* --

"No, *please* --"

"Stand *up*, Bruce."

Bruce follows orders, grace lost in an *instant* --

And regained with Tim's powerful swallow, powerful *urge* -- oh. He's stroking himself almost *cruelly*. He --

Bruce grips Tim's horns again and gives himself over to the rhythm which rides through his *blood*, the rhythm which doesn't even bother to demand before it *takes* --

"Oh, *yeah*, B -- but try this one," Jason says, and *stutters* the rhythm he's giving Dick --

Dick's cry is choked and *high* --

"I don't --"

"*Do* it, B --"

Bruce tries -- and immediately cries out for the jagged feel of it, the insinuatingly *harsh* feel of it --

Tim *whimpers* --

Dick yells something which may or may *not* be please --

And Bruce knows he won't last, that he *can't* last under this, surrounded by *this* --

And the only thing he desires more than an orgasm is to have his senses utterly filled by his brothers while it happens. While this position allows Tim to pleasure himself -- and Bruce to *see* it -- Bruce's nose is too far away from his loves. He's not sensitive enough, not -- not *perfect* enough --

His beautiful brothers are too far *away*, and it feels like the only way to get closer is to *slam* into Tim's hot and *willing* mouth, to force himself deeper, to take as *he* had been taken. Tim's eyes roll back in his head and Bruce *growls* for the triumph of it --

"*Jay* -- *ahn* -- *ahn* --" And Dick *screams* as he ejaculates, semen spattering the duvet even as Dick beats at the thing with his *fists* --

And Jason doesn't stop --

And Bruce *can't* stop, because he *can* smell Dick's semen, he can smell it and he wants to *taste* it, wants to paint it over his lips and penis and give it to Tim --

Who *yanks* himself back and *yowls* as he ejaculates on Bruce's legs and feet, teeth lengthening and body shifting forms rapidly, incomprehensibly --

"*Please* -- *oh* --"

And Bruce is on his knees just that quickly --

And Tim is sitting on Bruce's *penis* --

"*Tim* --"

Tim yowls again, *spurts* again, and the heat is immense, the friction *frightening* --

"Go *easy*, little brother --"

Tim hisses and shifts, legs furred and tail twitching even as he clenches around Bruce rhythmically, *brutally* --

"Aw, yeah, *milk* him, fucking -- oh, fuck, fuck, not *you*, Dickie --"

Dick's laugh is musical and sweetly *vicious* --

And being inside Tim like this, being held and squeezed and --

Bruce growls helplessly and wraps his arms around Tim, holds him *tight* and rocks his hips as slowly as he can --

"Bruce, *yes*!"

But he can't go slowly at all, can't --

Even the near-pain of the friction isn't enough to --

There's only *saliva* --

"Hurts, Bruce, *hurts* --"

"*Tim* --"

"Don't *stop*!"

And it seems to take all the air from his body, to leave him starved and gasping, straining and *reaching*, and Bruce can't hold Tim, can't keep him from writhing and -- and *bouncing* --

Tim is *tight* around him, tight and so *hot* --

Bruce growls again and wraps one hand around Tim's throat and the other around his still-twitching penis --

Dick's moan sounds *approving* --

"Wha -- oh, *fuck*, yeah, B, you -- oh, Dickie, *fuck* me, I can't --"

"Keep *going*, little wing --"

"Unh -- *unh* -- for how *long*?"

Dick laughs again -- "Until Bruce gets off."

"Hurry *up*, B --"

"*Yes*." And perhaps that *didn't* mean he should thrust faster and squeeze harder --

Perhaps he's being too -- too --

But Tim is hardening *again*, and Bruce must admit that he couldn't stop --

Couldn't *slow*, because now every clench seems something to fight, something to shove his way past --

Tim's sounds are *literally* choked, his face flushed and dark, the tip of his tongue --

Bruce shudders and thrusts and pulls Tim back for a kiss, heedless of the scratch of Tim's horns. He -- "I need your *mouth* --"

And Tim nods almost frantically --

"Dickie -- Dickie, I can't --" And then Jason *yells*, and when Bruce looks he's thrusting almost too fast to be *understood* --

And Dick is *smiling* --

And Bruce knows that he wants this, all of this, every night of his life, knows that he will struggle and strive, that he will reach and bend and *twist* himself just to have this, to always *have* this --

And it's almost a relief when Tim's next clench seems to make everything *in* Bruce tighten and *push* toward release --

When Jason sobs --

When Dick *purrs* --

Bruce feels the scream coming and buries it in Tim's pale throat, clutching at Tim's hair with his free hand --

Biting and *rutting* so --

So dark so *hot* --

It can't end it *must* end --

And the darkness spreads, becomes shadows and heat as Dick and Jason move to flank them, to hold them and murmur, pet them and hum --

Do it --

-- please --

-- give it up --

-- to *us* --


Bruce screams again --

Tim *wails* --

And the darkness without is matched by light within, bright and scouring, lush and *needful* as Bruce spends himself deep inside --

He always wants to be *here* --

He -- he can be beautiful --

Oh, yes --

-- yes yes --

-- brother, *yes* --

And Bruce's eyes are open now, but he can't focus, can't see anything save for the flash and rush of memories and images --

The tangible *flex* of memory that is the scent of Dick's semen, the judder of taking a beautiful demon, perfect --

Bruce groans and sways -- and Jason and Dick press closer still, holding him up as he slowly -- achingly slowly -- gains the ability to *stop* biting Tim's throat.

He still can't loosen his grip on Tim's penis.

Bruce kisses what he hopes feels like an apology to the back and sides of Tim's throat --

And Tim giggles and hums. "Apologize again and get stabbed."

"... I."

Dick butts Bruce's shoulder. "He means it, boss."

"Yeah, be careful with that kinda thing."

"As you -- all -- say," Bruce says, and turns his head enough that he can *bite* the back of Tim's neck.

*Tim* purrs.

And Bruce begins thinking about sleep -- oh, he'll need to make sure to awaken in time to get Harvey's phone call --

"We got you covered, B. Don't worry."

Bruce blinks -- "Do... you don't need sleep?"

"We totally do. Sometimes."

"Every once in a while," Tim says, and tugs at the fingers Bruce has wrapped around his penis.

Bruce thinks about apologizing -- Bruce squeezes harder.

Tim hums and clenches in what's either gratitude or *punishment* --

"Baby bro doesn't believe in limiting himself like that, B," and Jason licks Bruce's ear.

"Really, *really* not," and Dick licks Bruce's cheek. "You weren't getting enough of our scents before?"

"Oh, I -- I believe nothing would have truly been 'enough' at that moment. I believe it remains impossible for me to bury my face against all of your groins at the same time?"

"Hn. Sadly, yes. Perhaps we'll just sit naked on your pillows while you're busy doing other things."

"Oh, that sounds -- hm. I'm not sure it would be fair to ask Luz to wash those pillowcases."

"Nah, B, the trick is to do it on the actual *pillows*. Chances are she won't notice a thing --"

"Certainly no more than a fleeting... whiff --"

"And it's not like we don't all smell delicious. If I do say so myself."

Bruce blinks. "Oh -- I have to change --"

Dick butts his shoulder again. "We'll get there. We want you to have a nice long time to think about what you want us to smell like, boss."

"Indeed. I don't think it would be terribly conducive to training if you made *all* of us smell like we were three seconds from fucking you blind."

"And deaf."

"And -- not dumb. We all like the yelling pretty good."

And Dick and Tim sigh with pleasure. "Yes."


"As you say," Bruce says, and rests his head on Tim's shoulder. He will rest right here for a time -- he has to soften *eventually* -- and then he will sleep.

His brothers will do what they must --

"Mostly cuddling you, boss."

"Yeah, the cuddle is key."

"Hmph. I have a garage sale to get to in an hour, but, yes. I approve of cuddling."

Jason snickers. "Get more of that fucking *shot*. B, it was great -- one shot in just the right place and *wham*, first floor collapses into the basement. Fucking *sweet*."

Dick hums. "I'm hoping for some nice throwing weapons. This body has fantastic extension."

"And any number of other charms, as well," Tim says, and nods. "Your requests are noted, but there's really no way to tell what's going to show up. Last time, the only things there were eight cursed cesti and a collection of anal pears, which, while exciting in the right circumstances, really have no place in my armory."

Anal -- Bruce isn't going to ask.

Probably for the best, boss.

Uh... yeah. Let's all look at Tim funny now.

You do that and I'll tell the Morningstar you said *hey*.

Jason flinches impressively -- "Fuck, bring a gun to a knife fight, sure, but leave the motherfucking hydrogen bomb at home, would you?"

Dick titters --

And Tim twines his fingers with Bruce's own around his penis. "Rest, brother."


"Yeah, B. We'll lay you down and tuck you in when it's time."

Decadent --

"*Incubi*," they say as one --

And Bruce closes his eyes and laughs.


There's something...

Bruce is warm, and almost ludicrously comfortable, and --

"Yeah, I hear you, Harvey. This is a *fucked*-up time you live in, man -- heh. *Heh*. Okay, fine, I live here, now, too. But I *can* leave anytime I want -- and B is awake."

Is he?

Something sleek and warm slides along his body -- Dick. Bruce would know the luxurious grain of his skin, anywhere --

And Jason snorts. "Strike that. Bruce is awake and making *poetry*."

"Yeah, he does that, sometimes," and Harvey's voice is tinny and distant but immediately recognizable.

Bruce opens his eyes and sees -- the receiver.

"Just smack the back of his head a little. He'll stop."

Dick takes the receiver -- "See, that's where you're wrong, Harvey -- I'm Dick, by the way --"

Harvey laughs. "You're really *all* in bed with Bruce right now, aren't you?"

"Well, our little brother Tim is still bargain-hunting for enchanted weaponry, but yes. Anyway, as near as I can tell? He never actually stops making poetry."

"Aw, man, you mean in his head?"

"Mm-hmm. Really, we have to be careful when we're poking around in there."

Jason turns Bruce on his side to face Dick and cups Bruce's hip --

"Hunh. Careful, how?" And Dick is actually holding the receiver slightly away from his face for Harvey's replies, which explains much.

"Well..." Dick strokes a line down the bridge of Bruce's nose and blows him a kiss. "I know he told you about how we can be changed by someone especially willful."

"Yeah, I got that. I gotta say, if I had that problem, I wouldn't much hang *around* people like that."

Dick smiles sharply. "You've never bored yourself, Harvey...? Not even a little?"

"Hey, when I'm bored I pick up a book. Or a girl. Or the menu to a new restaurant. Or a ticket to a ball game. *Something*."

"Not bored, Harvey. Bored with *yourself*. Bored with knowing exactly how you're going to react to a given stimulus, exactly how you'll feel after watching a given movie or reading a given book, exactly what will get you hard and what won't... that kind of thing."

"I... heh." That wasn't the most amused laugh, and Bruce sits up on his elbow --

"Ooh. You're worrying the boss, Harvey."

"The boss, hunh? Yeah, he always could tell when something wasn't quite... let's just say that sometimes I don't know myself all that well. Not well enough to get bored, anyway."

Dick nods and gives Bruce a very *full* look. That was a message, but --

You didn't know *yourself* all that well a week ago, B.

True, but Harvey isn't in danger of doing the wrong thing with his life -- hm. Save in the most horrifying possible ways. You're saying his lack of self-knowledge is as dangerous as his nightmares and history of being abused.

Nasty surprises... tend to be nasty. It's kinda right there in the name.

So it is... and so Tim mentioned.

Jason squeezes Bruce's hip. Careful. I don't remember you having that convo, which means it could've *only* happened when he put up that wall between us. I'm pretty sure you don't wanna share the substance of that just yet...?

Bruce winces and nods -- and covers Jason's hand with his own. Thank you. I... hm. How *does* one remember not to share even the barest, thinnest edges of a truth?

How did you do it with Harvey?

That -- is something he should have considered already.

Heh. You're already thinking of him as knowing everything about you.

We've made love.

Jason tugs Bruce onto his back -- apparently solely to be able to look at him with fond incredulity.

