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At last our starving eyes

by Te

[Story Headers]

At last our starving eyes
by Te
March 24, 2004

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers: For various storylines, in various books, from the post-Crisis Jason reboot through "Hush."

Summary: Tim makes a friend.

Ratings Note/Warnings: R. Content some readers may find disturbing.

Author's Note: Bunny from Reilael, who broke my brain and me like it.

Title from "An Exequy," by Peter Porter. At the end.

Acknowledgments: To Reilael, Weirdness Magnet, Jack, and Livia for audiencing and many helpful suggestions. Liv also pointed me to the right poem.

*

Sometimes, Tim thinks he's seen too much.

Which is a ridiculous thought on a number of levels, starting with 'well, of course,' and moving right through to... to. There is no pithy phrase for that sort of thing, really. For the fact that growing up, that seeing and knowing more, has made the world make less sense.

There are things out there that defy explanation, and reason.

And the dead find too many ways to walk.

On the other hand, there's a certain satisfaction to be found in the relative steadiness of his own heartbeat, and in the fact that he is no more afraid than he usually is.

Even now, with the too-familiar boy in the toofamiliar clothes...

"I was waiting for you," he says.

Jason smiles, and that's familiar, too. Dick's smirk, sharpened on Bruce's eyes. "Were you?"

There's no sound, but Tim was still a child when he learned how to read lips. "Yes. You... no one has forgotten."

Jason turns away, and for a moment the darkness of his hair fades into the darkness of the night, a shadow on shadows. When he looks back, the lenses on his mask are whiter than anything Tim has ever seen before. (Bleached bone, his mind suggests. His mind is a literalist.)

"What... what do you want?"

Jason's head jerks, and without sound, it takes a moment for Tim to realize that the ghost is laughing.

If it was a hallucination, he would've known right away. When Jason looks at him again, Tim can see the way the streetlights glint on the highlights of -- no, not highlights. His hair is wet from the evening's light snow -- no.

"What do you think?" Jason says.

And reaches out.

*

Tim opens his eyes in -- his eyes were already open. He's in an alley, and the metal shear stink of blood cuts through all of the other smells. Tim blinks, and looks around. The bodies on the ground are young and... breathing.

The gang tattoos suggest he's made it closer to the docks. That he...

His hands are sore, and he looks down to find the knuckles of his gauntlets half-shredded where they aren't simply stained.

He looks up to find Jason leaning against -- into -- against the opposite wall. There's something quieter in his smile.

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"Now I know why you use that stick so much, kid."

Tim raises the eyebrow a little higher.

Another jerking, silent laugh. "You look like Alfred."

"I do not." He probably does.

The shine on Jason's lenses is flat, right up until it isn't, and Tim realizes that his mind is trying to compensate for the lack of sound by giving the ghost expressions that shouldn't exist.

Curious.

"What are you thinking?"

"You don't know?"

Jason's shrug makes his mind hurt. The wall doesn't -- cannot look real with a body half-buried in it. A living -- not living --

Tim shakes his head, squeezing his eyes shut behind the mask for a moment. It's possible he isn't -- entirely -- coping. When he opens them again, Jason's smirk is predatory.

He steps away -- and out of -- the wall. "Better?"

"Yes. But."

Jason reaches toward his cape, and Tim flinches backward.

"Wait --"

"I just --"

Tim watches Jason's jaw work, muscle and... it doesn't look anything like skin. It's more like paper, or fabric, or... "You just what?"

"... different, you know?" Jason's smile is rueful. Tim wonders what his game face is like. Was like.

"I didn't catch... the first part of what you said. I have to read your lips."

Jason's eyes widen behind the mask. "I thought you could... you can't hear me?"

Tim shakes his head.

"But you see me. And..." Jason's brow furrows, and he reaches out again, more slowly.

"I don't --" Want to touch you again. "Where did I go?"

Jason laughs. "You tell me."

"Why -- how." Tim shakes his head again. He's still trying to make this make sense. It is, perhaps, the most difficult part of living in a world where people run at the speed of light and touch god. And where ghosts wear your clothes.

Vice versa. Whatever.

Tim swallows back what would, undoubtedly, be hysterical laughter.

Jason looks solemn. Calm in a way that... when Jason died, he was younger than Tim is now. His hair is tousled, and looks like it would be curlier than Dick's if he let it grow. His suit is painfully, blindingly bright. "I don't understand any of this," he says.

Tim nods.

"You..." When Jason smiles like that, he doesn't look young at all. "Thank you."

"I --"

A moan from somewhere else. From here, and Tim looks down to find one of the bangers stirring, sluggishly.

"You didn't tie them --" But he can't see Jason at all, anywhere.

Tim blinks, and pulls out the zip-strips.

