We do not spare [Reference]
by Te
July 30, 2007

Disclaimers: Not remotely mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Vague references to older storylines. Takes place early in Tim's tenure as Robin.

Summary: Any number of Tim Drakes are more vain than practical.

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

Author's Note: Sequel, of sorts, to "But whosoever would pluck." Kicks off not long after the other ends, won't make sense without it.

Acknowledgments: To Petra, Pixie, and Jack for audiencing and encouragement.

The 'memories' become -- fuller as he allows himself to think of them. Perhaps this is a function of Bruce's solid -- unwavering -- program of encouragement, but Tim thinks there may be more to it than that.

He'd had a year to learn to be someone stronger, larger, better, and vastly more important than he was -- it's just that this process did not, actually, involve every waking moment of his existence. There are empty spaces. There were times when he was doing nothing but being alone, or dreaming himself into fits of self-doubt and loathing --

Filling those spaces with warmth, with belonging and -- and *warmth* just makes things --

He knows, of course, that none of it is real, that he has only allowed himself to fill in "gaps" which never could've been filled that way, that the 'memories' are only the reworked fantasies of one particular *needy* child --

No, that's not it, at all. If it was... well.

"Bruce," Tim says, offering his hand and more than a little mockery in his amusement. His father isn't paying attention to Tim right now, but he's very close.

"Timmy, you little *scoundrel*, how are you?"

If he thinks about it just a little more than any Tim Drake in this room would, the mockery would work for -- either of the men in his life. "I'm good," he says, and takes a deliberate moment to watch his hand being swallowed in Bruce's own. There's just a bit of hair showing beyond Bruce's cuffs, thick and dark --


The danger of allowing himself to even use the *word* 'memories' to refer to what he's been doing with heretofore fallow parts of his own mind is that it's far too easy to take a moment, like now, to trace impulse and inspiration until he finds a memory of Brucie shooting his cuffs after stroking Tim to orgasm -- somewhere.

Still, it doesn't *hurt* this particular charade --

"Well, no. I'm bored enough to *injure* someone, Brucie," and Bruce hadn't been using the handshake to tug Tim closer, but he is by the time Tim finishes speaking. Close enough that -- too close.

The desperately *unhappy* frown on Brucie's face is visible enough, now, that Tim could try looking for seams. If he wanted to.

"Really, I --" Tim sticks his tongue out. Briefly.

"I'm sorry to hear that, tiger -- *clearly* you haven't been spending time with the right people," he says, loud enough that --

Out of the corner of his eye --

Tim can see his father frowning.

"We can't have you *bored*. What can I do to fix it?"

"Get me *out* of here," he says, quietly enough for the Tim Drake who won't be going home to the *manor* tonight. "Would you, Brucie? *This* is going to make me need a vacation." A little louder, and -- yes. When he looks, his father is giving him a rueful smile and a vaguely apologetic gesture. His father will be networking for oh -- hours.

"Think of me as your humble servant, Timmy," Bruce says, moving them easily into a position which involves Tim having a long, casual arm around his shoulders. "Jack, pal, let me borrow your son for a little while?"

Shameless. Utterly -- His father looks pained -- and pissed -- and so it's time for Tim to somehow project a rueful shrug using only his facial expressions. Challenging, but Timmy Drake isn't physically capable of moving all that much from within the clutches of Bruce Wayne.

"I -- sure, all right," his father says, searching Tim's eyes for long enough that the facial-shrug starts to feel a little strained. "You know where to find me, kiddo."

Tim waves --

"You're the *best*, Jackie," Bruce says, and then they're moving. They've barely gone ten yards before Rebecca Paddington is filling Bruce's other arm with the sort of absent languidness which speaks rather loudly of heroin. Timmy Drake would try to get away, at this point -- an eye-roll wouldn't be out of place -- and Brucie *does* slacken his grip... but he doesn't let go.

This close, it's actually a little difficult to make out the *details* of the kiss Brucie and Rebecca share, but this is a question of height more than anything else. Tim has the perfect vantage point for watching the motion of Bruce's other hand -- and for hearing the sound Rebecca makes when that hand finds her breast. Tim --

Timmy snickers.

Bruce rolls the woman to the end of his arm in a somewhat abortive dance move, and -- "Oh, Timmy, there you are! Did *you* want a turn?" Bruce's eyebrows give a rather more complete dance.

