Disclaimers: If they were mine, I wouldn't be sitting
Spoilers: Many, many spoilers for storylines old and
new, including War Games and the first two parts of
Fresh Blood. (Robin 132 and Batgirl 58)
Summary: Where do Robins come from?
Ratings Note: R.
Author's Note: Serves as a sort of companion/AU/sequel
thing to the "Legacy" snippet from "Five Things That
Aren't True About Tim Drake."
Acknowledgments: To Jack, LC, Livia, Carioca for
audiencing, encouragement, and helpful suggestions.
Tim has developed something close to a phobia
regarding maps -- especially maps of Gotham.
In fact, the only reason why it isn't *actually* a
phobia is because he's hard-pressed to come up with
a reason how the anxiety and mild nausea can be
considered irrational. Once upon a time, their family
was large, and could spread over Gotham like a
cloak -- though perhaps a better metaphor would
be the image of a containment suit thoroughly
soaked in disinfectants.
However, even the compensations Bruce had put
in place after Oracle (taking the Canary *and* the
Huntress with her) had left...
He can't, in good conscience, allow Nightwing back
on the streets. The fact that even with two pinned
hips -- and a knee made of materials that would
make every cash-strapped NASA engineer salivate --
he's still better than ninety percent of any other
semi-available operative isn't, actually, enough.
Because he's Dick, and because, given half an
excuse he would push himself too far, try too
much. And there's more than half an excuse, and...
Selina is going strong, and Onyx has allowed
them to convince her to remain.
Cass is... Cass is *Batgirl*, but it's still not enough.
Every night, half the city goes without their attention --
on a *good* night.
Every night ends with the sun creeping higher and
higher, cutting through the polarized lenses of his
cowl with mocking accusation.
He knows what they need.
He does. He just...
Sometimes he thinks he would, at this point, be
some strange, terrifying variety of better off if he'd
been less introspective as a teenager. If he hadn't
ever truly looked at his life and the lives of his
unofficial siblings and learned what he had.
Once upon a time, he'd told Dick that Batman
needed a Robin, but he might as well have been
saying -- and surely Dick had heard it, silent or
not -- that *he* needed Batman and Robin.
Something to believe in, something as close to
eternal as the Bat on his chest.
Only moreso -- more than *he* can provide --
because Cass doesn't have to remove her cowl in
order to pin him with the weight of his -- *their* --
mortality in their eyes.
(Curled together, warm beneath the sheets, sticky
with sweat and stinking of leather and armor and
other people's blood. She presses her lips against
his ear and holds him bruisingly tight. She
whispers: "People die," and falls asleep like the
soldier she is.)
It isn't that he hasn't tried. He'd *looked* for
them. The children. And he'd found them. Parentless
or parent-lite. Athletic or brilliant or some
combination of both. Dossiers -- stacks of them --
on their psychological profiles, garnered through
means both foul and fouler.
He knows these children the way he once knew
Dick Grayson. Better, because he hadn't known
how to *access* Dick's medical records when
he'd been a child.
And he has -- *they* have -- gone to them.
They've watched the Kwan child sleep, and been
to two of the Morris child's gymnastics meets. The
Green child -- who Cass favors -- had an
additional shadow for three solid weeks. And --
No, he's being unfair. As far as Cass is concerned,
all of them are entirely suitable. (because the Bat
chose them? Because he did?)
As far as Cass is concerned, he's wasting time.
And she's... not entirely wrong. All of them have
a striking tendency to admire and sympathize
with heroes, and the trappings thereof. All of
them, by cosmetically kismetic coincidence,
happen to own the same well-worn Superman
But it isn't Superman who's looking at them at
night, when they believe they're safe.
It's *them*, and he can't do it.
None of them have any idea of this, after all. No
matter what fantasies they concoct out of boredom
or even faith, they know nothing of their potential
futures. Of the future Cass has every intention of
*giving* them -- "One or all. All is better." -- once
Tim allows her to...
("Do you want to just snatch them out of their
beds? Get a van and a box of *puppies*?"
"We *die*. This cannot.")
He'd like to ask Bruce how he did this, what had
given him the sense that he had some *right* to
this. And part of it had to have been the fact of
his own childhood, the grief and loss and
He knows that wasn't all of it, or even most of it.
Because none of them, to this day, knows more
about what Bruce had said about himself and
about *all* of them in those files which had
disappeared in the aftermath of Vesper Fairchild's
murder than *he* does. And Bruce...
Bruce never once had the sense of choosing them,
of gathering them to himself. It doesn't matter that
he *had*, he didn't *feel* that way.
Bruce hadn't looked at *any* of them with a
thoughtful, measuring eye toward their potential,
because that would've implied something about
them -- all of them -- which Bruce hadn't ever truly
believed, and which Tim can't *stop* believing.
Children, endlessly innocent *children*, and --
"I don't understand," Cass says, announcing her
presence with her voice alone.
