As usual, Eva has done much with the ingredients provided to her by her lovers -- three brothers who take turns raising and hunting game and running a boutique butcher's shop in the heart of Suicide Slum. The business has been running since the area was home to rather paler-skinned immigrants than the ones who live there now, and, as far as Eva can tell, they have no intention of moving.

They like the fear on the faces of their wealthier clients too much for that.

Tim has, as has become his usual, settled down into sour-natured enjoyment of the feast in front of him, and is undoubtedly visualizing an exercise routine which will turn the vast majority of this meal into new muscle which Lex will make him stretch and *work*...


Jason, when Lex checks, is eating silently and -- as he'd promised -- slowly. His expression speaks of casual and simple pleasure, but Lex would be stunned if he wasn't thinking very deeply about all of this.

He's already ordered Mercy to make sure Jason can't escape -- and to do so as gently as possible -- and he *won't* have to do it again, but...


"You know, Jason... when Tim doesn't answer one of my questions, I usually make him suffer for it to at least some extent."

Tim glares at him for the nth time tonight. His self-esteem is strengthening beautifully, really --

"Darling, you *like* the suffering."

"From *you*. *Sometimes*."

And it hits like a blow, like something weightless and invisible and powerful just the same: he will always have to fight for this particular boy. He will always have to be his best, his bravest, his surest --

And Tim is searching him cautiously, starting to *backslide* -- no, no, and no.

Lex takes Tim's left hand in his own, removes the knife, strokes a path from his palm to his fingertips --

Tim shivers and touches his tongue to his upper lip --

"Is this suffering?"

Tim squeezes his eyes shut and gains the particular expression which tends to mean that he's willing his cock to behave. "Yes. In a way."

Lex strokes again --

Again --

"Please. I -- please."

"Do you know what you're asking for?"

Tim snarls and grabs for his *knife*, which --

Ooh. "Just checking," Lex says, raising his hands and sitting back.

Tim glares for a moment longer, blinks, looks *horrified* --

Jason clears his throat. "I gotta say, kid -- he was asking for it."

"I -- but --"

"He totally was. Daddy?"

"I was. Very specifically, even," Lex says, and offers the happiest smile in his repertoire, because --

Tim narrows his eyes and *starts* to growl --


"Oh, *God*. *Lex*. Stop trying to make me *hate* you!"

Jason snorts and spears a turnip from the platter. "I think he's just trying to make you play with him. The *question* is why he wants you to do it *now*."

"Because -- because --" Tim narrows his eyes again --

*Growls* again --

"You've been working all night to keep me from feeling -- feeling *small*," Tim says, and that was absolutely an accusation.

Lex dabs his mouth with his napkin. "I also *have* been enjoying myself. Darling."

Tim stares at the knife --

Jason pushes the roast aside and leans across the table. "I've got a better one strapped to my back, kid, but I'm thinking Lex still wouldn't let you get a shot in."

"I -- *damn* it, Lex, stop fixing my self-esteem!"

"Unlikely, darling. You're far too entertaining when you stop thinking there's something wrong with you."

"I'm far too *argumentative* --"

"Tim. I need you."

"You. You --"

"I want you," Lex says, slicing a piece of meat from the hunk left on Tim's plate and offering it to him on his own fork.

"Lex --"


Tim jerks and -- doesn't moan. His eyes go from narrow to heavy-lidded, though, and he leans in --

"Please, Tim."

"I --" Tim shakes his head once and takes the bite from Lex's fork, flushing -- he would have to be a fool to call that a blush -- and chewing slowly.

"I love you," Lex says, and it's much, much easier to say than he thought it would be. He'd known that it couldn't be during the fuck, or even right after --

Perhaps it's better to have an audience for something like this, someone good enough to read sincerity --

Someone who -- if he doesn't now -- *will* want at least a taste of what Lex has.

Honest and willing, Jason...?

Beat this.

Lex smiles, knowing it for something both infuriating and attractive to Tim -- and then he gestures to Tim's plate.

"Lex, I --"

"I know you do, and it's a marvelous convenience -- among many, many other things."

Tim stares at him --

Closes his eyes --

And bends down to kiss the knuckles on Lex's right hand, one after another. When he's done, he turns back to his plate and eats carefully and methodically. If he's tasting anything --

No, Tim's palate is light years better than his own. He's tasting everything, and will thus be able to offer Eva the kind of compliments which will make her withered heart sing. She *doesn't* like him as much as she likes Hope and Mercy, but --

Jason clears his throat again. "Not to change the subject --"

"Oh -- I'm sorry, Jason --"

"Nah, don't be. Everybody needs to have their moments," and Jason winks at Tim --

Tim blushes for *that* --

Oh, well-played, Mr. Todd. "You were saying?"

"Mercy the psychopath. Hope the so-far-invisible sociopath. Eva the axe murderer --"

"It really is just a hatchet, but... yes, I do see what you're saying," Lex says, and takes another sip of water. "Mercy *found* me Hope. Eva had been fired by some of the bluest-blood families in the entire Northeast -- I had to see what the fuss was about."

"You didn't *have* to hire any of them, though. And you didn't have to keep 'em once you figured out that they were fucking nuts."

"Well, for one thing -- I needed someone *exactly* like Mercy when I was eighteen and trying to keep LuthorCorp -- as the company *used* to be called -- from crashing and burning in the wake of my father's entirely timely demise. Most businessmen are physical cowards, but back then I wasn't able to intimidate very many people, at all. That was my own fault, but I still needed... muscle."

"Are you saying you beat *up* your fucking shareholders?"

"Only some of them. The rest fell into line nicely, giving me time to get enough blackmail material on them that I wouldn't have to have them beaten *again*." And then, of course, there are the ones who wouldn't fall in line for any reason... "I needed Mercy more than I needed oxygen back then, and there are still things she can do for me which very few people can duplicate --"

"Or are *willing* to duplicate?" And Jason raises those thick and ludicrously manly eyebrows at him.

Lex smiles. "That, too." Look how I'm not tearing his throat out, Tim. Look how I'm letting him shine for you.

What does that tell you, darling...?

Lex doesn't look at Tim, though. That would -- no.

Jason leans back and chugs the rest of his water before pouring more for himself. "So you figured sometime back when that Mercy could use a partner?"

"Yes. I didn't expect to be able to find anyone suitable without dredging through the prisons and mental hospitals --"

"Fuckin' A, Lex, didn't that *tell* you something?"

"I *believe* in giving people second chances... sometimes. For all of those other times -- and for those times when people mistakenly believe they'll get a *third* chance -- there are Hope and Mercy. You're also forgetting that I enjoy the company of... singular people."

Jason's expression is skeptical --

"What about that didn't fly for you, Jason?"

"Uh -- fuck, I'm usually better at pretending I don't notice bullshit. Look, I could *see* you with Mercy. It's not that she's fucking psycho, it's that *she's* good for you. Some of that good *is* the psycho -- obviously -- but it's not like you're going around breaking into hospitals for the criminally insane looking to get some tail. Uh. Are you?"

"Lex has people to do his breaking in for him," Tim says, cool and serene and -- blushing again.

For Jason?

For him?

Lex strokes a line over Tim's left cheekbone. "I have a handful of lovers who each have a few other lovers of their own. None of them approach Mercy... or Tim, for that matter."

Tim looks at him, then, and the expression behind his eyes speaks of need, desire --

It's *not* especially sexual, but it could be turned that way --

If he were more than a coward than he actually is. Lex returns the look with a steady one of his own -- and takes Tim's hand in his own.

If he were the sort of person who stared when things like that happened, he would surely have noticed the heavy pulse in Tim's throat, the way the need must be starting to *choke* him --

His boy.

His beautiful --

"In any event, Jason, I take your point. While I *have* enjoyed singular people over the years, that enjoyment has ultimately nothing to do with what I feel for Mercy. As for Hope... well, what I feel for her is less easily quantifiable. A part of her will, I think, always be quite young. While I desire her sexually, it's not as powerful a need as what I feel for my lovers, and it's a matter of aesthetics more than anything else. Tim is, however, maturing her *rapidly*, so who can say? I've made a great deal of money -- and garnered a great deal of power -- on my ability to gauge which way the wind will blow at any given time, but I'm not so foolish as to believe my ability to predict the way a given single human will jump is *entirely* a matter of skill."

"You know you're a lucky bastard."


Jason nods thoughtfully. "You guys are finished eating. Why don't you hit the sack while I keep eating your food?"

"I -- Lex and I usually --"

"No aikido tonight... unless you really want to?"

Tim closes his eyes again. "No, I don't. I --" He opens them. "Jason, I realize that you're not a guest here by choice, but I still would like to be a better host --"

Jason grins *playfully*. "'cause maybe you're the Mommy to Lex's Daddy?"

Tim pales *impressively* considering how pale he was to start --

And Jason raises his hands. "Hey, relax. I didn't say anything about how you might choose to entertain my ass *after* Lex has entertained yours for a while."

"Oh -- fuck," Tim says, and checks his watch --

Lex already knows they're down to sixteen hours. He cups the back of Tim's head. "Come with me."

"Right, I. I'm just going to get stupider, and... yes. Right."

Jason cuts himself another hunk of meat. "It doesn't actually get better anytime soon, near as I can tell," he says, grinning good-naturedly, companionably --

And the smile Tim has for Jason as he stands is a sweet one, embarrassed but still game, hopeful --

It's all Lex can do not to *hustle* Tim out of the room, but...

He's going to make his case in other ways. He rests a hand at the small of Tim's back and guides him out, slowly and steadily.

Once they're beyond Jason's hearing:

"You -- you shouldn't be jealous, Lex."


"He doesn't -- there's a part of me which responds to him. It was never going to respond to you."

Lex sniffs back a snort. "Darling, when did you start giving reassurances like *me*?"

Tim *trips* -- but steadies himself well enough before Lex can do more than help him upright. "Ah. I didn't mean -- it's just that so much of me *is* yours --"

"How much?"

When Tim cocks his head to the side, he looks much like Hope. He's not going to say that out loud.

"While I would appreciate a numerical answer, it's not something I'll hold you to --"

"Seventy to seventy-five percent, I think. There would be more, but there are parts of me which are holding back and will continue *to* hold back so long as I feel there are things you aren't sharing with me."


"No, I -- I mean, I don't think so." Tim frowns. "It probably *should* be --"

"You're young. You're allowed to think with your cock *and* your heart," Lex says, and strokes up to the back of Tim's neck.

"Fuck, Lex, I -- *would* you tell me about all of your projects?"

"The only illegal one I'm working on is the one you're intimately involved with."

"Well, it's not that I thought you were wandering around plotting the destruction of orphanages on Christmas, Lex --"

"I'm doing several wildly immoral things. My thoughts about them should probably be legislated away... and yes, I'll tell you. Just as soon as you want to know."

Tim winces.

"That wasn't a dig at your morality."

"It felt like -- no. It's just that my morality needs to be... dug. To a certain extent. I'm already making excuses for you in my mind even though I don't know what you're *doing* --"

"Don't do that. And, for tonight, don't think."

"Lex -- oh. Ohn..."

That for *pressure* to the back of his neck -- Lex sucks in a breath. "You drive me -- you drive me. Leave it at that. I'll tell you everything, and you can listen to my reasoning and argue with me about it -- I might even listen to you. And you can tell yourself anything else you wish --"

"I don't want to *lie* to myself --"

"Then don't. You're in love with a bad man. Adjust."

Tim spins around to face him, jabbing a finger at Lex's sternum. "You're a *great* man, Lex!"

"Great men have always been bad, Tim. They destroy their loyal followers in wars of conquest, they steal from the poor and manipulate the rich, they scrabble for power by any means necessary --"

"You're better than *all* of that. You don't need some sort of modern-day manifest destiny in order to conquer. You've *already* conquered. All of your expansions in the past eight years have been utterly unnecessary -- the gains in your profit margins hardly pay for the *crap* you've had to deal with to get the expansions made --"

"You've been studying."

"*Yes*, I've been studying. I -- I want to know everything about you. I want to be in your life forever. I want to be *useful* to you --"

The kiss -- happens. Perhaps it's a function of a bare wall being right there, perhaps it's a need to shut Tim up before he spirals back down to self-loathing, perhaps it's just that he's beautiful, and young --

Honest, smart, and *willing*, willing in every way, because Tim is exercising his control in fits and starts *now*, but that won't last. That *can't* last, and so Lex cups his lovely face and tilts his head back.

Lex presses him against the wall with his body and licks into his mouth --

Lex *fucks* that sweet little mouth and ignores the animal sounds he can't seem to stop making -- Tim's whimpers and shakes are far better, more important, deadly --

Lust like this feels like being willingly *poisoned*, as if instead of water he'd been drinking something which heats his bones, prickles his skin, *stiffens* him into clumsiness -- no, stiffens him into *focused* grace, because there's only *one* thing his body will be ready for after this kiss --

Or during, because Tim has his arms wrapped around Lex's neck and is *working* his body against Lex's own, *taking* --

Pushing away. Pushing --

*No*, and Lex grips Tim's hair and *yanks* his head back, tearing the collar away to reveal a bruised throat, long and graceful --

He bites over *one* of the bruises --

Tim shouts and *clutches* at him --

Lex *sucks* there --

"Lex -- *Lex*, *please* --"

Not *yet*, and it's a matter of internal security to hold Tim's head back with one hand and open his pants with the other --

Tim bucks for the first *brush* of Lex's fingers --

"I'll teach you not to *wait* for this --"

"You'll teach me *how* to wait for this, Lex!"

Lex laughs and kisses Tim once, several times. "Possibly. What did you want to say?"

"Bedroom. Just -- but anywhere, Lex, anywhere, I need you so much --"

"Have me," Lex says, dropping to his knees and feeling himself flush before he even gets Tim out of his boxer-briefs --

Before he can even *taste* --

"Beautiful," and that was more of a snarl than anything else, but needing to say the word had *kept* him from just swallowing --

He swallows --

Tim's shout is cut *off* -- he's biting his fist.

He's -- Lex growls and uses just a little too *much* pressure with his teeth --

Tim shouts *around* his fist -- "Lex -- what did I do wrong --"

Lex glances pointedly at Tim's hands --

Tim's eyes widen as he looks back the way they'd come -- and then he closes them and presses his palms to the wall.

Good boy. Such --

Such a good boy who's beginning to learn exactly *how* jealous Lex can be --

Jason's experienced enough with men to make him *better* --

No. No, he's not thinking about that. Not when he can still make Tim sound like this, shake like this --

"Oh, *please*, Lex, please, please, don't let me *go* --"

And the only possible answer to that is to grip Tim's hips and hold on tight, grip hard and suck *harder* --

And Tim's shouts have lost their rhythm just that quickly, degenerating to wild noise for every flick of Lex's tongue, every *pull* as Lex works his mouth on Tim's cock, every *press* of face to groin --

The scent of him --

The *taste*, because Tim is sixteen hours away from his shower this morning, and this can be nothing but what it is. There is no room for denial, no way to escape that he's making love to a man --

A boy.

A boy who wants Lex's *cock* enough that he's *stopped* stretching himself out --

And the groan lodges in Lex's throat and stays there, hopefully making the head of Tim's cock feel as loved as it should, and --

Lex can't wait for more. He lets go of Tim's left hip and pushes his fingers behind Tim's sac, pressing hard --

Tim screams and arches away from the wall --

Tim's scream becomes air as he starts to come, spilling down Lex's throat -- no.

Lex pulls back enough to catch it on his tongue, enough to *feel* that he's finally let himself be on his knees for this --

Tim is shaking so *hard*.

His boy, his beauty, his love --

Lex tears himself away and bites Tim's hip while stripping Tim out of his shoes, his socks, his pants, his boxer-briefs --
Tim's legs are lean and darkly-furred, but not especially thickly so. His legs won't be *much* paler after he shaves. The hair at his groin is perfectly straight, neat as everything else about him --

Though Tim never looks neat in moments like this one. He's sprawled against the wall with his eyes squeezed shut as he pants and waits for more -- or more orders.

"Open your eyes," Lex says, and stands.

Tim does -- and the need which had been in his eyes at the table is back. Lex knows what it means, and --

What would Bruce do?

Does he even remember the night when talking had led only to more talking, and to more than that until Lex was raw and aching for nothing but *contact*, touch, warmth in the dark --

Does he remember how graceful and sure he'd been, moving in moments from lying at Lex's side to holding Lex close --

("I think. I think this must be the way...")

Yes, *probably*, Bruce --

("There are times when I think I would have only this, Lex. But I think you knew that already.")

I did --

And Tim is looking at him with an *understanding* curiosity --

Lex snorts and pinches the bridge of his nose. "It's disgusting that you already know how I look when I'm thinking about him."

"I choose to view it as proof that I'm capable of being emotionally intelligent *sometimes*. Considering my track record the rest of the time... well. I take what I can get."

"You shouldn't compare yourself to Jason, Tim," and Lex cups Tim's cheek and leans in to kiss his forehead, his cheeks, his mouth --


"He had to learn how to be emotionally intuitive in order to survive. He was already smart enough to know how to filter and organize the information he took in, but... think of it this way: On any given day, Jason interacted for some significant length of time with at least ten different people. You, on the other hand, have been deeply sheltered."

"I still am, when you think about it."

And that... is worth a smile. Particularly, a smile for the heap of Tim's clothes on the floor.

Tim flushes and stands up straight. "The fact that I've learned how to live with you --"

"And Eva."

"And Eva --"

"And Hope."

"And Hope, yes, but there's still Mercy --"

"Who's very happy with your behavior."

"She wants to *gut* me, Lex!"

"You *are* still human larvae."

Tim glares at him -- then laughs, tension dissipating with every breath. "You're not going to let me dislike anything about myself."

"I wouldn't say that."

A raised eyebrow -- "*Is* there something about me you think needs improvement, or are you just hedging your bets?"

The *thrill* of the boy -- "Bedroom."

Tim's eyes shine for him, Tim clenches his fists --

And then he goes, leaving his clothes where they are. Lex picks them up against the moment when Tim will remember that he's not, actually, that much of a naturist --

Lex follows at a measured pace, gathering control the way a magnet gathers iron filings -- no, that's really overstating the case. He's not even really gathering control the way some Neolithic human would gather berries from a bush. He is, for better or worse, tearing at the world in the hopes that some of the things he grips will lead to control: be it physics or anthropology.

Biology won't do him any good whatsoever.

Biochemistry *maybe* -- hm.

Lex pauses at the foot of the bed, setting the clothes down neatly on a chair.

Tim pauses with his shirt pushed back over his shoulders. "Yes?"

"Were you getting aroused at the thought of the *clones*?"

"I... well."

Lex raises an eyebrow and crosses his arms over his chest.

"You -- all right, you probably hate the Yul Brynner comparisons --"

"Intensely, but I appreciate your thinking I appear kingly."

"I, for one, would like to be the first to welcome my new LexCorp overlord," Tim says, and finishes stripping. "And -- one clone."

"How -- you're differentiating them. Already."

"Only one of them has *your* DNA, Lex. Of *course* I'm differentiating."

Lex licks his teeth, breathes -- "You're attracted to an embryo."

"Ah... I'd say that I'm more attracted to his potential," Tim says, and strokes a vertical line between his small, lean pectorals.

He almost certainly doesn't mean the motion to be hypnotic, but -- Lex has accepted certain truths about himself. "His potential."

"And -- his parentage," and *that* gets a blush when nothing else --

Oh. No. "You -- don't think about that."

"Lex, I'm an incredibly gay teenager with hero worship issues. It's not actually possible for me to not think about that."

"It's *disgusting*, Tim!"

"You're the one who *did* it!"

"I combined DNA in *Petri* dishes, Tim. I had *other people* do it for me --"

"Yes, but it's the most intimate and enduring act known to the *species*, Lex --"

"It has nothing to do with me having sex with an *alien*!"

Tim sighs. "Mixed-race children do better with attention paid to all sides of their ancestry, Lex."

"It's not a *child*."

Tim licks *his* teeth.

Lex narrows his eyes.

Tim lowers his eyelids *demurely* --

"*Fuck*, but you're..." Lex laughs and shows his teeth. "Get on the bed and kneel facing me."

"Yes, Lex," Tim says, and does it with simple, economical grace. He rests his palms on his thighs, lifts his chin, and parts his lips.

"Is that what you want?"

"Always. Ah -- almost."

Lex smiles a little more widely and strips himself down, looking away from Tim as little as possible. The need is back in Tim's eyes, that *specific* need which makes Lex need *many* things -- including the chance to be sixteen again. Though what he would've done with a boy like this --

Bruce, at least, had the decency to be *confused* much of the time -- fuck.

"You should know -- I think of him most often when I'm imagining intimacy with you. *Mostly* non-sexual intimacy."

Tim blinks. "You -- it's something you want more of?"

"Don't you?"

"*Yes*, I -- don't know how to ask for it."

"Your body does," Lex says, and moves onto the bed, spreading Tim's thighs over his own and pulling him close.

Tim shivers and kisses a path along Lex's shoulder. "Lex, I could stay like this for... a significant length of time."

"Enjoy it while it lasts, then. You have a date with Jason," Lex says, and strokes down Tim's back to his ass.

"I don't -- oh, Lex, I won't do *anything* --"

"Shh, no, not that. Going from past experience, I'll be exceedingly ridiculous until after you've had sex with the man a few times... and have come back to me after each."

"I'll never -- *mm* --"

Just a bit of pressure on Tim's mouth with his thumb, and Lex leans in to kiss and lick Tim's ear --

Another shiver --

To push *deep* with his tongue --

A humming moan --

"You want him. You connected quickly enough that a real friendship is entirely possible. He's intrigued by you and already thinking about what you look like when you're making love with me..." And Lex can *feel* Tim blushing this time. "Yes. You're lovely, and you've opened enough to look available. You've opened enough that you can *see* desire when it's aimed at you... darling. Don't fight."

Tim clutches Lex's shoulders and pulls back enough that he can lick Lex's thumb, turn it and suck it in... yes.

Lex pulls back enough to look Tim in the eye, to watch as he goes *down* on Lex's thumb and generally looks like a very specific kind of illegal porn.

Lex knows his smile is pained by the feel *and* by the worried look in Tim's eyes -- "A burble of conscience, Tim. It passed," and Lex removes his thumb from Tim's mouth and draws a wet circle around his left nipple. "You were saying?"

"Something. You. Oh -- *is* it his age? The fact that it's closer to mine?"

"He *remembers* feelings like yours --"

"So do *you*. *Viscerally*, even --"

"Some things are never forgotten, it's true, but there's a difference between memories of moments and memories of weeks... and, in the end, it's not really the primary issue."

Tim frowns --

Lex uses his short nail on Tim's nipple --

"Oh fuck --"

"It's easier this way, Tim. It was almost inevitable that a boy who'd attract Bruce would *also* attract you. This way, I've all but picked him myself. He's in my home. He'll use *my* beds."

"Oh -- *please*, Lex --"

"Imagine his hands on you. Did you notice them?"

"They -- they're rougher than yours. Slightly larger. Lex --"

"He's strong, too. Mercy described his body to me in detail."

Tim moans and shakes his head --

And Lex takes a breath. "To *end* I'll repeat that it's easier for me, and that it would almost certainly be intensely pleasurable for you. It will put a face to nameless, formless jealousy and fear. It will focus me, and, when you come back to me --"

"You'll be. Reassured." Tim frowns again. "It doesn't make sense. Or -- it does, but I don't trust it."

"When you've trusted me in so many other ways? I..." Of course. "I have proof, Tim. You may not find it sufficient, but it's the only proof I can give you. If you say to Mercy 'gamma rho' and then ask her to tell you about my jealousy, she will give you entirely honest answers with none of her usual... insouciance. These are things you should know, and they should not come from me."

Tim's eyes are wide for him -- "Are you sure --"

"I'm sure. You're a part of my life now. A member of my... family," Lex says, and offers a smile to share --

"It *is* a family. You -- I'm not sure you know that," and Tim's frown is back --

Lex cups Tim's face, tilts his head back --

The kisses are necessary distraction, though the question of which of them the distraction is for is a pertinent one. It's a kind of enough to have Tim seeking to return the kisses with his eyes closed, to be able to stun the boy a little with a touch this simple --

Lex bites Tim's lower lip and pulls back. "I will never give Hope or Mercy up. If that's the definition of family, then... yes." That he'd ever *glanced* over the thought that he would is *ridiculous* --

"The definition --" Tim bites back whatever was to come next and shakes his head. "I never doubt that I'm a part of a family. Just... not a traditional one. If there's any such thing --"

"Then you have two families," Lex says, and lets his fingers meet at the back of Tim's head, lets them mingle in the fine, black hair --

Lex nuzzles Tim's mouth and breathes in wine --

He's going to *like* wine if this keeps up -- "You have two families, and, in one of them, you're wildly important."

"Lex --"


Tim pants, eyes wild for a moment --

Another --

Another, and Lex is beginning to wonder and *worry* about the struggle visible in Tim's eyes --

But then he locks his arms behind his back with his wrists crossed.

"You were looking for a way to show your submission?"

"Yes, Lex."

"Is that the only reason why you were... distressed?"

Tim's expression *is* the equivalent of being leaned against, enjoyed, needed, *needed* --

And Lex's cock isn't going to be quiet for very much longer. It's a miracle that it hasn't made its demands plain *already* -- "Tell me."

"I wanted -- I'm afraid. Of how much I need you."

"Your conscience?"

The need in Tim's eyes becomes desperate, dire --

"It's all right. I promise I'll protect you from myself... all right, that's ridiculous on a number of levels, but... still. It's true."

This time, Tim *does* lean in -- and when Lex cups the back of his head, he nuzzles at the place where Lex's neck meets his shoulder.

"I couldn't give Bruce what he wanted from me. What he *seemed* to want... well. The same is not the case with you."

Tim kisses Lex's throat so *softly* --

Lex can't keep himself from *gripping* Tim's hair --

Tim groans and knee-walks closer, and, yes, this is a full-bodied nuzzle, an expression of need and trust, hunger and need --

Trust that becomes its own *plea* -- and Lex can stay close. He can have what he needs and stay *close*. He can hold Tim in his arms, he can cup Tim's crossed wrists in his hands, he can squeeze tighter and tighter as he kisses, licks, mouths, *breathes* --

"*Please*, Lex --"


"Yes -- please, *yes* --"

"Would you prefer -- no, I can't give you a choice right now."

Tim makes a questioning sound, a sound which *tears* something in Lex when he throws Tim down on his back, straightens his legs, bites everywhere he can reach while the noise becomes something else entirely.

Like this, Tim's body is wonder, pleasure, *willingness* --

Lex growls away the image of Jason doing this to Tim, sucks Tim's nipple and drags his cock against Tim's leg -- which jerks for the contact in a way that *would* be dangerous if they weren't perfectly positioned --

Lex has had many, many women who were at least *close* to Tim's height --

And the thought brings action, the hunger specific to *forcing* Tim's pectorals into a shape which can be held -- however lightly and precariously --

"You make me want to *grow* breasts --"

"I'll talk to the endocrinologists I know," Lex says, biting Tim's nipples back and forth and back again --

"*Please*, Lex --"

"Please what?"

"Harder -- more --"

Lex growls again and bites Tim *viciously* hard, hedging his bets by coming in from the side of the nipple --

Tim arches and screams for him --

Are you listening, Jason?

Are you lurking and *learning* at once?

Lex licks a stripe to the other nipple and gives it the same bite --

"*Ahn* -- too -- too much --"

"Are you sure?"

"More -- sensitive? I don't -- oh, fuck, that *suck* --"

Lex hums and sucks *slightly* harder, flicks at the nipple with his tongue until it feels almost as though it should be sharp -- more.

He kisses his way down Tim's chest --

He starts again with bites --

He pauses when Tim's chest is covered with red welts -- most of which will fade, given what he's learned about Tim's skin.

He pauses and he *surveys*, because this is another LexCorp property, more vital to his continued happiness than the vast majority of them, but still --

Still --

Lex claws his way over Tim's nipples --

Tim clutches the duvet and arches, cock reaching for his abdomen, gleaming at the tip, dark in the shaft --

Lex grips Tim and sucks the head for *just* long enough to get a shout before pulling back and using Tim's hips to push him back flat to the bed --

And Tim has become glassy-eyed and as flushed as he ever gets. At this moment -- 

"You'd do anything for me."

"I wish. I wish you'd ask," Tim says, licking his lips and fighting the hold Lex has on his hips --

"You want to prove yourself to me."

"*Yes* --"

"What if you don't enjoy being fucked?"

"I already *do* --"

"It's different, Tim. Hotter. Darker. You won't have control."

Tim pants, touches his tongue to his upper lip, *bites* his tongue -- "Will you tie me?"

"I'm not sure yet. You're thinking too much --"

"*Please*, let me -- negotiate?"

"I won't try to make you stop *talking*," Lex says, and begins stroking Tim's cock at a speed which would make *him* want to commit homicide -- though whether he'd do it to get faster or slower is a mystery. Tim moans long and low for it, tossing his head and arching for more, begging with his body --


"Get the lubricant from the drawer. You know --"

Tim shouts and arches -- but doesn't come. The *control* there --


"*Please* --"

"Do it."

Tim turns over and reaches, scrabbles in the bedside table until he has the lubricant in hand --

He slicks *himself* --

He pulls his knees up to his chest and shoves in with two fingers, eyes squeezed shut --

"Open your eyes."

"Lex --"


Tim does it -- and in this moment, he looks almost *hounded* by lust, glaze-eyed and *worn* with it even as he fucks himself brutally hard. It's too much.

It's too much.

It's -- "Too much."

"Lex --"

Lex grabs Tim's wrist and yanks Tim's fingers out, replacing them with two of his own --

"Oh, *fuck* --"

There really isn't enough lubricant for this, and he doesn't have to prove *every* point --

And Tim is almost hiccoughing his grunts and moans, beating at the bed with his fist and trying to move into a more comfortable position --

A better position?

Lex can *help*. He grips the back of Tim's right thigh and holds Tim in the extension -- "Fan your other leg out."

"Lex -- Lex --"

"Do it *now*."

The motion is graceless, but effective -- Tim is breathing easier *and* managing to push into the thrusts, the twisting thrusts --

"I want. I want your heat --"

"*Yours* --"

"Shh, just. Just take this," Lex says, and tells himself that he'll stop here, that he has enough, that more would be more of the wrong kind of too much --

He tells himself that, and then he crooks his fingers over and over until shouts become screams, until screams become wordless *keens* --

Until Lex's cock is flexing and *twitching* for what he can have, what he can have right *fucking* now --

Too easy to let go of Tim's thigh, to pick up the bottle and pour a broad, slick stripe over his own cock, to slide it around while he moans like he's the -- relative -- virgin in this bed, like any touch would be --

No, not any touch. Just the ones similar to what he wants, what *belongs* to him --

Tim can't even see what Lex is *doing*, and he'd promised himself better than that, more, somehow *more* --


It would probably help if he could stop fucking Tim with his fingers, if --

But Tim is *clutching* at the duvet, now, and his eyes are closed, and his body is moving perfectly, brilliantly, beautifully --

This should be *enough*, but Lex can feel the *rictus* grin on his face, taste the acid of need --

He needs to be *seen* by Tim, and so he stills his fingers --

Tim gasps and *wails* --

"*Look* at me --"

And Tim's eyes fly open, focus on nothing for too long --

Too *long* --

Until it seems like the motion of Lex's free hand is what calls Tim's attention, what brings him to *bear* --

"Oh. Oh, Lex..." He looks up again, licks his lips and pants. "Please."

"Who. Who do you belong to."

"You, Lex."

"Say it."

"I belong to you. You own me. I'm *yours* --*ah* --"

That for the feel of Lex pulling out -- the fact?

There's no *time* to answer the question before he's holding Tim open *enough*, before he's pushing his way in against *some* resistance --

Tim *whimpers* --

"You can take this --"

"I want to, I want to -- oh -- please don't *stop* --"

"No --"

"Please don't *stop* --"

"Tim --"

Tim cries out and throws his head back, bares his throat --

And it takes another cry for Lex to realize that he'd just thrust much too hard, much --

Lex forces himself to visualize and populate the periodic table, to imagine having to spend a full two hours with Westlake, to imagine reading yet another fawning puff piece about motherfucking *Superman* --

But anger is just another edge to this, another --

Tim is *attracted* to Superman --

Tim is crying out for what must be every throb in his ass, every moment of being just a little too full, needing just a little too much --

"Stay *with* me, Tim --"

"*Yours* --"

"Almost. Almost all the way -- *hnh* --"

And Tim is screaming again, but that's *reasonable* considering the fact that he'd just used Lex's cock to *skewer* himself --

"Tim, are you --"

Fuck, that's almost a *howl*, and that --

"Tim, *talk* to me --"

"Don't -- don't pull *out* --"

"I won't --"

"Wait, just. Let me." Tim sobs once and *claws* at the duvet before sitting up on his elbows, tossing his hair --

He's panting and *shaking* --

And the focus is back in his eyes, the intellect and drive -- and the happiness. "Lex. You're inside me."

Lex blows out a breath and lifts Tim by the hips, spreading him over his lap. The position isn't his favorite -- but. "Sit up."

"Will that. I think that will hurt."

"Yes, it will."

Tim licks his lips again and follows orders --

Cries out --

*Clutches* at Lex -- "Another -- there wasn't that much of you *left* --"

"Enough," Lex says, and nuzzles Tim's forehead, bites the thin skin over Tim's eyebrow --

"Oh -- what does this feel like for *you*?"

"What I *want*," and Lex *licks* Tim's eyebrow --

"I can't -- part of me thinks you'll make me come just from *this* and won't let me have more --"

"You're the one who wanted me to wait, Tim."

"Why *can* you wait? You -- you're not *human* --"

"I'm an *excellent* human, and my entire body is on *fire* with the need to fuck you until you *cry*."

"But --"

"You'll see," and Lex licks the bridge of Tim's nose. "Once I start, I *may* stop again... but it won't be for your needs."

Tim groans and clutches Lex's shoulders *harder* --

"Will you cry for me, Tim?"

"I want to -- I will -- please, please make sure it *hurts* --"

"It doesn't already?"

"It does, yes, but --"

"Not enough," Lex says, and hums. "I'll make it too much for you. You'll help me do just that."

"Ohn. Oh -- fuck. I want to *pray* --"

"Not here," and Lex claws at Tim's hip --

Tim *bucks* -- "*Ahn* --"

"Do that again."

"Lex, I."

"I said --"

"*Please*," Tim says, and -- yes, he means it. There's something --

"What is it?"

"I'm afraid. I mean. I know I shouldn't be. I know I asked for this -- begged and *demanded* --"

"You're afraid."

Tim squeezes his eyes shut and *starts* to drop his head to Lex's shoulder -- he stops and looks at him again. "Is it okay to be conflicted? Is it --" Tim shakes his head once. "The pain will make sense. The pain will give this *context*, but Lex, that felt -- that made my spine feel like a burnt *fuse*."

Lex smiles, knowing it looks *demonic* and not bothering to do a thing about it. "You'll learn to beg for that feeling, too."

Tim shivers -- and bucks again.


"*Lex* --"


The sound Tim makes is somewhere between a keen and a *growl*, and the bucks become rhythmic, fluid as the lubricant finally spreads enough --

As the heat becomes something blinding, something --

No, he can focus, he can -- fucking *meditate* on the need to shove Tim down and *rut* --

And Tim can see it in his eyes -- that much is clear by how wide his own are, how -- less frightened than *wondering* --

"Yes, Tim. Keep going."

"Oh, Lex. You -- let *go* --"

"Soon," Lex says, smiling again and slowly -- *slowly* -- firming his grip on Tim's hips --

And this sound wouldn't be untoward coming from a *crow* --

Tim clenches around him hard enough to make Lex *grunt* --

"Oh -- fuck, *fuck*, Lex -- you -- you're *thick* --"

"You've had me in your *throat*."

"Yes, but -- ohn -- oh, I can't --"

"You're shaking."

"It's too -- it's not enough *pain* --"

"It will be."

"*Please*, Lex --"

"Faster. *Ride* me."

Another crow-noise, and now Tim is digging his short nails in against Lex's shoulders, using the muscles in his thighs and abdomen to work himself --

The friction is reasserting itself as the *amount* of lubricant used wasn't enough, wasn't --

"Burns. Burns, Lex --"

"Yes, it would."

"Please --"


Tim cries out and does it, lips pulling back to reveal a terrible smile, a *grimace* of pleasure --

The burn is *translating* itself -- no, this is --

He's done *this* countless times. He's not -- there's nothing *profound* --

Ah --

Lex growls and forces Tim to stop by the simple expedient of squeezing his hips hard enough to hurt them *both* --

"Lex, *fuck* --"

"Yes," and then it's only a matter of enjoying his own health and strength, Tim's lack of size, and the ability to combine both into the way he's *making* Tim ride him now -- "Remember *this* rhythm."

"No -- I *can't* --"


"Too -- you're moving me. You're *moving* me --"

Bruce probably manhandles Grayson on a regular -- no. Not here. Not in this moment when he has what he wants, everything, almost everything --

Tim throws his head back again and shouts, shakes hard enough that Lex feels like he ought to be able to feel the vibration. He's trying *hard* to match the rhythm Lex is setting, to *help*, but --

"Be *still* until --"

Tim screams and comes all over Lex's chest and abdomen, jerking spastically and staring with a mix of shock and loss in his eyes. Not enough.

Not enough, and Tim can't help him right now, can't --

Lex growls again and pulls out --

"No -- oh, please, no --"

"Hands and *knees* --"

Tim cries out and falls on his side twice before managing to get up --

The shaking is so powerful --

Lex spreads Tim's cheeks and watches him clench, studies the earliest signs of swelling, leans in --

And the first woman Lex had done this to was really a girl, just like he was boy. Hanne had promised to suck him off if he kissed her hole --

Hanne had washed thoroughly with Lex's instruction --

Hanne had tasted too much like soap and water and not enough like the perverse and often sweat-slicked girl who had taken over important parts of his mind.

Tim is crooning just like Hanne had done. Tim tastes too much like the lubricant. Tim --

"More, Lex, *more* --"

And --

"I'm *sorry*, I couldn't hold it back, I didn't see it coming --"

And --

"Please *fuck* me --"

And the crooning begins again when Lex uses his tongue to do it, only this time it's mournful, *saddened*, and Lex has a choice to make. He could continue to allow Tim to see his entirely reasonable orgasm as a mistake and the rimming as punishment -- this offers *realms* of possibility similar but *not* the same as what he has with Mercy -- or he can stop, disabuse Tim of the notion --

Honest and *willing*, and no, no one else. Not right now, not --

Lex pulls back and licks a stripe up Tim's spine -- "Don't apologize."

"But --"

"I'm *going* to keep fucking you. Perhaps you'll manage to come again...?"

"I -- I -- it was too soon --"

"And it was too much."

"You were -- the *order* ---"

"I own you."

"Oh -- *please*, Lex --"

"You still want to pray."

"All the *time*. I'm more religious now than I've ever *been* --"

Lex laughs and *bites* the back of Tim's neck --

"*Fuck* --"

"You can be religious when my cock is in your ass, but at no other time."

"*Thank* you --"

"I may change my mind about that in the future. Make the most of it."

Tim nods *frantically* -- "Please. Please fuck me. Please -- it'll hurt more now that I'm not actually *dying* of lust."

I don't *want* it to -- no, some things needn't be said the *first* time... so Lex flips Tim over onto his back and sucks his sac into his mouth --

"Oh my -- *fuck* -- that feels -- ah."

Lex raises an eyebrow.

"This is the first time I've *wanted* to shave -- anywhere -- and also -- uh. Oh -- you're sucking and that's -- I really should've known --" Tim groans and lets his head thump back against the bed, pulls his knees up and pumps his hips cautiously, needfully -- yes.

Lex sucks Tim's sac in hard pulses, squeezing his cock *just* off-rhythm to the sucks --

"You -- *Lex* --"

It's too easy with Tim, it's too --

He's too *young*, laughably small, contemptibly --

No, he's the one who should be held in contempt, and hadn't he seen that in Jason's eyes? He lives and works in a hothouse of amorality and perversion, but there still is the *real* world to be considered, isn't there?

What has he done?

Is telling himself that he can't take it back now the truth, or merely an excuse to keep *wallowing* in... the worst thing he's ever done? Could that be true?

Tim's sounds are breaking high now, giving the lie to all of those times when he tries to speak at the lowest registers he can manage, proving once and for all --

"*Please*, Lex --"

Too *easy*, and Tim would never understand. He won't turn eighteen and magically come to the conclusion that Lex was right to stop. Even if he did, there'd still be those two years to consider. Two years without *this* taste, *this* touch, *this* eardrum-destroying and ego-massaging scream as Lex uses as many of his teeth as possible to drag his way off Tim's sac --

"Inside me, please, please, I'll do anything, say anything --"

"Say please again," Lex says, because this may or may not be the worst thing he's done --

This *abuse* of a child --

This --

He won't stop. He *can't* stop, and it doesn't matter whether or not that's a lie, it should be --

"Say it."


"Beg me to suck your cock, Tim."

Tim whimpers for him, stares up with need and *fear* --

"Shh," Lex says, and pets Tim's mouth with his fingertips, strokes his downy cheeks, presses on the bruises on Tim's throat, twists Tim's nipples in opposite directions --

Tim arches up and *barks* a cry --


"Suck me, suck my cock, make me come that way, make --"



"Beg me to rub off on you, Tim."

"Use -- ah. Please Lex, give me frottage, make me -- rub off on me --"



"Beg me... not to hurt you."

Tim groans and jerks, cock rising steadily, *impressively* --

Lex smiles. "Do it."

"Please don't hurt me, Lex. Please -- you -- I don't want this to feel *bad* --"

"Oh... more."

"You can't -- you shouldn't *hurt* me, Lex. You know I'll be good, you know I'll do anything you say --"


"Please don't *hurt* me --"

"No," Lex says, and it feels like baptizing himself with something scalding and acidic, it feels like stepping into who he was always meant to be to take himself in hand -- "Spread yourself."

Tim does him one better, pulling his knees back to his chest and rolling himself back onto his shoulders --

"Beautiful, beautiful... boy. You know this is what I want, don't you...?"

"Yes, Lex, yes, I -- teach me --"

"I will. With every. Last. Thrust," and Lex lines himself up. "Beg for my cock."

Tim whimpers *and* moans -


"Please give me your penis! Please fuck me, take me, hurt me --"


"*Don't* hurt me, just give me your *penis* -- I mean *cock*, your *cock*, oh my fucking -- *God* --"

In, and that's too easy, too, but for different reasons, different... Lex shoves his thumb into Tim's mouth, shoves it deep -- "Bite *lightly*."

Tim hums and does it, wincing for the sudden burn, or perhaps for the way Lex is bouncing Tim a little with his short, sharp thrusts --

"I've changed my mind. Suck," and --

Lex's cock wants him to know that a suck like that would hurt, that Tim is sending him another message --

"Oh, darling. *One* day I'm going to fuck you hard and fast and -- oh, wait. That day is *today*," Lex says, smiling and pressing on the backs of Tim's thighs. "Are you ready?"

Tim nods frantically --

Lex centers himself as best he can, promises himself some amount of gentleness of judgment for what will undoubtedly be a *short* performance, pulls out most of the way --

And Tim is screaming before Lex makes it all the way back in, Tim is --

Oh, so *ready* for this, so willing --

Will he be like this for Jason? *Could* he be?

Will this pain teach him to like something more gentle?

Is it really worth it to gain control by *depressing* oneself?

And that question is why Lex is gasping through laughter even as his cock yells at him for more and more than that --

Even as Tim digs his nails in against the backs of his own thighs --

So deep, so --

And a part of Lex wants to *savor* this more, but every thrust is making him hotter, making something spark and *rage* beneath his skin, all through him, all *through* him --

"*Tim* --"

And it's an amazing thing to watch a lover try to shout your name and fail. It's frustrating and magical, beautiful and awful to be the cause of this much *distress* --- because the tears have started to fall.

And oh, it would be even better if he held Tim on his knees, if he forced Tim down onto his elbows --- but then he wouldn't be able to *see* this, wouldn't be able to reach down and swipe a tear with his thumb, suck it in -- "*Mine*."

Another scream that wants to be a word --

"All. *All* of you --"

And now Tim is having trouble even nodding, now the winces are as rhythmic as his cries, now the shaking has begun again --

There is no option. Lex shifts angles just so --

"*God* --"

"*Just* your -- your prostate. Darling --"

"Ahn -- *ahn* --" Wordless scream, multisyllabic and anything but rhythmic. *This* is the definition of 'too much' for Tim, and his cock is spattering them both with pre-come.

He'll come again. He'll --

Lex promises himself that *this* time he'll focus, take more from it, *keep* --

But it feels too good just to *rut* against that little nub, force it to feel everything, force Tim into the kind of pleasure which has no *answer* -- and force himself into the same.

His body has guided him to the rhythm *he* likes best and he hadn't even noticed. It's slower than what Tim wants, harder than what they both need --

No, it's perfect, perfect, and the only way to make it better is this: He grabs Tim's legs one at a time and wraps them around his waist. He braces himself on his hands. He gives *in*, and Tim isn't the perfect height, but he's tall *enough* that Lex never has to look away from desperation and pained pleasure, pleasured pain --

He doesn't want to *blink*, but he has to, and it's hard to open his eyes again, hard to focus against the tightness at the base of his spine, the *fire* that's ruling him right now -- no. *Open* --

And he's just in time to watch Tim's focus fade to nothing, watch his mouth open into an 'o,' hear him *shriek* -- he's coming again, he's --

And this time there's no end, no --

The *clench* of it, the power and *heat* of his come on Lex's abdomen --

Fuck, it should *sizzle* --

And there's more than a little hysteria in his laugh, but that's reasonable enough. He's fucked a fifteen-year-old boy into two screaming orgasms in the past half hour and also he can't *stop* --

Tim is beating at his shoulders and he can't *stop* --

"*Lex* --"

"*More* --"

"Yes -- yes, don't stop --"

"Then don't *hit* me --"

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

Lex growls and pulls out *just* enough that he can manage an awkward kiss, a kiss that hopefully means as many things to Tim as he *wants* it to mean --

More, and Lex pulls out the rest of the way and flips Tim onto his stomach. They've managed to get too close to the edge of the bed, and it feels like it takes *years* to get Tim in the right place, the necessary --

Tim pushes up onto his knees --

"Stay *down*."

Tim drops, and telling himself that it will be easier to slip back in if he *isn't* also biting Tim isn't even remotely effective. Tim is panting as if Lex had been kicking him around the gym, Tim's sweat is salty and alive, Tim's body is slick and *hot* --

In --

"*Lex* --"

No words left, no thought, nothing but the feel of the boy beneath him and the feel of his hot little ass. More generous than it looks -- just like *every* other part of Tim, more --

More --

"I *love* you, Lex, I love you so *much* --"

Yes -- yes --

"You feel -- oh, it hurts --"

"*Yes* --"

Tim *laughs* then, and it shakes his body, shakes *Lex* -- "So *good* --"

"*Always*, Tim --" And cutting oneself off is meaningless when you've already --

"Oh, Lex, *yes*. I -- here --"

And then Lex is grunting, shuddering, needing --

Tim is clenching every time Lex shoves in, and the rhythm of it is jagged and --

He has no rhythm *left* and Tim is holding him, hurting himself --

"Beautiful, Tim, beautiful -- *hold* me --"

And the next time Tim clenches he just holds there, giving Lex the kind of friction that would make a good man plan to *wait* before doing this again, but --

He will never, ever be a good man. "Feel. Free. To. Scream," Lex says, and gives in to the urge to pound into Tim, to make this a matter of moments --

Fewer with every time Tim's voice *cracks* --

Every time Tim *shudders* --

Every time Lex breathes in Tim and no one else, nothing else but lust, power, hunger, *pain* --

Oh --

And the sound that comes out of Lex's mouth is closer to a roar than to anything else, loud and grating, guttural --

Coming takes everything from him, takes *Tim* --

No, he can see him, feel him holding on even as Lex loses what feels like *most* of who he is. What's left is the desire to do this again, to have Tim always, to take --

And he falls back into his body with a grunting *shout*, collapsing onto his elbows and thrusting until his cock starts muttering darkly about how much of this he'll be *able* to do.

It's lying, but Tim's whimpers aren't.

Lex slows to a stop and lies on top of Tim, holding him down with his body -- "Relax."

"Can't -- you -- oh, God, Lex, you *came* in me --"

"Were you expecting something else?"

"No -- yes -- I don't --" And Tim sobs once before burying his face in against the duvet. That -- no.


Tim jerks and does it, loosening around Lex immediately --

Lex pulls out --

"No, no --"

"Shh," Lex says, moving them until he can push Tim onto his side and pull him close, hold his head against his shoulder. "It's all right."

"It -- you -- I need you --"

"I'm here."

"I've needed you for so *long* --"

"I'm here. And I needed you before I knew your name."

A gasp, and Tim tries to pull back enough to see Lex's face --

Lex lets him do it, gives himself and everything that's in his eyes to the boy, his beautiful --

Tim gasps again and rears up to kiss Lex, keeping his eyes open and making it soft, making it needy and needful at once -- and too brief.

Lex rolls Tim onto his back and gives him a deeper kiss, a longer one -- and he keeps his eyes open, too.

After a while, Tim starts periodically shivering, and, yes, his skin is a little cool. It's not that he's going into shock -- probably --

No, he's not going to laugh right *now*. Instead, he moves off the bed --

"Lex --"

"Roll *that* way," Lex says, and points --

And once Tim does it, Lex pulls back the duvet and manhandles Tim under the covers.

He slips back in himself, considers, and then braces himself half over Tim. "Warmer?"

"Ah -- eminently. Are you sure you want me --"

"You'll stay until you feel the need to leave. Think of it as our relationship in microcosm."

Tim's eyes cross, but only briefly.

Lex kisses him between his eyebrows. "Was it what you wanted?"

"Oh my -- fuck. Ah. Um." Tim pushes closer, arches up --

Lex kisses him back down to the bed, strokes his sweaty chest, rubs at his left nipple with his thumb --

"Mmm -- mm. I don't -- I'm not sure how I'm going to live without... this."

"Then I wholeheartedly suggest that you spend your free moments thinking of ways to continue living *with* it, Tim."

Tim's smile is soft, shy -- young. "Well. My teachers have always said that I was intelligent."

And what did your mother say...? No. Lex strokes a line down the bridge of Tim's nose. "Intellect is meaningless without will."

Tim raises an eyebrow at him --

"Better," Lex says, and strokes the eyebrow in question --

"Was I getting too sappy for you, *Daddy*?"

Lex fights back a smile which would be entirely too delighted --

And knows that Tim sees it anyway by the way the acerbic twist to his mouth softens to something wondering, once more.

He's just going to have to live with that.


Unsurprisingly, Lex is less than a cuddly sleeper. While he'd fallen asleep all but on top of Tim with his mouth pressed to the skin in front of Tim's ear, he's now most of a foot away. He's *decidedly* somewhere else, because there's a mild frown-line showing that he's never actually let Tim see before, and the muscles to either side of his mouth look... tight.

He *doesn't* look like he's having a nightmare or anything like that. He just looks... apart. He looks, in fact, like he's concentrating on projects which have nothing whatsoever to do with Tim. Which -- that's reasonable.

Even with Lex *asleep*, that's reasonable, because it's *Lex*.

He got to tell Lex that he loves him without even a little weaseling. Lex had told *him* *first*.

Lex had --

Lex wants to protect Tim from himself, but that hadn't stopped him from --

Tim swallows and gives in to the urge to press close to Lex, to rest his head on Lex's chest, breathe in warm skin, sleep --

Lex's heartbeat is deep and steady, reassuring the way the man himself can never, ever be. And --

It's not that Tim doesn't *know* why his softer moments make Lex uncomfortable -- he *already* looks young for his age, and certain emotions make him look even younger than that --

He *knows* how uncomfortable that has to be --

Lex loves him. He'd -- fuck, he'd said it in front of a *stranger*. And -- all right, yes, it would be even more 'meaningful' if the witness wasn't a stranger, but that can't actually *happen*.

He has to be Lex's secret, just as Lex has to be *his* secret --

And, stranger or no, Tim is almost sure he knows what Jason would say about that. Tim smiles ruefully and kisses Lex's chest lightly. Lex is smooth, strong, perfect. He's fully-formed, and Tim isn't sure he'd ever really considered what that could be like. Which --*that's* reasonable, too. The only male bodies he's ever been close enough to consider with anything like depth are Hudson's and Ives' --

And there's a twinge there. A *specific* twinge. A part of him honestly feels as though he's *cheating* on Ives, even though he'd never really imagined doing anything this... involved with him.

His thighs have any number of things to say about 'barebacking.' His rectum has many, many more things to say than that.

*Could* Ives make him feel like that? Like *this*. Yes, he knows now that he'd been preparing to all but *use* him, and that means he should leave him relatively alone until he can actually look him in the eye again, but doesn't it also mean that he hadn't actually given Ives a *chance* to be more to him than someone to be used?

Doesn't he owe it to Ives to try? Or is this an excuse to be promiscuous?

He has permission -- and far more than that -- to make love with Jason, assuming Jason himself wants to. (And there had been *something* in his eyes...)

He has nothing *like* the kind with Ives, and Lex has been less than admiring -- barely not contemptuous -- of the friendships Tim had had before coming here. Lex knew the first night they'd met that Tim hid more than he showed to basically *everyone*. Lex... would, quite possibly, be *surprised* that Tim still thinks about Ives and spends his time wondering --

Lex sighs and shifts in his sleep --

Tim moves carefully, taking his weight from Lex so he won't notice --

Lex's hand closes on the back of Tim's neck.

"Ah -- whoops?"

Lex laughs quietly, sleepily -- "Don't hover while I'm sleeping, Tim."

Tim winces -- "Sorry --"

Lex yawns and massages the back of Tim's neck quickly and expertly. "The cuddle is fine, but I can *feel* you when you're hovering."

"I wanted -- I didn't want --"

"To disturb me while I shifted in my sleep, yes, I know. You're forgiven," Lex says, and turns to face him --

He stops and turns on the lamp --

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing --"


"I... was thinking about Ives. And wondering if I was giving up on him too soon... ah. Not that I want him the way I want you --"

"And Jason."

"And -- I don't even *know* him, Lex --"

Lex strokes Tim's cheek -- "Lovely. I don't claim to know everything there is to know about humanity. I do claim to know how to read people, and... Jason has decided that *you*, at least, are worth his honesty. For now, anyway... so use it."

That -- "Are you kicking me out of bed?"

"Never. But you're polyamorous."

"I -- no, I --"

Lex raises an eyebrow at him.

"How -- I mean --"

Lex raises the eyebrow *higher*.

"I don't even know what that means! Exactly."

Lex seems to be trying to get his eyebrow to migrate to his scalp.

"All right, fine, but --"

"It's not, actually, a pretty way to call someone a slut. Though I've known any number of polyamorous people who've reveled in being called just that. This is your cue to blush as you realize --"

"Oh -- hell. Ah. Fuck? I don't mean to be... disrespectful. To you --"

"And my lifestyle choices, Tim...?"

Tim winces. "Yes, you're right, that's horrible. I'm sorry. And -- you should be sleeping more --"

"So should you. You have a long day tomorrow," Lex says, and smiles broadly.

"I did sleep some -- and so did you. Ah. You're not going to help me out of the pit I've dug for myself. Are you."

Lex blinks as slowly as a large and *amused* predator.

Tim sighs. "Have I mentioned how much I enjoyed being fucked blind? Because I did."

"It suits you."

"Being fucked -- yes, well, I have no argument with that. Ah --"

"Would you like a list of the better books to read about polyamory, Tim?"

"Did Hope write them?"

Lex coughs a laugh. "Oh, that would be... well. I'll have to float the idea past her one of these days."

"Oh... dear. Ah? Look, I do know that it means that one is inclined toward relationships with multiple people at once. I just don't think that applies to me. Really. Much."

Lex licks his lips in a way that firmly suggests that he's just too tired to laugh as much -- and as loudly -- as he wants to.

"I mean -- I could just be being emotionally tone deaf. That's entirely reasonable, isn't it? I mean, here I am in bed with my lover, and I'm bringing up someone else. That's -- that's just *dumb*."

"You'd rather I call your intellect into question than your capacity for monogamy."

Tim winces. "Yes? I -- perhaps if you were a less jealous person? Not that this is in any way your fault --"

"Oh... I already know that," Lex says, turning on his side, pushing Tim down onto his back, and looming impressively.


"I could see it in you. Or, to put it more accurately, I have a knack for choosing people like you... and thus like myself."

Mercy, Lex's other female lovers... and Hope, in that *chaste* way, and no, of course it's not an insult to Lex. Lex elevates all of his traits into virtues, whether or not they should be --

Well, no, not that, either. It's just that Lex tends to *face* every trait he has, interrogate it, and then keep it or toss it aside depending on how useful it proves to be... and polyamory has proven to be very useful, indeed.

"I don't... I think one relationship is complicated enough."

Lex's smile is the most gentle possible way to be called a liar.

"But --"


"It *should* be --"

"It isn't. 'Should' is meaningless. It nearly always is."

Tim -- doesn't scowl. He also doesn't growl. Or shift around --

Lex still rests a hand over Tim's sternum and presses down. "Relax."

"I still don't... it's just that I was wondering if it was... fair to write a romantic and/or sexual relationship with Ives off."

"You do realize what thoughts like that mean."

"That a part of me is already considering *beginning* that kind of relationship with him even though... I have you."

"Next time less hesitation," Lex says, and leans in to kiss his forehead. "I don't think Ives is for you."

"You don't know him --"

"Does he know what you hope? What you dream? What you've spent the past six years doing with your nights? What you believe in? What you *wish* you believed in but don't?"

"I know all those things about *him*, Lex --"

"And none of it moved you enough to even consider spending your life with him. You... are not a casual boy, Tim. You need that consideration before you do much more than flirt ambiguously. Don't you."

Tim closes his eyes for a moment and turns toward Lex, breathes him in -- "I'm also not considering spending the rest of my life with Jason, you know."

"Mm-hm. Give it time. He'll validate your *conscience*."

"He's just as mercenary and -- and *liberal* --" Tim cuts himself off.

Lex gives him a wry look.

Tim sighs. "Yes, all right, it's telling that I couldn't finish that thought. I want... Lex, I want you to be able to count on me. I want you to know that if you ever reach, I'll be right there. I want you to be as confident about me as you are about everything else."

"I want *you* to be a woman I can marry and father children on. We all must learn to live with disappointment."

"You -- *marry*?"

"You're perfect for me, darling. Or did you think I used the words I used at dinner often?"

Tim's heart --

It feels like it's *thundering*. It -- it's *painful* --

"Lex --"

"The answer is yes," and Lex leans in and nuzzles Tim's cheek, licks the corner of Tim's mouth --

"Are you going to let me get *any* declarations out first?"

