Being and belonging
March 5, 2004
Disclaimers: If they were mine, I'd probably just get them messy.
Spoilers: Lots of vague stuff for various storylines over the years. Most importantly, however, is the fact that this story revolves around the rumors of upcoming changes in the Robin book. If you're avoiding spoilers, it would be a good idea to avoid this.
Summary: There's a new Tim order.
Ratings Note/Warnings: NC-17. Content some readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: Call it my denial fic. Sort of. Essentially? I don't think it will go this way. Title from Salvador Minuchin:
"In all cultures, the family imprints its members with selfhood. Human experience of identity has two elements; a sense of belonging and a sense of being separate. The laboratory in which these ingredients are mixed and dispensed is the family, the matrix of identity."
Acknowledgments: To Livia and the Jack for audiencing and many, many helpful suggestions. All remaining mistakes are entirely my own fault.
He can't say he didn't see this coming.
Maybe not precisely this, but Tim hadn't really expected that there wouldn't be fall-out -- from both sides -- from handing in his suit, even considering the circumstances. Repeating the words 'he knows now,' with liberal doses of 'my father,' had been enough to keep Bruce from doing more than looking grim at him, but... there are other concerns.
One of whom is currently lurking outside his bedroom window, and pointing at the roof.
Hello, Dick, he doesn't say.
You realize that I have nothing like the equipment to get up there, right? Dick doesn't give him time to say that.
Tim shakes his head and slips out of his room. It's late, and his father and Dana should be asleep, but if Tim were in their position, he thinks he'd probably sleep extremely lightly these days.
He knows how to be quiet, though, even on the creaky old stairs that lead to the attic. Making his way through the attic is more problematic. No matter how much time and effort he'd put into training himself not to rely on the night-vision option to his mask... well. It's just one more reason to be okay with this, all of this, that he's better at moving through dark alleyways full of potential threats to his life than he is, apparently, at not tripping over trunks that have been stored in this attic since they'd moved here.
He gets to the window and reaches for the lubricant he keeps in -- he doesn't have a belt. Tim squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. He'll just have to hope the window doesn't creak too badly.
It doesn't, and he slips out easily enough. And immediately gets yanked up onto the roof proper.
"Jesus, Nightwing --"
And he doesn't have time to finish that thought, either, because Dick shoves him so hard he has to work to keep from falling.
"What the fuck --"
O-kay. He shuts up, and focuses on learning the roof well enough to keep his balance. Mild slope, no barriers, chimney access possible for him, not Batman -- no. He won't do this for his own damned home.
He looks at Dick instead. He hasn't pulled out the escrima sticks, but he looks like he sincerely wants to. He looks...
"Okay. What part of 'my father knows' didn't get through to you?"
"The part where that matters."
Tim opens his mouth and shuts it again. 'Are you insane?' would be somewhat satisfying, but entirely less than helpful. And, really, Dick has fewer and more issues around the word 'father' than Bruce does, one, and had spent his childhood around circus people and Bruce, two, neither of which was conducive to developing anything like a traditional attitude towards the concept of family.
Tim takes a breath, and doesn't think about how wrong it feels to be on a rooftop with Dick in the middle of the night and not have his uniform on. It felt wrong to be with any of them without his suit, even if they were in street clothes, too. Even before, and... that doesn't help.
"Nightwing -- Dick. I don't have the same options you do." And I don't want them.
"It isn't --"
"Bullshit, Tim! You walked out on us."
"I didn't walk out on anyone," he says, and he's not going to get angry. He doesn't have room for anger. "Think about it, Dick. When I 'disappeared' in No Man's Land, he put my face on every television station he could. What do you think he'd do if I started missing bed-checks now?"
("Who is Batman?" "I can't tell you that --" "Don't lie to me, Tim. Not again.")
And Dick is still glaring. Which isn't as bad as the fact that he isn't talking, or pacing, or anything else. Some dogs bark. Other dogs go for the throat.
"Dick, think about it."
"I am thinking about it, Tim. Your Dad isn't exactly in the same position he was in three years ago, though, is he?"
"You heard me. All that money and the power that went along with it is gone. He pissed it away, just like --"
Dick blocks the first kick, the second, the back kick, and the first punch. The second punch he catches with his fist, and makes Tim feel the lack of his armored gauntlet. He pauses long enough to catch Dick's glare, to make Dick catch it, and the leg sweep is mostly effective.
Except that Dick doesn't let go, and they both hit the roof hard -- and loudly. Tim jumps away too fast and stumbles in his bare feet. Dick catches him before he can fall, and Tim braces himself to hit the roof again, but -- he doesn't get thrown.
Dick holds on to his wrist, though.
"You --" Asshole. "You're sorry."
Dick squeezes Tim's wrist once and lets go, planting his feet and letting his hands hang between his knees. "I. That was out of line."
Tim takes a -- careful -- step back, and folds his arms beneath... he crosses his arms over his chest. "Which part?"
If Dick is still glaring, the only thing catching it is the roof. "I shouldn't have... I know your father is important to you. I know you..."
Tim waits, but Dick doesn't finish the thought. He just keeps staring down at the roof, and staring some more until he's up and moving. Pacing, mostly, though every time his shoulders tense Tim expects a back-flip or something.
There are more than a few things wrong with this picture. Dick treating him like he usually treats Bruce is just one of them. And Tim doesn't wonder if there's something he's missing -- he hasn't actually gotten to talk to Dick in a while. Long enough for the restfulness and generalized relief to fade back into something not quite like worry.
The police force. Barbara. The circus and everything else Blockbuster had fucked up, and Tim still hadn't had time to figure out how to say "hey, sorry about the fact that your home and everyone and everything in it got turned into air pollution."
It's his turn to stare at the roof. "Dick."
He hears Dick stop moving. He feels it, too.
"I'm not..." And how to say this without being a patronizing asshole? "I don't want to lose you. Everyone. I don't want to lose that, too." It's almost entirely true, which is just one more reason why he has to do this.
Dick's laugh really isn't much of a laugh, at all. "You know... you always said you wouldn't do this forever."
Tim waits. Because, well, he had.
"I guess I just never... I guess I didn't believe you. Part of me wants to ask you how the hell you can walk away. I mean, even fucking Spoiler couldn't do it."
"Her mother isn't my father."
Tim looks up, and Dick is almost, almost smiling at him over his shoulder.
"Kid, I think it's more like you aren't her."
'What's that supposed to mean' is probably the question Dick expects him to ask. Or... maybe he doesn't really expect anything. "I have to do this."
Dick nods a little jerkily. "Yeah, I -- shit."
Tim blinks, and follows Dick's gaze and... shit.
"Leave," Dana says, calmly and clearly, just as if she isn't hanging half out of the attic window.
Dick's swallow is audible. "Mrs. Drake --"
"He's just --"
"I'm not talking to you right now, Tim."
She isn't looking at him, either. Tim crosses his arms more tightly and tries very hard not to miss his cape.