*

Tim wakes up cold, and makes a conscious effort not to wonder what the nightmare was this time. It's enough that whatever it had been had let him sleep through it, even though he'd kicked off the --

He hadn't kicked off the covers.

He pauses, and carefully settles into his himself, into awareness of his surroundings, and... the door is closed, and so is the window.

He opens his eyes, and Jason is standing at the foot of the bed, looking around curiously.

"Uh."

Jason looks at him. "Is this where you live?"

Tim shifts his hands beneath the blankets, curling his fingers in until he feels the slight tear in the sheet from the first -- and last -- time he'd sat on his bed without thoroughly checking his pockets. "Yes."

"You had to check?"

"You'll forgive me if I'm having a slight difficulty being sure of reality just now."

"And you sound like Alfred."

"I." It's a defense mechanism. The more syllables he uses, the less most people listen. Tim forces himself not to look away, because he doesn't want to risk missing anything Jason might say.

Jason scrubs a hand through his hair, mussing it out of the double-curl thing that's probably been one of the most effective ways to keep people from ever being entirely sure how many Robins there have been.

The funny thing is that Jason's hair seems to want to do it naturally.

And Jason steps forward -- too close. Tim doesn't look down, because he doesn't want to see Jason's legs buried in his bed. It feels a lot like the cartoons he'd watched when he was a kind, when the Coyote was fine right up until he looked down, at which point he was thoroughly fucked.

If Tim looks at the bed, or at anything but the frustrated frown on Jason's face, he might start falling and never stop.

It's a four-thirty a.m. thought, and the familiarity is... comforting.

Jason looks at him again. "I can't quite get the hang of this... solid object thing."

"Maybe you're..." He's not actually going to say that.

"What?"

"No, it's... insane, actually." He wonders if his father thinks he talks in his sleep. Maybe he does. Maybe he and Dana are used to it. He reminds himself to whisper, anyway.

Jason eyes him incredulously. He has as little trouble being expressive with a mask on as Dick. "And this isn't?"

"You..." Aren't supposed to be coping with this better than I am. Or maybe he should be. "You have a point."

"So?"

"So maybe you just need to tell yourself that you're as solid as everything else. To... believe it."

Jason frowns. "That doesn't -- it never -- shit --" And whatever else he says is lost to flailing, silent motion, as Jason stumbles backward, muscles bulging and flexing in his bare thigh as he --

Tim looks down and feels his stomach lurch. The mattress dips under -- and around -- Jason's calf. The mattress is swallowing Jason, or trying to. He's lying on something that can swallow -- "You're dead. You're dead and you don't exist," and that was much too loud.

And Jason looks at him with a throat-tightening hurt, before it fades into a flickering mix of relief and comprehension.

But then he's gone, entirely.

The bed doesn't swallow Tim.

He eases out of it, anyway. He can...

He should do some reading. There's always more reading to do.

Maybe he can start sleeping on the floor.

*

Tim is at the heavy bag, Bruce holding it steady and staring at him with an open and nearly patient curiosity.

His knuckles are taped, but they're still incredibly sore. He'd hand to spend the vast majority of time at home with his hands shoved in his pockets.

For the past three days.

Still. Some things are necessary, for any number of reasons.

The uppercuts aren't as painful as the jabs. He switches to them to give himself time to recover.

"I trust you to let me know if you're injured," Bruce says, mildly.

The subtext: 'Tell me that you're injured before I do something horrifically mean-spirited to where you're pretending you're not injured.' Tim pauses. He's had time to consider how he might want to say this.

It's ridiculously tempting to be completely honest, in the way that having Bruce, for all of the stress it entails, is soothing -- because there is no one who knows him better.

At the same time... "I was trying a slightly different fighting style the other night."

"I gathered."

The subtext: 'I know exactly which of those gang members are still in the hospital, and for how long they'll be there.' Tim shrugs as absently as he can manage. "I rely on the staff too much."

"Mm."

The subtext: Entirely unknown. Tim considers steering the conversation into less dangerous territory, but goes back to jabbing -- carefully -- instead.

"I've been considering adding more armor to your gauntlets."

That'll be good, because Jason is going to want to use my body to beat the crap out of more people, and I can't say I won't let him. "Mm."

"There's... nothing wrong with your approach. Tim."

Tim raises an eyebrow at Bruce.

Bruce seems to be making an effort to beam Distant, Generalized Approval at him.

Tim smirks. "Thanks, Bruce."

He switches to kicks.

He can't say he's surprised to see Jason behind Bruce when he looks up again, but it's still... something.

The way he's looking at Bruce...

Had he really thought he'd have fewer questions over time?

"Tim?"

Tim blinks, and watches Jason blink at him. And look apologetic. Tim focuses on Bruce. "It's nothing."