"Probably not, no. I'm... precipitous?"

"You're *incredible*, beautiful, sexy, brilliant, wise, caring --"

"Loving," Lex says, tracing a line between Tim's pectorals, "of remarkable teenaged boys."

"Do *you* want Jason?"

"No, no, and no. He's perfectly attractive -- beautiful, even -- but he's not my type. You are. Bruce... probably still is when he's not lying to everyone and everything. Mercy is. Hope is. My other lovers have a smattering of traits common to one or more of the four of you. I am not especially catholic in my tastes, though it moved me to pretend to be so when I was your age. My cock would rise for anything, back then, with just a little bit of a push."

Tim makes a face before he can stop himself --

"This, of course, is what I mean about you not being casual. As a teenaged male of the species, you were supposed to start thinking -- if only vaguely -- about all the people you would have sex with given the opportunity, for all that you could never love them."

"I -- it's not only -- all right, it's just that that seems to --" Except that it doesn't say anything against his being polyamorous. It is, of course, possible to be both polyamorous and *picky*. "Do you fix people up in any *other* situations?"

"I choose who sits where for dinner parties -- and who *doesn't* get to sit where for board meetings. I've casually introduced lovers I've drifted away from to people who would suit them better when the opportunity has arisen... that sort of thing."

"And it always works?"

Lex smiles sharply. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. In general, humans are far, far stupider than horses."

"And, of course, that's the reason why your matchmaking attempts didn't work. You couldn't possibly have judged wrong or anything like that."

Lex laughs quietly and draws lazy circles around Tim's nipple. "That *is* one of the things you love about me."

"Yes, but --"

"But I'm asking -- demanding -- that you a) accept the fact that you're incredibly well-suited to being in a romantic *and* sexual relationship with a boy you've just met, b) accept the fact that you're polyamorous -- a mode of being generally accepted by only the fringes of mainstream society, even though it's hardly all that uncommon, and c) accept the fact that you're only musing on your childhood crush because he's far, far safer an option than the people you truly desire."

"You... didn't say it that bluntly before."

"No, I didn't, but..." Lex smiles again. "It is late."

"I'm sorry --"

"No. If I didn't want to be awake for *this* conversation, I wouldn't be."

"Lex --"


Tim grunts, blushes, *twitches* -- and breathes more easily than he has any right to. "Yes, Lex."

"I may *have* to put you in a wedding dress at some point for kink purposes alone."

"I've always thought Sera Changs had very classic lines."

"Far too frilly for you -- though your taste isn't entirely awful. No, your beauty isn't ethereal enough for that sort of thing to work. Trust me."

"In matters of fashion? Always."

Lex laughs again. "Meaning, 'I'm not going to believe you about Jason until five minutes after his cock is buried in my ass?'"

That -- is a jolt. An image --

He knows --

Jason smells very, very good and entirely unlike Lex and *Mercy* knows what he looks like naked -- "I admit that I'm attracted to him."


"I already -- and I admit that I've seen something like the *beginnings* of attraction in his eyes --"

"Oh, really."

Tim winces. "Lex, this is what I'm talking about --"

Lex kisses him. "I'm allowed to be jealous. You're allowed -- and encouraged -- to smack me down when it happens."

"I'm *trying* --"

"No, Tim. You're trying to deny that there's a reason for the jealousy. And that... is incorrect."

Tim opens his mouth -- and closes it again. "Would it be possible for us to go back to you --"


Tim moans and brings Lex's hand to his face, nuzzling and kissing it --

"And that's just the sort of reaction which makes me think that you should have as many lovers as possible."

"I --" Tim kisses Lex's thumb knuckle. "What?"

"To let absence make your heart *just* this fond, of course," Lex says, and he's smiling *obnoxiously* --

"You're just *full* of axioms tonight, aren't you."

"Ah, yes, the Hope Anti-Question. Be good or I *won't* spank you after lunch."

"Oh -- Lex. Ah."

Lex raises an eyebrow -- then takes his hand back and pulls back the sheet and duvet, exposing Tim's quietly burgeoning erection. Lex takes a deep breath -- "Here's what's going to happen."

"I'm... ah. Listening."

"I'm going to jerk you off very, very meanly."

"Oh -- fuck --"

"Then I'm going to go back to sleep... and you are going to have a conversation with Jason --"

"It's late, he's probably --"

Lex picks up the remote, turns on the closed-circuit television, and flips through the 'channels' until he reveals Jason on the couch of the entertainment room idly scratching the stubble on his jaw while watching an infomercial.

"*How* did you know --"

"The two small lights at the perfect height to be seen while sitting up in bed. What do you see?"

"The red one is lit. And... that means that there's an intruder?"

"A *welcome* intruder who is not safely asleep. I have security downstairs monitoring the heat signatures up here tonight to allow Hope and Mercy the chance to catch up and sleep together for at least some of the night."

("I like being touched. Except when I don't.") "I... that's really very... sweet."

"Just think, darling -- by the end of the summer? You won't trip over that word, at all."

Because he'll be a different person.

A different, *happier* person -- if not necessarily the person he wants to be.

Tim closes his eyes for a long moment --

"I thought that was at *least* worth a scowl, Tim."

"I want. I want you to be able to count on me," Tim says again. "If I could have that, then I'd feel comfortable guiding you away from projects I didn't want you to fund -- officially *or* unofficially." He opens his eyes again. "If I can do that, then I can look myself in the eye --"

"Tim," Lex says, and his voice is hard and *dark*. "It's your responsibility to question me at every turn. It's your *job* to stand up to me and *make* me listen to your ideas -- whether or not you think I'll find them trite, irritating, or just *soft*. Do you understand."

Tim shivers hard. "Lex --"


The moan seems to almost *rip* itself out of his body, and he wants to be on his knees, needs --

But Lex is pressing down on Tim's sternum, holding him down, looking into his eyes --

And the part of Tim which is capable of analysis thinks this is all very interesting and worth an interview with Hope -- he'd never imagined the reactions being so *visceral* -- but mostly that part is being drowned in a flood of --

Hormones? Endorphins? Sex-related opiates?

"Do you understand, Tim."

Somehow, Lex doesn't sound *anything* like Hope when he does that -- "Yes. Yes, I do."

"What do you think will happen when I change my mind about this?"

He -- "I'll fight. I'll fight because -- you need me to."

Lex's smile -- no, it's a grin, bright and happy and almost *young* -- "Say it again."

"You - you need me to fight you. To *battle* you when possible, necessary --"

"It's *always* necessary, Tim."

"It isn't -- you --"

"There are some things you still need to be taught," Lex says, and presses down on Tim's lower lip with his thumb. "You're young, sheltered, inexperienced..." Lex licks his *own* lips. "You learn quickly, though. Just as quickly as you should. You've already begun to integrate tonight's conversation into your personal matrix, and while you'll remain stubborn for a time... it won't last long."

"Because I need to submit to you?"

"No. Because you need to be *correct*. I'm not smarter than you, Tim... but I've had a lot more time to *work* with my intellect than you have. Infinitely more in terms of romantic relationships... well. You'll learn. And then we'll be partners in every way."

Tim twitches *again* --

And Lex looks at Tim's penis with a *hard* light in his eyes and a harder smile on his face. His nostrils flare -- "Yes, you needed to belong to someone. You needed it so badly..." The smile gets wider. "You're mine."

"Yes, Lex --"

"You will always *be* mine."

"*Yes*, Lex --"

"Even when the day comes when you don't come when I call, a part of you will always *feel* that call."

"Lex, I'll always --"


Tim growls and sits up --

Lex shoves him down. "It's not jealousy speaking, Tim. I'm not going to be *able* to give you everything you need one day. I'm going to fail you -- in one way or another -- and there will be other men by then who *can* give you what you need... though I doubt any one of them will be able to give you everything."

"You -- you should never *doubt*, Lex --"

"I don't doubt, darling. I'm *sure* that I won't measure up one day... and I'm equally sure that, given a little time, I'll find a way to measure up *again*. And on that day? I'll make you sorry you ever dreamed of leaving me."

"I -- *fuck* --"

"Exactly," Lex says, shifting until he's up on his knees. "On my lap," and he pats his thighs once.

"I -- think I should find that insulting."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "What did I already say about 'should,' Tim?"

Right. Tim considers and rejects laying himself *over* Lex's lap -- and does it *while* he's kneeling over Lex's thighs and pressing himself back --

"Head back on my shoulder."

"Yes, Lex --"

"Your father is relatively tall."

"Your height, yes --"

"You're not going to grow that much."

"My doctor estimated that my final height would be around five-feet-nine-inches. If I'm lucky."

Lex strokes down Tim's chest to his abdomen, his thighs -- "HGH?"

"My mother didn't really -- the side effects concerned her more than a short son did."

Lex makes a soft sound of acknowledgment before cupping Tim's scrotum with one hand and his throat with the other. "Your size makes certain things inconvenient. This is paid for -- in spades -- by your relative portability."

"I... noticed. And agree."

"Be vain of your size. You already are, but... even more so wouldn't be amiss."

"Yes, Lex --"


Tim moans -- "Please, Lex. Please keep touching me. Please keep talking to me. Please -- *oh* --"

"More," Lex says, squeezing gently with both hands --

"You feel -- please make me feel like this all the time. Please -- please *loom* --"

"Make you hard?"

"For you, Lex, for *you* --"

"And Jason, and the *clone*..."

"Your *son* --"

"*That* would be rather incestuous, don't you think...?"

Tim laughs -- "*You* don't have to have sex with him --"

"But you do...?"

"I want -- I want to be a part of his life."

"He'll lead a life of service to the world -- and to my interests."

"Oh, that's wonderful, Lex. Maybe when *he's* fifteen he'll meet someone who'll explain the facts of life to him -- and everything he's missed out on having."

Lex stiffens --

And Tim doesn't let himself wince. He turns enough to face Lex, and his expression is mostly unreadable. What's there is a great *deal* of tension -- and every one of Tim's relatively *new* instincts are telling him to press his attack. "Even if you don't accept the personhood inherent in Superman's DNA, there *is* still yours to be considered. What if you *never* meet anyone you want to father a child with? Would you really squander your chance with *this* one?"

"Squander -- hm. Tim, you have to realize that it's dangerous to become attached to these clones before they prove themselves to be remotely viable --"

"It's too late for me to avoid doing that. It's -- I mourned the deaths of the original forty-three imperfect embryos, and I'm going to mourn every last one of the one hundred ninety-two others which die --"

"*Tim* --"

"I'm... soft-hearted? Lex, all of these beings are filled with incredible, almost *ridiculous* potential. Each and every one of them has the capacity to *change the world*. Hell, to *reshape* the world --"

"The same could be said for *any* embryo, and I've got some very serious-minded women to introduce you to if you're going to take *that* road."

"I -- I don't think *any* woman wakes up and thinks to herself, 'oops, I got pregnant and I can't take care of the baby. Guess I'll just go have it sucked out of me. Later I'll go have some *pie*.' I'm not -- well, there are any *number* of reasons why I'll never be a politician or a physician, but that's one of them. I... Lex, they have the DNA of one of the most powerful beings within *parsecs*, and *one* of them *also* has the DNA of the man I love -- a man with the potential to be the greatest man in the world --"

"Tim --"

"He's your *son*, Lex! I don't expect you to take him out of the amnion to rock him back into stasis every night, but I *do* expect you to give a damn and that was my scrotum. Being squeezed. Hard. Oh -- fuck."

"Submit, and get back into position."

"Lex --"

"You've been heard. Now *submit*."

And it's the easiest, most correct thing in the world to do it, to let himself *sink* a little until everything he can smell, everything he can feel --

Lex sighs once Tim's back is pressed to his chest -- and tightens his grip on Tim's scrotum even more.

Tim groans and rubs himself back against Lex's groin, tries to force himself away from the need to buck and thrust in ways which *won't* help --

"Darling. You're much, much too sore for that."

Tim licks his lips. "I can't -- it feels like the thing to *do*, Lex."

Lex laughs and kisses Tim's temple. "Of course you'd find ways to be proper even in this. Conservative little thing. I..." Lex begins to *pump* Tim's scrotum -

"*Lex* --"

"You like this."

"Yes, yes, I --"

"Should I spank you here?"

Tim feels himself twitch and rolls his head on Lex's shoulder --

Wait, that could be taken as *refusal* --

"Yes, Lex. Please, Lex --"

"I *am* going to want to touch you gently from time to time --"

"*Anything*, Lex --"

And that was a *chuckle* -- "Don't tempt me, darling --"

"I *have* to tempt you. I -- I can build myself on that --"

"But you -- hn. Shouldn't. You often tempt me the most when you're being... recalcitrant. Prudish. Stuck-up. That sort of thing," and Lex is still working Tim's scrotum, but now he's using his other hand to stroke up and down the underside of Tim's penis.

"That feels... it's a tease."

"Yes, I thought it would be. You wore the suit incredibly well today."

"Your tailor is a miracle worker. I actually felt like I belonged in the thing for brief stretches of time."

Lex laughs, sighs, and rubs his soft penis against Tim's ass.

"You -- you're so warm --"

"Why, thank you, Tim. You make an adequate mammal, yourself."

Tim blushes and laughs. "Lex. I'm having a moment."

"Are you."

The blush gets deeper. "I always do when you're close."

Lex -- presses his lips against Tim's cheek. It's less a kiss than an opportunity to feel Lex's smile, Lex's *happiness* -- "Maybe I shouldn't be mean to you, at all."

"I -- what does mean... mean?"

"Oh, I'd make you come slow. I'd do this," and Lex presses his fingertips gently but firmly against the underside of Tim's penis and begins to stroke that way --

It feels like a *demand* to shiver, to squirm --

"I'd do this for a long, long time."

"I can't -- I mean. I need more. I think."

"Tell me why."

Tim bites his lip -- and *shouts* his mouth open when Lex changes his grip on Tim's scrotum to one that puts his short fingernails into play.

"I do like the way it looks when you bite your lip... but only sometimes."

"Yes, Lex."

"Now tell me why you can't handle the gentle stroke."

"I -- I'll... squirm. I won't be able to stop myself from trying to get more."

Lex hums. "That *would* be more entertaining if I tied you in some way first... all right, we can leave it for now."

"Thank you, Lex. I'd like to spend a day tied to your bed, Lex."

"I'd have to let you out for meals, I'm afraid. Eva has decided to pretend I'm not fucking you."

"Oh... fuck. Ah. Has she decided that I'm your *son*?"

"Nephew, perhaps."

"Uncle --"

"Don't do that."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Is it really that much worse than Daddy, Lex?"

"Infinitely," Lex says, leaning in to mouth and suck at the bruises on Tim's neck -- he pauses. "I have to let you heal."

"The bruises aren't especially --"

"I love the bruises, because sometimes I'm entirely unenlightened. Still, I'll have to let you heal before you go back to Gotham."

"I want. I want to stay here."

"I know. You don't want it enough."

That's -- entirely true. Tim swallows. "Should I apologize?"

"Not for that. Not *ever* for that."

Tim frowns. "That was... fervent."

"Think about it."

"I -- thinking is very -- oh fuck, your *nails* --"

"You respond so well to them," Lex says, and scratches his way up the underside of Tim's penis again --

"Lex --"

*Again* --

"Lex, oh, please --"

"Think about it."

"An apology for not wanting to stay with you would feel like another way of saying goodbye! Maybe?"

"Precisely," and Lex bites down hard on the flesh connecting Tim's throat and shoulder --

Tim groans -- "Lex, I don't want -- I don't have *good* reasons for wanting to go back to Gotham --"

"It's your home."

"Not like this. Not -- *mmph* --"

And Lex is kissing him like it's the only thing he wants to do, like all of his talk of handjobs and meanness was really just a smokescreen hiding *this* kiss. The strain he feels in keeping his head tilted the right way is enough to let him think, but otherwise --

It's a kiss that makes Tim's stomach try to relocate itself, makes Tim's penis get harder and rise higher, makes Tim moan and try to somehow push closer even though they're touching enough that Tim's not sure whose sweat he's feeling --

Lex is licking Tim's tongue --

Lex is humming and -- he opens his eyes.

He opens his *eyes*, and Tim must have had his open the entire time, and Lex looks so hungry for him, so --

Lex isn't even *hard*, but he looks like he wants to *devour* Tim, like this kiss is the first *step* of that devouring --

Oh, Lex --

And it feels like surrender to close his own eyes, like giving in to the predator who wants his *end* --

There's a joke there he's *not* going to make even within his own mind --

And Lex hums more deeply and cups Tim's throat again, wraps his other hand around Tim's penis and starts to stroke --

Tim groans into Lex's mouth and the strokes change to something long and not especially slow. It's nothing like what he does for himself, and it's nothing like what he'd imagined (Ives) someone doing for him. There's no hesitation and no clumsiness, and Lex is making Tim's penis feel loved and *needed* --

As much as the *rest* of him is --

Tim moans and tries to push into the kiss a little more --

And Lex shifts his grip to Tim's jaw and holds Tim in place for the slow, steady *fuck* of his tongue. That --

Tim is jerking and pumping his hips --

Tim is whining and clutching at nothing, at *air* --

He can *feel* that Lex is still looking at him, still taking all of him *in* --

Oh, Tim loves, he loves and he's never had anything --

Tim wants to tell Lex that he's every fantasy that Tim was *afraid* to truly have, too ignorant and *stunted* to truly have --

He wants to tell Lex that he'll always be right here --

And what is he supposed to do back in Gotham? His bed in his parents' townhouse is too *big* to sleep in alone. He doesn't even have a *pet*. What is he supposed to do without Lex to call him to heel, to make him think of nothing but Lex's pleasure and his own --

He wants to tell Lex that he wishes Lex had built him, because then he'd be perfect and ready for anything, then he'd never have to leave. Not for the parents who only want to use him and put him on display, not for the friends he can't trust with his secrets, not for the heroes who'll never care whether Tim lives or dies -- or lives without love.

Tim whines more and reaches back to clutch at Lex's hips instead, needing --

And Lex gives it to him, pumping against Tim's ass until every internal twinge is a memory of being overwhelmed, needy and pained and the *right* kind of young --

He can feel his sinuses prickle with the *memory* of how Lex had used him, how he couldn't help crying --

And, yes, a tear does fall --

Lex grunts and stops kissing Tim to lick the tear away, stops stroking to *squeeze* --

"*Lex* --"

"Tell me."

"Just -- I was thinking of being fucked, of how it felt --"

"And that was enough to bring the tears back?"

"Yes, Lex --"

"Beautiful. Give me more."

Tim blinks --

"Don't think. Give me more."

"I don't -- I need --" Tim shakes his head and grinds back against Lex, gasping for the way it makes him feel inside --

Inside where he's *raw* --

"Please -- please --"

"You can't have my cock, Tim."

The jolt of that --

Right now, he's *exactly* stupid enough to need a *moment* before he realizes that Lex doesn't mean forever, that he won't have to *crawl* --

But that would feel so *good*, so -- "Please, Lex, please touch me --"


"Fuck me -- fuck me with your fingers --"

Lex takes a deep breath and kisses Tim again, and this time Tim leaves his eyes open for long enough to see Lex's *avidity*, Lex's *pleasure* in him -- and if Lex weren't squeezing Tim's penis so hard, this twitch would spatter them both --

Lex makes a small *surprised* noise --

And then Lex pushes Tim down on his hands and knees. "Stay right there."

"Oh -- yes, Lex --"

Lex claws Tim's back to his ass --

"*Oh* --"

"Soon," Lex says, and there's the sound of the drawer opening, the *wet* sound of Lex slicking himself --

And Tim listens to himself scream as Lex seems to shove in with his whole *hand*. Even knowing that it's only two fingers -- even being able to objectively *feel* that -- isn't enough --

"And now I know how swollen you are. Looks like I'll have to be gentle, darling," and the laugh in Lex's voice manages to be both loving and *sharp* --

"Oh -- oh, Lex, you can do anything --"

"To you? Yes. But there are always limits based entirely on what I'd like to do *tomorrow*. Or several hours from now as the case may be."

"Yes. Yes, Lex -- *hnh* -- what --"

"I twisted my fingers around. Tell me what it felt like?"

"Like being *reamed*."

Lex sighs. "You shouldn't tempt me... but we both know what 'should' is worth, now, don't we?"

"Yes, Lex, please, Lex -- *ahn* -- *ah* --"

And for what feels like an *extremely* long time, it's the only sound Tim can make. It's -- every twinge he'd felt earlier corresponds to one spot inside him. Every bruise-ish ache is making his penis *leak*.

Every --

"Are you crying for me, yet?"

Tim's gasp is *almost* a sob, but --"N-no --"

Lex sucks his teeth. "Bad boy," he says, and starts fucking Tim with a quarter-twist on every thrust. That --

Tim can tell that he *is* being gentle, but --

There's only so much --

Tim opens his mouth and the cry seems to *fall* out -- but the next one is being pushed, as is the next and the next after *that* --

Lex growls. "Look at you. You'll suck me after this."

"*Please* --"

"And *then* you can go."

"I want -- I want --"

"Oh, yes, and you'll come *back*, too."

"God, *Lex* --"

"*Wrong*," Lex says, and uses his free hand to slap Tim's scrotum *hard* --

"*Ow* -- oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry --"

Another slap --

"*Ahn* -- *Lex* --"


"Close -- *close* --"

"Sit up," but Lex doesn't wait before he grabs Tim's shoulder and *hauls* him up --

"Oh, fuck me, fuck me --"

"Say *please*."

"*Please*, Lex, please fuck me so hard I cry again, please *always* make me cry -- *hngh* --"

"So the upward thrust works for you even better...?"

"*Hurts* --"

"Oh, yes, you *were* in this position earlier. Hn." Lex bites Tim's *ear*. "This won't tear you."

"I trust you, I promise --"

"Promise me everything, Tim."

"Everything, anything --"

"Tell me you love me."

And that -- it *makes* him sob, but he doesn't know why. Nothing else has *changed* --


"I *love* you, I need you so badly, please don't let me go --"

"You ask me that every time..."

"Too many -- too *empty* --"

"*Not* around me," Lex says, and begins to thrust faster, begins to lick the tears from the corner of Tim's eye --

"You -- please, I love you, I *love* you --"

"Shh, just cry."

The blush feels sudden and *dire* --

Tim's penis feels heavy, hot and needy --

But Tim can turn his head against Lex's shoulder, can ride Lex's fingers while he sobs and shakes --

Lex groans --

Oh, this is arousing him so *much* --

Tim clenches around Lex's fingers to *make* himself cry out between sobs -- and then he can't stop himself from doing it. Trying just makes him louder, needier --

"Lovely. Little. Boy. Come for me."

"*Lex* --"

"You need it. It's the only thing that will let you come back to yourself -- and, thus, come back to me."

"No, I -- *yours* --"

"You're down deep right now, and it's beautiful. *Intoxicating*. But I'm not with you as much as I could be."

"Too. Too much *control*."

Lex sighs. "You love it."

"Fuck, *yes* --"

"Call me Daddy."

"Oh -- fuck, Daddy, please --"

"No, that still doesn't work well enough to excuse the *difficult* things it evokes... lovely boy. Cry more."

That -- it pulls a sob out of him --

"*Abase* yourself."

Tim drops down onto his elbows, pushes his face against the duvet, locks his wrists behind his back --

"You'll get your first whipping tomorrow --"

White-out, and the world is noise and heat, pleasure like the world's largest razor, impossible *heat* --

Tim's aware that he's screaming --

He's aware that he's coming hard enough to make his *eyes* cross --

He's still gasping his way through *tears* --

"You'll learn how to warn me when that's imminent, darling."

Tim shivers and claws helplessly at the duvet, clenching one more time just to make himself whimper --

And then he's shouting again, because Lex took that clench as a reason to thrust *deep*.

"I *almost* want to apologize for that."

Tim groans and beats his head against the bed twice, four times -- "Please don't. Please --" Tim sobs and shivers --

"Oh... Tim. What do you need."

"You, always -- please."

"Breathe," Lex says, and waits for Tim to be *able* to do it before he pulls out slowly and carefully. *Gently* --

And then Lex hauls Tim up into his arms, turns Tim to face him and pulls Tim close, closer --

He's not hard enough --

And he's *insistent* about Tim resting his head on his shoulder while Tim shakes his way through the aftermath.

He can tell that his ass is *going* to be hurting him, but he has no idea how much. Right now, the sensation is a kind of hot *buzz* --

And Lex is petting him. *Rocking* him. It feels good --

"You don't have to --"

"I know. I've never had a lover like you."

Lex would hate it if he let those words lead him to any of the darker places in his own mind --

"Parts of my mind *insist* on comparing you to Bruce, but... no. In the end, you are your own person. Your needs are different --"

"I don't -- I don't need to be coddled --"

Lex grunts. "Fine. *I* need you to be coddled. Will you argue that, too?"

"I -- no," Tim says, and kisses Lex's collarbone. "It feels good."

"You feel... mm. What woke you?"

"I'm not sure --"


Tim laughs, sniffs, pulls back enough to grab the Sneezex from the bedside table, and takes care of the mucous-related necessities. When he's done, Lex is waiting with his eyebrow up. "You moved."

"That was enough to wake you?"

"Ah... yes. I think so. I'm still a bit stunned by the fact that I managed to sleep in your arms."

"Even *Hope* enjoys that, Tim."

"Yes, but I thought I'd have to get *used* to it."

Lex nods slowly. "All right, that's fair. I've had many, many years to grow accustomed to the pleasure of being held in the night. I didn't move to reject you."

"No, I -- I know."

"Do you?"

Tim smiles ruefully and presses close again. "I know you like this."

"We do a *fair* job of liking it together," Lex says, and starts rocking him again.

"The rocking -- it's rather distressingly *parental*, Lex."

"And how would *you* know that, darling?"

Tim snorts. "Yes, I asked for that one. Fuck you anyway."

Lex hums and cups the back of Tim's head with one hand while resting the other flat at the small of Tim's back.

Tim shivers again. "Lex..."


"I. I actually *am* afraid of how I'll feel without this. Without having this *available*."

"I told you --"

"Think about how I can *keep* having it, yes. I just don't know... I mean, what kind of message would it send the stockholders if I divorced my parents and just suddenly moved in with *you*?"

"Which stockholders are you worried about?"

"*Both* sets. I mean, that kind of thing would shake the confidence of the DI shareholders in my parents, while the rumors about you would give you no end of grief -- and dog your future political career."

"When you're eighteen --"

"Will you be able to wait that long, Lex? And even then, as the liaison between the companies I'd be expected to spend at least as much time in Gotham as I did in Metropolis... unless DI opened a subsidiary here. Or LexCorp opened -- no, you wouldn't spend that much time in Gotham."

"Wouldn't I?" And Lex pulls back to meet Tim's gaze with an amused one of his own.

"No, you *wouldn't*. The crime would drive you insane, and the general air of grey, mid-February spiritual malaise would make you set fire to the entire city."

Lex coughs a laugh. "But you love it there."

"Yes. Yes, I do. It -- it's not just that it's where Batman and Robin are. It's that it *is* a wild and depressing and frightening place. You have to work *harder* to live there, and that --"

"Makes you feel alive?"

Tim smiles ruefully. "I... have other things which do that now. But yes."

Lex inclines his head. "You have to go back there."

"Lex --"

"You have to go back there, try everything there is to try -- including sampling the wares of the delightful Mr. Ives if the spirit moves you -- and *then* ask yourself if what you truly need is Gotham... or just something or some*one* who can overwhelm you utterly."

That -- Tim laughs quietly. "That's extremely sensible advice, Lex."

"I know. Terrible, isn't it?"

Tim wraps his arms around Lex's neck and holds on tightly. "If you hold me close while rocking me for the next five minutes, I'll feel so loved and confident that it will make a modicum of sense for me to leave this bed just to talk to Jason."

Lex smiles at him *brightly*.

"My -- fuck. It's too late for that smile, Lex."

"There, there, darling, you can take it," and Lex pulls Tim into a straddle of his lap and begins rocking Tim like a child.

"And still 'Daddy' doesn't work for you sexually."

"Maybe if you were able to *say* it sexually... hm... no. It just makes me want to take you to therapy."

Tim coughs. "Lex --"

"Shh, darling, take my hypocrisy like a man."

"Admitting that something is hypocritical doesn't make it *less* hypocritical, Lex."

"No? Are you *quite* sure?" And Lex flutters his *lashes* at him --

"How are you so *happy* now?"

"How do *you* feel about having the love of your life --"

"That's *Bruce* --"

"That was *first* love, darling, now where was I?"

"Beating me to yet another declaration."

"I'm afraid you'll need at least another quarter century before you're allowed to declare *anyone* the love of your life."

Tim flips Lex off.

Lex gives him *another* bright smile -- and then visibly sobers himself. Somewhat. "Darling... even the most intelligent people in this world fail *miserably* at listening to good, sound advice when it's offered. You, however, do not. This is *deeply* pleasant to witness, and it also compliments my taste. Hence -- happiness."

"You consider it good, sound advice to tell me to attach myself to a man who has been prostituting himself since he was twelve."

"Not just *any* man who's been prostituting himself since he was twelve."

That -- "You weren't *just* listening to the talk in the dining room."

"Did I ever say that I was?"

"Lex, I -- *how*?"

"Mercy had her closed-circuit mini-television, as she knew full well that I would be curious."

"Don't you -- I thought you were spending *time* with her!"

"Oh, I was. We had a lovely time wagering on when you would cheat on me."

Tim flushes -- "*Lex*!"

Lex cups Tim's hips and *bounces* him -- "You're adorable, and I need you to hurry up and fuck the boy before Bruce snares him."

"I -- pressure, much? And isn't he supposed to be snaring *Bruce*?"

"If Bruce is remotely honest -- and he will be or Jason will walk away -- then the snaring will almost certainly be at least partially mutual."

"But your plans --"

"Will evolve, as all of the best plans do. Now," Lex says, and gives Tim a *narrow* smile. "Are you really that concerned for my success in putting a spy in Bruce's camp... or are you preemptively jealous?"

*Prematurely* -- Tim growls internally and tucks his face against Lex's throat. "You could consider not being right about this."

"All right." Lex hums the first few bars of the Final Calamity theme music -- "There, I've considered it: no."

Tim kisses Lex's throat. "I love you. Fuck you."

Lex cradles him utterly shamelessly, and for three full minutes neither of them say a word.

Tim spends the time meditating on the nature of warmth and caring as it pertains to the man who likes to *stab* him --

He's not sure this would feel this good without it, and, ultimately, that says as much about his childhood as it does about anything else. Maybe he does need therapy --

Lex kisses Tim's temple. "Come back when you're done, but make sure you shower first if you *do* do anything."

"*Lex* --"

"It's simple courtesy, darling," he says, and pushes Tim back.

Tim opens his mouth, sighs, and gets up -- wait. "Wasn't I supposed to suck you off? By which I mean, please, may I suck you off?"

Lex smiles wryly and points to his -- mostly -- soft penis. "Being in one's forties tends to mean that the body will become emphatic about things like missed sleep."

"Lex, I --"

"Darling... LexCorp *makes* one of the many, many Virilgra clones. If there ever comes a time when I feel a pressing need to make you come eight times in a single night, you can be sure that it *will* happen."

Tim's knees weaken dramatically when he clenches --

Lex narrows his eyes at Tim's crotch -- "Go."

"I would like to point out that this is technically kicking me out of bed, Lex."

"It only counts as kicking if you're not invited back. Now let me nap."

"You're telling me you're not going to watch the whole thing?"

Lex smiles and slips back under the covers, raising an eyebrow at Tim --

Oh. "You're recording."

"Every moment, everywhere in this Tower. I usually only review the footage when something untoward has happened -- or when I want a better look at the expressions on the faces of my lovers -- but I believe I'll make an exception this time," Lex says, and folds his hands behind his head. "Promise me you'll help me change the world for the better, Tim."

It's all he's ever -- "It's all I've ever wanted to do."

Lex closes his eyes for a moment, licks his lips quickly and *non*-seductively, opens his eyes again -- "I've taught you new ways of doing that."

"Yes, Lex."

"One day, perhaps, they'll mean as much as the others."

"I would -- I would change who I am for you."

Lex smiles at him again. "You're already doing so."

And that's -- Lex all over. Tim snorts, salutes, and walks naked out of Lex's bedroom --

And walks very, very quickly to his *own* bedroom, where there is a nice, soft robe in his size. He considers putting on more clothes, but they'd just get dirty -- he *sweats* more when he's in bed with Lex -- and --

He doesn't put on more clothes.

The entertainment room is close to the secondary bedrooms. It's another windowless box with a skylight which can be -- and often is -- covered.

When he gets there, Jason is sitting on the couch in the flickering dark, watching old reruns of Ben and Blimpy. Tim announces himself by tapping his fingernails on an end table --

"I could see your reflection on the TV screen," Jason says, pausing the show and smiling up at him. "C'mon, you can't tell me this place isn't soundproofed well enough for you and Daddy to be able to miss my nighttime viewing habits."

And other things? Tim smiles ruefully. "Lex showed you to me on the closed-circuit television, actually. But... I have to say it's good to know that the penthouse *can* be sound-partitioned."

"Hunh. Good way to put it. And yeah, you and Daddy were fine once I left the dining room."

"You -- oh, dear. Jason, I'm --"

"*Relax*, Tim. I'm betting I *wouldn't* have heard you if I hadn't opened the door you closed when you left."

"You -- why did you open the door?"

"Heh." Jason pats the couch next to him. "C'mere."

Tim does so, and sitting down next to Jason makes him feel even younger than he is --

"Happy birthday, by the way. I don't go by that whole exact time shit. *Ideally*? Birthdays should last a week or more."

"That -- well, that would be a bit inefficient, don't you think?"

"Oh, absolutely. Sometimes inefficient is the way to *be*, bro."

Bro. Bro. Tim licks his lips. "I like that."

"Yeah? Cool. Anyway... I left the door open for two reasons."


"One, I hate closed doors in unfamiliar places. If I'm not dead sure what's on the other side of a given door, I *need* that door to be fucking open. Two -- I wanted to hear you, if I could."

That -- "Ah... why?"

Jason's smile for him is rueful and wry, and he throws himself back against the far arm of the couch, putting one socked foot up over the back of the couch and leaving the other on the floor. The view is...

The view is wonderful, but Tim has just *had* an orgasm and he can damned well meet Jason's eyes --

And Jason nods like Tim had just answered a question. "Part of it was me checking up on you. Making *sure* you didn't sound like you were being abused."

"I --" Tim blushes far too much. That's just a fact. "I imagine some of my sounds were... ambiguous."

Jason shrugs. "Maybe for someone who didn't know what to listen for. He does you right."

The blush gets *worse* -- "Yes. Ah... yes. I never really thought... well."

"That it could be *that* good?"

"It was a reasonable assumption to believe that I knew precisely how pleasurable sexuality could be for *me* --"

"Nah, it's always better with more than one person. Well, assuming that you got people you care about at least a little. And that you're either sober or the *right* kind of not sober. And that you feel safe and secure -- all right, there are a lot of fucking exceptions, but they do kinda prove the rule, so... go with it."

Hm. "That would, perhaps, be why Lex is jealous."

Jason raises his eyebrows. "Already? No, wait, I get it. You can't really trust a virgin."

Tim makes a face --

"Aw, no, don't take it wrong, bro. It's just that *everything* is new and special to a virgin, so you always have to worry a little about the *next* person to come along. Maybe it'll be even more special with them. Lots of people I know never do virgins if they can help it."

Tim winces. "I... can understand that. Damn. A lot of things make more sense now."

Jason shifts enough to rest his head on his hands. "Yeah? He's been *that* jealous? That's -- heh. Not exactly the best *sign*."

"No, I know. And it's more that..." He wants me to have sex with you. "Well, I've been explicitly ordered to smack him down whenever his jealousy gets to be too irritating. And less explicitly ordered to talk to Mercy *about* what his jealousy is like. I... it's more that he wants expedience."

"Expedience? Like... efficiency?"

"Basically? I mean..." And, yes, he's blushing again -- "He wants me to start having sex with other people as soon as possible."

Jason licks his teeth and nods, focus distant for a long moment -- "I can see it. The sooner you go, the sooner he figures out what it takes to get you to come back -- and the sooner he figures out just how much he should count on you."

That -- is worth another wince. "I'm not -- faithless."

"No, I bet you aren't. But this is all new for him, too. You -- it doesn't matter how many people he's screwed over the years, Tim, because he's never had *you*."

"He said... he said I wasn't like anyone else he'd ever been with."

Jason smiles and looks Tim over. "Yeah, he plays it like it's not serious -- like he could quit anytime, really -- but that's not how it's working in his head *or* his heart. How *many* times has he said those three little words?"

"I -- dinner tonight was the first time."

"Yeah, yeah..." Jason's focus turns distant again and he waggles his head back and forth.

His hair would be incredible to touch --

"A guy like that... he's probably *not* gonna say it all that often, but he might just get pissy if you don't act like you *know* it all the time."

"That... does seem to be the case."

Jason pulls the knee of his down leg back to his chest --

Tim wonders how *often* he's done just that --

And Jason scratches his knee. And smiles at Tim again. "I'm turning you on."

"No! I -- yes. It's not -- you're very attractive, and --"

"And everything sounds, feels, smells, tastes, and *looks* like sex these days. It's not a problem."

"I just don't want to *throw* myself at you --"

"It's not a problem, and here's why: I *also* wanted to hear you just so I could get a sense of what you'll sound like if and when I ever hook up with you."

Tim's jaw drops -- he closes his mouth. "Um."

"Heh, yeah, you're hot. Smart and interesting, honest -- and pretty fucking willing. Yeah?"

Tim resists the urge to lick his lips -- and winds up pursing them.

Jason *stares* at his lips --

"Um. I -- ah. You make me rather flustered."

"Yeah, I know. It's pretty fucking cute."

Cute. Cute -- is no better or worse than 'adorable.' Tim licks his lips. "We don't -- we should talk more. About... things."

Jason raises his eyebrows and grins. "Ya think?"

"Well -- all right, that was obvious, but -- um."

"One sec," Jason says, sitting up -- and continuing until he's up on his knees and close. Very close. Very --

Jason is over six feet tall -- either the same height or *taller* than Lex -- and he's big, and he's close, and he's *close* --

"Yeah, I think --" And Jason nuzzles Tim's mouth --

"*Oh* --"

Jason *kisses* him, and Tim can't do anything about how wide his eyes are, and can't do anything about the fact that he's attempting to clutch Jason even though his hands are balled into fists, and he definitely can't do anything about the *pleased* hum Jason is making --

Into his *mouth* --

Jason's eyes are closed --

Jason sweeps his tongue between Tim's lips but *doesn't* push any further and Tim whimpers and pushes close until he can shove his hands into Jason's hair -- thick, silky, cool -- and kiss back, kiss hard --

Jason hums again --

Tim searches for Jason's tongue with his own --

And Jason pulls back. "You okay?"

"I. What? Yes. Definitely. Yes --"

"I was just thinking that we wouldn't actually get anywhere without a little taste first. Was I right?"

"Anywhere? You. I'm not going to be especially intelligent, Jason."

Jason's grin is as crooked as his tooth, and, at this distance, it should be registered as a weapon. "I like the way you kiss. You were about to try to get my tongue in your mouth?"

"Thank you. And -- yes. It didn't -- it wasn't deep enough before. I mean --"

"Okay," and Jason kisses him again just that quickly, even though Tim was ready -- definitely ready -- to explain what that had meant and how it wasn't *really* a complaint which needed remedying with --


Jason's tongue, and he tastes like cherry juice and *heat* --

Heat *does* have a taste, a feel --

Jason is taking Tim at his word, pushing *deep* with his tongue, filling Tim's mouth --

Tim grunts and realizes that his hands are still in Jason's hair, that he can still --

He strokes, massages, tugs *gently* --

Jason moans and strokes down Tim's sides to his hips, squeezes Tim hard enough for Lex's bruises to make themselves known enough that Tim *whimpers* --

And Jason pulls back again. "Yeah, okay, that was definitely hotter than I expected it to be," he says, laughing softly and letting go of Tim's right hip -- he *keeps* holding the left -- to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand. "I totally thought getting that out of our systems was... possible. Heh. This is why I leave the heavy thinking to people with the qualifications for it --"

"You're extremely intelligent and you shouldn't. Ah. You shouldn't denigrate yourself."

Jason raises his eyebrows at him. "You know I haven't been in *school* since I started hooking, yeah?"

"You... really don't seem to have missed much," Tim says, blushing and -- no, he doesn't look down --

And Jason touches Tim's cheek with his callused fingertips --

So *rough* --

"Daddy teach you not to look down for those?"

"Ah. Yes. I think it will be yet another problem when I go back to Gotham, really."

"There's something to be said for brazening shit out, bro. *Including* the I'm-so-damned-young-it-actually-hurts-other-people blushes."

Tim laughs helplessly -- and realizes that his hands are still in Jason's hair -- and blushes more. And moves them. "Ah... why did you think kissing me would be -- never mind."

"Why did I think it wouldn't be that hot? Mainly because I'm used to older men not bothering to teach their pretty boys how to kiss. And also because I'm *one* of those people who don't mess with virgins. Well, unless I'm getting paid for it. And it's not about... heh. I don't actually *mind* teaching people what I like -- or what *they* like for that matter."

"Then... what?"

Jason squeezes Tim's hip through the robe *right* over a bruise --

And Tim can't actually keep himself from jumping a little --

And Jason looks at the ties of Tim's robe like he's thinking of opening them and making Tim turn the lights on and --

Tim isn't sure he'd be able to stop him from doing it. Lex is a *weight* in him, a sense that breathing is something which happens to other people, single people, *lonely* people --

The weight should be pushing him *away* from this --

"That look on your face right now..."

"I think. That I should probably apologize."

Another crooked smile. "For getting me a little hard? Nah. I started it, yeah?"

"If... you want to think about it that way?"

Jason laughs and looks away -- "Virgins cling."

"Ah... what?"

Jason rolls his head on his neck like he's uncomfortable, pushes a hand back through his hair like he's even *more* uncomfortable --

"Are you worried that I'll become too attached?"

"You? Not so much. You've got Daddy wrapped around your finger and he's *gonna* keep you busy."

"He wants me to --" Tim clicks his teeth shut and shakes his head once.

Jason frowns. "What's that about?"

"I -- it's embarrassing --"

"I just had my tongue in your mouth, bro. More to the point, we're *both* thinking about my mouth being other places. I mean, if you weren't, you are *now*."

"Nuh. Um. Yes. Yes, that's true --"

"What does he want you to do that has you so twisted up? *Are* you safe?"

Tim squeezes his eyes shut --

"Seriously, Tim --"

"He wants me to have sex with you. In particular," Tim says, and opens his eyes again.

"Uh. You mean for the job? 'cause that's --"

"No! No. I just -- you're the one --"

"I'm the one he wants you to start fucking as soon as possible. Meaning he was *specific* about it. Meaning... well, shit. You realize I've spoken to you more than I've spoken to Daddy, right? What the fuck made him pick me?"

Tim smiles ruefully and thinks about running a hand back through his own hair -- no. Jason hadn't touched him there. "I... think part of it has something to do with the fact that you're currently living here."

"And how the hell is that supposed to be explained to Bruce? Hey, buddy, meet this hooker I kidnapped!"

Tim snorts. "I -- honestly have no idea. None. Just --" Tim stops, considers -- "He'll probably say you're a friend of mine. Perhaps I'm tutoring you for your GED."

"I *have* my GED -- uh. Anyway."

"Civil service exam?"

"Felony record."

Tim blinks, considers --

"God, you're cute."

"I -- right now?"

"When you're trying to figure out your Daddy's dastardly plans? Fuck, yeah. That guy probably had something planned the second Mercy dumped me in his office."

Tim smiles ruefully. "Or sooner than that. I mean -- I did know that he planned this. He'd planned this before he knew that Bruce -- anyway."

Jason raises his eyebrows. "'Anyway?'"

"It's -- well, Lex used to think that Bruce was mostly useless. He figured out... otherwise."

"Yeah, I got that, and you and Lex have been hinting around things..." Jason sighs. "Whatever. Just tell me it won't get my ass killed or something."

Abruptly, Tim can't see *anything* but Jason in the Robin uniform. The *first* Robin uniform, which would've been laughable at *best* on Tim, but was beautiful on Dick, and would be *pornographic* on Jason. Just --

"Uh... you're not saying anything."

"Oh! No, I -- I don't think it will get you killed."

"You don't *think*?"

Hell. Tim rubs his sweaty palms on his robe. "It's... a secret which actually is life and death for *some* people. It's within the realm of *possibility* for you to *become* one of those people, but you'd have to make one hell of an informed choice."

"What does *that* mean?"

Tim smiles ruefully. "That if it's ever life and death for you... Bruce will tell you."

"And you can predict that?"

He's a *hero* -- "Yes. Yes, I believe I can."

Jason gives him a narrow look -- and then shakes his head and blows out a breath. "And this is why they pay me the big bucks, I guess. You know he dropped the *entire* fifty grand in my account?"

"That does sound like Lex. He doesn't really... play with contracts. Not when it's important to him."

Jason cocks his head to the side. "How do *you* feel about him spending this much time and money fucking around with his ex?"

"I... think that Bruce was probably worth it. I think that anything that gets Lex closer to giving Bruce a piece of his mind is *definitely* worth it. I think I'll be hideously jealous if Bruce and Lex ever make love again --"

"Because you think Bruce was worth it?"

He's *Batman* -- Tim smiles ruefully again. "Well... yes. I think that if Bruce and Lex could be partners -- if they could be anything *like* partners -- the world would turn in entirely new ways. All I can give Lex is my ideas -- which are backed with neither significant education nor experience. Bruce has both in *spades* --"

"He never went to college, though. He can't be much more educated than *you* are, Tim."

"I... have reason to believe he continued his education privately." Why. Think of something -- "Certainly the *two* libraries in Wayne Manor suggest that he did."

"Eh, those could just be there for show. Lots of rich fucks do that shit."

And that... Tim reaches over and rests his hand on Jason's knee --

Jason covers it immediately and squeezes -- "Hey, you've got some calluses! Good deal. Those from martial arts stuff?"

"I -- yes. I have a black belt in karate and another in judo. Lex has been teaching me aikido."

"And that would explain that foot-shaped bruise on your thigh, yeah?"

Tim resists the urge to cover his legs -- "Yes. He's incredible. He's been sparring with Hope and Mercy since he hired them -- and he sent them both away to learn *multiple* schools of martial arts."

Jason laughs and squeezes Tim's hand again. "Because they're totally assassins. Hey, what kind of bodyguards does Bruce have?"

Alfred Pennyworth has very, very interesting blanks in his government service record --

Dick has been known to demolish a room full of gunmen without so much as touching the *floor* --

Barbara Gordon was using tasers before many American police officers had *heard* of them --

And then, of course, there's Bruce himself. "Now that you mention it, it is somewhat odd that I've never seen him with a bodyguard. Perhaps they're just subtle," Tim says, and feels like the lowest creature in the *world* when Jason just nods thoughtfully. "Ah -- anyway. I don't want you to be uncomfortable with me."

Jason grins at him and it feels like a *warning* --

A *hot* warning -- "Ah?"

"Not even the kind of uncomfortable where I have to do this all the time?"


Jason looks down pointedly --

Tim follows his gaze just in time to see Jason... adjust himself. "Oh. My."

"It fucking kills me that Mercy got to see me naked."

"Oh. You remember now?"

"Bits and pieces. She wanted me in *clean* clothes for my kidnapping. Like maybe I was rolling around in a damned pigsty instead of just playing pick-up basketball. Anyway, remind me to make Daddy pay extra for that."

Tim hums somewhat helplessly. "All right, I will. Are you usually... body-shy?"

"Whenever possible. In my job, keeping your clothes on is a *privilege*."

"I... now feel guilty for being jealous of Mercy."

Jason snorts and gives Tim a companionable push --

With the hand he'd used to adjust himself --

And Tim is going to cope anytime now --

"Ah. Sorry?"

"Like I'm gonna get upset for you wanting my ass when I've been sitting here for hours thinking about how *I* can get you to make noises like that."

"Oh. I have suggestions --"

"And if you tell me what they are, we won't actually get to know each other any better. Trust me, it's better if we wait at least a little while."

Tim makes a *face* --

And Jason snorts again. "Aw, man, yeah, that was kinda girly."

"*Yes*. And -- Lex did his *damnedest* to make me wait."

"And that worked so well for him, too." Jason sighs and shakes his head. "You pretty much have to face up to the fact that you're a hot piece of ass sooner rather than later."

"Piece -- hm."

Jason *snickers* at him.

Tim resists the urge to cross his arms over his chest and glare --

He doesn't actually manage to keep the glare *back* --

And Jason snickers more. "So fucking cute. No wonder he dresses you, too."

"I think... well, I know he dresses Hope and Mercy."

"And everyone else he gets a hand on?"

"His taste can be *loud*, but it's always good. And -- I don't know. It strikes me as just another aspect of BDSM? Maybe."

Jason frowns thoughtfully and waggles his head back and forth. "Yeah, I can see it. More interesting than corsets and garters and shit, anyway."

Tim blinks. "More... interesting?"

Jason raises his eyebrows at him.

"... because of your career, yes. I... is it at least better that I'm forgetting it? Better than focusing on it to the exclusion of all else, I mean."

"Nah, in the end it's just as bad."

Tim winces --

And Jason pets Tim's hair, cups the back of his head -- "Here's the deal. One way's bad because you're always making me feel like the Amazing Whore Boy who can do tricks like reading and signing his name to shit."

"Ouch --"

"The *other* way's bad because I always have to worry about you *tripping* over the fact that I'm a whore. I can't relax like that. *No* one can."

Tim winces again. "I'm sorry. I'm going to learn quickly, I promise."

Jason smiles warmly. "Yeah, you will. I can tell."

"Are you used to people who treat you... like that?"

"Social workers, some of the neighborhood types who actually have real, legal, taxpaying jobs and shit... anyway. Around where I live -- that's Crime Alley, by the way --"

"Oh! Okay. I -- I know where that is."

"And that gets you excited?"

"I... may be thinking..." About *Bruce* -- "About how much time I've spent wandering the city. And how I could, perhaps, do at least some of that wandering in company," Tim says, and just copes with the blush for what it is.

Jason frowns. "What the hell were *you* doing around Crime Alley?"

Oh... fuck it. Tim smiles as ruefully as he wants to. "Following Batman and Robin."


"I... used to have a large number of pictures of the two of them flying on de-cel lines, kicking criminals in the face... that sort of thing."

"Holy -- and they didn't catch your ass?"

"I *am* capable of being subtle, Jason --"

"Show me. Wait, no, on second thought don't. I like you obvious. But -- fucking shit, they run around on *rooftops*."

"You'd be surprised how easy it is to access most rooftops in Gotham. I mean, the buildings *are* generally quite close together --"

"And you were doing that shit in -- what? Sneakers?"

"Ah -- an incident with a patch of black ice convinced me to switch to boots, even though I had to learn how to move quietly all over again --"

"How *long* were you doing this for?"

"Um... six years. I mostly stopped after Robin left."

"Mostly. After -- and you were fucking --" And Jason smacks the back of Tim's head --

"Ah -- ow?"

"You *deserve* that, you little freak! You could've gotten yourself killed about a million times over!"

"But I *didn't*. And, well, sometimes I was close enough that I *could've* called for help."

Jason stares at him in *consternation* --

"Jason --"

"Call me Jay."

"Oh. Really?"

"Yes. But also --" And Jason smacks him again.

"*Jay* --"

"See, you already sound like you've been using that name forever. But seriously, Tim, that's fucking -- what if a *criminal* had caught you and, like, taken you hostage or some shit?"

"Well -- there are reasons *why* I've studied the martial arts, Jay --"

"Karate ain't *shit* against a gun pressed up under your *jaw*, Tim."

Tim suspects he's making a terrible face --

"That -- are you pouting? Is that a fucking *pout*?"

Oh -- damn. Tim wipes his expression --

Jason looks *horrified* --

Tim tries something a little less Hope-like --

And Jason looks wary but relieved. "Okay, first? Don't do *that*. That's fucking creepy."

"Well... *I'm* kind of creepy, Jay --"

"*Kind* of, yeah, but not *that* creepy. Your eyes were fucking dead for a second there."

"I... 'emotions are liabilities.'"

"Who the fuck said *that*? Wait, was that your *mother*?"

Tim rubs his palms on his robe again and smiles ruefully again. "That's -- it was a useful thing to learn to do."

Jason shakes himself like a dog. "Okay. Okay. Here's the deal. Don't do that with me unless I've *really* pissed you off, okay? You're totally allowed to pout when someone points out that your favoritest hobby in the world is fucking nuts."

"It -- it was nice to be close to them. To heroes."

Jason smiles wryly. "I can see that. I've never been up close, though I know a lot of pros who've met Robin once or twice. He always visited the busiest strolls. And once? I saw the car. *One* of the cars."

"Oh -- ooh. Which one?"

"The one that looks like a Bugatti made sweet love to a tank before leaving it to raise its beautiful baby all alone."

"I... all right, this isn't the first time I've wanted to hug a car, but --"

"But you totally know which car I'm talking about."

Tim bites his lip to hold in a snort --

"You -- fucking fuck," and Jason leans in and kisses him hard, bending Tim back and stroking Tim's hips through the robe --

And then his hands just *are* under the robe, and his hands are just as rough as they should be, rough enough to make Tim jerk and whimper --

Jason moans and kisses him *harder*, holding Tim down with his body --

He's so *big*, *broader* than Lex --

And it feels too good to push his hands into Jason's hair again, feels like they belong there, like this is *okay* --

Jason pushes his tongue in deep, tickles Tim's palate enough that he winds up squirming --

He can feel Jason's jeans against his *thighs*, and that doesn't mean spread his legs. It --

If he does, this will escalate. He knows that. He -- he can see that *clearly*, and he doesn't want to --

Jason wants to *talk* --

Tim bites Jason's lower lip when he slips his tongue out --

Jason grunts and opens his eyes --

*Tim* grunts and spreads his legs --

"Oh, Jesus fuck --" Jason shakes himself all over and does a pushup --

His hand slips on the edge of the couch and he falls *off* --

And that's not actually a reason to pounce. He --

Tim didn't know he was *capable* of pouncing --

He's not at all sure what to do *next* --

Especially since Jason is looking at him with his eyebrows up and an *amused* look on his face, but *really* --

"I can *feel* how hard you are, Jason."

"I can *see* how hard you are, Tim. And you're supposed to call me Jay."

"Not when I'm being pissy."

"Did I miss that rule?"

"Yes, you -- you definitely did," Tim says, and thinks about patting Jason's chest and moving away --

He's rubbing Jason's chest.

He's doing it slowly and... lovingly.

And Jason's eyebrows aren't up anymore. His eyes are heavy-lidded and Tim knows that *Jason* knows what he wants. That he knows he can *get* it. That --

"I'd like to suck you off."

"Yeah, hunh? What else would you like?"

"To... ah. Lex fucked my thighs once --"

"You wanna do mine?"

"Oh fuck. Ah." Tim kneels up enough that he can reach down and back and stroke Jason's thighs --

Jason's *huge* thighs --

"I was. I was mainly thinking about you doing that to me."

Jason touches his tongue to his upper lip and nods. "What if I want your ass?"

Tim moans and *clutches* at Jason's thighs, winding up with two bunches of loose denim. "Um. I'm not sure if I. I mean -- Lex fucked me... very hard."

"Did you scream?"

"Yes. Yes, Jay."

Jason narrows his eyes. "I'm not gonna give you too many orders. I don't play that way -- heh, no. I *play* that way. It's not a way of life for me."

Tim licks his lips. "Understood. And -- it's not that I don't want to take the pain."

"No, huh? You just wanna make sure you can do it all again *quickly*, yeah?"


"How big is Daddy?"

Tim estimates for Jason with hand gestures.

"Respectable. Really that thick?"

"Yes. I. It felt like my ass would never be the same."

"You keep that up for three months or so and it won't be. Maybe less."

Tim moans again and reaches for the ties of his robe --

Jason catches his wrists and sits up with them between them. "Wait."

"I'm waiting."

"Why did that turn you on more?"

"Because. Because I want him to remake me."

Jason narrows his eyes again. "You think there's something wrong with you? Strike that -- does *he* think there's something wrong with you?"

"He thinks -- I have low self-esteem. He's happiest when I'm... proud. Confident. That sort of thing."

"When are *you* happiest?"

"When he's holding me and letting me feel him. When I'm learning something new and useful. When I'm *being* useful. When I know I'm beautiful." 

"You're beautiful right now."

"Jay --"

"Purse your lips for me?"

Tim blushes and does it --

And Jason leans in and nuzzles him. He's not letting go of Tim's wrists, he's so close. He's *hard*. He so *close* --

And he's not letting Tim kiss him. Just -- a lick when Tim tries, or a bite, or a *wetter* lick --

"Jay, please -- *mmph* --"

And it feels like the kiss should melt him where he's kneeling, fuse him into something all of a piece --

More of a piece than he already is --

The kiss is making him clench and whimper, clench and thrust against Jason's abdomen --

He's going to stain Jason's *shirt* --

Except that Jason brings Tim's hands around behind his back and grips both wrists with one hand --

And wraps the other around Tim's penis.

"Oh -- *Jay* --"

"You've got a sweet little cock, you know. Makes me wish you fucking me wouldn't be like throwing a hot dog down a fucking hallway."

The blush might *kill* him --

Jason snickers and licks Tim's cheeks --

It feels like being painted --

"Ask me something, Tim. Anything."

"I -- Jay?"

"I need. I need to feel like we actually *tried* to talk. Fuck, this sexual peak shit is for the birds sometimes --"

"Oh -- I want to make you -- I mean. What makes *you* happy?"

"Dog. Getting to pay the bills on time *all* the time. Fucking people I like and doing it for free. Getting dressed in the morning and staying that way --" Jason shakes his head. "Fuck, don't listen to me --"

"I want to know --"

"Yeah, I can see that, and that's too fucking *tempting* -- fuck. Want my mouth?"

"Oh -- oh, Jay --"

"Say yes to me, c'mon --"

"Yes --"

"Say it and *mean* it --"

"Will you let me suck you?"

"I'll give you every fucking inch, I promise --"

"Then suck me, make me come -- *oh* --"

Flipped off and onto his back, and there's a difference between being able to see something coming and being able to *do* something about it. There's an even bigger difference between being able to do something and *wanting* to do something --

Jason opens Tim's robe and looks him *over* -- "So *thin*. No wonder they're feeding you up. You looked incredible in that funky little suit, but like this..." Jason licks his lips again. "You make me wanna hide you from myself."

"I -- what?"