Dick looks at him, once, very clearly thinking about saying something, and then nods at Dana. And takes a flying jump off the other side of the roof. If Tim focuses, he can hear -- there. The flat, popping puff of a grapple being shot.
And Dana is looking at him.
And Dana slips back inside the window with easy grace. It's never difficult to remember that she was an athlete before she was a physical therapist. Tim climbs down and into the attic. The light's on, bulb bare and faintly yellow.
He can't quite keep from checking to see --
"Your father is still sleeping."
"Oh." It might not be the stupidest possible response. Dana is a few feet away, her own arms crossed. No one should be able to look that intimidating in a fuzzy, pink terrycloth robe. "Look, I --"
"When we confined you to the house, we didn't think we'd have to add that late night rendezvous on the roof were also off-limits."
She almost -- almost -- sounds amused. There's a reflex in him to use it, to smile just that ruefully, and add the faintest hint of a slump to his posture. To lie.
He winces to himself. That's over.
He looks her in the eye, instead. "When I... retired, there wasn't time to talk to everyone. To... explain."
"I..." He never thought this would be easy. He forces himself to breathe. "Robin didn't only work with Batman. There were -- are -- others. Like Nightwing."
"The gentleman on our roof." There's no amusement left in her voice.
"I can't tell you about him. I just..." I saw him when I was a kid. I watched him. I -- "He's my friend."
"Tim --" Dana takes a deep, shuddering breath and frowns, scrubbing one hand back through her hair before looking at him again. "Do you have any idea what position you've put your father in? That you've put us in?"
Yes and no. "Sort of?"
Dana snorts. "Sort of. That's just..." She stops and takes another breath, crossing her arms again. "Over the years, you've done an excellent job of making it difficult for your father and I to think of you as a child. And, in just a few days, you've done an equally excellent job of reminding us that you are."
It's meant as a slap, and Tim feels it. "I'm sorry."
"You've said that a lot, Tim. But you've said a lot of things, haven't you?"
"You sort of understand what your father and I are going through right now. I suggest you go to your room and give some serious thought to the matter. Or you could go to sleep, considering the fact that you have school tomorrow."
Tim nods, and goes, stepping over and around trunks and boxes. He reminds himself to be clumsy.
He reminds himself that he doesn't have to be.
He can feel Dana's gaze on his back, and can't decide which would be better.
"Well, you've been a barrel of dead monkeys all day."
Bernard. Behind him, but at slightly more distance than usual. Curious, that. "Barrel of dead monkeys?"
"Death? Stench? Putrefaction? I was making a metaphor about the complete lack of amusement you've provided today."
Tim slips the books he won't need in his locker and... takes them out again. He doesn't have anywhere to be tonight. He might as well do some extra reading. "No one's ever called me a maggot-ridden dead primate, before."
"I have a gift," Bernard says, and slings an arm over Tim's shoulder. "Packing it in tonight, are we?"
"The books, Mr. Drake. I didn't think we had that much history reading to do."
"I've gotten --" Behind. No, he doesn't have to lie. "I've got some free time. I thought I'd read ahead."
"Uh, huh. Look, darling, when I said Darla was too much for you and mocked your imaginary girlfriend -- Suzie?"
"Stephanie." He really ought to call her.
"Whatever. I didn't intend for you to swear off the fairer sex altogether and take up a life of drab, monkish solitude."
"Monks don't get grounded."
Bernard gives him a squeeze and starts steering them both toward the exits. "Poor thing. What did you do? Or what part did you get caught doing?"
"Breaking curfew." Every night for the past three years.
"And...? Come on, Tim. Reliving the memories might just pull you out of this funk."
"Well." Bernard gives him a shove and Tim allows himself to be moved. At which point Bernard crosses his arms and gives him a critical look.
Tim raises an eyebrow.
"You've never precisely been the life of this little party, but you do usually manage to look less as though someone had shot your puppy."
A motorcycle engine. A very specific motorcycle engine. Tim turns to look, the crowd of high school students shifts agreeably, and... dammit. Dick pulls off his helmet and shakes out his hair.
Bernard gives a low whistle. "I don't suppose Ms. Ellworth just keeled over and that's our new gym teacher?"
Tim wonders if Bernard has decided to stop hinting and just come out. He isn't going to ask. "No."
"That's for you?"
"No. Excuse me," Tim says, and starts to head for the bike.
"Well, if you are giving up on women, I can't fault your taste."
And that was much too loud, but it isn't as though he has a lot invested in Tim Drake: High School Student's reputation. The thought nearly makes him stumble.
He's probably going to have to change that attitude, too. He grits his teeth and makes for the curb. For Dick, who's smiling at him. He at least looks a little embarrassed, but --
"I figured we couldn't talk at your house, so..."
"We can't talk here."
"Think about it, Dick. Twenty-six year old guy rolls up on his motorcycle, wearing way too much leather --"
"Apparently to pick up his male, sixteen-year-old... friend."
Dick winces. "I take it this isn't going to help the way people look at you."
"Forget me, Dick! What the hell are they going to say about you?"
And that gets him a smirk. Dick leans away a little bit and gives him a look that's way too close to Bernard's for comfort.
"Don't say it."
"Hey, I don't pick up just any underaged boys."
"You're not picking up this one."
The smirk fades out of Dick's expression much too quickly. Without the mask, Dick is one of the most naked people Tim's ever seen, and he catches himself trying to fold the cape around himself again.
So does Dick, but amusement is better than all of that -- than everything else.
"It's tough to get used to, I know. And even when we sparred without --"
"Dick, we can't talk --"
"Here. I know." Dick holds up a hand, and Tim knows exactly why the sight of the glove -- even just a motorcycle glove -- is soothing. "Look, Tim, I have a new place. It's not really --"
"I have to go home."
Tim crosses his arms and scans around. Not too many people are looking in this direction, but too many of the people who are aren't just staring at the pretty man on the motorcycle. Dick is oblivious. Of course. "I'm grounded. I can go to school, and I can get on the bus to go home, and then I can repeat the process. Last night? Didn't help."
Dick winces again. "I really want to --"
"The bus is here."
He doesn't turn around.
And it isn't a surprise that Bernard saved him a seat. Tim sighs to himself and wonders if it would be too much like the old him to steer the discussion toward something nice and safe, like Bernard's sexuality.
The bus lurches into motion. Maybe Bernard will satisfy himself with just staring at Tim.
Maybe not. "He's my cousin," and the lie slips out before he can stop it. Tim bites his lip.
It's not a bad lie.
"So why didn't you just catch a ride home with him?"
Tim checks with his peripheral vision, and it isn't just suspicion in Bernard's eyes, there's something else, something... there's enough suspicion to worry about. "He's kind of the black sheep of the family."
The suspicion slips into something lighter, warmer. "A-ha. So was he who you wound up breaking curfew for?"
"Yes," Tim says.
The funny thing is that it isn't really much of a lie at all.
("I don't remember the clowns or the animals, or anything else. I just remember waiting for you, Dick...")
Bernard looks at him for a long moment, expectation and something else almost entirely unreadable on his face. Tim rereads the graffiti on the back of the seat in front of him, and waits.