"I... yes?" Oh -- Bruce turns to Dick --

And Dick strokes Bruce's nose again. "I told him you drifted back off again -- after telling him that we could be there the next thing to instantaneously. He told *me* which hotels to choose from, and they all sound pretty great. Just tell me when you're ready to pick."

"I... hm. I can't believe I slept this *late*."

Dick's expression changes to become a match to Jason's.

"All right, perhaps that's ridiculous," Bruce says, and turns back to Jason. "Perhaps you'll tell me why my other thought was also ridiculous?"

Jason splays his hand on Bruce's chest and presses firmly. "It is *entirely* possible to make love to someone and not know *everything about them*."

Bruce opens his mouth -- and closes it again. And smiles ruefully. "Perhaps it's also ridiculous to think that that seems... wrong."

Dick darts in to lick a long stripe over Bruce's stubbled cheek --

"Oh, that can't be *comfortable* --"

"It's *tingly*," Dick says, and beams at him. "But... loosen up."

Hm. "Actually, I was wondering if I might not be loose *enough*... for you."

If anything, Dick's smile gains still more *wattage* --

And Jason is snickering happily. "Niiice. But we already agreed -- I got first dibs on that ass."

Bruce blinks. "I... hm."

"No, you *don't* get a say, boss," Dick says, and turns Bruce back to face him. He waggles his eyebrows. "We drew lots and everything."

Jason turns Bruce back to face *him*. "And then we got out the measuring tape. I mean, let's face it -- once we start fucking you? We're not gonna stop. I mean, Tim doesn't even usually *go* for that kinda thing and *he* wants a piece."

"Oh... I'm very glad --"

And Dick turns Bruce's head once more. "I just bet you are, boss. Still -- Jay is the biggest."

"I had noticed that, yes -- ah. You hope to stretch me enough for... any eventuality?"

Jason turns him. "Fuck. Yeah. So don't go bending over for Harvey --"

Dick turns him. "Unless it's just that hot. I mean -- we're not unreasonable."

Jason turns him --

"I think I'm getting dizzy -- ah --" And his brothers pull him into a seated position with themselves in front of him to either side.

"Better, B?"

"Yes, thank you --"

"You're welcome, boss. How big *is* he?"

And Bruce's mind fills with the image -- caught in a *glimpse* -- of Harvey's erect penis the one time he had interrupted one of their study sessions to masturbate. He'd been twisting his left nipple with one hand and stroking himself incredibly fast with the other --

And, after that, he'd either masturbated at some other time when Bruce wasn't around, or waiting until they were in their bunk beds where Bruce couldn't *see* --

Dick sighs and strokes Bruce's cheek with his fingertips. "You thought he saw something in your eyes."

"Heh. He probably did. How long did it take him to get off after you turned back around?"

"Four seconds, but --"

Dick and Jason share a look.

Bruce considers protesting -- "All right, I suppose you both have a point. Did he say when --"

"Three hours, B."

"Just enough time for lunch! Did you know you have a whole box of squid in the freezer? *And* cherry ice cream?"

"Oh, my. Truly?"

Dick claps his hands. "Yes! And --"

"Oh! I -- the cherry ice cream belongs to... to Leslie! Yes. She... grows very cross if it's... used up."

"Oh, I only need two or three cups! It --"

"And! I shouldn't eat the squid."

Dick frowns. "You know all those religious food prohibitions are --"

"Truly a matter of enforcing food safety in small communities, as well as a method of social control! Yes!" Bruce coughs into his fist.

Jason --

Jason is rubbing his upper lip and *shaking* with the need to laugh, but -- Bruce can be strong. He --

"Then *why* shouldn't you eat the squid, boss?"

Bruce takes a deep breath. "It. I. Paella! It's for paella. Luz likes to... she uses all of it. And she knows it's my favorite, so... so..."

"So she'll *definitely* wanna make him some now that he's home," Jason says, and winks at Bruce.

Dick bites his lip and looks troubled. So --

Bruce takes his hand. "Perhaps... perhaps you'll let me show you one of my favorite meals?"

He brightens immediately. "And you'll let me make suggestions?"

Bruce pulls on a smile by main force. "Yes. You can... you can make all the suggestions you'd like."

Jason makes a sound suspiciously similar to the air being let out of a small and tightly-filled balloon, but Dick doesn't seem to notice, and --

Overall, there's rather more nutmeg in his tuna fish sandwich than he can be entirely comfortable with --


-- but he's learned a valuable lesson about turning his back, and that can only be to the good for his future vocation.

After lunch, Jason pulls a catalog full of exercise equipment out of the air. It seems to be aimed at schools rather than gymnasiums, and the equipment is rather more basic than what the other Bruce had, but Bruce knows that this is where he needs to start. He places several orders, and by then Dick has several other catalogs and things for him.

He orders hand trucks, stoneworking tools and appliances, and a few items like nets and barriers which will be useful for *other* things --

Like the explosives license he begins studying for. By the time he's read through the first -- distressingly *short* -- booklet, it's nearly two-thirty... and he hasn't seen Leslie *or* Luz. Bruce looks up --

And Dick smiles at him ruefully and pulls a note out of the air with Leslie's matter-of-fact printing all over it. She's never approved of doctors who allowed their handwriting to be messy -- she'd scolded his father about it extensively --

Bruce stops procrastinating and reads the note.


I've taken Luz into the clinic with me today -- the conversation we need to have simply couldn't be done over breakfast, so you'll have to take care of yourself today. Please make sure your lovers are discreet for the time being --

Bruce looks up --

"We were like ghosts, B, promise."

"We were *quieter* than ghosts. We were like... like *mute* ghosts. Scout's honor."

Bruce frowns. "Is there Scouting in any of the hell dimensions?"

"Oh, yeah. Well, sort of. Well..."

"Mostly --"

"Mostly it boils down to some of the older Lilim training up the Lilim who are old enough to be out of Mom's papoose but still young enough to do stupid shit."

"Mm-hm. Mind you, sometimes the kids come up with *fantastic* ideas," Dick says, and sighs nostalgically. "Starting wars so unrelentingly devastating that governments push equality as an agenda in order to get more soldiers worked *wonders* in ancient Rome --"

"For a good long while, even."

Dick nods brightly. "But no one knew how to make it work again until one of my little sisters suggested going for wars that would swallow entire *continents*. I mean, none of us thought that big before!"

Jason curls his left wing in enough to scratch it and drinks some of Bruce's coffee. "For serious. I mean, nobody has an imagination like a kid. No one."

Bruce... Bruce is blinking.

And licking his lips.


"What is it, boss?"

"Perhaps... ah. Fewer world wars?"

Jason and Dick look at him blankly for a long moment --

Then share a look of their own --

"I want -- I'm looking forward to the day when I'm included in looks like those," Bruce says, making an effort to keep the humor in his voice --

"Sorry, B."

"Yes. I..." Dick strokes Bruce's arm. "Equality was really necessary, B."

"Yeah. You have no *idea* what a chokehold churches get on societies which aren't free."

"I... I *have* studied history --"

Dick makes a face. "The kind of history that gets taught in this era --"

"Is worthless," Tim says, stepping out of the air before matter-of-factly tugging Bruce's chair away from the table and straddling his lap. "We'll teach you better history."

"It's useful, boss."

"Oh, yeah. Movement of societies, human behavior in given situations -- all that good stuff."

"All right. I do stand by my belief that fewer wars are a good thing, however."

"Of course," and Tim nuzzles Bruce's still-stubbled cheek.

"That's definitely a fair opinion to have."

"And we respect that, B."

"Oh, yes. Very much."

"A lot --"

"-- totally."

Bruce kisses the point of Tim's chin. "As I strongly suspect that I'm being humored, I'll change the subject for the time being and ask if you've had a good day."

Tim smiles at him warmly, blinks, turns, *burps* --

And suddenly there's a large and somewhat *scored* man falling out of Tim's unhinged *jaw*.

"Aw, party foul, baby bro."

"Be *nice*, Jay, we all get indigestion sometimes --"

"Please! Please help me! You're human! Help me, for God's sake!" And the man tries and fails to stand. He --

"Tim, I... please *explain*!"

"I'm so sorry, Bruce!" And Tim is obviously mortified, but --

"Why. Why was that man *inside* you?"

"He *wasn't*. Technically. I mean, he wouldn't *fit* if you think about it --"

"*Tim*! He's *bleeding*!"

"Yes, he struggled quite a bit when I was swallowing him, at first --"

"Oh, God, you're one of *them*! I have to get *out*," and the man tries to stand again --

One of his *legs* is broken --

"Oh, would you just stay *put*?!" And Tim gestures --

And the man... falls asleep. On the floor.

He's also *bleeding* on the floor -- Bruce shudders and grabs Tim's biceps. "*Explain*!"

Tim frowns. "Well, he's... I'm delivering him."

"To *whom*?"

Tim turns to share a look with Jason and Dick, but --

"Look at *me*, Tim!"

"It's -- it's just --"

"It's family, B."

"He's really... we don't like him."

"At all."

"-- even a little --"

"One at a *time*," Bruce says, and shakes Tim gently. "There is a badly wounded man on my kitchen floor and I need to understand that right *now*."

Tim's expression is sour. "He cheated on Mother."

"Cheated -- what? Lilith is --"

His brothers look at him *narrowly* --

Bruce takes a deep breath. "That is to say... it was my understanding that your mother was very free with her affections. Which is something I wholeheartedly approve of, and would never disdain."

The narrow look lasts for another moment -- but then they nod, and Jason pushes a hand back through his hair. "Okay, see, here's the deal. Mom *is* free, and open, and all that good stuff. But sometimes? There's a male who says he'll stay with her, and help raise their kids. There are plenty of Lilim who are *full* brothers and sisters, you know?"

Bruce nods.

"Anyway," Dick says, and glares at the sleeping man. "That guy -- William Hargrove -- insisted that it was forever, and made Mom promise not to hook up with anyone else -- not even anyone who couldn't get her *pregnant*! -- and, in return, he *married* her."

Tim hisses. "Yes. Now, Mother doesn't agree to marry just anyone --"

"She's *Lilith* --"

"-- bad history there --"

"-- *know* you know that --"

"Yes, I do, I do," Bruce says, and tries not to look impatient. But -- "Please go on?"

"According to Mom, everything went well until her sixth month or so -- gestation for her is usually about a year, give or take a century, depending on the dimension -- when suddenly Hargrove here stops coming home on time."

"Starts smelling like soap in the middle of the day."

"Like *mouthwash* in the middle of the day," Tim says, and shifts, eyeing Bruce's hands pointedly.

Bruce moves them from Tim's biceps to his own thighs--

"Thank you. In any event, Mother is no fool. She set several of her children to follow Hargrove, and it took them less than two hours to see him playing reindeer games with a... a *chippie* of a flower-fairy --"

"There are *fairies*?"

"Keep *up*, Bruce! Oh -- I'm sorry," Tim says, and frowns. "It's just all very... Mother was very upset."

"She *cried*, B."

"And of course she would never abort the child, but -- she was in love. She'd made the child look a lot like *him*, boss."

"She can -- of course she can. But... what will *happen* to this man?"

"That? Is for Mom to decide."

"Indeed," Tim says, and tugs on the lower hem of his suit jacket. "The fairy in question -- and you had better believe that I *will* find her true name one of these days -- had given him the power to cross dimensions without our help. I found him hitting on a *tree* nymph!"

"There are -- of course there are," Bruce says, and licks his lips. "What does your mother usually *do* with men who cheat on her?"

Surprisingly, his brothers *don't* share a look --

"Whatever. She. Wants," Dick says, and raises an eyebrow in direct challenge.

"Whatever she *needs*, B."

"It's *not* our role to question her, brother," Tim says, and cups Bruce's face. "And it isn't yours, either."

Dick and Jason nod, and then join Tim in gazing at him evenly.

It hurts to turn away from him, but the man --

Hargrove. His name is William Hargrove, and he has been wounded. He has also been terrified beyond all *reason*.

He's committed no crime save a moral one --

A *deadly* sin, to be sure, but does he truly believe in those anymore? Did he ever? Do *they*?

Bruce frowns and turns back to his brothers --

"It's got nothing to do with sin, B."

"I -- family."

His brothers nod once more.

