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A mean arithmetic

by Te

[Story Headers]

A mean arithmetic
by Te
February 10, 2004

Disclaimers: Not even close to mine.

Spoilers: None, really. I'm setting this somewhere to the left of current canon.

Summary: Tim is an analytical sort. Bruce is an interesting subject.

Ratings Note/Warnings: NC-17. Content some readers may find disturbing.

Author's Note: Jack gave me this bunny, and I found myself shocked that I hadn't written it already. More notes at the end.

Acknowledgments: To Jack for audiencing and encouragement.

Feedback: Always. teland@teland.com

*

Bruce has a type.

It's blindingly obvious if you're willing to peel away the veil a little bit. If you can get close enough.

To Bruce's credit, very few people can. And the ones who do just happen to be the ones most likely to either fail to see the forest for the trees, or simply politely pretend no such forest exists.

It's no accident that he's here -- it's just that it isn't by Bruce's choosing.

Which makes perfect sense, as far as Tim's concerned. Were he in Bruce's position, he wouldn't want anyone like him this close.

And frankly, it hadn't taken him all that long to figure it out. 'Batman needs a Robin,' he'd said, and sometimes it seemed like he'd said it to everyone who would listen. And no one had told him he was wrong, per se; it was just that there was no Robin to be had.

Well enough. Tim has never been a person to shirk responsibility, or, for that matter, to ignore opportunity. When he was thirteen, he'd been blinded by the awe, by the meaning of it all. He'd been haunted by the ghosts of the child Dick had been and the empty case that was all that had been left of Jason.

By the time he was fourteen, the blindness had passed. Blood and crime and madness -- Gotham.

And Gotham's sworn protector.

He'd lived in the manor, eaten Alfred's food and slept in a clean bed that still smelled like dust and death. And he'd watched.

He had to know, after all. The specifics behind being a Robin. The physical and intellectual skills, the emotional... fortitude. That had been the first real lesson. Because Robin only looks young. Robin is a child only physically.

Robin isn't allowed to be an actual child.

It had explained so much. It had been distracting in its utter, fundamental truth. You don't get to be a real child in this life, or you don't last. Maybe you survive in your fucked-up, splintered way. Maybe you make your way to, say, Bludhaven and set about becoming Batman yourself -- pretending with a desperate, endless care that you were doing anything but.

Or maybe you get yourself beaten to death with a crowbar.

Either way, children need not apply, because, one way or an another, children got fucked. Bruce or the Batman.

The only difference is that with Bruce, your average person wouldn't see it coming. Too much distraction in the handsome face, in the roil of old, powerful emotion always just behind those eyes.

Sometimes he wishes he could talk to Jason, to see if he can figure out exactly what it was for him. On the surface, and the few layers beneath Tim has been able to breach, it all looks like something that happened because of Batman.

He isn't sure Bruce didn't have a hand in it, though. Certainly, the man had done a thorough job with Dick.

The man. Now that... is funny. Terrifying, yes -- of course it is -- but funny, too. Because at first, Tim had thought it was just a function of Bruce's psychosis that he needed a stalwart young boy to pick up the pieces of his sanity on a nightly basis. That only a man like Bruce would deliberately set himself up so that he could be saved -- only -- by children.

And it is a function of Bruce's psychosis. Just not in that way.

Because Bruce isn't a man at all.

A man would, perhaps, have a little more sense. The experience and the wisdom to leave himself room for the kind of backup that could actually make a difference. Adult backup.

But the thing is...

Tim knows that he isn't, strictly, normal. He's healthier, stronger, and more athletic than the vast majority of boys his age. And, while his childhood wasn't especially unique or traumatic, it had certainly affected him. Shaped him into something nearly perfect for this.

Because no one and nothing is more watchful, more careful than a child whose parents are difficult to rely on, and for all the care his father had taken since his mother had been killed, for all the heartfelt effort the man had put in to rectifying the mistakes he'd made in his relationship with Tim... what was done, was done.

You can't turn back the clock on something like this, and while Tim understands that he is young, and that, assuming he lives, it's entirely possible he'll change and grow and all that other stuff...