"So about your imaginary girlfriend Sherri..."
Dinner is silent and grim enough that he catches himself looking for Alfred. It wouldn't be a terrible thing to say, on its face. His father always seemed happier when he had something negative to say about the time he'd spent living with Bruce.
It's not an amusing thought. It never was.
The last thing he wants to do is remind Dana and his father about the large, single man with the massive amount of money and resources who Tim spent a great deal of time with right around the time when the new Robin started appearing on the news.
And he doesn't think either of them are in the mood to deal with his pathetic attempts at humor, anyway. Tim eats his... vegetables. He has to check. It's carrots tonight, which he doesn't particularly --
"Did you finish your homework?"
"Yes," he says. And has another bite.
His father doesn't say anything else, but Tim can feel him looking at him. He looks up, and... the last time his father had looked at him like that, he'd been promising to do better, to be there for him, to. "Dad..."
His father stands up, chair scraping back along the floor, and leaves.
Tim stares at his plate.
"He's angry. He won't be forever."
Tim swallows around the lump of feeling in his throat and nods.
Dana reaches across the table and touches his hand, lightly, for just long enough for Tim to remind himself to take it, to want his mother, his real mother, to want --
Tim forces himself to breathe. "I know I can't make either of you understand."
A breath of humorless laughter, and he looks up to find Dana staring at him as though he'd lost his mind. "Understand? Why you ran around risking your life in a ridiculous little suit?"
It means more than that. It's not just -- "I know... it's hard."
Dana sighs, and looks for a moment as though she's thinking about reaching out again. "You won't tell us who got you into this. You lied to us for years. You... were you ever going to tell us?"
"I hoped to."
She nods, and folds her napkin over her plate. "We love you, Tim. But I don't think you understand yet what all of this means. I... let me go talk to your father."
He nods back, and focuses on folding his own napkin. He does know. Maybe not exactly, but... "I wanted to tell you, Dana. Both of you."
She pauses in the doorway, but doesn't turn around. "Why didn't you?"
"It wasn't... it wasn't only my secret. It still isn't."
"You're really..." Dana slumps a little and turns, leaning against the door jamb. "I think what's hurting your father most right now is the realization that he never really knew you at all, Tim."
"I..." He doesn't have anything to say to that. What could he say? That he only lied when he had to? That it didn't mean he didn't love them? He shakes his head and looks back at his carrots.
"Of course," Dana says, "I never thought I knew you."
Tim winces. "I don't... want it to be that way. Anymore."
"Well, then, we have a lot of work to do, don't we?"
Tim watches her go.
And clears the table.
He dreams the flicker of the television, the old one they had at the old house. He knows his parents -- both of them -- are in the room. He knows he's dreaming, except when he doesn't.
The channel flips to the news, and he's there, looking down at Gotham's rooftops from --
The dream slips away as his mind reminds himself what helicopters feel like from the inside. The noise and constant vibration. He looks right and the camerawoman winks at him and points out the door, wind jangling the bells at the ends of her pigtails. And there's something --
The sky falls out beneath him, blue-black and bright with countless streetlights, and he gasps at the feel of it, the jumpline in his hands, in his gloves, and he knows it's wrong but his body loves it. Needs it.
Even though those aren't his gloves at all.
Even though Gotham, even after the longest, cleanest summer rain has never smelled like --
The flowers Dana planted all the way around the house, even far below his own window. He opens his eyes and blinks against the unexpected darkness. The unexpected shadow, and there isn't even time for him to consider being alarmed before Dick crawls into his bed and grins down at him.
"Hey, kid," Dick whispers, and settles in, braced comfortably over Tim's body, just as though it were perfectly normal for him to be in Tim's room, in Tim's bed, and wearing the fucking uniform.
It's too much. Everything he wants to say is stupid and obvious. Tim closes his eyes for a moment and breathes, and decides to go for the most on-point of the obvious statements: "You can't be here."
"I can if we're quiet."
"If we're... Dick. You show up on my roof and get me in more trouble. You show up at my school and -- I don't even want to know what kind of fallout that's going to lead to. And now --"
"And now I'm here. I'm --"
"Acting like we're dating or something."
Dick freezes above him, tension everywhere Tim can feel his body over his own, and in the shadow-onshadow of his shoulders.
And Tim has a moment to think he's gotten through to the man, but then Dick... settles over him. A deliberate increase in the weight of his body, until it goes from 'I've already pinned you and now it's time for the taunting,' to 'I could be pinning you, and maybe I will.' "Dick --"
"Maybe we should."
He can stop himself from gasping, but there's nothing he can do about the relentless parade of memory. From the first time Dick smiled and hugged him effortlessly -- easily -- to teaching himself how to get out of most pins solely so Dick wouldn't feel --
Dick's mouth is hot and soft, so soft, and Tim can't keep the gasp in this time. He feels himself digging his fingers into the sheets and he feels himself reaching for it, opening for it, and he feels his heart pounding and can't tear himself out of the kiss without whining high in his throat, short and sharp and much too loud.
There's a rough, husky edge on Dick's voice that makes him want to bite his lip. Want to -- "What are you doing?"
And Dick laughs above him, quiet and open. "I thought that was --"
"Don't fucking pretend that was what I was asking."
In the dark, Dick's face is almost entirely blank, but Tim knows Dick can see his glare. "Fine," Dick says, and shifts, rolling his hips against Tim's own. Boxers don't hide anything. He isn't sure his armor would. "Tell me you don't want it."
"No. Fuck that, Tim. I don't really feel like listening to you lie to me."
No one does. And it's pathetic what a shock it is. How much he feels it, and the fact that some large, awful part of him wants to scream 'unfair.' Tim swallows, and doesn't have any words at all.
Dick rocks against him again and Tim shudders, he can't help it, he wants this. He wants this, and he doesn't know whether it's better or worse that Dick's wearing his gloves, because the hand on his face is gentle, but it's also so final.
As absolute as everything Tim's tried and failed to avoid, or had just been too thoughtless and stupid not to throw himself into. He closes his eyes against the hand on his cheek, and it isn't until Dick kisses him again that he realizes his mouth was hanging open.
Dick's mouth... it's still soft, and somehow that's the most important thing, even beyond the heat of it, and the slick slide of his tongue against Tim's own. His mind can't seem to accept it, that this kiss could feel like this, that it could be so good, so easy. He whimpers, and Dick slides his hand into Tim's hair, moving and holding and... petting him.
Trying to soothe him, and Tim tenses and Dick kisses him harder, deeper and wetter, and Dick's rocking steadily down against him now, and Tim cries out into Dick's mouth and thrusts back. The kiss gets almost painful for a second, but before Tim can arch into it, Dick pulls back.
"Let me," Dick says, and it's the most bewildering thing that's ever come out of the man's mouth.
Soft mouth, and it's on Tim's chin, sliding over his jaw and down to his throat, and it makes him want to force his heart to slow down, to calm down, because Dick has to feel the pound of it with his lips, that has to be why he's staying there, why he's kissing Tim there.