"I know," he says. "It's enough that you trust me."
She doesn't say anything else.
She didn't say anything else, and so, in retrospect, Tim
really *shouldn't* be surprised.
And... 'surprise' probably isn't the word he would use.
Because it's Cass, and she's... *Cass*.
The diaphragm hasn't been punctured so much as
There's a part of him -- he's grateful for it, honestly --
which is screaming about the breach of Cass' privacy,
but a) Cass has never had an even remotely human
relationship to the concept of 'privacy,' and b) she's
not the only one who can read body language.
She'd *smiled* at him this afternoon. And she was
Tim sighs to himself and replaces the ruined thing
in its cup.
It's not like they don't *have* condoms.
He pauses with one hand on her shoulder and the
other braced on the lean, unforgiving length of her
thigh. He's been listening for whatever she'd felt
or seen for -- he can't find it. He raises an
eyebrow, silent as her breaths.
Well, it happens. He makes a note to find a way to
allow them to carry more Zesti-Ade on patrols --
it wouldn't hurt either of them, frankly -- and
reaches for the familiar bottle of...
It's not there. It's been *replaced* with...
"Feels good. Smooth," she says, and presses her
shoulderblades back against the bed for a moment
before *rolling* her spine. It's an excellent way to
orient one's body when you're moving through the
The motion of her hips... well, he can't actually
think of any useful reason for that sort of wriggle.
"Batman," she says again, eyes bright and dancing
with a blend of entirely sincere desire and a
growing, shifting awareness of the trouble
undoubtedly written over every inch of his own skin.
"No," she says, and her hand is over his solar
plexus just that fast.
All right, fine. "Batgirl," he growls, in the voice he
doesn't even have to think about before it falls out
of his mouth, anymore.
Her eyes shine.
She does, and the line of her back is both submissive
and demanding. "Yes," she whispers, and Tim
knows it's another way to say 'this isn't over.'
It's good enough that he almost doesn't care.
There are, after all, any number of physicians he could
consult about potential vasectomies -- it really isn't
that serious an operation, as these things go. He
doesn't *want* a vasectomy, but... but.
It's been the two of them -- just the two of them,
really -- in a clutch of satellite caves and thickly-
disguised penthouses and their room in the Manor
for years now. Long enough that even on the
slowest news day, the tabloids and society pages
have only the faintest, uncaring speculation about
just when Tim Drake and Cassandra Cain will tie the
Batman and Batgirl for long enough that he'd
forgotten what it was like to be Robin with her,
long enough that the shape of her mouth those rare
times when she called him 'Tim' had become
something familiar and even *correct*.
He knows the curve of her wrist when she's resisting
the urge to tickle him, and the crinkle of her eyes
when she isn't.
He knows the taste of her -- even better *these*
days -- and he knows her moods and cycles and...
She's growling aloud, hands clenched on the car's
hood. He can, if he likes, tell himself that she *just*
needs to hold on. He was never a natural at this
sort of thing, but he *has* had a large amount of
She doesn't need to hold on. She's *Batgirl*.
She's growling and clutching at the car to keep from
doing him some ruthlessly controlled amount of
damage, and her scream when she comes is a
battle-cry. Her fluids are thick, rich -- promising
and *damning* on his face before he wipes them
away with a towel.
"Batgirl," he says, in some helpless, hopeless
approximation of his own voice.
She doesn't look at him.
"We can't *do* this."
When her mouth tightens like that, she looks so much
younger than the scars or the acid-burn blaze of
white in her hair would remotely suggest. She looks
the way she did when she spent her days with Barbara,
when the Oracle belonged to *them*.
But she's two years older than he is, and the Oracle
belongs to itself, and... "Look at me," he says, in the
voice she prefers.
After a moment, she does. Studying him from the
wrenched shoulder which is *nearly* healed to
everything else. Her face doesn't change, though.
"You are... *shirking*."
(It was Bludhaven, and the sunrise was a bruise,
and the book looked much too large for her hands,
until she shifted to turn the page and the tendons
and knuckles flexed with the same brutal simplicity
used for a punch. "Remind me... of the
*purpose*," she'd said, and he hadn't kissed her.)
"No," he says, "I *believe* I am."
"The difference," she demands.
"The difference is that we're both right. We need
help, yes, but we can't just steal a child -- a *child*,
Cass, you know --"
She slashes at the air between their faces with the
flat of her hand, and Tim nods. He'd been in danger
of losing the thread.
"We can't just steal a child who hasn't remotely
*asked* for this, and if we can't just *make* a Robin."
Because it's *sick*. He doesn't close his eyes.
"Because no matter how intensive the training, it
won't be *ready* for years. Longer than *all* of
our training put together. And assuming we could
wait that long..."