Bruce looks nonplussed, and he doesn't even twitch when Jason touches his bare arm, tracing a scar that Bruce had gotten... during No Man's Land. Killer Croc, Tim wants to say, because Jason would know who that was, and it might seem less... strange.

"Really nothing, Bruce," he says, and looks the man in the eye for long enough to establish his rueful smirk before he looks away again. Too much direct eye-contact would just be out of character. "Just a weird moment of deja-vu." The movement at the edge of his vision is distracting and flickery. He doesn't look.

Bruce nods slowly. "If... if there is something. That you want to talk about."

Looking at Jason stare at Bruce with a weird mix of anger and confusion is almost the same as continuing his own habit of helping these touching little moments be as awkward -- and thus rare -- as possible. Almost. He looks at Bruce again, and makes it a promise. "I know, Bruce. I... will."

Just as soon as he gets a few more questions answered.

Or never.

*

Jason joins him on a rooftop of one of the cheap, new cracker-box-style apartments that not even Bruce Wayne had been able to keep from being built. Though Tim's willing to bet they're safer and sturdier than they would've been if Bruce hadn't kept a hand in. Tim doesn't like them much, and it has nothing much to do with aesthetics. They don't feel like Gotham buildings.

He forces himself to use them often, just the same. He can't really afford to avoid things just because they make him uncomfortable.

Icy touch on his shoulder, and Tim represses a shudder to find Jason -- almost -- touching his cape.

"It's different," he says, and Tim knows he isn't talking about the material. Or not just that.

"There was... there was an epidemic. And an earthquake. And --"

"An earthquake? Here?"

Tim nods. "Other things."

Jason shakes his head, frowning. "It... sometimes I... it's like waking up, you know?"

"Yes."

"And I would look around, and find myself in such strange places. So many..." Jason frowns more, and looks down at the street below for a long moment.

Tim waits.

When Jason looks up again, he's smiling ruefully. "It's hard to explain, but... it was like there was something trying to keep me from being me."

"Death?"

Jason twitches with what was probably a snort, and punches him, and --

Cold. So cold, and Tim holds on to the feeling reflexively, until it is a feeling again, and he's shivering, and he's... "Jason?"

"Uh."

Tim swallows, hard. He heard that, but when he looks around... he's alone on the roof. "Jason...?"

"I think... I think I'm inside you..."

"Oh. I. That's... new."

Jason snickers. That can't be anything but a snicker. His voice is deeper than Tim's, which, granted, isn't difficult, but...

Tim closes his eyes and looks.

Jason is crouched on top of a massive black pearl. It looks like something that should be in the Cave. He'd never realized it was so... much.

Jason knocks on it with his knuckles, a fast, flat tapping.

"Gonna retire the Robin suit and take up jewel heists?"

He sounds like a kid. Like... someone who plays nicely heterosexual sports and watches reality TV. Tim blinks.

"You know... I don't know your name."

"You're in my head."

Jason raises an eyebrow. "So I have permission to go wandering around, looking shit up?"

"I." Tim walks up to the pearl, craning his neck. "I can hear your voice."

Jason makes a small, strange sound that Tim can't immediately classify and slides down off the pearl, grabbing Tim's shoulder before he can step back with one hand, and covering his eyes with the other.

He doesn't feel cold at all.

"Say that again," Jason says, and... it's hunger. That's what hunger sounds like.

"I can hear your voice."

Jason's hand tightens hard around Tim's bicep. "Again."

"I can hear you, Jason. And feel you."

This close, he can feel Jason shake. "You don't... you don't know how long it's been."

"Three years."

Jason laughs, a cracked, unnatural sound even for its unfamiliarity. He slides his hand away from Tim's mask.

Tim blinks up at him. Not far up, but...

"Three years," Jason says, and smirks. "You don't know anything."

Tim breathes, and stares, and... there's a strange tapping between his shoulder blades, steady and irritating.

"What's that...?" And Jason looks back over his own shoulder, and Tim...

Opens his eyes and spins, reaching for his staff, and it's Batgirl.

Tim can see her face shifting behind the mask, but it's too dark to be able to guess at an expression. She cocks her head at him and steps back, spreading her arms, palm upward.

"What. The fuck," Jason says inside his head. Tim can feel Jason staring, making him stare. He barely manages not to move his lips.

Tim swallows. "Meditating... yeah. I was..." He plasters a rueful smile over the suspicious confusion Jason wants. "I guess I got a little too into it, Batgirl."

She nods at him, and makes a beckoning gesture.

Tim follows.

"That's not Barbara," Jason says.

"No shit," he thinks as firmly as he can while still following Batgirl's lead. "Now just... let me concentrate."

Jason snickers. "No prob, kid --"

I'm older than you -- and he stops, because.

He can feel Jason moving in him, like Tim had maybe swallowed the eye of a storm, and it's just... waiting.