"Don't *listen* to me, I said. Fucking *pretty* boy --" And Jason kisses Tim, fucks Tim's mouth with his tongue, squeezes Tim's penis *hard* --

Tim cries out into Jason's mouth and shoves his hands in Jason's hair again, tugging and carding through it until he thinks he'll always know what it feels like, that he'd be able to identify Jason by it --

Just like he can identify Lex's body by the taste, the touch --

So *sleek*, and Lex isn't here but he also is. Lex may or may *not* be asleep, and if he isn't he's watching every minute of this, seeing Tim lose his mind for someone else --

Oh, Lex, is it what you wanted?

But he can't answer that question, yet. As it is, he can't do anything but take this and moan for it, *whine* for it when Jason starts jerking him off --

When he breaks off kissing to lick Tim's *throat* -- "Shoulda known Daddy was a kisser by these bruises. He ever choke you?"

"N-no --"

"Do you want him to?"

Tim swallows and tries to think, tries to *focus* -- "I don't know. I've never -- "

"Shh, it's okay," Jason says, and "here," and he tilts Tim's head back and sucks *hard* on Tim's Adam's apple --

"Oh -- oh, *please* --"

Jason bites down and Tim feels himself blocked, feels --

He *can* still breathe, but it's harder, and that's --

His heart is beating faster --

He's hard enough now that he can't do anything *else* --

"*Jay* --"

Jason pulls back and grins at him. "Yeah, you like that. Make *sure* to tell Daddy all about it. He can give you a choke-chain."

Tim grunts and *bucks* --

"Ooh, yeah... mm," and Jason scoots back. "Maybe Daddy'll let me watch sometime, hunh? Let me see him put you through your paces a little. I bet you perform like a fucking show pony when he gets you hard enough."

"Want to -- I *want* to --"

"And he's such a big man. Great man?"

"*Yes* -- oh, oh, Jay, please, your calluses --"

"Like 'em, hunh?"

"So *rough* --"

"How's this?" And Jason jerks him fast and *hard* --

Tim cries out and clutches at the thick pile of the carpeting --

Jason is studying him, looking him over for every reaction, but it doesn't feel anything like Lex. It's *softer* somehow, easier --

He isn't sure if he *wants* easier, and it makes him buck more, try to buck *rhythmically*, to get more of that *hand* --

"Oh, pretty baby, you are fucking -- " Jason grunts and *darts* down --

"*Jay* --"


"Ohn -- so hot, so *soft*, oh no -- "

"Teeth or no teeth?"

"I don't know, I --"

"Which one will make you scream for *me*?"

"*Both*, *please*, Jay -- *hnh* --"

"Two knuckles in your taint, working your little prostate... how sore are you *inside*?"

"It's hot -- I mean hard. I mean --" Tim shakes himself all over and tries to think past the ache in his twitching cock, the somehow *dark* twinges radiating out from his prostate in opposite rhythm to the waves of pleasure, *heat* -- "*Please*, Jay, I'll come soon --"

Jason grunts again -- "Sixteen and *recently* virginal, yeah, I hear you. We'll figure this out as we go," and Jason takes him in --

Swallows him down --

Tim shouts and tries to stay still --

Tim *fails* and shouts more, and Jason is sucking so hard, pressing so hard, everything's hard but his mouth --

All those soft surfaces caressing him, hidden teeth the *best* threat --

And Jason has his free hand on Tim's hip, squeezing and rubbing the hollow of it with his thumb --

Jason is *watching* him, and Tim wants to say something, do something more than writhe and need and groan --

*Teeth* in a shuddering *rake* and Tim screams --

Slick, *quick* tongue swirling everywhere the teeth had been and Tim gasps --

Press for his *hole* and Tim screams, begs somehow, please *somehow*, because everything in his mind is what it would be like to have Jason pushing into his ass while Lex fucked his mouth --

The other way around --

Oh, please, please -- !

Tim feels his body jack-knife with the kind of heat that should be weaponized, the kind of pleasure that *unmans* --

And then he's screaming more and arching, stretching his muscles to the point of cramping and he can't stop, can't *care* --

Jason shoves him *down* --

Tim spurts once more, twice --

Jason hums in pleasure and sucks just the head --

And that scream, loud and *carrying* is just his body's way of announcing to the rest of him that he's back, that he's alive, that he'd *survived* --

He's twitching and shuddering --

And Jason is licking his way up Tim's abdomen, tickling Tim's navel with his tongue --

Tim's laugh is breathless and a little desperate --

Jason kisses him hard and briefly. "Man, one day this is all gonna be just business as usual for you, and on that day? Fucking *gods* will mourn."

Tim snickers helplessly. "*Jay*."

"That was beautiful. Incredible," he says, and licks his lips. "And you taste fantastic."

"I and my semen thank you," Tim says, and pushes himself up into a sitting position. "Let me taste myself in your mouth?"

Jason grins and cups the back of Tim's head, leaning in close -- but not kissing. He *breathes* instead, and the scent of Tim's come overpowers *everything* --

"Oh, that's -- dirty, I --" Tim kisses Jason before he can say anything, and the lingering hints of cherry turn his come into a taste sensation he's frankly not sure what to do with. The fact that he's tasting himself on Jason -- *in* Jason -- is more than enough to make it wonderful, though. Just --

Everything about him is so --

Tim cups Jason's cheeks and makes the kiss a better one, deeper and slower and *harder*. Jason hums and moans throughout, and it makes it seem like they're still having a conversation. It's --

This is a gift, and he wants to already *know* whether or not he'll be allowed to thank Lex for it.

What he does know is that Lex would want *Tim* to want to barrel through doubts and take what he wants in this moment. It isn't an excuse and it isn't a reason. It's nothing but itself, and, ultimately, has less than nothing to do with the fact that Tim is breaking the kiss and mouthing his way down over Jason's heavily-stubbled jaw --

"Careful, you'll get raw and red that way."

"I -- oh. Stubble-burn?"

"Uh, huh. Not really a problem with Daddy, I guess?"

"He doesn't -- as near as I've been able to tell, the only hair on his body are his eyebrows and eyelashes."

"And he *colors* those... yeah, kinda freaky, kinda hot -- makes me wish I'd shaved," Jason says, and turns to grin at him.

"I." Tim nuzzles Jason's cheek *lightly*.

"Oh, that's sweet. C'mon, get my other cheek?"

Tim kisses his way over and does it, just hard enough to make his lips prickle and complain --

Tim *licks* Jason's cheek --

"Why didn't you rub me raw while we were kissing?"

"Same reason there's no burn on your thighs: I was being careful with you."

"Oh... I. You don't have to be careful."

Jason cocks his head to the side. "No? What happens if Daddy doesn't want his boy all marked up?"

Tim raises an eyebrow and touches his throat --

"Yeah, yeah, but those are *his* marks. You've got that pretty pale skin, practically no scars... maybe he wants you to be *his* canvas and no one else's."

Tim licks his lips and thinks about it -- but the only images that come to mind involve being stretched out spread-eagle while Lex looks him over and *plans* things.


With the pacing and the frowns which speak of pain and suffering for all sorts of people --

And Jason is laughing at him quietly. Right.

"Do I even want to know what expression was on my face?"

"Let's just say that you *shouldn't* look like that around Daddy unless you wanna make *sure* he works on you for at least two hours."

Are any of the cameras focused on --

*Fuck* --

"Hey, what's *that* look for?"

"I. I just realized -- remembered -- fuck. You... probably didn't know how many hidden cameras are scattered around the penthouse. Did you."

"Uh. You *did*?"

Tim blushes. "It didn't even -- I wasn't thinking. I mean, it didn't sink in until just now that there's a difference between you knowing that Lex will know and you knowing that Lex will know *everything*."

Jason looks somewhat *queasy* --

"Oh -- fuck, please don't be -- well, no, you can be as mad at me as you want to be, obviously, but --"

"I'm not mad at you. I'm freaked *out*, but -- okay, *why* aren't you freaked out?"

"I... because I'm something of a stalker already? I mean... I took a lot of pictures of Batman and Robin and Batgirl." And of Bruce and Dick and Barbara --

"That's -- different? Maybe?" Jason's snort sounds painful and he scrubs a hand over his face. "Fuck. Sometime soon, he's gonna sit up and watch me sucking you off. Every fucking *second* of it -- *shit*. How is *that* supposed to help his jealousy?"

Tim's palms are sweaty again -- he rubs them on the carpet --

"You're nervous. You don't have to be nervous of me, Tim --"

"I wish. I wish there was a nickname you could use -- and that's completely off-topic --"

"I can always call you baby."

Baby. Baby?

"Of course, that makes it sound like this is gonna keep going even after I've done my little job with Bruce Wayne and have headed back to Gotham --"

"I want it to --"

"Are you sure? What happens if Daddy says no?"

Tim smiles ruefully. "A part of me thinks that would be... ah... right and proper."

Jason nods understandingly --

"The rest of me is pointing out -- strenuously -- that Lex was the one who pointed out that I'm polyamorous."

"Uh. You didn't already know? Like... you haven't even had any boyfriends?"

"Lex -- he gave me my first kiss. Are you...?"

"I think so. I've never really tested it out, and I'm not actually seeing anyone now. I've got a couple of fuckbuddies around --" Jason frowns and shakes his head. "Is there *any* place up in here that isn't wired top to bottom?"

"I... I didn't think to ask."

Jason's smile is decidedly quirked. "Okay, I'm seeing the creepy in you, now. Don't worry, it's still cute."

Tim picks up Jason's hand and rubs the fingertips against his cheeks, his mouth, his eyelids --

Jason sighs and twists free before cupping Tim's face and kissing him again. This time, Jason makes it gentle and sweet enough that Tim's afraid he's saying *goodbye* --

But it doesn't stop. It goes on with slow stabs of Jason's tongue and the shuffling sound of Jason knee-walking closer, giving Tim his heat, his *size* --

And Tim can't stop himself from reaching under Jason's shirt. He's warmer there, sleek --

But the hair beneath his navel manages to sprawl a little, and Tim has to touch, tug, play with it --

Jason pulls back --

"Oh --"

"You really don't care, do you?"

"I care. I really -- oh. You mean about the cameras. Ah -- no. It can really only go one of two ways, Jay. Either Lex watches all of this and decides he can't handle me making love to other people, or Lex watches all of this and decides to overanalyze my every action and reaction with him until I'm moved to stab him with a letter opener. After he disarms me and throws me to the floor, we'll make love and everything will be fine."

Jason coughs a laugh --

Tim smiles --

"You really believe that?"

"Well... it's one of the scenarios I believe. Mostly I think I need to discuss the matter with Mercy. I have *every* reason to believe that she'll give me nothing but honest answers, and that that honesty will be informed. She was Lex's lover before my parents knew *of* each other, after all."

"And *she* won't want to gut you for fucking around on her man?"

"I think I'm safe until I neglect him in any way."

"You... really are just that fucking *carefree* about this."

Tim winces. "I -- I could just be horny."

"*How* many orgasms did Daddy give you?"

"Three. And... yes, there's your one, and I'm frankly wondering how much worse this can get."

Jason gives him a wry smile -- and then opens his jeans with a couple of flicks of the wrist --

"That's. Very sexy."

"Yeah? I'll do it every time, then."

Every -- "That sounds wonderful --"

"Come to my neighborhood during the *day* -- 'cause I'm sure as fuck not showing up in yours without a pass from, like, the fucking mayor."

Tim *wants* to laugh at that, but it comes out air. Just -- air.

Jason's wearing simple white briefs, and the wet-spot is --

Is --

"You want this?" And Jason rubs at the spot with his thumb --

"Oh -- fuck --"

"You can call on God all you want with *me*, baby."

Tim shivers and reaches for Jason's hand -- "I -- I don't want to -- um. Bad habits --"

"Put your hands behind your back."

"*Fuck* --" Tim shakes his head and does it, feeling that thing in him which *always* responds to orders almost *twang* --

"Open up your stance a little bit... yeah, like that. You want your knees as far apart as your shoulders."

"What -- is this a *workout*?"

Jason grins. "Kinda? Bend over and suck me through my briefs."

The moan is out before Tim can think about it --

There's nothing *to* think about it --

And Jason tastes nothing like Lex. Jason is much saltier, thicker and gamier somehow --

Tim's not going to *stop* moaning anytime soon --

"Oh -- fuck, yeah, that's sweet. Not everybody *likes* my taste that much."

Tim *licks* at the wet spot --

"No, no, save that for my cock, baby -- *nnh* -- oh, that *suck* -- you --" Jason pants and pushes one hand into Tim's hair, gripping it hard and pulling Tim back --

"*Jay* --"

"You want it?"

"*Yes* --"

"What if I want you to beg for it?"

"Please let me suck you, please fuck my mouth, please let me *taste* you more --"

"Stop. You --" Jason shakes himself all over, and his hair is as wild as ruffled feathers, dark and shining --

"You have such great *hair* -- um."

Jason snorts. "Okay? I'll let you play with it after I get off. You can't come in it, though. That's fucking gross."

Tim blinks a *lot* --

And Jason snorts again. "Yeah, don't think about it. Here," he says, and shoves his briefs down enough that he can tug his penis and scrotum out and --

It's possible that Tim is making a *gurgling* noise --

"You like it, baby?"

"Yes. Oh -- yes, Jay --"

"Is it much like Daddy's?"

"Darker. It's darker. And." Tim licks his lips. "Lex is circumcised."

"I used to wish I was back when it was hard to get a shower every day, but -- heh. Nobody's ever complained," Jason says, and starts to stroke himself slowly, moving the flesh of his foreskin back and forth and back again -- "You look like I'm hypnotizing you --"

"You are. Um." Tim leans in enough to breathe deep -- 

Moans again --


"Do you know how to suck off a guy who isn't cut?"

Tim blinks *more* -- "There. It's different?"

Jason grins. "You gotta go a little easy until the guy says different. We're more sensitive."

That makes -- perfect sense. Tim nods and tugs against the grip Jason has on his hair --

"Baby... when you go down? You don't come up again until *I* say."

"*Hnh* -- Jay, if I get hard again I think I might *die*."

*Another* snort -- "You can take it. Besides, you gotta save up some for Daddy in a few hours, yeah?"

"He said. He said he'd whip me."

Jason sucks in a breath. "Yeah, hunh? And you've never done anything like that? Nothing that heavy with him?"

"No. I... I can't seem to think about it clearly enough to get afraid."

"Well... I've *never* fucking done that. Not seriously, anyway. Something tells me that Daddy plans to actually *hurt* you... uh... yeah. What I've *heard* -- and I don't know how true this is -- is that you wanna give it up as fast as possible. If you're fighting it the whole time, then it's gonna be torture. And I don't think you're actually ready for torture... uh. Are you?"

"Other than the torture inherent to my not sucking you off right now?"

"Heh. *Other* than that, yeah. C'mon, you *can't* just think with your cock for *this* stuff."

Tim closes his eyes and nods. "I don't think. I don't think giving it up will be a problem."

"He takes you zero to sixty, doesn't he."

"Yes. Yes. Please let me suck you --"

"You're thinkin' about him."

"You *told* me to --"

"I'm telling you to stop now. You can go back to it *after* you've done me, k?"

"Oh. Oh. Are *you* jealous?"

"I don't know. I'm fucking *hungry* for you, though -- mm. Yeah. There you are. You never get *that* kind of wide-eyed when you're looking at Daddy, do you?"

"You. You're *different*, Jay --"

"Oh, yeah. I'm fucking *dangerous*, yeah? Dirty and low-class?"

"No! I mean -- you *are* dangerous, and technically we are in -- in different socioeconomic classes --"

Jason snickers and *shakes* Tim by the grip he has on Tim's hair. "You are so. Fucking. *Cute*. Blow me."

"Pull. Would you pull me down?"

Jason's lips part and he searches Tim a little -- "Yeah. Yeah, I promised, didn't I? Here it comes," and Jason pulls Tim down slow and *steadily*, down and down until Jason's penis is *just* touching Tim's lip -- "Stick your tongue out."

Tim does and licks as much as he can reach, trying again and again to get his tongue in the slit --

"Ooh. Yeah, you're a hungry boy, too. What's it like?"

"*Thick*. You taste -- you smell --" Tim shakes his head as much as he can and goes back to licking, trying to use the flat of his tongue to make it better --


Tim sucks air --

And then Jason pulls him *all* the way down. Tim almost doesn't have time to get his teeth out of the way --

He almost doesn't have time to *swallow* --

And he's shivering and sucking as much as he can, as hard -- no, he can go easy, he can --

Jason is *sensitive*, and --

He's moaning constantly, low and fervent --

"Fuck *me*, I knew you'd be able to -- *ohn*, yeah, just keep doing *that*..."

'That' seems to be the mild suction with as much licking as he can manage in this position. He wants more though, wants --

Well, there's no stubble *here*, and if he works his head a little he can nuzzle, *cover* himself in Jason's scent --

Breathe -- no, not that --

"Oh -- you're so fucking sweet, so -- mmph. I *like* you."

Tim nods as much as he *can* --

"Heh, yeah, I get you -- oh, suck more, suck -- I'll let you breathe in a minute --"

Tim shakes his head --

Jason snickers breathlessly -- "Fuckin' perv. Now I *really* like you."

And Tim has to blush for that, has to swallow around Jason until his throat starts recovering from the *shock* of being breached like this --

It's just that this *always* feels so good. He should've known he'd enjoy being choked in other ways, really, because even when he was just doing this with makeshift toys --

Even when he could only *imagine* something hot and soft over hard --

Something that could do *this* to him --

"Oh, look at you... don't. Don't squeeze your eyes shut like -- fuck, there you are," and Jason's smile looks strained but honest --

*He's* causing the strain --

"I think -- touch me? My sac..."

Tim leaves one hand behind his back and brings the other to Jason's heavy scrotum --

"Fuck, you just go above and fucking -- squeeze me. Really fucking *abuse* my sac -- *ohn* -- *ohn* -- oh, that's sweet, that's so --" And Jason stops gripping Tim's hair and starts petting him, carding through with restless affection until Tim starts feeling drugged and needy and --

He doesn't *want* to get hard again, but if this lasts --

"Tim... Tim. Tell me this -- is it good for you?"

Tim nods and realizes that his eyes are closed again. He opens them --

"You look so *focused*. You --" Jason's laugh is cracked and low, *hungry* --

And Tim wants to tell Jason that he looks beautiful, aroused and *happy* --

He *likes* Tim --

Tim sucks harder because he has to --

Jason grunts and *grips* him again -- "Go *easy*, I said," and Jason pulls Tim up enough that his penis slips out of Tim's throat --

Tim groans *mournfully* --

"I know, I know, I'm not -- I *can't* punish you. I don't *know* you, and -- aw, fuck, just *breathe* --"

Tim gasps and moans, gasps and moans again --

Sucks and licks and tries to go down more, to take more again --

Jason's taste and scent have gotten lighter and gamier at once, just like there's only so much *he* can take --

It doesn't *matter* that that makes no sense --

"Oh, c'mon baby, I need you --"

Tim whimpers and *yanks* against Jason's hold on him --

"Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me --" And then Jason is *barking* out a shout even as he pulls Tim back down --

Jason is thrusting up into Tim's throat and out again and in again --

Again --

Tim whimpers again and it's high and silent again, sharp and silent again --

"Sweet -- sweet -- promise I'll apologize --"

Tim shakes his *head* --

Jason's laugh is a brief explosion of breath, surprisingly high sound -- "*Jesus*, you're good, so -- promised you every inch --"

Tim nods --

"Wanna fuck you *bad*, Tim --"

Tim clenches and grunts, sucks hard --

"*Fuck*, yeah, now it's good, now -- keep it up --"

Tim sucks in pulses the way Lex likes when *he's* close --

Jason has such a hard grip on Tim's hair that Tim wouldn't be able to move if he *wanted* to --

Jason is beating at the floor with his other fist --

Jason is crying *out*, once for every pulse --

And Tim knows that he didn't breathe enough when he had the chance, knows it by the pound in his temples and the way he's almost *hiccoughing* Jason in, but he's not going to stop, not now --

Not ever --

*Only* for Lex, only ever for him, but even Lex won't be able to stop him from seeing Jason again, being friends --

Jason *likes* him --

There are black cloud-like things edging into his vision and he feels hot, needy, *sweet* like Jason keeps --

"*Tim* -- be -- aw, *fuck* --" And Jason shoves *deep* and starts to come, grunting through it like he's doing crunches or being *hit* or some --

Black --

Thing? What --

Jason yanks Tim back again and the next spurt splashes the back of Tim's throat, making him cough out all the air he'd gasped in --

Black --

"--ing *Christ*, you gotta warn me," Jason says, leaning in and kissing Tim all over his face  --

At some point Tim had wound up on his back *and* up on the couch again. Jason is kneeling beside him with a worried look on his face -- and the worry is getting buried by a hunger that Tim thinks doesn't have anything to do with actually being aroused. Just --

"You're so fucking flushed -- Daddy's gonna *kill* me --"

"Jay --"

"Wait, are you really that hoarse or is that because that's the first word you said?"


"Cough a little. Clear your throat," Jason says, and licks the corner of Tim's mouth before leaning back.

Tim sits up and coughs -- his throat is definitely a bit sore. Less sore than his *ass*, but -- "Testing, testing, one, two --"

"Okay, yeah, you sound a little froggy but that'll fade."

"Ah... ribbit?"

Jason smiles up at him ruefully. "I'm kinda *invested* in not fucking this little arrangement up. *You* won't be heading back to Gotham until it's time for you to go back to school, yeah?"

He wants to *see* Tim again -- "Yes... ah. Yes."

Jason nods. "So yeah. Gotta make this week -- or however long it takes for me to get the goods on Bruce -- go *smooth*."

"I -- I'll do anything I can to help."

"Yeah, hunh?" Jason's smile turns sly and sharp. "You suck a mean cock, baby. Ever think about goin' pro?"

He doesn't *think* he can actually be shocked enough that his eyes fall out of his head, but -- "Um!"

Jason leans back and snickers, clapping his hands on his still jeans-clad thighs --

"I really want to see you naked."

Jason raises his eyebrows, nods, and strips off his shirt just like that. He stands then, and pushes his jeans and briefs the rest of the way down. He toes off his socks, and -- there he is. "Got a pose you want me in?"

"Um. Uh." Tim swallows and tries not to stare -- no, he *can* stare -- no, wait -- "Ah. May I stare?"

Jason gives him the you're-*cute*-not-adorable smile. "Go ahead, baby. Make a few memories."

Tim stands up and does just that, pressing a palm flat to Jason's *roughly*-defined abdominals. If he clenches just right he can have something like the cut look that Tim feels a little guilty for having without much in the way of effort -- and that Lex has through unbelievable amounts of hard work -- but mostly he seems... meaty. Tim licks his lips and strokes down to Jason's navel, where the acuminate hair pattern begins and he's not going to drop to his knees and suck Jason off again.

He isn't.

Jason's chest is broad and soft over hard --

"You eat well -- ah. I think that came out wrong."

"Well, did you mean to make it sound like you were measuring me for one of those giant fucking cooking cauldrons? 'cause if you did..." And Jason gives him the quirked smile again.

Tim winces. "I'm -- I think if I ever have to really seduce someone, I'm going to be spending a lot of time masturbating."

"So long as you don't do it to Grey's fucking Anatomy, we're cool. But yeah, I eat as much as I can most of the time. I'm *not* starving anymore -- obviously -- but old habits are hard to break. I'll probably have to work myself sick to avoid getting fat in five, ten years."

"Were your parents... ah. Never mind."

Jason pets Tim's hair. "I like you asking questions. It's cool. And no, neither of them were all that big. I mean, my mom wasn't *small*, and she could take care of herself, but she was no Wonder Woman."

Tim licks his lips and nods, moving to Jason's right arm, which is scarred at the forearm --

"Knife fights. I'm better with my left."

"Noted," Tim says, and strokes the scars lightly. Jason's biceps and triceps are large, heavily defined things -- "You must send people flying when you punch them."

"Yeah, sometimes. I used to think that would never get old, but -- fuck, *I'm* too old to have to fight for a place to stay, a place to work, a chance to have a fun night out in a club... my knuckles have been as close to healed as they get for about a year now."

"Until Mercy attacked you."

"Heh, until then, yeah."

Tim takes Jason's hand in his own and kisses the bruised knuckles. There is no way he can tell Jason how *incredibly* hardcore he is if one just considers the caliber of fighters Mercy is *usually* up against.

He moves around behind Jason and presses his palms to his shoulder blades --

And then rests his forehead between them.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't think I can do this."

Jason twists around. "You can't check me out?"

"I can't look at you like this and pretend I'm not drooling and losing it as much as -- all of the people who have picked you up over the years."

Jason's smile lands somewhere between rueful and sad. "It's not your fault I didn't let myself get taken in by the system like *most* of the other orphans out there."

"No, I know -- I mostly know --"

"Take responsibility for your own fuck-ups, baby. Nobody else's *belong* to you."

That's -- true, but --

"Trust me."

"I do. Trust you, I mean. And."

Jason cups Tim's face with one hand. "And?"

"You're incredibly beautiful and I wish I could make that sound original. Or at least *meaningful* --"

"It's meaningful. Trust me on that one, too."

Tim looks up to meet Jason's eyes, to take the *soft* smile for his own -- "I'm not. I don't want you to think I'm obsessing about your profession, Jay --"

"You totally are, though. You're thinking about the *long* line of men and boys I've hooked up with over the years and how it makes it impossible for you to really *distinguish* yourself, yeah?"

"... damn it. You -- how are you not getting *sick* of me?"

Jason cups Tim's shoulders and squeezes firmly. "The bad news is that this is all pretty predictable. The good news is that you're going through the list of reactions damned quickly. At this rate you'll be over it in a day or two," Jason says, but there's something in his voice --

"You don't believe that."

"I -- heh. You *might* just figure out that you can't get over it, at all. But I'm gonna be as optimistic as I can, because life is just *better* for expensive whores like yours truly."

"You're more --"

"Yeah, I am. And I even know that. It's just that my mouth still gets away from me sometimes. Even after Daddy fixes your self-esteem good and proper, you're still gonna have moments where you talk the talk. That's just how it works."

"You're... changing the subject?"

This smile is entirely rueful. "Yeah, can I? It's time for both of us to sleep anyway."

Tim strokes Jason's chest. He kisses the space over Jason's sternum. He stares up into Jason's eyes. "I have to shower. I -- Lex made that an explicit request for if I wound up making love with you."

Jason snorts. "Yeah, well, I would, *too*. And -- nah, we can't actually do it together. That wouldn't count."

Jason --

Shower --

Tim licks his lips --

"Yeah, let's just save that thought for another time. It's not like the bathrooms in this place aren't huge." 

Lex wet would be -- *must* be --

And Jason is laughing at him quietly.

Tim closes his eyes and breathes. "Perhaps Lex will fit me for a chastity device. One with the little spikes might just be the way to go."

"Nah, I got hired by a guy who wore one. When he finally took it off so he could jerk off on my chest he had nasty-looking little scars all around his cock. You gotta keep yours pretty, baby."

Pretty. Well. Tim pushes up on his toes and kisses the corner of Jason's mouth --

And Jason makes it a real kiss, deep and wet and --

Jason *lifts* Tim by the hips --

Tim throws his arms around Jason's neck and returns the kiss as best he can. The taste is more musky-sweet than anything specific, and Tim puts serious effort into licking it out of Jason's mouth.

Jason starts snickering --

Tim tickles Jason's palate with his tongue --

"*Gah* -- " And Jason shoves Tim away and puts him down.


Jason makes a face very similar to the ones dogs make when they're given peanut butter -- and Tim realizes that he's trying to scratch his palate with his tongue.

Tim doesn't laugh *much* --

Jason shoves him in a very friendly fashion all things considered --

"I'll know not to do that next time...?"

"Who -- gah, that fucking -- Daddy *likes* that?"

"Well, he hasn't said anything about it in particular, so... maybe?"

"It feels like you were tickling my *skull* with a freakin' *feather*."

Tim bites his lip to hold back a laugh --

"Jesus, I could kiss you all night *anyway*," Jason says, and proceeds to start doing just that -- but he's also walking Tim out of the entertainment room --

He snags the remote blind and turns off the television --

He kisses Tim into the hall, down the hall -- *damn*. Tim steps back --

"What's wrong?"

"We can't just leave our clothes there, Jay. I mean... um. Eva might kill us."

Jason winces. "Fuck. Your mouth made me forget about Eva."

"Well... it has the power to cloud men's minds."

Jason *snorts* and gives him another friendly shove. "Why don't you take your Shadowmouth to the bathroom and wash it out some? I'll bring your robe back to your room."

There are few pleasures as great as making an incredibly geeky reference and having it not only understood but carried on. It's not that he hasn't had that pleasure before -- it's that he hadn't expected to have it here in *this* moment. It makes it seem even more pathetic that he'd spent so much time with *only* the geek pleasures to call on --

And then he thinks of playing Anakin to Ives' Obi-Wan and all the places he *hadn't* allowed that to go --

And then he realizes that he's standing in a dark hallway smiling *goofily* up at one Jason Todd.

And then he realizes that Jason is smiling goofily right *back* --

He *was* pathetic -- and stupid, and *wasteful* of potential friendship -- but he's doing better now.

Tim takes Jason's hands, kisses them -- "Um. Goodnight."

"Back at you."

By the time Tim is out of the bathroom -- Shadowmouth minty fresh and everything else scrubbed and smelling faintly of the lightly perfumed soap which had just appeared in his bathroom the day his simple anti-bacterial soap had *disappeared* from it -- Jason's room is completely dark. The door is open, but Tim can hear Jason's snores easily enough --

And Lex will only be in *bed* for a few more hours.

Tim puts his robe back on and hurries as decorously as he can --

And opens the door to the sound of a high-pitched and faintly nasal moan that he doesn't realize is his own until he sees his face on the television screen. "Oh... fuck. I actually do sound like that, don't I. It's not just the sound system."

"I love the way you sound," Lex says distractedly, and pats the bed beside him.

Tim raises an eyebrow -- and takes off the robe again before crawling onto the bed. "How would you feel about changing the channel?"

"What do you think it would take for him to try to steal you from me altogether?"


"I have a few *theories*, but... hm. I'll finish watching later," and Lex shuts off the television and turns to face him, cupping Tim's jaw and studying his face, his throat, his body --

"Are you sure I shouldn't be standing up for this?"

"*Did* he spare much attention for your back and ass? It seemed as though he wouldn't."

"Ah... no. Lex --"

"He wants to protect you from me, Tim," and Lex's distracted frown cracks into a wry smile. "It's an odd thing for someone in my position to find common ground with someone in his."

"Does the damsel in distress get a say?"

"Not usually, no. Lie down for me?"

For him -- Tim lies down, bending one leg up and resting his hands on his abdomen --

"No, arms at your sides, please."

Please -- "Yes, Lex."

"You don't -- have to take orders right now."

That. Tim frowns. "Do you think I don't want to?"

Lex's smile is rueful and pained at once. "I wish you'd woken Mercy up."

Tim winces. "She needed time with -- no, that's a lie. I was excited to go talk to Jason."

"And other things?"

"I was surprised by the other things, but less so than I might've been."

"This is a dangerous time for us, darling," and Lex strokes Tim's cheeks with the back of his hand. "What do you suppose I'll do if you leave me?"

"I won't --"

"But if you did."

"Lex --"

"Humor me," he says, and the pained look is back.

"I... would hope that you wouldn't wreak terrible vengeance on me and all that I love."

"You sound like a comic book, Tim."


Lex scowls, and it's so much of a relief that Tim has to rear up and kiss him.

Lex makes a surprised noise -- and then proceeds to kiss Tim down to the bed. He plants one hand on Tim's sternum, straddles Tim, and uses the other hand to grip Tim's hair and *hold* him flat to the bed.

And then the kiss becomes a slow, relentless fuck that makes Tim whimper and squirm and love every *second* of it --

Lex pulls back and licks his lips. "That wasn't a smack."

"What? Oh -- no, sorry, smacking doesn't always come to mind readily."

"Mm, noted. '*Baby*?'"

Tim makes a sour face.

"Yes, 'darling' *is* better, darling."

"Honestly, Lex, you have to admit that the way *he* says it is damned compelling."

"For a boy like you... all right, fine. How will he steal you from me?"

"*Lex* --"

"Is it the word 'steal?' How will he *win* you from me?"

"Insane jealousy will help, I think."

Lex scowls again --

Tim sighs in relief --

"Really? My *pissy* look gets you?"

"You're *thinking* when you're pissy."

"I'm *always* thinking. That's why my dreams are fascinatingly odd -- to me -- and I'm able to do things like pick the perfect man for Bruce *and* you."

"Technically, Mercy picked --"

"Mercy is, among many other things, the extension of my *will*, darling. You know precisely how detailed the instructions I gave her were."

"Have you ever wondered why the extensions of your will are female?"

"I don't think Hope *has* a gender, Tim --"

"I think she does. I -- all right, I don't actually have a reason for that --"

"Yes, you do: It's called being besotted by the prospect of making yet another friend with whom you can be entirely honest."

"I'm not --"

"You are."

"Fine. I'm besotted with Hope and the potentials therein. Jason wants to save me. I really like him. But I don't think he wants to save me from *you* so much as he wants to save me from the man you could be if you ever decided to be *weak*."

Lex searches him, eyes hard and anything but cold -- "Weakness has its attractions."

"*Lex* --"

"Of course you sound scandalized. Think of it this way, Tim -- if I were to let myself be *weak*, I could make it so that Jason had to go to prison for any one -- or more -- of the illegal things he's done. Prisons are brutal places, and while Jason will almost certainly survive, he *will* change... and possibly become someone you can't love. Another weak thing to do would be to insist that you deny your polyamorous nature and focus only on me. A boy like you..." Lex shows his teeth. "It wouldn't take much to convince you that any moments of doubt and loneliness you felt were due to emotional failings on your part. Failings which needed to be *remedied*. I'd teach you that you *didn't* satisfy me, that I'd fallen in love with potential rather than truth... well."

"Is there more?"

"Always, but... you get the gist."

"Yes, I do, but it's meaningless, Lex. You can't do it."

"Tim --"

"*You* can't do it. You just neutralized your own threats. And, if I told you to, you'd neutralize still more of them. You can't help yourself, because you're *allergic* to weakness."

"You're a liability to me."

Tim doesn't flinch. He *does* narrow his eyes and show his own teeth --

Lex strokes Tim's cheekbones with his fingertips. "Very good. I didn't see your first reaction, at all."

"Elaborate, Lex. *Now*."

"You're a liability because, sometimes, emotional weakness is the *only* thing which will allow me to do the things which must be done to advance a given project. With you, I can't stomach the idea of being weak, and so certain projects will fail. *Wither* on the *vine*, as it were --"

"I'm not going to feel guilty about causing you to tank things you'd have to give up on your principles to advance."

"*Principles*, I --" Lex growls and rolls over onto his back --

Tim doesn't *quite* pounce, but he still moves as quickly as he can to straddle Lex, hold him with his knees, hold his *gaze* --

"Tim. You'll never dominate me."

"No, I won't. But I'll damned well *control* you if I have to!"

Lex sucks in a breath, searches Tim again -- "Is this what you needed?"

"I -- what?"

Lex smiles, bright and brilliantly *wide* -- "It *is* what you needed. Of course, it makes sense. Jason is the other end of the spectrum, and even if you don't come to believe that you could have everyone and everything *between* him and me, you'll still know that you *own* the extremes --"

"What are you *talking* about?"

"Your self-*confidence*, darling, and you... yes. Keep it up. You're going to be magnificent."

"Are you. Was that or was that not the world's most ridiculous *fucking* mood swing?"

Lex grins *lazily*. "I'm passionate. A lover. A fighter. A leader. A --"

"A *lunatic*!"

Lex reaches up and strokes down the bridge of Tim's nose --

Which lets Tim know that he'd been flaring his nostrils. Oh... dear. Tim calms himself down as much as possible --

"Oh, don't do that --"

"Lex. I don't *want* to strangle you."

The grin gets brighter. "Are you sure? Baby?"

Tim narrows his eyes --

"Yes, you're right, I don't have anything like the *anything* to use that pet name."

Well -- "So long as you know that."

Lex narrows his *own* eyes -- but the pleasure in the move is unmistakable. He shifts until he can rest his head on his hands. "You want to keep him."

"Well -- yes. He could be -- I think we're going to be good friends."


"Yes, *friends*. He's not -- I like spending time around him. He makes me laugh. The same things seem to be true for him --"

"And you're *exceedingly* sexually compatible."

"Yes, but that's not the whole of the matter, and -- he's not you."

Lex lifts his chin slightly.

Tim reaches out to trace it, to feel the *profound* lack of roughness, stubble --

He could nuzzle Lex with impunity, at any time, and --

It's possible that he's rubbing Lex's chest now. Taking the opportunity to just feel, take -- "You don't often let me touch you."

"You enjoy being restrained," Lex says, and there *isn't* a question in his voice, but there's definitely a hint of one in the general atmosphere.

"Yes, very much. When you do it..." Tim shakes his head and licks his lips, meeting Lex's eyes -- and not pausing his strokes -- "When you do it, Lex, I know that I'm... utterly in your power. That everything I do -- and don't do -- at least has the potential of meeting with your approval."

Lex inclines his head. "It is, in that way, freeing."

Tim smiles. "Yes, Lex."

Lex hums. "And this?"

Tim lets his hands splay on Lex's pectorals, which are hard and... not really lean so much as *efficient*. There's almost no 'extra' flesh, at all. "I feel... daring. And also like I'm asking for some variety of 'it.'"

"Part of the pleasure?"

"Ah... yes and no. Yes, because it adds thrill to the simple animal pleasure of touching you. No, because sometimes I only want the simple animal pleasure."

"And when we're cuddling?"

"Simple and animal. When not tension-inducing and generally worrying."

"You're only soft in a few entirely forgivable -- and reasonable -- ways. I'm willing to bet that even your mother enjoys sharing a bed with your father."

Tim opens his mouth to say *something* to that -- but Lex had already used the word 'marry.'

And his grin has the laziness due to a man who undoubtedly knows exactly what Tim is thinking.

"Lex... do you want me to be a woman?"

"Sometimes," Lex says, easily and casually. "It wouldn't be *too* untoward for the still-youngish CEO to take a young, female lover and eventually wife. I'd still have to keep you a secret for a few years, but *only* for a few. And, of course, eventually I'd convince you to have my child. I'd even let you pick a nanny -- from candidates vetted by Hope and Mercy, of course."

Right. "Ah... and other times?"

"Your mother wouldn't have been able to simply *give* you to me for a summer if you were female. I would've had to seduce you the modern, heteronormative old-fashioned way... and it's entirely possible that your *father* would've reared his perfectly-coiffed head to have a say about that. I might not have gotten the chance to know you -- and give you the things I've given you -- until it was some variety of too late. I *certainly* wouldn't have been allowed to mentor you in any way -- unless both your mother and I decided we were willing to weather a certain amount of *tittery* attention from the media. I wouldn't have known you were worth it, and that... is unacceptable."

"It's... an odd feeling, Lex."

"To know that a part of me wishes you were born into a different body...?"

"Well... yes? I mean, perhaps it shouldn't be --"

Lex presses his fingertips to Tim's mouth.

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"It's reasonable for you to be... nonplussed. Our sexualities are, in one particular way, only barely compatible. I'm never going to be able to look at most males and view them sexually. Because of that -- and because of who I am -- far more males than would be reasonable become objects of potential jealousy. You, on the other hand, are completely incapable of viewing females sexually --"

Tim pulls back. "Gender and sexuality *are* different, Lex."

"And you think I don't know that?"

"I --" Oh. Tim smiles ruefully. "I think it's more that I don't want a lesson about this. Not... tonight."

Lex narrows his eyes... "There are times when I need to teach you."

"There are times when I need to be taught -- specifically by you."

"But not about the nature of jealousy as it stands between us, darling?"

"I... plan on speaking to Mercy tomorrow. I..." Tim shakes his head. "I'm going to worry a great deal when you find a woman who fills more of your needs than the women currently in your life. I'll then feminize myself as much as possible -- I already *want* to --"

"I don't want you doing it unless you either enjoy it or hate it in ways you find entertaining."

That -- "Lex -- I never want you to change."

Lex narrows his eyes and lifts his chin again. "Darling. You've taught me -- in ways I'll find horrifying until the day I die -- that true change is ultimately impossible."

"I -- no -- "

Lex covers Tim's mouth again. "Impossible for me, then. Perhaps I will always be the boy Bruce seduced effortlessly -- certainly it allows me to have *you* -- with a veneer of greater education and experience. You... well. This: May you become exactly who you need to be, and nothing and no one else."

Tim swallows. It feels like the bed -- the *world* -- is shifting beneath his knees --

And Lex's smile is the *privately* inviting one, the smile that belongs solely to the space between *them* --

"I love you. I love you, Lex, and I -- you can teach me anything --"

"Not right now. Let's have... a moment."

"It's just -- I need you. And I want to be the kind of person who would do anything and *be* anything to have you, but I *can't* --"

"You wouldn't be half so diverting if you could, darling."

"*Lex* --"

"Tim. Submit."

Tim grunts and kneels up straight, crossing his wrists behind his back and locking his elbows.

"You submit to me because you want to -- not because it's inherent to who you are. You're mine because you *want* to be -- not because you can't see any other way to be. You..." Lex smiles again, soft and more tired than lazy. "You're a *challenge* -- and if the day comes when that's ever more enervating than *blissfully* desirable, I will order Mercy to shoot me in the head."

Tim winces -- "Please don't -- say things like that. Please."

"Don't worry so much, darling. The clone with my personality engrams will be up and running before then."

That -- Tim makes a face. "I'm reasonably sure that shouldn't be soothing, Lex."

Lex raises an eyebrow.

"Yes, yes, but sometimes should is *useful*. *Morally* useful, even --"

Lex makes a face.

"Morals aren't bad things!"


Tim's penis twitches -- "Yes, Lex."

Lex sits up on one elbow and studies Tim's genitals.

"Ah -- I don't think that was my penis making a request."

"Yes, it really was."

"Oh -- Lex, I'm *sore*. Don't listen to it. Please."

"You want me to not give you an orgasm."

Tim groans -- "I need. To hit the reset button. Of sorts."

Lex cocks his head to the side and smiles fondly. "Perhaps when Mercy realizes what an *odd* teenager you are... no, she'll still want to do mean things to you until you expire from exhaustion, trauma, and existential despair. But you'll be her *favorite* murder victim."

Tim winces *again* --

And Lex strokes Tim's mouth with his index finger. "Don't think about it, darling. It's a new day."

"Is it?"

Lex shows his teeth. "Yes. Because I *will* it to be."

Tim's penis twitches again --

And Lex laughs softly. "You're going to spoon with me."

"And that would involve your penis resting against, say, the small of my back?"

"It *could* be against your --"

"Please! Don't. Please. Unless? Ah?"

"I'm going to get you off before breakfast, but, no, it won't be... involved."

Tim takes a deep breath and closes his eyes -- but just for a moment. "Then I'd appreciate you saving that sort of contact to my ass for later."

Lex narrows his eyes in obvious pleasure. "Come down here and lie on your side facing the door."

"Yes, Lex." And once Tim is settled, Lex turns and shifts until his soft penis is pressed gently against the small of Tim's back.


Tim hums and nods. "I love you --"

"Do you want Jason to fuck you?"

"Yes, Lex. I... thought of the two of you... ah. Double-teaming me."

Lex hums. "Dirty, wonderful boy. Which of us gets your lovely little ass in that scenario?"

Lovely -- "Ah... I believe I'd be *most* delirious if you switched places at some point. Perhaps there could be a condom involved? One which could be removed at a timely moment?"

Lex laughs softly. "He's not getting anywhere near your ass without one, darling. I plan to have a talk with him about the oral."

"Oh -- I didn't --"

"Think about it? No, I imagine you did not. And that's why there will soon be more teenagers with horrific STDs than adults."

"You could always make your pet scientists do something about that."

Lex kisses Tim's temple. "It's adorable that you think there's a cure for human stupidity."

"That wasn't what I was talking --"

"Yes, it was. Ultimately. But, just for you, we'll throw our hats in the AIDS research ring."

Tim blinks -- "I -- you --"

"It's a new day, darling. Go to sleep."

Tim closes his eyes and works on doing just that.


Lex spends precisely two hours in his official office, meeting with the people who either require those trappings, or are the sort of people Lex wouldn't allow in his penthouse -- unless it would mean more power in some way, shape, or form.

The question in his mind for that is predictable: What *would* Tim say about relationships like those?

The simplest answer is that he would disapprove, and that's entirely true. But Tim is no Pollyanna -- disapproval does not automatically ensure a desire for Lex to set aside all relationships of the sort. If Lex were to point out that he receives something from a relationship -- something he couldn't get any other way, or get as *quickly* -- which could be used to, in some way, benefit humanity --

In truth, Lex spends much of the two hours musing on the way Tim had reached up to wrap his arms around Lex's neck after sitting on Lex's lap so easily, so *happily* --

The way Tim had turned to nuzzle him, to whimper shamelessly, to *give* --

The way Tim had cried out and *ground* against him, begging despite what *had* to be *deep* soreness in his ass --

And all that for a handjob.

That *boy* --

Young man? He has the *passions* of a boy -- and somehow the passions of a boy with loving, caring, thoughtful parents --

Lex pauses the elevator on its way up to the penthouse. How on earth had that happened?

Tim *should* have had the romance and sweetness and general love for all things bright and beautiful scoured out of his soul *years* ago.

The simple answer *there* is that Tim has the willpower to keep what he wants to keep about his own personality, but *why* would he use that willpower that way?

Even going with the idea that far too much exposure to so-called superheroes can do unpredictable things...

He was already *nine* when he discovered that the object of his pre-pubescent fantasies was Robin, and that's more than old enough for Tim to have been a dry little *stick* of *repressed* passion.

Instead, learning the truth about Bruce and Grayson had simply added to what was already there...


Is it possible that Janet and Jack Drake had somehow produced a *normal* child before warping it all out of proportion?

How disturbed will Tim *be* if Lex clones him for the sake of scientific inquiry? *Probably* more disturbed than he would be if Lex did it for the sake of real-time pornography --

Which is just one of the things which makes the *boy* disgustingly perfect and the young *man* intoxicatingly *imperfect* --

And Mercy buzzes Lex's implant interrogatively. It's been a long time since Lex had stopped the elevator just to brood... and he's not, actually, brooding now. Lex buzzes her back with the all-clear, starts the elevator again, and ponders on what he'll do about the world's most dangerous prostitute.

He'd made Tim *giggle* this morning, and, while he'd done it by joking good-naturedly about the salutary effect sleeping with Lex had had on Tim --

Tim had been smiling enough at both of them that his facial muscles were clearly paining him --

He'd made Tim giggle, and Lex wants to have been the first person to do that, plain and simple -- and he has no doubt in his mind that Jason *was* the first, not counting whatever noticeably human nannies Tim had had before he'd learned to stop laughing with anything like all of himself --

The doors open, revealing Hope and Mercy. Hope is in white, Mercy is in black, and they very clearly want Lex in a *specific* mood, because they usually just don't *do* that. So.

Lex crosses his arms over his chest and opens his stance. "Report."

"Tim misses Hope," Mercy says, and raises an eyebrow at him like it's *his* fault.

Lex raises one back for a moment and then turns to Hope.

"I don't like leaving him with only... regular security."

"Is he in any specific danger?"

"No, Lex."

"Is he going to enjoy watching the scientists respond to mercenaries in riot gear holding submachine guns?"

Hope cocks her head to the side, blinks once -- "Yes, Lex."

"Does that... touch you in any way?"

"Yes, Lex. I want him to miss me."

Lex turns to Mercy. She has *both* eyebrows up now -- "What is it, Mercy," he says, using his coldest voice.

She narrows her eyes and shows her teeth --

Yes, Lex will make her put the largest plug in *soon*. For now -- "*Talk*."

"He has too much of an effect on the day-to-day business of the household for him to continue to be... free."

Ah, all right. He'll use the largest plug *and* the ingeniously subtle nipple clamps that fit so well under some of Mercy's brassieres. That should make her happy. For now -- "I agree wholeheartedly."

Hope and Mercy both take deep breaths and smile at him.

An average man would quail at this point, but Lex has the strength of his convictions and oh, fuck, they think he just gave the order to murder Tim's parents. Lex pinches the bridge of his nose.

Hope and Mercy frown. Mildly.

"No, I'm afraid not."

"It's the only logical --"

"No, Mercy."

"We would make it look like an accident. A gentle accident."

"He would know, Hope."

Mercy's frown gets deeper; Hope's stays the same.

Lex recrosses his arms. "We're only going to kill *bad* people now."

"By whose definition."

Oh, Hope, you -- yes, well. "My own, as filtered through what Tim can be made to accept should he ever find out -- and we must always assume that he will."

Mercy taps her Banolo'ed foot. Once. "His parents are probably awful people. Just to throw that out there."

"Oh, the mother is a harpy -- no, harpies are too passionate. She's *some* sort of mythological beast, though."

"Grendel's mother," Hope says, and raises a perfectly-shaped eyebrow.

"Yes, I think that does work. Thank you, Hope."

"You're welcome, Lex."

Lex nods and turns back to Mercy. "He's still attached to the idea of being a good son. This will not always be the case, but it is now. The best possible plan of attack is to make sure that he comes to view his parents with as clear an eye and heart as possible. This -- along with everything we're doing to make this place his *true* home -- will cause him to emancipate himself and come to me for good and all."

"Hope -- *we* don't think that's good enough," Mercy says, and crosses her arms behind her back tightly.

"Good enough or *soon* enough?"

Mercy grimaces beautifully -- and then flattens her affect. "Both."

"I see," Lex says, and turns to Hope with an eyebrow raised.

She scans his features twice -- "I don't... want him to ever leave."

And when Hope says 'ever'... right. And really... "The feeling is mutual. However, we must recall who the other adult is who could conceivably take Tim under his wing."

Hope cocks her head to the side.

Mercy frowns -- then blinks --

Hope's nostrils flare -- "He could go to Bruce Wayne."

Mercy growls -- "The bastard would take him. In a heartbeat."

"And then we would have to decide what to do about a Robin to whom both Hope and I were compromised, yes," Lex says, and taps his fingers against his bicep. "You see the difficulty."

Hope wrinkles her nose lightly in the blackest scowl in her repertoire.

Mercy tenses her shoulders enough to be painful -- "What about mind control?"

"His will is too great for it to work without drugs. Unacceptable."

"Brainwashing may cause him to lose some of his... cheerfulness. I would... miss that."

"Yes, Hope, so would I. In the end, there are no truly viable options -- Mercy, *relax*."

Mercy relaxes.

Hope relaxes with her.

"I do, however, have an idea which could speed along Tim's desire to emancipate himself."

"You could make the prostitute move in with us," Mercy says, and her voice is a blend of hope and acute disgust for teenaged masculinity.

"No," Hope says, and turns *minutely* toward Mercy. "The prostitute will help bring Bruce Wayne to heel. This will help neutralize the threat."

Mercy turns *minutely* toward Hope. "We still won't be able to kill Tim's parents."

Hope wrinkles her nose. "Why."

"Tim is one of *them*, Hope."

"No. He is... comprehensible. He does not flinch from me."

Mercy scowls. "All right, he has good points, but --"

"He is not one of them."

"Hope --"

"He is not one of them," Hope says, and shifts her shoulders in the belligerent stance Lex had taught her to use whenever she was feeling something she thought was an emotion related to violence.

Mercy tenses and then *deliberately* relaxes --

And they both turn to him. He has a role to play. He has a role they *need* him to play --

"Are you both *quite* finished."

"Yes, Lex," they say in unison.

"Hope, Mercy will not do anything to harm Tim."

"I am no longer sure of that, Lex," Hope says, and trembles all over *once*.

Mercy sucks in a breath and gives Lex a pleading look --

Lex inclines his head to her. "You may speak."

Mercy turns to Hope and lifts her hands between them, turning them palm up. "I won't do *anything* to hurt him without Lex's order. And Lex is too in love with him to give that order."

"He's my friend," Hope says, and stares down at Mercy's hands. "So are you."

"Meaning you know me and how -- how *sneaky* I am. I know. I'm making it a promise, Hope."

Hope looks up and into Mercy's eyes. "You're... worried about my reactions. My... feelings."

"You're my friend," Mercy says, and smiles ruefully. "I won't hurt *you*."

"Yes. That makes objective sense. You will keep your... hatred of him in check because you care for me."

"Pretty much."

Hope nods once and squeezes Mercy's hands before turning to stand at attention again.

Mercy does the same --

Lex considers taking up the abuse of tranquilizers -- no, that won't do at all. He taps his foot twice. "Are you both ready to hear my idea about acquiring young Mr. Drake?"

"Yes, Lex," Hope says --

Mercy's mouth tightens at the corners.

Lex does not close his eyes. He does, however, count backwards from one hundred and fifty by seventeens -- he's fine. "You're worried that an emancipated Tim will be even more difficult to hold on to."

"Yes, Lex."

Lex sighs internally --

And Hope raises one finger.

"Go on, Hope."

"The answer is simple," Hope says. "We must always give Tim problems to solve. At the moment, the problem he is focused on to the exclusion of nearly everything else is his own ignorance of the science behind cloning. If Lex orders his scientists to always work on projects on the proverbial leading edge of human knowledge, Tim will be compelled to learn from them. I believe his parents frowned on such things."

Lex inclines his head to Hope. "That, in a nutshell, is what we'll be doing along with the diabolically *interesting* projects: subtly insuring that Tim comes to view his parents as hidebound, domineering, and ultimately negative influences on the man he wishes to become. At the moment, he has fallen into a pattern of mostly pushing thoughts of his upbringing aside when something happens which would force him to acknowledge how ridiculously awful it was. We must strive to -- quietly, carefully, and measuredly -- make him face those memories."

Mercy nods thoughtfully. "I don't... I think he'd see me coming."

Hope blinks once. "He won't see me, at all, I don't think."

Mercy shows her teeth. "He thinks you're *innocent*."

Lex hums. "Eva was of some help with that."

"Did you order her to do that?"

"Not even a little bit. She took it upon herself."

Hope cocks her head to the side. "Sometimes I believe Eva is more... frightening than we are."

Mercy snorts. "That's because she *is*."

Hope straightens her head and nods once before focusing on Lex.

Lex nods and turns to Mercy. "Are your concerns answered?"

"I still think it would be better if you were to find a way to keep him slaved."

Lex spreads his hands. "You already know that some people aren't designed for that sort of thing. And I already know that you wish that I wouldn't deal with those people, at all."

Mercy bows her head in acknowledgment and thanks.

Lex reaches out, grips her jaw in the most painful places, and lifts her head. "He's going to want to discuss jealousy with you today. Put in the mauve plug, attach the work clamps, masturbate in front passenger seat of the Rolls, and meet him at Cadmus. Begin studying him with a mind to figuring out how you'll be able to help with the plan."

"Yes, Lex."

"Dismissed," he says, and lets go, watching her move at *just* the right pace to her sleeping quarters.

The right pace to remind him of how beautiful she is.

Lex hums and turns to Hope. "You'll go with Mercy to Cadmus, take the mercenaries' undoubtedly boring report, and relieve them. While Mercy is speaking with Tim, you will continue to get to know him. When you... surmise that the time is right, you will ask him something about his parents. Perhaps something about travel -- since they've been doing that without him since he made the choice to leave Janet's womb. To relieve the inevitable tension from *that*... you will have him speak to you about the clones."

"Yes, Lex."

"Dismissed," and it's far too short of a walk for her to get to the elevator, but Lex enjoys it while it's happening.

He wonders how much of that conversation counts as evil rather than romantic. He...

Jason would *probably* never try to manipulate Tim into never leaving him. Jason would probably just *say* "never leave me."

And there is a certain appeal to that sort of thinking -- for all that it guarantees that the lover in question will *always* see you coming --

No, it's not just for his own benefit that he wants Tim out from under his emotional attachment to the elder Drakes. They'd done terrible things to Tim's sense of self-worth. They've been self-absorbed and cruel. They --

They've damaged him, and they can't be allowed to damage him *more*. Even if Tim *didn't* move in with Lex after emancipating himself, it would still be good for him to do it. *Right*.

Infuriating, but right.

Lex smiles ruefully at no one at all, promises Tim the best of all possible mea culpas if the manipulation *does* count as some variety of *too* evil, and heads down to the gym, where Jason has been for the last hour, according to Mercy.

The first thing Lex notices when he gets to that floor is the noise. More specifically, the *wall* of electric guitar-centric music blasting loud enough to make Lex sure that his clothes are rippling against his body.

Apparently, Jason has found the stereo system.

Happily, he's found Lex's Clash CDs, too.

Lex wonders if he's the sort of boy who'd be impressed by the fact that Lex still owns that particular album in vinyl, but mostly he wonders when he'd gotten old enough that this volume counts as too loud.

He sighs to himself, moves to turn it down, and *then* checks --

Jason is doing chin-ups on the bar. His form is surprisingly perfect... hm. "You have a good gym in your neighborhood?"

"For boxers, yeah. Heh. Should I apologize about the noise?"

Lex smiles and leans against the wall nearest Jason. "When I was your age, that was one of my favorite albums."

"And that would explain why I know it from the oldies station. I don't know, I don't think that should count as oldies."


"Nah. Oldies should be, like, doo-wop or something. Sha-la-la and all that."

"I believe it's 'sha *na* na,' but yes, I see what you're saying. I don't listen to the radio. Does the station still market itself as a place for oldies? Or is it something more gentle to aging men's sensibilities?"

Jason looks thoughtful -- "Hunh. I usually never pay attention to things like that, but yeah, they use the phrase 'classic rock' more often than anything else. Which is fucked, because that shouldn't count as classic rock, either."

"Agreed. Was it still oldies when you were young?"

"Uh, huh. My mom loved it *and* the classic rock station, which was something different entirely," Jason says, and "one sec."


Jason slows himself down very deliberately for his last ten chin-ups, maximizing the exercise for himself. If he's due to grow any more than he already has, he'll be massive.

And, yes, Tim had enjoyed that size very much indeed.

Jason jumps down, grabs a towel, and wipes himself down. "Whew. Okay. How pissed *are* you about me and Tim?"

"I did tell him to do it, Jason."

"Heh, yeah, not the question I asked."

And no, Mercy couldn't have chosen better if she'd tried. Lex inclines his head. "I'm less pissed than worried, to be perfectly honest."

Jason blinks -- probably for the honesty. "Hey, I'm not trying to poach your boy or anything. I like him, I wanna be friends with him, and I wanna sometimes have a whole lot of sex with him. Don't you have multiple lovers of your own?"

"Oh, yes, but I never claimed not to be a hypocrite."

Jason raises his eyebrows at him and lets his hands hang from the ends of the towel. "I'm thinking he wouldn't be so gone for you if you let *that* show."

"You really believe he's 'gone' for me."

"Yeah, and so do *you*. If you didn't, you wouldn't have let me near him."

