The Company of the Like-Minded
by Te
August 19, 2005

Disclaimers: Not mine, just playing.

Spoilers: Vague ones for various toonverse things,
notably much of GOTHAM ADVENTURES.

Summary: Maybe it's the accepted coping mechanism.

Ratings Note: Mostly harmless. Like earth.

Author's Note: I actually wrote this a few months ago
and promptly forgot it existed... until something or
other reminded me that I should post more gen. ;-)

Acknowledgments: To Betty for audiencing and
helpful suggestions. To LC for being a diverting enough
hostess that I could, you know, forget *fic*.

It's the Something-Memorial-Possibly-Something-Else
Tower, and there's pretty much never anything for Robin --
or Tim, for that matter -- to do here, which is why the big,
clean, sloping roof is his lounge chair.

It could absolutely also be the lounge chair for Batman,
Nightwing, Batgirl, any other visiting crime-fighters, and
also Alfred, but they all pretty much leave it to him, which
is... well, it works. It's a good place to eat his energy bars,
and not-think about whatever it was which brought him to
this part of town in the first place.

Usually it's one of the major players, which is probably
why the others leave him alone. Tim isn't sure how this
happened -- it maybe has to do with that time he beat
the shit out of that guy in a ball pit -- but everyone
seems really invested in giving him alone-time, in this
really obvious way. Like maybe one day he'll just lose it
entirely if he doesn't get to brood on his own or

Maybe it's the accepted coping mechanism, and they're all
really proud of him for figuring it out. Robin's First Rooftop
of Existential Angst, with optional space for throwing
massive tantrums without, you know, accidentally flinging
yourself to your death.

Stranger things have, actually, happened.

But it's also just comfortable up here, high enough to be
windy, to be *cold* if he wasn't in the suit. He is, so it's
just kind of refreshing. When he goes back out to patrol
more -- it wasn't a major player tonight, and it's only a
little after one -- he'll have to take a minute to fix the
adhesive on his mask, because the wind's strong enough
to pick it up a little on the edges and dry the sweat under
his eyes.

It's just sweat.

Nobody had hit him particularly hard, and it was just... he'd
thought it was just some criminally -- literally -- stupid
*asshole* too drunk to actually drive well enough to avoid
getting a bumper full of grapple, too drunk to make the
grapple-ride-through-Gotham anything but a little
sick-making -- and this *has* to be what it's like to get old.

And too...

See, the thing about the drunk drivers is that they're usually
at least a little fun, especially if he gets to watch Nightwing
or Batman dance out of the way of the obligatory projectile
vomit, but also because they're *shitfaced*. You can fuck
with them, totally work in a little entertainment to the whole
scare-'em-straight routine before dumping them in the
nearest drunk tank. It's the closest thing he has to a hobby

It's just that sometimes the drunk drivers are different.
They cry, or they puke while they cry. And sometimes the
reason why they're puking and crying -- not often but
sometimes -- is in the backseat. Or the passenger seat.
Or both.

And then maybe you notice how fucked-up the passenger
side of the car is -- it's hard to get a look at the damage
when you're hanging off the back bumper trying not to
get smeared all over the fourteen Starbucks between
there and here, even if you should've.

Even if you should've connected *that* midnight blue
Corolla with the one reported on the police band for leaving
that big accident on the Sprang, and even if you should've
remembered that sometimes "driving while fucked in the
head" looks a lot like DUI.

And then there's other people's blood on your hands --
your gauntlets -- and a *smell*, and the little useless
cards for victims' services, and waiting for the EMTs. And
you're trying -- you're still trying -- to figure out if you
really want to be absolutely sure about what you saw,
about who was bloody and who was just injured and
how it was really only the *one* set of buckles on the car
seat which were undone, and how that really seems --

Then you're doing that, and you're on your lounge chair in
the sky, and Tim figures he's got another hour or so to be
off the radar (only not really) before Batman does the
equivalent of clearing his throat in Tim's right ear, and he'll
go off to do whatever or just go home.

He doesn't have school tomorrow, but he's been given the
choice of helping Alfred polish the silver or going to one of
those SAT prep workshops. The workshop is looking likely,
even though it *does* mean getting up and out by eight in
the damned morning.

Probably Bruce will just send him home, whether or not he
knows why Tim dropped off the map in the first place. (He
always does)

*Probably* he should just head home on his own, now.
Strike a blow for being considered a mature young
vigilante, or --


Or jump out of his skin -- a *little*. "Er. Hey, Superman."

Superman's doing that thing he does where he isn't just
hovering a few feet above the surface of the roof, but
also sort of looking well past Tim's right shoulder so that
Tim has time to get his game face back on.

He's polite like that.

"Am I... interrupting anything?"

When Superman asks questions like that, he's a lot like
the teachers on television programs. The ones who can
actually make you feel guilty, as opposed to making you
laugh. Like maybe Tim was jerking off up here or
something. He pastes a smile on his face and shakes his

Superman smiles back -- only it's absolutely a real one --
and lands next to him. "You're really amazingly visible
against... well, against the rest of Gotham."

"Boy Target, at your service."