(A videocassette, kept carefully with the crumbling
fragments of Jason's last domino and fading
hard-copies of carefully, obsessively well-thought-out
scenarios of criminal control. A little girl with pigtails,
and blood on her hands, and dead eyes.)
"I won't do that to a child, Cassandra. And you
She stares down at the floor, and traces a perfectly
straight line through a small puddle of oil with the
toe of her boot.
"Yes," she says, and looks up again. "Tell me how
we'll fix it."
They *can't*. They -- "There's a way." Please don't
make me think about it right now.
She nods, swift and sharp, and unhooks the
fastenings on his suit one-handed. He'd forgotten this.
His body had not.
Years ago, Bruce had asked him what he knew about
Kon-El's -- Superboy, then -- origins. It hadn't --
amazingly, then -- been a challenge, or even a demand.
It had been an overture even the messed-up seventeen
year old he'd been then could recognize, and he
hadn't been so messed-up that he couldn't respond.
He'd offered Bruce everything he'd discovered about
Cadmus Labs, about the development of Superboy's
powers, about the experiments S.T.A.R. had done
(miraculously undamaging, in all honesty) on him,
and even the psychological profiles he'd been
working on since the days before he was anything
He hadn't planned on handing over his results on
the DNA tests -- at the time, *that* information had
been encrypted so well even Barbara would've had
trouble retrieving it -- but.
Bruce had accepted the CD-ROM's with one hand and
rested the other on his shoulder, and...
("There is little I regret more than the fact that I have
not been a man you can trust, when you have done
nothing but prove, time and again, just how perfectly
I can trust you.")
He'd told Bruce, and wanted to vomit, and Bruce
"Not even suspected. Why?")
In retrospect, the attempted secrecy had seemed even
more foolish than it had when his only concern had
been getting caught. Thomas Wayne had bent over
backwards to heal the wounds of the most vicious
criminals Gotham had to offer. Dick Grayson's father
was Romany -- and positively *Gypsy* in his
attitudes toward anything resembling permanence
and stability. Cass' father, Stephanie's, his own.
Family was what you made of it, and life was what
you chose. The overture had no strings.
In the end, there was far more overlap between their
files than disagreement. Westfield's experiments were
just as poorly documented as Tim had thought, and
Bruce had replaced his profiles on Kon with Tim's
own without a word or moment's hesitation. And
Bruce had spent the years following No Man's Land
infiltrating LexCorp in every way he could manage.
Between them, and with Barbara's help, they'd found
everything Westfield had failed to leave available for
anything resembling accountability. Because, of
course, Westfield hadn't been the brains behind
the operation at all.
("In retrospect, Tim, I find myself curious as to why
I *didn't* suspect."
"Because Kon has always been a force for good."
Bruce's eyes, blue and curious and open. Bruce's nod,
and the lingering sense of a hand on his shoulder.
Overture to... overture. Partnership, again.)
The science behind it was brilliant, which meant that
it was potentially -- and tantalizingly -- both deeply
helpful and horrifying.
Visions of endless bodies in row after row of nutrient
tubes, perfect and perfectly programmable. The
fact that Luthor had been obsessed with creating a
viable *Kryptonian* clone had, perhaps, been the
only thing that had saved them in the years before
Luthor had offered the truth for his own,
The fact that he'd abandoned his desire to follow-up
somewhere between the last 'death' and the last
*death* had been the only thing that saved them after.
Even now, when Tim is the only person living with
access to the research and the money to *fund* it...
It is, in fact, precisely the sort of thing to make him
wonder if his parents might not have been wrong
to be so *firm* in their desire to protect him from
the horrors of organized American religion.
"It isn't wrong," Cass says, and pushes between
the pressure points on Tim's neck, through the
cowl. "There is no God."
"Glad to hear it."
He'd never thought it would work out this way, but he
never misses Alfred more than when he's building --
or rebuilding -- something. Alfred had done so much,
and *been* so much for all of them (for *him*)...
Even in his early days of being Robin, before Hush
had shot Harold, it seems like he could just as likely
find Alfred working in the Cave with an armored
apron as he could find him in some other, less
*labor*-intensive sort of apron.
It was Alfred who'd helped him modify his first
inventions, and it was Alfred who'd taught him the
names and uses of every tool at his disposal.
It doesn't matter that he can't imagine Alfred approving
of this project, Tim can feel him as much as he's ever
felt the Caves' -- all of them -- other ghosts.
Cass helps with the heavy lifting and the precision
work which demands greater flexibility than he actually
has -- the original machinery wasn't built by human
hands, for the most part -- but, on the whole, she
leaves him to it.
There's the sense that she trusts him again, and, as
ever, that a Batman who's working in *this* way is
a Batman who does not need her at his side, but
there's also more to it than that in a way he can't
He spends his days working, and they touch with
brief, concentrated purpose before the patrols.
After, they repeat the process.