Lex smiles and shakes his head. "You were a miscalculation, Jason. I chose you to be the kind of man Bruce Wayne would find irresistible, and neglected to think deeply enough about the fact that the Bruce I knew a generation ago has a great deal in common with the Tim I know now. I recognized quickly that he would find you desperately attractive, but not quickly enough for my tastes."

Jason blows out a breath. "Okay, I'm thinking we should maybe be sitting down for this conversation? Unless you're booting me out the door, I mean."

"No, I still need you, and Tim wants you. I am always going to try to give Tim what he wants."

"And what he needs?"

"Even better. There are comfortable chairs by the pool."

Jason gestures. "Lead the way, Daddy."

Lex hums and does just that.

At the pool, Jason chooses the lounge chair with the green stripes, sits down, and takes off his sneakers before lying back. Lex takes the red one facing it and takes off his shoes, too.

"Okay, so, here's the deal."

Lex folds his hands on his abdomen. "I'm listening."

"I'm thinking that -- no matter *what* you told Tim -- it's just a little too fucking weird for me to be fucking Tim in your house."

"I don't want you anywhere else."

"You don't want me to *escape* before I've been *useful*, you mean. I know that, but still. I'm saying I'm willing to cool it until Tim and I are back in Gotham."

Lex blinks once, then hates himself for it because he knows it calls to mind some of his father's most lizard-like expressions. Still -- "You're truly that noble."

"Hey, *I'm* not fifteen. It's no skin off my cock to wait a few months and not be an asshole."

"I... plan on doing everything in my power to convince Tim to live here."

"Can you really -- no, fuck that, of course you can," and Jason laughs and shakes his head. "Look, you obviously know you can't put him in a fucking box."

"I do know that, and..." Lex sighs and laughs again. "Forgive me. I've been talking to my bodyguards. They're waiting impatiently for me to order Tim's parents messily killed so I can hurry up and adopt him."

Jason looks appropriately horrified.

"I'm not actually going to do it. The only thing the Drakes have done to me is wound the boy I love, and who's to say how much I would love him if they hadn't?"

"Uh... that's fucked. Just to let you know."

"Noted. You're welcome in my homes for as long as you make Tim happy. The day you stop --"

"I get a bullet in the head?"

"As satisfying as that would be -- assuming you made him *that* unhappy -- I sincerely doubt that that sort of solution would ever appeal to Tim."

"And that's your primary focus right about now, yeah?"

Lex inclines his head.

"What happens to me when that *stops*? Hell, what happens to *Tim*?"

Lex turns to look at the water -- no. He meets Jason's eyes. "In the course of my life, I have stopped loving exactly one person, and that one person did more unforgivable -- *unimaginable* -- things, to me and to the rest of the world, than Tim will ever be capable of in his wildest, most compelling nightmares."

Jason's expression is profoundly skeptical.

"I could give you a list of the things he did for the sake of the business, but that would be leaving out the things he did for *fun*."

"So you're saying he was worse than you."

"My father --"

"Your *father*? Uh -- no, wait, keep talking. I'm listening."

Lex nods once. "The way I was finally able to trick him into putting himself into a vulnerable enough position to be killed --"

"Jesus fucking -- why are you *telling* me this?"

"Because you want Tim badly enough to look for ways to stay in his life. Tim is *always* going to be a part of my life -- whether or not he decides to leave me someday -- and so you need to know the basics."

"The -- basics. Uh. Does *he* know about this?"


And Jason doesn't *quite* flinch, but -- it's there in him. It's there.

"Don't... think less of him for being able to forgive that."

"I'm not --" Jason cuts himself off and shakes his head once. "Look, I don't fucking *deal* with people who *hurt* other people. That's one of the ways I fucking *survived* out there."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "Are you saying there's no one you thought the world would be better off without? The rumors Mercy followed about you strongly suggested that you tended to act as the protector for people you met on the street. That suggests there were people you protected your loved ones *from*, Jason."

"Yeah, and so do my fucking scars, I know. Fucking A, *Daddy*, hell yes there are people who need to die out there, but it's not supposed to be *easy* to make that choice."

"Have you ever killed, Jason?"

Jason scowls but doesn't say a word.

"Was there ever someone you couldn't simply beat into submission? Someone with a gun? Someone with friends? Someone with both? You're comfortable enough to be taking in the proverbial stray from time to time, which -- given your lifestyle -- means you're either stupidly overconfident, incomprehensibly lucky, or very, very skilled. Can you guess where I'm laying my money?"

For a moment, Jason's expression is darker than anything Mercy could ever manage. The *seethe* of rage there --

"You know I won't judge you --"

"It shouldn't ever be fucking *easy*. That's all. Every -- every fucking life I've taken has meant someone else mourning, someone else crying, someone else with -- with a fucking *hole* in their lives --"


"Don't pretend you've *ever* fucking thought about that --"

"I have... but not for my father."

Jason rears back. He's gripping the arms of the chair hard enough to make them creak warningly --

He squeezes *harder* for a moment --

And then he blows out a breath, squeezes his eyes shut, and breathes slowly and evenly. That...

"You don't actually let that rage out when you're killing someone, do you."

Jason doesn't move for a long moment, but then he opens his eyes and gives Lex a level look. "I did the first time."

"And you almost got caught."


Lex nods once. As it is, Mercy had informed him of rumors about a Crime Alley 'ghost' who made all the worst problems in that cesspit... disappear. Tim had probably been mere weeks from starting to stalk *that* rumor, and -- yes. "Tim would be missing something vital without you in his life, and so I'm glad you managed to get away clean. I won't say I realized that quickly -- I didn't -- but I've realized it now. You gave him something I couldn't."

Jason frowns, then nods once. "What did he do to you? Your father, I mean."

"Insulted me, berated me, used his money to manipulate me, used his influence to either chase away or suborn the people I tried to make my friends, laughed at my principles, scarred my flesh --"

"*Physical* abuse?"

Lex smiles. "With a saber -- a fencing sword."

"Jesus. I didn't really think -- uh."

"That that sort of thing happened among the wealthy?"

"Well -- yeah. Because I'm a fucking idiot sometimes. You -- what else?"

"The very last thing he did was seduce the woman he thought I was in love with out from under me, and then, after allowing me to walk in on him making her ride him, he whisked her off for a romantic weekend."

"Uh. Is it okay if I fucking *puke*? Had he done that shit before? Like -- actually fucking the people you cared about, I mean."

"When he saw that I had become Bruce's lover, he teased him in highly sexual ways and then, after sending me off to run an errand, proceeded to act like a hypereducated frat boy. That's where I got the idea."

"The idea -- oh. Oh, shit. The woman was Mercy."

"That wasn't her name at the time, of course -- I've erased that woman's identity as much as humanly possible -- but yes. I pretended I felt about her the same way I felt about Bruce. I had her hide -- to the best of her abilities -- her vicious streak. We learned together."

Jason covers his face with his hands and rubs at his eyes. "That's cold, Lex. That's -- I don't think I could ever be that cold."

"Probably not, no. It isn't meant for everyone."

Jason drops his hands. "Are you sure it was meant for you?"

Lex smiles ruefully. "I've enjoyed living a softer life with Tim."

"Because that's what you call softer. Right." Jason shakes his head. "Don't fuck with him, Lex."

"No Daddy for that --"

"Don't. Fuck with him. Just -- never even mind how much I like him. He's good for your fucking *soul*."

Lex sighs and plucks at the crease in his pants. "Yes, he is. I'm always going to try to give him what he needs."

"Are you sure you're gonna be able to separate that from what *you* need?"

"No. But I'm going to try -- and I'll have people like you to help me by reminding me how easily I can lose him."

"It *won't* be easy, though. Not for either of you. He's your second -- and probably fucking *last* chance. *You're* the first human who ever let him *be* human. He's not gonna fuck with you, so return the favor."

Hm. "What would you do if a loved one needed to face a certain inalienable truth but was avoiding it like the plague itself?"

"Drag him -- or her -- to it by the fucking hair. And if that didn't work..." Jason shakes his head again. "You can't be with people who won't be honest with themselves. Not really."

"They... hurt themselves and those around them."


Lex steeples his fingers. "Would you try to do it slowly and gently at first? One small hurt at a time?"

Jason frowns. "You know you're starting to fuckin' worry me, right?"

Lex laughs softly. "His parents never loved him, as opposed to loving the idea of him. I'm frankly not sure his mother loves even that, considering how she speaks about him."

"You've had actual conversations with her and everything."

"Two. One to arrange this summer, the other to figure out what in fuck's name she'd done to her son and to plant the seeds for making his presence in my life more permanent."

"So, she's really that bad."

"I think she and my father would have, between them, produced a being so evil and fundamentally broken that I would be forced to believe in the supernatural."

Jason coughs a laugh. "Fuck, all right, all right. So what you're saying is that you're trying to get *him* to start hating his parents."

"The actual goal is for him to reach something as close to indifference as possible. Hate would be too far in the other direction -- it would steal his energy and darken his moods... no, I want him to come to a clear and steady understanding of his parents' worthlessness as both parents and guardians and to move on from there."

Jason smiles wryly. "Like you did?"

"I never did. I vowed to never become my father and focused on that goal so powerfully that some of him began to creep into me slowly and steadily."

"Uh. Good that you know that?"

Lex offers his own smile. "Yet another recent discovery. It hadn't reached the point where it bothered Hope and Mercy, so I didn't notice it, at all. If it had reached that point, it might've been too late to do anything about it."

"What *are* they to you?"

Lex takes a deep breath and closes his eyes for a moment to better visualize the woman brash enough to walk into a leather bar in jeans and a battered denim vest over a plain black t-shirt, the swing of her long, simply-fashioned braid, the challenge in her eyes that had been sharp enough to -- nearly -- make Lex jump before he'd recovered his poise.

Had she seen that?

If so, she'd forgiven him for it quickly enough... Lex opens his eyes again. "More than once, I've fantasized about being more... traditionally involved with Mercy. The one and only time I shared those thoughts with her, she recoiled from my touch, disappeared for a week, then broke into the LexCorp building -- demolishing my security with only a nightstick and a hunting knife -- crawled to me on bloody knees... and explained to me how our relationship was going to work by the simple expedient of not saying or doing anything else until I figured it out for myself. So it goes. She follows my every order with the same fanatical degree of attention no matter how frivolous or frightening. In return, I do my level best to quash every impulse within myself which would force her to act more like my wife than my adjunct."

Jason nods thoughtfully. "Yeah, everybody with a *little* education knows that it's the sub who always runs the show. But -- you love her?"

"I never really put those feelings into words. To be frank, I'm afraid to."

Jason raises his eyebrows.

Lex spreads his hands. "If I love her, then she should be more -- or possibly 'more' -- than just my strong right arm. Shouldn't she?"

"I would've thought you would've answered that question by now, Daddy."

"Maybe I just don't want to spoil the magic. Hope?"

Jason snorts and folds his hands behind his head. "Yeah, sure. I only got about *half* a look at her this morning, but that was enough to let me know that if you'd sent her instead of Mercy, I probably would've been one dead fucking hooker."

"No, but you would've had more internal bruising."

"Right, of course, she wouldn't damage me too much while you still needed me. *And* she probably wouldn't even take it out on me *after* I used up my usefulness, because that would require having a soul of some kind behind those gorgeous eyes."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "You find her attractive."

"You *picked* her for that. In part, anyway."

"Mercy picked her. As my head of security, she was uniquely situated to notice the gaps *in* my security."

"You need more than one woman for that. No matter *how* hardcore she is."

Lex smiles. "How about a woman capable of choosing and training mercenaries so well that the number of assassination attempts which get close enough to be noticed by the subject drop to zero? She has, of course, saved my life directly a few times, but her genius is in her ability to frighten away the weak and inspire the strong to become stronger still -- if only to avoid being visited by her in the night. She also writes training *manuals*."

Jason shakes himself like a dog. "Okay, fine, she's good on top of good. How do you *feel* about her? How *can* you feel about her?"

"A part of her... soul, for lack of a better word, was brutally removed from her at a young age. I... identify, I suppose. I imagine if I'd had a brother, my father would've found ways to pit us against each other in much the same way Hope's parents pitted her against *her* brother. There's also the fact that she's both vastly intelligent and vastly incapable of reaching her full potential due to emotional ignorance. She is fascinating to speak with, and I've often spent hours doing just that. I learn from her, and she learns from me. That's the sort of relationship I've craved from a young age  --"

"You're still talking *around* it, Daddy."

Lex sighs. "I suppose I am. In the end, she, Mercy, and Tim make up the only family I've known since my mother's death. It's to Hope's and Mercy's credit -- and not even remotely to my own -- that I honestly believed that I was entirely happy and satisfied before I met Tim. I believed I had everything I needed."

Jason waggles his head back and forth. "Family works, I guess."

"Are the people you protect your family?"

Jason frowns. "Sometimes. I... some people don't try hard enough to get to a better place."

"Some people think the only 'better place' is somewhere beyond the grave."

"See, and that's fine for the religious types, and they're annoying enough, but what do you fucking do with people who still act like that but don't even have the excuse of worshiping some god?"

"Cut them out of your life and move on as quickly as possible."

Jason snorts. "Yeah, why am I *not* surprised that's your answer? C'mon, we're talking about people who are friendly, kind, open, loving, smart *most* of the time, funny... the whole nine."

"If they're not reaching forward -- if they are, in fact, reaching *back* with both *hands* hanging onto nothing but *garbage* --"

"Or the fucking street as the case may fucking *be*." Jason blows out a breath and scratches the back of his head. "You sure it's okay for me to be sweating on this chair?"

"It's made of perfectly washable materials... though that reminds me of something else I wanted to talk to you about."

Jason's smile is sly and sharp. "I checked out clean of absolutely everything two months ago... and Tim's the only one I've hooked up without a condom. Now, unless you're about to tell me you picked up fucking herpes while you were partying to 'Rock the Casbah'..."

Lex laughs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "It was almost certainly a very *near* thing, but I managed to avoid that particular fate. You'll wear a condom when you're fucking him."

Jason salutes. "Mercy didn't actually let me pack mine, though, so you're gonna have to either let me out --"

"I'll have one of my secretaries buy you a case."

"How many do you *have*?"

"Two at the highest level. Sixteen subordinate to those two. I make up mnemonics to remember their names and basic facts about them."

"Better you than me, I guess. Seriously, though. The tailoring session this morning was fucking creepy and I need some sunlight that isn't filtered through whatever you got in these windows to protect *your* skin."

Jason is, of course, just that observant. "There's a garden on the roof that Tim hasn't actually seen yet..."

"And now you're using your boy to entice me to stay inside? Seriously, how far do you think I'd even *get*? This *isn't* my city."

"I have to admit that I'm mostly just fucking with you at this point... but."

"It's only mostly, I hear you," Jason says, and crosses his legs. "Still, it's not like you can guarantee I'll perform the way you want me to when Mr. Man shows up."

"Fifty thousand dollar bonus if, within an hour of introducing yourself, he has begun to ignore everyone else at the party."

Jason stares at him.

Lex smiles.

"Fuck it, I can live with the hay fever from whatever plants you've got up there if Tim is blowing me."

"Many things become more palatable with such prospects in the offing, yes."

Jason makes a face. "Too fucking prissy."

"I *am* a rich fuck, Jason."

"Well, *yeah*, but you don't have to act like one."

Lex inclines his head. "That's fair. Back to your questionable friends --"

"Acquaintances, mostly, and -- wait. *Why* didn't Mercy let me pack my condoms?"

"She's hoping you give Bruce something painful and incurable."

"Heh. Like love?"

"Right now, Mercy is sneering while fingering the butt of her gun, and she doesn't know why."

"Eh, she can probably guess at this point. But yeah, my acquaintances who aren't trying to do anything to get out of their bad fucking situations. I -- shit, who the fuck am I to judge? I didn't *have* to stay on the street. The city doesn't kick you out until you're eighteen."

"How *are* the... orphanages? Group homes?"

"Group homes, yeah. And they're pretty fucking awful. Roaches one week, rats the next, bedbugs the *next*. Kids from all kinds of fucked-up situations, none of them getting anything like personal care from therapists and shit. Enough food, but all of it's cheap and nasty. Kids who'll steal from you, beat the shit outta you, and maybe rape you. The social workers usually try hard, but half of them are on the bottle or worse because they're so damned depressed. Other shit, too, but -- I still would've had a good chance to graduate from high school the real way and I maybe would have some work experience, too."

Hm. "Do you want a job?"

"Uh. Doing *what*?"

"I don't know yet. Do you read?"

"What do you mean, do I fucking read?"

Lex gives Jason something of a look. "Six months ago I had to fire an *executive* in the marketing department who was secretly forcing her secretary to do all of her reading for her. She'd caught the secretary committing some petty theft and was holding it over her head. The executive in question had faked her college records and nearly everything else -- fooling everyone for *years*. So. I'm asking you --"

Jason sighs. "Fine, yes, I *know how to fucking read*."

"How are you with guns?"

"I can shoot straight. I try to fucking *avoid* it, but I can do it."

"Better with knives."

"Yeah. My mom taught me when she was still alive."

Lex nods and considers. "What do you *want* to do with your life?"

Jason -- blushes, and it's sudden and deep enough that Lex starts to wonder if he's going to say something about an abiding love for ballet, or perhaps stamp-collecting.

Lex fixes his expression to something blandly curious --

"Yeah, now I know I got you worried. Show me your *real* expression."

Lex laughs. "Fine. Just tell me it's not human taxidermy."

"Augh. Don't even tell me why that was one of the first things that came to mind for you. No, seriously, I just... I like working with cars. Old cars, new cars, trucks, compacts, foreign, American -- anything. Everything. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been when I've been up close -- or better yet under the *hood* -- of a real nice car. We never had one when I was coming up. I *still* haven't had one -- not that you really need 'em in Gotham. Anyway."

Oh... Lex drums his fingers on his thigh. "You're good at it."

"There's a lot I still need to learn. Every car is different, you know? You take two cars, right? Even if they're the same make and model, even if they've both been driven by little old ladies from, like, *Duluth*, even if they're both fucking lime *green* --"

"They're different."

"*Hell*, yes. They've been on different roads in different weather. They've been filled up with different brands of gasoline and oil. They've been rear-ended by different cars. They -- it's all different. And you gotta *treat* 'em different, otherwise you wind up screwing whichever little old lady the car in question belongs to, and I don't actually *have* that kink."

Lex coughs. "Noted."

Jason winks at him. "Yeah, so, anyway. How many cars *do* you own?"

"Eight, and, before you ask anything, much of what I know about them boils down to 'they're very, very pretty.'"

"Aw, man, that's *weak*!"

"Jason. I wear lavender linen suits by choice. I'm *allergic* to motor oil."

Jason snickers and makes pushing motions. "Okay, okay. Fuckin' A. How gay are you, anyway?"

Lex raises an eyebrow. "Probably a Kinsey one."


"A researcher who focused on human sexuality. If you're a Kinsey zero, you've never so much as had a stray sexual thought about someone of the same gender. You may have done thought exercises, but that's it. A Kinsey six is about as gay as gay can be."

"Okay, I guess that would explain why no rumors about you trickled down to my little corner of the universe. You... it's not an act, at all, is it? The purple everything, the colored eyebrows and eyelashes, the 'darling,' all of that?"

Lex smiles. "I used to believe it was. I was... flamboyant as a teenager. I used the dirt I'd gotten on the Master of Students at my school to get away with as much glam as possible -- do you even know what glam means?"

"Uh... like... David Bowie? Ish?"

"A good enough example, especially since everyone knew by the early eighties that it was *mostly* just an act for him. I pretended to be a Kinsey three point five, alternately hitting on and insulting everything male that happened across my path while at boarding school. Since the only females there ninety-nine percent of the time were dorm mothers and a seriously repressed lesbian of an English Literature professor, this took up a lot of my time. I put it all aside when I took over what was then LuthorCorp... and discovered, in time, that I missed it powerfully."

Jason smiles and shakes his head. "See, that makes me happy that you're as much of a rich fuck as you are. It's just fucking wrong for flamboyant types not to be able to let it all hang out."

Lex tilts his head to the side and smiles back. "I don't suppose I could convince you toward the use of a little eyeliner for the party...? Subtle, I promise."

"Uh, Lex? Eyeliner is never subtle on a guy. Just -- never."

"If I put you in a clown suit --"

"I don't think you *can* pay me enough for that."

"Don't tempt me."

"To putting me in a fucking --" And then Jason looks stricken. "Aw, no, no. *That's* not his kink, is it? I fucking *hate* clowns!"

"I imagine he would settle for you as a mime."

"No! No, no, *no*, there are some lines I can't fucking *cross*, Lex --"

Lex bites his lip.

"You're fucking with me."

Lex nods.

"I'll be a fucking *evil* mime and pop a *cap* in your hairless ass," Jason says, crossing his arms over his chest and scowling.

Does your hatred of clowns extend to outfits with red-gold-and-green color schemes? Yes? No? No, he's not going to share that secret yet. He *has* to know if Bruce will be far gone enough to share it *himself* -- no, think of something else. "When I wound up having to wait to have my Jaguar repaired --"

"Aw, those things are fucking FORDs."


"Fix-Or-Repair-Daily. Go on."

"Hm. Tim seems to like it, but --anyway. When I wound having to wait longer than I wanted to, I bought the garage in question and put them on retainer to only repair my vehicles and the vehicles of people I like. Later today, I'm going to task them to find and restore an appropriately stunning muscle car -- preferably from the seventies -- as a present for Tim. Think about joining them."

"Uh. Working for you."




"You want me in *Gotham*!"

Lex shrugs. "You're young enough that a weekend commute won't kill you. And, yes, you can bring your dog. Mercy will occasionally hiss at it, but not where you'll be able to see her doing it."

Jason's laugh is breathless and shocked. "You're serious."

Lex nods once.

"You -- a *real* job."


"Fuckin' A. And like, you'd theoretically let me leave the building eventually, yeah?"

Lex smiles. "Theoretically. Don't push it, though."

"Anything you say, Daddy. And hey, if I'm your mechanic then I look less like the ringer you're throwing at your ex, yeah?"

"Leave the evil masterminding to those of us who are good at it --"

Jason flips him off --

Lex grins. "But that *could* help, yes."

"Nah, you're right, he pretty much has to see me coming. You're counting on me looking *just* like what his cock wants."

"And his heart, as well."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm awesome. Who else has this guy been hooking up with? You, his former fucking ward -- and that's so ass I can't even deal -- who else?"

"Officially -- any number of debutantes and socialites. Unofficially, there are no rumors about his kinks, his quirks, his body -- nothing. The handful of women I've had interviewed remember absolutely nothing about their dates with the man."

"Uh. Is he fucking *roofie*-ing them?"

"If he is, then he isn't doing anything noticeable to them while they're out."

Jason makes another face. He looks a lot more ill, this time, and --

And --

He doesn't need Jason to *like* Bruce. The *opposite* is necessary, but if Jason is too disgusted not to show it --

Bruce will be able to *read* him --

Bruce had probably known that Lex was behind his father's death before he'd even met Lex's *eyes* --

Damn, damn, damn. "Jason --"

"Hey, no, don't fucking worry. I'll *do* my job."

"I have no questions about your work ethic, but..."

Jason looks at him from under his lashes. "My performance, right? Fuck. How's this," and Jason turns away for a long moment, breathing deeply and slowly --

He turns back --

And his smile is bright and wide, lazy and sharp as he takes Lex in. "Hey."

Really. "Hello, yourself, darling. What's your name?"

Jason shrugs and lifts his eyebrows. "You got a preference?"

Very good -- "Honesty."

The pout is a little much -- but it's a self-*aware* pout. Impressive --

"I don't play games," Lex says, and remembers the *ice* in Bruce's eyes when Lex had batted his lashes just a little too much --

"No? Not any?"

"Please. Tell me your name."

("*Lex*. I'm not -- I won't -- tell me something *true*!")

"Heh, sure. I'm Jason. And you're...?"

"Lex. Where are you from, Jason?"

Narrowed eyes, what certainly appears to be raw calculation --

("I don't know what I'll do after... after graduation. I suppose I've never truly been as focused as the rest of you.")

"Here, there. You know. I get around."

Lex smiles. "I imagine you do. May I offer you a drink?"

"Just something non-alcoholic. I don't like gettin' drunk."

("Yes, but I still don't see the *appeal* of intoxication, Lex. There's so much to be seen, so much to *learn* --")

"Did you come to this party alone?"

Jason... glitters at him. "Yes and no. Lex paid me a whole bunch of money to get close to you, Tim -- the little guy over there dressed like something out of a cabaret --"

"Ooh. *Good* thought. Go on."

"Yeah, be gentle on the kid, Daddy. He's young. Where was I?" Jason narrows his eyes, parts his lips -- and glitters again. "The little guy over there? We're fucking like crazy pretty much whenever we get a chance. But no, I don't have a date."

Lex frowns drunkenly. "I... don't think I understand, tiger."

"Don't you? Look, if you want honesty outta me --"

"I do."

Jason frowns thoughtfully. "You think it'll be that easy?"

"Yes, but, no, I can't actually be sure. Go with it."

Jason nods and blows out a breath. "Okay, then. Act like ya know."

Lex narrows his eyes. "What kind of intelligence would you like me to fake, Jason?"

("*How* can I trust you, Lex? You lie every minute of every *day* --")

Not to you --

Not *just* to you --

And Jason is laughing and shaking his head. "God, B -- can I call you that? I mean, we're gonna be close and all."

("Are we friends, Lex? What does this mean? This touch, *this* moment -- what are they in your eyes?")

Fuck. Lex waves a hand. "You passed."

"The best lies, yadda fucking yadda. I pretty much treat all new guys like johns."

"That's how you -- hm."

"Think about it, Daddy -- it's a *guy*. He's gonna find some way to let you know if he wants a courtesan, a whore, a buddy, a Daddy, a boy -- whatever. That little performance gets it out of 'em quick. *You* just threw me with the whole kidnapping thing."

Lex blinks. "I'm sure you'll be prepared for the next assassin."

"Damn fucking right. When I get home, I'm goin' *right* to the store for some Female Assassin Repellent. I heard they make some that smells like cookies."

Lex snorts. "I almost wish you were my type."

"I *don't*. No offense, Daddy, but you're a little fucking stressful."

"None taken. Tim wants a threesome."

Jason blows out another breath and nods. "Yeah, I can see it." He gives Lex another under-the-lashes look. "We could rock his fucking world."

"That was my thought, yes."

"He said you were planning to whip him today."

Lex smiles and closes his eyes for a moment. "He came as soon as I told him."


"I can't decide whether I love the internet or hate it in this case."

"Yeah, you *could've* taught him all these kinks yourself."

"And that would've been... beautiful," Lex says, and sighs. "Still, the alternative is wondrous to behold."

"You ever wonder just what kind of porn he *saves* to his hard drive?"

Lex shakes his head. "It's Tim, and it's a question of security. He deletes every last bit of it."

Jason frowns. "He said he took a lot of pictures --"

"He deleted them all before he came here, and reformatted his hard drives."

Jason winces -- "Harsh. But -- he *did* save it all before. Maybe it's the same with his porn."

"Or maybe those pictures of all those brave, dashing, suicidally-dressed heroes *were* his porn."

"Uh. Seriously?"

Lex taps his fingertips against each other. "At least some small part of him will always be in love with Robin."

"See, I would think Batman would be more his type. Big, smart -- hunh. Never mind."

Lex raises an eyebrow.

"Daddy, you know exactly how manly you *aren't*."

And you're going to find out in just a few days how much I have in common with Batman. Still -- Lex spreads his hands again. "True."

"You get down like this with Bruce?"

"I... wasn't as aware of my kinks then as I am now."

"Which is *almost* an answer. C'mon, what's he into?"

"I'm the one who took his virginity, so... I don't know. There's a lot of water under the proverbial bridge."

Jason gives him an intensely skeptical look.

("I think, sometimes -- I know you're *passionate*, Lex. I know you feel things, *believe* things. I know there must be something true about you, something *real* --")

"He'll be able to read you better than I can, and... he won't want to do anything you don't want to do --"

"Well, *that's* a fucking problem."

Lex laughs a little more. "You'll want him, I think."

"Lex --"

"I won't ask you to trust me. I'll just ask you to remember your work ethic."

"How *are* we gonna do the camera thing?"

That -- Lex waves a hand. "I've decided we won't even try, because --" Bruce has access to even more toys than I do. "It just won't work. Get close to him. Make him lose a little cohesion. Make him open up. Make *friends*, and, above all, make him think you can be seduced away from your job."

"So I *am* breaking his heart."

Tim's eyes speak of blue-grey skies, approaching storms, and other things more suited to Bruce's turns of speech than Lex's own. Their gaze is on him now, heavy and pleading, sharp and demanding, desperate and *needy* --

"When the time comes -- and we'll discuss this -- you're going to point out to him that there are a few things I want. Whether or not that breaks his heart... well, we'll just have to see."

Is that enough, Tim? Let it be. Please.

Lex gives in and rubs at his temples. It won't do anything about the phantom voices or the all-too-real eyes, but it's soothing enough.

"So, happier things?"

Lex hums and looks up again. "What *is* your brand of condoms?"

"Spartan Slip 'n' Slides, otherwise known as the savior of my misspent youth, Daddy."

"Excellent choice," Lex says, and calls it in. He tells Samuel to do the shopping personally -- thus ensuring that rumors will burgeon and swirl. Depending on how long it takes for the rumors to get back to him -- and what shape the rumors take -- he'll either have Hope sweat the man until he confesses weepily, or he'll make a point of not torturing him for at least a month.

"You know, sometimes you actually make evil mastermind *face*."

"It makes Mercy wet and Tim glassy-eyed."

Jason snorts. "Yeah, okay, worth it. How are we gonna do him?"

"You mentioned wanting to watch me with him."

"So you watched *every* damned minute of that."

"One of the secrets of my success is terrible obsessiveness."

A sharply inviting smile. "You sure you don't just tell yourself that?"

Lex hums and crosses his legs at the ankle. "Would you be able to handle watching him be whipped?"

Jason rubs at his thigh and arches up a little. "Uh. That's a big yeah, I think. I mean, maybe if he *hadn't* sounded so damned happy about it --"

"But he did."

"Yeah," Jason says, and licks his lips. "Mercy's back looks like a scratching post, doesn't it."

"Mercy is absolutely covered in scars. Happily for her sense of self, the vast majority of them are from me."

"You gonna do Tim that way?"

Lex smiles ruefully. "I'm hopeful that I'll be able to fulfill his needs in other ways."

"But you still wanna whip him. Bloody?"

"I plan on breaking the skin in no more than three places. Just enough to add an edge to what he feels for the next few days."

Jason nods thoughtfully. "What comes after that?"

"He wants to be -- and I quote -- 'double-teamed.'"

"Jesus, I'm with you on the internet thing. I mean, I had to learn this shit the hard way for the most part."

"Whereas Tim has had his lovely little head filled with all the perversion the world can offer."

"That's -- you ever done that, Daddy? Being in the middle, I mean."

"Bruce and Tim are the only males I've ever had sex with and I've never been interested in being pegged, so... no."

"It's serious. I mean, it *can* be funny and cool if everyone knows and is down with each other, but even then it's still *serious*. Deep, even."

Lex folds his hands together again. "I believe that's exactly what Tim wants."

"Yeah, but he doesn't *know*. He *can't* know."

"Neither of us will become so enraptured with the other that we'll be distracted from Tim's needs for any measurable length of time. I'm not worried."

Jason nods slowly. "Well, you're the Daddy. Which means you're the one who's gonna have to pick up his pieces after we scatter them all over the floor."

Lex smiles. "I promise not to kick you out of bed unless it's *absolutely* necessary."

"Uh, huh, sure," Jason says, sitting up and reaching out to offer his fist.

Lex sits up and punches it before gesturing to the pool. "Care for a dip?"


"Good morning, two-three-two. I trust your time in the amnion has been satisfactory today?"

If one squints -- and Tim is doing just that -- the tadpole-looking embryo is visible floating just above the mathematical center of the tube, because two-three-two is growing just that fast.

It's remarkable and thrilling, and Tim has spent the day struggling not to strangle Westlake with his awful eighties relic of a piano tie for insisting that this is proof that the embryo will fail. The tubes are brilliantly designed -- even better now with the temperature readouts where everyone can see them -- and they've been keeping the nutrient levels static and steady even with the clone's remarkable growth.

"If you plan to continue to grow at this rate, we're going to have to stock more of compound forty-three. You'll need the testosterone it breaks down into... though maybe not yet. I'll check."

Tim reaches out to trace the air in front of the tube. It isn't any warmer -- those tubes are extremely heat-efficient -- but it's still --

Tim sighs.

"Two-three-two, I have to admit that I'm eager to make your acquaintance. Of course, I'll be playing a role in the birth of your personality and knowledge-base -- and I already have several ideas about that -- but... still. You're already yourself. An individual unlike anyone else on the planet. I -- I guess I'm proud of you. Even though I have no right."

Tim slips on the smooth fabric glove and touches the tube. Briefly.

"You're going to be something the world needs like nothing else. You're going to be... special. More special -- well."

Tim squints again -- two-three-two isn't really growing while he watches. Well, he *is*, but not *that* fast.

He can *just* distinguish the crown from the rump, which puts the embryo at the equivalent of around four weeks old -- unless Kryptonians developed more differently than previously considered.

Maybe he *should* read more about Bizarro --

Maybe Lex should *ask* Superman for information about Kryptonian pregnancy and childbirth.

Maybe --

Maybe Lex should've asked Superman about this in the first place, and -- is this really the first time he's having this thought?

What the hell does *that* say about him?

What --

It's just that this project is so important, so --

If Lex succeeds --

If he's able to do this more than once --

Serious crime could become, if not a thing of the past, then something vanishingly rare. A Superman for the east coast. A Superman for Iran. A Superman for the Lantern Corps. A Superman for *everyone* who needs one --

"And you're the first, two-three-two. I'll have to ask Lex what he wants to name you. He should really..." Tim licks his lips. "I appear to be failing to think about the moral implications of your existence again, two-three-two. Suffice it to say, even if the time comes when I must be one of the people who apologizes to Superman for doing this without his knowledge and consent, I still won't be apologizing for *you*. You... you require no apology, at all."

"It doesn't have a brain yet."

Mercy. Tim breathes instead of jumping. "Not as such, no, but there's still no way to know how much information an embryo can take in when developed using this method. Certainly, everyone who works in this lab is going with the belief that the answer is 'a great deal.' And he's male."

"Not yet it isn't --"

"He can be nothing else," Tim says, firmly and quietly, and then turns to raise an eyebrow at her.

She's giving him a narrow-eyed look, and it's rife with calculation and that frightening amusement of hers that doesn't suggest pulling the wings off of flies nearly as much as it suggests pulling the limbs off of -- male -- children.

Like himself. Tim raises the eyebrow higher --

"You... had something to ask me."

Tim blinks -- yes, he did. Now is not the time to antagonize the woman --

His rival --

Lex's lover, now and forever. Right.

"I'm sorry --"

"Don't apologize for correcting me when I'm being both ignorant and cunty."

Cu-- he can't even *think* that word --

And he knows Mercy can see that by the way she's showing her teeth. "About your question?"

*Right*. "How do you deal with Lex's jealousy?"

"There's only one way to deal with it, and it's for use with every situation: Come home after every fuck. Stay for at least a week and be *casually* devoted -- meaning you don't trail him everywhere he goes unless he tells you to, and you don't change your habits."

"Then... ah. How?"

"You won't ever be his slave, so you'll have to start conversations, make eye contact, that sort of thing. The rest is the same, though: Be open to him, and never, ever protect yourself so much that he can't look at you and have a basic idea of what you're thinking."

That makes sense, but... hm. "What about... emotional privacy?"

"Privacy is overrated and nonexistent with Lex, anyway. If you're going to have a regular fuck other than Lex, Hope or I *will* be bugging their homes, anyway. Better overall if you bring them home."

Home. That's twice she's used that term to him, with him, for him -- "You consider me to be part of the... family."


Flat and affect-free. When Hope does that, it's --

Endearing? Maybe?

Tim shakes it off internally and meets her eyes again. "Do you have any other advice?"

"The jealousy won't ever go away. It's part of who he is -- probably because of who Lionel Luthor *was*. He expects you to slap him down for it in one way or another and so that's exactly what you'll do if you know what's good for you. But it's still not going anywhere."

Tim nods slowly. "And when I have fits of jealousy?"

Mercy shows her teeth again. "Don't."

Tim crosses his arms over his chest and raises the most pointed eyebrow in his repertoire.

Mercy snorts and plays with the safety-strap on her holster. As Mexican stand-offs go, there have been ones with more ambiguous possibilities... though that's an illusion. Mercy doesn't have the sanction to hurt him save for during spars, and even then that sanction is curtailed -- so.

"I need a better answer. Gamma rho."

Mercy blinks -- and then narrows her eyes at him.

"I won't abuse the privilege, Mercy."

She lifts her chin, grey eyes becoming unreadable and as stark as the black suit she's wearing today -- and then she laughs, three sharp notes and out. "Fine. *You* -- because you're not his slave and thus have serious responsibilities -- tell him flat-out. You don't make him guess and you don't pussy-foot around. You tell him, and you tell him *how* jealous you are and you tell him what you're specifically jealous *of*. You *don't* spend a week figuring that all out, either. You have twenty-four to forty-eight hours after learning that you're jealous to spill your guts. After that? You're a problem."

Tim winces. "This has come up before."

"With people who didn't last."

"Noted. I won't make him wait or interrogate me or anything like that."

Mercy nods once.

"Are you jealous of me?"

Mercy smiles at him. "No."

"Well -- good. Ah."

"Would you like to know why, Tim...?"

"Yes --"

"Too. Fucking. Bad," Mercy says, and the laugh behind her eyes is raucous and a kind of *endless* --

The kind of laugh which would need more air than her lung capacity would be able to *deal* with -- but. "Tell me anyway."

The laugh cuts off with a narrowing of her eyes. "Because you're his wife, and that's a position only a fool would take."

"Why do you think so?"

"The people who will insist on talking to you -- and attempting to suck *up* to you. The necessity to be both fashionable and traditionally beautiful. The necessity to attend dinner parties and the like without being able to kneecap anyone. The fact that you have to put up with Lex not knowing how to *deal* with his softer feelings -- and thus getting pissed with no outlet --"

"He's *good* at -- well, he's getting better --"

Mercy snorts. "And most of that crap you'll miss out on just by being born male, but... he's Lex, Tim. Sooner or later he'll *make* you his spouse in truth, and then Hope and I will be scrambling to save you from bigots and religious psychos while *you* scramble to figure out how to be a motherfucking trophy wife. You'll fail. Lex will be disappointed. And then? Nobody's happy."

Tim grips his own biceps. "You seem to be suggesting that I *don't* let him marry me."

"He's always going to be a public figure. He's always going to need certain things --"

"He wants. He *wants* to be married."

"And you're flattered. You may even think you want to be his wife. You *may* even be right about that. But there's no room for *mistakes* here, Tim. If you do this, you *can't* mess up -- and that includes fucking around with people Lex doesn't own, because if you get caught cheating it reflects badly on *him*... and that's unacceptable. You know it, I know it -- and he knows it, too. It's easier, safer, and *better* if you're just his lover in the dark."

Tim grips harder -- no. He relaxes, and he breathes, and he thinks -- "You'd actually keep him from something he wants."

"What he *needs* is far more important. Don't get me wrong, Tim -- if you were female, ten years older, and monogamous, Hope and I would've hustled you into a wedding gown a week ago. You're none of those things, though, and I am a pragmatist."

Tim looks down at the floor. "I'm a romantic."

"I'd tell you to save it for the clone, but... there's no reason Lex can't keep enjoying you as you are. It's your job to think clearly enough to *help* Lex do the same, though. You have to pull *back* when he tries to pull you both off a cliff."

"Noted," Tim says, sighing and turning to look at two-three-two again. "Is there anything else I need to know?"

"Look at me."

"I'd rather not."

Mercy snorts again and turns him herself. "Yeah, now you're depressed. Suck it up."

"Those of us with the standard complement of human emotions --"

"Suck. It. Up."

"All right, you know what, Mercy? Fuck off --"

"If you *don't* suck it up," Mercy says, and her tone is the one a not especially patient teacher would use with a slow *child*, "then Lex will know something's wrong. He'll get what it is out of you, and then?"

Oh. Tim winces. "He'll do everything in his power to make me his spouse, thus setting this whole thing in motion. I see. Consider the sucking to have commenced. I should be fine by the time I get -- home."

"Make it sooner than that. Always leave breathing room."

"Mercy -- how often do you conspire against Lex's wishes?"

This time, Mercy is the one who turns away, and -- yes.

"I see."

"You don't, yet. He's not your world," Mercy says, and turns back to face him. "When he is? Then you can judge me." And she gives him her back and walks away.

Tim thinks about it --

*Tries* to think about it --

She's right that Lex isn't the whole of his world, but --

Lex doesn't *want* Tim to make him his god. Lex wants Tim to be at least moderately independent, to have his own hopes and dreams and morals and thoughts and desires -- everything. Lex wants Tim to be a whole and *separate* person, as opposed to another terrifying series of symbiotic fractions like Hope and Mercy.

Mercy is only trying to protect Lex from emotional pain and professional disappointment. An openly gay, polygamous, teenaged spouse for Lex Luthor would cause LexCorp stock to plummet in value at least temporarily, and would tank everything resembling a political career in the future. That would be --

That would be terrible and as wrong as anything else. The world *needs* Lex to be even more powerful than he is, even better positioned to be a force for good. Mercy may not give a damn about *that* side of things, but Tim does.

They can make their promises to each other in private.

Tim can be -- Tim *will* be going home as much as he can, as *often* as he can, and he'll make sure Drake Industries is as wedded to LexCorp as he *won't* be wedded to Lex.

Sixteen-year-old boys are allowed to have mentors. Sixteen-year-old heirs are allowed to have positions which increase in importance over time. He --

Well, in this scenario he wouldn't really be *able* to emancipate himself. He'd need the cachet of his parents' loving influence on his life to make his relationship with Lex look less suspicious. After all, if his parents approve of the amount of time he spends in Metropolis, then surely it must be.


Is he really standing here thinking of using his parents as a *beard*? Is that --

How could he even --

Well, of course, his mother would understand on *some* level, but that level would almost have to be rather far *down*. He's almost sure that his father would be incredibly nonplussed by the whole thing --

It would be ugly. Very, very ugly. Even aside from their... attitudes about homosexuality --

They're not *really* bigots, but --

Tim squints until he can see two-three-two again. "I hope you're invulnerable enough *quickly* enough to never get queasy, two-three-two. It's an entirely unsatisfactory way to be, and --"

"Are you ill."

Hope, closer than Mercy had gotten before announcing herself, so Tim jumps and smiles. "Two-three-two, this is Hope Terrell. He's your human father's other bodyguard, and one of the most terrifying people I've ever met. She's also my friend, and I think she could be yours, too."

"I see him. He is... inhuman."

"Well... pretty much all human babies look like that at that age."

Hope nods once, then squints more deeply. "This is something you were taught in school."

"Yes. You -- oh. I often forget you're significantly older than me."

Another nod. "I know. I believe I would've been taught more extensively about human reproduction had I been raised in a more liberal community."

"Almost certainly. You... where was the farm you grew up on?"


Iowa. Iowa. *Really*? "Do you... are there things you... miss about Iowa? Other than the quiet and solitude?"

"No. People viewed me strangely even when I was not strange, at all," Hope says, straightening and turning to face Tim more fully. "Are there things you miss about living with your parents."

Oh, about that. "It... hasn't been very long..."

Hope just looks at him.

"Right, that wasn't actually an answer. I... hm. I suppose I miss watching my parents play chess in the evening."

"Your mother is the better player."

"They're *close* to evenly matched at that game, but yes."

"Did she teach you."

"Well... no. I asked a lot of questions, at first, and then one day my nanny gave me several books to read on the game. That was much better."

Hope cocks her head to the side.

Tim blinks. "Was that... not an adequate answer?"

"It was a... curious answer."

Warning bells. Just -- everywhere, and all of them have his mother's *disappointed* face painted on them --

The craftsmanship is amazing --

"Ah... curious how?"

"You preferred learning the game from books to learning from your mother."

No. Yes. Maybe -- "No, actually. I -- I thought it would be a nice way for us to -- anyway, it's not important --"

"Are you sure."

"Ah. What?"

Hope's mouth tightens at the corners. "You're usually better at answering questions."

Gah -- "Sorry! I'm sorry. It's -- not an easy subject."

Hope nods once.

"It's a *challenging* subject. Ah. Emotionally."

"Meaning that there are negative emotions associated with this line of questioning."

Well -- Hope would be curious. It's a *good* thing that she's curious, really, and -- yes. Tim squints at two-three-two one more time for strength, sighs, and turns back to Hope. "Yes, there are negative emotions. It was... one of the times when I've thought my mother was... too busy for me, just in general. That I was a disappointment to her. That, perhaps, if I were better in some way she would want to spend time with me and teach me things which didn't directly relate to what I would need to know in order to take over DI when I came of age. There were other things, too, but that's the gist."

Hope nods again. "Why did you lie to me."

Tim winces. "I -- I didn't lie. Not really, and please give me a chance to explain myself."

Hope unwrinkles her nose.

Tim breathes. "Yes. Yes, well. It *was* better when I got the books, because it meant that my mother -- or my father, I suppose -- was thinking about me, and about the things I wanted to learn. I *had* thought that I was just an annoyance, and that they were glad to be rid of me, but that gift... well, it strongly suggested that, one day, when I was good enough, they might play with me."

"Did it."

"Did it what?"

"Did it suggest that."

"Ah..." Tim frowns. "To me, it did. At the time."

"Have they played the game with you."


"Are you unskilled."

"No, I -- I'm actually quite good, if somewhat overly technical in my style," Tim says, and considers reaching out to touch two-three-two's tube again -- no, he's not. He's not --

He takes off his glove.

He breathes. "They're not very demonstrative people, Hope."

Hope nods once. "Do you wish they were."

"Well -- it would be weird if they started *now*. And perhaps even a bit disturbing."

Hope hums. "Like Lex using... baby talk."

"Erk. I -- I think you just hurt me."

"You will live."

Tim blinks. "You. Were you just."

"Fucking with you."

Tim can feel himself paling, feel himself *starting* to sweat --

Hope blinks once. Slowly. "Friends do that. I have observed."

"Yes! Yes they do. And you were -- that was the perfect time for it. It was just... ah. Unexpected. I'll know for next time," Tim says, and twines his fingers with Hope's own.

"There are times when I want to smile now."

"But you don't because you know it would have the opposite effect to the one desired?"

"Yes. My parents were not demonstrative people, either."

Tim thinks -- no. He *knows* that he shouldn't be sighing in relief for this. That he is, in fact, *asking* for it -- but. Anything has to be better than thinking about his own parents and -- chess.

Other things.

"They... didn't hug you? Or sing to you?"

"My mother sang all the time. Mostly Gospel music, with a smattering of Blues. She did not sing *to* anyone, however," Hope says, and squeezes Tim's hand for an exact three count. "Once my parents considered my brother to be old enough, they gave him the responsibility to teach me how to do the various chores which needed to be done. When I did them incorrectly we were both beaten. It is in this way that I think he developed his... dislike for me."

"That's awful --"

"Yes. Yes, I believe it was," Hope says, and cocks her head to the side again. "They did not have time for us. They did not find us emotionally or intellectually diverting. I do not believe there would've been a way for us to become interesting to them. They cared only for each other."

Tim -- flinches.

Hope's eyes grow *hard*, and she squeezes Tim's hand again. "My words remind you of feelings you've had."

"Yes. I -- I don't have a sibling."

"I believe that is for the best."

"I always. I always wanted a brother. Or a sister -- mostly a brother."

"Because you were alone."

"I wasn't --" Tim squeezes his eyes shut just for a *moment* -- "Yes. Because I was alone."

"It is, at times, easier to be alone when there are other people around than when there are not."

"I think. I think I'd like to know what you did to your parents."

"Nothing. When last I checked, they were still alive and living together happily."

Tim frowns. "But -- they were the ones who --"

"After I eliminated my brother, I was immediately a suspect. Everyone in the community knew of his... abuse. I was under investigation for the better part of a year. During that time, my parents moved away from the farm, leaving what was left of it in my care. I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to go to prison, and that it would be likely if I were to eliminate them, as well. I spent many hours considering whether or not I should have killed them first, or found a way to kill all of them at the same time and destroy their remains as effectively as I destroyed my brother's. I eventually came to the conclusion that I should have done the latter and then left the state. Because I didn't, however, my options were limited."

Tim squeezes Hope's hand and nods. "They... they won't have any more children."

"No, they will not. I find, now, that this is not enough."

Warning warning warning -- "It was before?"


"You're... feeling things."


Tim squeezes her hand again and breathes -- "I'm sorry --"


"Hope --"

"You will not apologize for the things I feel. That would be... grasping," she says, and her eyes are hard again, near-black marbles with an inexplicable heat --

But the heat isn't inexplicable, at all, when one remembers that Hope was born as human as anyone else. Tim nods and bites the inside of his lip.

Hope nods back. "Do you believe that your parents would've been capable of raising both you and a sibling without damage."

Tim laughs. "Well, according to Lex, they didn't manage with just *one* of me, so --"

"Only according to Lex."

"Well, I know how *you* feel, I think --"

"Mercy, as well."

Tim lets go of Hope's hand and just hugs himself a little. Just -- it's a terrible thing to do, but it feels as soothing as it always does, as *quieting* --

"No," Hope says, and unfolds Tim's arms --

"Hope --"

"This," and she pulls him close and pulls Tim's head down against her shoulder. Which.

"This is not what I expected to happen today."

"Few people do."

"Yes. Yes, I imagine so. Ah. Hope."

"I believe you should relax."

"Is this. Are you. Is there... anything in this for you?"

"You are my friend. This is one of the things friends do."

Tim thinks about *Mercy* teaching Hope how to cuddle --

And that would be less a matter of the blind leading the blind than the monstrous leading the wordless terror --

Hope squeezes him.

Tim relaxes himself deliberately. Still. "You seem... invested in making me view my parents in a negative light."


"Would you tell me why?"

Hope is silent for a long moment, during which she begins stroking Tim's back in long, even strokes.

It does feel good, and warm, and -- "It's all right if you're not sure."

The strokes get much more firm.

"I... you probably give incredible massages."

"Yes," Hope says, and trembles once, all over.

"Hope? Is there something --"

"I have to know you. You are my friend. I have to know you. It's important."

"Yes. Yes, it is --"

"Friends don't... lie to each other."

Flashing red *lights* -- "Hope?"

Hope pushes back, rests her hands on Tim's shoulders and squeezes. "Lex has ordered Mercy and me to manipulate you into coming to terms with the fact that your parents are bad for you."

"What. What do -- what are you saying?"

"He wishes you to emancipate yourself as quickly as possible."

Tim pulls back --

Tim *tries* to pull back, but Hope's grip is implacable. "All right, I'm not moving. All of this -- all of this was just because Lex ordered you to make me face horrible memories?"

Hope's mouth tightens again and her eyes are wide -- and hurt.

Actually, deeply, *emotionally* -- "Oh. Hope. I -- I'm not mad at you --"

"I wanted to know. As well. I realized this after I began questioning. You."

"Hope, wait, are you all right?"

Hope blinks once at her usual speed, twice much faster, and then makes a low sound like -- like a keening *growl* --

"*Hope* --"

She lets go and stumbles back, tapping her wrist where the implanted paging device is --

And Mercy bursts into the room immediately, door swinging wide enough to show the shocked face of one of Lex's horrifically well-armed mercenaries --

Mercy shoves Tim aside --

"*Don't*," Hope says, and she doesn't *sound* like herself --

"I'm fine!"

Hope reaches for him --

Mercy hugs Hope hard enough to yank their suit-jackets out of true and bang their holsters together. It's a relief to see it, but it's also --

Hope is still *reaching* --

Tim takes her hand and squeezes it hard. "It's okay, Hope. It's -- you *have* to follow Lex's orders --"

"Have. To." Another one of those long growls --

Hope lets go and shoves Mercy --

And the fight is brutal and brutally *short*. It ends with Mercy hitting the wall hard enough to make her shout and fall and Hope clenching her fists at her sides and panting.

Tim takes *one* step closer --


"All right. All right. I can stay here."


"And. Hope, what do you *need*?"

She looks up again, and her eyes are full and so dark, full and -- and *full*, and it shouldn't *be* frightening, but it is. "I don't know."

Mercy groans and starts to stand --

"Stay *down*, Mercy!"

That was a *shout* -- he hadn't been sure Hope *could* shout --

Mercy raises one hand and makes a stand-down gesture. She hasn't touched her own face, though, and Tim's reasonably sure that that's one of the things which makes her Mercy. The yellowing black eye has gained a swelling cut at the eyebrow, and blood is trickling down her cheek -- "Hope. We have to go home now. We have to go to Lex."

"I failed him."

"It happens. I've failed him dozens of times --"

"You have more difficult assignments. I don't have a home."

"You *do* --"

"I wanted. To be a good friend."

"You were, you were, and -- Lex was trying to help you be a good friend," Tim says, and knows he sounds *desperate*, but --

"How do you mean."

"It -- he has selfish reasons for wanting me to emancipate myself, but those aren't his only reasons. He also wants me to be... healthier emotionally. To be stronger and more sure. He feels that the best way to make that happen is for me to... to give up on my parents," Tim says, and looks to Mercy --

"It's true, Hope. He's disgustingly sappy about it."

Hope's mouth thins to a firm line. It's the hardest expression he's *ever* seen on her face, and, going by the way Mercy just reared *back* --

"Tim. Move."

"What --"

"Mercy is worried that I will injure you. I will not injure you."

Tim takes a deep breath. "All right. I trust you."

"False. I came to you. I knew you wouldn't." Hope shakes her head twice. "I want to remember how to cry."

"It never solves anything --"

"I want to remember how to *cry*, Mercy! I want to be like you. Or -- or Tim. I want to know. I want to do. I want to *feel*."

"You're feeling right *now*, Hope."

"Not *enough*. It's all so *fucking* confusing," Hope says, and growls again -- and then blinks rapidly. "I'm angry."

Tim reaches out cautiously --

Hope touches Tim's fingertips with her own. "I don't know who I'm angry with."

Mercy winces and rubs at her shoulder. "Probably Lex. He wasn't supposed to give you orders that conflicted with your new emotions. None of us were thinking clearly enough."

Hope grinds her teeth exactly five times. "I want Tim to stay with us, too. I was blinded by my *own* emotions. I am angry with myself."

"That doesn't solve anything, either."

Hope growls --

Hope stops and walks over to Mercy, helping her up. One of Mercy's heels broke in the collision with the wall --

"I'm sorry, Mercy."

"Apologize by letting us get you home. We'll rebuild you."

That sounds *awful*, but Hope relaxes all over like it was the best possible thing to say. Tim forces himself to relax, too and looks to Mercy again.

"Get yourself ready and then have the mercs lead you to the cars. I'm going ahead with Hope."

"All right," Tim says, and watches them straighten their suits -- Mercy takes off her shoes and uses a sterile wipe on her forehead -- and leave.

Then he shakes violently.

Then he thinks about Lex trying to fucking *work* him --

They're his *parents* --

Just because Lex had surrounded himself with people who had childhoods as horrific as his own doesn't mean that Tim has to join the haters club. Just --

And to use *Hope* that way --

Mercy would've been one thing, but --

But, of course, he would've been able to guess what Mercy was doing right away. He has *blind* spots when it comes to Hope, but ultimately they weren't as large as any of them thought they were. Hope really is *hurting* over this, and Tim really *isn't* mad at her.

Lex still isn't the entirety of *his* world --

And it's possible that he's pacing uselessly now --

In rough circles around two-three-two and his immediate neighbors, neither of whom are remotely visible in their amnion. He pauses in front of two-three-two's tube. "It's not always like this, I promise."

Tim squints until he can see the tail two-three-two will hopefully lose --

Not that he'd judge if two-three-two wanted to keep it --

"Good friends always hurt when they have to -- or feel they have to -- hurt their friends, two-three-two.

"Additionally, while there are people you will *have* to manipulate in order to get them to listen to reason, I am not one of them.

"Furthermore -- furthermore --"

Tim frowns at his hands, which are shaping themselves around a phantom stack of books.

The space behind his eyes and nose is hot and prickly.

He wonders if Hope will let Tim cry for her.

He --

"Two-three-two -- it won't be like this for you. You're going to have the best parents in the world, and -- all right, maybe they won't bake you cookies or hold you in their arms while they read you stories or -- whatever --

"They'll talk to you, and look you in the eye, and they won't pit you against your brothers. They'll teach you, and care for you, and -- and touch you.

"And. And you'll have friends. You won't ever be alone, and you won't ever worry that you'll die alone. You'll always know you'll have someone. Always. I promise."

Tim flattens his hand parallel to the tube. He isn't touching, and even if he were he wouldn't be able to feel the heat. But, like this, he can pretend that he's touching two-three-two. He stays there for a moment. And then he goes.

The mercenaries flank him on their way to the garage. They're disturbingly uniform in appearance, despite the fact that they're all different races and there are women along with the men. Every last one of them is five-feet-ten-inches tall or more. Every last one of them has broad, intimidating shoulders. Every last one of them is encased in the greys of urban camouflage. And they all have very big guns.

They all *smell* like their guns.

It's an absolute relief when they make something of a funnel to push Tim through and into the car -- and next to Hope.

Hope smells like a cologne which seems to be equal parts musk and vanilla. It's her Tuesday cologne, and Tim likes it very much. Enough, really, that only his stupider parts balk when she opens her arms and invites with seemingly all of herself.

Tim pushes against her and closes his eyes. "It will be all right."

"Will you forgive Lex."

There are any number of reasonable things he can say to that. Things like "I'm not sure," and "it's too soon," and "forgiveness has to be earned." None of those things are true. "Yes. But he's going to have to learn not to go behind my back for things like this."

Mercy grunts. "You weren't responding to straight talk."

"We've barely *had* any straight talk on the subject, Mercy!"

Hope begins stroking his hair. "Would you have responded."

"He -- I probably would've --" Tim stops and bites the tip of his tongue, then the insides of both cheeks. "He would've had to fight me to at least some extent."


"It wouldn't have taken *much* fighting, Mercy -- he just would've had to point out that it was important to our relationship."

"But if you already knew it was important, why didn't you begin working on the problem."

"I -- what. I still don't know what I'm supposed to *do*."

Hope tugs on a lock of Tim's hair. Gently. "I believe that was not the truth."

"You're getting better at that, Hope."

"Thank you, Mercy. Tim."

"I'm supposed to cut them out of my emotional life and then cauterize the wounds until there's no feeling left. I -- that -- that's not the easiest thing in the world to *do* --"

"It takes time," Mercy says, and turns the air conditioner on low. "That's why I started young."