He is who he is.

And Bruce is the only real child here.

Six-foot-three and two hundred-something pounds of terminal... innocence? No, not that. And 'adolescence' would probably be pushing it. Dick's the adolescent. Bruce is... not.

Even an adolescent knows when an adult is needed, and only petulance and hormonal stupidity stops them from asking for it. Bruce is neither petulant nor ruled by his body. If anything, he's tethered to that body by the thinnest of cords. And yet he's still a child, and the only adults children willingly look to for assistance... are their parents.

Batman needs a Robin.

Bruce wants a playmate.

Bruce needs that playmate to be an unnatural amalgam of comforting fellow-youth and rock-solid age. Strength and wisdom and control.

Batman doesn't want anyone to know that.

Which is... too fucking bad, really. He's here, now. And while he's certainly more than a little disillusioned -- he's not the type to lay blame, but even if he was, it wouldn't all be for his parents. Not by any stretch of the imagination. -- the foundations behind his presence remain.

He believes in Batman and Robin. He's doing this because it needs to be done, and it frankly doesn't hurt that, more often than not, he enjoys himself. Nothing can touch the feeling of being on the end of a jumpline, hurtling through space toward something that will suffer immensely as soon as his feet make impact.

He's neither an acrobat nor a thrillseeker, but it isn't only sex addicts who enjoy getting off, either.

Which is... something like the point.

He's on surveillance duty tonight, a watch-and-report on one of Batman's ongoing projects. A prostitution ring, which would normally leave them right out of things -- there's less than no point -- but on top of the usual 'and how old is that girl, exactly?' two of these girls have been picked up on drug charges. Possession with intent, which could also be minor, but probably isn't.

There's a difference between a pro with an ounce of weed in her purse and one with way too many full vials.

The girls hadn't talked, but chances are that they're runners. The question is for whom.

He knows Batman hopes it'll turn out to be someone he can put in the hospital, but for all they know right now, it might well turn out to be the little old lady who owns the crumbling old brownstone where the girls turn their tricks.

Tim stopped trusting little old ladies a long time ago.

Batman will probably just have to put up with crippling her hired muscle, whenever this actually goes down.

He checks the audio, pleased with the new design. A few tiny mikes planted on likely looking windows, all sending their signals to something almost exactly unlike a radio. The 'stations' aren't especially interesting tonight, though. It's just several different varieties of bad porn, waiting for his imagination to fill in the bored expressions of the pros and the pathetic neediness of the johns.

Dick told him once that this sort of thing always fell to the Robin. The party line is that the sex workers tend to feel more comfortable with and less suspicious of the fresh-faced and ridiculously-dressed teenager, but Tim doesn't think even Dick entirely believes that.

It's just another one of those wordless lessons from the Bat: Sex is dangerous, messy, and really not worth it, besides. See?

Which, granted, is more subtle than Batman just flat out telling them to keep it in their pants, and thus less likely to engender rebellion, but still.

You didn't have to be a genius to figure out that it didn't have to be like this.

You just had to have a little maturity.

He monitors the police band on his actual radio, but it's a quiet night. Four armed robberies that he hears about, at least two put to a stop with the help of 'him' -- Batman -- and who knows how many foiled drug deals and muggings that would never be officially reported.

Target four has an impressive snore. Targets one, two, and five have apparently lucrative evenings. Target three really hates yeast infections, and either doesn't own any other music or has a deep appreciation for Justin Timberlake. Target six spends the night watching television, playing with her cats, and collecting the take. No one so much as mentions narcotics.

Tim rubs his eyes and yawns, and isn't at all surprised that Batman picks that moment to land on his roof. He looks sharp.

"Anything?"

"Nothing for us," he says, and stretches from within his crouch.

"You should head home."

He nods casually and stands. Waits for Batman to start to turn. "I need something back at the Cave."

Batman pauses, briefly tense, and nods. "I'll meet you there." And he's gone.

Partners. Right. The hell of it is that they are. When they work together, they're the quintessential well-oiled machine of vigilantism. And it is, actually, a good sign that Batman trusts him on his own as much as he does. It's not just a function of the fact that Tim can't be with the man 24/7, and that, technically, he has a life away from the Cave and the manor.