Dick can feel it, and he wants Tim to know he can, and Tim gets it. That 'let me' wasn't about what they'd already done, or what they'd been doing, it's about what Dick wants to do, and of course it's more. Tim's hands are going to start hurting if he doesn't stop clawing at the mattress like this.
He can't stop.
Not with Dick kissing his throat, and not when he moves. Down his chest and lingering over the pound of his heart, and that's not fair, either, and neither is the way Tim can't stop himself from whimpering again when Dick slides his hand out of his hair. The glove is cool and smooth against his skin, bright like... like some kind of color on his nipple, and the only reason Tim can move his hand is that he needs to bite his own fingers more than he needs to hold on.
At least it makes the noises softer.
And Dick is moving so slowly, down and down, kissing and teasing and licking him, playing with him, and Tim braces himself against the smirk he knows will be on Dick's face when he looks up, but...
When he does, Dick's not smirking at all. Or even smiling. Tim pulls his fingers out of his mouth.
"What? I mean..." Don't stop. Tim's dick twitches and he closes his eyes and Dick makes a small, low sound, and pinches Tim's nipple hard.
And he has time to gasp, and time to shove his fist back between his own teeth, but that's it, because Dick has him. Mouth on him, soft and hot and soft and wet and Tim groans and tries to keep from thrusting. Squeezes his eyes shut, and opens them again immediately, because the sounds are too much -- too wet and basic, undeniable.
The fact of Dick's mouth around him is... he can't. He can't, and Dick's hands are on his hips, stroking and cupping and squeezing and lifting, and Tim tells himself the noises he's making aren't words.
Tells himself he can't understand them, even if they are.
And Dick sucks hard, and there's no consolation in the grip Dick has on him, on the control he has, because Tim doesn't have any of his own. All he can do is scrabble for leverage, clutching at the headboard with the hand he doesn't have in his mouth and bending his knees and fucking Dick's mouth.
And Dick hums around him and urges him faster. He wants this, Dick wants this, and Tim has to give it to him, has to smell himself, has to know, now and forever, that sex-sweat is different from every other kind.
That the hot, thin wire of tension in his belly is something bigger and deeper than anything else he's ever had, and that he wants this, too.
He squeezes his eyes shut again, bites down hard, and comes helplessly. Comes in Dick's throat, and tries not to hit the bed too hard when he can make himself stop arching.
And try to stop whimpering.
He can't, though.
Not until he realizes what he's feeling is Dick... shaking. Forehead pressed to Tim's abdomen, hands still clamped around Tim's hips and shaking.
Dick squeezes hard enough to hurt for a second, but doesn't say anything.
Tim forces himself back into something like rational thought and... no, he has no idea. Or, he does. Everyone has a breaking point, and maybe in Dick's brain that falls under 'incredibly bad year, capped with making the former Robin come so hard he thinks he's sprained something.'
The thought doesn't make him smile, or even want to. He supposes that's a good thing.
Tim shifts, a little, and tries not to wince when Dick squeezes him too hard again. He's going to have bruises on his hips. He's not going to think about that. He reaches down, instead, and touches Dick's hair lightly.
More firmly when Dick's grip on him loosens.
And then he just strokes Dick's hair, and breathes, and tries not to wonder what he'll do if Dana or his father decide to do a bed-check.
The house is quiet, though, and stays that way.
Even when Dick starts... hitching, he doesn't make a sound. It almost...
He wishes Dick would move. Just... further up the bed, or maybe just put his head on Tim's thigh, so he could sit up and just... do this better. Maybe it's supposed to be awkward. He doesn't know.
When Dick does move, it's away. He kneels up and sits back on his heels. With the mask, and the darkness, Tim almost can't see anything wrong. Or wouldn't be able to see anything, if Dick's expression weren't so (honest) completely off.
He curls the hand he had in Dick's hair into a loose fist and tucks it against his side.
"I didn't..." Dick laughs, brief and quiet. "That wasn't in the plan."
"You had a plan?"
"Actually? I did. I was going to harass you quietly and then..."
Tim swallows. "And then?"
Dick smiles, a little. "And then we were going to talk. About your plans, and how you were doing, and --"
"What about you?"
"That wasn't part of the plan." The smirk is better. Almost comforting. "But I have to admit I fully expected you to steer the conversation that way, sooner or later. I figured all I'd have to do to avoid talking about myself was keep from asking you hard questions."
He isn't wrong. Tim turns his cheek against the pillow and winces a little at the dampness. And doesn't wince at all when Dick runs two fingers down the center of his chest once. Again. And...
He looks, and the glove is off.
"You do realize that we need to talk even more now, right?"
Tim feels his face trying to twist and... lets it. "I don't know what to say."
"That's fair. You --" And Dick pauses, fingers pressed lightly over Tim's sternum. And then he taps them. "You... aren't the same."
"I'm trying not to be."
Dick frowns. "Was it... how much..." He shakes his head. "I guess I'm trying to figure out whether I just had sex with a stranger."
A part of Tim wants to ask if it really matters. It would be honest. It would be... like him, maybe. But more of him... he doesn't ever want to hurt Dick. The thought makes him blink, makes him...
It's like being shoved toward the end of a pier, only the ocean is alive just like all the nightmares Aquaman does his best to give people. Tim lets his face twist a little more, and Dick presses his palm flat against his chest and strokes, smiling. "You know... I didn't actually mean to... you usually like being complimented on what a sneaky little bastard you are."
He could say something about this not exactly being the best time for it, but... it's not the truth. Or even most of the truth. "I never really thought about it, Dick. How much I lied." How much he still does.
"Hey, you... you had to."
Tim looks at Dick hard, and holds the look until he knows Dick is paying attention. "Yeah," he says. "I did."
"And now you don't."
Dick is solemn for a long moment, but then he grins, but not... it's the kind of amusement Tim has learned has nothing to do with anything outside of Dick's head. The hand presses down on his chest for a second, not hard, and then Dick takes it away and slips off the bed, standing.
Tim watches him head for the open window, and wonders what else he's supposed to say.
Dick pauses with his foot on the sill. "You know..."
Another one of those should-be-private grins, tossed carelessly over Dick's shoulder. It makes it hard for Tim to breathe. "I'm looking forward to more of you being honest with me, Tim."
No, you aren't, he doesn't say. And stares at the window until he can hear a grapple.
It takes a long time to get back to sleep.
It's Silent Study, otherwise known as Naptime For Teenagers. Without the faintly pee-smelling mats, or the chance to catch up on useful rest. At first, Tim's theory about it was that it was supposed to be a break, a kind of half-assed apology to stressed-out teachers.
As near as he can tell, none of the teachers who pull this duty ever actually enjoy it.
There's far too much emphasis on keeping -- trying to keep -- a roomful of fifteen and sixteen year olds staring down at their books and notes, and not enough of anything else. Tim is never less productive than he is in Silent Study, because it's nothing short of a quiet war.
On the one side, the students spending more time and effort in attempts to get around the rules than most of them spend on their schoolwork, or even their lives -- complete with increasingly creative and insane methods of passing notes, slacking off, and reading and writing anything but actual homework.