In each of their beds, she kisses him on the mouth
and looks at him and into him, and Tim can feel her
willing her faith into him, and also her... the *more*
he doesn't understand.
For efficiency's sake, Cass drags Dick away from his
absolutely endless work for the Wayne Foundation
(there would, of course, always be an obsession) to
be her date for the social functions they, as a unit,
This gives him more time to work.
And more complications, of course.
"Tell me she wasn't serious," Dick says.
Dick, of course, is completely serious in this request,
despite the fact that Tim is surrounded by biology
texts and carefully arranged stacks of recently
published papers on genetic engineering. He's *Dick*.
"Tell me this was just some sort of... she learned
her sense of humor from *you*, Tim. I'm willing to
entertain the idea that I just missed the punchline."
"That doesn't sound like 'she's not serious.'"
Dick glares at him, long hair mussed from however
many times he'd pushed his hands through it
before deciding to come down and confront him,
body lean and perfect-seeming under his WF
day-wear -- suits which would've seemed perfect if
sized for Bruce. Or, well, for Bruce Wayne.
Tim sighs. "You have to --"
Dick glares even harder and it's still barely enough of
a warning for Tim to drop the report he's studying
before Dick can snatch it out of his hands. There's a
flash in the man's eyes, a sense of *potential*, but
Dick stands down. "You don't *get* to give me the
'let's be reasonable, Dick' voice for this, Tim. You're
talking about *building a child out of spare parts*!"
Stands down with his body, anyway. "Out of our
genetic material, actually --"
Tim closes his eyes for a moment before standing,
crossing around his work-table until Dick can loom
over him. Dick still has -- and will always have -- a
good inch and a half on him.
For a moment he wonders if 'Batman' will just keep
shrinking until Robins have to be pumped full of
nicotine in vitro in order to be complementarily-sized,
and then he just makes yet another mental note to
get more sleep.
He looks at Dick, and raises an eyebrow.
Dick nods impatiently.
"I didn't tell you that we were searching for a Robin,
but you knew."
The corners of Dick's mouth tighten, and, after a
moment, he nods.
"You know how *long* we've been searching."
"I read your files, little brother -- I get *bored* at
night. Get to the point."
Tim resists the urge to hold on to the desk for support
and nods, curtly. "The point is that I *can't* just steal
one of those kids, Dick. Not for this life -- *our* life.
And Cass wanted..." No, that's for Cass to decide to
tell, or not. "It wasn't working. We need the support,
and we need the *insurance*."
"Christ, Tim. 'Insurance?' Is that how you really think
about it? Is that how you think Bruce thought about
To a certain extent. Tim holds Dick's gaze as best he
can, and it's remarkably and terribly easy to keep his
face even and calm. "I'm not Bruce, Dick, but I'm
Batman. *My* city needs more than I can give it, and
one day it won't have even what I *can* --"
"You *know* I --"
"One day you're going to forget your cane, like you
did today, and you'll do the workout you know is too
much for you, like you did *yesterday*, and the only
way you'll be able to get upstairs again is via the
It's no consolation that it's as painful to say as it looks
like it is to *hear*.
"We need *help*, Dick."
Dick looks away, back over his own shoulder at the
half-built base for what will, eventually, be a tube
filled with half-formed Boy -- or Girl -- Wonder. "So
you're building... you're, what? Planning on
programming it to be a detective?"
Among other things. "I'm not comfortable with the
idea. At all. But I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't
be *better* to build someone who fits in this life...
as opposed to just pounding another square peg
into a round hole until the edges come off."
"Or come *on*." Dick still isn't looking at him.
"If I'm successful, the child -- the teenager -- will be
Robin. If *you* are... then he or she will *also* be
one of us. Family."
Dick catches his breath, and it's something of a relief
that Tim knows -- *knows* -- he'd feel like a bastard
if he didn't know what Dick -- and *only* Dick --
could do for their Robin.
Their child. "Dick, I need you with me on this. Please."
When Dick looks at him, he's smiling a little. He
doesn't have many lines at the corners of his eyes,
but they're deep and full of all the shadow Dick never
really had in any other way. "Can we name it Bruce?"
"Could be problematic if it's a girl, but --"
Dick snorts and spins, slapping at Tim's head before
he can fully duck. "Like you *haven't* already decided.
Just let me know in time to do the shopping, kid."
He hadn't, actually. That didn't involve *much* more
manipulation than he was capable of doing with
everything he'd purchased and everything he's forced
himself to *learn* in the past several months -- and
there were so many reasons to be both grateful and
rueful about the fact that a childhood with Bruce had
left all of them with the ability to competently serve
as either attorneys or physicians in nearly any
institution which didn't look too closely at their bona
fides -- but he wanted to leave as few things as
possible subject to human error.