But it's not just about Tim's competence, either.

Batman keeps him at a distance. Batman is wary of him, and very, very careful. Some part of him had to be relieved when Tim's father had up and decided to make his presence felt, even as Bruce... was anything but.

Bruce knows what he needs, whether he has words for it or not. Batman has done an astonishingly good job of making sure he doesn't get it. But then... Tim also hasn't really been trying.

That's about to change.

He takes the long way back to the Cave, almost easing his bike through the streets and taking the time to kneecap a purse snatcher on the way. He doesn't even have to get off the bike to do it, just slows down a little more and extends his staff. The woman waves at him, and Tim watches in the rearview as she kicks her attacker a few extra times before retrieving her bag.

He takes it slow because he knows Batman will. Consciously or not, he's going to give Tim enough time to get whatever he needs and go. It's not the first time, and Tim has done his homework -- in Dick's time, there'd be nights when Batman arrived back home for a 'meeting' long after Dick had gone to bed.

As it happens, he pulls in right behind the Batmobile, parking his bike just as Batman steps out of the car. The cowl is still up.

"You were delayed."

It's almost a question. Tim stands, taking off the helmet and shaking out his hair. Doesn't bother to mute the stretch-and-shift he still needs after time on the bike. The engine is exactly as powerful as it needs to be. "Purse-snatcher," he says, and gives Batman his best Robin-loves-the-night-life grin.

His -- Bruce's -- mouth twitches. Dick says he used to smile. Often, even.

Tim doesn't need his teeth. He holds Bruce's gaze through the cowl, and feels the moment linger and stretch between them until it snaps and Bruce remembers what he's wearing.

"You said you needed something." Batman's voice, dark and grim and forbidding.

It doesn't work on him. "Yeah, I do." He steps off the bike and closes the distance between them, reaching up to push the cowl back over Bruce's nose and eyes.

"Tim?"

"Yes." He unhooks his own cape and belt, letting them fall next to the Batmobile, and works the catches on his tunic. "The question, I think, is what you need."

The shutters come back down again, but it isn't shock they're hiding. "I don't know what you think you're doing --"

"Don't lie." He rests his palm low on Bruce's stomach, feeling nothing but armor. "It's beneath you."

"Tim --"

"Take the cowl off."

"Stop this. Now."

It's probably what he'd used for Dick. The voice, the order, the utter stillness of his body -- so easy to read as disgust, especially for a lonely, loving teenager like Dick pretty much had to be. Batman had had years of Dick's trained obedience to count on. Tim isn't Dick. "No."

Batman catches his wrist, squeezing almost -- almost -- hard enough to hurt and holding it away from their bodies.

Tim doesn't move.

Bruce feels him, and takes a deep, ragged breath.

"Take the cowl off."

Bruce pushes it back, short hair mussed and sweaty. His eyes are wide and blue.

"I want you. And we both know that the only protection I need is from what's out there. Not what's here."

"It's... not right."

"You told me once that we don't get to make the rules, Bruce. You're absolutely right. But we also don't get to follow them entirely, do we?"

Bruce frowns. It's only expected.

Tim rolls his wrist within his grip with nothing like the force or motion he'd need to break free. "You've kept me at a distance."

"I know I have, and I know --"

"You were right to do it, Bruce. Because now I'm just your partner. You don't have any ties on me. You're not the whole of my existence."

A flash of hurt, and Tim presses the advantage, resting his other palm against Bruce's stomach.

"I need this."

He grabs Tim's other wrist and lifts him bodily, easily off his feet, spinning him back against the wall of the Cave and holding him there. The move is Batman's, but there was bound to be some overlap. There's confusion warring with the hunger on Bruce's face, or maybe it's the other way around. Tim lifts his legs and wraps them around Bruce's waist, pulling him in. Armor to armor and mouth to mouth, and Bruce's kiss is angry and hard and deep and desperate.

Tim gives it right back, swallowing Bruce's strangled-sounding groan and rocking against him.