"Oh... I think I might be out of my *league*, Brucie." And would he really --

"Becky, cupcake, show Timmy what you learned in boarding school."

He really would. Rebecca titters and slaps Bruce's shoulder lightly. "You're so *bad*, but -- mm," she says, tottering and swaying on heels which could reasonably be used for weapons, leaning in --

She tastes like champagne and questionable judgment choices. The only guarantee -- of anything -- Tim has is that he's *reasonably* sure Brucie wouldn't have done this if his father was paying attention to anyone but the investors he's trying to coax into making DI's dreams for the Teaneck industrial sector a reality. Whether or not that's really *enough* to justify kissing Rebecca back --

"You're *such* a bad girl," Brucie says, and -- judging by the way Rebecca squeaks into Tim's mouth -- Brucie had just goosed her.

She pulls out of the kiss with something which could either be a wink or an attempt to blink herself back to something like consciousness. It's too perfect, too believable, too --

Tim licks his lips and turns to stare at Bruce. "If we're going to be doing *that* weekend again, I think I'm going to need more champagne."

"Brucie, you *didn't*!"

Bruce puts a finger to his lips. "I'll *never* tell."

And, while Tim would've thought something more would be necessary to make the encounter end, he clearly needs to give more credit to the power of underground pharmaceuticals to shape a social life -- Rebecca doesn't so much as wave before she's wandering off again.

"Still bored, Timmy?" Bruce's eyes are the exact quality of not-correct that -- yes, Tim thinks, and slips his hand into the pocket where Bruce keeps his handkerchief. Slowly.

"Worse. Bored and *horny*," he says, because really -- shouldn't he be? *That* weekend -- it hadn't even been *his* lipstick on Bruce's -- cock. Yes, that. "Come *on*, Brucie, I think this place is *aging* me."

"*That's* no good at all," he says, frowning. "You're already growing *much* too fast, as it is, sweetheart."

Tim raises an eyebrow over the handkerchief that is, at the moment, doing a very good job of smearing the leftover lipstick over the whole of his mouth. "Brucie..."

"Why don't you meet me upstairs?"

Tim gives the handkerchief back -- just as slowly -- and smiles. "If you keep me waiting, I'll find better company."

"*Bad* boy," Brucie says, giving Tim a push that leads almost naturally to the stroke down his back. Almost.

Upstairs, Tim moves past a handful of couples with smiles and waves. He has been far more of a presence in his father's return to high society than he would've predicted would happen remotely willingly. Neither his father nor Brucie would have it any other way, of course, and this time -- Tim had nearly forgotten to complain.

Still, 'upstairs' is a little nebulous. It wouldn't do for Bruce to have to call attention to his agenda by having to search for Tim obviously, though, so there has to be a plan in place.

The men's bathroom is full of people snorting cocaine and heroin, the conference rooms are lit up as though someone had honestly expected *official* business to be done tonight, and the corridor is, of course, scattered with people who all already know quite enough about Tim Drake's relationship to Bruce Wayne.

Still, there are a handful of doors which are locked -- yes. Tim takes the third. If he leans against the door, he'll be able to hear anyone coming, and if he keeps the light off, none of the guests here tonight will be able to find Tim in the gloom. He waits --

He doesn't wait. That weekend --

A part of him knows that Brucie likes his friends to get along, and that, even if he can't quite put a face or name to the female form he *remembers* moving on Bruce, there are any number of women between his age and Bruce's own who it *could've* been.

Brucie had forgotten him entirely for a while, he thinks --

Brucie had left Tim to the champagne and his own devices before setting the woman into a straddle over his lap and lifting her, moving her. The woman would've been -- had been a little uncomfortable with Tim's presence, had kept looking back over her shoulder at the naked boy --

He would've been naked, a little sticky from spilled champagne --

No, just his face, because Brucie would've slipped his hand between Tim's legs from behind while Tim was (dutifully? maybe) having his portion of champagne. Tim isn't drunk while he's watching Brucie with -- her.

Tim is remembering Brucie's tongue on his face, and he's -- not touching himself. Not then.

Just -- here, because Brucie is always so much stronger than Timmy Drake, than Timmy can make himself remember. It makes Timmy blush too much for it to be comfortable to think about when he's not... naked, or at least away from dangerously prying eyes. So.