"What... what of the fathers who never make promises to Lilith?"

Dick shrugs. "They go their own way and Mom goes hers. You -- he got her *hopes* up."

"She hasn't *had* a long-term relationship for -- "

"Long and long," Jason says, and takes another sip of Bruce's coffee. "We could say all kinds of shit about how she shouldn't have wasted her time on a human from *this* society --"

"And it's even possible that she would listen --"

"If it was our place to say a *word*," Dick says, and moves to stand over Hargrove. "He hurt our mother."

"And he will pay."

"One way or another."

"Bruce..." Tim smiles wryly. "Do I have to ask?"

Ask what -- no, the question is fundamental. What would *he* do if he'd ever had the opportunity to help one of his parents take vengeance on someone --


-- who'd hurt them. Bruce swallows --

And, abruptly, he is standing and surrounded by the brothers who love him. The brothers who love him... and respect him enough not to make up more loathsome crimes for Hargrove to have committed.

Just this. Just --

Adultery, and a lack of respect --

And the definition -- the *meaning* -- of family.

Of the family he has asked to be a part of.

Bruce pushes his brothers away from him, and stares down at Hargrove once more. There is a blank space in his mind -- something hollow and black and *real* -- but he honestly can't be sure whether it's a hollow made by the Bat or one made by the church.

Strident demand, or prayer?

For what, exactly?

Bruce closes his eyes -- but only for a moment. And then he crouches, lifts Hargrove, and hands him to Tim.

His brothers incline their heads to him... and Tim swallows Hargrove whole, not being overly cautious with his needle-teeth. After, he licks his lips --

And Bruce licks Tim's chin --

And Dick and Jason lick the blood from Bruce's hands.

"Always, B."

"Always always."

Bruce shivers for the iron taste in his mouth, for the image of himself in a suit like the other Bruce's, only more actively nightmarish, more studded with weaponry. The gloves --

The *gauntlets* are the black of blood by gaslight, and they are *dripping*. They --

He's mounted on a pile of *bodies* --

No, B.


Never ever.

Bruce can do nothing about the harshness of his laugh. "Would you be able to stop me?"

Dick spreads his hands. "Blood and blood, boss, Bruce -- sweetest brother," and he bites into his wrist with his own needle teeth, and uses the opposite hand to paint Bruce's face. A broad and dripping stripe over Bruce's eyes, a narrow one beneath his lip.

"What does it mean?"

"That you belong to us --"

"-- way it should be --"

"-- and ever."

Bruce swallows. "Am I... am I your slave?"

Dick shakes his head and smiles gently. "Just our brother. And we will love and keep you until the day you die... and for *just* a little while after that."

Jason grins and waggles his eyebrows. "No more than a millennium or two."

Tim pushes up on his toes and kisses Bruce's mouth softly. "You'll never be alone."

And he'll always have a family. A promise no one should ever have been able to make -- not to him -- because no one would be able to keep it.

But... he'd been thinking too narrowly.

Too *fearfully* --

"Yes --"

"Oh, brother -- "

"Sweet *brother* -- *mm* --"

To kiss Dick in this moment is to know the taste of his blood as something of fire, of impossible heat and perfect *stain* --

Love you --

Me me --

Oh, *please* --

And Bruce growls into Dick's mouth and clumsily winds his long, silken hair around his fist, yanks and *holds* --

Dick's hands move over Bruce's body restlessly, *hungrily* -- and pointedly stop at his entirely slack groin.

Bruce groans and pulls back. "It won't last."

Dick licks his bloody face. "And you won't use me to distract yourself from the decision you've made, brother."

Bruce winces -- and laughs. "No quarter given, brother?"

Dick butts his chin. "You didn't actually *want* to ask for any, anyway. Let's go take a really long and perverted shower."

"I'm not sure all of you would *fit* in any of the --"

"Just me," Dick says, and begins stroking Bruce through his pants.

"But --" But Jason and Tim are gone. Bruce knows that even without turning around. "Did the three of you decide that you would be the best choice to gentle me?"



"Ooh, brother, where's the *trust*?" Dick sighs. "All right. What the three of us decided was that a) you want me most right now, b) Jason hasn't seen Mom in way too long, c) Tim has a *prezzie* for Mom, and d) we really need to stop making decisions without you, but not yet."

Bruce laughs helplessly. "Then -- oh, Leslie's note --"

Dick kisses Bruce's nose. "She's thinking of getting an apartment in the city --"

"Oh --"

"She still loves you and will be there whenever you need her --"

"I need her *here* --"

Dick kisses Bruce's mouth --

"Dick, please --"

"It would hurt her every day to watch you becoming the weapon you need to be. The last thing? She spoke to Alfred this morning about his coming home --"

"I don't want to *replace* her --"

"And she'll know that. *Eventually*," Dick says, and smiles ruefully. "Never *alone*."

Bruce squeezes his eyes shut -- no, not that. He opens them again, and takes Dick's hands in his own. "I'm not ready, Dick. Not -- not to lose her."

"Oh, sweet brother. You lost her last night."

It -- isn't what he wants to hear --

I'll never lie to you.

If he had not freed them --

This would've taken longer... and been much, much uglier.


How had Dick put it last night?

I won't let this bury you.

Bruce laughs again and smiles ruefully. "Will I ever need to be free, do you think?"

Dick smiles, twisting his hands free and cupping Bruce's face. "Let's hope not, boss."

"Hmm. Indeed. Was there anything else in the note?"

"Just that she loves you."

Bruce winces. She never actually -- says that sort of thing. Not in her notes. Not... usually.

Perhaps she'll return for long enough to let Bruce hug her --

"She will. Because she *does* love you, and because she's a very smart and thoughtful woman who knows that none of this is your fault and that *some* of it is her own."

"No, Dick --"

Dick stops him with his fingers on Bruce's mouth. "I'm only saying what she believes. Or rather, what most of the other Leslies I've encountered over the millennia would think in similar circumstances."

Which -- is impossible to get around, of course. "Sometimes I feel rather like one of those cows forced along a narrow path in a slaughterhouse."

Dick wrinkles his nose -- and then giggles. "You sort of *smell* like one."

"So do *you*."

"No, no, I smell like a woman named Koriand'r's --"

"You're joking --"

"I'm really not! I smell like Koriand'r's incense, and like some of the spices in certain traditional Rom dishes."

Bruce frowns rather helplessly. "What is *wrong* with that man?"

"I think it all started when he started consciously thinking of masturbation as 'prostate health maintenance.'"

"Are you -- I --"

"It's in his notes and everything. I checked." And Dick butts him once on each shoulder. "*You* won't have that problem."

"Hm. I suppose I won't," Bruce says, and crouches to lift Dick into his arms --

"Oh, *Bruce* --"

"I demand the right to do this with each of you at least once per week, barring injuries," Bruce says, and begins to walk Dick toward the stairs.

Dick giggles and kicks his legs -- "Done."

"Then all is well."


It's a very interesting experience to be in a car with his brothers. Bruce had already known that. What he *hadn't* known is that it's an even more interesting experience to drive said car onto the road for just long enough to gain forward momentum, then drive said car through a hole into absolute nothingness --

"Don't brake don't brake --"

He doesn't brake, despite the fact that he can't see anything, at all, and that it feels like his car is flying --

Into a rainstorm and, from there, onto the curving driveway for the New Haven Chilton.

A phone call and his last name had gained them one of the extensive executive suites -- less gossip-worthy, hopefully, than the penthouse -- 

And Harvey is waiting in the lobby when they walk in after leaving the car to be parked by a valet, which effectively distracts the part of Bruce's mind which is only wondering how many high-end cars are stolen each year by clean-cut young men wearing red jackets.

Lots and lots, B. But that guy was legit, and you're totally not listening to me. Heh.

That's not true. It's just that he hasn't held Harvey in his arms since the day he'd told him about his decision to enter the seminary, and --

"Ah, big guy, it's good to see you, too," Harvey says, and squeezes him more tightly.

Bruce does the same --

"Oof, okay, okay, somehow I keep forgetting you have the strength to *match* that body of yours..." And Harvey's voice is much, much quieter.


Bruce strokes Harvey's back --

And Harvey steps back -- and wags a finger at him. "Go check in and let me introduce myself to your new *brothers*."

Oh, he should --

Desk's over there, boss. And Dick winks at him.

Bruce inclines his head to them and goes. The front desk manager turns out to be an exceedingly maternal woman in her fifties or early sixties who has many, many friendly questions about his plans, and his life in Gotham, and his studies, and any number of other things.

Even after Bruce switches to monosyllabic answers. He doesn't want to be *rude*, but he can *feel* his brothers --

And Harvey had been the first person who had ever *felt* like a brother --

Harvey claps his shoulder, smiles and nods at the manager, and points to his watch.

"Oh! Is it... time?"

"To call your guardian so that she knows you got here safe? *Absolutely*."

Oh, thank goodness. "Well, that settles it, Harriet. I really do have to go. Immediately."

She manages to keep them for three more minutes -- enough time for Bruce to wonder if he *looks* as desperate as he feels --

And then someone screams at the southeast end of the lobby, and Harvey uses the diversion -- and the manager's shift of attention -- to yank Bruce toward the elevators.

"Harv, we should make sure that woman is all right --"

"I get the feeling that we just got saved by your brothers, big guy."

Bruce blinks --

And Jason and Tim move to flank them with sharp smiles on their faces.

Bruce looks around for Dick -- and finds him jogging up behind them with a nearly *ecstatic* smile on his face. Hm.

Bruce waits until they're in the elevator -- and alone. "Do I want to know what you did?"

"Oh, definitely, boss. You might want to use the tactic yourself sometime," and Dick flips his hair back over his shoulder.

Harvey's smile is distinctly skeptical. "Tactic?"

"Just a little indecent exposure," Dick says, and suddenly he's naked and showing his horns, tail, and woodcut-worthy tongue.

"Gah! What the --"

And Dick shifts back to a human-looking young man in bohemian-wear. "You *had* to be ready for that after Jay, Harvey."

"Okay, okay, I can see how you *think* so, but that tongue is freakin' horrifying."

"Heh. Depends on how you use it. Right, B?"

Bruce blushes --

"Whoa -- uh. Seriously, big guy?" But there's *speculation* in Harvey's voice...

And Bruce has to look up to meet his eyes. "I'd like to show you."

Harvey narrows his eyes hotly. "I'm guessing there aren't cameras in this glitzy little box --"

"Oh, there are, but they began to mysteriously malfunction when we entered the car. However, we're here," Tim says, and points to the lighted display above the doors.

"I -- heh. Okay, then. Not showing much in the way of self-control, but definitely... definitely something," Harvey says, and shakes himself like a dog before stepping out first.

Their suite is to the right, and once they're in the foyer, his brothers shift back to their usual forms -- though they're all still wearing pants. Bruce frowns for that --

"*Company* rules, B."

"Yes, but Dick didn't even put on pants for *Leslie*."

Harvey blinks. "He -- what?"

"He was wearing an apron," Tim says.

"That totally counts."

"And I *like* these pants," Dick says, and turns to model them. They are blue -- perhaps even Robin's egg blue -- hip-hugging bellbottoms, and they sit low enough *on* Dick's hips that his tail has perfect freedom. They seem to be --

"Dick... are those polyester?"

"Yes! You should see what happens when I set them on fire! I have fourteen pairs left."

Harvey... looks confused. And somewhat worried.

Bruce reaches out to cup his shoulder. "Dick is very gentle and only destructive to the people who deserve that sort of thing."

"And their property, B. Can't forget that."

"Of course --"

"'Deserve' it, hunh? Let's talk about that," Harvey says, and turns to lead them further into the suite.

"All right, Harv. I believe the bedrooms are on the right --"

Harvey stops in the sitting room.

"Or we could --"

"Big guy..."

"Yes, Harv?"

Harvey shudders all over and hangs his head. "I promised myself -- God. After that time in the park when I scared myself *shitless* and stalked three different damned clinics just to make sure the *only* thing I picked up was a resolution not to do that *again* -- I promised I wouldn't do it."

"The park...? I don't know --"

"Anonymous gay sex, Bruce. That's -- heh. How much do *you* guys know about places... there's no one behind me but you, is there, B?"