"Jason --"

"Like I said. No problem. I think I'll just... look around."

Tim can feel Jason smiling, and he knows its on his own face. Batgirl gestures impatiently.

He goes.

After a while, it just feels like being... warm.

*

When he gets home, it's an effort not to rush to bed. He watches his father with Jason's eyes and his own. He makes a profound effort not to watch his step-mother.

Jason's apologies reek of insincerity, even mostly silent. Tim can feel them on his own face, and he's reasonably sure he's never stared quite that insouciantly at his dinner before.

He escapes with the excuse of homework.

He does his homework, and rolls his eyes at himself, and thinks about Steph. Thinks a lot about Steph, and he hadn't realized he'd collected quite so many memories of her... torso.

"Torso. You have got to be fucking kidding me, man."

Tim writes a short essay on the lead-in to the Great Depression.

"Where are you hiding the good stuff?"

He erases the word 'breasts' seventeen times.

"Un-fucking-believable. You've got a chick who's done everything short of stripping down and throwing herself at you -- wait. Who's she?"

Tim winces. Ariana. It didn't work out.

"Uh, huh. Are you gay? I can't actually tell."

Tim moves on to his Calculus homework. "Let me know if you figure it out."

*

The bed feels... crowded. Small.

Then again, it's better than having it feel like a soft, dry, hungry mouth.

"You've got some terrifying mental imagery there, Tim."

Like you don't.

Maybe he's the one who feels crowded. His is the only body on the bed. He hasn't been... there is...

"You're used to being alone," Jason says, quietly.

Yes.

"I was alone a lot when I was a kid, but..."

It was never anything you wanted.

"No."

What was it like? Living with Bruce.

"You lived with him, too."

It's true, but...

"I think..."

Tim feels himself frown, and knows it's Jason.

"Part of me feels like I've been trying to figure this out for longer than I was alive. The rest of me feels like this is the first time I've ever had the chance to think about it."

There's never time for thinking. Not about this.

"No, there isn't. And then a bunch of crazy people beat you to death, and there's really no time."

Tim feels himself smirking, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with what he's feeling. What...

"They had my mother. Joker, his goons. I thought... I thought she'd survive, you know. I didn't know she was dead until a few hours ago. It's in your head. A lot of things are."

I'm --

"Don't say it, man."

All right.

"It's just... she was sorry, too. At the end."

Cigarette smoke and a pretty woman with eyes like Jason's in Alfred's pictures. A pretty woman turning away from -- "Jesus," Tim thinks, and it takes a moment to realize he'd said that out loud. And there's just... he hadn't known, but it makes so much sense now, it -- she --

"Don't."

But --

"And your parents were perfect, right, Tim? The clearest memory you have of your mother is her back."

Fuck you.

Tim laughs, quietly. And then really laughs, and the feel of it... He closes his eyes and looks. Jason's sitting tailor-style on the big, soft couch from the second Young Justice headquarters. He pats the cushion beside him, and Tim joins him.

There's a faintly lingering smell of corn chips, and Bart flits across the farthest shadow, the mop of his hair massive and unruly as it hasn't been in a while. Jason watches him curiously, then gives him a wry look.

Tim raises an eyebrow.

"So, I'm thinking we've got mother issues," Jason says.

"And father issues."

Jason snickers again. "Life issues."

Tim smirks. "Death issues."

Jason smacks him with a pillow. "Speaking of issues."

"Yes?"

He pulls a remote control out of nowhere, and turns on a television that wasn't there a moment before. Tim looks at the screen...

And groans.

"Uh, huh," Jason says, as Dick flips and twists across the screen, over and over again. "I think I've got some theories about that sexuality question of yours."

Tim yanks the pillow out of Jason's hand and smacks him with it. "I was a kid."

"On a mission."

"Yeah, well..." He watches Dick do the quadruple somersault, one more time, and then turns back to match Jason's smirk with his own. "Worked, didn't it?"

"Oh...? So is there some secret little compartment of your brain that I missed while I was looking for the porn? And, by the way, I'm pretty sure other people's porn is easier to find."

"We could always send you around to possess random people until we're sure."

Jason blinks. "Possess... damn."

"It seriously hadn't occurred to you that that's what you're doing?"

"Well, to be honest? Fucking no, dude, that's creepy."

Tim smirks a little more and watches Dick smile at a television camera. "You're the restless ghost of my brutally murdered predecessor. I think 'creepy' is understating. A bit."

Jason snorts. "Yeah, and about that freaking decade you spent stalking Dick..."

Tim reaches over to grab the remote out of Jason's hand, and flips off the television. "I didn't say I minded the creepiness."

"No, you didn't," Jason says, and his tone is... soft.

Tim looks up just in time to see Jason reaching out, and his hand feels like anyone's on Tim's cheek. Except not, because Jason has a lot of the same calluses he does, and because not just anyone touches him like this. Tim watches Jason's face, and wonders what his eyes are like behind the mask now.