"Yes," Hope says, and goes back to stroking.

"I haven't -- I don't accept that there's nothing my parents can give me. Emotionally, I mean."

"Do you have reason not to."

"They're my *parents*," Tim says, and tries to sit up -- Hope isn't letting him. He settles against her, instead, turning enough that he can see the back of Mercy's head. "I know that's meaningless to both of you --"

"It could be meaningless to *you*, too," and Mercy flashes a smile in the rearview.

"There is a freedom to it," Hope says, and trails her fingertips along Tim's short sideburn.

"Neither of you *like* freedom --"

"Wrong. We don't like *your* definitions of freedom. Ours are just fine."

"All right, but I'm not *either* of you --"

"You could be. Or we could meet in the space which exists between us. That is what I wish, I think," and Hope squeezes Tim with the arm she has around Tim's waist.

And that feels -- precisely as good as it should. As good as it's *meant* to, because Hope knows a great deal of him and still likes him.

He'd never *gotten* hugs like that before this summer. Not really. Nannies are paid to be affectionate, and the ones he'd had didn't exactly earn --

Tim bites off the sound that wants to come out of him as best as he can and squeezes Hope back, burying his head against her neck --

She smells nothing like his mother --

He's never smelled his mother this *closely* --

"Yes, Tim. I believe this is correct."

"Don't cuddle him too much. Lex says he tries to get away after a while."

Tim coughs a laugh -- it's just that he's also clinging to Hope rather *desperately* --

"No, Mercy. He does not want to let go."

"Hm. You okay back there?"

"I'm -- having a moment."

"That doesn't look like a moment, kid --"

"I didn't say it was a *good* moment, Mercy. I --" Tim shakes his head and forces himself to stop clinging and just -- hold. "I can't help but think I should give them another chance --"

"You gave them sixteen years of chances, Tim," Hope says, and tilts Tim's head back enough that they can look at each other. "There are people in this world who do not change."

"And there are people who *do* change. You -- look at *you*, Hope --"

"Are they truly like me."

*No* one is like Hope -- but that's both true and not a true *answer*. "No."

"Some parents only get smart when their kids leave them for a while," Mercy says, and there's no tension but the usual in her, no sense that she's doing anything more than offering a tangentially relevant opinion -- but.

"You don't actually care whether or not my parents *do* 'get smart,' Mercy, so please don't pretend that you do."

Mercy grunts and flashes a smile in the rearview mirror. "I care about *everything* which might make you stop whining and do what's necessary."

"Whining. Really --"

"*Really*, Tim. Look, if you *weren't* figuring out how useless your so-called parents are, you wouldn't be clinging to Hope like some damned baby monkey."

Tim feels himself blushing -- and raging at once. "Everyone needs *affection* sometimes --"

"And *you* haven't been getting it," Mercy says, and her voice is still amused, but now it's harder. "Not at home, not from your little fake friends --"

"They're not *fake* --"

"Methinks the Timmy doth protest --"

"Oh, fuck *you*, Mercy! Jesus! You're nothing but a psychopath who's *differently* needy than everyone else. Just because you're not a *typical* human doesn't mean you're not human, at all --"

"I never claimed otherwise --"

"And if you had to give up *everything* you'd known for the entirety of your life for something you can't trust --"

Hope tugs Tim's hair hard. "Why don't you trust."

"I --" Why. "You don't." Why? "It's just --"

Mercy laughs derisively. "Because *he* spent his childhood being told -- explicitly -- that anything that looked like actual love and affection was faked up and pathetic."

Hope hums. "Yes, that would do it."

"You -- you don't *know* that --"

"Lex *told* me, kid."

"*He* doesn't know --"

Mercy ignores the road to stare at him in the rearview --

"Watch the motherfucking *road*, you -- you --"


"I don't use that *word* --"

"You will if Lex tells you to."

"*Maybe*," Tim says, and pushes away from Hope --

"I don't like that."

Tim winces. "I'm sorry, Hope, none of this is your fault --"

"I am not... an innocent child. I don't like the way you and Mercy are fighting. I think you should listen to Mercy more than you're doing."

Tim pushes a hand back through his hair --

He does the same with his other hand --

He thinks about *screaming* --

He thinks about chess books and economics books and public speaking books and all the other books on subjects he hadn't picked up fast enough for his mother's tastes --

Books feel like *failure*, and that's why he's not as well-read as Lex thinks he should be, could be --

Tim covers his face with his hands.

After a long moment, the car stops, and Hope rests her hand on Tim's thigh.

"I know we're here. I'll calm down momentarily."

"I have already informed Lex that there is a minor problem," Hope says.

Mercy sighs and shuts off the car. "Because we're *all* out together, he's going to worry. There aren't supposed to *be* problems with both of us."

"He is going to be disappointed in me. And then he will blame Tim for doing this to me, even though he didn't."

Mercy sighs again. "Tim and I will discuss it with him. He'll still be emotional in *some* way, but I can't predict it."

"That is... frightening."

"Yes, it *really* is," Mercy says, and Tim can hear her shifting in the driver's seat -- "You know what the worst part is, Hope?"

"Tell me."

"The little shit --"

"Do not call him that around me."

Mercy grunts -- "Right, I'm sorry. The *kid* doesn't get it. He doesn't understand how *much* change is going on right now, and he probably never will."

"Because the changes began happening too soon after he joined us."

"Yeah. And because he doesn't *want* to know."

Silence for that --

*Worrying* silence --

Hope squeezes Tim's thigh for a three count.

Tim drags his hands down off his face --

"Fuck, you're *blotchy*," Mercy says, and her disgust is *palpable* --

"I'm *sorry*. I'm sure Lex already has some foundation for me --"

"He does. He isn't sure he likes it, yet."

Tim blinks --

Focuses --

"All right, I'll just live with that, since I already told him I *would* cross-dress for him and -- yes. You're right, Mercy, I *don't* get it. I *can't* get it, because I'm never going to be like the two of you. Lex doesn't *want* me to be like the two of you, because? He already *has* the two of you. And you both know that already," Tim says, and does his level best to stare them both down.

It doesn't work, but he thinks he's made his point.

"Also, if I'm going to convince Lex not to marry me, then I *can't* emancipate myself. I have to keep *something* like a wall between Lex and myself, no matter how -- how artificial it all is. Mercy, you have to *see* that."

Mercy turns away to face front, keeping her gaze away from the rearview. It's an answer.

"It would thus be worse than pointless for me to cut my parents out of my heart. Lex would *see* it happen, know it for what it was, and then *demand* to know why I wasn't emancipating myself so I could... could be with him."

Nights in Lex's bed.

*Mornings* in Lex's bed, with Lex's hands on him, yes, always *yes*, but the nights --

The chance to smell and feel and *have* --

A bed with *welcome* in it, and he already *knows* that Lex is more than capable of sending him away if he doesn't want Tim there --

To have that every night would be --

And he could still *be* Lex's protégé, and damn the rumors anyway -- Lex could *always* get himself publicly connected to women, be seen with as many women as *Bruce*, even --

Lex would choose a better *quality* of woman, and yes, that would be jealous-making, and Lex always wants to be challenged by Tim, Lex wants Tim there *to* challenge him --

And he could have Hope, too. He could *help* Hope, and be close to her, and learn from her --

He'd have to put up with *Mercy*, but --

And then there's two-three-two. As it stands, Tim will be leaving not long after two-three-two is decanted, and he'll miss out on so *much*. He won't be able to see two-three-two *grow*, and change, and become --

He'll barely be able to see whose eyes two-three-two has --

And Hope squeezes Tim's thigh again. "If it is a mistake to deceive you about difficult emotional issues, then it is a mistake to deceive Lex."

Mercy growls. "We have to."

"I do not think we do."

"We *have* to, Hope -- if Lex tries to marry Tim, his entire future is in jeopardy."

"Because of both bigotry and partially reasonable fears of child abuse, yes, I understand. However, if we present a united front and explain to Lex that he has to... restrain himself, then I believe he will listen to reason."

Mercy turns to look at them again. "How can you be sure?"

Hope blinks once. "The same way you can be sure that he will forgive me."

Mercy laughs softly and rubs -- gently -- at her bruised temple. "Ow. All right, yeah, we'll try it your way. We'll put it to him as 'necessary compromise,' but Tim has to step up on his end."

He -- "This was. Fast?"

Mercy and Hope look at him with a kind of *expectant* blankness --

And Tim realizes that they look at Lex like that all the time. He swallows, grateful for the relatively high collar --

He knows they both saw him do it. He --

"I do want to stay."

Hope and Mercy nod together.

"I -- there's so much -- Lex will have to be even more publicly heterosexual than ever."

Hope and Mercy look at him like he's *stalling* -- which he is.

There are no books in his hand and he smells faintly of an older woman's perfume. He's the kind of warm he always is now, because there's always *touch*. He -- "I'll begin. The process of emancipation. But I don't have a job waiting for me --"

"You will," Mercy says, and *smiles*.

"Yes. Lex will not ever let you down," Hope says, and the corners of her mouth twitch oddly three times.

"I -- was that a smile?"

"I tried to feel while doing it."

Tim covers Hope's hand with his own and smiles back --

"Welcome to the family," Mercy says, and steps out of the car. "Hurry and grow the fuck up."

"Fuck you, too, Mercy," Tim says in the sweetest voice he can manage. "Consider hurrying up and growing a halfway decent personality."

"Not all members of a given family will get along with all other members," Hope says, slowly and judiciously. "However, I believe the next time I hear the two of you treat each other like this, I will break two of your ribs. Each."

Mercy opens her mouth -- and closes it again.

Tim breathes deep -- to enjoy his ribs in their current configuration -- and nods. "Noted."

Hope steps out of the car --

He and Mercy follow --

Hope insists on a *group* hug --

Mercy shifts enough to poke Tim with her holster --

They make it into the elevator and up to the penthouse without further incident, which is something that causes Tim to wish he believed strongly enough in any particular god to offer formal thanks for. As it is, his breathing is settling down nicely --

And Lex and Jason are waiting by the elevators, generally looking... wonderful. Tim smiles at both of them --

Jason winks at him --

Lex grips Tim by the jaw and studies him -- "You had emotional trauma?"

Tim raises an eyebrow. "It would be nice if you didn't sic Hope on me and my parent issues, Lex."

Lex narrows his eyes *slightly*, and that's the only sign that Tim had hit the mark --

"Is *that* what you meant by slow and easy, Daddy? 'cause I don't think that counts as easy," Jason says, and his eyebrows are up --

Lex sighs. "And this is what happens when you share your diabolical plans with the help. Tim, I'm --"

"Don't apologize. I won't *believe* you if you apologize. Just -- next time tell them to do an intervention on me. That seems to work better."

"To be fair," Hope says, "progress was made with the original plan before I failed."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "How did you fail, Hope? Does it have something to do with why Mercy is barefoot and bleeding?"

"Yes. I realized that I couldn't lie to Tim about why I was asking about his relationship with his parents because it felt... bad. I told him the truth, and since that went against the directive, I... lost internal cohesion."

Lex blinks once.

Jason is starting to look a bit horrified --

"I told her we'd rebuild her, Lex," Mercy says. "She was only off her game for a few minutes."

"Enough to beat you bloody."

Mercy winces. "It took me too long to cope with the fact that Hope was trying to injure me."

Tim turns to look at Hope, to --

Hope is still and blank -- the picture of doomed patience -- and really... no.

Tim steps close to Hope and holds her hand.

Lex frowns thoughtfully. "Yes, an external directive in conflict with an internal one of equal or superior power... I should've realized something like this would happen. An unforgivable oversight --"

"Uh. Daddy? She just had a breakdown."

"Yes, Jason, I can *see* that -- I can practically smell it. Now I have to make sure it never happens again --"

"Lex. Ah... *how* did you make the mistake in the first place?"

Lex smiles at him wryly. "It's very simple, really: I panicked. I needed something productive and *proactive* for Hope and Mercy to do in order to distract them from their entirely understandable yet thwarted desire to turn your parents into hamburger."

Tim blinks --

Considers --

And decides not to consider, at all. Just -- no. "I see."

"No, you're choosing *not* to see, but I'm feeling charitable enough to let that pass --"

"Really, Lex? You try to -- *underhandedly* -- manipulate *me* and I'm supposed to be happy to have your forgiveness for not wanting to picture my friend killing my *parents*?"

Lex bites the tip of his tongue and raises an eyebrow. "Yes?"

Tim snorts despite himself --

Lex smiles *triumphantly* --

And it doesn't get any less so when Tim flips him off with free hand.

"Noted, darling. Now, Hope: Tell me what you need."

"Practice with emotions. I will not repress them again. I'm not sure I could if I were to try."

Lex nods slowly and thoughtfully. "That does seem to match the literature I've perused on the matter. As near as I can tell, Hope, you've spent much of the past thirty years living in a fraction of your psyche -- a fraction positioned in something like a vast, defensive wall around the rest of your psyche -- the eight year old with all of the emotional reactions. How does that sound so far?"

Hope cocks her head to the side, blinks -- "That sounds... plausible."

"I thought it would. Because our situation has been so stable for the past few years -- in part because of the excellent work you've done training LexCorp security to nip assassination attempts in the bud -- you've started to feel safe, both physically and emotionally. Would you say you felt safe a few weeks ago?"

"Yes. Very... calm."

"And then you met Tim, who offered you -- albeit mostly unwittingly -- an alternate way of looking at things. From the very beginning, I forced you to consider Tim to be *like* you in some vastly important ways --"

"Yes. Yes. However, I believe the thought would have eventually occurred even without your input, Lex."

"Almost certainly, yes. I..." Lex holds up a finger and begins to pace. He looks tall and focused and determined and --

And Jason is looking at Tim with a teasing smile on his face. His hair is wet for some reason. Had he taken a second shower today? He's also perfectly clean-shaven, though the shadow of hair growth is present and tempting --

Jason raises his eyebrows higher and looks Tim *over* --

And Hope squeezes Tim's hand *very* firmly --

"No, it's all right, Hope. Jason is going to be joining Tim and me for sex just as soon as I convince him that he still wants to submit to my every perverted whim."

Tim gurgles faintly --

Jason snorts --

And Lex narrows his eyes at Tim *covetously*. Just -- it's the sort of look which feels *designed* to pull Tim closer, to make him lean, drop to his knees --

He's already pulling his free hand behind his back --

"One moment," Lex says, striding close and cupping Tim's jaw. "Say it."

What? But he knows. He *knows* -- "I'm yours."

Lex parts his lips and breathes shallowly for a moment. "Yes, you are, and I promise to treat you with every respect from now on. I do not, generally, mistreat my possessions."

Tim's penis twitches and he flushes --

Lex's triumphant expression is back -- "Darling. Give me a little while longer."

He shouldn't be this easy. He -- almost certainly shouldn't be this easy --

Should *isn't* meaningless --

Lex traces Tim's mouth with his fingertips --

"Yes, Lex," Tim says, and fights against himself, against the urge to submit further *and* against the urge to fight for the sake of fighting. The latter is an easier battle than the former -- he never *wants* to be someone who does that --

Someone like his *parents* at their worst --

And Lex raises an eyebrow -- almost certainly because he can see Tim's conflict --

"It's nothing --"

"I doubt that," Lex says and raises his eyebrow higher --

"You have other things --"


"I don't want to be this easy."

"You are," Lex says, and his tone says 'accept it the way you would accept any other fact.' Which.

"Promise me, Lex --"

"I promise that I'll always come to you first with my concerns about our relationship and our needs," Lex says, and raises *both* eyebrows.

"Because -- you respect me."

"More than nearly everyone else in the world. Equivalent to the people I respect most, two of whom are right here with us."

"I didn't feel respected earlier."

"Am I allowed to apologize --"

"Not until you mean it," Tim says, and he *didn't* mean for that to come out as hard as it did --

But Lex is already rearing back and flaring his nostrils slightly.

"Lex --"

"I made a large mistake with you. It will not be repeated," Lex says, and he sounds formal, serious --

"I. I'm yours."

Lex looks him over quickly, thoroughly, narrows his eyes -- "Be in love with me."

Tim frowns. "I *am* --"

Lex growls. "*Stay* in love with me, and, yes, I'm aware that you can't make that promise. Do it anyway."

Tim drops to his knees as gracefully as he can --

Hope lets go of his hand --

Tim cups Lex's hand in both of his own and presses it against his face. "Always, Lex. Now, please, continue solving Hope's problem."

Lex sneers good-naturedly. "I suppose we are being *inefficient*, aren't we, darling?"

"You people are kinda seriously fucked. Just to put that out there one more time," Jason says, and crosses his arms over his chest --

Lex turns Tim back to face him --

Mercy snickers. "You'll get used to it, tough guy."

"Yeah, yeah, don't fuck with me or I'll pass out on you again."

Tim thinks he can *feel* Mercy smiling for that --

Perhaps Jason counts as *less* of a teenaged male. Lex, for his part, has the covetous look again. This time it's darker, though, and has a hunger which doesn't seem to *expect* to be fed --

Tim shuffles closer on his knees -- and Lex shoves his thumb in Tim's mouth.


Tim blushes and does it --

"As I was saying, Hope, Tim's presence demanded a sort of internal reckoning all by itself. The fact that Tim himself was offering the hand of friendship only sped the process along. Does that still feel correct?"

"Yes, Lex. I think Tim must have been very lonely."

"He was, yes, and a part of him always will be --"

Tim bites *gently* --

"Even with me, darling. Suck."

Tim closes his eyes and does it, licks and tries to get more of the faint salt from Lex's skin, more of *Lex* rather than his own saliva --

Arguing right now is pointless, and there *will* be other times.

"Just the same, Hope -- people like Tim will always try to collect other people once they feel themselves free *enough* to open up. This is especially true for people they see as being as lonely as themselves. It's a craving in them, wordless and almost without emotion other than the acidic tang of need."

"I will need to think about that. I don't think I will... collect people."

"I think you will, given time and freedom to do so, but, yes, do consider it on your own. The important thing is that you now have two friends who have proven that they'll accept your emotions without trying to punish you for having them. With time, this will come to seem perfectly natural to you -- and, yes, that *is* an order."

"Yes, Lex."

"Furthermore, you will begin assessing your sense of internal *comfort*."

"I am not sure what that means."

"Yes, you are."

Tim can see Hope shifting on her feet in his peripheral vision --


"I... need someone to serve. I can't. There is no good in giving myself room to dislike your orders."

"I will never order you to harm your friends. You will have... discretionary power."

"Lex. That is... too much."

Lex presses his fingertips against the underside of Tim's jaw, and Tim knows that it's Lex's way of taking enough comfort that he can *appear* to stand firm --

Tim sucks harder in part to disguise the reason for the touch -- but also because he has to.

Lex cups Hope's face with his free hand. "You're more than strong enough to use discretionary power -- and to know when not to use anything of the kind."

"I won't have to use it all the time."

"Not until you wish to."

"Will I wish to."

"None of us can say. Going by the reading, not even trained psychologists would be able to."

"That is... disappointing."

"Is it a powerful disappointment?"

"I have no context for measurement --"

"You do."

There's a soft clicking sound -- Hope closing her teeth together?

"It's all right, Hope. Remember this one truth above all others: I need you to serve far, far less than I need you to *want* to serve with as much of yourself as possible. With desire and will, many things are possible -- including satisfactory compromise."

"I want to remember how to cry, Lex. It seems... it feels as though it would be appropriate."

"All right. Mercy, you will now spend at least forty-five minutes every day working to teach Hope the fundamentals of emotion."

"Yes, Lex."

"Hope, you're embarking on a journey which will almost certainly be both strange and painful. You will remember that far, far lesser lights have made that journey before you. You will remember that the tools for all the struggles are available within you. You will remember that help to find those tools will always be available from those around you, and, you will remember that you will always, always belong to me."

"Yes, Lex."

"Do you require anything else at this time?"

"No, Lex."


"No, Lex," Mercy says, and she sounds... internally satisfied.

"Report to me about your progress on this project daily. Hope, you will continue to give the lion's share of your attention to Tim, but you must also begin spending time considering what will give you pleasure, because pleasure will always be of premium importance in this household. Do you have any ideas about that?"

"I would like for there to be more touching. With the entire... family."

Lex nods once. "Then I will find a way to make that happen. Both are you are dismissed."

"Yes, Lex," they say in unison and go.

It's disturbing not to be able to *hear* Mercy walking -- hm. He bites Lex's thumb as lightly and interrogatively as he can.

"Yes, darling?" Lex pulls his thumb out.

"Do you make them wear heels so that you can -- theoretically -- hear them coming?"

Lex smiles at him. "On Halloween, I give them ballet slippers."

Jason snorts --

Tim shudders. "Then I think I'll spend the last week of October somewhere soothing, like Arkham Asylum."

"We could always spend it together in San Francisco...?"

Oh --

"Nah, go to New York for it. The Village is something to fucking *see*, plus you get all that overflow of Gothamites trying to escape whatever fucked-up thing the supervillains manage to do. It's just like home."

"I have gotten some very exciting photographs on Halloweens past," Tim says, and looks at Lex from under his lashes --

"Innocence suits you too well. Stop it immediately."

Tim coughs a laugh -- "Yes, Lex."

"Stand up, too. I don't plan on letting you blow me *here*."

Tim stands and raises his eyebrow in question.

"Eva is decorating for your birthday. She should be in this area within the next five minutes."

Jason starts looking around worriedly --

Because Eva, of course, never wears heels, at all. "Then I suggest we retire to the bedroom, Lex. I would like to open my present."

"Would you."

"Oh... I think I misspoke. I would like for *you* to open my... present."

Jason snickers. "That's awful, bro. Good job."

Tim inclines his head to Jason --

Jason ruffles his *hair* --

"Um. Gah?"

Lex hums. "I promise to only do that when my cock --"

"Lex! You will teach the boy bad language!"

Jason flinches --

Lex smiles that particular smile which Tim now knows will always be used when at least a part of Lex *wants* to flinch.

Eva is wearing a party hat at a jaunty angle and her usual sternly *severe* clothes -- along with exceedingly sensible shoes.

"You're absolutely right, Eva. I don't know *what* I was thinking."

Eva shakes a finger at Lex. "You men are so *rough* without women to keep you honest and good. Always you are sending the girls away instead of letting them help you," she says, and grips Tim's face with both hands. "And here is the birthday boy. Happy birthday!"

"Thank you, Eva," Tim says, and copes with the fact that it comes out somewhat... smushed.

"You will remember not to grow coarse as you age?"

"Yes, Eva --"

"*Some* men believe that growing older is an excuse to grow *slovenly* in their speech and clothing," she says, and glares at Jason.

"Uh -- I'm sorry? I mean. I'll do better, Eva --"


"I will... uh. Learn! From Lex and Tim. For as long as I'm here."

"And then you will go to your home and live like a *pig*?"

"I'm sure the lessons we impart will last a lifetime, Eva," Lex says, and rubs at his upper lip with his finger. "Won't they, Jason."

"Yeah. I mean, *yes*. Yes, they will last a lifetime. And not just because the nightmares will never go away."

Eva doesn't quite *growl*, but she does reach toward her waist --

And Tim takes a step back while he can still be distracting. "Eva!"

"Shh, Tim, you hush now."

Jason moans softly --

"I believe! I believe that Jason was speaking about how often he takes important life lessons from his dreams. From... ah. He. There's guidance!"

Eva strokes the right side of her apron. "This is so?"

Jason nods slowly, biting his lip.

"You do not say this just to distract Eva from what she must do?"

Lex rests a hand on Eva's shoulder. "Jason would never do that, Eva. He knows what will happen if he does."

"And you are sure about this?"

Lex smiles benignly. "I plan to firm his education in these matters, myself."

Eva tilts her chin up. "You will do this... firming soon?"

"Oh, imminently."

Eva hmphs and nods before turning back to Tim. "Your Eva has left you a snack to hold you until dinner. You will eat it all, yes?"

"I will... certainly try!"

Eva's smile is matronly, sweet, and backed with an amusement so powerful that Tim can actually *see* it this time --

Though it's possible that this is her birthday present for him.

They watch Eva go, Jason blowing out a breath when she's out of sight, but can be heard yelling at an unseen servant about crepe paper.

Lex makes a soft hooting noise.

"Yeah, laugh it up, Daddy. One day she's gonna menace *you* with that fucking hatchet."

"Oh, probably. Possibly when I try to grope Tim while he's wearing his wedding dress."

"Wedding --" Jason stares at Tim. "Seriously, bro?"

Yes and no -- no. Tim rests a hand on Lex's chest --

Lex takes Tim's hand in his own and bites Tim's fingertips. "Before you say anything, darling -- one day I'm going to *own* this country. Remember that."

Fuck -- yes. But. "It will happen a lot faster if we never even try to go public *until* then."

"Are you going to deny me, Tim?" And Lex's voice is low and the wrong kind of promise --

Specifically, the wrong kind of promise to excuse the twitch of Tim's *penis* -- "I discussed the matter with Hope and Mercy. I... I'm *going* to emancipate myself from my parents. I'm *going* to be your protégé -- and you'll give me an apartment in this oversized phallic symbol of a building --"

"Of course --"

"But we aren't coming out, Lex. Not yet. If it was just a question of sexuality, I'd do it with *almost* no reservations, but I'm sixteen, which means I'm *just* legal enough to make the world attempt *subtlety* as it destroys everything you've built. And you already know this. You -- we *discussed* it --"

"And you knew I'd changed my mind."

"Ah... Mercy brought it home for me."

Lex laughs quietly, age showing in the pained lines at the corners of his eyes. "Of course she did."

"I -- don't be mad at her --"

Lex waves a hand. "I won't. I can't. I... have a profound hatred for being thwarted by logic."

Jason claps a hand on Lex's shoulder. "So take over the world and make new logic. Tim sure thinks you can do it."

Lex narrows his eyes thoughtfully, dangerously -- "Tim."

"Yes, Lex?"

"How is two-three-two?"

"Flourishing. To a shocking degree, actually. The scientists believe that it's going to fail spectacularly, but there's no sign of anything but thriving."

Lex nods slowly, eyes distantly sharp -- "Yes. Yes, I do believe I *can* take over the world."

"Lex, you can't treat --"

"Quiet, darling. We're not actually letting Jason in on that secret, yet."

Tim winces --

"Don't worry about it, bro. When he makes evil mastermind face, I mostly don't *wanna* know."

Well -- "That's fair. That's definitely fair," Tim says, and turns back to Lex. "I believe you were saying something about your penis earlier."

"No, I was saying something about my *cock*. The day you learn the difference, I'll order Eva to stock the house with rice cakes and celery."

"Those are perfectly delicious foods --"

Jason snorts and moves to cup Tim's shoulders from the back. He leans in close to Tim's ear -- "I'm thinking crunch noises don't turn Daddy on, bro."

It's an interesting sensation to want to scowl *while* moaning --

"Oh, yeah...?" Jason strokes down Tim's chest, spreads Tim's jacket wide, and starts stroking him through the shirt. "Daddy said you wanted to be double-teamed."

"Ah... well. Yes. Also, Lex, why does Jason get to call you Daddy and I don't?"

"Because you don't actually *want* to, darling," Lex says, slipping his hands in his pockets and beginning to walk backwards toward the hall. "Come."

"You are so fucking entitled, Daddy," Jason says, and strokes back to Tim's shoulders before giving Tim a push.

"Tim thinks it suits me."

Which is true, but --

"You *really* shouldn't encourage him like this, baby."

Baby ---

"Did he cross his eyes like that every time you called him that?"

Jason lets go of Tim's right shoulder and pinches his fingers together slightly.

"Then I understand the appeal even better than I did before. Jason... will you follow my orders?"

"Uh... that's a great big old maybe, Daddy."

Lex nods and continues to walk backwards. "Will it turn you on if Jason follows my orders, darling?"

Tim licks his lips and tries to think with something other than his penis -- wait, no, he's *supposed* to think with his penis for this one, so -- "It would be a lot like having a brother," Tim blurts --

Lex stops.

Jason also stops.

They stare at him.

"Well. I imagine that was out loud."

"Yeah, pretty much, baby," Jason says, leaning in to nip his earlobe. "I *do* play that kind of game, too..."

Tim shivers. That was loud enough for Lex to hear --

And Lex has one eyebrow up *high*. "*Do* you want me to be your Daddy, Tim...?"

Tim swallows and tries not to *squirm* --

Jason is stroking his chest again and that's not *helping* --

Would he even be having this conversation if he hadn't -- decided.

Tim closes his eyes --

"Open your eyes... son."

Tim's knees *start* to buckle, but Jason's right there to catch him and hold him still, and he really has to think --

He has to think about something other than Lex opening his *belt* the way he's doing now with neat, economical motions of his hands --

Jason's *bigger* hands are moving all over him, tugging Tim's shirt out of his pants, groping his ass and pectorals and *groin* --

Tim is *panting* --

He has to *think* --

"*Wait*," he says, and opens his eyes and *looks* at Lex --

"Was that an order, Tim?"

Tim again. That's better, that's -- "No, Lex, it was a plea, because -- you think I need therapy --"

"I think the vast majority of people in this world need therapy of some kind, darling, but, frankly, I'm less than hopeful about the prospect of finding enough psychologists with functional brains. Give in."



And it takes *care* with Jason this close, but Tim still manages to cross his arms behind his back, to lock his elbows and stand straight --

And Lex stalks closer and wraps his belt around Tim's neck --

"Oh *fuck* --"

"This particular act is *only* for special occasions, darling," and Lex tightens it enough that the metal loop is cold and *frightening* against his skin. "Do you understand?"

"Lex --"

"Yes or no."

"No. Not enough, not --" And then Tim is groaning, because Jason is jerking him off through his pants and shorts --

"Jason. Slow down."

Jason kisses Tim's ear. "You're the boss, Daddy," he says, and does it --

Tim pants --

And then he *can't* pant, because Lex is tightening the belt even more and staring into Tim's eyes --

Tim mouths 'please.'

Something bright and hot flares behind Lex's eyes -- "Perfect. I only do this to Mercy when I have Hope there to back me up should something terrible yet ultimately predictable happen. Jason happens to know CPR -- and has even performed it successfully once, which makes him *quite* exceptional -- and so is sufficient insurance for this game. Who do you belong to?"

Tim mouths 'you' --

"Would you rather be on your knees?"

Tim mouths 'yes' --

"Soon. I promise you," Lex says, and lets in slack. "Breathe *slowly*."

Tim follows orders as best he can, fighting the urge to gasp until he can feel himself greying out *and* gaining control. It makes his knees feel weak again --

And Jason is still jerking him off. Jason --

Tim moans helplessly and looks a plea to Lex --

"You're close to orgasm."

"Yes, Lex."

"Bedroom," Lex says, and yanks the belt away, the whisper and slide of it making Tim jerk --

Making Tim forget how to *walk* --

"Pick him up and carry him in your arms, Jason."

"Ooh. Sure thing, Daddy," Jason says, and does just that until he's *cradling* Tim in his arms, smiling down at Tim fondly and *lustfully* --

Waggling his *eyebrows* --

"He already looks pretty blown out, here."

"*Don't* go into shock, Tim."

Tim shakes his head and remembers that he *can* breathe and speak and all of those other things -- "I'm just -- it's --" Tim shakes his head again. "I don't think. I'm too hard --"

"Nah, you're hard *enough* for a whole lot of fun," Jason says, leaning in and kissing Tim hard and brief. "You're so fucking cute."

"Isn't he, though?"

"I'd say something about wanting to just pick him up and carry him away, but... heh."

Lex grins at both of them and starts walking backwards again. "You're carrying him *towards* -- which, I promise, will be much, much better for all of us."

Tim closes his eyes and counts paces, tries to find a need to blush or protest, tries to find a way to be something other than 'blown out,' tries to remember who he was just three *weeks* ago --

None of it happens before they're walking into Lex's bedroom, and so Tim gives up the effort as pointless. There's a covered tray on a small portable table by Lex's bed, and there's a question a part of Tim's mind *wants* to ask about that, but the rest is focused on the fact that he'd wasted a great deal of time by not throwing his arms around Jason's neck before now. He remedies the situation --

Jason grins at him -- "Hey, Daddy..."

"Yes, Jason?"

"I think Tim's bucking for a kiss right about now. Do you think he's earned one?"

Lex pauses in checking the straps hanging down from the ceiling --

The straps that weren't *there* before -- oh. There are hidden panels in the ceiling which Tim hadn't noticed before. The part of him which isn't directly connected to his penis is now wondering who Lex had gotten to *install* those panels --

But Jason is staring at Tim's mouth and licking his lips --

"Kiss him shallowly only, Jason. Tease him."

"You got it, Daddy," Jason says, shifting his grip enough to cup the back of Tim's head. "You ready for me, baby?"

Tim nods --

"Answer verbally, darling."

Tim grunts and shivers -- "I'm sorry, Lex. Yes, Jason, I'm ready."

Jason purses his lips. "You sound too clear, baby. Here," Jason says, and leans in to breathe against Tim's mouth. His breath smells like cherry juice again --

He must like it --

"You're so cute, baby, so... mmm," And Jason is pressing his lips against Tim's own, gentle and soft, almost *chaste* --

He really should've *known* this would feel like gentle fingertips on his cock, a brush of a touch which *doesn't* include calluses --

Tim moans and tries to keep himself from trying for more, pressing closer--

Jason is kissing him over and over with *just* his lips --

His soft and *broad* lips, but still --

Tim whimpers and tightens his grip on Jason's neck --

Jason breathes on him again and *licks* Tim's lips --

Tim bucks and *shouts* --

"Aw, that's gorgeous, baby..."

"Please. Please."

"Shh," Jason says, and starts kissing Tim softly again, moving now to Tim's cheeks, Tim's throat -- "I can smell the leather," and Jason *tickles* Tim with his tongue --

"For as much as I paid for that belt, you should be able to smell the grass the cow fed on and the sweat of the man who milked it."

"Hey," and Jason licks his way back to Tim's mouth with just the *tip* of his tongue -- "I didn't tell you not to just go to fucking K.C. Lenney."

Lex laughs cheerfully. "Very true. Bring him."

"Uh, huh," and Jason kisses Tim just three more times --

Jason pulls back and winks again when Tim whines --

And then Jason is carrying him over to Lex --

"Set him down on his feet. We'll do his arms first."

Tim clutches at Jason's neck --

"Hey, it's okay, baby. This is you getting what you want."

"And what you need," Lex says, and pushes a hand into Tim's hair. "Look at me."

Tim pants and tries -- no. He relaxes himself and turns enough that he can look at Lex and see the lust in his eyes, the need and the *power* --

Tim moans and pushes himself closer to Lex --

And Jason sets him down on his feet. He feels shaky -- precisely as shaky as he should, really -- and Lex is tugging Tim closer by the hair, step by step until Tim is standing on a part of the floor that seems *harder* than the rest. Tim prods at the carpeting there with his toes --

"Cement reinforcement. The hardwood of the rest of the floor would just wear down unattractively under Mercy's attentions."

Tim blinks and pictures it --

He stops picturing it. "What... what should I do, Lex?"

"Relax," Lex says, and kisses Tim briefly, sharply --

He pushes Tim back when Tim tries for more --

"Please, Lex --"

"No. Relax."

Tim pants -- stops. "Yes, Lex," Tim says, and starts to fold his hands behind his back -- no. He reaches up, instead --

"Lovely, but you need to strip first."

Tim blinks and blushes --

"*Relax*... and don't try to put on a show just yet."

"Yes, Lex," Tim says, and strips himself as efficiently as possible. Jason is right there to take the various pieces of the suit -- this one had a *waistcoat* -- and it doesn't take long before he's naked and obvious and *obvious* -- but he relaxes. And he puts his arms up.

"Yes, just like that," and Lex leans in to bite Tim's left forearm, to lick the inside of Tim's right elbow --

Jason is stroking Tim's hips, up and down and up again --

And the cuffs are around his wrists faster than Tim would've guessed was possible, given that there's usually a decidedly different body in this position -- no, Lex's spatial reasoning is *undoubtedly* the best --

"Spread your legs wider, darling... no, more than that --"

"I. It feels like I'll fall --"

"I know, but you won't," and Lex wraps a hand around Tim's right wrist and uses it to yank *hard* on the ceiling straps. "Do you see?"

Tim breathes deeply, nods --

Lex slaps Tim's penis --

"*Ahn* -- I'm sorry, Lex, I -- I meant -- I do see --"

"Better. Jason, cradle his cock."

Jason cups Tim and strokes lightly with his thumb -- "Like this, Daddy?"

"*Just* like that. Spread your legs wider, Tim."

Tim moans and does it, trying to catch his breath again but *mostly* trying to get his penis to stop yelling about maltreatment, unfairness --

The pain is almost a buzz beneath his skin, and the fact that Lex had done this before --

He'd never done it when Tim was this aroused. It's a whole separate ball game this way, something brighter and sharper --

And Lex is restraining Tim's ankles, pulling the straps taut enough that Tim will be stuck in this position --

This position that feels like Tim will fall into a painful split at any *moment* --

Except that Jason is massaging Tim's upper thighs and kissing his way down Tim's back. It manages to feel both soothing and a different -- burning -- kind of dangerous, and Tim focuses on trying not to shake --

And then does nothing of the kind, because Lex is kissing his way up Tim's chest, mouthing Tim's nipples and breathing hot and damp there --

Using his slick, strong tongue --

Jason spreads Tim's ass and breathes *there* --

"*Please* --"

"You've rimmed him, Daddy?"

Lex pulls back from Tim's nipple with a shamelessly loud slurping noise -- "Oh, yes. He'll come too fast if you do it now, though. Won't you, darling?"

Tim whimpers and shakes --

Tries to lock his knees and discovers that he *can't* in this position --

"Please -- *ahn* --"

This time, *Lex* strokes Tim's penis where he'd slapped it, and the touch is even lighter, more needful --

Tim arches forward as much as he can --

Jason grips Tim's hips and holds him *still* --

"*Please* -- I mean -- I would come. I would like to come. I promise -- I promise I'll be good --"

"You're perfect," Lex says, leaning in to nip Tim's lip before pulling back. "Jason, kiss his hole. Don't push inside yet, though."

"You got it," Jason says, and he's right *there*, and his voice is breathy, low and *thick* --

"Oh, *fuck* --"

Jason mouth is so hot, so --

It's a more open kiss than the ones to his mouth, it's hotter and darker --

Tim whole range of *vision* is getting darker --

Wait, no, his eyes are heavy-lidded, heavy enough that it feels like a challenge to open them --

Until Lex pinches Tim's nipples and pulls *hard* --

Tim shouts and arches, tries to push in two directions at once, tries to *encourage* --

Lex hums. "He's leaking steadily now, Jason..."

*Jason* hums --

Tim shouts again --

And Jason pulls back. "I think maybe he's ready for the *first* main event."

"I think you're almost certainly correct, which is a shame, because all of this pre-come is going to go to waste."

"Heh. Not if I take it off your thumb, Daddy."

Lex raises an eyebrow. "Have I mentioned yet that I like you, Jason?"

"You've hinted around it a few times," Jason says, and the smile in his voice is purest invitation --

Tim wants to *see* --

And Jason is stroking up Tim's legs to his hips --

"Come closer, Jason..."

"On my way, Daddy," and Jason kisses the skin between Tim's shoulder blades before moving around in front of Tim --

Tim can see his profile in this position, see that he's still smiling at Lex --

Lex's smile is wry, sharp, and pleased. "Of course, you *could* just use your own thumb."

"And miss giving baby new fantasies? That would be *wrong*."

Lex hums. "You're right, of course. What was I thinking?" And Lex uses his thumb to -- *painfully* gently -- swipe pre-come from the tip of Tim's penis before offering it to Jason.

Jason turns enough that he can smile at Tim --

And then he lets his eyes go heavy-lidded as he takes Lex's thumb into his mouth. Just ---

Lex is pale, but it seems *extreme* when held against Jason. Jason's mouth is soft and full, but *that* seems extreme --

Jason and Lex together --

The way they would *move* together, strength against strength, skill against skill --

And no, it's *not* a surprise to be moaning like this --

Lex pulls his thumb from Jason's mouth --

Jason makes a *sound* --

And Lex narrows his eyes in pleasure. "That was excellent."

"Heh. I try. More?"

Lex swipes more --

Tim grunts and *bucks* --

"Be *still*."

Tim whimpers and nods -- no. "Yes, Lex. I'm sorry, Lex --"

"You'll make it up to me," Lex says, and lifts his thumb to just above Tim's eye level --

And Jason leans in slowly and *slurps* it in. Tim moans because it's the only thing he can do, because it's a *kind* of replacement for movement, something he can *use* to keep himself from -- from --

He wants to thrust so *badly*, and neither Lex nor Jason are even in range to be *touched* with a thrust. Just the *sight* of Jason going down on Lex's thumb while staring into Lex's eyes --

And Lex's smile is a slow one this time, appreciatively sharp -- "He still isn't my type, Tim, but I would be an abominable liar if I said I couldn't see the appeal."

"He's beautiful. He --" Tim shakes his head. "You're incredible -- I can't even *look* at you for more than a few moments at a time without wanting to make love in *some* way, but Jason --"

"Could model, yes. He's got that healthy and faintly ethnic look that's always popular in at least one or *two* markets."

And Jason pulls off and snickers -- "Jesus, Daddy, don't fuck with my *concentration*."

Lex smiles. "Amateur."

"Oh, *really*," Jason says, and cracks his knuckles. "Ten thousand says I can get *you* off in less than five minutes."

Lex *laughs* -- "Jason, look at the boy currently chained to the floor and ceiling."

"Oh, I'm lookin'."

"Note the flushed skin."


"The wide eyes."

"Very pretty."

"The bitten lips --"

"Just what are you gettin' at, Daddy?"

"It's very simple: I'm going to be thinking about *that* image for the next several hours, thus making it possible for damned near *anyone* who makes an effort to get me off in under five minutes."

Oh --

"Aww. *Aww*. That's so fucking *sweet*, Daddy."

"I really am an old softy --"

Jason snorts --

"With the emphasis on old. Specifically: Old enough to get through *this* without embarrassing myself so long as attractive teenagers with skilled mouths *keep* those mouths over there."

"Heh, I hear ya. Now how you gonna treat baby right?"

"Oh, I have a few ideas," Lex says, and turns the small table around to show that there were two whips and three dildos on the other side of the tray.

Tim blinks --

"Uh. Did Eva --"

"Move my collection to one side to put Tim's snack down? Yes, yes, she did. Without a *word*."

Jason frowns rather dramatically. "You. You ever think about putting a leash on her? You know, maybe a little one?"

"*Never*. A life without excitement is another word for death. Now, then," Lex says, and holds up an orchid dildo. "This one is slightly smaller than my cock, but, as you can see, is nubbed excitingly."

"Okay, I'll think about it. What about that I-don't-know-whether-it's-gonna-be-a-girl-or-a-boy purple one?"

"This one vibrates at four speeds, and can be controlled remotely."

"Oh, I think you got a winner. I mean, this is for Tim to wear *while* he's being whipped, yeah?"

"Oh, yes --"

Tim shudders all over and groans, penis twitching *freely* --

Lex is eyeing him avidly --

Jason looks fond and -- he's squeezing himself through his jeans. Slowly and *viciously* --

Tim groans again and arches -- no, he's supposed to be *still* --

"Spank him, Jason."


"Ass," Lex says, and spins the last -- mauve -- dildo over his fingers --

"Be ready, baby..."

"Yes. Yes, Jay -- *ohn* -- *oh* -- oh, *please* --"

The crack of his palm is so loud, so --

It's too *fast* to hurt, and it's okay if he jerks for this, isn't it? It has to be --

"Be. *Still*," Lex says --

Tim whines and holds himself rigid --

Jason is moving *him* with his spanks, and now the pain is beginning to register, to become something Tim can *comprehend* --

Tim whines again and squeezes his eyes shut --

"How is it, baby? Hard as you need it?"

"Yes -- oh, yes --"

"Daddy's gonna do you harder with those whips, you know."

Tim opens his eyes again and tries to focus --

"I absolutely will," Lex says, setting the mauve dildo down and stroking the whips, instead. "I'll even make you bleed."

"*Hnh* -- "

"Stop spanking, Jason."

"Whoops, yeah," Jason says, and moves *away* --

Tim hadn't realized how much he was enjoying Jason's *heat*, and he's whining more, shuddering with the need to twist and buck and writhe --

"You gonna let him move when you're whipping him?"

"He responds so well to being forced to be still that I *wasn't*, but..." Lex cocks his head to the side. "What do you think, Jason?"

"My *cock* thinks that watching him lose it is the best possible thing I can do."

Lex laughs quietly. "It's true that I haven't really given him the *chance* to let loose physically... all right. Darling, after the first *three* lashes, you'll be allowed to move freely. Do you understand?"

Don't nod, don't -- "Yes -- yes, Lex. Please, Lex --"

"Should I go back to calling you 'son,' darling?"

Tim grunts --

Tim tries and fails to lock his knees --

Tim grunts *again* --

"All right, then --"

"No! No, please, Lex, don't, it's not --" Tim swallows and shakes his head -- "Please, let me explain --"

"Can you?"

"Yes, Lex, I think so," Tim says, and looks up to meet Lex's eyes, which are curious and hungry at once --

"Then go on."

"It's -- it turns me on. It always will, and it's different now, more -- more meaningful. But. But -- it's not good enough for you. I mean, it's not enough -- I mean --"

Jason cups Tim's shoulder. "You mean it doesn't turn Daddy on enough?"

Tim smiles helplessly. "*Yes*. That's it, exactly. If he wanted me -- I mean. If he wanted me that *way* -- "

Lex hums and picks up the first whip, uncoiling it with a flick of the wrist. It's long and plain -- a bullwhip, maybe -- and -- "And if I want you to take *selfish* pleasures?"

Tim moans and tries not to -- no. Give it all. Give it *all* -- "I never. I never had a Daddy."

Jason winces --

Lex *pants* once -- "Tim."

"I did it. I started it. I -- I know they're bad, I know you're better, so much better, please, Lex --"

"Be quiet," Lex says, and crosses the room to stand in front of Tim and cup his face with his free hand. "I'm no one's father."

"It's not true --"

"I'm no one's father *yet*," Lex says, gritting his teeth and looking *wild* --

"I love you so much, Lex, I'm yours, I'll always be yours --"

Lex kisses him *hard*, knocking Tim's head back and making Tim groan and *struggle* to give it back the right way, to be both open and exciting, pleasurable, needful --

A part of him is *aware* that Jason has moved his hand and stepped back, but Lex is right there, Lex is fucking his mouth, Lex is *staring* --

Technically, Tim is staring right back, but it feels more like leaving himself open for another kind of fuck, something only numinous for the unimaginative --

Lex could take *over* his imagination, legislate Tim's thoughts, *change* him permanently and irrevocably --

Tim moans and whimpers, tries to beg without moving, tries to *beg* --

And Lex pulls back. "Jason, go sit on the bed. That's the safest place in the room to avoid the backswings."

"Uh. I'm gonna *need* to be a little closer --"

"The cat will allow it," Lex says, and his voice is sharp, *hard* --

Jason grunts and licks his lips. "Yeah, okay. I can wait," and he moves to the bed and sits down, opening the first two buttons on his jeans --

"Look at me, darling."

Tim does, blinking away everything *but* Lex and his pale skin, his slate-colored eyes, the mouth which is only soft when he wants it to be, and is then so perfect, so --

"If you move for these lashes, you may wind up with unattractive wounds. Do you understand?"

"Anything you give me --"

"No," Lex says, and presses his thumb to Tim's mouth. "*I* will only give you attractive scars. If you move, you'll destroy my gift. Do you understand."

Tim groans and nods --

Lex moves his thumb --

"Yes, Lex. Please, Lex, I'll be good for you --"

"Call me what you wish to call me."

Tim moans and tries and fails to clutch at the straps above his head --

"That won't work until you learn how to dislocate your own thumb. And, even then, it will be hideously painful in a less than exciting way. Call me what you wish to call me."

Tim whimpers -- "*You*. I have to please *you* --"

"Then show me how to give you what you need. What you've *always* needed," Lex says, and now there's something soft under Lex's voice, something needy and more than a little *desperate* --

Oh --

"*Tim* --"

"Daddy. I -- please whip me, Daddy. Please *wound* me and I -- let me *wear* you --"

Lex shudders once, all over, and kisses Tim hard again, but this time his eyes are closed --

The kiss doesn't last --

"Darling. *Son*. This won't be -- this will only happen sometimes. Do you understand?" And Lex opens his eyes again, searches and *studies* Tim --

"Yes, Daddy. Only -- only when you allow it --"

"Say it."

"I'm *yours*, Daddy --"


"*Please*, Daddy, let me always be *yours*. I'll never leave. I -- I'll always come home if I *have* to leave --"

"This is your home."

"Anywhere with *you* -- *mm* --"

And Lex kisses Tim again, making it less hard than demanding, *insistent*. It's a kiss which knows it will be welcomed, a kiss which knows it has a *place* --

It's a kiss of absolute confidence blended with desire, just as if Tim has always lived with Lex, just as if Lex had helped to make Tim who he *is* --

And he had. He --

*Daddy* --

And now it's a *constant* struggle to keep himself still, now his penis is *throbbing* with the need to be touched, held, *spanked* again --

His scrotum feels tight and the base of his spine feels *tighter* --

Tim is saying please into Lex's *mouth*, shaking his head and begging, needing --

Lex pulls back. "It's all right, son."

"Oh, Daddy --"

"Now," Lex says, stepping back three paces --

His arm is a *blur* --

Tim feels heat and a sense of *breaking* --

His chest --

Tim looks down and blood is welling in the narrow slash over his left pectoral. "Oh -- oh, Daddy --"

"That's one. How does it feel?"

"I --" Tim licks his lips -- "Hot. Strange -- now, it's almost cool -- wait. That's the air hitting it --" Tim shakes his head. "I don't think I can classify it yet. Please, Daddy. Another?"

Lex closes his eyes, eyes tracking fast behind the lids -- and then he opens them again and smiles. "Keep your mouth open for the next one."

"Yes, Daddy."

Lex looks him over rapidly, repeatedly --

Tim pants and tries not to squirm for the feel of blood droplets running down his chest --

Lex's hand blurs --

And the slash of the whip *yanks* a noise out of him this time. Just -- before he's even sure where the whip had *landed* --

"Lex -- Daddy --"


Tim groans and squeezes his eyes shut -- thigh. Right thigh, and yes, he can feel the blood welling there, too --

When it heals a little, he'll be able to tap it with his fingertips almost anytime he wants to. He --

The burn is more *intense*, and Tim can pick out the exact shape of the slash, how, if it curves, it's more minutely than Tim would be able to see -- "Oh, Daddy, that's -- I love you --"

"I know, and that makes this... difficult."

Tim opens his eyes and tries to search Lex's own --

Lex smiles ruefully and lets the whip coil at the end of his arm -- "The way you love me, Tim... son..."

"Teach me -- I'll do better --"

"You're perfect. And, perhaps, it should always burn *just* like this to hurt you. I need you."

"Yours, Daddy --"


"*Yours* --"

"Remember to leave your mouth open for the lash," Lex says, and moves around behind Tim.

"Oh. Oh. My back?"

"Yes. I may bruise your ass, but I'll never willingly scar it."

Tim moans and tilts his head back --

"No, you'll have a harder time staying still in that position. Stand straight."

"Yes, Daddy --"

"Do you... have you always needed --" Lex growls --


"We'll discuss the matter later. Mouth open."

Tim opens --

And this time it almost seems like he can *feel* the whip cutting through his skin as he shouts --

It's in a line parallel to his waist but just beneath his ribcage --

He wants to *move* --

"Perfect," Lex says, and he sounds drugged --

*Looks* that way when he comes around to Tim's front --

When he tosses the whip aside --

"Jason," he says, and never looks away from the wound on Tim's chest --

"I'm listening, Daddy," and *Jason's* voice sounds thick --

"Come behind him --"

"Gonna need to come *somewhere*, I -- fucking fuck, yeah, I'm coming --"

And then Jason presses himself against him, gripping Tim's hips --

"Oh, I'll get you bloody --"

"Daddy's gonna buy me new clothes, baby. You just focus on feelin' good."

"I do -- oh -- fuck, I *do* --"

Jason kisses Tim's temple --

And Lex touches his tongue to his upper lip and drops into a crouch, loosening the straps around Tim's ankles before standing again. "Lift him, Jason."

"How high?"

"Until his chest is -- nearly -- at the level of my mouth."

"Oh, *fuck* yeah. I've always thought you shouldn't do anything bloody unless you were ready to fucking *deal* with it," and Jason lifts Tim easily --

"Agreed," Lex says, and lets his eyes fall most of the way closed as he leans in --

As he licks away the blood that's trickled down --

As he licks a stripe along the *wound* --

"Oh -- *ohn* --"

And he sucks a hard *kiss* right where the cut is widest --

"Daddy, *please* --"

Lex jerks and groans against him, shoves one hand into Tim's hair and pinches Tim's nipple with the other --

"Oh -- oh, fuck, it *hurts* --"

Lex groans again and sucks *harder* --

Jason shoves his tongue in Tim's ear -- "You're inside him now, baby. Flowing through his *veins*."

Tim shudders and tries to stay still -- no, he can move now, he can --

He arches his chest against Lex and tries to push back against Jason --

"Yeah, I know you're hungry. He's not done whipping you, though. You know that, right?"

Tim moans and nods -- "Yes -- yes, I know. Oh, Jay, he feels so *good* --"

"He's your Daddy and he loves you. That's always good --"

Lex sucks *hard* --

"*Ah* --"

He pulls back and licks his lips. "You'll learn, darling. *Son*."

Tim bucks and feels like he's losing himself, like he's just that *close* --

He is.

"Jason, get the vibrator. The lubricant is *under* the tray."

"What, she thought you wouldn't -- uh. No, I'm not actually asking that question," Jason says, and sets Tim down.

"Wise choice," Lex says, and yanks Tim's head back. "The bruise on your pec won't be neat, but I don't think I'll regret that."

"No, please don't, Daddy."

Lex narrows his eyes -- and smiles. "I like saying no to you. I like... mm. Offending your sense of justice. Sexually, that is. It's not going to happen *now*, but..."

"I -- ah. I'm fond of it, myself. Daddy."

Lex laughs. "You're still fighting it. I think you should be stupider than you are right now."

"I -- oh, *fuck* -- oh -- Lex -- Daddy, I'll *come* -- "

"No, you won't," Lex says, and squeezes Tim's penis harder. "Say it."

"Yours --"


"I won't come!"

"That's right. Now. Beg me not to hurt you."

"Please don't hurt me!"

"*Mean* it."

"I -- um. You -- I don't think --" Tim shakes his head and *stares* --

And Lex smiles at him and lets go. "That's better," he says, and pats Tim's cheek. "How would you feel about electrolysis when your beard starts to come in?"

Jason snorts. "Nah, Daddy, you gotta go for laser. It's faster and pretty much guaranteed."

Lex blinks once. "I wouldn't think -- ah, you have transgendered friends."

"And friends who just like to play that way, yeah," Jason says, and slicks the vibrator thoroughly before starting to jerk it off. "I like this. It doesn't feel completely fake *or* creepily real."

"Proprietary material. It also works well for boot treads," Lex says, and puts his hand out --

"Uh... Daddy-May-I?"

Lex smiles again. "Why, Jason. Have you been a good boy?"

"Oh, I've been the *best* fucking boy. I didn't even hump him a *little* when you were sucking his blood."

"Very true. All right," and Lex gestures --

Jason bows and comes around behind him again. "What do you say, baby? Fast and hard or *slow* and hard?"

Tim groans and tries to figure out which one *won't* make him come -- "I -- I don't want to come too fast --"

"Daddy's got a cock ring for you right over there --"

Tim gasps --

And Lex *pinches* the base of Tim's penis *hard*.

"Oh, *fuck*, Daddy --"

"No cock ring *yet*, son. You're going to come while I'm whipping you."

Tim jerks and pushes up on his toes, *tries* to hump the air --

Lex pinches *harder* --

"*Daddy* --"


Tim drops to his heels and stands straight. "Yes, Daddy. I'm sorry --"

"No, you did nothing to apologize for. It was merely time for you to focus. Now -- answer Jason's question."

Question. Question -- "I -- slow and hard. Slow -- I want to feel every inch --"

"Just like I promised you the first time. Yeah, I hear you. And this *will* be my cock just as soon as Daddy says it's okay."

Tim groans and tries to stay upright --

Jason spreads Tim with one strong *hand* --

And Lex is watching Tim avidly, searching out *every* moment as Jason pushes in slow and *relentlessly* --

As Tim *realizes* that he hasn't had preparation, that this is the only preparation he's going to *get* --

It's *smaller* than Lex, but it doesn't feel that way --

Tim whimpers and closes his eyes against the burn, against the need to *shove* himself back --

Jason just keeps *pushing* --

"How's that, baby?"

"Hard. So -- so hard --"

"We're hard for you, too. Fucking *aching* for you. Right, Daddy?"

Lex tilts Tim's head back down --

Tim opens his eyes --

And Lex's smile is hard again, so -- "Absolutely. The pain is... well. We're going to *ream* you, darling."

Tim hears himself make a noise like a *seal* --

"He's really that loose, Daddy?"

"Once he stops clenching, it will be abundantly clear to you that Tim has been reaming *himself* for years."

"Heh. He was getting ready for his Daddy, Daddy."

Lex makes a purring sound -- "So he was. Are you all the way in yet?"

"Just one sec," Jason says, and kisses Tim's temple before *shoving* in the last inch --

Tim groans and pushes up on his toes -- "It feels so *big* --"

"That's because you're clenching. You don't have to stop, though," Lex says, and leans in to bite Tim's lip. "You're my beautiful boy, and you can do *almost* anything you want."

Beautiful -- "Ohn -- oh, Daddy --"

"Shh for just a moment, darling," and Lex turns to Jason. "The remote is on the bedside table, Jason. I trust you'll use it well...?"

Jason moans softly. "Fuck yeah, I will, Daddy. You just tell me when you *want* him to scream and come his brains out."

Lex sighs and grins. "I'm afraid I don't actually have *helpful* answers to that question."

Jason snickers and jumps back onto the bed --

At some point he'd taken his *shoes* off --

"Let's test this bad boy out," he says, and then --

Vibration --

Mild and --

Tim still *squawks* for it --

Lex purses his lips. "Two?"

"*One*. Baby's *sensitive*," Jason says, and turns it back off --

Tim pants and tries to convince his body that he *doesn't* need to reach for his ass immediately --

The vibrator is a *weight* inside him, a --

Clenching makes Tim *shout* --

"Not me that time, Daddy."

"Mm, noted," Lex says, and strokes Tim's cheekbones with his thumbs. "I don't believe I've ever seen him this flushed before."

"It's workin' for him. He looks ready to pop for just about anything."