This gets him a laugh and also a face-brushing,
half-embarrassed, half like Superman -- Clark -- just
wants to wipe the laugh off his skin. "Really, no, it's
just --"

"I *am* supposed to be distracting, Clark."

Clark raises his hands in something like surrender. "The
rest of the League tries not to ever question Batman's
reasoning, Robin."

"Because you have social lives?"

This smile is *all* Clark, to the point where Tim kind of
wants to not be in uniform, or maybe just be back in the
Cave. He's not really used to those, yet, and it doesn't
actually help that he knows Bruce isn't, either.

He stares down at the Gotham National towers instead,
and tries to look like he's planning something strategic.

"I... I did have a question, Robin. If you didn't mind."

"What's up?"

"Well... I couldn't help but notice..."

The gauntlets. It really has to be the gauntlets.

"Are you okay... Robin?" He doesn't mean 'Robin.'

"It's not my blood," he says, and it doesn't really come
out in anything like the right tone, and also it's --

"I know."

It's really obvious.

"Are you --"

"I get blood on my gauntlets a lot, Superman." He
absolutely means 'Superman.'

There's silence for a while, though not really enough for
Tim to start wondering about pissing off Superman, and
how it's stupid -- that takes a little longer. Just enough to
*think* about starting. By then, Superman -- *Clark* -- is
sitting down next to him, sharing his big glass and metal
lounge chair in the sky.

Tim wonders if this is where he's supposed to say...
something. Probably.

"Do you think it makes a difference when the blood is
blue? Or pink, I guess. That was memorable. I mean...
a lot of people do."

"Not you."

Clark shakes his head and smiles a little. "Amazingly
enough. Sometimes I think it must be biological. Humans
reacting to the scent and sight of something which is --
literally -- of visceral importance. Pink goo which smells a
little like detergent really doesn't -- wouldn't -- have the
same effect on people. Right?"

Clark's looking at his hands, which are bare and clean
like -- pretty much --always. The only time *Tim* has seen
them dirty, Clark was covered in, well, Clayface. Which
doesn't count, unless you're Nightwing and have hair care
to consider.

"Anyway. It does happen a lot. All the time, even."

And it's actually kind of... well, it's weird. Because Tim's
pretty sure Clark means to teach him one of those
important lessons, a close cousin to all those times Bruce
just happens to send him on assignments to courthouses
and then give Tim meaningful looks that are just chock
full of the beauty and importance of the American Justice
System. It *is*, or it's supposed to be. Only...

Only it's also this huge, powerful, and bizarre urge to
*hug* Clark, like... like some kind of long-distance
commercial. And it just makes Tim think "alien," because
Tim's also pretty sure this is the first time he's ever
wanted to do something like that, to be that kind of...

He doesn't know. It's just that he's been looking at Clark
for long enough for politely-ignoring-Tim's-issues to turn
to politely-questioning-Tim, and it's really too late for any
of that. (Maybe his mom. He would've wanted to hug his
mom, he thinks.) So he just nods, and stands up, and
starts to scrub his hands on his tights before he stops.

"Tim --"

"There's this pizza place I like about two miles that way,"
Tim says, pointing and not really looking at Clark.

"Are you hungry?"

'Yes' is the right answer. "No," he says, because maybe
it's more right to be honest. "Not really."

Clark nods, and takes Tim's hands in his own --

"Hey, wait --"

"Trust me," Clark says, and then sets fire to Tim's gauntlets.
With his *eyes*. Only not, because the gauntlets are
fireproof and blood really... isn't.

"Oh. Uh." There's a smell in the air like an explosion in a
butcher shop, and Tim's hands are kind of warm, and he's
still going to know that there was blood there. "Thanks,"
he says.

Clark squeezes Tim's hands and lets go. "You *should*
probably eat something," and he might as well be talking
to the Gotham National towers for all the 'casual'
not-attention he's paying again. The north tower,

Which... sure. Tim sighs, mostly to himself and all for
Clark's benefit. Sulky Teen Vigilante, always a fan favorite.
Then he pulls an energy bar out of his belt, tucks the
wrapping in one of his empty pockets, and breaks it in

This time, Clark smiles at him like Tim had given him
actual food, as opposed to Bat-designed nutrition for the
Boy Wonder On The Go.

"It's probably designed to make aliens and meta-humans
fatally sick," Tim says, hoping it's not.

"I'll try not to vomit on your suit."

It will never stop being weird to be winked at by
Superman. Somehow the unsubtle lectures are better. And
it also won't stop being sad that he actually kind of likes
the taste of the energy bars now, and it's also kind of
cool to eat one with Superman.


By the time Tim's finished, his ear-bud is vibrating a
little with the throat-clearing he's due to get from Bruce,
and the smoky butcher-shop stink is mostly gone.
There's another moment where he could maybe hug
Clark in there, but then he's getting his hair ruffled,
and Clark is up-up-and-awaying and there is, actually,
one more armed robbery for Robin to deal with tonight
before bed and standardized test preparation.

He pauses at the sound of squealing tires, but it's just
some joyriding kids, this time.

And anyway, it's okay.