"No, Harv."

"And you know that without looking because... blood? You're all connected?"

"Yes, Harv."

"What -- gimme more *syllables*, big guy!" And Harvey turns to look at him, eyes wild but still full of *humor* --

"I love you. I've loved you since the very first moment I saw you. I want to taste you --"

"Okay, that definitely counts as more syllables. I --" Harvey laughs, nervous and yes, wild -- "Where'd they *go*?"

"Don't mind us, we're just getting drunk!" Jason's voice is loud and cheerful... and apparently coming from the direction of the bar. Hm.

He didn't know they could *become* inebriated.

Eh, it's nothing like what the Fallen Ones brew up when they're feeling weepy, but it's a nice little buzz. Talk to Harvey.

I believe he wants to talk to all of us --

Did I say talk? I meant 'fuck.' Fuck Harvey. Fuck his pretty mouth, or those nice, manly hands of his, or --

Bruce groans --

Heh. Like that. When you're ready to *talk*? We'll be there.

"... in there?"

Bruce blinks and focuses -- on Harvey's worried expression. Bruce smiles ruefully. "I'm sorry. Jay... explained that they believe that we... are not quite ready for substantive discussion."

Harvey frowns -- and snorts. "He told you it was time for us to screw around?"

Bruce rubs at his sideburn with his index finger. "They always seem to know when I'm aroused. And whom I'm aroused *by*."

Harvey wags his head back and forth -- "I guess that makes sense for sex demons. You... heh." Harvey looks down at Bruce's groin. "You're not --"

Bruce's penis twitches and begins to rise.

"Or I could shut up. I could shut right the hell up and --" And Harvey's body is hard against his own, rangy and *hard*, as if there is no spare flesh, at all, no *give* --

But his mouth proves the lie of it, because it's soft and wet -- more wet than his brothers' mouths --  and warm. It still *seems* warm, even though the only other mouths he's tasted are his brothers', and for that Bruce knows gratitude.

For that and many, many other things.

Bruce licks his way into Harvey's mouth and attempts to coax his tongue back into his own --

And Harvey moans and cups Bruce's face, tilts Bruce's head to the side --

Harvey pulls back and bites Bruce's lower lip, and Bruce's jawline --

"Harv --"

"Want you. *Want* you --"

"Oh -- yes," and Bruce pushes Harvey gently back towards the bedrooms --

And Bruce tries not to shove or *trip*, but Harvey is *looking* at him --


"You wanna call the shots this time, big guy?"

"I -- I only want --"

"It's okay. It's -- heh." Harvey pauses to yank off his tie, and his jacket -- "It's better than okay."


Harvey leans in -- and breathes deeply against the collar of Bruce's shirt. "That's my favorite cologne on you, big guy."

"Oh. Yes?"

"Makes me... I was gonna buy it for you, you know? Before you picked it out for yourself. Hate the fact that I *waited*," and Harvey growls and bites Bruce's throat --

"Harv, *yes* --"

But he pulls back again. "They push you at least a little, yeah?"

Bruce searches Harvey's eyes and finds heat and thoughtfulness, hunger and *calculation* --

Tim --

And Tim purrs in his mind -- and offers an image of himself straddling Dick's hips and painting Dick's mouth with some liqueur or another --

"-- *me*, big guy --"

Bruce jumps internally, blinks and catches Harvey's hand in his own before kissing it. "Your eyes reminded me of Tim's."

Harvey narrows his eyes. "I looked cold?"

"You looked... calculating."

Harvey opens his mouth, seemingly to say something -- but then he laughs and looks down, shaking his head. "I guess I did have an equation in my head."

Bruce bites Harvey's writing callus the way he's dreamed --

Bruce groans and *sucks* Harvey's finger -- wait.

"Tell me, Harv," Bruce slurs, and forces himself to open his eyes --

Which is a decision a part of him regrets, because it's immensely difficult to focus on *anything* with Harvey staring at him with hungry *shock*. Need --

"Please, Harv --"

"A. Plus B. Equals you just goin' to town on me. Doin' -- whatever you want."

"Oh. Harv..."

Harvey laughs and stares at his own hand -- which Bruce is still holding close to his mouth. "I'm no good at Algebra --"

"That's a *lie* --"

"Not when I'm this hard, it isn't -- *hnh* -- oh, fuck, yeah, big guy, that's what I want, that's just --"

"Should I. Should I squeeze?"

Harvey *winces* -- and *pushes* his groin against Bruce's palm. "Please -- oh. Oh, yeah. C'mon, bed --"

And Bruce *thinks* about lifting Harvey and carrying him, but Harvey is already walking backwards *quickly*. It would be wasteful, he thinks. He needs to keep his hand *precisely* where it is. He needs --

Harvey *groans* for this squeeze, shivers and nearly *stumbles* -- and so Bruce grips Harvey's shoulder with his free hand and steadies him --

"No, push, big guy, keep --"

"*Harv* --"

"Really -- really make me --" Harvey closes his eyes and shakes his head, mutters something incomprehensible --

And when he opens his eyes again, the plea in them is -- "Oh -- Harv, *tell* me --"

"Make me *feel* you, Bruce, I gotta -- you know I gotta *feel* you --"

And so Bruce *shoves* Harvey back and back --

And growls when Harvey smiles --

And shoves *harder* once they're at the foot of the large and conspicuously sumptuous bed. For a moment, Bruce can only stare at the sight of Harvey sprawled on his back, can only marvel that this view is his, and *allowed* --

"*Bruce* --"

"Take. Take off -- more of your clothes --"

"You gonna do the same?"

"You're beautiful --"

"You're freakin' gorgeous and I *need* you," Harvey says, bending his knees up one at a time to untie his shoes. It makes Harvey's trousers bunch and tighten at his groin --

And Bruce can't stop himself from cupping Harvey's scrotum through the tantalizingly thin material.

"Bruce, c'mon --"

"I feel your heat, Harv. I feel -- I *want* --"

"Anything, c'mon, just -- whoa --"

Once Bruce has Harvey's legs pulled straight, he can remove Harvey's shoes and socks --

He can crouch and suck Harvey's big toe --

"Fuck -- uh -- sorry --"

Bruce shakes his head and licks along the side of Harvey's foot, and bites the upper pads, and --

"*Bruce* --"

"I *need* you --"

"I need to not get turned on by looking at some guy's big, hairy foot, big guy. Please."

Harvey has almost no hair on his toes, and Bruce wonders if that's an expression of the Amerindian blood in him, or something else entirely. He wonders if there's something he could do to *make* this enjoyable for Harvey --

And his mind fills with an image of a foot with certain points circled in red.

Right there, boss. Really *press*. And kind of massage.

Yes. Yes. Bruce follows Dick's suggestion --

And Harvey moans loudly -- before staring at him with a shocked look on his face.

"You liked that."

"Yes, I -- big guy. Work with me. I just --"

Bruce moves to the next point -- and it seems easier to grip Harvey's ankle with his free hand while he does it -- and Harvey *pants* --

"Bruce, I -- *fuck*, okay, that's your tongue again, I can handle that -- how long have you wanted my damned *feet*?"

"All of you," Bruce says, and moves to the other foot, and this time he bites and licks *while* massaging -- and watches Harvey toss his head and blush, watches Harvey harden more, *rise* more -- "Harv. Open your pants."

Harvey blows out a sharp breath -- "Sure you don't wanna do that yourself?"

"I want to watch you doing it."

"Okay, I can go with --"

"I want to watch you doing it for *me*."

"*Fuck* -- *sorry* --"

"You don't -- I don't mind if you curse --"

"Since *when* --"

"If -- if you're moved --"

"Oh, I'm freaking *moved* all right -- *hnh* -- okay, you've got *both* my ankles. What are you gonna do?"

"I don't know yet."

"Do you want --"

"I want *you*, Harv," and Bruce knows he sounds desperate and something close to *angry*, but --

But it makes Harvey shiver -- and open his pants with an easy flick of his wrist and a slow *pull*. He's wearing simple briefs under them, and, when he shifts, his bulge becomes prominent and --

Tempting. So --

"Is this how you were lookin' at me behind my back?"

"Yes. Yes. You saw --"

"Once. Just --" Harvey licks his lips, shakes his head and *palms* his own erection, hiding it from view --

"No, Harv. *Please* --"

"Fuck *me*, this is --" Harvey laughs softly and moves his hand. "Okay. Just. Let me --"

Bruce tugs off Harvey's pants with as much slow care as he can manage. Harvey hates damaging his clothes. Harvey --

Harvey is gripping the duvet tightly enough that Bruce wonders if it will *tear* -- and that stops seeming strange when Bruce realizes that he's sniffing the crotch of Harvey's pants.

"Harv --" Wait, he's *muffled*. "Harv..."

"What do you want, Bruce? What do you need? 'cause you can have it. *Whatever* it is --"

"Turn over."

Harvey grunts, eyes widening -- and then he turns over, pushing up on his *knees* --

"Harv, you're so *beautiful*. I --"

"Anything you want, big guy, anything, 'cause I want it, too -- ah, fuck, your *hands* are shaking --"

"Yes. Yes, I'm sorry, I have to -- bare you --"

"Do it, just do it --"

"Harv, I *love* you -- and your posterior --"

"Please don't use that word. Just -- seriously."

"Your... bottom?"

Harvey looks back over his shoulder -- apparently solely to show Bruce that he's biting his lip to hold in laughter.

Bruce smiles ruefully, and it's enough of a relief that he can finally let go of Harvey's pants. This makes it much easier to pull down the briefs --

And to kiss, and lick, and *bite* --

"God -- I mean fuck -- " And Harvey laughs helplessly. "You're makin' love to my ass, big guy?"

"I want to show you."

"You -- you're showin' me, all right. You -- oh -- fuck. Spreading me. Spreading me like --"

"Oh. Harv..." Bruce swallows. "You're *small* here."

Harvey's laugh is high-pitched and somewhat incredulous. "Yes? I'm sorry?"

"No, I. I want..." And Bruce leans in and licks at Harvey's tightly-puckered anus --

"Oh fuck. I -- Bruce, I --"

"*Let* me."

Harvey *groans*. "Feels -- you feel -- "

"Tell me," Bruce says, and deliberately puffs air against Harvey's anus -- it flexes open and Bruce can't --

Bruce *kisses* Harvey, dreaming of his mouth -- but he can't keep that up. He can't --

Harvey is moaning too much, *shaking* too much, moaning too *loudly* --

And this is no mouth. This is... darkness and heat. Even the *sweat* tastes different here, though Bruce isn't sure why he knows --

We know.

Oh, yes --


Bruce grunts and pushes his tongue as deep as it can go, spreading Harvey more widely --


Yes, yes, *that* tone --

*Fuck* him --

Show him --

*Give* --

Bruce moans and *grips* Harvey -- and grips him harder when he shudders. At first, thrusting *here* with his tongue seems strange -- more dirty and dark than he can *take* -- but Harvey cries out.

And cries out again.

And *again* --

Bruce has never *heard* Harvey make sounds like those, even those few times when he had lost control enough to moan aloud while they masturbated together. This --

This sounds like a *true* loss of control, like everything which had come before was meaningless, emotional *chaff*. This is making Bruce feel powerful and more alive, more full and *pleasing* --

Brother --

Sweet brother, you could never be anything *else* --

What -- what else can I do? How -- perhaps if I touched --

*Stroke* him, B. The way he sounds now? He *won't* last long.

Yes. That --

"*Bruce* -- oh -- *fuck* me, Bruce, you gotta --" And the rest of that is a *needful* groan as Bruce wiggles his tongue as much as he can.

Perhaps -- no. He doesn't want to *stop*, yet, and so Bruce lets go with one hand and uses it to *grip* Harvey's penis --

"*Hnh* -- oh, God, Jesus -- " And Harvey's laugh is desperate and high, slipping into moans and back to laughter and back to moans --

Until Bruce starts to stroke in counter-rhythm to his thrusts. Now nothing is stopping Harvey's cries save his own panting breaths, now he's shaking and *clawing* at the duvet --

The sound makes Bruce want to *tear* something, to push in, to make a *space* --

Harvey drops to his elbows and *groans* --

Bruce strokes faster, *thrusts* faster, wanting -- there. Harvey *whimpers*, and Bruce knows the pleasure is great, that he has taken Harvey beyond even his need to stay powerfully *masculine* at all times. He --

"*Bruce*, Bruce, I'm gonna -- you're gonna make me *come* --"

*Yes* --

"Not like this, not like --" Harvey whimpers again and starts to buck, starts to *pump* into Bruce's fist even as he mutters and *shakes*. But.