And blinks, because... in reality, somewhere outside and away from this, he's wearing pajama bottoms and a wristwatch. Here, he's in full uniform.

He hadn't even realized.

"What is it, Tim?"

"No, I..." He smiles at Jason, a little helplessly. "I think I'm having one of those moments where I'm realizing how fucked up my life is."

"I thought we weren't thinking about those."

"No, we're just not supposed to have time to think about them." Tim pulls away from the hand on his cheek, more than a little reluctantly, and thinks about brushing the frown from Jason's forehead.

Thinks about it too much.

Tim stares at his gauntleted hands, and wills them bare. "I just..." Why are you here? Why now? Why are we like this? He isn't surprised to see the gauntlets fade back in. "Have you thought about it?" He doesn't look up. "Why I'm the one who can sense you?"

"Uh... because you're Robin?"

"Just... just like that?" He looks over, and Jason shrugs.

"It makes as much sense as anything else. I can't touch any of the others, and I think sometimes Alfred thinks he sees me, but he's never sure, and..." Another shrug. "You're Robin."

"And so are you."

Jason smirks. "Until the day I die. Oh, wait."

"It doesn't -- I don't think it works that way. I'm not..." Robin. Not really, except that's the gauntlets are telling him that's the biggest lie he's ever nearly told. Still. "If it worked like that, then where's Dick?"

"You didn't know Dick when I did. And I don't... look, I'm not the thinking Robin, man. I just... I think Dick put a lot of time and effort into not being Robin."

And it's... a workable theory. If a disturbing one. "I don't want to think of myself as just Robin."

Jason unfolds his legs and leans back against the arm of the couch, kicking him not especially gently. "So who says you have to?"

"You don't think it's disturbing that Robin is apparently this huge, spiritual construct that reaches across time and space?"

Jason nudges Tim's thigh a little harder with his foot. "Hey, I died in the suit. It has to mean something, doesn't it?"

Tim plays with the toe of Jason's boot. There's steel under the ridiculous green pixie-ness, of course, and he knew that, but it's still reassuring to feel, in ways he doesn't especially want to examine. "Yeah," he says. "It does."

"Mm. So that's out of the way." Jason reaches over and takes the remote back, flipping on the TV again. "So. About Dick."

Tim jabs Jason hard in the ankle.

"We could talk about your girlfriend's torso, instead."

"It's a nice torso."

"Mm-hmm."

The television offers some rather choice images of the torso in question.

"Now would you classify your... appreciation of Miss Brown's torso as aesthetic or visceral?"

"Now you sound like Alfred."

"Alfred talks about your girlfriend's tits?"

The nice thing about apparently being unable to think himself out of the Robin suit is that he's heavily armed.

*

The alarm clock is a harsh, painful buzz and he slaps at it. And hears a distinct crunch. Whoops. Alfred is going to be --

Tim blinks awake and stares at the wreckage of the clock.

"Er."

That doesn't sound like 'sorry,' Jason.

"Oh, like you didn't want to do it."

I didn't want to do it with my bare hands. Tim picks a fragment of plastic out of the heel of his palm and sucks the blood away.

And licks it. Slowly.

I'm beginning to have a few theories about you, Jason.

"It's your fault. Do you have any idea how many shots of Dick's ass you have in your head?"

Shut up.

"Bending. Flexing. Inviting --"

Okay, it's Dick's fault. Stop making me make out with my own damned hand.

"It's a nice hand."

It's -- wrapped around him, and Jason -- Jason --

"You don't do it like this."

"No --" And Tim bites his lip and licks it, over and over, and Jason squeezes him hard --

"You should."

Oh fuck --

"I can't... I can feel you, and I can feel me --"

Jason --

"Come in here."

School --

"Then come in my hand."

My --

Mine.

Tim gasps and turns his face into the pillow, coming hard.

Jason pets him one more time, and brings his hand to Tim's mouth.

Blood and come.

"Mmm."

You're fucking twisted.

"You love it, schoolboy."

Tim snickers, helplessly, and drags himself out of bed and into a robe. At least he'd left himself time enough to shower.

"Naked, wet schoolboy. Hmm."

Tim bites back another snicker and stumbles out into the hall.

*

"Feeling extra mysterious today, Drake?" Bernard lounges against the locker next to his own.

Jason stares.

Tim raises an eyebrow. "Hmm?"

"You've been even quieter than usual, and frankly? 'Usual' is reminiscent of a tomb, dear boy."

"'Dear boy?' Did he seriously just --"

Tim smiles. "Just have a lot on my mind."

Bernard stares at him --

"At your mouth, Tim."

"Really...?" Bernard says. "Why don't you tell me all about it?"