Then, he'd been thinking about how the woman was *experiencing* those hands, and her inevitable moment of realization: if Brucie didn't let her, or forgot to be gentle, she wouldn't be able to get away.

And the look in her eyes had been something Timmy has seen in the mirror more than once, something he's felt deeply enough that remembering it now --

Brucie likes it when he touches himself. When he *jerks himself off*, when he's too desperate to make a good show of it. Which is not to say he doesn't like the show -- no.

This is a show, too. His audience simply isn't here, yet. It's his job to get himself to the point --

The tap on the door is terrifying, incomprehensible --

"Where oh *where* did my favorite boy *go*?"

Timmy's knees buckle -- *finally*, and Tim is just fast enough to shuffle, pants around his knees, away from the door before it opens.

There's still enough light that he feels even more exposed than obvious -- "Sweetheart, has it been *that* long?"

The light -- the open *door* -- Timmy thinks Brucie's going to get them both killed, but that won't be as bad as the pictures. Still, if it's *going* to be like this... Timmy slides his hand off his cock, eyes narrowing, mouth pressing tight --

Mouth opening right up for his messy fingers, slick and dirty, and --

And it's better when Brucie grabs the doorframe, fills it right up with his overgrown body and backlit smile. "*Somebody* is just *asking* for it," he says, and that's enough reason for Timmy to back up out of easy view --

Shuffle and almost trip --

"Tease," Brucie says, and maybe he's moving a little *too* fast when he closes the door and walks in, a little too Bruce --

The sound of the lock makes Timmy groan --

But the point is several different varieties of moot once Bruce has his hands on him, one cupping him -- squeezing a little too hard, making Tim Drake or Timmy or someone *jerk* -- and the other *gripping* him by the rear. By the ass --

"Oh -- oh, *yeah*, Brucie --"

"You started *without* me," and it's less of a kiss -- Bruce *bites* Tim's mouth, upper lip and lower --

"Ow -- I -- I told you I *would*, come on, give me --"

In the darkness, it's difficult to parse movement into anything but itself, but *Timmy* is used to being manhandled, moved, *made* -- maybe not that, but, he still has to complain --

Struggle a little -- "*Bruce* --"

"Ah-ah-ah. *Somebody* has to get what they deserve," he says, and it's possible that the words are bringing him back, or teaching him something, or maybe just making it *clear* that Tim's palms are on the carpet, and so are his knees. His ribs are being supported by Bruce's thighs, and his pants and briefs -- boxer briefs, because any number of Tim Drakes are more vain than practical -- are even further down his legs, and he's --

"Oh, you -- you have to be kidding me."

"Do I...?"

It says... something, about someone, that Tim's caught up on the voice. It's just that he knows, now, that that's the voice which belongs in a bed, in some safe place for two people who aren't *really* here, save for in the narrow ways they have to be. The fact that the voice is all but designed, now, to make him squirm --

"Oh, that's *just* right," Brucie says, back with a vengeance and a stroking pet to the back of Tim's neck.

The squirm *suits*, just as, perhaps --

"Now, don't you scream," and it doesn't quite fit for Brucie to cover Timmy's mouth, but Tim is grateful, and Bruce is almost certainly thinking of the tooth-marks in his gauntlet --

Unless he's thinking of *this*. The crack of his palm against Tim's rear, reddening Timmy's wriggling ass --

"You've *only* brought this on yourself," he says, shifting enough that Tim can *just* feel the heat of Bruce's erection through their clothes, so he can *press* against it with the next slap --

The next *spank* --

"Honestly, Timmy, if *this* doesn't make you behave, I don't know what *will*," and he's chuckling, low and a little rough --

Rougher than his palm, dry and hard and -- *hard*. Tim squeezes his eyes shut, tries to get more contact between Bruce's thigh and the head of his penis. It feels like an experiment to moan, as if some part of him really just needs to *see* how it will sound against Bruce's palm --

"Of course, I can't let you be *too* good. That wouldn't be any fun for *either* of us --"

This time, it's no experiment. This -- *hurts*. Not enough to make Robin take notice, but Timmy has to be a little confused, a little wary about Brucie, who doesn't always remember all the kinks he has, but is always picking up new ones --

"There. Just take it, just like this. For me?"