*Should* he stop? Try something -- something *else* --

That depends... do you want to be gentle with him?

It *is* his first time with a male he cares about.

And he'd probably go easy on *you*, B.

Yes. Yes, he --

Bruce wouldn't *want* him to, but perhaps Harvey is different enough? He's always *been* different enough, always been gentle and kind and *careful* --

"*Please*, Bruce --"

Bruce groans and yanks himself back, panting and licking his swollen lips --

"*Fuck* -- thank you, thank you, just -- *in* me, big guy, gimme something I can wrap my freakin' head around --"

"Yes, I --"

And a tube of K-Y falls out of the air and lands on the bed next to Harvey's foot. Thank you --


"Harv, I... my fingers?"

Harvey pants and nods. "And -- and your dick, if you --"

"You're smaller than *I* am --"

"And I always *will* be, since I'm not -- I don't have brothers other than you," and Harvey laughs softly and shakes his head. "Fucking *hell*, big guy, that felt -- no, I got nothing. Do me. Freaking -- make it *hurt*."

Bruce gasps and immediately spills K-Y all over his hand. "Harv --"

"That other -- your tongue was too slick, too -- too fucking *soft*. Your fingers won't be --"

"The sounds you made --"

"I'll make 'em *again*. C'mon -- *unh* -- oh. Fuck. That -- two fingers?"

"Yes. Yes, I." Bruce swallows and licks his lips -- and stares at the taut flesh stretched around his fingers. Taut and *reddened* --

"You're -- not deep. You -- Bruce..."

"Do you want --"

"*Yes*," Harvey says, hanging his head and rocking himself *back*. Bruce matches Harvey's movement --

He doesn't want Harvey to hurt himself --

"Bruce, *don't* --"

"Harv, I don't --"

"I need it to *hurt*, I need it -- that other time, the park -- I need it to stay *with* me longer and I -- fuck, big guy, don't make me beg --"

"*No*, I --" Bruce shakes his head and clutches Harvey's hip with his free hand before closing his eyes and pushing deeper --

Deeper --

Harvey cries *out* --

And Bruce can't keep his eyes closed. He -- he's in nearly to the *knuckle*, but Harvey is tight and hot, Harvey isn't *slick* enough --

"Fuck me, you gotta *fuck* me --"

"I *want* --"

"*Take* it. Take *me*," and Harvey laughs again, works -- works his *hips* -- "You feel too *good*, big guy."

"I want *everything* I do, every way I *touch* --"

"Then fuck me so -- so goddamned *hard* -- *nnh* -- yeah, just like -- oh, fuck, *fuck* --"

And Harvey is tossing his head, Harvey has his eyes squeezed shut, Harvey is working his hips even as he *shakes* --

And every one of Harvey's grunts feels like being taken, himself -- especially because Bruce knows how hard Harvey is working not to *curse*. It --

"It's all *right*, Harv --"

"Better -- freakin' *better* --"

Bruce groans -- "You're so *tight* -- oh, you're clenching --"

"Have to -- oh -- oh, *fuck* -- I can't --"

"Everything, you *can* --"

Harvey growls and lets his head hang between his arms. If anything, the change in position seems to *help* him work his hips in rhythm --

*Change* the rhythm to something --

Something that involves Harvey working his hips in tight *circles*, Harvey *grinding*. And that -- "Harv, is it *better*?"

"Can't -- I don't *know*," and Harvey laughs again, clenches and *shouts* -- "Want your *dick* --"

"*Harv* --"

"Want -- you -- you gotta let me *suck* you --"

Bruce moans --

"Really -- really fucking -- ah, Jesus, so *hot* --"

"*You* --"

"You're *fucking* me --"

"Making love --"

"God, I *feel* it, Bruce, feel *you* --" And Harvey groans again and pushes up on his hands before reaching back to take his penis in hand -- "Nnh -- it's already -- oh, *fuck* --"

And perhaps Bruce should've *warned* Harvey that he would be hauling him into an upright position --

"Don't think I can *balance* --"

"I've got you," Bruce says, pressing as close as he can without making it impossible to thrust and wrapping his free arm around Harvey's chest --

"*Bruce* --"

"Masturbate yourself, Harv. Let me see. Let me *feel* --"

"Hnh -- you -- hell, yes," Harvey says, laughing *again* and resting his head back on Bruce's shoulder -- "This -- wanna do you like *this*," and Harvey squeezes himself *hard* and starts stroking slowly, *achingly* slowly --

Bruce feels himself *twitch* --

"Felt. Felt that. You want it?"

"*Harv* --"

"I'd get to -- get to feel you for a *real* long time, yeah?"

"I don't know --"

"I'd want to. Wanna. Wanna do you *slow*."

"Oh, Harv..." And Bruce licks his lips and slows down --

"Ohn -- fuck. *Bruce*."


"No -- yes -- maybe?" And Harvey's laugh is more than a little *hysterical* -- "Can't stop thinking about your *dick* this way -- you fucked any of the brothers?"

"Jason. And Tim."

Harvey groans -- "You liked that --"

"I loved it --"

Harvey whimpers again -- "Fuck, listen to me --"

"*Yes*, Harv. I -- stroke *faster* --"

"Yeah, yeah -- you want my mouth bad?"

"*Harv* --"

"Or -- or like this?" And Harvey starts using a rhythm which seems *familiar*, but also like no rhythm Harvey ever used for himself in Bruce's presence --

Oh. "Harv. I. *My* rhythm?"

"Light and fast. Just -- just to keep you goin' longer, big guy?"

"Because I couldn't slow *down* --"

"But *light* --"

"I wanted -- every *moment*, Harv. And I wanted to be able to *hear* --"

Harvey *groans*. "My -- my fucking *voice* --"

"Yes, Harv, your *fucking* voice," and that was more of a *growl* than anything else, that --

"Can't -- oh, fuck *me*, c'mon fast again --"

"Yes --"

"*Hard* --"

"*Yes*, Harv."

And now Harvey is rolling his head on Bruce's shoulder, now he's stroking himself in the rhythm Bruce would know even if he were exhausted or ill. It always made Bruce want to *soothe* Harvey's penis, to hold it --

Hold it in his mouth --

*Bruce* whimpers --

Crook *up*, boss --

Oh -- oh, *yes* -- and Bruce does it --

"*Bruce* --!"

And Bruce does it again, over and over again --

"Bruce, Bruce -- aw, *Jesus*, I *can't* --"

"I *want* you --"

"I *know*, oh fuck, I need you --"

"I want you to -- to *come*, Harv --"

And Harvey gasps and shudders all over --

Gasps again and squeezes himself *viciously* hard, hard enough that Bruce winces for him -- and takes Harvey faster.

"*Unh* -- *nnh* -- *Bruce* --"

*Harder* --

Another whimper -- and Harvey begins to cry out again, stroking himself what must be at least a *little* painfully and panting, tossing his *head* --

"*Yes*, Harv, *do* it --"

"Ah, *fuck* --" And Harvey slams back against him once --

Twice --

And then Harvey is ejaculating, semen arcing high. Bruce lets go of Harvey enough to catch some of it in his palm, on his fingers --

Bruce presses *hard* on Harvey's prostate --

And Harvey spurts once more, gasping and making *strangled* sounds.

"Harv, so *beautiful*..."

Harvey *pants* -- and then laughs, falling forward onto his hands and making Bruce slip most of the way out. Harvey *yelps* for that --

Clenches and *groans* --

And Bruce begins to lick Harvey's semen from his hand.

"Oh -- Jesus. Hell. Damn -- augh, why are all my fucking curses *religious*?"

"It seems to happen in -- mm -- any number of cultures, Harv --"

"You're licking up my *spunk*."

"Yes, Harv."

"You -- stop it."

"I -- must I?"

Harvey snorts and crawls forward and off Bruce's fingers, which seems tragic -- until Harvey turns over onto his back and grins up at him. His thick hair -- thicker even, Bruce realizes, than Jason's own -- is mussed. His beautiful face and muscled chest are flushed. There is a bead of semen still on the tip of his penis --

Bruce swallows --

"Heh. Okay, that look scares the *hell* outta me -- but it also means I'm gonna have this erection for a good, long while. *Now* you can suck my come off your --"

Bruce thrusts two fingers deep into his mouth --

Harvey narrows his eyes and licks his lips. "Like that, big guy?"

Bruce nods, and tries not to blink. He licks, and sucks, and wishes --

Take what you want, B.

Always always --

Bruce pulls his fingers out of his mouth and drags the bit of semen left on his palm over his penis -- and then uses the wipe that has appeared next to his left knee on his hands. Thank --


And Harvey moans. "Fuck, just. Lemme *look* at you --"

"Yes, Harv --"

"Hold it. Hold it in your big fist for me -- yeah. Like that," and Harvey licks his lips again, stares and comes closer. He touches the underside of the head with two fingers and presses Bruce's penis against his abdomen *firmly* --

"Harv --"

"Anybody ever -- strike that. Your brothers ever nibble you there?" And he strokes down the underside of the shaft and up again. "Here, I mean."

"Tim -- he. Scraped his teeth --"

"You like that?"

"Yes. I -- he's very... oral. In many ways."

"That Jason's got a prettier mouth, though --"

"They -- they're all beautiful, Harv --"

"Uh, huh, I hear you. I'm just saying for *my* tastes, big guy," and Harvey winks at him.

"Oh. Do you --"

"Lie down for me? On your back."

"Oh -- Harv, yes," and Bruce moves further onto the bed and does it -- and immediately regrets it, because Harvey seems much further *away* --

"The answer to the question I didn't let you ask? I can see the appeal of every last one of 'em. Dick's ass has probably damned more souls than freakin' booze and he's pretty as -- heh -- hell, too. *Jason's* pretty, and freakin' built. *Tim's* pretty in a different way, and he's got that jailbait thing working for him. I can see it. And I don't wanna even *smell* them too good."


Harvey smiles ruefully and lies down between Bruce's legs -- and nibbles his way up the underside of Bruce's shaft --

"*Harv* --"

"Don't get me wrong, big guy -- if it turns out you *are* damning yourself to Hell? I'll be right there with you for at *least* long enough to drag your silly ass out again," and Harvey *licks* the shaft --

"Oh --"

"You taste -- of course you taste fantastic," and Harvey laughs and shakes his head again. "You taste like the only man I could ever *need*, big guy -- which is good, because I don't see me doin' this kinda thing all that often."

"Harv, you should --"

"And I *definitely* won't be doing it with sex demons. Get me?"

Harvey would look so beautiful with --

All of us, boss? Say yes say yes say yes.

Of course, but --

We'll be *good*. Won't we, Dick?

Little brother --

We will *totally* be good. It's good practice.

Oh -- I don't like any of you, anymore.

Bruce hums and focuses on Harvey once more --

"*Please* tell me that was you telling your brothers that my ass was off the menu."

"It was... hm. They were mostly reassuring me that they would make no efforts to seduce."

Harvey searches Bruce for a moment, frowns for another -- and then laughs, warm air puffing against Bruce's shaft in a torture Bruce wants to have *last* --

"Harv --"

"And *maybe* a part of me is a little insulted that it was that easy. And that *is* ridiculous, but still -- *sex* demons."

See? See? We *can*! And we'd still be being good --

*No*, Dickie.

Dick growls within all of their minds and --

Bruce hadn't realized that he'd known what 'pouting' felt like when it was undertaken by an ancient demon -- but that's neither here nor there. "They are... trying to engage in as little evil as possible."

Harvey opens his mouth, closes it, opens it again -- "'As possible.'"

"Yes, Harv."

"We're gonna revisit that, big guy."