"You do realize this kid wants you so bad he can taste it, don't you?"

Tim smiles a little wider, and watches Bernard blush, a little.

"A lot."

"Maybe later," Tim says, and closes his locker, heading for the exits.

"Er... later. Sure, Drake."

"He could be blowing us right now."

I have to go to school with him five days a week.

"He could be blowing us in the freaking locker room."

It's... an interesting image.

"Go with that thought."

I have things to do.

"People."

Things.

"Torso."

Patrol.

"... Blow-job."

Tim smirks. Semi-random acts of violence.

"I admit it, I'm weakening."

Blood-whore, Tim thinks, and licks the backs of his teeth.

"Don't knock it --"

I'm really not.

Jason grins on Tim's face.

It feels... good.

"You, too."

*

Though it was, perhaps, not the best idea ever to let Jason out to play on a night when his assigned territory was quite this close to Bruce's.

He watches from behind his eyes as best he can, and the new gauntlets ease the pain he'll be feeling whenever he gets something like full control back, but he can feel Bruce watching.

And he can feel Jason not feeling it, and there is no way in hell he's going to bring it up now.

Jason laughs with his voice and uses Tim's staff more like a club than anything else. A rather effective club, considering the fact that Tim's lost track of the number of bones he's heard snap.

Faintly mobbed-up thugs, by the look of them, though they must be out-of-towners, because a) Tim doesn't recognize them, and b) none of them are showing the slightest wariness about attacking a Robin in Gotham.

There's nothing to be done about it, though. Bruce is -- there. A flash of cape.

And Jason's kicking like he's still in the pixieboots, as opposed to -- another snap of bone.

And the last one is down.

Tim pulls himself forward as much as he can, pressing against the shapeless, difficult-tounderstand mass of self that is Jason. Kick that gun away.

"Wha...? He's unconscious."

Just do it. And quiet.

Why -- oh, shit.

Bruce is glaring down at him. Maybe you should let me do the talking, Tim thinks, but --

Too late. Bruce grabs his shoulder, and before Tim can even try to stop it, Jason knocks the hand away. "Off."

Tim watches Bruce's mouth fall open, slightly, and winces.

Whoops.

We are so fucked. We are --

Boned, Jason says, and then there's a flash of movement that makes no sense at all until Tim feels the back of his head bounce off a wall. Jason informs him that the reason why they're -- he's -- choking is that Bruce is holding him up by the neck.

"Who are you." Bat-voice.

Am I still letting you do the talking?

Probably for the best. Possibly. Tim forces in a breath. "Exactly. Who you think. We are, B --"

The attempt to use Bruce's name goes badly. He's going to have bruises on his neck. Jason is...

Are you turned on?

I'll tell you later, man. Fix this.

"Don't toy with me, boy. Or whatever you are."

"Okay. Why don't we skip to --" Tim gasps in a breath. Bruce lets him gasp in a breath. "The part where we find some mutually-agreed-upon way to prove it."

"That could be difficult." Bruce's smile is sharp.

Subtext... "Because too many of the wrong people know -- too much."

Tim... ask him how many people know about the time he bent me over the Batmobile.

Jesus fucking Christ --

Bruce squeezes again, and there are black flowers blooming at the edges of Tim's vision.

Just do it, Tim.

"The time. Over the Batmobile."

Bruce doesn't so much as flinch. "You're not making me less inclined to break you like a twig."

It was the first time --

"First time --"

He said he loved me.

"You said. You... loved me."

Bruce drops him like his hand is burning and backs off a step.

Tim does his best to keep his feet, but winds up dropping to his knees anyway, retching weakly. He manages to avoid puking on the unconscious criminals.

You take your victories where you find them, Jason says, and laughing just makes it worse.

And then there's an arm around Tim's waist and Bruce shoots off a grapple and takes them both up, ignoring the pile of bodies on the ground.

Try not to puke on Bruce.

Fuck you. He doesn't puke on Bruce.

Bruce sets them down on a rooftop, and sets Tim down, forcing him to sit and crouching in front of them. His hands are on Tim's face, and the gauntlets are gentle and cool and wrong.

"Jay..." That's no one's voice but Bruce's.

"Not... entirely."

The hands firm, squeezing a little. Better. "How."

"He's... in me."

"Now."

Tim swallows bile and winces at the soreness of his throat. "Yes."

And Bruce... pets him.

He used to do it all the time.

You're not helping, Jason.

"Jay," Bruce says again, and it's something between a command and a plea.

This is too fucked-up. Even for me. I can't --

Tim... go to sleep.

What? But I'm not --

*

Tim wakes up in an entirely wrong bed, sore and... sore. What the --

He wakes up alone. And cold, and he looks up to see Jason perched on the window-sill, hands over his face. The manor. Bruce's bedroom. And...