He's Brucie's good boy, remembered and desired and -- useful. Used --

"I *know* you can feel how happy I am to see you. *Feel* you. And you can't stop *wriggling*, can you?"

He -- he can't. Blushing and squirming, trying to find the rhythm of that hand, trying to figure out where it will land next --

"You know *precisely* how to make me happy..."

He knows -- Timmy knows -- or. Or it has to be enough, for this, that he's moving this much, groaning this much. He wishes Bruce could see that his eyes are squeezed shut and that he's blushing so much he's *hot*, but maybe it's enough that Bruce knows it.

That he knows -- precisely -- what he's doing to Tim and Timmy and everyone else with every slap, with the knowledge -- inescapable now -- that Tim can be *punished*, and that it would turn Bruce on just this much. Or -- he's losing the thread, more than a little --

Bruce hums, spanks him *hard*, and then slides his hand between Tim's legs, stroking Tim's scrotum and making his penis twitch up against Tim's abdomen --

"I'm going to be *so* good to you," he says, and the pinch at the base of Tim's penis is a promise, but so is the *loss* of touch. Tim braces himself --

And *yells* against Bruce's palm, because the spanks are faster now, harder here and lighter *there*, landing on his thighs --

Between his thighs --

Tim can't --

And Bruce stops, slides the side of his hand between Tim's cheeks, teases, *presses* --

"I thought I told you not to scream?"

Tim wants to do it *again* --

"You're just *hopeless*, aren't you?"

The push is gentle, but the moving *isn't*. He was on his hands and knees *before*, but now he doesn't have Bruce's lap under him -- Brucie --

"I guess we'll just have to try something else, tiger," he says, and the patting is absent, not enough, nowhere near all the places on his rear which are screaming for more, to be soothed, *something* --

And Bruce's hand isn't on his mouth, anymore, which makes the whimper a little terrible. The sound winds him up inside, twisting and hurting him --

Relief at the feel of Bruce spreading his cheeks, and then it isn't, because being *fucked* is still just a memory, and Tim doesn't have *enough*, right now, to pretend, hasn't had enough since that first *slap* --

"Bruce --"

"Why don't you hold on to your cock for me, Timmy? I'm going to be *busy*," he says, and --

There's not enough time, enough *anything* to do it before Bruce is licking him, teasing and lapping, and Tim has nothing like context to decide whether this is in character, but he has --

Yes, memories. Listening to himself almost croon (*just* like this), blushing and clawing at the sheets, cheeks still wet from a nightmare and Bruce slapping him out of it with his tongue, forcing him to the narrowest possible focus and this need, this *feel* --

This *heat*, and maybe the *last* time he'd been wondering how he could pay for this, and so *now* it makes sense to Timmy, because he's burning outside and *melted* inside --

Or maybe the last time had been in the master bath, bent over the side of the tub and beating at the marble --

Here, he's down on one elbow and biting his fist too hard -- nuzzling his cuff aside and biting his wrist is better, more subtle, and he can't even make himself *stroke* his penis. It's too much, heating him up all over, and Bruce --

Wet sounds, humming, little moans and -- yes, *croons*, and that part *has* to be in character, but it also doesn't matter once Bruce starts *thrusting* with his tongue. This is --

It's what Tim wants, and the fact that he hadn't known until Bruce had done it is making him want to whimper more, Bruce's *tongue* is making him want to whimper more. This should *hurt*, or at least not make him feel so weak. This should've been in his memories, he should know how to *deal* with this. He can't let himself scream, and even the moans are dangerous -- no. He's supposed to stroke himself.

It'll make it go faster, make it safer --

Make Tim *shake*, because he can't seem to separate the feel of his hand from what Bruce is doing with his tongue, and from the way Bruce is holding his hips. He -- he's *going* to come. This feeling can't mean anything else. It's just that he can't tell where it's going to come *from*, or -- something --

Anything, he thinks, giving up a little and starting to suck on the knob of his wrist, mouth it like it's something more exciting, squeezing his erection *hard* just to make the feelings more coherent --

Bruce is stabbing Tim with his tongue, now, and the wave of feeling still isn't an orgasm, still --

So *good*, he thinks, and Bruce, and now he's a little afraid. It feels like, maybe, this won't ever *stop*, that it will just keep feeling better and better until Tim has to scream and beg, make someone beat down the door, get them *caught* -- *no*.