On the other side, the teacher. Today it's Mr. Weller, who starts each day looking pinched and frustrated with the universe, and ends each day... Well, it isn't the first eighth period where Tim has found himself idly, fruitlessly reaching for something from his belt (not anymore, not), because the man is setting off every 'potential psychotic' alarm he has developed over the years.
The fact that Bernard chose to sit behind him today isn't helping.
When he isn't fidgeting, or coordinating the efforts at inter-student illicit communication with the obsessive skill of a field marshal, he's... staring. Watching.
Tim's body is warning him of mild danger, pranks and friendly torture.
Tim's body is thinking of Dick.
When it comes, it's only a note. The original folds are mathematically precise, but the outside of the note has been doodled-on and smudged and generally abused by the note's circuitous progress around the room.
One of the doodles is a tiny, surprisingly evocative representation of Wendy the Werewolf Stalker ripping out Mr. Weller's still-beating -- you can tell by the squiggles -- heart while laughing triumphantly.
That would be Ellen Marcus' work, which means the note had made it all the way to the back of the room and to the windows before getting back here. Impressive.
No one is watching him from the front or sides.
Bernard's gaze is a pressure between his shoulder blades.
Tim opens the note.
"He's not really your cousin, is he? Or --
"You know you could tell me, right? I talk about everyone, -to- everyone, but that doesn't mean I tell -everything-.
"Sometimes the best way to keep a secret is to just hide the -good- stuff in a lot of entertaining business about Danny Amondato's adventures in testicle-shaving, and the fact that Ellen writes execrable poetry about her true life as a dragon. She should -really- stick to the art, don't you think?
"See? I'm doing it right now."
Tim refolds the note along the original lines and slips it into his pocket. He doesn't understand why people want to get so close, why they want so much. It's never enough to just be with people, to settle in a corner and enjoy the presence, the silence.
People always want more, and the want is always in their eyes, adding weight to every look. They never understand 'can't,' and they never want to.
And if you don't give them what they want, they either leave or take it for themselves. No matter what you want. No matter how hard you try just to keep it together, keep a little control and sanity and --
Tim doesn't realize he's standing up until the chair is screeching back along the grimy tile, and by then it's too late. They're all looking at him, and even though none of them are metahumans, he thinks the pound of his heart is obvious.
He thinks it's written all over his skin, with the flush he feels creeping out from under the collar of his t-shirt.
They're all looking at him.
"I have to. Go."
And he does. The flash he gets of Bernard's face as he turns for the door is a picture of confusion, of want.
Explanations he could never, never give.
The soft, myopic excuse for a security guard claps a hand on his shoulder as he's walking out the door, but a nerve strike takes care of that quickly enough.
And then the sun is in his eyes, bright and sparkling and powerfully, irrationally accusatory. It prickles on the bare skin of his hands and forearms, and the heat it has given to the cement flows up through his thin, wrong sneakers until he runs.
He doesn't have a plan. He doesn't need one. So many things have been trained, so many things are reflexive and simple and natural, just so long as he can forget whose skin he's supposed to be wearing.
The bus pulls in within seconds of his arriving at the stop, and he stares forward, only forward, and when he can't stop clenching his fists, he shoves them in his pockets and balances with just his legs.
He doesn't care what the other passengers see. He doesn't care.
He gets off at Ninth and Turner and hooks right, moving through the crowds easily, easily. He watches a kid maybe a year younger than himself snatch a purse, kicks him in the spine, and keeps moving.
Running now, because that was a mistake, they're looking at him again, questioning eyes and yelling mouths, and he gets to the alley none too soon for his own tastes. The Dumpster is heavy, either another garbage strike or a body, but he puts his back into it, only sliding a little on the thing's faint, greasy film.
The false wall behind it slips in with a quiet, gritting sound, and he reminds himself to clean and oil the hinges the next time -- to put extra lubricant in his --
He jumps down the chute into darkness, the door closing behind him even before he gets all the way down.
It's one of the satellite hide-outs, and it's a Wayne building, so it was never so much as damaged. Too bad the location was so useless. They could have --
He rips off the dust-cloths and fires up the system, pacing at the time it takes. They need to replace --
Pacing, and it's good to pace, because no one is here but him, and the blank, watching eyes of spare suits. He manages to pull his kick before he shatters the glass over the Robin suit and pacing is.
He drops into a crouch and buries his face in his hands and holds on. And remembers -- shit. He flips the manual override on the cameras just as Oracle's voice comes through the speakers.
"You -- that wasn't bright, stranger."
Tim hits the overrides on the gas vents, too. "I'm not a stranger."
"R -- T -- Dammit, explain yourself now."
"I need Nightwing's address. The new one."
"Turn the cameras back on."
"I need --"
"Turn the cameras on, kid. You're not the only one with overrides."
Of course he isn't. Of course he -- Tim swallows back a laugh, looks directly at the nearest camera, and turns them all back on. "Satisfied?"
"You look like hell."
It's even less pleasant to hear in Oracle's simulated voice. "I need --"
"I heard you. Is there a reason?"
"Since when are you this fucking protective?"
The mask, of course, doesn't change. But Tim can feel Barbara, just the same. Barbara. Someone else he'd lied too much to. Someone else who wasn't as much of a friend as she could've been.
"I -- shit. I'm --"
"Check your e-mail."
"It's still in the system. For now."
Tim takes a breath. "Thank --"
"I'm sorry," he says to no one. "I'm sorry."
Oracle's message is Dick's address, and a map showing the fastest route from his current location which he doesn't really need. He pretends she means it as... as a gesture, instead of a rebuke.
It doesn't have to be --
He thinks of his father, and the smell of his cologne as he'd hugged him.
He thinks of his father walking away.
He picks up the phone, and hopes for the answering machine. One ring. Two rings. Three --
Fuck. "Dad. It's... it's me."
"Tim? Is there something -- where are you calling from?"
The caller ID will be showing a random address and phone number. "I'm in Gotham."
"Well, that's just great, Tim, now how about we narrow that down a little?"
"I can't --"
"Don't tell me what you can and can't do!"
Tim flinches against his father's yell. "I c -- I'm not coming home. Yet." He tenses, but his father doesn't yell again.
Just... silence. For much too long.
"I'm not... I won't be doing... that."
"'That.'" His father's laugh is short and cold. "You've got ten seconds to convince me not to report you missing."
Because it takes twenty-four to seventy-two hours for the police to take it seriously. Because even if you tell them to arrest Robin, most of them wouldn't. Because I -- "Because I need this."
"You need? You --"
"Dad, please." He doesn't have to fake the quaver. He doesn't have to fake the self-loathing, either. "Please. I just -- I have to..."
"Tim." He hears his father take a deep, shuddering breath, and the image is painfully vivid. He would be sitting down now, and either pinching the bridge of his nose or clenching his fist between his knees. He would -- "Tim, just tell me what you need."
I can't. I can't. "I need this to make sense!"