"Jason."

It shouldn't be possible to see a ghost tense.

At the very least, it shouldn't be this satisfying. "Where's Bruce?"

Jason looks up. "Showering, I think. Or brooding. Maybe both." Nothing but air and the motion of his lips. "Tim --"

"What the fuck did you do?"

"I... didn't think you'd want the details."

"So you fucking put me to sleep?"

"I couldn't... he... he could see me, Tim --"

Tim pushes the covers off and gets out of the bed, and he's... naked and --

He stalks over to the window. He limps over to the window, shivering at the cold.

"You used me."

"You don't know how long it is when you're dead, Tim. You don't --"

The door opens, and Bruce walks in, wearing a robe and probably nothing else. The faint smile on his face fades quickly.

That's satisfying, too.

"Tim."

"Clothes. Now."

Bruce nods, and steps back out through the door.

It's no colder than it should be considering his nakedness. And the sweat.

Jason is gone.

When Bruce returns, he's carrying some of Tim's extra street clothes from the Cave. He turns his back, and doesn't say a word until Tim is fully dressed, jacket zipped up to the neck. Tim knows it isn't that chilly outside.

"Tim..."

"There's nothing you can say. Don't try."

Tim walks out, and heads down the stairs. He feels Alfred's eyes on him as he passes through the study, but he doesn't pause.

He checks the time by the moon. If he books, he can be home in time to 'wake up' for school.

Fucking. Joy.

*

He doesn't, actually, get to school.

"Dana" called Tim Drake in sick from the pay phone closest to the third stop after his house. There are a lot of reasons.

Far too many of them have to do with the fact that the idea of eight hours in wooden chairs feels a little too much like the sort of torture he usually saves for marathon crime-fighting sessions.

Far too many of them have to do with the fact that school had looked... better through Jason's eyes.

Tim sits -- carefully -- on a park bench and glares at ducks.

The ducks, being Gothamites, glare right back.

He has no idea what he's supposed to do with... any of it.

And he isn't remotely surprised when the weather in his immediate vicinity turns bitter cold.

The ducks scatter. Interesting.

He turns to find Jason looking at him, obviously upset even through the mask. Around it. Whatever. "What."

Jason looks down, then up again. "... find you here."

"I cut school. You're a great influence."

"I'm sorry."

"For pimping my ass to Bruce. That's nice."

Jason shakes his head. "I'm sorry that it wasn't... about you. I'm sorry that I needed it. I'm sorry --"

"Stop."

Jason looks down again, and Tim goes back to staring at the lake. He wraps his arms around himself because he's cold.

Because he's...

He feels... something, and turns to find Jason just sitting there, arms wrapped around his knees.

"I thought I could trust you. I did trust you. With -- everything."

"I know," Jason mouths. "I didn't... he doesn't know anything about you that he didn't know before."

"That isn't --" The problem.

Jason smiles at him, ruefully. "I liked being in your head, Tim. You're nothing like anyone I've ever met."

Subtext: Don't try to lie. Tim sighs and pulls a bottle cap out of his pocket and skips it across the surface of the lake.

Watches it sink, and watches the ripples spread and fade. Jason is still looking at him.

"Do you love him?"

"I don't know. I never did. He was... I never had time to figure out if I wanted him to be my father, or my partner, or... something else. And in the meantime..."

"He was everything."

Jason nods.

"He... he isn't."

"Not for you."

Tim stares at his hands. They look like poorly tenderized meat. He doesn't fold them under his arms. "Is that why you liked being in my head? Because there was... space?"

"That was one of the reasons. There are... I mean..." Jason stares down at the ground.

"I can't... see what you're saying."

Jason moves beside him -- laughs -- before looking up again. "Maybe I don't want you to."

Tim breathes. And thinks about it. "You didn't have... friends. When you were alive."

"No. Not like you."

Tim blinks. "Not like... that's fucked-up, Jason."

Jason's smile is an invitation. "So what else is new?"

"I... can't imagine what... you must think I'm the whiniest bitch on the planet."

"I think you're a freak, actually. It works on you. I'd punch you now, but, well..."

"You probably should punch me. You --"

"Tim. None of this is your fault, okay?"

"But --"

Jason smirks. "The more you blame yourself, the more I think about Bruce."

Tim chokes on a laugh. "Sometimes I wonder. There are... there are so many people who know Batman, and when they meet me..."

"You're a lot like him."

"Yeah."

"But also completely different."

"Yeah?"

Jason nods solemnly. "I'm pretty sure his obsessive mental organization system is completely different from yours."

"Oh, fuck you."

"He probably has better porn, too."

Tim smirks. "Yeah, well. Your ass."

"And yours."

"Probably Dick's."

Tim snickers. "God, that's wrong."