Bruce switches his grip on Tim's wrists to one hand and tugs the other gauntlet off with his teeth, sliding his bare hand inside Tim's tunic and under the shirt. His palm is damp with sweat, but the calluses make the touch rough just the same, and it's Tim's turn to moan into the kiss.

He twists in Bruce's hold, wanting more and getting a hard, powerful thrust that drives his ass back against the wall and makes him feel like his teeth are rattling. Bruce's thumb finds his nipple and strokes one slow circle, short nail digging in for a moment and making Tim buck.

And then Bruce stops, pulling out of the kiss and resting his palm flat against Tim's sternum.

"Bruce --"

"What... I have to know what you want to do."

Tim gives him one of Dick's more careless smiles. "This is good. This is almost perfect." He flexes his forearms and grins wider when Bruce squeezes. "Don't stop."

"I want."

"Tell me." He thinks about it. "No, show me."

Bruce doesn't lick his lips so much as slip his tongue out just far enough to wet them in the center. And then he slides his hand out of Tim's shirt and under his ass, pulling Tim in tight against him. And carries him further into the cave, just like that, the rhythm of his walk rocking them together not-hard-enough.

It isn't the first time Bruce has carried him, but it's the first time he's ever really appreciated it.

He doesn't need Bruce's hugs, either.

Bruce sets him down on the console, pushing him back against the monitors when Tim tries to keep contact.

"Let me..." He doesn't finish the thought, cupping Tim through his tights and squeezing once before finally letting Tim's wrists go and dropping to his knees.

"Oh..." It's more of a moan than a word, but it suits his purposes. Bruce curls his fingers into the waistbands of Tim's tights and shorts and tugs them down together, pulling hard enough that Tim has to hold on to the console to keep from sliding off. "Bruce."

"Yes," he says, and sucks a hard kiss to the bulge in Tim's jockeys, a promising kiss, before he pulls away again long enough to work off Tim's boots. It's the sort of backwardness that wouldn't be especially notable -- or noticeable -- with anyone else in this situation. With Bruce it's almost more damning than the fact that he's stripping Tim in the first place.

It makes him want to hold Bruce, to give him the sort of comfort people like his stepmother seem to find effortless. He settles for staying still enough to make the stripping easier, lifting his hips for Bruce to ease off his jockeys.

"You're beautiful," Bruce says. Bruce grits, pained as any compliment from the man, but in an entirely new way.

"Please." He spreads his legs wider, and Bruce doesn't make him wait any longer, sliding his hands under Tim's thighs and pushing them up and out before licking a wet, hot stripe up the underside of his dick.

And looks Tim in the eye. It's nothing like a tease. There's a plea in Bruce's eyes, a hungry, hurting desperation that makes his dick twitch.

"Yes," he says, and Bruce bends his head and sucks him in, slow and hard and wet. He pushes harder on Tim's thighs, bending him nearly in half, and the stretch makes it better, makes it impossible to get a deep breath and every attempt gasps itself off on a moan.

"Bruce..."

He hums around Tim's dick and takes him deeper, sucking hard for a long moment and then starting to bob his head, fucking his mouth on Tim's dick. Tim uncurls one hand from around the edge of the console and buries it in Bruce's hair, petting his scalp and weaving his fingers in enough to get a good grip.

"Bruce, it's so good," he says, pushing a little and feeling his dick spit pre-come at Bruce's whimper. It's not a lie. Bruce's need is as raw and blatant as blood, his hands rough on Tim's thighs and his mouth...

So tight. So hot and wet and perfect.

Even better when Bruce swallows him, shifting his hands back under Tim's ass to pull him deeper. Tim digs his heels into Bruce's back and thrusts, rocking up and in. Bruce makes a muffled, incomprehensible noise against him and squeezes Tim's ass hard.

And Tim has just enough time to think 'I don't want to stop' before he comes hard, growling aloud and pulling Bruce's hair. Shaking.

It takes a moment before he can loosen his grip, and he whimpers when Bruce pulls away. Breathes when Bruce rests his forehead against his thigh, and strokes Bruce's hair.

"Bruce."

A moment's tension, ruthlessly suppressed.

"Come up here."