"Yes. Yes, I am. Please," Tim says, and tries to get Lex's thumb in his mouth, on his mouth, *anything* --

"Oh, darling..." Lex sighs and smiles again. "You have to last two minutes before you can come. Just two."

There's a part of Tim which is *insulted*, but that part is too stupid to be allowed to continue to exist. Tim does his best to strangle it -- "Yes, Daddy. Please, Daddy, pinch my -- cock again."

"Well, since you asked so *nicely* --"

And then Tim is *screaming*, because that's the *head* of his penis, and Lex isn't being *gentle*. That --

The pain is shocking, intense and *blinding* --

And Tim knows he only has about ten more seconds before he'll need to hump for it. He --

This could make it *harder* to last --

"*Daddy* --"

"Is it starting to be good?"

"*Yes*, Daddy --"

"Perfect," Lex says, and lets go, moving immediately for the table and the other whip. He'd called it a cat, and it *does* have multiple 'tails,' but it looks much more serious than the toys he's seen on various websites.

There's something about the mellow *gleam* of the leather, or maybe the thickness of the individual straps --

Tim licks his lips --

And the vibration makes him cry out and push up onto his toes. It's stronger, it --

It's right on his *prostate* --

"Oh, *please* --"

And then Lex is right there, whipping Tim's chest, his arms, his ass --

He's all *over*, moving around and around at the same speed he'd use for a *spar*. Tim *tries* to match it, but the vibration keeps making him want to stop and shake, endure, *use* somehow --

He tries to tell them how it is --

He *wants* to tell them how it is, but he can't, he --

There's nothing but *noise* coming out of his mouth, and Lex is all but *dancing* around him, striking and moving and striking again --

Heating Tim up so *much* --

"*Please*," Tim says, and there's nothing he can think of to go after that, nothing he can do but *writhe*, twisting and jerking on the restraints until he starts to feel the strain of it.

It *adds* to everything else until he's burning inside and out --

The vibration gets *stronger* and now Tim's penis is twitching randomly, constantly --

For a while Tim shouts for every strike of the whip, but when the vibration changes again, all he can do is *moan* and toss his head --

"*Fuck*, Daddy, you're workin' him so *good* --"

"Keep -- hn. Keep *randomizing* the vibration, Jason. We're almost there."

Where? Just --

Where does Lex want to take -- no. Where *will* Lex take him, because it's a fait accompli. He *belongs* to Lex, and good sons always do what their fathers tell them to do --

Good fathers always --

Always --

"*Speak*, Tim."

"*Always*, Daddy, *always* --"

Lex pants and whips Tim's ass *steadily* for five lashes --

Ten --

Tim screams --

"Not *yet*," Lex says, and whips across Tim's nipples --

And that's when Tim realizes that Lex *hasn't* whipped his groin. Just --


"Fifteen more seconds, son, you can do it --"

"Yes, Daddy, please don't *stop*, Daddy --"

His legs --

His *throat*, and Tim can feel the caress of the straps against his chin --

His back --

His back --

The vibration feels like it's shooting up his *spine*, and Jason says something --

Something growled and purred at once --

"*Now*," Lex says --

Tim gasps --

The vibration may as well be located in his *penis* --

And there's no rhythm to his screams once the strikes start landing on his penis, no --

Oh --

And Tim is *aware* that he's thrown his head back and arched --

That he's holding himself still because he can't --

Oh fuck --

Whiteout --

And the heat is impossible, the brightness something -- something out of religion --

He could be *dying* --

If it felt like this he'd do it every --

Somehow --

And the *crack* of his scream brings him back to something like consciousness, the real world --

He's shooting into Lex's *palm* --

"Oh, *Daddy* -- "

"*Please* let me lick some of that off, Daddy --"

"There's enough to go around, I think," Lex says, and leans in to lick the corners of Tim's eyes. "You cried again, darling. Thank you."

Tim blushes and shivers, penis twitching *again* -- and that's when Tim realizes that the vibrator is off.

He can breathe.

He can -- theoretically -- think, and everywhere Lex whipped him --

And that's *everywhere* --

He's hot all over, only it feels like sweating any more than he already is might *break* him. Tim stares at Lex and tries to express at least some of that --

And Lex narrows his eyes and brings his sticky hand to his mouth. He licks a stripe through the mess and licks his *lips* -- "Jason, come get yours and then hold him."

"Time for baby to be untied?"

"Oh, yes. He needs us now."

"Yes. Yes, Daddy, I do --"

"Shh, it's all right. I promise."

He promises. He -- he *keeps* his promises. Tim works on his breathing and tries to keep still --

And then Jason is there, wrapping himself around Tim from the back --

His clothes are scratchy and somehow *real* -- or maybe just relevant. Tim leans against him and closes his eyes --

"No, darling. Watch."

Tim opens his eyes again -- just in time to watch Lex feeding Jason his come. Tim moans and shudders --

Jason *squeezes* him --

And then Lex pushes his hand -- and, by extension, Jason's mouth -- toward *Tim's* mouth --

And the kiss is messy, salty, slick and *hot* --

Jason is nibbling Tim's lips and Lex's fingers at the same time --

Jason is forcing Tim's mouth open wider with his tongue --

"I do enjoy watching someone appreciate the little things," Lex says --

Jason hums a question --

"It's obvious that kissing is one of your favorite things to do," Lex says, and takes his fingers back --

And Jason kisses Tim deeply and not at all slowly. It's a *serious* kiss, and it manages to be both soothing and an *excellent* reminder that neither Jason nor Lex has come.

Jason pulls Tim closer and moans into Tim's mouth, strokes and pets him, cups Tim's ass and *squeezes* --

Tim jerks and cries out because he's *extra* sensitized there --

And Lex sighs with pleasure. "Imagine how that will feel when Jason is grinding against you, pubic hair scratching and tickling --"

Tim grunts and clutches at Jason -- and realizes that, somehow, he'd been freed while he wasn't paying attention. Tim blushes for that and moans, reaching for Lex with one hand --

Lex takes it and squeezes before letting go again. "Lead him to bed. He gets the middle."

"Mm-hmm," and Jason doesn't stop kissing to do it, doesn't stop *touching* --

He lifts and *moves* Tim when he doesn't get far enough onto the bed --

"Oh, Jason --"

"Easy, baby," Jason says, licking Tim's lips until they're wet and cool in the air and then kneeling up. His t-shirt is rucked up over his abdomen and his jeans are unbuttoned all the way down. His erection is an *extremely* compelling bulge --


Jason grins at him. "Yeah, Daddy?"

"Were you planning on stripping?"

"Oh, at some point," and Jason scratches at the hair beneath his navel.

"It really is cruel to tease Tim that way."

Jason snorts. "Yeah, I know. I'm a bad, bad man," he says, and he's *still* smiling down at Tim. "I just can't get over how fucking *cute* he is."

"Oddly enough, I know the feeling," Lex says -- and why is he still all the way over there?

Tim starts to turn --

And Jason catches him by the jaw and holds on. "Not yet, baby bro. I want you all to myself for a minute."

"Please. Please hold me? I mean -- no, I can wait for Lex --"

"We're *both* gonna hold you. And molest you."

And the reflex to grab at his penis may or may *not* be a good one, but it definitely makes Tim's eyes cross with several different kinds of pleasurably unmanning pain.

"Hunh. How would *you* describe that sound he just made, Daddy?"

"I believe it was something of a 'glurk,' Jason."

"Yeah, that sounds about right. You know it'll keep hurting if you keep squeezing it like that, right, baby?"

"Yes. No. Yes -- I'm trying to... ah. Get it to behave."

"I'm thinking you should probably give up on that for at least the next five years."

"Possibly even longer than that," Lex says, crawling onto the bed on Tim's other side and pressing close --

Naked --

Tim moans and lets go of his penis so he can touch, stroke --

"Now *that's* the kinda reaction -- heh. You guys just give me a minute," Jason says, slipping off the bed --

Tim turns to see --

Lex turns Tim *back* -- "Darling boy. How do you feel?"

"Not... ah. Not quite attached to my brain. Or my body. Or -- I don't know. I'm sensitive everywhere. Did you -- did you whip my scrotum?"

"Twice," Lex says, and covers Tim's right leg with his own. "That sort of thing is tricky, but I seem to have managed well enough."

Tim nods fervently -- "Oh -- yes, I'm sorry --"

Lex chuckles and kisses Tim, opening his mouth wide with his own and thrusting in slowly, rhythmically --

Tim groans and arches up, shaking for the silk of the sheets against his -- welts? Does he have welts?

He feels *hot* but no less smooth than he was before, save for where Lex had broken the skin --

Sucked his *blood* --

Tim penis twitches and he *knows* Lex had whipped him there, and he knows it's too *soon*, but it's Lex, and he wants him, wants him enough to hurt him, use him, need him --

Tim moans again and tries to push *closer* --

And Lex squeezes him and lets him do it --

Lex rolls Tim onto his back and presses him down with his body, so hard and *sleek* --

"Oh, that looks *damned* good, Daddy. Do I get a taste?"

Lex pulls out of the kiss and licks his lips. "Yes, I believe you do. Roll on when I roll off."

"Got it --"

And they do it so smoothly it feels *unreal*, transitionless somehow save for the feel of Jason's somewhat greater weight and the *wetness* of his kiss. Jason wants him to be messy; Lex had wanted something much more *streamlined* --

He could be *holding* them --

Tim reaches for Lex and gets his fingers sucked, pushes a hand into Jason's hair and gets *thrust* against, and Jason's body hair is scratchy and somewhat guilt-inducing, somewhat--

Jason is thrusting hard enough to *move* Tim, but he could be thrusting harder, giving Tim more weight, more heat --

He's sleek in different ways, *animal* in different ways --

Tim moans into Jason's mouth and spreads his legs. Jason pulls back --

"*Fuck*, yeah," and Jason is looming over Tim and grinning as he drags his penis against Tim's own --

So wet and hot --

Slick and *hot* --

Lex *bites* Tim's fingers and pulls them out of his mouth. "How do you like the feel of his hair, darling?"

"I -- I -- it feels so *rough* right now --"

"That's just that whipping you took so good, baby."

"Indeed. Enjoy the pain."

"Yes, Daddy, yes, Jason --"

"Sweet *baby*. Maybe Daddy'll let me taste your tears once we make you cry again, hunh?"

Tim blushes and whimpers, arching helplessly --

"How close are you to coming, Jason?"

"Oh... that all depends on whether or not I speed up, Daddy. I kinda want to save this for when I'm balls-deep in his ass. I didn't get off this morning, so I'll be up again to fuck his mouth pretty damned fast."

"Excellent. Choke him."

Jason grins somewhat *demonically* and flexes his hand in front of Tim's eyes. "You hear that, baby? Daddy wants you *good* and hard."

"Quickly, even."

"Heh. You ready for it, baby?"

Tim pants and tries to remember whether or not he *wants* to panic --

"*Relax*," Lex says, and --

No, he doesn't want to panic, at all. Tim breathes deep, breathes out again -- "I'm ready, Jason. I -- nnk -- "

The thing is, he'd *known* that Jason's hand was very large and strong. He'd *felt* that already. He --

He hadn't felt that on his throat. He --

Jason's hand is big and warm, strong and *hard*. He --

He can't breathe. He can't --


Tim jerks and *spasms* --

"*Fuck*, that's pretty. But you better try to get his attention again."

"Hm, yes. His eyes seem to have rolled back in his head."

His tongue feels thick. His *mind* feels thick --

"Lovely, beautiful, darling, perverse little boy."

Tim tries to groan and *can't*. But --

He can open his eyes --

"There you are," Lex says, and somehow he'd gotten into a position to *loom* over him --

Tim mouths Daddy --

And the flare behind Lex's eyes makes Tim want to *crawl* somewhere, so long as Lex would be at the end of the journey. "Blow a kiss when you need air. And that would be at the *first* bloom of those delightful black flowers."

"Yeah, baby. We *don't* want you unconscious."

"Definitely not. Jason, are you capable of concentrating?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm just teasing myself a little with this rhythm. What do you need?"

"I'm going to take that dildo out and fuck Tim with my fingers --"

Tim cries out --

Silence, nothing but -- 

He can't *breathe* and now he's bucking, struggling and --

Oh, he's getting *hard* again, and even knowing that would happen was no preparation for the feel of himself *aching* for seemingly every milliliter of blood flowing into his penis --

"Be *still*."

Black --

Tim stills himself and relaxes --

Black --

What was he -- *oh*. Tim blows a kiss --

And then Tim's *shouting* --

"Whoa, what the fuck, Daddy?"

"I just pulled out the toy. *Gently*," Lex says, and laughs softly. "*Breathe*, darling."

Black --

And Tim's whooping, clutching at the sheets and shaking -- "Want -- *want* --"

"*What* do you want, baby?"

"I. I can't --" Tim shakes his head and tries to focus, tries to *cope* with the feel of himself tingling for the oxygen, the recent *lack* of oxygen, the buzz of everywhere Lex whipped him -- "I'm so *empty* --"

"That won't last," and Lex starts stroking Tim's hole with his fingers, rubbing back and forth lightly enough that Tim can feel the lubricant and hard enough that it almost doesn't matter -- "Jason, put another pillow under his head."

"Sure thing, Daddy," and Jason kneels up, straddling Tim's waist and *fluffing* the pillow first -- "How's that?"

"I." Tim looks, and he can see Lex staring hungrily at him, *happily* and hungrily --

Tim smiles helplessly --

"God, so fucking *sweet*," and Jason moves to lie beside Tim, pressing close --

"You didn't have to stop, Jason."

"Oh, I totally did, Daddy. I wanna see your face when you're pushing your fingers into your *boy*."


His boy, yes. *Mostly* his, if not all. Jason will take a piece of Tim with him if Lex can't convince him to at least commute, but it won't be so large a piece that Tim will be --

"Daddy, I. You're happy."

Lex *presses* on Tim's hole, letting his middle finger breach just a little --

Tim moans and spreads his legs wider --

"I'm happy with you. I'm happy with Jason. I'm happy with my family, my corporation, and the state of -- most of -- the world. While that isn't *all* related to you... well."

And Tim... giggles. For him.

"*Fuck*, I love that," Jason says, and kisses Tim again.

He hadn't answered Lex about the kissing *thing*, but, a) Lex hadn't really made it into a question, and b) Lex is reasonably sure he knows at least some of why Jason enjoys it so much. It's the *first* consciously sexual intimacy for the vast majority of young people in the world, but it may very well have been nothing of the kind for him. A luxury, like leaving on his clothes until it's absolutely necessary to remove them -- and like having the ability to decide when necessary occurs.

It's no hardship to allow him the freedom to make love to Tim's mouth as much as possible, and it allows him the space both to observe and to put a choke-chain on his own control.

The way Tim had *moved* for him --

The way he'd held on until Lex *said* he could let go --

These are memories that will stay with him for a very, very long time -- and will make his cock sit up and *beg* -- but.

Jason gets Tim's ass first, while Lex will consider praying to some god *somewhere* that Tim loses the ability to give a *good* blowjob while he's being fucked up the ass. Certainly, it *seems* like a reasonable enough request to make.

Lex smiles at the boys --

Young men --

Lex smiles and watches Jason succeed and fail and succeed again at remembering not to roll Tim over just *yet* -- hm. "Roll Tim on top of you, Jason."


And Tim squeaks when he does it, fights *obviously* with himself over whether to spread his legs as wide as he can or to *grip* Jason with his thighs. He's going to make that choice easier.


Tim stiffens -- and relaxes at once, spreading wide enough that his sac swings temptingly --

Yes, he's shaving that before the night is over. He won't risk Tim's skin for even the LexCorp depilatory cream -- which Lex had worked on himself without one iota of shame. For now, he cups Tim's sac and squeezes firmly --

Tim groans into Jason's mouth and shivers --

And Lex pushes two fingers deep into Tim's hole, hissing for the heat, the tightness --

Tim had been clenching enough around the toy that there's *some* swelling --

At least one of them is going to have to remember to be *somewhat* gentle --

And Tim is grunting rhythmically into Jason's mouth even as he holds himself still --

Ah. Lex is already thrusting. He doesn't think he can be blamed --

No, he can be blamed for losing control enough to have *missed* a moment of this. His beautiful boy. His son --

How many emancipated children wind up adopted by others?

That would be *one* way to bind Tim to him forever --

It *ought* to be forever. If there's any such thing as *justice* --

No, if he doesn't calm himself down, he'll fuck Tim on *top* of Jason, and he's reasonably sure that Jason isn't quite that tolerant -- though it's beginning to seem as though Jason would tolerate a great deal if he could kiss Tim drunk while whatever it is occurs.

Lex squeezes Tim's sac a little harder just for the shake, and again for the moan, again to do it off-rhythm to his thrusts --

And Tim tears himself out of the kiss to shout and pant --

"Oh, no, baby, that belonged in my *mouth* --"

"Oh -- Jason, he -- Lex is *fucking* me --"

"Yeah, that's what he needs to do. You know that it's need, right?"

Tim groans and shakes all over --

Lex fucks Tim faster, harder --

Tim cries out and starts working himself on Lex's hand, bracing himself on Jason's shoulders --

"C'mon, answer me, baby..."

"Need. He needs me. Daddy *needs* me, and I have to be a good boy --"

And there's no holding in that grunt. No --

How could he ever think this was anything but another bit of fuck-drunk joy the two of them could enjoy?

It's more than that, of course, but --

Tim needs *him*, and --

Lex crooks his fingers *hard* --

And this time Tim *does* scream into Jason's mouth. Whether he's managing to kiss, as well, is something Lex can only guess at, but --

It takes so little to give Tim what he needs. Just -- a shift of perception. An allowance for emotion to follow. He was twenty-five when Tim was born, and, yes, he'd been *busy* with various projects official and otherwise, but couldn't there have been some woman who'd give him a son? Couldn't there have been a life lived with another life dependent on his own, dependent on both his will and his emotions --

A life of *devotion*, because anything less would be *unacceptable*.

Lex swallows and tries to tell himself that it's impossible, that there's still some chance for him to *skip* being remade --

Ah, but if he asks it of Tim --

"*Son*," Lex grits, and it's only fitting that Tim kneels up immediately with quick grace, that he crosses his arms behind his back -- "No, arms *up*."

"Daddy, *yes*," Tim says, and starts to turn --

Lex lets go of Tim's sac and drags Tim back against himself, just close enough for it to still be comfortable to have his fingers up Tim's ass, then tilts Tim's head back against his shoulder. "*Not* every time, Tim."

"I understand, Daddy, and I'm grateful. I -- I can't believe I didn't thank you --"

"Don't thank me for this, for -- I *need* you."

And, if anything, Tim lifts his hands higher, holds himself straighter --


"Yes, Daddy --"

"You must..." Lex nuzzles Tim's ear, licks him and kisses him -- "You're always needed. You're always *wanted*."

Tim moans and clenches around him --

Jason sits up on one elbow and starts stroking himself with slow and careless ease --

"Watch Jason, darling."

"I want -- please, Daddy, I want you inside me -- *ahn* --"

That for the spread of Lex's fingers inside him. So -- sweet, Jason would say, and perhaps that would explain the ache of this, the need -- "You'll have Jason first. Look at his cock."

"It's. The foreskin is so -- I want to know how that *feels* --"

"You know it with your hands and your mouth... but Jason will be wearing a condom when he fucks you."

And Lex can't *see* the face Tim makes --

But it makes Jason snort. "Hey, I would've insisted on it anyway, baby," and Jason's voice has that low and breathy quality that --

Yes, Tim is shivering.

Jason sucks in a breath -- "How are we doin' this, Daddy? I need him *bad*."

"Tim will be on his hands and knees. I trust you can figure out the rest...?"

Jason snickers and pants -- "Fuck, yeah. Don't loosen 'im up too much."

Tim grunts and bucks --

"Just two fingers, Jason. Try not to fuck him out of shape."

"Heh, we *have* to ream 'im, Daddy. We *promised*."

Tim *shudders* and gasps once, twice --

"So we did," Lex says, and crooks his fingers again --

"*Please* --"

"Please what, son? Tell me *quickly*."

"I'll come. Just -- the way you're both *talking* --"

"You're pretty much gonna have *negative* shame by the time we're done with you, baby..."

"Which will let him wear the outfit I've chosen for him for the party that much better."

"Heh. Am I allowed to take him for a spin around the dance floor? I promise not to hump him *too* obviously."

"I'll think about it --"

"*Please* -- please, both of you, I can't --"

"Pinch his cock, Jason."

Tim screams *beautifully* --

And Lex's cock twitches hard enough to make his eyes cross. "No more waiting," Lex says, pulling out and grabbing the wipe he'd left on the bedside table and tossing the condom to Jason. "Get into position, Tim."

"Yes, Daddy, thank you, Daddy --"

And Jason doesn't wait once Tim is down on his hands and knees. He crawls up behind Tim, spreads him *wide* --

"*Daddy* -- he -- he's going to --"

"Fuck you. He's going to fuck you so hard you scream -- around my cock."

"Ohn -- oh, fuck -- everything *hurts* --"

"That's 'cause you need it so bad, baby. Don't worry -- we're *going* to give it to you," and Jason lets go and slips the condom on. 

"Now," Lex says, gripping his cock with one hand and pushing the other into Tim's hair. He forces Tim's head up. "Don't try to hide from me, son. I need to see every moment."

Tim groans -- "Yes, Daddy, oh, yes --"

"Do it, Jason --"

"*Fuck*, oh -- oh, he's clenching up *tight*, Daddy --"

"Tim. *Submit*."

Tim goes visibly limp --

"Aw, *Christ*, yeah, just -- all the way in -- I see what you *mean*, Daddy --"

"Behold, the power of *motivation* in a young person," Lex says, but it's meaningless noise compared to the plea in Tim's eyes, so desperate and so beautiful --

So sweet and hungry even as he blushes --

"He's inside you now, darling. How does it feel?"

"Not -- I. Please, Daddy, I need *you*, *too* --"

Lex grunts and tries not to just *yank* Tim's head down onto his cock. Control. *Control* -- "How. Does it. *Feel*."

"*Good*. It feels -- he's so much warmer than the toy was, I. *Thick*, like you --"

"Can't. Can't hold still for long, Daddy  --"

"Is he clenching?"

"Fucking *milking* me. Tell me I can slap his pretty ass for that."

Lex watches Tim's eyes roll up --

Watches him *yank* control back from who knows where --

"Spank him."

"*Daddy* --"

"*Don't* come, son."

"Yes, Daddy, I'm listening, I'm yours -- *ohn* -- *ohn* --"

Jason is alternating cheeks for his spanks, using the flat of his palm and making the kind of noise that's going to --

Lex can *feel* himself flushing -- "Darling. Look at me."

It takes Tim a moment this time, and he's all but swaying on his hands, but he opens his eyes -- "Oh. Oh, Daddy, you look so *hungry* --"

"I *am*. Say it."



And Tim actually manages a creditable job of breathing *evenly*, considering everything, which means that this will be --

"*Fuck* him, Jason --"

Jason grunts, grips Tim's hips with both hands, and begins to thrust fast and hard -- "Oh, Christ -- Christ fucking *fuck* --"

"*Don't* stop until you're coming."

"Not -- not a fucking *problem*, Daddy --"

Tim is making sounds like he's taking a *beating*, like --

His eyes are glazed over --

He still manages to give his *last* bit of focus to Lex, to -- "Please, Daddy..."

"*Yes*," Lex says, and pulls Tim down onto his cock. Wet. Heat --

"Jesus, Daddy, I wouldn't give this up if you *paid* me --"

Never, never give --

"Aw, he's clenching again --"

"*Spank* him --"

"*Fuck*, yes. *Take* it, baby --"

"Yes, *take* it," Lex says, and starts to thrust, chopping Tim's moan to pieces --

Something that can writhe and scatter at once --

Tim's eyes are open, but he's lost, *gone* from this, and it's frustrating enough to make Lex *growl* --

And there is Tim in a flash, searching him and so obviously *trying* to find a way to be better, to *serve* --

"*Perfect*, Tim. Just... *submit* --"

Limp again, just in time for Lex to slide *deep* into the hot channel of Tim's throat --

Jason cries out -- "Fucking *tight* again --"

"Don't. *Don't* go easy --"

Jason cries out again --

Again --

Tim is *groaning* around Lex's cock --

"Open your *eyes*, Tim --"

He does, and he looks -- he looks *beatific*, and it brings Lex that much closer --

No, he has to last. He has to --

Somehow fucking --

Jason *screams*, slamming in hard enough to *drive* Tim's mouth against Lex's groin, and when Lex looks, Jason is shuddering hard enough to look like he's being *electrocuted*.


His turn.

His turn.

His *turn* --

"Oh, God, fuck, Daddy, gimme -- okay, no, not a *minute*, but -- uh." Jason squeezes Tim's hips hard -- and Jason whines --

"He squeezed you back."

"Yes, he fucking did and I'm *dying* -- wait, no, I'm pulling out," Jason says, and does just that, before pulling off the condom, tying it off with an expert series of twists, and tossing it. "Get *back* here, Daddy."

Tim sucks him hard enough to hollow his cheeks, and the plea is back in his eyes.

"*Soon*, son. Beautiful boy..." Lex shakes his head and pulls out carefully, giving himself a moment to watch Tim pant and shiver, shiver and claw at the sheets --

But Jason is already moving, still more than hard enough to enjoy Tim's mouth --

And the ache Lex feels won't go anywhere without his first having *this*. He moves, positions himself -- "Beg for it, Tim."

"Please fuck me, Daddy, make me come with you *inside* me --"


"*Hurt* me, Daddy, make me *scream* --"

Lex grunts and squeezes Tim's hips. "*More*."

"I'm *yours*, Daddy, I'm your son and I'll never *leave* --"

"No. No, you *won't*. Jason, take his mouth."

Tim cries out for Jason pushing both hands into his hair --

Tim goes down in two *deep* swallows --

"God, fuck, he's gonna fucking *kill* us with this, Daddy --"

"We probably deserve it," Lex says, forcing himself to let go with one hand so he can *take* himself in hand --

And he can't hold back a cry at the first brush of his cock against that hole --

That well-*used* hole, so swollen and *pink* --

Jason is moaning again --

Tim is shaking constantly --

"*Son*," Lex says, and pushes in deep, eyes rolling back in his head -- no. Control.

Control --

Just a few moments more --

So tight --

He's *clenching* --

"*Relax* --"

A choppy moan and a full-body shudder --

"Oh, baby, yeah, gimme your fucking *teeth* --"

Lex grunts for the image-memory-sense --

Something --

The heat makes him prickle all over with fresh sweat --

Beautiful boy on his *knees* --

Lex grunts *loudly* --

And Jason laughs, breathless and punch-drunk. "Hey, Daddy. This the gayest thing you've ever done?"

"I went. To fucking. *Boarding* school --"

And Jason's snicker is even more breathless and ends in a groan -- "My -- my mistake -- oh, Jesus, your *mouth*, baby --"

"His *ass*."

"Fuck him, Daddy. Show me *how* so I can do it right the *next* time --"

And Tim beats at the bed with one fist --

"You can *take* it, darling," Lex says, and knows he must look *manically* demented, but --

Oh, so *sweet* --

And he has just enough control to keep a rhythm as he fucks, as he *pounds* his perfect son, the only one he'll ever *need* --

"Aw, *yeah*, Daddy, *do* him --"

"Jason. Pull *off*."


Lex gasps a laugh and tries to hold *on* -- "Just -- a moment -- I have to --"

"Hear 'im, yeah, fuck, here ya go --"

"*Daddy* --!"

"My son, my -- *mine*," Lex says, and wraps one hand around Tim's cock --

And Tim screams and goes wild, bucking and clawing at the bed, beating and shouting, trying to toss his *head* even though Jason is holding him by the hair --

"*Easy*, baby --"

"No. No, Jason, let him have this. Let *us* have this --"

Jason grunts -- "Fuck. Tell me when I can have his *mouth* back --"

"Soon. Tim. *Say* it."


"*Now*, Jason --"

And then they're riding him together, fucking him in rhythm that leaves Tim flushed and shuddering, writhing --

And jerking spasmodically when he comes with a choked-off scream --

They don't stop.

They don't --

Fucking --


And the part of him which wants to outlast Jason is trollish and *dim*, but it's there, it's *there* --

"Teeth again -- oh, Daddy, I think he wants me to *stop* --"

Tim shakes his head *violently* --

"Or not," Jason says, laughing somewhat hysterically --

"Jason. *Come*."

"So you can -- can fucking outlast me?"

"Stop being *intelligent* --"

Jason chokes --

Pulls Tim in *hard* --

And *grinds* his way in and in --

Fuck, he's still matching Jason's *rhythm*, but he can't stop. It's too hot, too --

*Flash* of light and heat and --

That was a *clench* -- "*Tim* --"

"Baby, oh -- ohn --"

"*Mine* --"

"And I'm loving that you *share*," Jason says, laughing again -- but only until he chokes and begins to shudder and grunt -- he's coming again.

*Finally* --

Lex shoves his arms under Tim's own and hauls him up --

Jason cries out and spatters Tim's chest with come --

"I'll mean an apology *later*," Lex says, hauling Tim onto his cock and fucking his way up --

Up --

"Unh -- *Daddy* --!"

Jason *barely* manages to avoid falling off the bed --

"Tim. You -- I *love* you --"

"I know, Daddy, come, please come --"

"Does it *hurt*."

"So *much* --"

"Jason --"

"Hnh -- fuck -- he's crying, Daddy. Just like you like --"

Lex growls and yanks Tim's head back, and the kiss is awkward, messy and *incomplete* somehow, but it's what he needs, what he wants in the absence of the ability to do this face to face --

And Tim is trying to ride him. He's exhausted and *pained* but still trying to *ride* him --

"Good. Good *son*, I --"

This time, the heat takes Lex with him, blinding him to everything, deafening to everything but Tim's spiraling screams --

Lex must be thrusting too *hard*, but he can't stop --

He --

Light and heat --

The power of pleasure to leave him *broken* --

He has to --

Black --

*No* -- and Lex hears himself roaring with it, holding on by main force as the pleasure scours him *raw* --

And once he's back in his body he discovers that he's wrapped Tim in a *bear* hug. He's also biting Tim's ear.

Which he had roared into.

Dear... something or other.

Lex closes his eyes and breathes until he can do it like a man who isn't in the process of dying from emphysema --


Jason is making one of those damned ass-shaped 'hearts' with his hands and -- cooing.

"I take it back. You're not allowed to have sex with him anymore."

"Is it the cooing or the heart?"

"The -- that's not even what a heart *looks* like," Lex says, and forces himself to scowl --

Jason's snicker suggests that the effort was weak.

Lex sighs and tugs Tim's head back by the hair -- hm. "Tim."

"Mm-hmm..." And Tim blinks. Twice. Slowly.

"Yeah, I don't think you're gettin' anything like answers outta him, Daddy."

"I -- what do you need, son?"

Tim's penis twitches and he starts to fall over --

Jason catches him and pushes him back against Lex's chest. "I'm thinkin' he's got what he needs... other than some more aggressive cuddle."

Yes, that. "Lie down there, Jason."

"What, I get the wet spot?"

Lex looks at him.

Jason snickers and flings himself down.

"Good... young man."

"Arf arf, Mr. Warbucks."

Warbucks -- Lex narrows his eyes at Jason.

Jason's grin can only reasonably be described as 'shit-eating.' Well.

"That's *Daddy* to you."

Jason salutes extremely sloppily -- and then opens his arms. "C'mon, hand me the baby, Daddy. I'm in a nurturing mood."

"I believe Tim will run away if you start lactating --"

Tim makes a noise which is both troubled and utterly endearing --

"*Aww*. Seriously, just lie down with him attached. That's probably what he wants anyway."

Tim nods slowly and blinks again.

"You're going to have to come back to us eventually, Tim."


All right, then. Lex adjusts his grip on Tim to make it more steadying than convulsive and lies down carefully.

Tim sighs and closes his eyes.

Jason moves closer and grins at him. "So how long do we let him rest before forcing him to eat his snack?"

Lex accesses his time sense -- no, it's not working at the moment. For *some* reason. He checks the clock and it's nearly two. Eva will want to serve dinner no later than seven. She'll *accept* it if Lex demands later -- she always does -- but there will be reprisals of some kind.

It's possible that Jason would wake up with a hatchet buried in his bedpost. 

Lex strokes Tim's cheek with his knuckles. "No more than an hour."

"He'll probably be back by then," Jason says, casually throwing an arm over Tim's waist and Lex's own.

Tim sighs with quiet satisfaction.

Lex thinks of the bracelet he'd bought for Tim -- titanium bars interspersed with coils reminiscent of the double helix -- and decides that he can wait to give it to him until sometime later. Tim will *want* to learn more aikido tonight...

Lex will bring it down to the gym with him. He shifts enough -- and carefully enough not to dislodge himself from Tim -- that he can cover Jason's arm with his own --

"Didn't think you would, Daddy."

"I plan on enjoying myself until such time as I can remember why I want to be Emperor of the United States more than I want to do this daily."

Jason snickers -- stops. "You totally don't mean 'president,' do you."

"Not even remotely."

Jason pinches him. "Power corrupts, Daddy."

"And this isn't corruption?"

"Not even -- heh -- remotely. This is the good stuff."

Tim sighs his way through a snore on cue.

Lex moves his hand enough that he can stroke Tim's hip --

"You know you can't let him down, yeah? He's putting everything on you -- everything he has and, like, more that he *doesn't* yet."

"He's mine."

"Yeah, *and*?"

Lex squeezes Tim's hip. "I've lost too much over the years to risk losing anything -- or anyone -- else. He may grow weary of me someday, but, as I've told him, that will merely spur me on to doing whatever's needed to get him back."

"You told him -- hunh."


"His parents..." Jason frowns. "Yeah, I can see it. Well, they've lost their chance to fuck up any more."

Lex squeezes Tim's hip and breathes through the feel of softening enough to slip most of the way out --

Tim makes a small sound and tries to push even closer to Lex --

"It's all right, darling. Relax," Lex says, and seats Tim more firmly against him. "Never again, Jason."

Jason rubs companionably at Lex's waist. "I hear you. Mind if I nap along with baby?"

"Go ahead. It will give me time to plot and scheme for the betterment of our relationships in peace."

Jason laughs. "*Or* you could nap, too."

Lex smiles. "I'll consider it."

"Uh, huh. You do that," Jason says, closing his eyes and yawning immediately. Lex swallows his own yawn and pulls himself into enough of a meditative state that he's able to restrain his presence.

Jason is asleep in moments. Tim...

Lex is reasonably sure that, snores and all, Tim isn't asleep so much as he is lying back within himself and looking for a way to cope with everything which had just happened.

Lex is more than capable of being patient for that.


The LexCorp Summer Gala is not, traditionally, a black tie event.

While there will be any number of men wearing tuxedos tonight, the vast majority of them will be doing so out of a profound failure of imagination, and none of them -- Tim is willing to wager a sexual encounter on this -- will be wearing purple.

Specifically, a purple so dark that it *appears* to be black save for in bright light or next to things which are *actually* black.

The jacket has tails.

The waistcoat has a pocket for a watch -- titanium, anodized a pale lavender.

The shirt is blued enough to *hint* at a purple which only barely doesn't clash with the jacket, waistcoat, tie, and pants.

Tim's hair is spiked to within an inch of its life -- though that's Jason's fault.

There's a *mask* on a *stick* --

"No, Lex."

"Try it out."



"It's -- it's not *Carnivàle*. It's not even the right time of *year* for that!"

Lex twirls the mask between his fingers.

Jason cocks his head to the side. "Hunh. Are those sequins?"

"'Spangles,' more properly," Lex says, and hands Tim the mask.

"Lex --"

"It's an integral part of the *look*, darling."

"Why are you doing this to me? I -- did I not agree to shaving my scrotum fast enough?"

Jason coughs.

Tim glares at him.

Jason rubs at his upper lip and makes a truly pathetic attempt to look contrite. "See, I. I kinda told Lex that you should look like you were going to a cabaret."

Tim knows the look on his face speaks of ultimate betrayal, and he's all right with that --

Until Jason bites his lip in a pathetic and *obvious* attempt to hold in a laugh.

Tim growls --

Jason holds up his hands and makes a pushing motion. "It's just, you know. It seemed like the next logical *step* for how you were letting him dress you, bro."

"I look like -- like --"

"Like you're *going* to a *cabaret*," Lex says, and nudges on the hand Tim is using to hold the mask-stick until Tim lifts it. "You'll be a sensation."

"Yes! I know!"

"You gotta let us at least *see* the mask, bro," Jason says, and really, he's been wearing *his* -- perfectly normal -- tuxedo for half an hour and it's already rumpled attractively.

And more masculinely than anyone wearing Tim's tuxedo will ever be able to approach without first sewing on two extra pairs of testicles -- all right, no, that's excessively gruesome. Still.


"Yes, darling?"

"If you let me eschew the mask..."



"Nah, bro, that's for me, tonight."

Lex hums. "It's true. As attractive as you look in eyeliner, I believe it would be overkill tonight."

"Over." Tim glares at Lex just a bit more --

Lex blows him a kiss.

"You -- I'm not even going to get to spend time with you tonight!"

Lex raises an eyebrow. "No, you're not. You're going to be living it up over *there* by the champagne fountains while I fawn all over Bethany Madison-Henriksen and generally look like a ragingly hormonal midlife-crisis case with a penchant for doing laughable things like dressing up other people's children like they're going to cabarets."

Bethany Madison-Henriksen is exactly twenty-two years old and has spent the past four years bouncing from wealthy older man to wealthy older man --

Tim sighs. "Fine. No mask."

"Show me, Tim."

"*Lex* --"


And, of course, the mask is up in front of his eyes before he can even think about it. It ruins his peripheral vision. It -- it *feels* tacky --

Jason hums.

Lex also hums.

Tim *glares* --

"Baby, we can see you doing that."

"I. *Know*."

Jason snickers quietly --

Lex hums again -- "No."

Tim tears the mask away and sets it down on the desk. "Now let's talk about the watch --"

"Oh, the watch totally stays, baby. It's awesome."

"Yes," Lex says. "I'd planned to give it to you for your birthday, but it felt too impersonal."

Tim -- blushes. He's going to be doing that whenever anyone mentions his birthday for a long, long time. Really, he'd only *stopped* feeling the aftermath of the whipping *yesterday*.

And neither Lex nor Jason have allowed Tim's ass to *stop* being sore, and --

"That's a much better look on his face, I think, Daddy."

"Yes, I concur. The rest of the outfit stays as it is. You wear it beautifully."

"But -- I'm *bristling*, Lex! With -- with *outrage*!"

"Yeah, and that is *so* totally working with your hair."

Tim considers putting his fists on his hips -- no. Sudden movements make the tails on the jacket move in odd and distracting ways.

Sudden movements of, specifically, his arms makes the small and lightweight -- yet nonetheless heavy-*feeling* -- bracelet Lex had *actually* given him for his birthday *announce* itself in ways --

In ways that make Tim feel precisely as owned as he is.

And Lex is smiling at him sharply and knowingly --

"I think I might hate you," Tim says, and *gracefully* moves into a position where his arms are crossed over his chest and he can tap his foot --

"Nah, baby, that makes you look like you're about to saw some chick in half or something."

Mercy, maybe?

Well, no, she's been staying out of his way, lately. Mainly because -- wait.

"I'm going to go talk to Hope," Tim says, and attempts to pull on dignity like a larger, less ridiculous dinner jacket.

Lex raises his eyebrow at him. "You can't let her hug you too much, darling. Rumpled doesn't work on *you*."

Hope *has* been very hug-oriented lately. All the time she'd spent observing other people doing it had given her a good grasp of several different hug schools of thought, all of which she's improving upon. And -- "Lex, if you tempt me any more than you're already doing? I'm going to *break-dance* in this suit."

Jason coughs again.

Lex looks *thoughtful* --

"No, Lex."

"What is it, darling?"

"You -- you were planning something related to something I said. I need you to stop it."

Lex hums.

Tim snarls helplessly --

"I promise I'll never make you wear a track suit."

"Yeah, you totally need a little meat to make those work. Male or female."

"Even the velour ones?"

"*Especially* the velour ones," Jason says, shifting enough to make his collar gap *interestingly* --"Trust me."

"I will," Lex says, and it sounds like 'I do' and it also sounds like 'I'm pleased with this state of affairs.'" 

The fact that that tone of voice can make Tim smile no matter what --

Is made less infuriating by the way Lex smiles at him, and comes closer, and kisses Tim softly and warmly. Tim's forehead, Tim's cheeks, Tim's mouth -- "Son," Lex breathes, and Tim's penis wants him to know that it has been hours since Lex had met the car in the garage and had Mercy drive them through the park while Lex slowly, *roughly* jerked Tim off --


Tim leans into the touch --

Lex pushes him back.

*He* still has to dress -- and Hope is going to spend the night on the edges of the party. He'd only had a short day at Cadmus today and thus no time to really catch up with her, at all -- yes.

Tim glares one more time at Jason --

Jason wiggles his *tongue* at him --

Tim flips Jason off with both hands as he walks backwards out of the dressing room.

The small electronic map outside Lex's bedroom shows Hope's white dot lingering in the suite she shares with Mercy, so Tim heads in that direction, pausing to nod at a black-clad servant he may or may not have seen before. Eva keeps them all on a *short* leash, and the fact that Tim had seen this one may mean that he's about to be fired.

Ten feet away he can smell the bath oil Lex favors for *both* Hope and Mercy -- though for different days of the week -- and he *thinks* it's Hope's day for it. He hopes so -- as usual, Lex's taste for them is the best.

He wonders what they'll be wearing tonight. Probably something to call attention away from Mercy's fading black eye -- or, more likely, something to call attention *to* it in some shocking way.

Tim knocks on the door --

Tim *starts* to knock on the door, but Mercy opens it so fast that Tim only grazes it. She's dressed as a ninja, complete with tabi and tightly-wrapped clothing which both shows off her aesthetically perfect shape and will keep her from tripping or getting caught on anything should a fight break out. The only parts of her showing *are* her eyes and a strip of flesh above and below them -- and, yes, it makes the bruising look spectacular while making her expression entirely ambiguous.


Mercy narrows her eyes in anger, pleasure, thoughtfulness, and/or something else, entirely. Right.

"Ah... will Hope be wearing the same?"

"No," she says, and her voice is only slightly muffled.

"How much are you enjoying that outfit?"

Narrowed eyes again -- "Immensely."

Tim bites the inside of his lip.

Mercy jerks her wrist to the side -- and is suddenly holding three shuriken. They're lavender, which suggests a titanium coating over the standard steel. He wonders what it does for their balance, and -- 

He sighs in that curiously *resigned* pleasure which he's rather gotten accustomed to in the last little while. "Where's Hope?"

Mercy lifts her chin --

And then Tim is being hugged from behind, and, yes, now that he *thinks* about it, the scent of bath oil *had* been getting stronger.

He'd been distracted by the -- everything, really. Tim reaches up and cups Hope's arms. "How are you?"



Hope squeezes him for an exact three-count and then turns Tim around to face her --

Oh, my. She's wearing a cream 'suit' which resembles a form-fitting tuxedo -- sans tails -- with practical yet sleek cream knee-high boots in the riding style, and a top hat cocked at a jaunty angle. The piping, what little there is of it, matches Tim's tuxedo perfectly. "Well. I think you look incredible."

"Yes, I believe it's flattering. I normally match or complement Mercy for these events, however."

Tim nods thoughtfully and turns -- Mercy has disappeared --

"Come sit with me," Hope says, and raises her eyebrows in a mathematically even sort of question. She's been working on those.

"Of course," and Tim walks into the suite to the couch Hope prefers and, as she also prefers, sits down in the middle.

"Did Lex tell you to keep your suit neat," and her eyebrows are up again --

"Yes, as a matter of fact, he did. I could stand another hug, though."

"I will be careful," and she steps up onto the couch and wedges herself behind Tim, straightening Tim's jacket rather obsessively before wrapping her arms around him again. "Do you think he is explicitly connecting me to you."

The *piping* certainly *suggests* he is -- but. "What did he say about it?"

"That he wanted to see me in something bright, yet well-suited for the judicious application of horrifically beautiful violence."

Oh... Lex. "Anything about me?"

Hope presses her mouth against Tim's ear --

Tim shivers --

Hope lets him feel her frown.

"You're getting better at that."

"Yes, thank you. He... reminded me that your security was his own. I don't know why he did that. It's difficult not to think that he feels that I needed a reminder. That I was in some way close to failure."

Oh... "I know how thoughts like that work --"

"Yes. Mercy says that Lex has made it a project to work on your low self-esteem, and that you are improving only barely fast enough for his tastes."

Tim laughs quietly. "Well... yes. I think... well, Lex is human, too. As difficult as it is to credit."

"Yes, go on." And sometimes, now, there are hints of impatience in Hope's voice which are both terrifying and *incredibly* heartening.

"Ah... yes. He worries about me, and about you. He wants us to be happy, healthy, and secure, and he's not always sure that he knows how to make that happen."

"Not... hm. Go on."

"I think -- I think, sometimes, he gives orders not because he thinks they *need* to be given -- that is to say, not because he thinks there's a flaw or ignorance in the person the orders are being given to -- but because he needs to... firm his sense of control over the situation."

"That sounds like... insecurity."

"It's a *kind* of insecurity, certainly. The kind which is only familiar to very confident and powerful people. *Intelligent* people who have watched the world fail to conform to logic and... and good sense for many years."

Hope squeezes him. "Thank you. That didn't... disagree with my own thoughts on the matter."

"You just weren't sure of those thoughts?"

"They seemed self-serving. I believe Lex will send me with you when you need to travel."

"I hope so. I would miss you otherwise."

Hope nods against him. "It will be... strange to be separated from Lex. To act on assignments not directly related to his needs."

It would almost have to feel like stepping into a brand new -- and decidedly insecure -- life. So. "I'm Lex's property, Hope. Everything you do for me, you do for him."

"You are not only Lex's property, though that was... a good try."

Tim smiles ruefully --

"I still don't know how to laugh."

"I know, Hope. It will come to you."

"I... must have laughed when I was a young child at least once. All children do this. There are no memories."

"Mercy's hypnosis?"

"I always return to the grave, sooner or later."

Tim closes his eyes and squeezes Hope's arms again. "I wish you didn't have to deal with that."

"I know. What will you do when Jason leaves. How will you feel."

"Well... I'll be sad. And wistful. And frustratingly aroused for the time it takes for Lex to remind me what I like *best*. And I'm still holding out hope that Jason will accept Lex's job offer, if for no other reason than that he makes Lex happy in ways none of *us* can."

"Yes. He is... fascinating. Mercy finds him acceptable."

Tim smiles wryly. "I *had* noticed her not menacing him, yes."

"I am working on a theory about Lex."

"Oh, yes?"

"I believe -- no. I know that he has lacked for friends for many years. Mercy comes close, but she refuses much of that sort of relationship. Emil Hamilton could have been a good friend, but he found Lex to be morally unacceptable. Lucius Fox has rejected Lex utterly. And then there is Bruce Wayne."

Yes, *him* -- "I think -- I think Lex was very lonely, Hope."

"Yes. He needed you."

"And Jason, too."

"We must convince Jason to visit often."

"If we can. He has a life in Gotham we're keeping him from."

Hope strokes Tim's sides, up, down, up -- she lets go and Tim stands and turns to offer her his hand --

She takes it and stands with him, then adjusts her hat minutely.

"I have to admit, Hope, you look like you're about to start a kick-line."

"I'm a terrible dancer."

"I would think the capoeira would help with that --"

Hope wrinkles her nose.

"Or not. I didn't know you didn't like it."

"There's too much... music in it. Distracting."

Tim nods and considers -- yes, that would make sense. "I quite enjoy music, but it's true that most of what I like either fades into a kind of atonal background noise or is excessively distracting in a way that doesn't allow for much in the way of *rhythm*."

"Fighting should never have rhythms. Rhythms are predictable," Hope says, and heads for the door.

Tim follows at the precise one and one half paces which will allow her to best defend him --

"We should find Lex another friend if we can't have Jason."

"Yes, I think that's a good idea. I honestly don't know where to look, though."

"We will both think about it," Hope says, and guides them to the elevator. "How is two-three-two. You only spoke to him briefly today."

"He continues to thrive. The guess is that he's at a developmental age of twenty-two to twenty-four weeks, as compared to the other surviving clones who are languishing at six to seven weeks."

"You believe he will survive."

He has eyebrows and eyelashes and fingerprints and his lungs are growing alveoli -- "There continue to be no signs of breakdown or cancerous growth. He's -- well, he's *thriving*. And even his startle response is perfect. I think Lex should come see him."

"You think of him as Lex's son."

"He *is*, biologically. And -- he's going to be so amazing, Hope. So -- we've already begun 'feeding' him various information, and he's just going to learn more and more. Preliminary scans show his brain increasing in volume *and* surface area at an unprecedented pace. He's already far surpassed Bizarro."

Hope nods slowly and thoughtfully. "I think he is beautiful."

"I -- two-three-two, you mean?"

"Yes," Hope says, and steps out of the elevator. "He is potential in many senses of the term. He is... unsullied."

Hm. "Do you think of *yourself* as being sullied?"

Hope stops, turns slightly, and twitches the corners of her mouth three times.

Yes, that answers *that* question. "*I* don't think of you that way."

"You still believe me... innocent. Have you ever thought that this might be so because you don't wish to consider it possible for you to be friends with an unrepentant killer." And there is actual humor in her voice, albeit nearly illusorily mild.

"You've been talking to Mercy about my morals again."

"Yes. She is worried that Lex will choose not to remove obstacles which need to be removed."

"I..." Tim stops in the hall leading to the ballroom and pinches the bridge of his nose.

Hope stops and cocks her head at him before moving into a stance which will quickly afford her three-sixty views of any situation remotely close to Tim himself. "What is it."

"I." Say it. Just -- say it. "I have accepted that there will always be some... obstacles which will prove to require... permanent removal."

Hope blinks at him. Once.

"No, I haven't told Lex, yet. I'm. I haven't accepted it with *enough* of myself, yet. I would appreciate your giving me time to do it."

"How much."

"One more night."

Hope nods again. "You move quickly at times. We all approve of this."

Tim smiles ruefully and thinks of *that* conversation with Jason, of his matter-of-fact description of the lives he'd taken, one after another, to make life a little better for the people he cared about -- or just for the people he thought he *could* care about. A month ago, Tim hadn't known *what* to think about the rumors of the ghost. Now... well.

Even in the heart of Gotham, there are things Batman can't improve -- and he can't, actually, blame the turn of his thoughts --

His *beliefs* --

He can't blame that on Jason. The truth is messier and more embarrassing, because he'd *started* moving when Lex had talked about his father, and he'd just...

Kept moving.

Slowly but surely.

There are people who deserve to have their lives taken from them.

There are people he cares about who have made that choice more than once.

He's never been further away from the boy he thought he was than he is at this moment.

He's never been closer to figuring out who he actually is.

The doors to the ballroom open on a swell of acoustically perfected jazz music as three women who will undoubtedly prove to be some of Metropolis' best and brightest walk out and turn toward the nearest restrooms. Tim smiles at Hope. "Lead the way?"

"Yes, Tim," she says, and does just that.

Once they've been inside the ballroom for long enough for Hope to scan the room for potential threats and check the placement of the universally tuxedoed mercenaries, Hope makes the 'go' gesture and moves off to begin her circuits of the room. She'll be spending the night testing and adjusting the party's security, and, undoubtedly, some of the mercenaries will lose their commission for slacking.

Or even 'slacking.'

*His* job for the evening is to do the following: One, keep a confident and mature smile on his face. Two, introduce himself to several of LexCorp's -- and other companies' -- luminaries while changing up a set script that highlights his acumen and, again, maturity. Three, save Jason from assorted high society piranhas as time permits, while still allowing him to achieve his aura of outsider chic. Four, allow rumors to circulate about himself and Jason, especially by doling out judiciously cool non-denials to the people brazen enough to ask. Five, become a Bruce-seeking missile when he finally arrives and arrange the introduction to Jason. Six --

Have fun.

Because Lex is Lex, six may very well be the most important directive for the night as far as he's concerned, and it's just one of those happy not-much-of-an-accidents that Tim will have no trouble with that whatsoever. For one thing, he's been training for just this sort of assignment his entire life. For another --

Well, this is the first time he's going to get to do this while being anything *like* himself. While he would've preferred a redder purple for the tuxedo, he has to admit that the one Lex had picked is excellent for his skin tone, while the shirt brings out the blue of his eyes. He doesn't look even a *little* bit straight, and, for once, that's *okay*.

He may not be able to be openly gay with the man he's in love with, but there's no hardship whatsoever in being linked to Jason Peter Todd...

Who is currently in a crush of early-arriving debutantes who were clearly able to recognize quality when they saw it. Tim pauses for long enough to meet Jason's eyes --

And Jason looks up with a *wryly* amused look on his face. He makes the agreed-upon 'it's okay' gesture and nods Tim off, so Tim begins his own perambulations. He gets any number of looks, but the fact is that his mother had kept him relatively under wraps -- most of these people don't know enough about his previous public image to know that there's anything wrong -- or even 'wrong' -- with how he looks tonight.

He wishes he *were* wearing eyeliner --

No, no, he's fine.

He introduces himself to the terminally dull -- but clearly unfailingly competent -- LexCorp CFO, who offers him a butterscotch candy and pats him on the cheek.

He introduces himself to the head of the Intelligrow legal department, who manages to say absolutely nothing of any worth, all while studying Tim with eyes like flint. Tim dutifully says nothing back as intelligently as possible and makes a mental note to learn more about the woman.

He introduces himself to a -- probably -- mixed-race saxophone player with the most beautiful green eyes he's ever seen, and gets the man's phone number almost by accident. Almost.

He introduces himself to the mayor of Metropolis -- a man who manages to say even less of any import than the Intelligrow rep, and to do it in four minutes flat. Lex says the man is useful where he is, but Tim feels slightly soiled -- so.

He finds Jason on the windiest of all the balconies, behind a potted plant which almost certainly hadn't been positioned there originally. Tim clears his throat --

And Jason grins back at him from over his shoulder. "You're just the queerest little boy in all the land, aren't you."

Yes. *But* -- "I would like to remind you that this outfit is *your* fault, Jay."

"Yeah, yeah, hurry up and get over here before one of those vultures starts to wonder why you're talking to a plant."

Tim smiles and slips around to join Jason near the edge of wind-swept peril -- hm. It's possible that the suit is getting to him.

"Penny," Jason says, and pokes Tim's temple lightly.

Tim smiles ruefully. "I like being out. Of the closet, I mean."

Jason raises his eyebrows. "Yeah? That's what you've been doing for the last hour?"

Had it been that long? "I... well, I haven't exactly explicitly said to anyone 'my name is Tim Drake and I vastly enjoy performing fellatio on attractive men' --"

Jason snorts --

"But... yes. I mean... there's a difference. Between this party and all the others, I mean -- it's hard to explain."

"Nah, I get it, I think. You're bein' real for the first time, yeah?"

Tim lets his smile get a little bit wider. "Mostly real. I've also been working on my assignment to make a name for myself before the emancipation rumors hit the gossip circuit."

"Still, a lot more you than usual."

"Infinitely more," Tim says, and curls his fingers around the railing, enjoying the chill. "You're loathing this."

"With a *fiery* passion. I'm glad *you're* having fun, though."

"I'm sorry. I'd rather you not have to put up with things that annoy you."

"Eh, I've got a job to do," Jason says, and sounds... wistful.

Tim rests a hand on Jason's own, regretting having had the impulse to let his hand pick up the chill from the railing when Jason shivers at the touch.

When Jason looks down into Tim's eyes, his own eyes are shadowed save for two points of light -- a trick of Metropolis' endless gleam blended with the night itself. It makes him look dangerous, old, *remote* --

"You know -- you *should* know that Lex wouldn't hold you to your contract."

Jason raises his eyebrows in raw skepticism -- but then he blinks and smiles. "Yeah, I guess I do. Still -- I like *earning* money, and once Mr. Man shows up, I can hurry up and focus. It's not a hard job."

"Have you thought more about --"

"I have, yeah. Lex made the job sound incredible. Just -- perfect for me. Enough that I'm honestly wondering if it's worth giving up all my friends for. Other people, too."

"The people you protect?"

"Snuffy's so smart he's an idiot. He can read everybody but himself, and that just gets him into trouble so damned *much*. Everybody says that he's gonna be one dead whore sooner rather than later, but I can't just --" Jason firms his mouth into a hard line and shakes his head. "He needs *someone* to look out for his too-pretty ass."

Tim definitely shouldn't be thinking this uncharitably about someone he'd never met --

He'd never met Lex's father, either. Or Hope's entire biological family, for that matter. He --

"I'd like. I'd like for you to stay. Or just... come visit. Often."

"Because you've found *your* family."

Tim smiles. "It's a good family."

"Even with Mercy wanting your ass sliced and diced?"

"Even then. It's almost like having my grandfather around."

Jason snorts. "Your own *grandfather* hated you? What the hell did you do -- fart in his oxygen tank?"

"Really, he just hated my mother and all of her works. Since he considered me *one* of those works..."

"Heh, I hear you. You don't have to worry about me leaving you high and dry, bro. I don't give up on friends."

And wishing Jason *would*... is ultimately counterproductive. He presses closer to him, instead. "Noted."

Jason puts an arm around Tim's shoulders and breathes deep -- "No city should smell this clean. I'm betting even the *rich* parts of Gotham don't smell like this."

"They really don't. And this -- when you consider the fact that there's a *port* here, full of undoubtedly polluted water --"

"That there are eight million damned *people* --"

"That there's a part of the city called 'Suicide Slum' --"

Jason snorts. "See, I always thought that was trying too hard."

"Ah... ah?"

"Yeah, you need something simple and direct. 'Crime Alley,' tells you exactly what you're gonna get, and doesn't ever need to brag about it."

"You think 'Suicide Slum' is *bragging*?"

Jason grins, bright and wide. "Hell, yeah. 'Oh, you think *you* suck?'" And Jason makes his voice deeper and whinier -- "'*I* cause people to *kill* themselves because I'm *so* hardcore.'"

Tim gives up and snickers.

"Heh, I win."

"Win *what*?"

"Gotham City bragging *rights*, maybe? Fuck, I don't know. Something. I totally win *something*."

"The opportunity to cuddle with the only boy at this party dressed for a gay opera?"

"Ooh, I'll take it," Jason says, spinning Tim against the French doors --

Giving Tim time to settle himself on his feet --

But the kiss still comes some variety of too soon for Tim's sense of equilibrium and self. Jason never kisses as if it's a first step. For Jason, kissing is obviously -- and devastatingly -- an end to itself. It's something which should be done slowly at first, but never softly unless it's a tease. It's something that should be wet, but never *wasteful*. It's something which should be fun, and laughter comes so *easily* at moments like this --

"You're so damned *hot* like this, baby..."