He groans and strokes himself faster, as roughly as he can with all the pre-come -- and Bruce still has him *spread*, but he pats Tim's hips with his fingers. It feels like encouragement *and* urging, and Tim knows he's being too loud and too obvious.

He *needs* to be, but it's not really the place --

*Batman*, he thinks, calling up the taste of the gauntlet and trying to imagine what the air in the Cave would feel like against his rear, right now --

And for an insane moment he thinks he's been punched in the spine, if that could happen painlessly and so suddenly he can't even fall down --

But then the feeling narrows to his penis and the -- *inside*, turns to a hot, stuttering *rush*, wetting Tim's palm and making him flex and shudder -- Bruce is holding his tongue right *there*. He can't think, he can't do anything but come for Bruce and just -- stay put. Be a good boy. Be -- someone, somewhere.

Tim knows, now, that Timmy never has anything to say after Brucie does this to him. It's always a little too stunning, and a little too necessary to always wait until Brucie feels like moving him again. Pant like an animal and let it happen.

Until he's sitting upright on Bruce's thighs, pressed close... Bruce is kneeling up and holding him, and Bruce's penis is between Tim's thighs and teasing Tim's scrotum. Bruce's trousers feel like *sandpaper* against his rear. Timmy would reach up and get his arms around Brucie's neck.

"Does this mean I'm forgiven, Brucie?"

"Not even a *little*," he says, and bites Tim's ear.

"Oh, *but* --"

"*Touch* me. Or did you want another spanking?"

"I -- oh." And really -- there's so much in that voice, right now... for some reason, Tim catches himself thinking of Dick, of that edge of *demand*. Brucie has a short attention span. Tim has too many *fantasies*. Maybe there's something -- *extra* about squeezing Bruce's penis, this way --

"Bad boy," Bruce says, biting his ear, twisting Tim's head around enough to kiss him -- oh. That smell. That taste. This can't possibly be -- right, or safe, or --

Or just Bruce's hands. One on his chin and the other dangerously close to Tim's hypersensitized penis. "Brucie," Tim says, when Bruce breaks the kiss, "you *know* I'm a lot less clever when you do that to me."

"Poor sweetheart," he says, and pats Tim's abdomen. "I keep *forgetting*, somehow. But you'll make it *up* to me," he says, and Bruce pulls Tim's arms down from around his neck, pushes them down...

It's tempting to *make* him wrap Tim's hands around himself, but the way Tim's thighs feel when Bruce's penis twitches --

He's blushing again, wanting to just *hold* Bruce there, but -- Bruce wants his hands. Tim spreads his legs -- Bruce's cheek is pressed to his own -- Tim touches --

"Oh, that's it, mm. I knew you'd behave given some *incentive*," he says, pumping into Tim's grip and moving them both.

"You could've just," he says, squeezing and finding Timmy a little, "fucked my mouth."

"No," Bruce says -- *Bruce*.

Tim tenses, stroking almost reflexively --

"I'm enjoying your calluses," and Bruce turns enough that the edge of his smile is *hard* on Tim's cheek, undeniable.

"I -- you --"

"Me. Faster."

Tim shudders once, all over -- "Oh -- this -- *here*?"

Bruce strokes Tim's forearms, shifts until he can push up and under Tim's shirt and undershirt, squeezes *hard* -- "You're scandalized. I thought you might be, but it's still deeply intriguing."

Yes, well. Tim gets a good grip on the shaft and rubs the head with the fingers of his other hand. Slick, dirty -- yes. "It's difficult not to think of... B, like this."

"Playing favorites...?"

Just a *hint* of the Batman voice, cold and dark and -- "It's pitch black in here, Bruce. It invites a certain *theme*," Tim says, and brings the fingers of the hand he isn't stroking with to his mouth. Sucks.

"The things you -- want. You are..." The rub and scrape of Bruce's stubble against his cheek makes Tim close his eyes again, stroke *faster*.

And Tim hums a question around the fingers in his mouth.

"There's a conference coming up in two weeks in New York City. A full weekend. Bruce Wayne is set to attend, but -- nn --plans to forget about it, entirely. Oh, very -- Perhaps Jack Drake shouldn't."