He isn't baking a cake, and the idea of discarding
unsuccessful attempts is, actually, more than a little
There were trained obstetricians to remove a goodly
number of Cass' ova, and his sperm count isn't nearly
as low as it could've been, considering the fact that
he's spent half his life in armored jocks. He'd *had*
every intention of letting the chips, as it were, fall
where they may -- and not just because he has no
doubt whatsoever in Cass and Onyx's ability to train
a female teenager.
It's just that it's not working.
Four successful 'pregnancies,' four successful transfers
to the artificial womb, four... miscarriages. The
monitor is still set to show the drastic, unstoppable
breakdown of the last embryo's individual cells on
The monitor is, currently, off.
It seems as though he should find it irrational to
think of the failures this way. Their children were
barely multicellular, barely *differentiated* when
When they died.
He is, he thinks, allowed some small degree of
irrationality over this.
"You're angry with me," Cass says, and crouches at
"Tell me why."
He closes his eyes. "I'm not angry with you. I'm only
using it as an excuse to avoid my frustration at
personal failure and my... grief."
She makes a soft humming sound and nods. "Our...
There's silence for a long moment and he stares
down at his notes. They offer no more inspiration to
him hand-written than they had on the monitor. After
a moment, the silence surrenders to a soft,
whispering noise which has nothing to do with
voice, and Tim looks down to see Cass stroking her
flat, muscular abdomen through the evening dress
she'd worn to attend the opera with Dick tonight.
The tabloids are postulating a Cain-Drake breakup.
The bloggers are postulating a threesome.
"Tell me," he says. "What you haven't."
She looks at him, eyes wide and brown and full, and
presses hard against her abdomen. The tension in
her forearm is perfectly clear.
Tim nods. "You want your own child. To carry to
"You... you know we can't do it for this, Cass --"
"No. Not for Robin. For *me*."
Tim blinks, slowly. "Cass...?"
She smiles at him, and it's the smile that she learned
from Stephanie. The one which meant Steph was
laughing somewhere, at something. "You think it's
more strange... than this."
"I..." He does. He... *really* shouldn't. "I do." He'll
work on that. "But, Cass..."
She slashes the air.
"Before *he* died," she says, and looks at him as if
even now he wouldn't know who 'he' referred to.
With Cass, 'Bruce' was only for the times when she
had to lie. And *he's* Batman now.
"Before *he* died, we were together. Like we are."
It's less than a shock, in all honesty. Though they
haven't ever even paid lip service to the idea of
talking about it, and whatever it might mean. "Yes."
"I didn't... I didn't ask him. For this."
But she... wanted to? It's hard to be sure. Her body
is still and calm. "Do you regret it?"
She frowns, and the answer is 'I'm not sure.' "He was
He was *Bruce*.
"He wasn't like you. There were..." Another frown.
"There were parts of him I didn't understand."
Tim raises an eyebrow.
Cass rolls her eyes. *And* punches his calf. "You
only stop making sense when you want to. You're
He's also allowed a certain freedom not to think
about that statement. "All right. Are you... do you
want to have *my* baby?" Somewhere, a tabloid
reporter is perking up.
"Someday," she says, and looks into him, "I will
feel our child moving in me. And I will tell you
what he says."
"Or she," and Tim is only sure that he's breathing
because Cass isn't performing CPR.
It's the artificial aging process. In retrospect, it seems
blindingly obvious that what had seemed so logical
and even *minor* on paper -- the steady
overstimulation of every time-released hormone and
attendant biological process which had ever been
isolated -- would, in fact, read as torture to cells
designed to use, well, *time*.
Reducing the strain would thus be indicated, but
how much would they have to compromise?
He'd forced himself to *use* another embryo to
test the theory, increasing the prospective growth
time by eighty percent, and this one...
It would've been a boy.
It won't, because the process is still too much. Still
too excessive for... humans.
Another obvious concern, so obvious as to have
been nearly entirely overlooked by Luthor in his own
theories and research. Or perhaps it had merely been
irrelevant. Luthor, after all had only ever been
interesting in cloning Kryptonian DNA.
Humanity had been beneath his notice. *Kon* had
been beneath his notice... until he'd started growing
And the question is a little too questionable, even within
the confines of his own mind, to ask clearly. Or it
would be, if it weren't for his -- *their* -- need.
If it wasn't for the fact that Cass isn't at all invested,
apparently, in the idea that this be *their* child.
He's familiar with representatives of any number of
species whose cellular makeup is simply *sturdier*
than that of <i>homo sapiens sapiens</i>. The JLA
*alone*... he isn't going to ask the Manhunter for this.
He can't even imagine asking Clark.
Wonder Woman... well, as someone who began
existence as a lump of clay and a beneficent thought
in the mind of an aging god... Even if she did find
the idea of building a new Robin to be repugnant,
an appeal against hypocrisy would possibly be useful.
And he's wasting time, because he *doesn't* want
to ask Wonder Woman for this, and because, as of
the last time Kon was weakened for long enough
for Tim to get a blood sample, Kon's DNA was
Strong, healthy on a cellular level despite being a
blessedly imperfect copy in his own right.