"Again, I say --"

"What else is new. Yeah. I get it. I..." He stares at his hands again. "Jason." He reaches out and shudders hard, and it hurts, it hurts, and Tim holds on and --

"Fucking ow, dude."

Your fault.

"Bruce's fault."

Yeah. You just... go ahead and not share.

Jason laughs in his head, and in his body, and everywhere else.

I missed you.

"Ditto. Tim..."

Yeah.

"I think we're probably pretty sad."

Tim's lips move into a rueful smile. He isn't sure which of them it belongs to.

"Does it matter?"

It probably should.

"Subtext: 'no.'"

Tim grins, and rests his head against the back of the bench. The ducks remain absent.

"You're pretty much going to make Bruce suffer for this as much as humanly possible, aren't you?"

Problem with that?

"Lemme think -- no."

Tim snorts.

"But I totally get to grope your girlfriend."

Bernard.

"Miss Brown."

Blow-job.

"Torso."

Dick.

"... and Bernard."

Deal. And Tim sinks back behind his eyes, and watches Jason stare at the lake.

"It's pretty. I'd forgotten."

Me, too, Tim says, and Jason wraps his arms around them.

Tim squeezes.

end.

In wet May, in the months of change,
In a country you wouldn't visit, strange Dreams pursue me in my sleep,
Black creatures of the upper deep--
Though you are five months dead, I see
You in guilt's iconography,
Dear Wife, lost beast, beleaguered child, The stranded monster with the mild
Appearance, whom small waves tease,
(Andromeda upon her knees
In orthodox deliverance)
And you alone of pure substance,
The unformed form of life, the earth
Which Piero's brushes brought to birth
For all to greet as myth, a thing
Out of the box of imagining.
This introduction serves to sing
Your mortal death as Bishop King
Once hymned in tetrametric rhyme
His young wife, lost before her time;
Though he lived on for many years
His poem each day fed new tears
To that unreaching spot, her grave,
His lines a baroque architrave
The sunday poor with bottled flowers
Would by-pass in their mourning hours,
Esteeming ragged natural life
("most dearly loved, most gentle wife"), Yet, looking back when at the gate
And seeing grief in formal state
Upon a sculpted angel group,
Were glad that men of god could stoop
To give the dead a public stance
And freeze them in their mortal dance.

The words and faces proper to
My misery are private--you
Would never share your heart with those Whose only talent's to suppose,
Nor from your final childish bed
Raise a remote confessing head--
The channels of our lives are blocked,
The hand is stopped upon the clock,
No one can say why hearts will break
And marriages are all opaque:
A map of loss, some posted cards,
The living house reduced to shards,
The abstract hell of memory,
The pointlessness of poetry--
These are the instances which tell
Of something which I know full well,
I owe a death to you--one day
The time will come for me to pay
When your slim shape from photographs
Stands at my door and gently asks
If I have any work to do
Or will I come to bed with you.
O scala enigmatica,
I'll climb up to that attic where
The curtain of your life was drawn
Some time between despair and dawn--
I'll never know with what halt steps
You mounted to this plain eclipse
But each stair now will station me
A black responsibility
And point me to that shut-down room,
"This be your due appointed tomb."

I think of us in Italy:
Gin-and-chianti-fuelled, we
Move in a trance through Paradise,
Feeding at last our starving eyes,
Two people of the English blindness
Doing each masterpiece the kindness
Of discovering it--from Baldovinetti
To Venice's most obscure jetty.
A true unfortunate traveller, I
Depend upon your nurse's eye
To pick the altars where no Grinner
Puts us off our tourists' dinner
And in hotels to bandy words
With Genevan girls and talking birds,
To wear your feet out following me
To night's end and true amity,
And call my rational fear of flying
A paradigm of Holy Dying--
And, oh my love, I wish you were
Once more with me, at night somewhere
In narrow streets applauding wines,
The moon above the Apennines
As large as logic and the stars,
Most middle-aged of avatars,
As bright as when they shone for truth
Upon untried and avid youth.

The rooms and days we wandered through
Shrink in my mind to one--there you
Lie quite absorbed by peace--the calm
Which life could not provide is balm
In death. Unseen by me, you look
Past bed and stairs and half-read book
Eternally upon your home,
The end of pain, the left alone.
I have no friend, or intercessor,
No psychopomp or true confessor
But only you who know my heart
In every cramped and devious part--
Then take my hand and lead me out,
The sky is overcast by doubt,
The time has come, I listen for
Your words of comfort at the door,
O guide me through the shoals of fear-- "Furchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir."

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Fandom:  Batman
Title:  At last our starving eyes
Author:  Te   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  R  |  het *slash*  |  41k  |  03/25/04
Characters:  Tim, Jason, Bruce, others.
Pairings:  Tim/Jason, Bruce/Jason, others.
Summary:  Tim makes a friend.

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