That... Tim slides his fingers out of his mouth. "You'd... like me to manipulate my father *just* to facilitate our sex life?"

Bruce -- it's neither a sigh nor an exhale. It's warm and compelling and -- "You'll be able to spend more time in the clinics, as well. Tim."

He's being -- coaxed. "What will you *give* me, Brucie?"

"Exactly what you want," he says, and turns enough to drag his teeth over Tim's cheek. "What I -- what I need from you. Tim."

"You --" Need. "You don't have to *wait* --"

"Don't. Hmm -- you *know* how hard it is for me to *stop* once I find something entertaining. Tiger."

He's shuddering again, pushing hard on that wall between too soon to get hard and too soon to *be* this hard. It's Bruce, behind him, under him, between Tim's legs. Everything he wants -- almost.

"Please," Bruce says, and his voice is so *strained*.

"I -- I'll do it," and Tim thinks he might be begging, too, though it's difficult to be sure what he's begging *for*. More, this, to be on his knees again, for Bruce to be even more clear about --

Bruce wants to take Tim *away* from his father, in some ways. Tim doesn't think Bruce is jealous -- he's almost sure that would be a bit too strange in directions Bruce wouldn't go, but.

Tim knows that his father *is* jealous, that he feels Bruce has already *had* too much of Tim. As if family was something Brucie Wayne excelled... at. Something. It feels a little like eating something viciously *tart*, and maybe also a little bitter, to want Bruce to want this from him, this *rejection* of his father, this distance --

But Tim's father is never going to admit that he's afraid that Bruce has been a *better* father to Tim than he has, and Bruce --

Bruce is panting against him, leaking more and more pre-come, making this hotter and better and everything -- *everything*.

Tim isn't sure *what* he can make Bruce admit to, but he knows that it will be more. And that's maybe bigger than Bruce's soft groans, than the *hungry* feel of those hands on his chest and sides. Just -- more, he thinks, when Bruce stops breathing and tenses --

Hisses between his teeth --

And comes *thrusting* into Tim's hand, with just enough of a *shake* to make it perfect. Tim presses back against Bruce as much as he can, rocks his hips just enough to make his rear remind him of -- *that*, and lets go.

After a moment, Bruce hands him his handkerchief and Tim cleans them both up. It's incredibly tempting to stay right here, but Bruce's squeeze is more of an acknowledgment than a hold. Time to go back to the party.

Tim stands up and fixes his clothes, aware of Bruce as a similarly rumpled presence somewhere to his left. It probably should be a little disturbing how *easy* it's become to make himself look perfect in the dark, but well -- there have been dozens of nights where he's been tired enough after patrol to sleepwalk through writing reports, showering, and dressing himself in Tim Drake's clothes.

Perhaps it's just another of those side-benefits, like how good he is at performing first aid and moving unnoticed through his father's house. They leave separately -- him first, this time, and Tim stops in the bathroom. He looks just as perfect as he should, and -- and.

The remnants of all the drug use are just short of epic, but that just means that there are packets left where Tim can grab them for later analysis.

If he can find the dealers for this crowd, the next party might be a little less *rampantly* illegal.

And maybe a few of his peers might get the rehab they need. Certainly, it's something to shoot for -- especially because he nearly walks right past Rebecca Paddington's unconscious body in a patch of shadows near the stairs.

Tim turns her onto her side and checks her vitals as surreptitiously as he can. Her pulse is strong, and her breathing seems to be getting stronger, but. Tim reaches for his belt-radio -- and finds useless leather. Still, there are phones. Tim drags one of her arms out into the light and finds one.

By the time the EMTs arrive, Tim is downstairs, and it only takes a moment to direct them to Rebecca. Something that gets him a pat on the shoulder, and -- yes. A little too much attention from his father.

The cane is far more decorative than the sort of thing Tim would've sworn his father needed, but he has to admit that the man is moving well on it.

"What was *that* about? And where have you been?"

"I think Becky Paddington had a little too much of... something, Dad," he says, and starts moving toward someplace they can sit down. "I found her upstairs and called 911, just in case."

"Paddington -- you know, there's a *rumor* going around this party about the two of you, and have you been with Bruce all this time?"