Silence, and he can't picture his father anymore. He can't see anything but the ghost of his reflection in the monitor, and he fixes his expression reflexively.
And watches it twist and crumple again.
"I can't tell you to be careful, because you've been -- I can't order you to come home, because you won't. I can't make you explain any of this to me, because you won't. Tim, you tell me how to make this make sense, because I don't even know --"
His father cuts himself off, but Tim hears it anyway: Who you are. It's the best question he's heard all year and the sickest joke.
"Tim...?" The uncertainty in his father's voice is going to kill him.
"Just... just tell me you're going to try to be safe."
"I will, Dad."
And that's the biggest lie of all.
He takes the train to Bludhaven, sitting still and silent and forcing himself to stare out at the unlovely scenery, just like everyone else who isn't sleeping or reading or working on their laptops.
No one pays attention to him, and he's glad he had the presence of mind to change into a clean shirt before leaving the hide-out, even if it is a little too small. He'll have to remember --
He doesn't beat his head against the glass.
And it isn't a surprise to find Dick waiting for him on the platform. The scrutiny is blankly professional, and Tim knows Dick's seeing everything he's done today. Or close to it.
It's the most comforting look he's gotten all day.
Dick turns and leads them out into the station proper, slipping back beside him and resting one -- gloved -- hand on Tim's shoulder.
"Oracle gave me the heads-up," Dick says, quietly and needlessly.
Tim nods, and tries not to lean into the touch.
The ride back to Dick's is quiet, save for the engine Tim can feel more than hear. The new apartment is in an anonymous brownstone, and it's...
All of the furniture is new, what there is of it. It looks comfortable and clean and completely wrong.
It's easier to stare at all of the packing boxes, stacked haphazardly against the bare walls.
"I'm still trying to make it... look like someplace I could live," Dick says, and heads toward the kitchen.
Tim nods and sits down on the couch. Even the throw pillows are new, and nothing smells right. It's extremely tempting to pull his feet up and wrap his arms around his knees, but he manages to just fold his hands and wait.
Dick hands him something and it's -- Zesti. Just like he'd kept at his old place, in case Tim ever dropped by. Tim's face crumples again before he can even think of stopping it.
"Hey --" Dick's hand is on his shoulder again.
Dick has Zesti, for him. He has fucking cheap soda that he'd never even drink and he doesn't even have pillows that smell like him or curtains or fucking --
Tim twists out of the touch and stands, moves, because he has to get out of here, because he can't --
Dick grabs his shoulder again and Tim lets himself be spun, but Dick catches the punch easily and Tim's just so tired. He doesn't fight when Dick pulls him into his arms. He doesn't stop shaking for a long time, though.
Dick holds on to him hard, and just keeps holding, even though he has to know Tim won't try to get away again. Or. Maybe he doesn't. "I won't try to leave," he says into Dick's shoulder.
Dick tenses, tenses hard, and Tim has no idea why.
And then he does, but Dick is already relaxing again, loosening his grip and stroking a hand over Tim's hair before pushing him back far enough to give him a half-mocking look.
"Sometimes people do just hug other people, kid. I know it's hard to believe."
"It isn't... I --"
Dick kisses him, and he tastes a little like Chinese food, but mostly he just tastes like something Tim needs, familiar and close. Or maybe that's just the scent of him, or... his body remembers those hands on him, and even with them just on his face --
Tim clenches and flexes his hands until he can't anymore, until he has to touch Dick, just his waist, through the jacket he's still wearing and the t-shirt -- and then just through the t-shirt, because Dick somehow manages to twist his body enough to get Tim's hands on him without breaking the kiss. He holds on, and lets himself moan.
By the time Dick pulls away, Tim isn't sure whether he's sleepy or just... he's raw. And the only thing new about that is the fact that Tim knows he can't pretend otherwise. Not right now.
"Dick. Don't..." He licks his lips, and tries to figure out how to say "either don't stop kissing me or shoot me in the head" without coming off as insane.
Dick slides his thumb over Tim's lower lip, and Tim hears his breathing get ragged and loud. He hadn't gotten to -- he'd wanted --
But Dick doesn't linger before sliding his hand down under Tim's chin and tilting his head up. Somehow, most of him had completely failed to be aware that he was looking down.
"Hey," Dick says, and there's a searching look in his eyes that makes Tim want to hide.
So he looks right back.
Dick... Tim can't call it anything but a caress, even with the motorcycle gloves still on. Maybe especially then. It makes his eyes want to fall shut, even though the look Dick's giving him is focused and clear.
"I want..." The thought is a good one, but he has no idea where to go with it.
But Dick just nods like he understands. "Wanna tell me about it?"
Dick nods again and leans in, and Tim tilts his head up for it, but... Dick laughs against his mouth.
"Oh... man. You know, I have actual instructions about you. Oddly enough, they don't involve 'avoid our issues and screw.'"
Tim blinks, and forces himself to pull back. The glove sliding over and off his cheek makes him shiver.
Dick never stops looking at him. "We should --"
"I'm breaking the rules."
Tim forces himself to hold Dick's gaze. "To be here. I'm..."
Tim thinks of his father, and wonders if he's still sitting by the phone, and wonders what he's doing, if he really thought this would help -- "Do you?"
"I know," Dick says again. "But tell me anyway."
He crosses his arms beneath -- he gives up and holds the pose, and Dick just waits. Watches him. "I don't know what I'm doing."
"None of us do. Ever."
"I thought I did."
"I know. You almost made me believe it. I did believe it a lot of the time."
"I..." Tim swallows behind the collar that isn't there. "I don't know how to stop lying."
"That's the beginning of a logic puzzle."
Dick holds his hand out. "Keep going."
Tim stares at the glove. "I wish you were wearing your uniform."
"Not 'I wish I was wearing mine?'"
Dick clenches the hand he's holding out into a fist, and then opens it again. When Tim looks back at his face, he says, "why?"
"I. I don't know what answer I'm supposed to give."
Something twists behind Dick's face, for a lingering moment. Tim can't look away.
"Did you ever write a letter knowing you would never send it?"
Tim thinks of his father, and -- "I burned it."
"Are you glad?"
Dick scrubs a hand back through his hair. "I'm still not sure if I'm glad I did or not."
Tim knows who the letter must have been written to. "I'm... still not sure what to say."
"This is the honesty game, kid." Dick's grin is small and rueful. "You know what answer to give."
"I know what you want --"
Tim stares at the clean, empty floor. "I don't know if I want to be Robin or not. I just know how to do it."
"As opposed to everything else."
And Dick's hands are on his face again, and Tim breathes in leather and the feel of Dick's thumbs stroking over his cheekbones, Dick's fingers pressing at the back of his head and neck.
Tim lets his head be tilted back again, and the look on Dick's face is so hungry.
"Dick, I --"
"I want you back. With us. All the way."
"I know." I've been in love with you all my life.
Dick's fingers dig in hard, just for a moment. "I've lost... too much."
"I know." I'd do anything for you.
"I'm not going to lose you, too."