"Yes, Harv --"

"First things first," and Harvey proceeds to lick Bruce's penis all over, dragging his tongue and teeth against it at every angle, nuzzling with lips and cheek --

"Oh -- oh, please --"

"Yeah, big guy?"

"Please -- I feel -- I want --"

"Tell me -- no. *Show* me."

"I want..." And Bruce licks his lips and pushes a hand into Harvey's hair --

Harvey shivers. "I gotta wonder what the women I've done this to think about when I'm doin' it."

"What are *you* thinking?"

Harvey closes his eyes and smiles. "That you're strong enough to hurt me."

"Oh -- no --"

"That you're *big* enough to hurt me -- and make me feel it for *days*."

"I don't -- I wouldn't --"

"Remember that equation, big guy. Remember what I *want*."

Yes yes!

And never apologize!

Bruce narrows his eyes, and there's an image in his mind. It's too murky and unclear to be one of his brothers', but it's clear *enough*. Bruce moves and wrestles Harvey onto *his* back --

"*Bruce* --"

"*Wait*," Bruce says, and straddles Harvey's chest, tucking his knees in against Harvey's lightly-furred armpits.

"Oh. Oh, *fuck*, Bruce, are you --"

"*Yes*. And -- I won't apologize."

Harvey frowns in *confusion* -- no, Bruce can *distract*.

To that end, Bruce pushes his hand back into Harvey's hair and *grips*. "Harv --"

Harvey groans and squeezes his eyes shut. Harvey *writhes* under him -- and when Bruce reaches back to check, Harvey is nearly as hard now as he was before he'd had his *orgasm*. And that --

"You've had this fantasy."

"Y-yeah. Fuck. Bruce, I don't know if I can *take* it --"

"You can."

"Bruce --"

"You *can*," Bruce says, and swallows around his pounding heart, ignores his shaking hands, his *aching* penis -- "You can and you will --"

"Fuck -- *yeah*, okay, do me, fucking --"

"Tell me what you did with that -- that *stranger* --"

"I blew him. Right. Right there with my knees in the fucking grass --"

"What *else* --"

"God, fuck, *Bruce* --"

"*Tell* me --"

"I let him get me down, let him -- he said he'd blow me, too, and I got -- too into it. His stubble on my fuckin' thighs -- I called your *name* --"

"*Harv* --"

"I needed you, fucking *needed* you and you were in that -- that fucking *prison* --"

"Harv. Open your *mouth*."

And for a moment Harvey only stares at him, only --

His eyes are hot with anger *and* arousal, his lips are wet with saliva --

And Bruce grips Harvey's hair hard and *pulls*.

Harvey grunts and shivers -- "He fingered me."

"Harv --"

"I came down his throat and called your name *again* and -- do it *now* --"

And Bruce can't do anything *else*. And this --

He's *feeding* Harvey his penis, slipping it in and *in* --

Harvey coughs -- and gestures for Bruce to continue.

Harvey squeezes his eyes shut and *groans* around Bruce, and the vibration --

The heat and soft wetness --

The crush of Harvey's soft *lips* --

"Harv. *Harv*."

Harvey nods and licks him, works his head in the slight space -- the slight space Bruce has *allowed* him --

"Open your *eyes*, Harv --"

And Bruce has to gasp when he does, because Harvey's eyes are nearly *blank* with hunger, with --

"Your -- your *fantasy*..."

Harvey nods once. *Deliberately*.

"Mine, now. *Mine* -- *hnh* -- "

And it seems ridiculous to not have been ready for Harvey's *suck*, but Bruce can't laugh. Bruce can hardly *breathe*, because it's Harvey, beautiful Harvey, brilliant and kind and *strong* --

Strong Harvey on his *back*, and he wants Bruce to take, wants --

Give *in*!

Take him fuck him *use* --

-- yours, he's yours --

Bruce groans and shudders -- and realizes that he's begun to thrust. That --

It's slow, and it's relatively *shallow*, but --

"Harv -- Harv, *look* at me!"

And Bruce can *see* Harvey trying to focus on him, but his eyes keep rolling up and he keeps seeming to need to squeeze them *shut*. His face is flushed again, and he's sucking every time Bruce pulls *out* --

"*Harv* -- "

And now Harvey's hands are on Bruce's hips, Harvey is *holding* Bruce's -- no. Harvey is *guiding* Bruce's hips, shifting the angle of Bruce's thrusts to one which causes the head of Bruce's penis to drag along Harvey's palate even more, even *harder*.

Bruce groans and --

And holds Harvey's head still. Just --

It barely takes a moment before Harvey is bucking beneath him, eyes open and staring at nothing -- or at the shape of his own pleasure. Bruce strokes Harvey's broad cheekbones with his free -- and *shaking* hand.

Bruce strokes Harvey's stretched *lips* --

"I *need* you, Harv --"

And Harv -- strains against the hold Bruce has on his hair. It sends a jolt of terrified and terrifying arousal straight to the *core* of Bruce, and Bruce's penis twitches powerfully in Harvey's mouth --

And Harvey grunts and *moans* --

And strains again.

"*Harv* --"

Harvey opens his eyes -- and now Bruce's penis won't *stop* twitching. Harvey is sucking constantly, *holding* him, *loving* him, and Bruce can't --

"I can't let *go*, Harv!"

And the light behind Harvey's eyes flares bright and wild and *starved* -- as Harvey strains again --

And *again* --

And Bruce is thrusting faster now, thrusting *deeper*, *harder* as he bumps the  back of Harvey's throat time and again --

As he groans and *shouts* --

"Harv, I'm --"


Bruce gasps and *sobs*. "Harv, you -- nothing has ever *felt* like this --"

And Harvey grips Bruce's hips again --

Harvey *strains* and Bruce cries *out* --

And then does it more loudly for the feel of Harvey's fingers in his cleft, for the feel of him gathering sweat on his fingertips --

For the feel of him *pausing* --

"*Do* it, Harv -- *hnh* -- oh -- so *deep*. I can't -- I *must*," and Bruce leans over to brace himself on the headboard with his free hand, working for deeper thrusts, *longer* --

He *needs* --

"Oh, Harv, *take* me, take *all* of me --"

And Bruce groans and thrusts and *keeps* thrusting, driving himself back onto Harvey's powerful fingers and forward into --

Oh into --

Heat. *Tightness* --

"Oh, Harv, your *throat* --!"

And Harvey groans in his *chest*. Bruce can feel the vibration in his inner thighs and Bruce can almost *taste* the dazed *lust* in Harvey's eyes, the --


Yes, oh, *yes* --!

It's a thing of salt and musk, a thing built of needs and desires which are too powerful not to be *treated* as needs. It's fantasy made *flesh*, and it's the people who they are in this moment, the people who can *have* this and have it *always* if they simply find the right path, if they *cleave* to --

To each other --

Harvey's fingers burn so *much* -- and he starts thrusting faster, starts --

The pain is enough to make Bruce thrust faster still, to make Bruce *take* in a search for relief or --


Bruce gasps and holds Harvey's head down against the pillow, holds him steady and *still* --

Holds him in *place* --

Holds and *keeps* --

"Harv, I'll never -- I can never let you *go* -- *hnh* --"

And that flash of *blinding* pleasure was his prostate being *forced* to accept stimulation, being --

"Be -- so *brutal* --"

And Harvey rolls them over, forcing Bruce into a cramped seated position and yanking himself back to gasp before taking his own mouth with Bruce's penis --

Before taking Bruce faster and *harder* with his barely-slick fingers --

"*Yes*, Harv --"

And Harvey is almost *glaring* at him now, focused on seemingly every nuance of Bruce's *reactions*.

"*Please*, Harv --!"

And Harvey narrows his eyes -- and scrapes his teeth up Bruce's shaft. Inch by --

Inch by *inch*, and the pain makes him yell even as the pleasure *blinds* him, even as he fumbles to grip Harvey's hair once more --

Oh, just for one more *moment* --

Harvey *growls* around him --

Harvey sucks and scrapes *hard* --

But it's the vicious and powerful *thrust* that makes Bruce yell, makes Bruce shout and buck and *writhe* even as he ejaculates.

This time, he never loses the sight of Harvey, beautiful Harvey, and he's grateful, because Harvey is *shaking* for Bruce's semen, Harvey is swallowing and dazed once more --

Harvey's *cheeks* are hollow with the force of his suck --

And Bruce cries out one more time for the feel of himself collapsing back into his own sweaty, aching body. There is no --

There is no moment exactly like the feel of Harvey pulling back and pulling *out*, and that is another reason to be grateful. The *most* gratitude he has in this moment, however, is for the feel of Harvey crawling up over Bruce's body and pressing close, wonderfully *close*.

Bruce wraps his still quivering arms around Harvey and kisses the side of Harvey's wonderful throat. "That was transcendent."

"*That* was every last bit of my forebrain shooting out the end of *your* dick."

"I -- hm. That seems terribly improbable... though it makes me even happier that you were so assiduous about swallowing my ejaculate."

Harvey snickers and turns to kiss Bruce's cheek firmly. "I'll just bet. What the *hell* have they been *teaching* you?"

Bruce pulls back enough to show Harvey a wry smile. "A certain degree of assertiveness."

Harvey bites the tip of his tongue -- "'Assertiveness.'"

"And... confidence. The courage of my convictions, you might say."

"Uh, *huh*. A *week* ago you were being courageous about being a damned *priest* --"

"Not truly."

"Bruce. You *argued* with me. Even after I was *begging*!"

Bruce winces -- and takes a deep breath. "In truth, I was arguing not because I felt any deep-seated calling toward the Catholic faith --"


Bruce winces more deeply and pushes Harvey back enough that he can cup Harvey's shoulders and look deep into his eyes. "It's my secret, Harv. I -- are you ready to speak about this?"

Harvey searches him and frowns. "Ready to find out why you were lying to me? Hell, yeah, I am."

Bruce nods. "I... I've known what I was truly meant to do with my life since I was eight years old."

"Eight -- when your parents were killed?"

"Yes, Harv," Bruce says, and thinks of cold stone, of darkness which is -- only full of what he'll bring. "I'm going to be a vigilante."

For a moment, Harvey only stares at him.

"A --"

"Tights and a *cape*, Bruce?"

Bruce tries a smile. "I'd been hoping for something much less exclamatory, but from what I've seen of Bruces in other dimensions --"

"Jesus, they do it, *too*?"

Bruce nods once. "They call themselves The Batman, and the outfits are somewhat... well, I still hope to tone them down, to a certain degree."

Harvey laughs -- one breath only, and then he bites his lip.


"You -- you gotta know that that's a *kid's* dream, Bruce --"

"One any number of Bruces have made real in other dimensions. I..." Bruce strokes Harvey's cheek. "I tried to repress the violence within me, Harv. When that didn't work, I directed it at bullies, and thought that I had found the proper way. It felt... impossibly correct. Before I met my brothers, it was the *only* thing which felt that correct other than loving you."

"Oh -- God, Bruce." Harvey bites his lip again, but only for a moment. "But Leslie laid into you for it."

"She yelled, yes, but that wasn't the most..." Bruce smiles ruefully. "She was disappointed in me, and that was terrible, but it was the obvious hurt she felt which was the worst thing. I was doing the one thing she loathed above all else --"

"Wait, wait, it's not like you were beating up little kids for their lunch money --"

"Harv, Leslie became a doctor in part so she could heal people of the wounds they'd gained from violence --"

"Yeah, I know, and she's the only person I've ever met who took one look at my -- my *bruises* and gave me a book about freakin' *Gandhi*, but *still*."

Bruce shakes his head. "She *read* to me from those books when I was a child, Harv. It... well, it's *her* calling. It's what she believes above all else. She *hates* organized religion, but she still made sure I had studied the teachings of Jesus."

"And -- you made her regret that."

"I'm afraid so. At the time..." Bruce takes a deep breath and remembers his trips to the library to pick up this book or that one about Christian theology. John Calvin, St. Thomas Aquinas, George Fox... "At the time, it seemed... revelatory. The promise was a simple one. If I could simply dedicate myself to the path of Christianity, then I could *control* the violence within me, even if I could never purge it."

Harvey winces. "And the Catholics even made it easy, yeah? All those rules and regulations and *rituals* to help keep you in line?"