"Dad, I -- she was really affectionate. Earlier," Tim says, slipping his hands in his pockets and smiling ruefully from under his lashes. "And I was mostly just exploring." He turns the smile into a frown. "A lot of people use drugs at these parties, you know."

"Really? *Drugs*?"

Yes, really. "The men's bathroom upstairs is a wreck."

"That's terrible. I'd never want to expose you to something -- *you* haven't been using drugs, have you?"

For a moment, it's almost suicidally tempting to leave the pants with his evidence somewhere obvious, because what kind of question -- and the hell of it is, he *can't* just look down his nose and -- "*Dad*. C'mon, I want to go to college and have a *life*," Tim says, and shakes his head. "I already told you that parties like this don't really tend to have anything like my kind of crowd."

His father's sigh of relief...

Tim doesn't know what to do with it.

"I swear, if these parties weren't so ultimately useful..."

Tim finds a table near the dance floor, pulls out a chair for his father, and sits down. He doesn't wince. "I know, it's a business thing. I get it. And I find things to do."

His father frowns, but -- "Like hang out with *Brucie*. I wouldn't be surprised if he was hopped up on something."

Hopped up. The frown isn't for him. Tim stretches deliberately -- not as far as he wants to -- and fakes a yawn. "Brucie has been high on being insanely rich since forever, Dad. Drugs would cramp his style."

"His style. I -- what do you *see* in that man, Tim? I know he was there for you when I -- when I couldn't be, but --"

"But he's a lot of fun, and he does take some things seriously. You know he lost his parents when he was young. They were -- well, they were *murdered*. He understands what that feels like."

And it's possible that came out too fast, or too well, or maybe just too *sincerely*. His father's knuckles are showing a little too well around the cane, and he may, possibly, be gritting his teeth. So...

"Plus, he makes me feel incredibly mature. Like -- incredibly. Really very incredibly."

The laugh is more of a grunt, but it's there. And his father is looking at him again, searching a little. "You make it sound like *you* were taking care of him as much as the other way around."

Tim shrugs and fakes another yawn. "He's got a lot of ways to make it easy not to think about your own problems."

His father sighs and taps the cane against the floor. "I never really believed some of the things *they* say about Brucie and boys. That Dick Grayson is a solid young man, and... I suppose Bruce had to be good at something."

That was almost generous. Tim smiles. "Dick is -- really great, yeah."

His father's smile is a little too wide for the moment, the clap on his shoulder a little too hearty -- "He's a good friend to you."

Ah, something for them to agree on. "He -- calls me 'little brother,' sometimes. I like that, a lot."

"Sometimes I wish your mother and I had had another child... ah, I don't know," he says, and scans the room quickly and efficiently enough that Tim wants to blush, retroactively, for every obvious and near-obvious *thing* he'd done... no.

Bruce had been, as much as anything else, his back-up. Still, they're going to have to be more careful at parties like these if his father thinks he needs to be protected.

"What do you say we get out of here, Timbo? I think I've squeezed about the last drop of economic good will out of these people as I can."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Tim says, and stands up. "You know I don't mind, right? If I couldn't find some way to have fun, I'd just bring a game with me or something."

His father wavers a little as he stands, but he's trained Tim not to do anything about it unless it looks like he's going to fall. "I know, I know. Still, I'm *not* just going to keep dragging you to this kind of thing if it's all just drugs and *Brucie*."

Tim thinks about it -- yes. He plasters a smile on his face. "Well, there are always the... *affectionate* debutantes."

His father coughs. And stares at him.

Tim smiles a little wider. "I *am* a teenager."

His father blows out a breath and stands up straight. "Well, I don't want to cramp *your* style, Timbo, but I -- try to pick the ones who *aren't* too high to remember that you're half their age. Please? For me?"

Tim tips his father a salute and starts heading for the exits. "You got it, Dad."

After all, the ones who pay more attention make Bruce work a little harder to *keep* them from paying attention, and that...

That's every weekend that never could've but *did* happen in the manor, every good morning and every warm night. Every memory Bruce is *making* real. Rewriting, or maybe rewiring -- Tim can still taste a hint of lipstick on his mouth, even though there's not enough of it to show.

And Tim can still *feel* Bruce all over him.

And the game, he thinks, when his father rests one hand on his shoulder, is better this way.

Even if it shouldn't be.



.A knowledge of roots.