"Mm?" And that's the only response available with Jason kissing him again --

"I'm *serious*. I just wanna strip you out of those pants and boxer-briefs, bend you over, and let those tails *frame* you."

Tim moans -- and moans into the next kiss, and the next, and the next after *that*, because Jason is forcing Tim's head back with the kiss, but *isn't* playing with Tim's hair --

He *likes* Tim's impersonation of a hedgehog --

And those are Jason's hands moving all over him, giving Tim diffuse heat, potential, tease -- and *threat* when Jason cups Tim's scrotum through his pants. Tim grunts and *thrusts* --

Jason bites Tim's *lip* -- and pulls back. "There's gotta be time for us to disappear upstairs for twenty minutes. There just -- there *has* to be."

Tim's nodding before he can think about it --

"Thank fucking Christ, let's go --"

"*Wait*," Tim says, wincing and adjusting himself in his pants. "I can't."

"But you just --"

"I wasn't *thinking*," and Tim smiles ruefully. "I've really only just begun my assignments for the evening --"

Jason sighs. "Yeah, true, this *is* your job -- or part of it, anyway."

Tim rests a hand on Jason's chest. The bowtie which had been dangling untied around his neck is gone entirely and the first two buttons of the shirt are unbuttoned and -- "You look -- ah. 'Delicious' is the word that comes to mind, actually."

Jason raises his eyebrows --

"I really do think this outfit is affecting me."

"If we go upstairs we can steal some of Hope's lipstick. Some of those shades would look *kickass* on you."

"Oh -- ooh. Hm. No, I'm supposed to look halfway responsible for this party."

Jason looks him over slowly and pointedly.

"All right, maybe a quarter of the way responsible. Certainly more than an eighth."

"You're awesome. How long do I get to hide before I have to go back out there for more unauthorized groping and giggles pitched high enough to make dogs' ears bleed?"

Tim winces --

And Jason catches him by the jaw. "Nah, baby, you're totally not allowed to make that face in that outfit."

Tim raises an eyebrow --

"*Much* better. Seriously, how much time?"

"Well... Lex and I factored in a certain amount of 'hide on the balconies and in the men's rooms' for you already. You're in good shape."

Jason snorts. "Of course you did. You guys are perfect for each other," he says, and sounds wistful again.

"Ah... Jay?"

A rueful smile. "I want someone perfect for me. I'm thinking it *could* have been you in another life --"

"Oh. I... Jay --"

Jason covers Tim's mouth with his thumb. "I'm not about to go crazy and depressed on you. I *like* seeing you with Daddy, since you guys make each other happy, like, every fucking minute of every *day*. It's just -- I'm ready for a love thing of my own, I think," Jason says, and shrugs, moving his thumb. "I'm thinking I'm gonna take Daddy's money, lie low until I turn eighteen, then get the hell out of the life. I'll drag Snuffy with me by the fucking hair, find a school to put him in, and start living a real life."

"You could -- you could do that here."

"Yeah, hunh? No, I know what you're saying. Gotham's calling me, though. It's... I wanna do something that makes the city better --"

"I *knew* I heard Gotham accents," and the voice is familiar --

And that's the last thought Tim gets to have before *Dick* is edging around the plant and making the balcony decidedly cramped and --

"Whoa. Uh. Hey?"

Dick smiles brilliantly at Jason and offers his hand. "Hey, yourself. I'm Dick Grayson."

Jason blinks, shutters, blinks again and smiles professionally, taking Dick's hand. "Jason Todd. Nice to meet you."

Dick stiffens *slightly* -- he knows a professional smile when he sees one, but shakes Jason's hand firmly enough before turning to face Tim. "*You* I already know from somewhere, don't I? I do. I have to. But maybe I don't? No, I absolutely do," Dick says, and actually bats his lashes a little. It's a winning performance, but it's absolutely a performance. Dick knows exactly who he is and has decided to portray himself as stupider than he is, almost certainly to gather information.

It's enough to allow Tim to start breathing again. "You do, yes," Tim says, and offers his own hand. "I'm Tim Drake --"

"Only son of *the* Drakes, right. Are your parents here tonight? I didn't know they had a connection to LexCorp."

Tim -- doesn't raise his eyebrow. That was a question designed to ever-so-innocently open the floodgates of information, but Dick has no reason whatsoever to know -- or even assume -- that Tim would be just a bit *above* that kind of interrogation. Or...

Is he supposed to out himself in some way other than the one he's enjoying more and more?

Bruce and Dick are one thing, but if Batman and *Robin* have suspicions about him... Tim looks down as shyly as he can. "My parents are in Europe for the summer," he says, and edges closer to Jason.

Jason rests a hand on Tim's shoulder. "Yeah, Tim is staying with Lex this summer. Him and Tim's parents are doin' some wheeling and dealing."

Dick nods with a very, very good impression of thoughtfulness --

Jason squeezes Tim's shoulder before dropping his hand again, undoubtedly to make *sure* Tim had spotted the fake --

"What about you, Jason? Are you and Tim close?"

How long were you listening, Dick? Do you have a directional mic stashed in your jacket somewhere?

And Jason is smiling sharply. "I'm down here visiting Tim for a little while, yeah. He's a good friend."

Dick tilts his chin up, seemingly to consider Jason's words more deeply, and then smiles slyly. "Friend...?"


Tim twines his fingers with Jason's own and looks up. "Friend," and he lets his tone be cool and a *little* hard just to see --

Yes, Dick is reevaluating him at speed, which isn't the *best* state of affairs, but --

Tim *does* have an assignment. "Are you here with Bruce?"

"And Bruce's date for the night, yeah --"

"No date for you, Dick...?" Jason's tension is visible now, something held in his arms and legs -- "I'd think you'd have someone along with you."

Dick raises an eyebrow. "I'm between girlfriends at the moment, but I'm flattered that you think --"

"So why, I'm wondering, are you trying to play us?"

Dick blinks. "Play you?"

"You know what I'm talking about. Is this what Bruce'll give me, too?"

"You... want to meet Bruce?" Dick seems more surprised than anything else, which is a *kind* of reasonable --

"I've told Jason a fair amount about him," Tim says, and turns to smile wryly at Jason. "He was curious about the sort of people I deal with on a semi-regular basis."

Jason winks at him. "Somehow, I'm feelin' *less* curious now."

"You still have to meet Bruce, though. It's an experience."

Dick coughs, and, when Tim looks --

Yes. He has the decency to look a little embarrassed. "So maybe I should just hurry up and deal with the fact that I happened to stumble on the only two people at this party who want to be honest? In my defense, I wasn't expecting to meet *any*."

Jason squeezes Tim's hand and lets go to cross his arms over his chest, which is actually managing to look more massive than usual -- yes, well, he can focus.

And one of the things he can focus on is that Dick is both staggeringly beautiful in his perfectly-tailored tuxedo and entirely real -- in this moment, anyway. Another thing is the fact that Tim has a *choice* about whether or not he stammers and stares through this moment -- and no, he won't. "Vaguely apologetic statement accepted," Tim says, and crosses his legs at the ankle --

"Do you -- no, I *know* you don't always dress like that for these things. What's the occasion?"

Jason grins at him again -- "Daddy Warbucks likes treating Tim like his personal -- and experimental -- closet."

Dick hums and leans back against the French doors. "Like another 'bodyguard?'"

The urge to defend Hope and Mercy from the depredations of ironic single quotes is a powerful one, if *mostly* directionless. Still -- "They've saved Lex's life multiple times."

Dick narrows his eyes, studying Tim obviously for a long moment --

"They do a lot of other things, too, of course," Jason says, and the smile *under* his voice is a lot sharper than the smile in it. "We wouldn't have met without Mercy."

"Mercy..." Dick shakes himself like a dog, long hair flailing wide before settling back into its shoulder-length and silky-looking wave. "She was actually in New York a little while ago, hooking up with a friend of mine."

Jason raises his eyebrows and turns to Tim in honest question -- because there are things Jason doesn't know about Bruce's and Dick's 'friends.' Right.

"She and Lex have a *mostly* open relationship," Tim says, and tries to say more with his eyes, *mean* more -- "I know Lex had her on assignment in New York for some reason."

Jason nods slowly --

And Dick is studying *both* of them now, because of course he'd picked up on that bit of hidden communication. All right, this is officially exactly as complicated as he almost certainly should've expected it to be.

"Do you spend a lot of time in New York, Dick?"

Dick's smile is brief and mostly false. "Why do I get the feeling you already know the answer to that question, Tim?"

Tim grips the railing --

And Jason laughs quietly. "*I* don't know it, but I'm beginning to think I *won't* know much of anything until it's some kind of too late, so -- whatever."

Tim fights back a wince and rests a hand on Jason's chest again. "I'll tell you everything."

Dick's smile is a glitter in Tim's peripheral vision. "What do *I* have to do to get that kind of promise...?"

Stay away from Lex -- no, that would be the equivalent of an engraved invitation brought by a singing messenger dressed like... Robin. Right now, Dick is incredibly suspicious and Jason is feeling --

Well, 'left out' trivializes the matter a great deal, but there is the gist.

And there is an option. Tim smiles and curls his fingers in against Jason's chest. "There is one thing you can do, Dick."

"I'm all ears."

Tim closes his eyes for a moment to center himself -- and then he turns to look Dick in the eye. "The first time we met I was three years old, and you, among other things, promised to do the quadruple aerial somersault just for me. It was the last time you performed with Haly's Circus."

It doesn't take long for Dick to do the math, such as it is, and his smile is appropriately pained. "It was the last time I performed period, Tim."

"No, it really wasn't. Because six years later you did the same trick in front of a camera... and, in the end, the clothes you were wearing that night weren't very different from the ones you wore when you were *only* a circus performer. Nightwing."

Jason *starts* to step back, visibly remembers that he's inviting a forty-story drop -- "What. The. Fuck."

"I could say the same thing, Tim --"

"I used to have a picture of you peeling off your mask -- it was torn to a few shreds and you were replacing with it the spare you carry -- on the roof of the Reinhardt building," Tim says, and smiles ruefully. "It was one of my favorites."

Jason stares at him and blinks --

And Dick laughs. "Tim, if you're talking about vigilantes --"

"I've always wondered what people would find if they did a survey of the space under the grounds of Wayne Manor. I mean, there have been so *many* full tours of the manor itself -- I even took one while you and Bruce were 'out of town' -- but nothing of the caverns geologists *know* are there. And, well, bats live in caves."

*Dick* stares at him -- and when he laughs this time it's a little more real, but not much. "How much champagne have you had tonight, kid --"

"Don't ever call me that, Dick. Please. I understand that secrecy is paramount for lifestyles like yours, but... well. I've known your secret for six years now. Jason is the first person I've told... who hadn't figured it out for himself."

*That* makes Dick rear back --

"You're saying Mr. Man is Mr. *Bat*man."

"Yes," Tim says, and looks back over Dick's shoulder --

"No one's coming," Dick says, half-absently. "Bruce is running interference while I -- theoretically -- figure out what your parents are plotting with Luthor."

"LexCorp expansion into the greater Gotham area. Nothing diabolical or dastardly -- just business."

"Kid --"

"I said --"

"Tim," Dick says, and he just *is* gripping Tim's shoulders, squeezing firmly and gently. "I'm sorry. But for everything you know about *us*, you don't know *anything* about Luthor."

Jason clears his throat. "He totally does."

"Luthor has been the next thing to a *cancer*," and Dick is talking to both of them. "The compounds he's had his scientists create. The supervillains he's bankrolled -- or flat-out *created* when you think about freaking *Bizarro* --"

"I know all of that," Tim says, as firmly as he can. "We've discussed the matter, and there are going to be changes. The changes have already begun."

Dick frowns. "Hope Terrell and Mercy Graves -- and those aren't even their real names -- are *assassins* --"

"Those are their real names *now*, and they're both far more than that."

Dick blinks at him.

Jason snorts. "Hope's kind of his *personal* bodyguard. And bff."

Dick blinks at Jason.

"Yeah, I know, man, it's fucked, but that's how things work out here. And I'm pretty damned sure that Tim has Lex wrapped around his pinky."

Dick blinks at Tim again -- and then there's a dawning look of horror.

"Before you say a word, Dick, I also know about you and Bruce."

Dick doesn't blink, wince, or anything like that. Instead, his expression hardens impressively. "You *really* don't know a damned thing if you're making comparisons like *that*."

"So how old were you when he started puttin' it to you, Dick? Because that kind of thing makes a difference."

"And how the hell would *you* know?"

Jason raises his hands and smiles that *crooked* smile. "Teen whore, five years and counting."

"I -- it's not like that --"

"Because you're in love with each other?" Tim strokes Jason's chest just a *little* restlessly. "I agree that there's a difference. Wholeheartedly."

Dick closes his eyes, holds his mouth *tightly* -- and this time, when he squeezes Tim's shoulders there's more than a little pain. "You don't know what he *subjects* his lovers to, Tim --"

"No, he totally does," Jason says, and plucks Dick's hands off Tim's shoulders. "And didn't your lover send you out to fight crime in a pair of green panties? Not that I judge. I mean, me and all the other whores totally appreciated the look."

"*I* chose that uniform --" Dick growls and steps back. "Come with me. Both of you."

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Where?"

"Downstairs, to the garage, and into the very large car with no *listening* devices --"

"Other than Bruce's own?"

Dick glares at him.

"I -- whoa. It's just sinking in that Daddy used to screw *Batman*."

"I know. He really had to be working hard to repress for him not to figure it --"

"You call him *Daddy*?"

Both Tim and Jason stare at Dick.

Dick pinches the bridge of his nose and takes a deep breath. "Please come with me. Pretty please?"

Jason looks at him with his eyebrows up in question.

"I'll go. You should --"

"Talk to Bruce, yeah, I hear you."

"Why does he -- why do you need to talk to Bruce?"

Jason grins. "Maybe for some reason, maybe for no reason. *Definitely* it's for me to know and you to obsess about while you're trying to deprogram Tim."

"Is there a *reason* why you're fucking with me?"

Tim raises his own eyebrow again. "It could have something to do with how much you were lying when you walked out here. How long *were* you listening?"

"Enough to catch the affection and make an on-the-fly decision to mostly mind my business until an opportunity popped up to do otherwise," Dick says, and smiles wryly. "Look -- both of you have to admit that I have *reasons* to be a secretive ass, sometimes."

Tim sighs and nods once, but Jason is frowning --

"Too many secrets are fucking poison, Dick."

Dick holds up his hands. "No argument. But we're in the belly of the beast here --"

"You're a guest in my lover's home, Dick, and I'll thank you to remember that," and Tim shoots his cuffs. "Let's go wherever we're going and have done with it."

Dick's expression could illustrate the Wikipedia article for 'consternation,' but that's not Tim's problem. That --

All right, he's being somewhat unfair --

There's so much he *hasn't* asked Lex about his history with the superheroes because he frankly doesn't care to know --

He'll ask. He'll know everything, because Lex will still be Lex at the end of the recitation. There would've been reasons for everything he did, and that's --

Well, he'll disagree with most -- if not all -- of the reasons -- wait.

Does he not want to know because he's worried about tarnishing Lex in his eyes or because he's worried about tarnishing *himself* more than he's already done? The former can't actually *happen*, so...

Damn. No wonder Mercy continues to think he's too young for Lex. He'll do better, starting now. He gestures Dick toward the doors.

Dick snorts and turns to lead the way. Bruce is only five or six yards away, fending off a gaggle of socialites by the simple expedient of flirting outrageously with first one, then the other, then the other without -- yes.

He's calling them all by the same -- undoubtedly wrong -- name. Tim detours to join the crush --

Dick growls --

"Good evening, all of you," Tim says, pitching his voice lower and louder than it actually is.

"Why, if it isn't Tommy Drake! Della, Della, and Della! Meet Tommy!"

"It's Tim, actually," Tim says, "and you are... the Nyman sisters?"

Only two of them look at him, but they both nod.

"Lex mentioned to me that he was hoping to spend time with you tonight. Something about looking for 'real' people for an ad campaign. Something family-oriented."

That gets *all* of their attention -- Lex had, in fact, mentioned the sisters' modeling ambitions and the amount of 'work' they'd had done to facilitate careers which had, thus far, gone nowhere -- and then it's just a matter of pointing them in the right direction.

It's Lex's party, so that's easy enough -- the *largest* crush.

And, when he turns back to Bruce, the frown on his face wouldn't look out of place on a velvet painting of a clown.

"Tommy, it's *mean* to chase away pretty ladies. Well, unless you don't like that sort of thing, and I would certainly *never* judge. Would I, flyboy?" Bruce turns to smile at Jason --

Pulls on a look of utter -- and interestingly *imperfect* -- confusion --

And then turns back to Dick --

Who sighs deeply. "They know."

Bruce blinks in a manner not dissimilar to that of a man who's just been beaten with a railroad tie. "Know what, Dickie?"

Dick rolls his eyes and pulls up his shirt to reveal the waist of the Nightwing uniform. "Know *this*. More to the point, 'Tommy' here says Luthor figured it out not long ago."

"Specifically, when you 'saved' Roy Harper from Mercy," Tim says, and gives himself leave to study Bruce as loudly and thoroughly as he's never done before. "Though he was already beginning to have suspicions about Roy when Mercy discussed his numerous scars and the blowback on his hands. A case could be made against casual sex, but I imagine that case has been made to people in your line of work many, many times before."

And Bruce's expression is blank save for the *hard* light in his eyes. It makes them look positively *icy* --

And Tim realizes that, as intimidating glances go, this one isn't *much* more testicle-shriveling than Lex's own. Less, in some ways. He raises his eyebrow again, but doesn't go so far as to cross his arms over his chest. He's not --

He can't be upset with Bruce and Dick for hating Lex. It's -- it's practically in their *job* description.

Because he's in love with a supervillain.

A *recovering* supervillain, but still --

Tim takes his own deep breath and smiles ruefully at Bruce. "I mostly wanted to make sure you'd have time to speak with Jason -- it's important to me that you at least give some thought to getting to know him for the wonderful person he is and the hero he could be --"

"Wait, *what*?"

Tim turns his smile on Jason for a moment and shrugs. "I make my own plans sometimes."

"Baby --"

Tim holds up a hand. "He protects people, Bruce. He's one of the reasons why people talk about Crime Alley getting better. He's... well. He's already a hero, really, and has been since he was just a child hoping for a better life. I think you understand that sort of thing."

Bruce's nostrils flare and he *starts* to look at Jason again --

The tension visible in him is startling -- and far more intimidating than his glare had been --

Dick rests a hand on Bruce's shoulder. "Boss --"

"A moment, Dick," and Bruce relaxes himself all over in the space of an exhale. "What else did you want to speak to me about, Tim?" His voice --

His voice is low and dark but still soft, somehow, welcoming the way he would, perhaps, welcome any well-meaning young person --

And Tim knows -- and will always know -- that that is at least close to how he'd spoken to Dick on *that* night, and maybe on other nights, as well. It's enough to make him lose the *thread* --

He's *Batman* --

"I've got something you can talk to *him* about, boss, and it starts with 'Luthor' and it ends with 'Sex.'"

Right. That --

Bruce narrows his eyes.

Tim narrows his own. "I -- and he -- think of it as making love. Just like you do when you're doing what you do when you're not fighting crime, training, or pretending to be a brain-dead waste of *skin*."

"See how pissy he is, boss? Right there is what I was dealing with," Dick says, and there's a laugh in his voice that Tim doesn't really want to *deal* with --

"Tim," Bruce says, and rests one -- huge -- hand on Tim's shoulder. "I can never judge anyone else when it comes to consensual sexuality --"

"Oh, you can judge, all right. You can judge right here and now. In fact, I'll help -- *judge*!"


Dick throws up his hands and walks away -- but not far enough to be out of earshot.

Jason is staring at Tim like he's crazy.


Bruce is studying him. Or, rather, Bruce is studying him *again*, and making it seem much more gentle this time around, and that --

"You know precisely how disarming that is."

"Yes, I do. What did you want to tell me?"

He... probably should've expected that kind of answer. Focus. "It's time for you to talk to Lex, Bruce. It -- it was time more than twenty years ago, and it really... ah. It hasn't stopped being time."

Bruce nods once. "He told you about us."

"The way he speaks about you is... distinctive. As is the way he thinks about you."

Bruce closes his eyes and turns away --

And Dick moves back to his side immediately, frowning at Tim before turning the lion's share of his attention to... the man he loves.

There is jealousy for that, and Tim isn't sure if he'll ever know conclusively whether it's the old, reflexively needy desire to be a part of the lives of heroes, real *heroes*, or if it's simply the fact that he hasn't yet had the opportunity to comfort Lex, and to learn if he actually *could* do something so... huge.

Bruce covers the hand Dick has on his shoulder for only a brief moment, but Tim catches the squeeze --

"I'm thinking -- uh. I'm thinking I need to go do something else *somewhere* else --"

"Please stay, Mr. Todd. If for no other reason than the fact that we need to discuss your... methodology."

Jason blushes and narrows his eyes at the same time --

And, when Bruce pats Dick's hand, Dick moves it and steps back again. There's a rhythm there, and Tim can't help but wonder if Hope would hate it reflexively --

"Tim... I'll speak honestly to Lex. I promise."

"Don't ---" Take him from me.

Bruce raises an eyebrow in such perfectly *gentle* question that Tim feels like he's been using the equivalent of one of those tenderizing mallets -- blunt and not especially deft.

It's more than worth a blush, in any event, and Tim shakes his head mutely -- no, he can do better than that. "Thank you. For that."

Bruce searches him for a moment more, and then makes an obvious decision to let it lie before turning to Jason --

And Dick has his hand on Tim's shoulder again. "Come. With. Me."

"All right, but we're taking a friend of mine."

"Someone *else* you've told?"

"Someone who was in the room when Lex made his realization," Tim says, and scans the room -- and Hope is there, near one of the columns, ordering three mercenaries in different directions. Tim starts walking toward her --

"Terrell? Are you *serious*?"

"Jason already told you who she is to me," Tim says, and keeps his eyes on the prize.

"Are *all* your friends assassins?"

"*Is* Cheshire the mother of Roy Harper's child?"

Dick stops walking -- but only for a moment.

Tim nods once.

"Do you think this is a game?"

A game. A game -- "I think it's your life intersecting with my own, Dick. It isn't the first time."

"You watched my parents die."


"You started stalking me."


"You --" Dick shakes his head. "What *is* your life?"

"Before Lex, it was essentially empty save for Elfquest parties where I pretended that the only thing I cared about was pretending to be someone else and the nights I spent on rooftops and in alleys working to get the best possible pictures of you and your family. I had some excellent ones of Barbara Gordon and Roy Harper before I destroyed them all. In any event, I'm aware that that was pathetic and more than a little creepy. I'm getting better."

"With a supervillain as your lover. Were you a virgin?"

Tim raises an eyebrow at Dick --

"Yeah, I'm asking, kid -- *Tim*. As Jason might say, that kind of thing makes a difference."

"Did it for you when it was Bruce?"

Dick smiles wryly. "Circuses aren't monasteries, Tim."

Tim blinks -- and nods. "Yes, I was a virgin. I'd never even kissed anyone before."

"But now you think he's the love of your life."

Well... heh. "Lex has informed me that I have to wait at least twenty-five years before I can make a judgment call like that one. I can definitely understand the logic."

Dick snorts. "Are you telling me he *didn't* make the first move?"

"No. But I had to make the next several. Repeatedly. He really had no interest in being a child molester."

"So you *can* say the words --"

"Could you, at the time?"

"Tim --"

"Hope, I need you to join us for a little while," Tim says, and reaches up to adjust her top hat.

"Was it less jaunty."


She nods and straightens Tim's tie -- while looking Dick over thoroughly. "He's armed."

"That much I'd assumed. He wants to convince me that my relationship with Lex is wrong."

Hope narrows her eyes at Dick --

Who knows Hope well enough from other encounters that he moves halfway into a ready position.

"All right, that was the wrong thing to say. He wants to *try* to convince me that my relationship with Lex is wrong, and I owe him the chance to have his say."

Dick frowns at Tim -- without taking his attention off Hope. "You don't owe me anything."

"I owe you as much of a life as I've had, Dick," Tim says, and smiles wryly.

"This is one of the reasons why Mercy often becomes upset with you, Tim."

"Yes, I know. That's why I want you to come with me. You can always drag me away if I seem to lose the thread."

"And I'm supposed to just *let* her do that?"

"Yes, Dick, you are, because this is not your home *or* your city --"

"It's not yours, *either*, Tim --"

"It is now, and it will be officially once I've emancipated myself --"

"Are you *high*? Is he *drugging* you?"

Hope taps her foot once. "He has always been irreverent and insulting, Tim. I do not like him."

Dick blinks and stares at her. "*How* many people have you brutally murdered over the years?"

"That isn't any of your business."

Dick gestures at Hope with a mockery of a magician's flourish and stares at Tim expectantly.

Tim crosses his arms. "Well, it *isn't*."

Dick squeezes his eyes shut, shakes himself like a dog, then moves to cup Tim's face. "Wouldn't you prefer being a sidekick to a hero, Tim? You know, someone who does things reasonable, non-horrifying people can talk about over dinner?"

"Lex is going to change the *world*, Dick --"

"He already *has*. This is what I'm *saying*. He's the worst man in the *world* --"

"No, he isn't. He's someone who has made questionable choices over the years and has misused his money and influence. He recognizes these things --"

"And the power of your love compels him? Tim, it doesn't *work* that way. For *anyone*."

"Dick --"

"You're not an idiot, Tim. Just -- obviously not --"

Tim glances around --

"*Look* at me --"

"He does not take orders from you, Mr. Grayson."

No one is in *earshot* -- unless there are metahumans at this party, and, really, in Metropolis anything is *possible* --

Still, there are people sending curious glances at the obviously passionate man talking to the cabaret-boy. Right.

"We're taking this conversation somewhere private. Lead us, Hope."

"Yes, Tim," she says, and does just that.

"You're not going to talk to me until we're somewhere private."

"You're the one who wanted to speak privately in the first place, Dick."

"I've changed my mind --"

"Too bad --"

"I want the *world* to know what a little psycho you're growing up to be --"

"This," Hope says, without turning around, "is what I mean by insulting."

"Yes, I see your point," Tim says. "Dick, you didn't know me before and you don't actually know me now. All you *do* know is that I'm smart enough to figure out the occasional secret identity, personable enough to make a former sociopath fond of me --"


"Yes. I have begun rediscovering human emotions. Like loathing."

Dick reaches for *something* in his shoes -- boots, actually --

"If you do that, Mr. Grayson, I am legally allowed to murder you. Perhaps even brutally."

Dick growls --

Tim sighs. "Please don't, Hope. He really does seem to think he has my best interests at heart."

"That is Lex's job, and my own."

"True, but many well-meaning people take that responsibility for everyone they know. You've observed this."

Hope presses the up button next to the elevator --

"We're going *down*, Terrell --"

"No, Mr. Grayson, we are not."

"The garage isn't clean enough for either of our suits," Tim says, and turns back to Hope. "Anyway, you've seen it."

"Yes. It seems... grasping."

"All the time?"

Hope cocks her head to the side, visibly pauses -- without moving her hand from the butt of her gun -- "No. Not all of the time. Some people are... some people have more to give emotionally than others. Some people seem... limitless, in this respect."

"I've always..." Tim gives up and deals with his blush. "I've always thought Robin would have to be someone much like that."

Silence for that, from both of them.

He can't quite bring himself to look at Dick --

But Dick grabs Tim, heedless of Hope's tension, spins him to face him -- "You dreamed of this. Of *us*."

"Of course I did --"

"Why did you -- no. *Don't* give up on us. I -- fucking *hell*, Tim! What do you think we would've done if you'd come to the manor one day and *told* us what you knew?"

"Mindwiped me for the good of the world."

"Heroes don't -- all right, *some* heroes do that, but it's really, *really* frowned upon in the community."

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"That was a joke. It was -- it was mostly a joke. You would've found that *really* funny if you had a pair of kevlar-nomex jockeys of your own."

Tim blushes again --

"There. *Right* there. Think about it, Tim. Think about what you've *dreamed* when you were learning karate and judo -- did you think I wouldn't see that? I've seen it every time Bruce insisted on introducing us to you. Like I'd *forget* eyes that studied as much as *yours* did -- and still do."

"Dick --"

"Think. About. What. You. *Dreamed*."

"I --" The elevator chimes, and Tim walks in on autopilot. Just --

Of all the ways he'd expected this conversation to go --

He *hadn't* expected it, because he'd assumed Dick would stay in New York with the Titans. He should've known better. Discovering Mercy getting close to Roy would've been more than enough to convince *any* Titan to make this trip if they could get an invitation --

"Tim --"

Tim holds up a hand and breathes.

And breathes.

And follows Hope out of the elevators. She pauses at attention --

"The entertainment room," Tim says, and follows her *that* way. He can feel Dick's gaze on him, but --

But he's breathing, and that's what he's going to focus on for the next one hundred yards.

(It's what he's always wanted.)

'Always' ended weeks ago.

(It's *Dick* --)

It's Lex.

(It's a chance to change the *world* --)

Two-three-two will have a name someday *soon*, and so much more than that.

(It's *Gotham* --)

It's *home*, and that has nothing to do with cities and everything to do with *people* --


And Tim wakes up to himself and realizes that he's sitting on one end of the couch where he'd first kissed Jason. Hope is standing in front of the chair two and half paces away --

And Dick is close enough that Tim can feel his warmth as he rests a hand on Tim's thigh.

Wait, is he sitting wrong for the tails on his jacket? Tim reaches back to check --

"You swept them beneath you before you sat."

Tim blows out a breath. "Thank you, Hope. I'm not sure why that's such a relief right now, but it is."

"From what I have observed, Mr. Grayson is shaking the foundations of your worldview. He is offering you something you once desired. More than anything," and she raises her eyebrows in question.

"Yes, Hope. More than anything."

Hope nods once. "Lex was worried about losing you to Bruce Wayne."

"I -- what?"

"In truth, we were all worried about that. About how you could go to him if we were ever... morally unacceptable."

"Oh, that's *rich* --"

"Dick, please shut up for a moment," Tim says, and turns to face Hope more fully. "You discussed this."


"You -- all of you honestly believed that I would just *leave* you?"

"Mercy still believes this. So does Lex, when he is feeling... insecure."

"*Insecure*? What the --"

"Dick, shut *up* or this conversation is over," and Tim adds a glare to hopefully make his point.

Dick is looking at him like he's attempting to *will* Tim to make sense. Tim uses the it's-okay gesture he'd worked up with Jason reflexively --

And Dick blinks at Tim's hand like it might just fly off and leave the rest of Tim's body at any time, but he also puts his hands up and leans back.

Tim nods and turns back to Hope. "What do you believe? About me, I mean."

"That you will keep your promises. We have fulfilled your needs the way no one ever has. We have given you all of ourselves -- even Mercy will never lie to you again -- and you have... fed on us. You are one of us, and you will always be so, though I cannot say for sure whether or not you will need to test your bonds to us in some way, someday."

Tim nods slowly. "Is there anything else?"

"If Lex were to do something morally unacceptable, you would be in severe emotional pain. Lex is not capable of causing that."

That -- Tim smiles. "You know that's what Lex does, right? That little thing where you say something we both know I already know --"

"Because I feel the need to impress security upon the world. Yes, I see. The concept is much more clear now. Thank you," Hope says, and twitches her mouth at him.

Tim smiles back more widely -- and then turns to Dick --

Who raises both eyebrows. "I can talk now?"

"Yes, but I reserve the right to tell you to shut up again."

Dick snorts and shakes his head. "So I'm getting that you're a piece of work... but I'm also getting that it's working *for* you, so... who am I to judge?"

"You didn't seem to have that question before."

Dick sighs and pushes a hand back through his hair before resting that hand on Tim's thigh again and tugging --

Tim turns to face him again --

"I have... mood swings. Serious ones. Bruce knows it, Alfred knows it -- and I won't *believe* you if you say you don't know who Alfred is --"

"I do."

"Right. Everyone knows it. *Everyone*, and they mostly just let me talk my way around and over and through and under an issue until I've come to three or four different conclusions and can pick one by throwing a metaphorical dart at it. I -- we're not going to get around the fact that Luthor -- that your *lover* belongs *under* a jail for some of the things he's done over the years. Never *mind* the things he's ordered... your friends to do. Do I have proof? No. But I kinda think it means something that there have been multiple occasions when Superman has flown Bruce and me out here to help him deal with threats which can be traced -- so *tantalizingly* close to clearly -- right back to Lex Luthor. Who, by the way, has the single largest private supply of kryptonite in the world *and* the title to *many* lead-lined buildings."

Cadmus Labs just happens to be one of them. "Lex and I disagree about the place of vigilantes in the world. He respects my beliefs and I, in turn --"

"Respect his? Really? Because I *did* shake your tree a little --"

"Dick... I want to spend my life studying the sciences. Mostly biochemistry, but there are multiple fields under that umbrella which have caught my attention. Before I met Lex, my chances of a life like that were as remote as my chances of becoming a vigilante with the sanction of the vigilantes I had devoted my life to. I led... a very constrained life --"

"You can't just --"

"I can't just take the first bit of freedom that comes along and use it to hide from the rest, Dick?"

"I -- *yes*, Tim --"

"I can see how it would look like that's exactly what I'm doing, but you don't really understand..." Tim shakes his head. "I speak to Lex about absolutely everything, and he does the same with me. The project I'm working on this summer is, quite frankly, the most important thing *anyone* has done this century --"

"What *is* it?"

"A secret. For you, anyway. If all goes well, the world will find out soon enough."

"Tim, you *have* to understand why I'm terrified about whose definition of 'well' you're using." 

"My *own*, Dick. I'm not Lex's puppet --"

"I told you so," Hope says, and twitches her mouth at him again.

Tim snorts. "All right, Hope, yes, you win that round," and he turns back to Dick. "I fell in love quickly and with great force. We both had some time to be in denial about the matter, but, in the end, one thing led to another. I'm wearing his jewelry. I'm wearing his clothes --"

"You're wearing the product he always wished he could wear?"

"No, that was Jason's idea. I frankly think I look like I've been electrocuted, but the comments thus far have been mostly positive."

Dick waggles his head back and forth. "It definitely makes you *look* sharp. And like a New Jersey native."

Tim flips Dick off --

Takes a moment to wonder where his life has *taken* him --

Blinks for a long moment --

"Tim," Hope says, calling him back, and, as usual, her voice is like a caress for his eardrums. It's so smooth and *even* --

"Hope, I -- I really want you to know that I love your voice."

"I find that yours makes me feel generally positive things even as I want Lex to order you to take a public speaking course."

Tim winces. "It's the nasal thing, isn't it."

"No. You are capable of more commanding tones even within the tenor range. However, without practice, you may not be able to use them when the time comes."

"I -- noted. I'll bring it up with Lex," Tim says, and turns back to Dick --

Who is looking back and forth between them like --

"You can't credit this, can you."

Dick frowns. "Frankly? No. The last time I was this close to your 'bff,' I had just kicked *that* gun out of her hands and she was using moves on me that, if I had let them *land* properly, would have maimed or even *crippled* me."

Tim winces --

"*Yes*, Tim, *think* about that, because no, I'm not Mother Katerina, but people who try to maim me tend to be *not good*."

"It must be fascinating to live as a moral arbiter," Hope says, and raises *one* eyebrow.

Tim isn't sure if that's supposed to be a question or a threat, and he thinks it might be small to try to limit it --

"See, that's the funny thing, Hope. I've *always* thought it would be fascinating to live as a slave to a man who didn't care if I lived or *died* --"

And Hope makes an odd noise. It's loud, raucous, and *lasting*, and, when it ends, Hope cocks her head to the side and blinks. "I... hm."

*Oh*. "Hope! I think you just laughed!"

"Was it... I... hm."

"Well, when you think about it, what Dick said was very funny."

Hope nods thoughtfully. "The idea of Lex being... indifferent."

"To *anything*."

"*Ever* --" And Hope makes the sound again.

It's a bit like the sound one could expect if one were to place a large, deaf, and overweight cat inside an accordion, and it makes Tim smile widely enough that his face hurts. He gets up and moves into hug position --

And Hope wraps her arms around him and *spins him around*.

It's a bit alarming, but she stops while Tim still has some of his equilibrium --

And Dick is back to looking at them like they're crazy.

"It's just that she *couldn't* before, Dick. And -- if anything, Lex really could -- and probably should -- care about fewer things."

"Yes. Sometimes his blood pressure becomes very high."

That's *worrying* --

Hope strokes the curve of Tim's ear. "He is strict with his diet and exercise. You know that."

He *does*, but --

"Tim," she says, and looks at him blankly and deeply and, ultimately, convincingly.

He nods and goes to sit back down next to Dick. "Anyway, after Lex, Hope is the best friend I've ever had. I will stipulate that, from time to time, she's the single most terrifying person I've ever met, but that doesn't make her a bad friend *or* a bad person."

"*Killing* makes her a bad person --"

"Tell me something, Dick. In your last battle with the Joker, dozens of witnesses saw the man attempt a spin kick at your head while standing on a slippery safety rail. He fell hundreds of feet to the icy water below. Nobody saw you shoot your grapple to try and catch him by the ankles the way you'd done the time when he was about to fall off the roof of the Consolidated Bank building --"

"Stop. Right. There."

Tim closes his mouth -- and raises an eyebrow.

"I --" Dick coughs out a laugh and pushes a hand through his hair again. "That. I can't believe I'm hearing about *that* night *here*."

"You've heard about it in other places?"

Dick's smile is hard, but doesn't seem to be aimed at either of them. "I broke both his legs with that grapple and caught about six kinds of hell --" Dick cuts himself off and stares at the floor.

Hope lifts her chin to catch Tim's eyes and, when he looks, raises both of her eyebrows.

Tim shrugs minutely, but --

"Let's just say that you better hope for the sake of your *plans* that Jason Todd can handle being run over by someone with the most unshakeable beliefs in the *world*."

Well. "Meaning that yours occasionally *do* shake?"

Dick flings himself back against the couch --

Dick frowns --

Dick flows up to his feet and begins to pace in sharp, randomized arcs. Or -- there *could* be a pattern -- wait, no. If there *were* a pattern Hope would be less tense.

Tim deliberately moves close enough to her that she'd have to work *not* to protect him from any moves --

She breathes slightly easier, and never stops stroking the butt of her gun.

Right. "Dick --"

"Everybody shakes, Tim."

"Well... *yes*."

"Meaning that you're not just being willfully blind to the possibilities and facts. Meaning that you've already decided that some people need to die."

"I don't -- I don't have a *list* --"

"Yes, you do, and the Joker is on it."

"The Joker is on *everyone's* list, Dick!"

Dick stops by the mantelpiece and smiles *sharply*. "Once, we happened across one of his hideouts -- an old toy factory near the docks. Among other things, there were two cancer-ridden and faintly glowing hyenas who'd been fed kryptonite-laced food for God only knows how long. Where do you think he got *that*, Tim?"

Tim narrows his eyes. "Kryptonite landed *everywhere*, Dick. That's *why* so many supervillains have been able to use it against Superman."

Dick licks his teeth. "Yep, yep, that's *true*... but there were also little things scattered around hither and yon that suggested -- if never *quite* insisted -- that the Joker had visited Metropolis recently."

"It takes *time* for cancers to grow --"

"Not with kryptonite, Tim. Or rather, not *necessarily* with kryptonite. See, I'm no moral arbiter. I'm just a guy. There is *one* moral arbiter, though, and he happens to have been my lover since... well, since I was younger than you," Dick says, and smiles ruefully. "I love him. He's my other, other, other best friend. My other father. The man I owe one half of my *identity* to, because the original Nightwing was a great folk hero on Krypton. The man -- the *icon* -- who is Earth's Greatest Hero. And *your* lover stockpiles material which can kill him and, periodically, sends freaks, psychopaths, and monsters after him, forcing him to spend time he *could* be using to help people fighting for his *life*. You *know* he does this. Hell, you probably knew before you *came* here."

Tim looks -- no. He's not going to look away. He *isn't* --

But Dick had seen the hesitation, and now he's nodding. "That's why you destroyed all of your pictures, isn't it? The *rumors* about Luthor made it to you, and you made a command decision to destroy a huge chunk of your childhood to make sure you could keep it safe."

Tim -- closes his eyes.

When he opens them, Dick is right there again, cupping Tim's shoulders and looking into his eyes. "Ask yourself, Tim. Ask yourself if you would've trusted him with the secret if he hadn't figured it out for himself."

Tim winces --

"You wouldn't have. That -- that should tell you everything --"

"I don't *know* if I would've! I -- no. I would've *eventually* --"

"Are you sure?"

Tim looks to Hope -- and she has her head cocked to the side.

He knows how Lex would take this. Just -- he *knows*. Lex needs *faith* from the people in his life, absolute and unwavering --

Lex *hurts* without it --

He can never --

"It's not about how much I trust him," Tim says, and looks *deep* within himself to make sure he means it --

And breathes a little easier when he's sure that he does. Just --

"Look, you can give me the skeptical look all you want, Dick, but it's not *about* that."

Dick squeezes Tim's shoulders. "Then tell me what it *is* about."

"Simple -- whether or not he had a right to the secret. And, eventually, after listening to him *hurt* about who he believed Bruce had become one too many times -- "

Dick snorts --

"*No*," Tim says, and tears himself free. "I've put up with you saying a lot of insulting things about my loved ones for the past hour, but I will *not* let you laugh about my lover's *pain*."

Dick rears back -- "You're saying this is serious. That *Lex fucking Luthor* was serious about *Bruce*?"

"Why the *fuck* do you find that difficult to *believe*, Dick? I --" Tim shakes his head and considers doing his own pacing -- no.


Control. "Bruce was the first person to treat Lex *like* a person after his mother died, and Bruce all but *demanded* Lex have a sexual relationship with him, and then, all of a sudden, Bruce became a drunken, stupid *asshole* and never so much as had a *conversation* with Lex again. No breakup. No letters. No *closure*, and so, by the time *I* came along --" Tim cuts himself off with a hiss.

He doesn't hug himself.

He *still* doesn't fucking pace --

"Bruce fucked Lex over, Dick. Plain and simple. Now, we both know at least some of *why* he did it, and, in the end, I wouldn't have been able to keep it from Lex anymore. It was already hurting me to do it every time Lex got that *look* in his eyes. And maybe a part of me can't help but wonder what the world would look like if Bruce had trusted Lex a little more."

"Tim --"

"You want me to think about my dreams, Dick? All right, here's one: two of the world's most brilliant and passionate men working *together* to make the world a better place. Hell, *get* Superman involved --"

"Your *lover* is a *xenophobe*."

"Nobody's perfect?" Tim laughs a little hysterically, but really -- no. "All right, all right, that's a problem. It's on my list of things to *work* on, Dick. It's all I want. *All* I want. A chance to be useful, a chance to make things better. And yes, a chance to be loved for *exactly* who I am while I'm at it. I'm no altruist -- not really. I like to *sound* like one, but *I'm* just a guy who happens to have a *thing* for men who are dedicated in one way or another. If I'm useful to them, if I make them happy, if I'm good *enough* -- fuck, I don't even know what I'm *saying* anymore," Tim says, and goes to sit down on the couch again, covering his face --

"No," Hope says, sitting beside him and adjusting his tails before hugging him.

Tim leans against her as much as he can without denting his hair and breathes deep.

"You will always be 'good enough' for Lex. You will always surpass."

"Hope... what does it say about me that I'm wondering if that means I should try harder than that? That I'm wondering if I should throw myself at someone I'd have to be someone else in order to make happy."

"I believe it says that you have not spent enough time... at the lab. You need... perspective."

Two-three-two. He could never --

He *will* never leave two-three-two. Not until he's able to make him understand necessity --

But what necessity could there be in leaving *love*?

His --

He's allowed to be *happy* --

Tim clutches at Hope's biceps and breathes.

After a while, movement in his peripheral vision resolves into Dick crouching at Tim's feet. He makes it look graceful, beautiful, *effortless*.

Lex has grace and beauty, but above all he has *will*. Power and *force* that drives away everything in Tim but the need to be close, to serve so he can be *worthy* of being close --

And Dick has his hand on Tim's thigh again. "Tim --"

"He's my father, Dick. He -- like you. He's the only father I've ever had."

"But --"

"He is. The only father I've ever had. Jack Drake is a cipher, save when it comes to Janet Drake."

"They're your *parents*, Tim --"

"Not for long. In the end, I will thank my mother for everything she's taught me about business and psychology -- and everything she facilitated my learning process for -- and my father for his genetic material and occasionally remembering my birthday without being prompted. Lex set out to make me his protégé. He made me his son, instead."

"I -- I didn't know he *had* that kink."

"Neither did he," Hope says, and begins stroking Tim's back. "We are all very pleasantly surprised."

"Because you're all just -- you all care for Tim."

"Mercy does not, but she cares very deeply for what he does for Lex. Lex and I require him for our happiness. Eva is also very fond."

"And Eva would be Eva Palash, suspected ex-Spetsnaz who entered this country on a work visa ten years ago and has -- somehow -- never been asked to leave."

Spetsnaz. Tim pulls back from Hope. "Lex said the hatchet thing was because her family were all lumberjacks."

"Are you sure he did not just imply that."

Tim raises an eyebrow at Hope.

Hope twitches her mouth at him three times.

Tim laughs and moves back into hug position --

"'The hatchet thing...?'"

"She's fond of her hatchet," Tim says, and attempts to tuck his forehead in against Hope's throat -- no, his hair won't let him do it. Shoulder, it is.

Dick sighs, but it sounds more resigned than anything else. "Something tells me you didn't get a whole lot of this at home."

"Dick, *you've* already touched me more than my father has this *year*. If I *hadn't* been getting all of this from my new family, you probably would've struck me *mute*."

"For a minute it *looked* like you were gonna have that reaction to me --"

"I was faking it in order to see how you would react." Mostly.

Another sigh. "Yeah, I thought so. You don't -- I don't like it when people lie to me, and it makes me pretty damned sad if they think they have to lie to me about themselves, Tim."

"Welcome to what I was taught by my biological parents -- no, I'm done whining about that," Tim says, sitting up and taking Hope's hands in his own instead before turning to Dick. He's still crouching, and his eyes are sad and a blue the color of a sea Tim only knows from pictures on the internet and 'family' videos.

Videos he had no part of -- no.

"Dick... don't think of me as a tragedy. I'm not the boy you couldn't save or -- anything like that."

"You sure about that?"

"Very. Because, among other things, I was actually having *fun* at that party. Lex told me explicitly *to* have fun, and implicitly that I could be just as queer -- and odd -- as I wanted to be. And then he made *sure* that I would do just that by dressing me like *this*. Can you even imagine that? I mean, I'm reasonably sure that someone like you could never really comprehend taking pleasure in an event like this, but... I don't know how to say it any better than this."

"You're doing fine, kiddo."

"Hm. I -- hm."

"Better than 'kid.'"

"Yes, but I can't put my finger on why."

"I have observed that words with a double consonant which end in a vowel -- voiced or not -- tend to give English-speaking people pleasure," Hope says, and twists her hands free only to begin giving him absolutely expert hand *massage*.

"Ooh, thank you, Hope. That feels wonderful."

"You're welcome, Tim. I usually only get to do this after Mercy has been at the range downstairs."

"I... have a difficult time imagining saying no to this, though you're making me feel as though I ought to be doing more strenuous things with my hands."

"I feel duty-bound to point out that a) Bruce gives the kind of massages which habitually cause me to weep with pleasure, and b) he will always find you something to do with your hands."

Dick is honestly, openly *advertising* the vigilante lifestyle. And Tim is, somehow, still breathing. Hm. "Ah, for the record? Lex has any number of things he does which make me weep with pleasure, and I've yet to be bored here. Unless you count how bored I became with my own touch during the days when Lex would only kiss me breathless before sending me away to masturbate furiously."

Dick coughs and then looks somewhat stricken -- "Tim, you." There's no more somewhat -- Dick's frown would be as cartoonish as Bruce's had been if it weren't so real. "Do you *realize* what you just did to me?"

"Ah... made you think about sex?"

"Made me think about sex with a *supervillain*. Jesus, kiddo, you may as well have been talking about Gorilla *Grodd*."

"Oh, come on. There are any number of perfectly aesthetically pleasing supervillains, ridiculous costumes and all. And *speaking* of ridiculous costumes --"

Dick jabs a finger at him. "You are *not* about to slag on the Robin suit. You *used* to dream about wearing one yourself."

"The fact that I like certain things does not automatically make them non-ridiculous. Case in point, this tuxedo."

Dick scowls -- then sighs again. "It *is* a good color on you. Your lover has always had excellent taste in *clothes*, anyway."

And that... was an offer of the only kind of truce Tim is likely to get. He uses his free hand to cover the one Dick has on his thigh --

And when Dick smiles crookedly he looks nothing like Jason and like everything Tim's childhood could've been.

Should've been, perhaps... if 'should' were worth anything whatsoever in the grand scheme of things.

(It *is* --)

Tim breathes until the little voice in his head... stops. It doesn't hurt, but it makes him hopelessly aware of every moment spent staring through a viewfinder, every brief moment with *those* slideshows -- bodies in motion, bodies *straining* -- every moment with one hand moving back and forth between his nipples and the other --

The one Hope is turning into *pudding* -- 

The one he'll use on himself *any* time Lex wants to see it happen --

The first one he'll touch Lex with *tonight* --

He is aware, and this is one of those moments where he has a chance to know himself for good and all. To *make* himself via the judicious use of will and good sense.

What kind of person would sit here, in *this* place, and fantasize about privation, obsession, judgment, and every other nasty little thing it takes to create the Batman's definition of justice when the alternative is love, happiness, family, and the chance to change the world in *macrocosm*?

An idiot.

And, as Dick pointed out, Tim is not now nor has he ever been one of those. He should probably feel guilty for all but staking Jason out in Bruce's *sights* -- no, not that far.

Jason is a lot more noble than Tim will *ever* be, and, if nothing else, he may very well have the personal *power* to make Bruce compromise here and there. Nothing *drastic* -- no heads on pikes at Arkham or anything like that -- but --

"What does *that* expression mean, I wonder."

"It means that he is planning for the future," Hope says, and works on Tim's knuckles. "Our future and, perhaps, yours as well."

"Okay, I've gotta know. Are you seriously that serene or did you just spend the past fuck only knows how many years --"


"-- living as Lex Luthor's personal robot?"

Hope stares at Dick for a long moment.

And continues to stare.

And... stares.

Dick licks his lips. "Okay, I'm getting that that was an offensive question, and I'm sorry, but --"

"Yes," Hope says, and turns back to Tim's hand.


"The answer is yes."

Tim bites his lip for *just* a moment -- "Your deadpan is amazing, Hope."

"We all have our skills. Move so that Dick can continue to touch you while I massage your other hand."

"All right," and Tim gets up and moves to the other side of the couch.

Dick follows. "Not that I'm complaining --"

"Hope has become a great believer in the ability of properly applied affectionate touch to defuse problematic situations," Tim says, and splays his thighs slightly.

"Thank you," Dick says, and puts his hand down. "I have to say I agree with Hope. You don't know how many horrible fights the Titans wiped off the map with just some serious, hardcore Advanced Cuddle."

Tim hums thoughtfully. "I could hear the capital letters in your voice."

"Oh, it's not like Basic or Moderate Cuddle. Advanced Cuddle involves at least a little pointed nudity, *large* soft surfaces, and at least three people."

Hope pauses and turns to look at Dick. "And this is a successful venture."

Dick blows out a breath. "It's tough. It's really tough. Some people -- they get really embarrassed about needing physical comfort. Other people wait so long without getting it that they're -- prickly. Stabby. Pokey. You know. Er... do you?"

Hope nods once.

"Well, all right. Anyway, there are a lot of challenges, so you wanna start with your Basic or your Moderate Cuddle. Start with two cuddlers and most of your clothes on, add people and subtract clothing as things calm down."

Hope looks at Tim. "We will try this."

"I'm absolutely willing, Hope. Though... ah. Mercy should probably... ah?"

"I will drug her if necessary," and Hope turns back to Tim's hand.

Well. That's --

Dick coughs. "I. You. Um. Everyone's Advanced Cuddle is different, of course, but --"

Hope stares at him.

"But I don't doubt that you have access to some of the finest drugs available," Dick says, and rubs Tim's knee. "How do you do this?"

"Hope and I have a great deal in common once you scratch the surface," Tim says, and thinks about finding a pillow to rest his other hand on so that it can decompress from that wonderful massage.

Maybe he should be rubbing it with oils?

He'll have to ask Hope if there are any oils she'd want to use --

"A lot... in common. Uh... yes?"

"Yes," Hope says, and takes a moment to stroke over Tim's knuckles with her thumb, apparently just to do it. "Tim likes to 'give what he gets.' He recognized my honest desire to know more about him --"

"And the efforts you were making to make that happen --"

"Yes. Additionally, you were very open-minded, Tim," and that *sounds* like a rebuke aimed at Dick and every other hero in the world. Possibly because it was.

"It's always seemed like the way to go."

Hope nods once. "Only Mercy had ever made an effort to be my friend before Tim."

Dick frowns. "Not even Luthor?"

"Lex, now that I've considered it, has almost been more of a father."

Dick's grunt is pained.

"He's better at that than any number of other people, when you think about it," Tim says, and squeezes Dick's hand. It feels daring -- or possibly grasping --

But, apparently, it was more of an invitation than anything else, because Dick is up on the couch again with his arms around Tim's waist and his chin on Tim's shoulder.


"I'm not going to think about it. Just -- some people shouldn't *have* kids."

Two-three-two -- "Lex isn't one of those people," Tim says, and pats one of Dick's arms just to see --

Dick squeezes him. "You -- I guess you're saying that he's learned not to do the things his father did to him?"

"You knew about his father?"

"I -- Bruce did."

Oh. Of course. But -- "You have to realize that that makes me even more upset with Bruce."

Dick sighs. "He thought he had to. He -- you *know* why."

Tim frowns. "I -- all right, this is something of a *new* feeling, I admit, but I don't want to make love with anyone I can't share myself with."

"That's -- well, that's a *good* thing, but --"

"But sometimes it doesn't work that way?" Tim shakes his head. "I suppose... Bruce thought he was embarking on a lifetime of celibacy?"

"Pretty much. And he kept to it until he met -- Superman."

"You hesitated over a name, didn't you?"

Dick laughs quietly and squeezes him again. "You're not getting secrets outta me, Tim. Especially not *that* one."

"Which strongly implies that he *does* lead a civilian life, and probably one in *this* city. Which... hm. I wonder how many six-foot-four, apparently Caucasian men with broad, heavy musculatures *do* live in the surrounding area."

"Tim --"

"I intend to put an end to this -- this *rivalry* between them. It will be the easiest way to make sure they both focus on the things which *need* to be focused on." And to make sure two-three-two has the family he deserves. *All* of the family he deserves.

"Hunh. What are *you* not saying?"

Tim smiles and turns enough that Dick can see the edge of it. "Things."

"Things, hunh? You do know this is not even *remotely* the way to act with a childhood hero, right?"

"Well, if you'd *rather* I threw myself at you and begged for the chance -- oh, if only! -- to fellate you --"

Dick coughs -- "Okay! All right! You just... you never considered asking for an *autograph*?"

"You, a tattoo needle, and my --"

"Jesus! Don't -- uh. Don't."

Tim knows his smile is rather obnoxious, but he's okay with that.

Especially since Hope twitches her mouth at him. "Tim is very... faithful."

"Yes, okay, but there's a difference between faithful and *religious*."

Hope cocks her head to the side.

"Uh. Okay, it's a *hazy* distinction sometimes... I. Damn. Tim? Should I even *try* asking you?"

Tim lets his smile be even more itself. "Faith is, perhaps, something which can be considered to have been earned -- in one way or another. Religiosity is something which can happen without anything like that, and is thus something with no real limits -- even sane ones. At least, that's what Dick seems to be trying to say."

Hope finishes with Tim's hand and twines the fingers with his own. "I already know you view it in a different way, as I do."

"You -- you just can't follow anyone *blindly*, guys," Dick says, and scoots close enough to move Tim closer to Hope --

"Thank you, Mr. Grayson."

"Oh -- call me Dick. And I'll call you Hope?"

"All right. Dick."

"You -- no one should have that tone of voice when saying my name but that's neither here nor there. So I'm leaving it."

Tim pats Dick's arm. "Excellent choice."

"Heh. *Right*. Anyway, in the early days I did everything Bruce said. In part because when I didn't, horrible things happened, in part because he seemed like the smartest guy in the *world*, and in part because I hoped it would lead to me getting in his pants. I still questioned things on the inside, though, and that didn't stop even when he kept being right -- or mostly right. Eventually, I got my own kind of intelligence working, and there are things I know and see that Bruce just doesn't, and that kind of thing has saved *lives* over the years. Our lives, even. I've seen all kinds of people in this world who never question anything, at all, and most of them? Have been the easiest ones to put away... when they're not the saddest victims."

Hope squeezes Tim's hand for an exact three count. "You believe we are leaving ourselves vulnerable by believing in Lex."

"I *know* you are, because, sooner or later, everyone gets caught."

That -- "Hn. That sounds rather... faithful."

"Meaning he *does* already have you wrapped up in something illegal?"

"Jesus, Dick, when he put me on this project he'd known me for less than a week. Why would he *trust* me with something like that?"

"I..." And Tim thinks he can feel Dick frowning. Dick, of course, knows logic when he hears it, and knows that Lex is one of logic's biggest fans -- if often in a less than benign way.

It was the closest Tim could come to a foolproof answer to the question of why Dick definitely *shouldn't* look very closely into what's going on at Cadmus --

At least not yet.

"Anyway, Dick, I'm not *here* for the chance to be a supervillain-in-training. I do still root for the good guys."

"You've given yourself *over* to your lover --"

"Yes. I've given him all of myself -- including the *whole* of my mind, which is something *incapable* of not asking questions. The more painful and awkward, the better."

Dick moves from behind Tim and crouches on the floor again, cupping Tim's knee and staring up into Tim's eyes. "Tell me, flat out, that you're not doing anything illegal."

Tim lets his expression twist. "No, Dick, I'm definitely not dressing up every night in skin-tight body armor and acting as an extralegal vigilante force with occasional paramilitary trappings."

But Dick doesn't laugh. Tim is going to have to -- 

"Oh, all *right*," Tim says, and glares. "It's -- well, it's kind of a modern-day panacea, Dick. I know for a fact that some of the tests were done without federal oversight, but the tests *were* done, and more are being done as we speak. It's too important to bog it down at *this* stage, as opposed to once it's ready to be given to the world," Tim says, and promises two-three-two to never call him 'it' again.

Dick frowns in obvious confusion. "He has you working in pharmaceuticals? *That's* what you're so excited about?"