Bruce nods. "It's ingenious when you think about it. If one's time and attention is taken up by ritual and law --"

"Then you don't really have the time or energy to deal with anything else, including what's in your own mind. And heart," Harvey says, nodding and splaying a hand on Bruce's chest. "You can't do that to yourself again."

"I know, Harv --"

"But I *also* don't think you should be heading that far in the other direction. I mean, sure, you're huge and strong, but so are *lots of other people*. *Criminals*. And lots of them have --"

"Guns, knives -- other weapons, as well. I don't plan on dressing in a black sweatsuit and balaclava and going out into the night without weapons of my own --"

"Okay, hold up right there. There are *limits* to the power of making a citizen's arrest, big guy --"

"Of course, but --"

"*But*," Harvey says, and wags a finger, "going out on the street armed to the teeth and *looking* for trouble isn't just a little crime, it's a big one."

Bruce closes his eyes for a moment --

Do you need us, boss?

Not just yet -- but also always.

The smiles within him are bright and *warm* things -- and Bruce can't help but laugh quietly.

"What's that for, big guy?"

"A moment of being loved -- and amused at myself for not predicting that this conversation could be so ultimately *easy*."

Harvey blinks. "Easy? You -- uh. Heh. Yeah, okay, I can see it. What I *can't* see is me ever getting on your case when you're talking about things which are actually important to you. I think... I think I must've known you were bullshitting both of us about the priesthood."

Bruce smiles ruefully again. "You've always been very wise, Harv."

Harvey waves a hand. "Aw, go on with ya. Anyway, back to where being a vigilante is the kind of thing I'd have to prosecute you for."

"If I get caught."

"'If.' *If*? You're pretty damned *distinctive*, Bruce --"

"That -- hm. Oh, dear."


"I just realized *why* the other Bruces dress so flamboyantly. I doubt anyone he encounters on a nightly basis remembers anything but the pointy ears and the stylized bat on his chest."

"Pointy -- never mind. Also, it's not *smart* to have a target right on your chest, big guy --"

"No, Harv, think about it. It would draw the eye -- and thus the aim --"

"Right to where you were armored most. I -- okay, yeah, I can see it," Harvey says, and pushes a hand back through his hair. "I don't *wanna* see it -- Bruce. What did those *other* Harveys have to say about their Bruces doing this?"

Their Bruces. Oh -- "Harv, I love you --"

"That doesn't sound good --"

"They -- I don't think --"

None of them told.

What? Surely --

Some Harveys figure it out on their own --

-- rarely very pleasant --

-- *sometimes* it worked --

"-- big guy? Should we just call them in here?"

Bruce refocuses on Harvey. "I'm sorry. I -- they just surprised me by telling me that none of the other Bruces *told* their Harveys."

Harvey draws back and frowns. "Then -- should *you* have told me?" And there's something dark in Harvey's eyes, something trapped and *frightened* --

Bruce pulls Harvey close and hugs him --

"Bruce --"

"There is. Something --"

"I can *tell* --"

"And -- something terrible happens to those other Harveys. Many of those other Harveys."

Silence for a moment -- but Bruce can hear the pound of Harvey's heart. And he can *feel* Harvey's powerful tension.

"Harv --"

"No, I -- I don't want --" He tries to push back --

"Harv, I have to *tell* you -- "

"I don't *want* you to," Harv says, and works himself free before rolling off the bed and going to stand at the window. The view suggests that New Haven is a city of Victoriana, a city which wishes to preserve as many of its historical buildings as humanly possible. A city which wishes to be as historically *weighty* as possible.

It has a beauty even on a day this grey and bleak --

You can't let him block you, B --

He has to --

I know, and Bruce deliberately builds an image of himself making a soothing gesture before he stands to join Harvey at the window, and together they watch a long and slow procession of -- mostly -- expensive cars with their headlights on. Bruce rests a hand in the center of Harvey's back -- 

"The President of the university just died. He --" Harvey shakes his head. "Heart attack."

Bruce nods. "I'm sorry."

Harvey's laugh is a sharp, jagged thing -- "Not like we were bosom buddies, big guy. I'm just a scholarship kid --"

"You'll always be infinitely more than that --"

"To *you*, big guy. Not to anyone --"

"To everyone with any degree of insight. Wisdom, perhaps," Bruce says, and kisses Harvey's shoulder --

"God -- hell. We're standing here in the damned *window* --"

"We're too high for anyone to be able to --"

"Can't take *chances*," Harvey says, and yanks the blinds down, plunging the world into a gloom --

Bruce goes to turn on the bedside lamps. "Come back to bed, Harv --"

"So you can tell me what you know about other Harveys?"

"So I can hold you -- and warn you away from the terrible thing --"

"I'm not crazy!"

Oh, Harv... "No. You're not."

Harvey stares wildly for a long moment -- and then claps his palm against his face and shudders. "It's the same in every universe, isn't it."

"Not --"

"How long does it take, big guy? How long have I got before -- before."

"Harv --"

"*Tell* me!"

"I don't --"

Nine years.


Could be as many as twelve --

But it almost never is.

"*Bruce* --"

"Nine years. Some -- sometimes longer."

Harvey gasps and stares at him for a long moment -- and then his expression seems to almost crumble on his face, leaving a mask of fear and *pain*.

Bruce crosses the room to hold him once more. "It's all right --"

"You weren't -- you weren't supposed to know what I was *talking* about --"

"I know, Harv --"

"God -- *fuck* --"

"It won't happen *here*, Harv --"

"You can't *know* that --"

"I *can*," Bruce says, and holds Harvey more tightly. "I'll *help* you with... with the darkness and violence within you --"

"Violence. I -- what do I *do*?"

Bruce swallows.


"There are. There are killings --"

Harvey cries out and *fights* him, but Bruce can take the pain easily. It's enough -- more than -- to be able to hold Harvey, and whisper promises he can't hear right now but can hopefully feel --

You're doin' fine, B.

Thank you, and Bruce kisses Harvey's cheek and his temple --

Harvey *sobs* --

Bruce holds him *more* tightly --

And Harvey gasps out a breath and -- wheezes.


"Bruce." That -- that was almost more of a whistle than a word.

"I'm holding you too tightly."

Harvey opens his mouth -- and wheezes again.

Bruce loosens his hold until Harvey can take a deep breath --

And Harvey immediately laughs. It's not one of his better laughs, but it's wonderful to hear just the same.

Bruce kisses Harvey's temple again. "I promise I'll do everything in my power not to let you down."

Harvey shudders -- and bangs his forehead on Bruce's shoulder.

"Harv --"

"You -- you wanna help put people like me *away*!"

"I'm going to help *you* put criminals away, Harv. We..." Bruce swallows. "We can be... a kind of team."

"Bruce --"

"Unofficially, of course, but --"

"*Bruce*, I'm gonna lose my freakin' *mind*!"

Bruce pushes Harvey back --

"No, don't -- fuck --"

Bruce *clutches* Harvey. "I'll hold you for as long as you can *stand* it, Harv. You have to know it's what I've always wanted --"

"I'm not *weak* --"

"Never, of course. You're the strongest person I *know*, Harv --"

"No --"

"You -- you've endured so much, struggled so *hard* --"

"And I'm gonna throw it all *away*. Piss it down the -- the freakin' *sewers* --"

"Forewarned is *forearmed*, Harv --"

"I've thought about it," Harvey says, and his voice is quiet and low even as he breathes hot against Bruce's shoulder.

"I... you have?"

"One -- two -- bullets in the head for that -- that *asshole* --"

"Harv --"

"Or I could just -- just hit him *back* for once. Like I never freakin' *have* --"

"Oh -- you don't know how much I've longed to do just that --"

Harvey shudders and sobs again -- and mutters and slurs something incomprehensible before sobbing again and again --


"You'd *stop*. You'd stop hitting him once he was down, or -- or hell, even once he'd fucking *apologized*. You'd be able to *stop*, Bruce!"

Yes, but --

Tell him --

Tell him tell him tell him!

 -- everything!

"I wouldn't want to, Harv."

Harvey stiffens and gasps --

"It's true --"

Harvey pulls back and *stares* at him. "*Bruce*. What are you saying?"

Bruce licks his lips and searches Harvey's wild eyes. "You -- you *know* --"

"No, *tell* me!"

Oh, Harv... but what if --


"I want. I want you to know everything about me, Harv --"

"I want that, too, and I'm fucking *terrified* --" Harvey growls and then laughs somewhat hysterically --"No. No, I'm -- Bruce, *say* it!"

"I want him *dead*, Harv! And not just -- my brothers told me that he -- he finally *drinks* himself to death not long before you lose your ability to hold on to all of the rage and pain inside you, but that's not *good* enough --"

"No. No, it --" Harvey snarls and twists free, moving to the door and bracing himself on the frame. He's holding his body *taut*, and the strain is --

"You're so beautiful, Harv --"

"I'm *handsome* --" And Harvey snorts. "But I'll be beautiful for you, *any* day, big guy."

"Oh... may I come closer?"

"Gimme just a minute -- hey."

"Yes, Harv?"

Harvey looks back over his shoulder. "Shouldn't your brothers be in here to keep a leash on me?"

Bruce smiles ruefully. "I must admit, they're coaching me to a certain extent."

"Yeah. Yeah, I could tell. You didn't want to tell me about wanting my -- father..." Harvey frowns and turns back around before letting his head hang. "You shouldn't want things like that, big guy. *You* shouldn't."

"It. It shames me. But being dishonest would shame me far more."

Harvey shivers. "Big, old-fashioned -- I love you so much."

"And I love you --"

"You're gonna have to tell a lot of lies, big guy. If you -- *when* you do this. And -- how are you gonna train? People *notice* you."

"I plan on asking Alfred to teach me -- as best as he can -- how to act, which is, after all, a study of how to lie *effectively*."

"Okay, yeah, it's not like he *isn't* a fantastic actor. He managed to make Shakespeare *interesting* in those home movies he sent, and that's just not -- what about the *training*?"

"I -- I'm going to leave the country, but --"

"Really?" Harvey's voice is *small* --

"Harv, I didn't *drive* here. My brothers folded *space* somehow -- I'll never truly be far from you --"

"Ah, don't listen to me --"

"I'm afraid I can't follow that order, Harv."

"Order. Order? I'll give you an order."

"Yes, Harv?"

And Harvey lets go of the doorframe and turns around, opening his arms and smiling ruefully.

Bruce closes the distance between them and pulls Harvey into another hug. "You're spoiling me as much as my brothers do, Harv."

"Spoiling -- because of course you think that way. Stop it." And Harvey smacks the back of Bruce's head.

"All right, Harv."

"I. Bruce. Big guy, I'm..."

"Yes, Harv?"

"I'm scared. Right down to the bottom. Right up -- all freakin' *through* me."

"We'll get you the help you need --"

"What about the help *you* need? You're talking about going out every night and beating the crap out of *strangers*."


Harvey leans back with his eyebrows up.

Bruce waits.


"Oh. Hm. I suppose there's a certain hint of dangerous emotional disorder --"

"A hint, hunh? Not a soupçon? Maybe a smidge?"

Bruce hums. "Harv, it's not like I haven't worried."


"But my brothers will be my *partners*... and have promised to always help me stay my hand."

Harvey narrows his eyes. "What kind of demons *are* they?"

"Sons of Lilith -- and not at all beholden to the laws of Judeo-Christianity."

Harvey frowns. "I think I need a Bible."

"I believe you'd have better luck with certain Gnostic --"

"Bruce. Work with me here. "

"All right, Harv --"

"They're definitely demons."

"Yes, Harv."

"And -- specifically incubi. Like, they've been damning people with sex?"

There's a knock on the bedroom door --

And Dick is there, smiling and nude. "My turn, boss?"

Bruce smiles back. "Yes, please, Dick."

Harvey squeezes him one more time. "I -- heh, lemme get some *pants*, guy --"

"Oh, those aren't necessary," Dick says, and there's almost no trace of the seductive purr in his voice. It's *odd* --

But it seems to make Harvey relax.

Dick winks at him before schooling his expression to blandness. "What do you want to know, Harvey?"