He can tell himself in as many words as he cares
to use, in as many ways possible, that he could work
around this, somehow. That Bruce -- if suitable Robins
hadn't all but flung themselves at the man every
couple of years -- would've surely been able to find
a way to make this work without the intercession of
But he's not Bruce.
And he already *knows* what Cass would say -- what
*Batgirl* would say -- were she not busily tenderizing
the scheduled areas in Gotham in preparation for the
Bat to begin his own patrol.
The communicator is Bat-standard. Kon has his own
auxiliary JLA comm, and, of course, the one for the
Titans, but when he uses this one...
"Tim, what's up?"
It's almost like the days when he actually used
telephones more than once a month. Almost. "I
need to talk to you about something... personal. If
you have time."
"Uh, huh, because you use this channel so much
that I'm sick of you. Usual spot A, B, C, D, or
something else entirely?"
Tim smiles, a little. "B's fine. Meet you there."
Kon is waiting for him when he arrives, of course,
and looking faintly sheepish. Tim crosses his arms
over his chest -- it really is nearly reflexive at this
"What," he asks in the Bat-voice.
"It was just a mugging, I swear. And maybe an
armed robbery, but no one saw me. Scout's honor."
"You are not now, nor have you ever been a Scout."
The voice doesn't slip, though he knows his
expression does, behind the cowl.
Kon does, too, and smiles a little with his mouth and
a great deal with his eyes. "Details, Bat-miniature.
What's going on?"
I need a sperm sample. Let's have a baby. There
comes a time in every vigilante's life... "Did I ever
tell you why this is one of the spots I have set aside
for personal conversations?"
Kon looks at him as if he knows precisely how much
that isn't the question Tim means to ask at all, but
he makes a show of looking around, just the same,
before leaning back against the roof-access door which,
barely ten years ago, would have sent enough current
through his body to given even *him* pause.
Assuming he'd made it this far in the first place.
"Well, man, being as how you've only called me here
three times since you took up the cowl, and that this
is the second time I've been to *this* spot... no."
Tim nods, more to himself than Kon, and crouches in
"Honestly, I didn't think you picked these locations for
any reason beyond them being good, shadowy
"The others are."
Tim strokes the spot where a hidden panel that would
trigger the release of tranquilizer darts used to be.
"It's the Clocktower. Before you give me a look, no,
I never mentioned it before. In any way. But you'd
know it as the Oracle's former base of operations."
"And to that I say... whoa. Really? Why did it move?
Why did it need a base in the *first* place?"
Barbara. "Because it was a 'she,' once."
"Holy... *shit*. You know, you've *been* there
when we've been speculating about who created
Oracle, and why, and --"
"Her secrets. Not mine."
Kon laughs without humor. "I remember when you
used to say that about your *name*, man."
It was true then, too. It doesn't need to be said,
though, for a lot of reasons -- not least of which is
the fact that Conner Kent has a small apartment, a
string of lovers, and a satisfying job writing video
game reviews. He nods, instead.
"So... is this about her? It. Her...?"
"'It' is fine. I've asked."
He hears Kon shifting. "So... *is* it about Oracle?"
"In a roundabout way. I'm. This is difficult."
Kon sighs quietly. "You know I'm listening."
Yes. "There used to be Batman, and Nightwing, and
Oracle, and Batgirl, and myself. Spoiler did her
own thing, no matter who told her to stop, as did
Huntress. No one *could* tell Catwoman anything.
Before Orpheus was killed, we had him, too. And
the Canary, of course."
"And now it's you, Batgirl, Onyx, and Catwoman.
"I... you never told me what happened to Nightwing,
man. When I asked, Clark told me he was alive, but
the older Titans never really talk about it, and..."
"Pistolera's contract was to shoot to kill, but also to
*ensure*. She took out both hips and one knee. He's
as recovered as he can be. I live with him.
"You live with Cass except for the time you spend
hanging out with the Wayne heir and... oh. Uh...
Tim smiles back over his shoulder. "Dick wouldn't
mind *you* knowing, Kon." Especially if you do this
for us. And Bruce is dead.
Kon shakes his head and laughs a little. "You
could've said *something*, you know. I've spent
the past four years wondering how the hell to
bring it up."
Tim blinks. "I didn't realize --"
"That I knew how close you were -- *are*, thank
God -- to that guy? He came to the YJ PTA meeting
for you, Tim. You *let* him do that." Kon smiles.
"*I* feel better. Clark just talks about how important
secrets are to you people."
Tim lets his smile turn rueful. "It's true. I... I need
something from you, Kon. Something --"
"Anything. You *know* that."
"You should really consider letting me finish."
Kon rolls his eyes at him and flies over until his feet
are hovering at about Tim's shoulder level, and then
he drops to a crouch beside him. "So finish."
