Disclaimers: If they were mine? Two words: Group
Spoilers: Vague ones for Batman #416. Takes place
sometime after that, but before #424.
Summary: Bruce trusts his instincts.
Ratings Note/Warnings: NC-17. Contains content some
readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: I pretty much had to write this. Third
and probably last in the "In the Shadows" series,
following "The lie I was born to" and "Miss."
Title from Audre Lorde.
Acknowledgments: To Jack for audiencing and
Feedback: Always appreciated. email@example.com
The first time Jason looked at him without the raw,
brittle suspicion of everyone and everything he'd been
harboring for God only knew how long before they
met, Bruce wanted to give him a mask.
It was more than the potential in him, the healthy
athleticism that not even life on the streets had beaten
out of him. More and less.
Jason's eyes are the softest things about him, broad
and blue and faintly tilted, with long, thick lashes that
cast shadows on his face. A woman's eyes, and
It's one of the things that make the boy's anger so
comforting, even beyond its essential familiarity.
When Jason is angry, all trace of ambiguity is wiped
from his expression, leaving something entirely safe.
Dick had never been safe. There were just too many
differences, too many ways in which his mind worked
that were impossibly difficult to even predict. And
even his anger was... accessible.
There is something immensely soothing in the way
Jason tends to hold himself *away* when he's angry.
He strikes out as passionately as Dick ever did, but
with infinitely more care of himself. He strikes out
from a distance within himself, most probably, even
now, expecting a much harder blow in return.
And when he is in the suit...
He understands the conflict within himself. Dick
hadn't needed to *tell* him the darker, meaner reasons
he'd had for taking Jason on, after all. He just had to
drag them out of him by main force. Bruce feels himself
smile at the memory. Dick *had* given him what he
needed: the reassurance that he remained in Bruce's
life in the best way he could, and the deliberate
approval of Jason.
For Jason's sake -- if not consciously for Bruce's own.
The effect is the same. He knows how often he
compares the two of them in his own mind, even
though it's far less than he does aloud, and he is not
ignorant of the effect it could -- and did -- have on
the boy's confidence.
It has proven... immensely difficult to hold on to that
fact, to stay silent. He only means to offer compliment,
to share approval in one of the few ways he's capable
of. To be like Dick is to be something very fine, indeed.
The large and ever-growing part of himself that is
Batman does not have very many *positive* things to
offer a child, and Bruce often isn't sure he has much
The need is too strong for that, wordless and
overwhelming and greedy, and he has long since given
up on the idea of holding it *entirely* in check.
He's only a man.
They're in the library now, and Bruce isn't actually
getting much reading done at all. Jason is scowling
almost absently at his history textbook and taking
notes without looking at the page. From experience,
Bruce knows that the resulting scrawl will be
unreadable to everyone *but* Jason, but it seems
to work for him.
He has applied himself diligently and dramatically to
his schoolwork, taking Bruce on his word that *all*
knowledge improves their chances for success on the
streets. He isn't as good a student as Dick was, but
Dick had spent his early childhood surrounded by a
community of people who were utterly invested in
his being the best he could possibly be at anything
and everything. The circus had been an extended
Jason, however, had had nothing but indifferent
public school teachers and a father Bruce finds himself
wishing was alive solely so the Batman could visit him.
It's better this way, and Jason's grades are improving
by the day.
The boy's will is impressive, in everything he chooses
to apply it to. And he has flourished here. Grown out
of wiry, undisciplined scrappiness into a fighter more
powerful than most anyone in his age group. Grown
into a soldier anyone would be proud to have at his
And if his discipline still isn't always the best, if his
capacity for violence seems high and his capacity for
Gotham is more dangerous than it ever has been,
with seemingly every two-bit punk they come across
carrying a gun, too high to know to be frightened, or
both. Jason saves his empathy, his *restraint*, for
the innocent. And Bruce isn't sure he's wrong to do
He looks up to find Jason staring at him with a kind
of careful curiosity. "Yes?"
"I... you were kind of glaring at the fire. For a while
now. Is something wrong?"
Perhaps just a little empathy left over for the guilty.
It's easy to smile at the boy. "You caught me
"Anything I can help with?"
You already are. Bruce shakes his head ruefully. "I
think your homework is more important than my
Jason ducks his head. "I'm actually finished. I mean...
I was trying to read ahead a little."
Pride, fierce and joyful, floods him like some
intangible adrenaline. The words stick in his throat,
threaten to make him stammer and flail if he tried to
say them aloud. But there are other ways. "Come
The boy looks up, eyes wide and soft with surprise.
Here, in his father's house, they've limited their
activities to Bruce's bedroom. It must seem strange.
But Jason nods jerkily and stands, crossing the room
to stand in front of Bruce's chair. "I... how?"