Dick kisses him, and it's hard and wet and Tim wonders if he's supposed to be seduced into putting the suit back on. No, he wishes he could wonder, because this is too good. He curls his fingers into the waistband of Dick's jeans and pulls, and Dick groans into his mouth and kisses him harder. Bites him, and Tim's hands are shaking, but he forces them to work on Dick's fly anyway.
He wants --
"Tim," Dick says, low and rough, and licks a slick, hot path over Tim's cheek and into his ear.
Hot breath and the shivering, slow fuck of Dick's tongue. Leather gloves in his hair, on his shoulders and sliding down his back, over his ass, and Tim whimpers when he gets Dick's pants open, his hand inside to where Dick's hard and hot for him, and Tim whimpers again.
Dick squeezes his ass and tightens the hand in his hair and yanks his head back, kissing his throat again, licking him and biting once, hard.
"Dick, please don't --" Mark me, he wants to say, only he doesn't really want to say it at all.
"I'll be careful," Dick says, and starts walking them back to the couch.
Tim's knees hit and he sits down, cold and naked without Dick's body against him. He shivers once and bends to unlace his sneakers, but Dick leans in and shoves him, kisses and pushes him until he's mostly flat and Dick is mostly on him. Tim wraps his arms around Dick and kisses back, arching and shifting until he can get his legs spread around Dick's moving hips.
Dick sucks Tim's lower lip and breaks the kiss again, pressing his hand to Tim's mouth for a moment when he whimpers.
"Do you... want me to be quiet?"
Dick laughs, breathless. "What? No. No, I..." He strokes Tim's mouth with his thumb, hard and slow, and bites his own lip hard. "I like the way your mouth looks when you're making noise, Tim. I like the way it feels -- yeah. Like that."
Tim feels himself flex and licks the tip of Dick's thumb.
"Oh, yeah..." And Dick slides his thumb in, pushes it in just like -- and Tim tastes leather and can feel himself shooting pre-come, and he rocks up against Dick's hips, as much as he can.
Dick grinds down and slips his thumb almost all the way out before pushing it back in slow and Tim tugs at Dick's shirt, balls it in his fists and sucks.
"God, I never thought you'd be like this, Tim..."
For you, and he maybe he says it with his eyes, with his body, because Dick's eyes go wide for a long, heart-pounding moment before narrowing.
"Tim," he says again, and rolls his body against Tim's own, a slow, hard wave of feeling that makes Tim moan around Dick's thumb.
And then just moan when Dick pulls it all the way out.
"What do you want? We can do --"
Dick pauses, staring down at him, spit-slick thumb almost, almost on his own lip.
And then he licks it, slow, and watches Tim unblinkingly. Sucks it for a moment before pulling off the gloves and tugging and pushing Tim's too-small t-shirt up. And then he licks his bare thumb and pushes it into Tim's navel, pressing hard circles.
Tim can't decide if it hurts or just -- it's a jagged rush of feeling, better and worse when he bucks up against Dick.
"When do you have to be home?"
Tim blinks and moans. "Just about three hours ago."
Dick winces and stops. Stops.
"Please, Dick --"
"Tim..." The look on Dick's face is raw, bleak realization, and Tim wants to know how he does that, how he never has to think before showing everything he's feeling. "What... what am I doing?"
Dick gasps and tenses. "But --"
"Hard. I want you, I want you so much -- don't make me say it --"
And Dick sits back on his heels and dives in, kissing Tim so hard he can taste blood. He isn't sure whose it is and he doesn't care. He can just... one thing he wants, and the last thing he was ever sure of, and Dick tastes so good.
Better when he laughs.
"I don't -- I don't even have a bed, yet --"
"Here, the floor --"
Dick growls and arches up, reaching between them and ripping open Tim's fly with one hand and pushing and tugging and holding Tim, squeezing him hard --
"Shh, let me..." And Dick starts stroking him, slow and hard and faster with each stroke.
It's... he can't... and Dick slips his other hand back to Tim's mouth and pets it when Tim moans.
"Just like... oh, Tim --"
"Please, please I want you --"
"Come for me."
"Oh God --"
"C'mon, all over my hand, Tim, do it..."
Tim shouts and gasps and shouts and fucks Dick's fist, rocking up and up, and he doesn't know he's shaking his head until Dick catches him. Holds him, holds him still and makes Tim look at him.
He still looks so hungry...
And Dick pushes his thumb in Tim's mouth again --
"I want to see you," Dick says, and Tim bites Dick's thumb and comes, shaking and groaning.
And pushes Dick's hand out of his mouth. "I want -- I wanted --"
"Spread your legs."
"Yeah, that's -- God, Tim, just throw your leg over the back like... every time you make that noise I just get harder."
"Just... like that. Mm." And Dick gives Tim's dick one last, gentle squeeze that still makes Tim seize up and whimper.
Louder when he strokes up and off.
"I can't... I don't have what we need, but we can still -- oh, Tim, you're so tight --"
Tim bites his lip and burns. Aches. He doesn't have words for it, for the sight of Dick watching his face for every sign, every hint, for the feel of him working his finger inside Tim, sliding in slick and rough at the same time, and Tim grabs at the couch cushions and rocks into it.
"You're driving me crazy," Dick says, and there are so many true things Tim wants to say, but all of them come out as groans. He's already getting hard again, and it's too soon and it's too much, but it's perfect. It's Dick, fucking him with just a finger, and making Tim want all over.
"More," he says, only it's barely a word. Just a long, low half-growl, and -- "More --"
"I've got you, I've got --"
"Dick, you feel so good --"
"I want to fuck you so hard --" And Dick cuts himself off with a groan, free hand sliding up Tim's thigh and squeezing. Dick hangs his head, hair falling in his face, and Tim has to sit up a little and push it out of the way and --
Dick grabs his wrist and almost glares at him, but there's nothing like anger on his face. Just... fierce, wild hunger and Tim clenches around Dick's finger and tries not to beg.
He knows it's on his face, anyway.
"I'm going to give you another finger. Okay?"
"Mm... say that again."
"Yes, Dick --"
And Dick pulls his finger out, slow and steady, and he doesn't stop talking. "You know how close I am, don't you?"
"I want you inside me."
"I don't want... Tim, please," and Dick takes him with two fingers, fucking in hard and fast, and Tim cries out and tries to match his rhythm, tries to spread wider, and Dick's grip on his wrist is iron and he --
"Don't stop, Dick, don't --"
"I won't. You're so -- you're so good --"
Tim turns his face against the couch cushion and pulls against the hold Dick has on his wrist and -- "Dreamed of this," he gasps, because he has to. "Wanted you --"
"I'm here --"
"That night. In my room --"
"I'm not sorry, Tim. I wanted to be --"
"I was dreaming of you," Tim says, and Dick makes a terrible, agonized sound and pulls out. "No --"
But Dick grabs Tim's hips and pulls him back, and the blunt, slick slide of Dick's dick along his cleft makes him gasp again. "Have to --"
"I'm sorry," Dick says, and takes one hand off Tim's hip, and then Dick is pushing in, and Tim thinks 'don't scream,' but he can't close his mouth, can't do anything but reach up and claw at Dick's shoulders and --
Oh God, in, huge and so hard, and Tim's thighs flex, and when he opens his eyes Dick is staring down at him like he's lost, like it hurts him just as much, but he doesn't stop.