"Cass and I... we've been trying to find a new Robin."
A faintly impatient nod.
It is, after all, a perfectly normal thing for a Batman
to do. Of course. "I found several good prospects,
"None of them worked out?"
Worked out. God. "You have no idea what it was like.
What we -- *I* -- had to do. What I had to
"Is this where I point out that I've known you since
you were fourteen, or just where I point out that I
still have no *idea* what you're talking about?"
Tim balls his hands into fists beneath the cape. He...
hadn't realized that he'd slipped them under again.
He pulls them out and... his hands are still fisted.
He stares at them. He can't really stop staring. He
watches Kon pull them together and cover them
with his own hands. "I."
"Tim. Are you... do you think you shouldn't *have*
a Robin? That you wouldn't be good for the kid?"
She wants me to be a *father*. She wants -- she
thinks -- "Kon, I... I stopped wanting to be Robin when
I figured out what it meant, and then I *couldn't*
stop, and there were still all of these -- these..."
Kon is honestly worried now. It's in the curve of his
hands around Tim's own, nearly redundant in his eyes.
"God, Tim, what --"
"I had *friends*, and I loved my family, I *love*
my family, but you have no idea how badly I never
wanted to look in the mirror and see the *cowl*,
Kon. You don't know who he *was*. And I *need*
a Robin, I do, and I don't --"
The rest is muffled, thankfully. The fact that it's
muffled against Kon's shoulder is problematic, but
there are always compromises.
He isn't surprised that Cass is waiting for them in
the Cave, seated on the double-secured -- and
triply backed-up in terms of power supply -- freezer
full of genetic material.
He also isn't surprised when the soft hiss of the
elevator's door announces Dick's presence.
"Read your notes," Cass says, and makes a face.
She hasn't referred to him as Nightwing since Tim
had explained the extent of his injuries.
To Kon, she says, "Kon-El," and smiles with her eyes.
Tim can tell by the honestly pleased expression on
Kon's face that he'd missed the quick, measuring
sweep of his form, emotional temperature, and
overall fitness to produce Batchildren.
Dick -- using the cane, tonight -- is still in his robe.
The 'up too early' one, that is. He gives Tim a hard
look, but he has a softer one for Kon. "Good to see
"You, too, uh..."
"Dick," he says, and the smile is almost the same as
the old one -- the *oldest* one, which had as much
to do with terrible jokes as it did with shared
secrets. "You haven't actually told him what you
want, have you, Tim?"
Kon puts a hand on his shoulder. "Apparently, I'm
here to be shown... Jesus."
The tube is empty and dark, but it almost certainly
"Tim, what are you *doing*?"
Strike the almost.
"Robin," Cass says, as if it's an answer to everything.
Kon's hand tightens enough that it would be painful
were Tim not still in the armor. He wishes he wasn't.
He settles for pushing back the cowl and turning
enough that he can look Kon in the eye.
"You want to *clone* a Robin?"
Apparently it *was* an answer to everything. Or
maybe it's just the look on his face. "I can't just steal
a child for this, and Cass and I... the artificial aging
process causes... I've lost five of our children, Kon."
Kon looks at him -- *searches* him. "Tim...
"I don't know if it has to be Kryptonian -- or partially
Kryptonian -- DNA. I don't know if it would work."
Not for sure.
He can feel Dick's eyes on him as he searches for
the words -- the right ones which will be true enough
to let him live with himself. He doesn't have to look
to know that Cass is calculating the degree of
trouble Dick might cause.
"You're the only one I could even... you're the only
one I want to ask."
Kon's eyes are... difficult to read. The hand that's
on Tim's shoulder feels almost like an afterthought,
or something forgotten. "You want my DNA. To help
you... build a Robin."
To help *him*, and it would have to be, wouldn't
it? It's entirely possible that Kon and Cass could
make a child in some variation of the old-fashioned
way, but a *clone*... Tim forces himself not to
close his eyes. "You can see... why I asked you to
hear me out before you agreed to do me a favor."
Kon's laugh is half-choked, and matched -- quietly --
by Dick's own. "Yeah, I... yeah." He slips his hand
from Tim's shoulder and moves to the tube, stroking
lightly over its surface. "Same materials."
"Almost. This is... sturdier."
"Outside threats or... inside?" The look in Kon's eyes
when he glances back over his shoulder is sharp,
but it's a look. A gift, considering.
"Both," Tim says.
Kon nods and moves to Tim's work-station, hesitating
before he brushes a hand over Tim's open notebook.
"He'd have... you. And Cass. And... you, Dick?"
Dick nods, and looks like he's going to say something
else, but he looks at Tim, instead.
Tim knows what he was going to say. "And you. If
you..." Tim swallows.
"I know it was you who finally ripped Clark a new
one over me, man. I didn't thank you because Clark
would hear, and because I wanted it to be about
him. The two of us."