Bruce smiles and takes his hand, pulling gently until
Jason crawls into his lap and straddles him. Bruce
rests his hand over the boy's heart, and the pound
of it is almost the same as his own.
Is it narcissism to love that? To *crave* that?
He isn't sure. There are so many things about
relationships that mystify him, no matter the
reputation he's cultivated for Bruce Wayne, socialite
playboy. Affairs of the heart only come naturally
when they have nothing to do with the heart at all.
He only has his instincts, and his instincts demand...
this. He slides his free hand into Jason's hair, enjoying
the thick wave of it over his fingers, and pulls Jason
into a kiss.
He wants to be gentle, but the boy's mouth is soft,
wet and hot for his tongue. The old, familiar hunger
bleeds into it quickly, and when he breaks the kiss to
breathe, Jason's lips are already starting to redden
and swell. He lifts his hand from Jason's chest to
touch them as softly as he can manage.
The boy takes a deep, hitching breath, lashes
fluttering on his cheeks, and flicks his tongue out
to taste Bruce's fingertips tentatively.
Jason is, perhaps, equally overwhelmed.
Bruce can never decide if he wants to make this easier
on him or if he wants to just... wallow in it. Revel in
the heart-pounding rush of touching the boy, the
sense of having found something that finally, finally
He could never have had this with Dick, even if it
wouldn't have been an atrocity to want it from a boy
And while Jason is young, while Bruce had *adopted*
him... it's not the same. The events that have shaped
his life happened without him and without his
influence. For better or worse, his essential *self* had
been shaped before Bruce ever found him.
It's a relief.
Bruce isn't sure what he would do if he *had* to resist
"Open your pants for me?"
Jason nods and does it, hands shaking slightly. Bruce
strokes his face to soothe him and gets a little lost at
the feel of the thin skin beneath his eyes. He pulls the
boy in and licks and kisses him there, shocking a brief
laugh out of him.
Another reason to gasp, and Bruce buries it in Jason's
mouth, and slips his hand down to the heat of Jason's
groin. The boy is only half-hard, but he responds to
Bruce's touch quickly.
He always does, shifting and moaning for him so
Bruce wants to tell him not to hold back -- every
sound Jason makes is another joy -- but there's
something seductive about it, too. Another aspect
of the boy's essential *separateness*, forcing Bruce
to work to reach him.
To have him.
It only seems right.
The boy sways and shudders in his lap, and the feel
and sight of it triggers a rush of images. Everything
he could do with Jason right here, and everything he
has already done. The way he would look if Bruce
stripped him and bent him back until he had to catch
himself on his hands.
The way he *had* looked on his hands and knees,
red flush spreading down his back, black hair
plastered to his neck, and the white-knuckled grip
he'd had on the sheets. Something out of a fairy tale
unhindered by the need to make stories safe for
children. That seems right, too, for the boy who'd
made him laugh in Crime Alley.
Bruce wants to give him everything.
He settles for pausing mid-stroke, and waiting for
Jason to look at him with dazed confusion before
tapping at the boy's soft lower lip with his other
"Do... should I suck them?"
He nods, unable to manage so much as a simple yes.
Jason is so very beautiful like this. Desperately so
with two of Bruce's fingers in his mouth. He can't
resist thrusting a little, and he doesn't want to. It
makes Jason's eyes go heavy-lidded, makes him
whimper and shift on Bruce's lap.
When they're wet enough, he slides them out of
Jason's mouth and down the back of his shorts,
Tight heat, and just the feel of it around his finger
makes Bruce hard. Harder.
The first time he'd touched the boy, he'd been too
lost in his own hunger to even think. He'd waited
so *long*, waited until even a cold and windy
rooftop had seemed like the perfect place. It's better
with every chance he gets to have Jason, every
chance to learn the boy's pleasure and take his own.
And, of course, he understands now that the setting
doesn't really matter.
Not for the two of them.
Jason braces his hands on Bruce's shoulders and
works his hips back and forth between his hands,
head dipped forward and eyes squeezed shut. And
when Bruce crooks the fingers of one hand and
squeezes with the other, Jason throws his head back
and shouts, coming all over Bruce's hand.
Bruce slips out as gently as he can and strokes the
boy's back as he pants and shakes.
"Jay," he says, and gets a somewhat bleary smile in
He likes the nickname. Bruce likes using it.
Jason leans in slowly, kissing him carefully for the
heartbeat it takes for Bruce to respond, and then
making it deeper. Hungrier. Bruce pulls the boy in
close and rocks against him, getting another quiet
And then Jason pushes away and steps back,
dropping gracefully to his knees between Bruce's
legs and staring into his eyes, watchful and waiting.
Bruce strokes his cheek and nods, opening his
pants with his other hand.
And when Jason takes him in his mouth, Bruce lets
himself go, lets himself *feel* it.
Warm and safe and not alone.