He moves like an old man, slow and hesitant, and doesn't meet his eyes until Tim forces his chin up.

There's a kind of bleak terror in his expression that Tim thinks has nothing to do with the sex. At least... not specifically. Tim slips his other hand down and works at the catches on the Batsuit. It's not easy to do, but he's watched Bruce do it enough times that it isn't impossible, either. Bruce is hard, feverish-hot against his palm and slick with pre-come.

And his eyes are perfectly focused on Tim's own.

"I know why you pushed me away."

The flinch is almost entirely behind those eyes.

"I know what you're afraid of."

Bruce jerks, mouth pursing and tightening in a way that lets Tim know that he's biting the inside of his lip.

"I'm not going anywhere."

"Don't. Make promises."

"I like to think of it as a threat."

Bruce's laugh is choked and brief, but real, trailing off into a series of pained-sounded gasps as he pumps into Tim's fist.

"Kiss me again."

He leans in and does it, cupping Tim's shoulders and licking his way into Tim's mouth. Moaning when Tim adds a corkscrewing little twist on every upstroke, more when he does it faster.

Tim sucks Bruce's tongue and hooks one leg around the back of his thigh. And pulls back just enough to bite his lip hard enough to taste blood.

Bruce comes with a surprised little grunt, pulling Tim down with his weight for a moment when his knees buckle. Tim doesn't let go until Bruce is balanced again, and then just leans back against the monitors again.

And Bruce... stares. Into his eyes and at his mouth and at his... chest? Tim looks down. There's come on the tunic. He bites the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. He'd done this in uniform for a reason.

Bruce is his, and Batman has no deniability whatsoever.

"I have to get home," he says, conversationally, and Bruce blinks himself back to something like awareness.

"Yes."

Something like. "You're going to be tempted to brood about this."

That twitch of a smile. "Other people have tried to get me to stop brooding. It doesn't seem to be something I can manage."

"I don't think you've tried hard enough."

"Tim --"

"We'll work on it. Later. For now... pick something else to brood about, Bruce, because there's no stepping back from this."

Another blink, and Batman's staring at him through Bruce's eyes. "Why."

Tim knows he isn't talking about consequences, and it takes a moment to decide how much truth he should give. Because he could? Because he's sick of the sublimation? "Because you make me want it. Both of you."

And Batman nods slowly and steps back, giving Tim room to jump down from the console. Tim can feel his gaze on him as he dresses, and doesn't especially mind. Speculative wariness isn't the same thing as brooding. "Tomorrow," he says, and heads for the bike, not bothering to wait for a reply.

The thing about disillusionment is that you had to think of it as a word, as opposed to the complex tangle of negative emotions that it's come to embody. As a word, there's nothing wrong with it at all.

Losing your illusions just leaves you with a gorgeous, naked view of the world.

And if you can see it, you can have it.

One way or another.

end.

Vague, unhelpful end notes:

  1. No, I don't really believe this. Except for the parts I do.
  2. Title taken from "A Spiritual Woman" by D.H. Lawrence:

CLOSE your eyes, my love, let me make you blind;

They have taught you to see
Only a mean arithmetic on the face of things, A cunning algebra in the faces of men,

And God like geometry
Completing his circles, and working cleverly.

I'll kiss you over the eyes till I kiss you blind;

If I can--if any one could.
Then perhaps in the dark you'll have got what you want to find. You've discovered so many bits, with your clever eyes,

And I'm a kaleidoscope
That you shake and shake, and yet it won't come to your mind. Now stop carping at me. -- But God, how I hate you!

Do you fear I shall swindle you?
Do you think if you take me as I am, that that will abate you Somehow? -- so sad, so intrinsic, so spiritual, yet so cautious, you Must have me all in your will and your consciousness --

I hate you.

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Fandom:  Batman
Title:  A mean arithmetic
Author:  Te   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  NC-17  |  *slash*  |  22k  |  02/11/04
Characters:  Bruce, Tim
Pairings:  Bruce/Tim
Summary:  Tim's an analytical sort. Bruce is an interesting subject.
Notes:  Content some readers may find disturbing.

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