"I... okay, I'm at least gonna stop showin' you my ass," Harvey says, pulling back from Bruce and moving to sit on the bed -- with a pillow in his lap.

Dick laughs musically. "You know, I can see *through* that."

Bruce blinks --

"Uh. What?"

"Kidding, kidding," and Dick leans against the doorframe and scratches the front of his thigh with the tip of his tail. "I just peek into Bruce's mind when I want to picture you naked."

Harvey blushes rather impressively... but then, so does he.

"Sex demon, right. So -- what? You're horny all the time or something?"

"No, but I can be. It's never more than... hm. A suggestion away? Something like that. Mom tends to give birth to a fair number of demons with my sort of makeup -- *she* tends to be eminently desirable, after all -- and a fair number of *us*... contract with the Morningstar."

"The devil, you mean."

Dick grins sharply. "One of them. The most *fun* one -- depending on what the tides of human belief bring out of him. He's been kind of acutely horrifying for the past little while, but he always honors his contracts. For me, it works like this: I let him direct me to some man, woman, or otherwise he wants to have give themselves over to pure carnality and lust, I do what I do best, and, in return, I receive certain gifts. Enchanted items I wouldn't normally have access to, temporary powers which go beyond my own -- that would include the ability to bell a soul, Bruce -- that sort of thing. I'm entirely independent -- I don't *have* to seduce anyone if I don't want to -- but I still wind up doing it a lot."

Harvey frowns. "Why? I mean, I'm guessing he's not sending you to people who look like Bruce all that often?"

Another laugh. "I'm rather... hmm... catholic in my tastes, Harvey -- if you'll pardon the phrase -- but no, I don't normally see such beauty," and Dick looks Bruce over and sighs before turning back to Harvey. "Why... is difficult. I like to keep my hand in. I like to see what humans are *up* to. I like making people understand how important and *beautiful* sex can be. I like *meddling*... and all sorts of other things. One thing you should know -- Bruce wasn't chosen by the Morningstar. He doesn't have enough *faith* for that."

Harvey *blinks* -- "I -- okay. I guess I can see that?" Harvey shakes himself all over. "How *did* you choose him?"

"Some humans can, for lack of a better word, summon us. Sometimes it's a magic-user of some sort, but most often it's just some powerfully imaginative and *willful* human. Humans like that give off a *scent* that's almost like..." Dick bites his lip and cocks his head to the side.

And Bruce sits beside Harvey with his hand on his knee. Harvey turns to smile wryly at him.

"It's all right, Harv."

"You keep *saying* that --"

"It keeps being *true*," Dick says, and grins. "And I know exactly what it's like. Have you ever seen one of those old cartoons where someone is cooking something delicious, and they show that by having a visible waft of scent lure people or animals in? They often show them *floating* in like they're being *pulled* by the scent."

Harvey laughs. "Yeah, okay, I can see it. And -- Bruce did that?"

Dick offers his own wry grin. "*A* Bruce did that. And he was *so* powerful, and *so* needy... that he made us look like his partners, and *think* like his partners, and even *feel* a little like his partners -- or rather, how he *thought* they felt. The spell -- because that's what it was, when you get right down to it -- was so powerful that we even took the boys' memories. We couldn't keep them *out*. And? He bound us."

Harvey winces. "Jesus. That -- has that happened before?"

"To me and Jason, yes. Never to Tim before. It doesn't happen often -- it *can't* without us choosing to follow the lure -- and, usually, it doesn't *last* as long as this did without a *bit* of mutuality, but... well. That Bruce rejected us. He wouldn't acknowledge us, much less touch or speak to us. He owned us utterly, and the best I can say for that experience is that his lack of care for us meant that we could continue living *semi*-independently. And that's what we did, in between begging for *relief*. We..." Dick closes his eyes and swallows. "He made us love him."

"I'm sorry. I'm -- that sounds horrible."

Dick inclines his head.

"So... you needed another Bruce to free you?"

"Yes... but you have to realize that we weren't really *looking* for freedom... as opposed to for a Bruce who could love us back. A Bruce who didn't have human partners -- and who would hopefully never have ones who looked like us. We didn't set out to find a seminarian to corrupt, and the Morningstar has better things to do than focusing on faithless priests-to-be. We wanted a lover. And we would have done anything to get one."

Harvey nods slowly and thoughtfully, and Bruce squeezes his knee once more before leaving him to think. He moves to Dick and cups his lovely face, strokes his cheekbones and the hawkish bridge of his nose --

And Dick butts his shoulders, one and then the other. "Always always."

"Yes, my love," Bruce says, and pushes a hand into Dick's hair before kissing him softly.

Many times.

Dick hums for it, and, after a few minutes, Bruce can feel Harvey watching him --

Studying you. Curiously.

Then I will ask. Bruce pulls back and turns. "Harv...?"

"You really don't see any kind of problem with having four lovers, big guy? Even when three of them are *related*?"

Bruce smiles ruefully. "I've always wanted brothers, Harv."

"But --"

"I don't think I've always wanted brothers the right *way*, Harv."

Harvey coughs and snorts --

And Dick wraps his arms around Bruce's waist from the back and rests his head on Bruce's shoulder. "Right is *relative*," he says, and Bruce is absolutely sure that he's waggling his eyebrows.

"Okay, then," Harvey says, and shakes his head. "I can't decide whether I'm glad your parents didn't have another kid or *not*, big guy."

"To be honest, neither can I. It would've been wonderful not to be alone, but it would've been terrible to desire someone who could never desire me. Even with you, I always had a small measure of *hope*."

"You uh -- heh. Did you notice how you never even paid *lip* service to the idea of you *not* wanting a blood relation?"

His father -- no. Not yet. Bruce strokes Dick's forearms. "There's blood between my brothers and me, too, Harv."

"All those scratches and prick-marks --"

"Yes," Bruce says, and smiles. "And more."

Harvey shivers and holds up a hand. "Okay, then, I'm good. Don't really need to know more about that."

"All right --"

"Shut up! You just -- fix me, damn it!" And a somewhat taller-than-average woman steps out of the air and jabs at Bruce's chest with a strong finger.

"I --"

"Fix now! Talk later!"

"You --"

She growls at him, showing white teeth and balling her hands into fists. She's nude and quite curvaceous, and she has vastly complicated antlers. And the spots of a fawn along her arms and sides. Her hair is an almost honeyed blond, and is very thick and --


("And she has *fantastic* racks.")

Bruce frowns and turns to look at Dick. "That was a terrible joke."

"Nee hee. Yeah, pretty much --"

"Dick, stop *distracting* him!"

"Sorry, Steph. Fix her, Bruce."

"Yes, of course," Bruce says, and leans to look past her shoulder at Harvey --

Who quickly looks up and licks his lips. "Uh. Don't mind me."

Bruce nods and meets Steph's eyes -- a beautiful cornflower blue -- once more. "Would you tell me if there's anything in particular you'd like to look like?"

"This! Except -- rargh!"

Bruce attempts a soothing gesture --

"Do you think I'm hot?"

"You're very beautiful. Your antlers are wonderful, and your eyes --"

"Okay, okay, shut up! Make it so I can't *hear* that asshole!"

Bruce closes his eyes and imagines...

Stone. Yes, stone, and it's walled around that other Bruce and his loves -- and he includes Steph, as hopefully one of the man's partners will remind him --

But he can focus, and imagine the stone thicker, heavier and harder and *sharper*. No voice can get through. No *call* can get through -- not to Steph.

She's *free* --

But his mind fills with the image of a thick and pulsing cord leading from Steph's lovely, curved abdomen into the walled-off place. It passes *through* the stone --

But Bruce has a sword. A --

Yes, a falchion like his brother's. The heat of it is immense and *blinding*, but that's only what's needed, what's *called* for --

"Please please *please* --"

Bruce swings as powerfully as he can and feels the thing *lodge*, feels himself stung and *struck* --

He tries to will the other Bruce to let go --

He tries to will *himself* to let go --

And it feels like tearing himself in *two* --

It's okay, it's okay, use your *will* --

She *is* a hottie --

*Will* it --

"Hurry *hurry*!"

The cord is cut.

The cord is cut.

The cord is *cut* --

Steph cries out like an angry *cat* --

A *large* and angry --

Bruce falls to his knees and grips his abdomen. The pain --

And his brothers surround him and fill him with warmth, with love and *health* --

-- should've known --

-- last one is *hardest* --

-- be okay --

-- love love WILL --

Yes, will --

I'm all right.


There's -- nothing wrong --


I am not *unmade*.

No, but the bed is. And Harvey is freaking.

Bruce takes a deep breath and stands -- to find Harvey being held back by an exceedingly cranky-looking Steph.

"Will you *relax*? See, he's fine."

"Yes, Harv, I'm all right. Though I would appreciate it if you would let him go, Steph."

Steph grins sharply -- and looks Harvey over. "Whatcha gonna give me for him?"

Hm. "What would you like?"

"The last eight centuries of my *life* back, you jerk!"

Bruce blinks rapidly --

"No, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know it wasn't *you*," Steph says, scowling and letting Harvey go.

"Finally, Jesus --"

"Watch your fucking *mouth*. There's a *lady* present."

Harvey opens his mouth -- and closes it again. And hugs Bruce. And pulls back to *pat* Bruce --

"I'm truly all right, Harv --"

"Big guy, there's a chick with antlers who can apparently kick my ass without breaking a sweat, and also you just freakin' *bellowed*, and you didn't make that sound when you dislocated your *shoulder*."

That's true. "Well... it was excruciating for a moment. Rather like disemboweling myself --"


"*Spiritually*, Harvey," Jason says, and flexes his wings and stretches. He's holding an open bottle of champagne -- and he offers it to Steph.

Steph sneers *powerfully* --

And Jason steps back. "Uh. Anyway, Harv, he was never in danger. He's got too much will for that."

"You mean he *would've* been in danger if he'd stopped *believing* in himself?"

His brothers turn to -- share a look with him! Bruce smiles and nods. "Yes, Harv."


"I won't be doing that again. Or -- I suppose it's possible that the other Bruce could enslave still more demons --"

"Listen to me, big guy: Let some *other* Bruce free them, okay? You all grow up to be heroes, right?"

"For the most part, yes," Tim says, moving to kiss Steph's cheek and offer her a bottle of something which glows orange and smokes. "You shouldn't worry, Harvey. We are... invested."


"And ever."

"That's all well and good, guys, but some of us? Don't get to *see* him after he's dead."

Steph takes a drink and snorts. "Like he *wouldn't* haunt your ass."

Harvey turns to Steph and seems *about* to say something -- and then he sighs and offers her his hand. "Steph? I'm Harvey. Bruce is my best friend in the world, my brother in increasingly disreputable ways, and the guy I'm in love with --"

"Oh -- Harv --"

Harvey turns for just long enough to wink at him over his shoulder and then turns back to Steph. "Let's be friends. Friends who keep his silly ass from doing silly shit. Please?"

Steph narrows her eyes --

Tim whispers in her ear --

Steph raises her eyebrows and licks her *teeth* -- and then reaches to shake with Harvey. "Deal. But look at it from my perspective -- heroes don't *like* to set demons free."

"I can see that. I can definitely see that. But -- ah -- 'spiritual gutting.' That doesn't need to be a thing that happens."

Steph grins again. "I disagree. Sweet cheeks."

Harvey blinks more -- and then claps his hands. "So who's up for dinner? Nice, sane, safe dinner?" 

Dick beams. "Oh, does your dorm have a kitchen --"

"No," Bruce says, before he can stop himself. "I mean. Most dorms don't."

Harvey frowns at him. "That's true, big guy, but mine does, and if Dick here wants to cook, we should let him. Bringing Steph along will make us look all respectable, even, and money doesn't grow on trees, you know."

Bruce swallows. "No. I suppose. I suppose it doesn't."


And Jason snickers --

And Tim looks suspicious --

And Steph looks at Harvey's posterior.

Bruce takes a deep breath, and gives himself a moment to take in his family, old and new. They are beautiful, and wise, and dangerous, and kind.

They are sensual and brilliant.

They are loving and eminently lovable.

And one of them is bound to know where he can get some ginger.