Not even when he's all the way in, and Tim can feel Dick's balls slapping against him on every short, rough thrust, and every thrust makes him cry out, until his throat is aching and everything sounds like a gasp or a growl.
And Dick braces one hand on the arm of the couch beside Tim's head, and strokes his face with the other. Shaking, gently, and Tim turns into it and kisses Dick's palm. Moans and licks it, and it's like breaking inside where everything was twisted and knotted.
It's like giving up, and he never thought it could feel this good.
"I love you," he whispers, and listens to Dick groan and spreads his legs even wider.
"I love you, Dick."
"Oh God, Tim, I --"
And Dick bends down and kisses his face, hard and wet, and Tim tilts his face into it, stretches and reaches until he can catch Dick's mouth with his own, until he can suck Dick's tongue and hold him that way, too.
The angle is different, shallower -- sweeter his mind says, but he knows he's stupid with this now, knows he's helpless and hungry and needy and lost and every other thing he's tried so hard not to be. He never wants to stop.
Tim shoves his fingers into the damp thickness of Dick's hair and rides it, swallowing every one of Dick's moans and giving them back. He can't breathe. And when Dick tries to pull away, Tim holds on tight, tighter when Dick shudders and gasps and comes in him.
And doesn't stop thrusting.
Just yanks himself out of Tim's grasp and pushes down hard on Tim's shoulder and reaches between them to fist Tim's dick again.
Tim lets himself be held down and stares into Dick's eyes.
And comes moaning.
For a while Tim can't do anything but look. Dick's soft, swollen mouth and softer eyes. He breathes and tries not to blink too much, because something in him doesn't believe this, even though he's sore and sticky and... the couch doesn't smell new anymore.
He knows why he can't believe it. He'd stopped believing it before he'd met Dick, before the fantasies had shifted from nebulous warmth and wanting to something else. Tim hasn't believed in much for a long, long time.
He watches the expressions shift and change in Dick's eyes and waits.
"Tim..." It's a question.
"I meant it."
"I... didn't know."
Tim wants Dick's hand back on his face. "I know," he says and lifts his chin a little.
Dick leans in and... it's not a kiss. Dick's mouth moves over his cheek like he's trying to say something, but if he is, Tim can't hear it. Tim wraps his arms around Dick's neck and holds on.
They stay on the couch for a while, Dick softening inside him until he slips out. Tim's thighs are sticky and his back starts to cramp, and Tim plays with the hair at the back of Dick's head and doesn't say a word.
Not even when Dick shifts.
"There's something... I have something for you, Tim."
Tim stares at the ceiling and breathes. "You don't --"
"No, it's from... before."
"I don't want to move," he says, and it's absolutely true.
Dick grins against his cheek. "Then don't." He twists away from Tim and stands, kicking the rest of the way out of his jeans and walking toward what's presumably his bed-less bedroom in nothing but the t-shirt and jacket.
Tim's reasonably sure he doesn't do that on purpose. It doesn't actually make it better.
Dick comes back with a fairly large, plain, white box, and sits on the far end on the couch. Tim forces himself to move, reflexively swallowing back a wince as he sits up.
"You don't want it," Dick says.
"I don't know --" But he does. Tim swallows. "He... gave you my suit."
Dick smirks at him. "I took your suit, kid. It belongs to Robin, not Batman."
"Then it doesn't belong to anyone." Right now, he doesn't say.
"Right now it doesn't, but -- what?"
Tim swallows back the laughter. "It's nothing."
Dick raises an eyebrow at him, but nods. "It just... I know you can't take it with you, but I wanted you to know that I have it, and it's yours. And you can come get it anytime you want."
I want it now. "It isn't that easy," he says, and stares at the floor instead of the box.
Dick rests his hand on the back of Tim's neck, warm and solid and bare. "I know," he says. "It never is."
Dick drops him off two blocks from his house, and kisses him when he gets off the bike.
And then gets off the bike himself and kisses him again, backing Tim against a streetlight and kissing him harder, and harder, until it's hard to remember that they're on a public street, and that it's barely after one.
When Dick pulls away, he leaves his hand on Tim's cheek for a long, long moment, and Tim's tongue remembers the taste of leather.
"You know where I live," Dick says, and it's almost a threat. Dick knows where he lives, too.
Tim nods and heads toward home, knowing Dick is watching him go.
The lights are on at his house. This isn't a shock, but it makes his gut clench anyway. If he were in his father's position...
He can't even imagine it.
He uses his keys, somewhere between relieved and disappointed that they work. It would be so much easier if... if they didn't actually care about him. And if he keeps this up, they won't.
He thinks of the white box in Dick's apartment, and the fact that this, his third shirt of the day, is actually one of Dick's new, too-large undershirts.
He thinks of his father's football helmet.
He walks into the living room, and both of them are there, watching him. Tim picks a position where he can see them both easily, and crosses his arms under the cape that isn't there. And waits.
Dana sees it first, blinking and frowning just a little. And she touches his father's arm lightly and easily, if not casually, and Tim tries to remember the last time he'd touched anyone like that, at all.
When his father frowns, it has nothing to do with anger, but every line on his face is stark and shadowed and there. His father was rarely an angry man, but the last few years... a lot of pain.
"There's nothing I can say to explain," Tim says. "And I think my apologies are meaningless."
"Son... Tim. Who did this to you?"
"I did. No one else."
"I just don't understand why you're sticking to this -- this martyrdom, Tim --"
"It's the truth, Dad. I'm no one's martyr."
"Then what are you, Tim?" And Dana's voice is soft, and gentle, and open.
"I don't know that, yet," he says, and looks at them both, once, as openly as he can. And then stares at a point between them.
"You look like you're waiting to be dismissed, Tim!"
His face wants to crumple, a little, and he lets it. "I know."
His father sighs, quietly. "And if I tell you to go to your room, will you stay there?"
"For how long, Tim?" Dana, again, and it shouldn't be easier to look her in the eye than his father.
It is. "I don't know," he says.
She nods at him, and his father... stares. And searches.
Tim forces himself to look at him, and waits. He doesn't point out that he's not lying anymore -- it's obvious, and meaningless.
He doesn't ask if his father is still proud of him, because he doesn't want to know the answer.
And when his father nods at him, Tim nods back, and then at his stepmother, and walks up the stairs to his room.
He has to get ready for school, assuming he hasn't been suspended.
Tim pulls Bernard's crumpled note out of his pocket, and starts writing one of his own.
Maybe he won't burn this one.
Feedback welcome. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Fandom: Other (Mixed Batverse)
Title: Being and belonging
Author: Te [email] [website]
Details: Standalone | NC-17 | *slash* | 64k | 03/06/04
Characters: Tim, Dick, Dana, Jack, Bernard, others
Summary: There's a new Tim order.
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