Dick smiles faintly at the floor of the Cave and whispers,
"Hi, Clark," under his breath.
Cass wrinkles her nose in a silent -- relatively, in matters
like this -- snort.
Tim just nods, and watches Kon put his notebook down
"I'm suddenly getting it, you know? What Clark must
have felt like when I was all 'hey, wassup, I'm your
It seems like a shame. There are a lot of reasons why
Tim doesn't want this to feel strange for Kon, and
some of them even fail to be selfish. He nods again.
Kon looks at them, one by one, before settling back
on Tim again. "What do you need from me?"
He isn't alive, yet, technically.
Tim had to look it up -- definitions for such things tend
to shift in disturbing, rapid ways in this life -- but the
fact that they've been steadily wrinkling the surface
of the boy's brain with every possible thing they
could think of for the past few months doesn't *quite*
allow the boy to have the rights and cachet of a living
It's terrifying, of course, especially because they
*can't* rush this, but there are always options.
If anything happened to them -- all of them -- the
fact that Victor Stone is the president of S.T.A.R. labs
allows them some breathing room.
He wouldn't let anything happen to the child.
Taller than he was at that -- biological -- age. More
muscular, as well, though not by much. It's hard to
say how he'll develop when they start giving him
actual food to digest.
He hasn't seen the boy's eyes, yet.
Dick isn't so much ignoring him as reading to the
child. They've input large amounts of age-appropriate
knowledge into the boy's mind, and he isn't,
technically *brain-live*, but Dick has been reading to
him from the very beginning.
Books with 'Bruce Wayne' scrawled in them in
painstaking block print, books with 'Dick Grayson'
scrawled in a much neater hand.
When he'd moved to Bludhaven, he'd sold or donated
most of the things his mother -- or perhaps Mrs.
MacIlvenne -- had packed up for him.
In the mornings, when Cass is asleep and Dick is up in
the Manor, he tells the boy every memory he can
think of. About cameras and knights and death. Circuses
and friends. Blonde hair and eyes that can cut you.
Choices and fate.
He isn't sure if he wants the boy to hear, or not.
The room upstairs belonged to none of them, and is
fully-appointed. Cass burns a single stick of incense
in it every two nights, and while the room is large
enough that the lingering scent is faint, it still has a
sense of memory to it. A place he's never been,
warmer and stranger and, perhaps, a little darker.
Kon flies out every chance he gets. He thinks the
child has Tim's nose. He looks at Tim, and doesn't
ask 'when' in precisely the same way Cass doesn't,
if for different reasons.
The uniform isn't ready yet, of course -- there's no
telling what the boy's strengths and weakness will
be, and even Cass has only been able to make
guesses. She doesn't like to be around the boy
yet, and he can't say he doesn't understand.
He's not ready, yet.
The others are. When Cass wakes him, Dick and Kon
are already there. Waiting.
He considers pointing out that there are still many
other things that could -- perhaps *should* -- be
input into the boy's brain before they wake him.
That would be more *efficiently* given to a lack of
The look on Dick's face is balky, stubborn
Kon says, "I want to meet him."
Cass says, "Don't be afraid."
He nods, and tries not to tighten his mouth too
much, and enters the commands.
The process is designed to begin 'waking' the boy
in some approximation of gradualness as the
nutrient bath drains into a nearby sterilized
container -- just in case.
By the time the water level is low enough that he
starts to drop, the boy is here enough -- *aware*
enough -- that his toes curl as they touch the
lower surface of the tube.
He's stretching. Rising, just a little too much for...
he's not human, entirely. He --
He opens his eyes.
"Batman," he mouths -- silently, for them -- and
frowns. The echo, almost surely.
By the time he reaches to knock on the plastic, Kon
has hit the release. The tube cracks open with a
whoosh of air that smells like skin and fruit and, of
"Batman," the boy says again, and looks at all of
them once before settling on him. "*Batman*.
I'm..." He looks at his hands, turning them back
and forth, briefly curling one into a fist before
stepping out of the tube.
The hands on Tim's face are damp, and smooth,
and curious for a long moment before he drops
them to his sides again. He has Kon's eyes, and,
when he smiles, he looks like the memories
Tim has of his mother.
Cass' gloved hand falls on the boy's left shoulder.
Dick sidles up on the boy's right.
Kon squeezes *his* shoulder -- not very hard at
all, and Tim's tongue is a desiccated animal in his
"If you want to be," he says, and wishes he could
be surprised that it comes out in *that* voice.
"And not just that. You have a *real* name, you
know," Dick says.
The boy spares another glance for Dick and nods,
Tim reminds himself to breathe, and when the
boy looks back at him.... This smile doesn't look
anything like his mother's, or like Kon's for that
"*Excellent*," Robin says, and reaches to trace
two short lines over Tim's cheeks. Where the
cowl would be.
"I think I'm hungry."