Well... Tim raises an eyebrow. "I may not have mentioned it explicitly, Dick, but I believe I *implied* that I'm a geek and will always *be* a geek," and Tim makes a point of sounding just a *little* offended --

Dick blinks and raises his hands. "Okay! There's nothing wrong with being a geek. Barbara is one of the biggest computer geeks I *know*, and she's... well," Dick says, and shrugs.

"I know you *were* romantically involved with her --"

"And never tell me what you caught on camera. *Both* Bruce and I were involved with her, and she just... well, she got a little tired of us, I think. She didn't *say* she was bored, but I think she was. I just... she's always been so far *ahead*, you know?"

Tim nods and lets himself thrill for what can only be described as premium dish --

The tuxedo may be dangerous to wear for extended periods of time.

"I... well. It suited my inner fanboy for Batgirl and Robin to be together, but I'm capable of understanding that fantasies aren't always well-suited to the real world."

Dick sighs. "Yeah, she... she described us in fairy-tale terms. And not in a flattering way, either."

What would it really be *like* to be the third to Batman and Robin? Maybe even the *fourth* to Batman, Robin, and Superman... hm. "What... is it difficult for female superheroes?"

"Heh, I... Troia's given me an earful about it more than once. Mostly it's the older heroes that say and do fucked-up things, but they also have to put up with a lot more shit from the media. Stuff about whether or not they've gained weight, countless questions about who they're dating, snide little comments about whether their uniforms are slutty or prudish -- heh. There's more, but those are the ones Troia and Babs taught me to see."

Tim makes a face reflexively --

"It is, in some ways, far better to be... a villain," Hope says, and brushes a microscopic bit of dust from her lapel.

"Yeah, but you and Mercy mostly fly under the radar, Hope. There are *rumors*, but the most I've seen about you in the media are puff pieces about how 'daring' it was for Lex to make two entirely human women his primary bodyguards. If you were all out there in body armor or mech-suits or something, it would probably be different."

Hope tightens her mouth. "I see. I believe I will have Mercy tell me about her favorite punishments for men who have... upset her."

Dick's expression turns wry. "I can see how that would be soothing, and, frankly, that worries me --" and Dick tenses --

Hope tenses at just about the same time --

"Man, I can fucking *feel* the violence about to happen on my ass," Jason says from the hall. "It's just me, I swear."

Tim smiles rather helplessly --

Dick eyes him *curiously* --

And Hope straightens Tim's tie. Hm.

"For Jason?"

"Mercy told me that he performed admirably well."

Because Hope *is* in constant communication -- right --

"Nah, nah, *Tim* is the show-pony in this family," and Jason walks in with his hands in his pockets. *Four* buttons of his shirt are open, exposing the magnificently tight undershirt, and the rumpling makes him look --

"Jesus, Jason, were you *screwing* Bruce?" And Dick is laughing while he says it --

But Jason blushes.

Dick's jaw drops -- "You --"

"Whoa, no! No! I just, you know, thought about it. A little. Fuck, man, he was your fucking guardian and *you* still do him!"

"That's -- okay, he's hot --"

"He's -- that fucking *voice* --"

"Oh, the voice. Yeah, the voice is... yeah," Dick says, resettling with his legs straight out in front of him while he leans back onto his hands. "Good talk? You're coming home with us tomorrow?"

"What? No -- I mean, I'm still. Uh. He said something about not wanting to rush -- uh. Why are you fucking *coping*?"

Dick raises his eyebrows. "Like maybe you're the *first* ridiculously pretty and competent teenager Bruce has gone a little nuts for? You should see the girl we're training up now. She's Tim's age, but she looks -- well, she's formed -- uh. Anyway."

Jason raises his *own* eyebrows. "Girls, too? That... I don't know *why* that makes me relax a little, but it totally does. She's cool?"

"She's great, Jason --"

"Look, we're perving on the same fucking dude and also I think you're gonna be teaching me how to do split-kicks before I wake up properly. Call me Jay."

Dick *beams* --

That's really the only word for it --

Just as there *aren't* words for the series of *incredibly* fast and graceful motions that lead to Dick being wrapped most of the way around Jason. "You have no *idea* how much of a fight Tim's been giving me, and you got Bruce to get that *look* he gets when he's making a life-altering decision for someone else, and you just proved that this city isn't insane. Go you."

"Hey, man, I *take* Gotham with me wherever I fucking go."

"Ooh, tough guy --"

"You know Mercy calls me that, right?"

Dick makes a face. "Look, Tim already made me think of Lex fucking Luthor's sex life tonight. Be *gentle*."

Jason grins and waggles his eyebrows. "Is that what you tell him?"

"I -- heh. Never. N-e-v-e-r. Never never ever."

"Also, Daddy's a fucking demon in the sack."

"You -- okay, you're gonna have to stop calling him that around me. Please."

Jason grins a little wider --

"Wait, *you're* hooking up with him?"

Jason nods to Tim --

And Dick turns to look at him. "You -- what the hell did you *do* to Luthor, Tim?"

Tim puts on his best bitch-face. "I saved him with the power of my --"

"Cute, cute, *cute* little ass, baby? Yes, you totally did."

Tim flips Jason off --

"See, but you never actually *do* that. Or are you just saving that up for *Daddy's* birthday?"

Tim blinks and --

Well, he does a lot of blinking.

He *tries* to picture it, or guess how that would even *feel* --

Had Lex ever done that with *Bruce*? Would he even *want* to? How would that work within the framework of the sexuality they're building between them? It --

"Jay, he looks like you made him divide by *zero*," Dick says, jumping back down and tugging Jason back toward the couch --

Jason snickers and follows. "He'll be fine as soon as he figures out how to do it *while* subbing like BDSM is goin' out of fashion."

That -- "I *am* capable of having sex without submitting, Jay."

"Yeah, but are you capable of making *love* without it?"

Tim opens his mouth -- and closes it again.

Jason sits down next to Tim and wraps his arm around Tim's shoulders. "Don't worry about it, baby. There is *totally* somebody out there you could dominate. Well, no, there are a *lot* of people out there like that, but I'm willing to bet there's at least one you'd *want* to."

Hm. "Is that how your experiences of BDSM have been?"

Jason waves his free hand. "Yes and no. Mainly it's what your *personality* says to me. There is totally an *incredibly* bitchy dom in you somewhere, and your future sub is gagging for it as we speak."

Tim nods and puts it aside to consider later --

"Also --" And Jason smacks the back of Tim's head.

"Ah... ow? Oh, wait, yes, I did kind of set you up. Sorry."

Jason glares at him. "You let the sidekick *in* on your plans, baby."

"I -- you're my sidekick?"

"No," Dick says, sitting down and pressing Jason's right leg to Tim's left so he can hug them both, "he's *Bruce's* sidekick. Well, future sidekick. Co-sidekick with Steph."

Her name is Steph -- presumably short for Stephanie. She's sixteen, curvaceous, and in training to be -- "Will they both be Robins?"

Dick blinks. "I -- hm. I don't know, actually. I mean -- all right, the fact that I'm *surprised* that you don't know that Robin was my mother's nickname for me is definitely one of those facts which prove that a *wee* little bit of insanity is a survival mechanism."

Hope rests her hand on Tim's knee and gives Tim a look.

"I -- hm. Is it time for me to return to the party, Hope?"

"Lex has told Mercy he'll be speaking with Bruce privately for some time. The party needs a host."

"Of course," Tim says, standing and presenting himself for Hope to neaten. "Both of you are welcome to stay here and talk --"

"I was totally thinking of going outside, maybe smelling some car exhaust," Jason says, and when Tim turns to look at him, he's grinning meanly.

"I -- you know I don't know whether or not you're allowed to go outside yet and so you're fucking with me."

"I sure am," Jason says, and folds his hands behind his head.

"'Allowed? What, did Mercy *kidnap* you?"

"*First* she drugged me. *Then* she kidnapped me. It was for a good cause, though. Sort of."

Dick is staring at Jason --

Dick turns to give Tim the look which, for Tim, will always translate to 'why aren't you figuring out that you're in love with an evil mastermind?' Which, well, he *has* figured that out.

He just doesn't care. So. He raises an eyebrow at Dick.

"*Tim* --"

"It really isn't any of your business, Dick," Tim says, and stands still so that Hope can use her handkerchief on Tim's shoes, which look perfectly shiny to *him*, but, really, who knows?

"My -- I'm a *hero*. Kidnapping is *always* my business!"

"Eh, we're in Metropolis, though," Jason says, and stretches his legs. "It's maybe *Superman's* business, but anyone else's? I'm not seeing it."

Hope stands up and refolds her handkerchief. "Superman is Dick's lover. There may well be... an overlap of responsibility."

Tim nods thoughtfully. "A real possibility, Hope --"

"Wait, you're fucking Superman, *too*?"

Dick sighs happily. "Yes. And yes. And yes. Yes."

"He's not even wearing a dance belt under there. I -- hunh. He knows how to swing that thing, too?"

Dick pulls his feet up and spins around on his ass, coming to a stop in just about the same position he started from. "Yes. And yes."

Hope cocks her head to the side.

Tim attempts to figure out... something.

Jason snorts again. "You love your life."

"God, Jay, *so* much. You don't even know. But you *will*. Unlike Mr. I-Married-A-Supervillain over there."

"He totally did. Just wait 'til you see them together, man. Even when they fight there are totally violins playing."

"Aww -- wait, no, I'm not *saying* that for Luthor. Not *ever*."

Jason kicks Dick's thigh lightly. "He's just a guy, you know. I'd think it'd be kinda dangerous for people in your line of work to forget that."

Dick scowls -- and then sighs, expression clearing as he turns to Tim. "You're convinced he's turning around."

"Yes, I am," Tim says, and checks the tanzanite cuff-links Lex had presented him with -- ah, one of Jason's hairs was caught in the right one. He plucks it free and puts it in his pocket.

Hope straightens his pocket and twitches her mouth at him.

Tim smiles back --

And Jason and Dick are staring at them.

Tim reaches up and adjusts Hope's hat just so.

"Uh. I don't think I'm *respectable* enough to go back down to the party with you guys," Jason says. "I mean, I don't think I even still *have* all my buttons."

"Jay, I won't say it's not possible for you to look more attractive than you do right now, but that's mainly because it seems like a dangerous dare to make to the universe. In fact, I believe you'll be more popular than ever if you come back down."

Jason winces *and* makes a face --

Tim smiles ruefully. "Or, you could stay here and relax."

"I -- I do wanna talk to Dick about a few things. I also wanna talk to *you*, though. I mean, Bruce was --" Jason shakes his head. "I wasn't expecting that."

Tim nods. "He -- well, you saw how quickly he got to me."

"Heh. *That*."

Dick smiles wryly and shakes Jason's knee back and forth. "He does that. He does that *infuriatingly* well, actually. Look, why don't we all go back down? We can have semi-cryptic conversations full of code-words while we watch Tim work the room like he's Luthor's wife as opposed to his son-I-mean-protégé. I promise I'll be pretty enough to deflect some of the attention away from you."

Jason snickers and kicks Dick again. "Deal. Let's hit it."


One of the first purely personal things Lex had done after a decorous time had passed after the discovery of his father's bullet-riddled and rat-gnawed corpse was to move the primary library to a separate floor and redesign it until it was as light, airy, and modern as it could be.

It's a palace of non-fiction, divided into sections for that which science has proven to be impossible, that which isn't possible *yet*, that which was *thought* to be impossible until some perfectly wonderful madman or madwoman discovered otherwise... et cetera.

He likes it here, for all that he rarely gives himself the time to peruse the shelves at length. When he has difficulty sleeping, he comes here and sits on one of the couches he'd designed for the comfort of multiple kinds of people --

His father used to *revel* in putting people off their game with petty little tricks like making the legs of the only available chair too short for a tall person or vice versa. His father had stocked the library with classics of the Western canon and a handful of books which he'd actually found useful on his push to create and grow LuthorCorp out of the ashes of a bargain basement agricultural concern which had been run into the ground by a man Lionel had met at an illegal poker game of all things.

His father had led an exciting life, starting life as a petty criminal from the stews of Suicide Slum and becoming the man --

The man Lex had had to kill, for all that it wasn't his finger on the trigger.

In his more self-destructive moments, Lex allows himself to wonder if that had made it any better for the man. *Are* there any better ways to learn, once and for all, that one had 'made it?'

Why, Lionel had probably had to strangle *his* father himself. With both hands. Uphill.

In the snow.

Lex smiles to himself and fingers the spine of what he's been informed is *the* authoritative text on quantum mechanics. He has *three* terrifyingly brilliant graduate students on the LexCorp dime who have devoted themselves to this field. One of them may even be able to explain it to him in ways which don't sound like physics-oriented voodoo someday.

He has his doubts that *any* of them will make him money, but then it wasn't that many generations in the past when men in his position scoffed at the utility of computers. So.

He's here. A place to be comfortable.

A place to be humble.

A place to be reminded of how far he's come.

A place --

To listen to Bruce Wayne exhale loudly enough to make himself heard from... hn. Four paces away.

Lex turns to face him -- yes, four. "Bruce."

"Lex," he says, and his voice is deeper than it had once been and harder by far -- but it's still the closest thing Lex has heard *to* that voice in too *fucking* long --

No. Control. "I frankly wasn't sure you'd come."

Bruce narrows his eyes in a smile which *used* to reach his mouth. "I frankly wasn't sure Mercy hadn't rigged this room with death traps."

And, yes, they *are* going to be that kind of honest with each other. Lex smiles for himself. "Let a boy come out just a *little* and he *will* be honest about absolutely everything he can, I suppose," and Lex pulls on a little of the arch *he'd* used to give Bruce nearly to the exclusion of all else --

"Do you love him?"

Well. "And what, pray tell, would an answer to that question mean to *you*?"

Bruce winces and nods. "He has... bloomed with you."

"You remember him from the parties in Gotham."

Bruce meets his eyes with a stare that's just -- "I remember everything."

Lex doesn't *sneer*, but --

He wishes he had when Bruce takes a step closer. Just -- the *effrontery* --

"Stay there, Bruce."

Bruce lifts his hands -- and stares at *them* for a long moment.

Are they callused now? More powerful than they'd been then?

Bruce hasn't touched his *skin* since --

*Control*. "How old was he when you began fucking him?"

And yes, that's enough to make Bruce look at him again, into him --

"I really, really, really would like to know, darling."

"Is Tim your darling, now?"

Lex -- doesn't clench his hands into fists. "Yes. And far more than that."

Bruce nods slowly, not looking away -- "Fourteen. He had already taken... other lovers."

"And that was enough to excuse --"

"No," Bruce says, and his smile is a wintry *lack*. "But it did wear down certain emotional obstacles."

What he wouldn't *give* to not have taken up residence in a glass house -- no. There are some things he wouldn't give, at all. Humility may not be a pleasant thing, but it's useful. He'll remember that --

"He reminds me of you. Tim, I mean," Bruce says, *precisely* out of nowhere.

"He's nothing -- he reminds me of you. Constantly."

Bruce narrows his eyes and breathes deep -- "I never stopped desiring you, Lex. You were... you were my first. And I will not allow you to hit me with a fireplace poker."

What -- Lex stares down at his hand, and at the poker in it. He laughs because he *has* to -- "You have to admit that you deserve it."

"Yes, I do. Still."

"Oh, yes, because you have *so* many things to do which would be far too inconvenient with a broken collarbone."

Bruce raises his eyebrows in a better smile. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do."

Lex snorts and shoves the poker back into its sconce on the rack. "You could've told me."

"What would you have done?"

"Talked you *out* of it, you *ass*," Lex says, and closes the distance between them. "It's beyond idiotic."

"It's my life, and my Mission."

This time, the sneer can't actually be restrained. "You *capitalized* that."

"I often do."

Lex steps back and pinches the bridge of his nose. He -- can think. He's an adult, and all of those hormones, all of those moments of raw *need* --

"Lex --"

"Shut up."

"If I'd known --"

"Do not. Even think. About finishing that sentence."

And that is the sound of Bruce swallowing. He --

("I've studied. I found a source of -- of homosexual pornography --"

"You *dirty* boy --"

"*Lex*. *Look* at me!")

"Lex... please."

"You need nothing from me, Bruce, and so you have no need to beg."

"You made me beg more than once."

"It was an excellent way to be sure you actually wanted what you were asking for."

"It was an excellent way to assert dominance and snatch control of the situation from the needs which drove us," Bruce says, and rests a hand on Lex's shoulder --

"*Bruce* --"

"He believes, at least in part, that I could take you from him."

Lex flushes and knocks Bruce's hand aside, moving for the door. He has to -- be caught, spun, and *yanked* close. "*Bruce* --"

"Jason told me Tim was emancipating himself for you. That the two of you were all but married --"

"I will *not* let him feel --"

"Unloved? Fit only to be used?"

Lex lets his teeth click shut. "You don't think you've gotten back at me for that sufficiently well?"

"I never wanted --"

"You did."

"*Lex*. I *loved* you," and Bruce actually *shakes* him --

"Let go --"

"Will you *listen* to me?"

("Lex, I --"

"If you're thinking about making this a discussion about *feelings*, darling... well.")

"We were fools, Lex. I -- please," Bruce says, and his voice is low again, rumbling and *full* --

But no more full than his eyes, and that -- "Let go."

Bruce does without another word, and that's more than enough reason to stay where he is.


"Will you look at me again?"

("Give me a *moment* to see your eyes when you're actually *feeling* something --") Lex looks up and raises an eyebrow --

And Bruce is studying him like it's the first time, like maybe Lex is moments away from ducking into his carefully overstuffed closet and walking out wearing gold lame and four-inch platform heels --

Or perhaps just like Lex is hiding from him again. Lex closes his eyes --

"Don't -- please."

Lex opens his eyes again. "Bruce..."

"You have to realize -- it's a *relief*. It -- I'll *never* be able to tell Harvey who I really am, but you --"

"I'm just as much of a murderer --"

"How long have you had my secret? What's *stopped* you from destroying everything I am? Everything I've built?"

Lex lets his eyes narrow. "I might simply be enjoying having you on my *leash*."

Bruce narrows his own eyes... and smiles. He doesn't show his teeth, but, then, for this smile --

"I taught you how to look like that."

"You taught me much," Bruce says, and the challenge is unmistakable, a warning in and of itself --

But there's no time to *take* the warning before the realization hits. "You're telling me that I taught you to fake your entire fucking *existence*?"

Bruce's laugh -- his *real* laugh -- is, ultimately, the same as it was then -- a breath and a note which hardly seems worth the effort until one thinks about how long it's been since one has last *heard* the accursed thing --

"You can't *possibly* be blaming me --"

"I'm thanking you, Lex. You taught me... hn. People will accept the easiest possible answer all the time, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is laid at their *feet* --"

"You *never* gave me any evidence --"

"I had to work harder with you. I trained myself to drink to excess while still retaining some measure of my faculties in part so that I could firm your sense of me as a drunk. I called on Alfred to teach me every trick he'd learned as an actor --"

"And *spy* --"

"And spy, yes. He taught me the lessons you kept to yourself, such as how to build a persona into a person in its own right -- or the simulacrum of one. He taught me how to go hours and days without ever showing a sign of how I truly felt about anything, how to move through the world within a fraction of myself..." Bruce smiles ruefully. "Everything you learned as a child."

"I -- I was only trying to create a narrative I could *live* in, to set myself up in ways which would keep the incidental mockery --"

"To subjects which were ultimately meaningless. You... I've wondered, more than once, what you would've done were we a decade younger or older."

Lex laughs quietly. "Whatever worked, Bruce. Whatever worked."

Bruce nods and reaches out -- he doesn't *quite* touch Lex's face, but Lex can feel the warmth of his hand. "You own more lavender items than many seven-year-old girls, Lex."

Well... "Purple *is* for royalty, darling."

"I think I don't want to be your darling anymore."

Ouch -- damn it -- "No...?"

"I want to be your friend. I want to speak to you about my life. I want to talk you out of doing terrible things. I want your admiration for the good of my life and your approbation for the rest. I want your help in making Gotham into the kind of city people like Tim won't run from --"

"You shot yourself in the *cock* for that. Nobody listens to urban renewal plans from drunken pussyhounds --"

"No, they don't. Lucius has successfully been my front for the few projects I've gotten through the bureaucracy, and the Foundation is in good shape..." Bruce shakes his head and offers his eyes again, the eyes that had *broken* Lex, time and fucking time *again* -- "Tell me it's true, Lex. Tell me I can believe in what Jason has told me about you. Tell me --"

"That I'm still the boy you supposedly loved? Please --"


"You *will* not bring me to heel, Bruce, so get that pathetic fucking idea out of your head --"

"Tim wants us --"

"Don't *use* him. Don't ever --"

The kiss is -- unexpected.


*Brutal* --

Brief. Lex takes a breath. "Got that out of your system?"

"There was always a way, back then," Bruce says, and he doesn't seem to be *blinking*. "There was always some small thing I could say or do which would convince you to take down your armor, to give me something like what I *needed*."

"It was never fucking *small*, you --" Lex growls and gives himself leave to pace, to move, to taste air which doesn't smell like a cologne even more ridiculous than the one he's taught Tim to love on him --

Tim is worried about this. Tim doesn't believe in him *enough*, yet --

He has a wonderful idea for a ring --

No, earrings first. Something which absolutely screams about how ridiculously queer he is. It's not like he'll ever make Tim go back to *school* --

"This is how you look when you think about him."

Lex closes his eyes --

"Please don't. Please -- you have to -- you've only ever let me see how *hard* you could be, how cold, how *cruel* --"

"I *am* cruel --"

"You're in love, and you've promised him the world. Will you give it to him?"

"We --" Lex laughs again and turns to Bruce. "We could've owned this country."

"Probably. I never wanted it."

"He does. Granted, he only wants to make the kind of sweeping changes which benefit humanity as a whole, but really, that sort of optimism blended with just the right -- or wrong -- kind of will to power... he already sees the world in shades of grey, Bruce."

Bruce pulls back, shutters himself --


He can't --

"Oh, *fuck* you, Bruce, the only corruption I plan to introduce is that which allows him to spend more time sitting on my *cock*. I *like* how good he is. I *like* the way he challenges me, and, yes, I *like* the idea of being the man I've always wanted to be rather than the man my father wanted me to be."

Bruce turns away --

"*Look* at me --"

"I can never -- you had him killed."

"Oh, Bruce, if I could've actually trusted you... if I'd been *capable* of that kind of youth... I still would've done it. *That* doesn't change."

Bruce clenches his hands into fists, and the tension in his jaw is just --

"When you look like that, darling, you remind of the first night."

"You made me feel... callow. Ignorant. Shameful," Bruce says to Lex's carpeting.

"You made me feel terrified. Obvious about my own curiosity. And, yes, shameful."

Bruce *flexes* his fists --

"You're telling me you *didn't* figure that out? Are you *serious*?"

"I... couldn't be sure of the conclusions I made," and Bruce's voice is even darker --

More *familiar* -- "Oh, no --"

"Emotions are a liability to the Mission," *Batman* says --

"I will have Mercy shoot you full of tranquilizers and then I will *beat* you until your *brain* is a *stain* on my *floor* --"

A chuckle. A --

"Are you *laughing* at me?"

"I'm laughing," *Bruce* says, *thankfully*, "at both of us. And at the hash we've made... hm." Bruce turns to look at him again. "You honestly believed I never loved you."

"I *believed* that you had wasted one of the finest minds I ever had the privilege of enjoying. Figuring out that you were the motherfucking *Batman* convinced me that you'd never loved me."

Bruce narrows his eyes. "I'd forgotten how much you cursed."

"Fucking *cope* --"

"Tell me it's true."

"It's *true*, damn you --"

"Make love with me."

"How many times have you been kicked in the *head*, you ass?"

This time, Bruce shows his teeth -- hm.

"How many of those are still real?"

"If I pop out my bridge will you lose all desire for me?"

Tim, when he wishes not to laugh, will occasionally bite his lip. This is far too obvious for Lex, and so he -- laughs anyway.

Bruce lights up like Lex had given him a *gift* --

"Fuck, Bruce, I'm not -- I'm never going to be *you* --"

"Yes, and you're going to do things I find terrible in the future. I have no doubt of this. You are neither my ally nor my partner."

Lex swallows. "Bruce --"

"Superman told me about Tim. I'm not at all sure why he didn't tell Dick."

It's always so fascinating whenever there's an *actual* red wash over his vision. "The alien spied on me. I see."

"He found it curious that an obviously underaged male with a Gotham accent was calling your name in that way."

"His voice -- will always make him sound younger than he is. I." This time, Bruce doesn't smile when Lex laughs. Well enough. "You've had me on your leash, too."

"I will not use this weapon against you, Lex."

Lex crosses his arms over his chest. "Unless I fuck up badly enough?"

"Not even then. I can't -- I can't."

"But Superman can?"

Bruce smiles wryly. "He wants to. Badly. Even after I pointed out how young Dick was when they began making love. For some reason, he feels a great deal of antagonism toward you."

All right, that's funny --

Bruce smiles *again* --

"Did he know about the two of us?"

"Yes. However, I now know that he'd never allowed himself to think very deeply about the implications of the two of us having been lovers."

Lex raises an eyebrow --

"I never make love to people I wouldn't happily spend my life with."

Lex *seizes* inside -- "Fucking *hell*, Bruce!"

"Lex --"

"Wait, what the fuck do you *do* with all the socialites you shoot full of horse tranquilizers?"

"Alfred keeps a guest bedroom in wonderful condition for just that purpose."

"You're the creepiest man I've ever met."

Bruce nods once and *stares* at him --

"It's not going to happen."

"Do you not wish to cheat on your other lovers?"

"I -- I've never been monogamous. That's not the fucking *problem* --"

"Lex. I know you desire me."

"And *I* know you're a stupid, *stupid* man who does stupid, *stupid* things for a wounded child's definition of *justice*, of all things --"



"Bruce --"

"There is nothing I will not do."

("I want to try *everything*, Lex --")

"You're not *well* --"

"So much time. I..." Bruce shakes his head and steps closer, resting a hand on Lex's crossed arms. "I'm willing to beg. I've learned a great deal about how to do it... interestingly."

Lex feels his nostrils flare without his permission --

The light behind Bruce's eyes is hard and *hot*, and, yes, Lex knows that look *very* well. It's the look which has tended to mean that Bruce won't be able to stop himself from stroking Lex's skin, that he'll do it over and over as he mouths, licks, and tries to force himself *not* to bite --

Tries and *fails* --

Bruce leans *in* --

"Let's -- discuss this."

Bruce exhales champagne against Lex's mouth. "All right." He doesn't pull back --

Lex laughs --

Bruce smiles -- "It was always a victory to have you do that and *mean* it, Lex. More, it was a victory seemingly snatched from the jaws of crushing defeat."

"That. Tim speaks with that same degree of *arch* self-deprecation, sometimes."

"And so do you," Bruce says, and nuzzles the *air* near Lex's mouth. "Perhaps we're all narcissists."

Lex licks his lips -- and doesn't know how he'd managed to avoid grazing Bruce's lip. "We're also enablers."

"Terrible. Just -- terrible. Lex."


Bruce strokes up to Lex's shoulders. "You smell the same, save for the cologne. It would've suited you then, though. I've always wondered how much you enjoyed playing with the trappings of femininity versus how much they truly suited you."

"And I've spent the past couple of weeks wondering whether knowing what I now know about you made me *sorry* for all the times I've tried to kill you, or made me *regretful* for not doing a better job."

"It's a question I've asked myself more than once. If it would make a difference, I mean."

"Your conclusions?"

"Worthless," Bruce says, and kisses Lex's cheek --

"Bruce --"

"I didn't know you felt this way still. I *never* knew you felt this way."

Lex growls and presses his hands to Bruce's chest --

Bruce takes a quick, sharp breath -- "Please."

"Back off."

Bruce takes a graceful step back and raises an *eyebrow* at him, and that's --

"I knew next to nothing about true domination and submission when I was giving you orders, Bruce."

"The thought had occurred... but you did a wonderful enough job to give me a taste for it that's lasted my entire life."

"And you've used it with your lovers."

"Yes. Let me come closer again."




Bruce licks *his* lips -- and covers the hands Lex still has on his chest with his own.

"Bruce --"

"A moment, and Bruce strokes the backs of Lex's hands before letting go --

Which means that Lex has to stop touching Bruce's chest. Right now.

He does.

He *breathes* --

"Did Tim understand your need for dominance?"

"From the very beginning. He was... well-informed."

"And inclined in that direction. Like me."

"I thought --" Lex doesn't lick his lips *again* -- "I believed you were more desperate than anything else."

"If you'd like, I'll give you the psychological profiles I've done on myself. I've been assured they're just as creepy as they should be."

Lex snorts --

"Lex. I love you --"

"Shut *up*. *Who* told you that you were creepy?"

"Superman. Dick. Wonder Woman --"

"They --" Lex narrows his eyes. "They're all your lovers."

"With varying degrees of regularity."

"You -- with an *alien* who can lie to a human without so much as breaking a *metaphorical* sweat --"

And Bruce smiles at him. "I've learned to trust him."

"And submit to him?"

Bruce smiles more widely.

"I -- get *out* --"

"He was never a replacement for you, Lex --"

"No one *could* be," Lex says, and no, he can't actually keep himself from advancing on Bruce, forcing him to step back and back --

The heat in Bruce's eyes hasn't dimmed one *iota* --

"You're a *fool*, Bruce --"

"Yes. But not quite as much of one as I used to be," Bruce says, and raises an eyebrow. "What do you get from denying us this? Is the satisfaction that great?"

"Bruce, if I say no to you *every* day for the *next* quarter of a century --"

"You would be lying. Each and every time," and Bruce stops backing up --

Somehow they'd wound up near one of the larger *couches* -- new tactic. Now. "You can't ever trust me."

"I disagree."

"And when simply being *around* me corrupts Tim? When he stops *trying* to challenge me?"

Bruce frowns --

"*Yes*, Bruce, *think* about it --"

"You doubt yourself. You -- don't, Lex --"

"What are you *talking* --"

This time, the kiss is less brutal than *forceful*. It would've knocked him back had Bruce not been fast enough to wrap his arms around Lex --

His arms have always been so --

The heat of his eyes isn't *nothing* compared to the heat of his body, but --

Bruce breaks the kiss to pant -- no, to exhale shakily. "Lex. Lex."

"Bruce --"

"You must not. You. No one can change someone else solely by being *around* them --"

"Do you honestly *believe* that?"

"I *must*," Bruce says, cupping Lex's face with both hands, and this time the nuzzle is flesh, heat, *stubble* --

Lex tries to pull *back* --

"Don't. Please don't."

"Then don't scrape my *flesh* off, you -- fucking *bear* --"

Bruce's laugh has *three* notes -- "I've grown accustomed to people appreciating that about me."

"You've been *spoiled* --"

"I was an only child. You know what they say."

"*I* was an -- oh, *fuck* you --"


Lex sucks in a breath and shakes his head --

*Tries* to shake his head --

"Bruce. How is this *easy* for you?"

Bruce groans -- and then laughs *again*. Lex counts *ten* notes before his brain surrenders in shock --

"Fuck -- *stop* that --"

"I -- hm. Easy. Really, Lex?" And Bruce leans *back* --

Lex follows before he can --

"Oh. Lex," and this time Bruce cups the back of Lex's head with one hand and Lex's hip with the other. His hands are less rough than *hard*, and yes, the calluses are there --

And Bruce's mouth is hot, so --

Jason would call this feeling sweetness, but sweetness isn't --

It shouldn't *ache* like this, shouldn't --

And now they're close enough that Lex should be able to feel Bruce, feel how much --

He can't feel a damned thing. What --

Lex *shoves* back --

"*Lex* --"

"What are you *wearing* under --" Lex stops and *fights* the red wash -- "You're wearing the motherfucking *Batsuit* in my *home*?"

"It never leaves me... but it does come off."

"Stop making that sound like a fucking *metaphor*!"

Bruce cups Lex's face with one hand this time. "Don't you think it's time for you to surrender your feud with English literature, Lex?"

Lex blinks.

Bruce raises a *pointed* eyebrow.

For the love of *science*, that's infuriating -- Lex blows out a breath. "You're always going to be holding a piece of yourself in abeyance."

"Lex --"

"*That* is what you're really saying. Isn't it."

Bruce -- looks at him. *Feels* at him, really, because the longing in those eyes, the hunger and *regret* --

He can't -- Lex laughs again and rubs his temple. "Oh, Bruce. It won't stop me."

"It should."

Oh -- Lex knows his smile is savagely *insane* by the way Bruce's eyes widen -- "Tim believes in 'should,' too, you know. For now. I *will* break him of that."


Lex growls as shamelessly as he wants to and starts unbuttoning his shirt.


"*Strip*, Bruce --"

And Bruce's jacket is on the floor just that quickly. Well -- no, he'll focus, and so he just strips off his own jacket, his shirt, his undershirt --

He doesn't fucking *look* at the damned suit --

"Look at me."

"You've always been so beautiful, Lex, but I -- I didn't want you to know --"

"Too *fucking* bad. We don't get to be who we are and still have this with no -- no warps in the fucking matrix --"

"I love you --"

"*Naked*, Bruce. And you have a lot more clothes than I do."

Bruce closes his eyes and clenches his fists --

"*Bruce* --"

"I'd forgotten that I could never truly hide anything from you when it came to this --"

"But you could make me *doubt*, and so help me, Bruce, that's *worse*," Lex says, and of course he hadn't wanted to sound so fucking desperate --

But sometimes there's no choice.

No words then, and they finish stripping themselves at speed -- but Bruce can't seem to look away from Lex, and it's the same for Lex himself.

The same.

When Bruce is naked, Lex takes a moment to punt the hideously ugly -- and smaller-than-usual -- bat-belt across the room --


"We all have our kinks. Darling."

Bruce narrows his eyes -- and drops to his knees with the kind of grace which shouldn't *belong* to a man his size --

Lex pants -- "Bruce."

"Please. Let me taste you."


Bruce swallows and lifts his hands --

"No. At your sides, and answer the question --"

Bruce's cock twitches, rises more --

It *couldn't* rise behind that jock, which means that Bruce was seducing him in part on *faith* --

Lex shakes his head and focuses on the here, the now --

The ridiculously beautiful man on his knees, staring up at him with a hunger so dark it *feels* like it should be closer to rage --

"I am no longer sure I remember the taste of you as well as I thought I did, Lex."

"And so you're building memories?"

"A night with you. An *hour* --"

"Yes or *no*, Bruce."

"*Yes*, Lex. Yes, I -- you were never *easy*."

"I never made sense."

"You do now, but it does nothing to ease the *ache*," Bruce says, and even manages to shuffle *closer* gracefully, breathing deep -- "Lex."

Lex strokes himself once, twice --

Bruce groans as if there *isn't* a part of him measuring, observing, *noting* --

Lex shivers --

"*Please*, Lex --"

"There's always -- I've *always* been apart, you ass --"

"I *know* that --"

"Then stop feeling so fucking *guilty* for not being *sixteen*, anymore --"

Bruce raises his hands --


"Tie me --"

"*No*," Lex says, and smiles helplessly. "I've always needed you to lose control, Bruce --"

"Then --"

"No. Not yet. Not until there's *nothing* else you can do... my friend."

Bruce grunts, pumping his hips once --

Lex pants more, squeezes himself --

And they look at each other.

They see each other.

They *feel* each other --

"Bruce --"

"I will always want to give you more than this. If only --"

"No *regrets*, Bruce --"

"My *friend*," and Lex thinks about quibbling when Bruce cups his hips --

He can still see *thought* in those eyes --

He thinks about balking, ordering, *twisting* this --

And then he thinks about nothing at all, because Bruce swallows him whole and Lex is busy throwing his head back and moaning --

Clawing at the air and *moaning* -- no, there's more to this, there's --

"Your hair is too *short*, damn you," and it's such a shock that he'd made words that he *stops* clawing at Bruce's scalp --

At which point Bruce knocks Lex's feet out from under him --

"*Bruce* --"

On the floor on his *back*, and the teenager screaming for purchase inside of him wants Lex to know that this can't happen, that he can't possibly let someone else *see* him like this --

He's older. Better --

And Bruce is kissing his way up Lex's chest, lipping and licking, biting and *scraping* --

"*Bruce*, you --"

"I *need* you," Bruce says, and he hasn't been pinned this quickly since he *was* a teenager --

And back then it wasn't Bruce looming over him. It wasn't *this* kind of heat, and it wasn't this kind of honesty -- even if there was the same bald sense of a moment changing everything.

His father is dead; Lex is not.

"Kiss me, Bruce --"

Hand on his face and a nuzzle, a shared breath, a shared groan as they thrust against each other nearly in time --

"Fuck, *Bruce* --"

And Bruce kisses him *exactly* the way he had the first time, cautious and starving, soft and tender and curious and hot, much too *hot* --

Lex groans again --

And Bruce is thrusting with the grace of decades, seeking out and destroying every point of resistance between them --

*Why* is he still resisting -- fuck that, *how* is he still resisting?

And it feels too *right* to laugh into Bruce's mouth again, to do it because this is honestly *funny* --

And to lose all trace of laughter when Bruce *smiles* when he kisses Lex again --

When he does it as slowly as his thrusts --

When he makes it clear that there is no single moment of this he doesn't want to *wallow* in --

Ah -- "*More*, Bruce --"

And Bruce seems to be trying to strangle Lex with his tongue, but nearly everything and everyone *in* Lex agrees that it's a wonderful idea, wonderful to suck, wonderful to be *fucked* --

They're moaning *together* now, and Bruce's chest armor is digging in against Lex's calf, and the carpeting is going to make his skin look decidedly interesting, and Bruce's mouth is hot --

Bruce's body is *ridiculous* --

Bruce kisses like he's never left, like it's something which can be done with his whole body, his heart --

And if Lex can just ignore the way he's seizing for this -- no. Not now. Not --

"*Fuck* --"

"Please, Lex, look *down* on me," Bruce says, and certainly that's *a* reason for having been flipped on top of the man, for needing to clutch the somehow *Wagnerian* architecture of those shoulders --

He's panting and searching Bruce, and he doesn't know what he's looking for other than more of the need which they're somehow not touching enough, not *easing* --

Lex narrows his eyes and lines them up, grateful for the relatively small height difference, for the feel of thick hair against his skin, for the boy Bruce was and the man he *is* -- "I will *murder* us if we fuck this up --"

Bruce laughs breathlessly --

Lex *grinds* them together and the laugh becomes a grunt, meaty and *thick* as the body beneath him -- "Bruce."

"Lex --"

"*Bruce* --"

"Don't -- please don't stop --"

"I *have* to --"

"*Lex* --"

Lex thrusts hard once --

Twice --

"I'm going to *suck* you --"

Bruce bucks hard enough that Lex has to all but dig *claws* into his shoulders to hold on --

"Ah -- fuck, Bruce, you feel --"

"*You* feel --"

Lex claws his way over Bruce's nipples --

And this time Bruce *does* throw him --

Knocks the *air* out of him by pouncing --

And this kiss is making his heart pound, making it hammer in his chest --

No, that's because he's not breathing --

Bruce's hands are all over him, all --

It feels like they should be remaking him, forcing him into some sort of moral *putty* --

Laughing isn't getting him any more air --

But the kiss moves to his throat, and the feel of that --

Those *teeth* --

Lex gasps --

Bruce *licks* him -- "The taste of you... I need. I don't think I can stop --"

"Let me *suck* --"

Bruce kisses him again, drives against him and clutches --

Pleads with his eyes when Lex *glares* --

It feels too good to be warm, feels -- fuck, they're *acting* like teenagers, and that shouldn't even be *possible* --

But when Bruce starts kissing a collar around Lex's throat --

When he spreads Lex's legs with his own and thrusts and *thrusts* --

Lex cries out and grabs Bruce's ass, spreading him wide --

"*Lex* -- I -- *hnh* --" And suddenly Bruce is *forcing* Lex down while he *comes*. Just --

"Where the fuck is your *staying* power?"

Bruce gasps a laugh and shudders his way through it, spattering Lex's abdomen and cock --

It feels too *good* --

Bruce pants and stares down at him.


Bruce *smiles* -- "I tend to leave my staying power in my... other clothes."

Oh -- no. "You have *sex* as Batman? Are you *nine*?"

"I did already offer you the psychological profiles, Lex," and Bruce licks his lips. "I've missed this scent."

Lex sits up on his elbows and breathes deep... "I think it could use a bit more adolescent drama --"

"You have Tim for that."

"Did you just say something disparaging about the love of my life?"

Bruce parts his lips, searches him -- "No. But the fact that even a part of you jumped to that conclusion -- you miss him right now."

Lex closes his eyes and gives himself the memory of Tim calling his name over and over and --

That, of course, is what the *alien* had heard --

That should've only been for *him* -- and for Hope and Mercy, of course --

"Lex. Please let me see you."

Lex opens his eyes again and smiles wryly. "I'm annoyed at the ubermensch for listening in. Deeply annoyed."

"You believe he stole something from you... something precious. Needed. Adored," and Bruce smiles as he expertly massages Lex's shoulders, biceps, and chest --

"You're disgustingly happy."

"You're in love. I've always wanted to see that."

"I loved *you* --"

"And showed me nothing."

"I *still* --" Lex narrows his eyes.

Bruce raises an eyebrow.

"Suck. My. Cock."

The world moves -- and Lex is on the couch. The couch that had been four *feet* away from where he was lying --

"You immature, bragging --"

Bruce *yanks* Lex's legs open --

"*Fuck* --"

"Lex. Every time I walked into your bedroom and was struck by your scent... I wanted to *crawl*," and Bruce is *glaring* into his eyes --

Lex feels his own eyes widen -- "Shouldn't you have your self-*control* back?"

Bruce raises an eyebrow --

"All right, I take it back, you're less annoying when you're -- sucking. My. Sac -- *fuck*, Bruce --"

Bruce moans and *slurps* around him --

Bruce wraps his hand around Lex's cock and starts to jerk him *off* as he sucks --

Nibbles and kisses and *sucks* --

Lex claws at Bruce's hair and gets nothing even *resembling* purchase -- "*Bruce*."

Bruce nods and looks up at him, studies him and *devours* --

"Hnh -- *harder* -- ah, *fuck* --"

Bruce's mouth is *pressure* on his sac, the sense of pull and *heat* --

That *weapon* of a hand wrapped around him -- "Your *mouth*, Bruce --"

Bruce hums and it's like being *galvanized* --

He needs to be able to pull Bruce's fucking *hair* --

*Tim's* hair is perfect. Long enough to be used against him, short enough that he still looks *neat* when he's on his knees --

Bruce pulls off with a wet sound that feels more like a *slap* than a noise -- "Tim?"

"If you. If you're about to be a fucking cocktease out of jealousy? I will damned well go ahead with my plans to build a Kryptonite-powered mech suit and wreak bloody fucking *havoc*."

Bruce licks his lips.


"Will it be purple?"

Lex narrows his eyes.

Bruce raises his eyebrow *again* --

And the only possible response is to grab Bruce by the ears and pull *while* he thrusts --

Oh --

And the sound Bruce makes around Lex's cock just before it gets choked off is his name, Lex *knows* it's his name --

He feels himself flush --

Feels himself start to sweat --

Pants --

And *then* Bruce sucks, as hard as the first time when *neither* of them were entirely sure what a good blowjob should be --

When it was need and only need --

"*Now*," Lex says, and doesn't know what he means --

But the light behind Bruce's eyes seems to solidify itself into a blade and *stab* him in the moments before Bruce begins *working* himself on Lex's cock --

"*Bruce* --"

That sound was yes --

That *look* is yes --

It's what he's *wanted*, and the rush of that is something beyond power, something more *brutal* than simple happiness --

Something that should, perhaps, leave him lost in the pieces of all the men he's ever had the chance to *be* --

But, in the end, he is himself, and that will be *one* man, now and forever. Lex lets his smile be as triumphantly *thrilled* as it wants to be. "I will *always* love you, Bruce. And if you stop before you make me come I'll -- *nnh* -- I'll do something absolutely --"

Lex groans and throws his head back, strokes the shells of Bruce's ears and thrusts --

And thrusts --

Thrusts through Bruce's chopped and *rumbling* growl --

"Ah, you -- I *needed* you --"

Bruce nods and *grips* Lex's hip --

"Fuck -- ah, *fuck* --" And Lex is aware that he's rolling his head on the back of the couch like some cock-drunk teenager, but --

The man he is has *room* for that sort of thing. He's spacious, forgiving, open --

In love --

So much --

Bruce *pauses* with just the head in his mouth to *slap* at Lex with his tongue --

"Bruce, *please*," and it was practically *yanked* out of him --

Like the *shout* when Bruce swallows him again --

Yes --

All the -- the *ways* of yes, and there's a profundity, another sort of power, earthly and --

And his mind fills with the image of Tim watching this, *wanting* this --

Being a part of this?

His beautiful lover and perfect *son* --

Look what Daddy *has* for you --

And that is just as excellent a reason for yelling his head off as Bruce yanking him off the couch and onto the floor on his hands and knees, Bruce cupping Lex's ass and *forcing* Lex to *slam* into his mouth --

Over and over --

"Mother*fuck*, Bruce --"

Bruce grabs his sac --

Oh, fuck --

Bruce *squeezes* --

Light and heat, colors and the way he can't stop shaking, can't stop *fucking* --

*In* --

He's coming and it's like winning everything, *everything* --

Fuck, was that a --

Scream --

And he falls back into his body to the feel of himself beating at the floor with his fist --

The feel of Bruce *swallowing* him again and again --

Lex growls and uses the last of what feels like his *self* to roll off, sprawl on his back with one arm thrown over Bruce's chest -- wait. "Are you bent back over your own fucking legs?"

"I've learned..." Bruce licks his lips and *grins* at him. "I've learned a lot from Dick over the years."

*That* image is... itself. "Bruce."

"Yes, Lex."

Lex shivers -- contains himself. "Bruce. The next time I fuck you, your legs are going over my shoulders."

Bruce narrows his eyes and grins even more obnoxiously.

Lex narrows his own eyes.

"I don't suppose I could interest you in a game of chess."

*Chess* --

The last time they'd done that, Lex had *lost* -- mainly because he'd been stoned -- fucking *giddy* -- on the sense of absolute companionship, trust, love --

Lex squeezes his eyes shut.

"I... didn't mean for that to be a difficult sort of invitation."

That -- Lex laughs. "Time, Bruce. It's hitting me."

Bruce twines his fingers with Lex's own. "I think... hm."


"This is an abominably painful position."

Lex snorts and kicks the couch back a foot. "Straighten *out*."

"Yes, I --" Bruce sighs and stretches his legs, kicking the couch even further away. "I think I may be getting old."

"No. If *you* get old, then *I* have to."

"Perish the thought."

And Lex remembers the *cold* look in Alfred Pennyworth's eyes the one and only time he had been in Wayne Manor, the way it hadn't faded no matter *how* charming Lex tried to be --

The way it hadn't faded *because* Lex was trying to be charming. Right.

"Lex... are you regretting this?"

"No. I'm having difficult memories. More specifically, difficult memories I failed to deal with at the time are bubbling *relentlessly* to the surface."

Bruce squeezes Lex's hand. "Curiously enough, I know the feeling."

"Tim is immensely helpful in moments like these."

"As is Dick."

Lex sighs. "You do realize what that says about us, don't you?"

Bruce's laugh this time is another one of those *rumbles* --

"The first time I heard you make that sound I was struck dumb and breathless by the need to shove my cock down your throat."

Bruce rumbles again.

Lex snorts. "Bruce."

"A little sympathy, please. That's the first explicit clue you've ever given me about how to get you to make love with me. Therefore," and Bruce rumbles again.

"If you do that too much, I'll put you in a *cage*."


"No, I don't have that kink, Bruce."

"All right," and Bruce's tone is mild, soothing, maddening --

Lex narrows his eyes.

Bruce -- hums.

"And what's *that* for?"

"Tim hasn't had as much time to train you in the ways of 'afterglow' as Dick has had with me."

Lex scowls. "I'm *good* at it with him."

"You... hold him?"

"He -- he needs it."

Bruce turns to look at him. "I need you to hold me, Lex."

Lex -- doesn't make a face. That would be juvenile --

And Bruce is laughing at him. It's quiet -- nearly silent -- but it's shaking his entire ludicrously huge body --

"I hate you."

"Lex, I..."


"I've missed you like a limb --"

"The feeling is mutual. Let's stop talking about it before I remember how much pain, suffering, and crippling uncertainty --"

"That we owe each other?"

Lex snorts and pinches the bridge of his nose. He can *see* Bruce smiling at him in his peripheral vision --

And, he must admit, it's an entirely pleasant sort of thing.


As has become usual, Tim takes off his lab coat before entering the crèche room. It's against protocol *and* two-three-two is still too deeply 'asleep' to see the difference, but it feels much more personal, and personal...

Personal is very, very important. A part of him badly wants to explain that to Janet Drake, to the woman he owes his existence to -- if no longer his filial allegiance, and, really, it's *good* to be the lover of a man who has judges in his pocket -- but he knows it wouldn't make any sort of difference, at all.

What's done is done, and his life isn't in Gotham, anymore -- though he's started sending slightly more substantive letters to Ives. Just --

Just to see.

Hope straightens the lapels of his jacket -- today's suit is indigo with deep blue pinstripes -- and pushes a lock of Tim's hair back behind his ear. "Is it known when he will awaken."

Soon. It's *going* to be soon -- "No, Hope, not yet. Hoon is talking about taking more proactive steps in that direction, but, so far, everyone else seems content to wait and continue feeding him information."

Hope nods and leads him into the crèche room and to two-three-two's tube. The others are all empty now -- the last of the one hundred and ninety-one 'perfect' embryos had died a week ago -- and the room is far too empty now.

Too -- lonely.

"I promise you, two-three-two, one day you're *going* to have brothers," Tim says, and studies the boy, looking for changes, new growth...

His hair could very well be longer than it was yesterday, but since it's lying in coils at the bottom of the tube, there's no way to tell. His skin is as golden as Superman's --

Tim will probably get used to calling him Clark at right around the same time *he* gets used to the fact that he's going to be a father, which... well. It *will* happen. Bruce had pointed out to the man that it wasn't as if they could simply *kill* two-three-two, and he'd eventually accepted that two-three-two's existence *could* be one of the most positive things which has ever happened. And he'd only tried to set fire to Lex with his eyes once.

Tim is going to miss that suit.

"He seems to only sleep," Hope says, and looks two-three-two over with a thorough rake of a glance.

"And not all that deeply, either. I..." Tim slips on the fabric glove he keeps on himself at all times, now, and presses his hand to the tube. "I feel as though I know him."

"His facial expressions change dramatically, at times."

Tim nods. "He's reacting to the information we're giving him. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about how he reacted to that digitized collection of Star Trek erotica."

"That was... interesting. On a number of levels, once Lex began cursing Blakely's ancestry."

Blakely's reasoning had been all about making sure that two-three-two had access to 'the full range of information about human sexuality,' but really -- Tim hums. "Lex is the single most educational person I have ever met."

"Yes," Hope says, and moves her hand to support Tim's arm so that he doesn't have to move it immediately. Jason's last visit had culminated in Tim discovering that he enjoys being made to do push-ups while naked and erect by a man who is *also* naked and erect. It's going to take time to recover -- and, with Jason deep in training to be the next Robin, he'll *have* that time.

Jason finds two-three-two more creepy than anything else, but he was good enough not to say that out loud while they were visiting the crèche together.

Tim strokes the tube. "You'll get along very well with Jason once you're decanted, two-three-two. He's quite easygoing and friendly."

"Mercy says he reminds her of Roy."

Lex's eyes tend to *start* to cross whenever Roy's name comes up, but, in the end, he'd had to agree that it was important for Mercy to get the proper amount of sexual attention from *some* source. "Will she be visiting him again soon?"

"Next week," Hope says, and plucks a bit of lint off Tim's glove. "She says he has interesting ideas about improving one's aim."

"That's... ah. Hm."

Hope raises her eyebrows.

"Technically, that's... hm. I'm not... I don't think I was expecting that degree of... ah... cross-pollination."

Hope blinks at him.

"Well, yes, you're right, it *is* only reasonable, but... hm."

"You're worried about what will happen if there is... a resurgence of hostilities."

Tim sighs. "Yes, I am. I mean, I believe in Lex, of course. And Mercy will never go against Lex's wishes, and I know that Dick has been very helpful to you for your outline on the Child's Garden of Polyamory book --"

"I have also found myself... drawn toward Koriand'r."

"Ah... drawn?"

Hope nods slowly. "She is... exciting."

"Hope, are you --" Wait, he doesn't want to ask that question. Ever.


Not ever. "Nothing, just a stray thought."

Hope tries out her hum. "How was that."

"Still more... ah... electronic than noncommittal."


Hm. "Did you mean for that to sound resigned, yet determined?"


"Then that was wonderful," Tim says, and turns back to two-three-two. "As you can hear, two-three-two, Hope has been making great strides. She'll be able to help you when you're confused about your emotions."

"I would like that very much," Hope says, and puts on her own fabric glove to touch the tube, and then goes back to supporting Tim's arm.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. Lex has begun searching for appropriate names for two-three-two."

"Ah, that would explain why I've caught him scowling at his palmtop three times this week."

"Yes. I do not believe he wants your help with the problem, even though I pointed out how much more of a grasp of two-three-two's personality you have."

Tim sighs. "It's right that he does it alone, Hope. Two-three-two has been his dream longer than he's been anyone else's."

Hope nods. "Two-three-two. Your human father will teach you everything you need to know about will."

"Very true. Your Kryptonian father will, in his turn, teach you everything you need to know about how to control your powers, and, hopefully, how to use them to help people." As opposed to how to *spy* on people, and really, Tim isn't getting over the revelation that Superman had been watching (over) him while he followed Bruce's family around *anytime* soon --

Which is the kind of thought which makes Lex *meanly* happy in that way which leads to so many wonderful spankings, so Tim tucks it away for later. Still --

Hm. Tim traces the curve of two-three-two's cheek on the tube. "I realize that we've given you a literally encyclopedic knowledge of the subjects of sex and sexuality, but I'm going to have to insist that you talk to me or one of your fathers about the issue --"

Bubbles. That --

That means --

Two-three-two stiffens, tenses --

*Smiles*, bright and wide --

And *then* opens his eyes, pointing at Tim and mouthing... something.

He's awake.

He --

He's paddling in the amnion and prodding at the tube --

"Should we free him."

And that's when Tim realizes that he's standing here *slack*-jawed and staring. Right. He holds up a finger to tell two-three-two to wait --

Realizes that two-three-two might not have *any* knowledge of that gesture --

But he nods -- and gives Tim the thumbs-up. Right. Fine. He's -- dealing.

He moves to the central control panel, forgets what all the pretty little buttons signify -- "Hope, slap me."

"Yes, Tim."

And, once he's done seeing stars, he manages to get the amnion draining at speed. Alarms are going off all over the place -- "Hope, inform Lex --"

"Already done."

"Good. Keep -- no one gets in here *but* Lex until I say so."

"Yes, Tim."

He checks -- and two-three-two is making a disgusted face at the amnion still clinging to him and attempting to wipe himself down even though it's still waist-high --

No, lower --

Two-three-two is *floating* --

"Hope, slap me again."

"You already have a nosebleed, Tim."

"*Damn*, I -- are you seeing -- do you see --"

"Yes, Tim. I." She touches his arm --

And, when Tim looks, he can see that the corners of her mouth are turned up and trembling --

Her eyes are wet --

And Tim realizes his are, too, and -- they hug. Tim feels his ribs creak --

Hope puts him down, pulls her gun from the holster, and goes to guard the door. He can hear her discussing things with the few mercenaries on guard duty in other parts of the complex, but the sounds are meaningless, and --

He can't wait until all the amnion is gone. He lowers the tube --

And two-three-two cracks the top of it in his rush to get out. "Oops -- damn. That wasn't, like, expensive, was it?"

He's talking. He's *floating*. He's --

"Aw, man, it totally was, wasn't it?"

He... has kind of an interesting speech pattern. Hm.

Two-three-two flies around the broken tube, dripping amnion from every single part of his incredibly well-formed -- if distinctly adolescent -- body --

And his *hair* --

And then he lands in front of Tim. Like this, their estimates of him being four inches taller and twenty-five pounds heavier than Tim are -- fact. He waves a large, square hand in front of Tim's face and looks hopeful.

Tim shivers --

"Dude, Mom, are you *okay*?"

What. "Ah... ah?"

Two-three-two pats Tim down as if he isn't quite sure whether he wants to check Tim for weapons or broken bones -- and then he stops and frowns at his hands. "Jeez, I *know* that suit's expensive and I just got it all --"

"It's okay," Tim says, and it feels like he's *forcing* his throat open --

And two-three-two looks at him from under his lashes. His eyes are Lex's own, and -- "Yeah?"

Tim takes a shaky breath. "Yes," he says, and smiles. "Ah... welcome to consciousness."

A beam -- "Thanks, Mom! I've been freaking *dying* to talk to you!"

"... ah. Why. You just called me 'Mom.' Twice."

Two-three-two frowns at him. "Well, *yeah*. All the books and stuff were like, *totally* clear about how important it is for a mother to build a strong, communicative relationship with her child as early as possible, and, like, you were there every *day* almost."

"What... what books?"

"Uh. I could give you a list? They're all kinda mashed together in my head, but I totally got 'em down, Mom, no worries."

"No... worries. Your -- language. Is unexpected."

Another beam. "I know, right? I *totally* had to *study* to figure out how not to sound like some tool in a book," and he punches Tim's shoulder. "Aw, wait, no, it's hugging with chicks, right?"

"Chick -- you. Ah. I think. I think you've picked up some misconceptions. For one... I'm not a woman."

Kon frowns and looks him over. "Well... you're kinda skinny, yeah, but -- you're the *mom*."

Tim bites his lip and holds up a finger before turning around. "Hope..."

"Yes, Tim."

"How... how long before Lex is here?"

"Mercy says ten minutes."

Tim blows out a breath. Okay. Just -- he's dealing, and -- yes.


"Yes, Hope?"

"I believe you will be an excellent mother," she says, and clicks her teeth together in the 'laugh' they've been using since two-three-two flinched so impressively from her other one.

Tim narrows his eyes at her.

She clicks her teeth *more*.

Tim sighs and turns back to two-three-two -- who looks up rapidly with a *guilty* expression on his face. "What is it...?"

Two-three-two's expression is a fascinating blend of apparent soul-deep happiness and rueful humor. "Uh. Just, you know. You're not all skinny *everywhere*, Mom."

Tim blinks. "You... what."

Hope clicks her teeth *sharply*. "I believe he was examining your posterior, Tim."

Two-three-two sighs. "Yeah, I totally was. S'nice. Are you sure you're not a chick? Wait, are you really serious and stuff? Should I say 'woman?'"

Ten minutes from now, Lex is going to be plotting the intricately twisted deaths of several brilliant men and women. For now --

For now, Tim smiles ruefully and sits on the floor. "Let's clear some things up... son."