The Glass Onion Text too small or too big? You can change it! Ctrl+ (bigger), Ctrl- (smaller)
or click on View in your browser and look for font or text size settings.

Home/Quicksearch  +   Random  +   Upload  +   Search  +   Contact  +   GO List

And you alone of pure substance

by Te

[Story Headers]

And you alone of pure substance
by Te
May 19, 2004

Disclaimers: If they were mine, I'd have a lot more money and a few less issues.

Spoilers: Various storylines from various titles, mostly old. Spoilers of varying intensity up through Teen Titans #11.

Summary: Tim and Jason miscalculate.

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

Author's Note: Part of a series tentatively called The Living Dead. Takes place about a week after the events of "At last our starving eyes" and "You who know my heart."

Title, again, from "An Exequy," by Peter Porter.

Acknowledgments: Never would've gotten off the ground without the help of the deliciouscrack crew, especially LC and the Jack.

*

Tim can smell Steph's sweat when she reaches up to push back her cowl and mask.

It's not a new thing -- he's used to using his senses to catalog every piece of input he possibly can at all times -- but it feels different.

He knows why.

"Christ, she's hot." Jason's voice is sincerely approving in his mind, and Tim checks himself to find -- yes. He's definitely staring. The color is high in her cheeks. He wonders why any woman ever bothers with makeup.

Blush could never look that beautiful. That --

"Sexy, dude."

He looks away and smiles at the roof, and listens to Steph breathing hard. Not very. It had been a heavy patrol even before Steph had joined them, and it didn't get lighter, but Steph's in better shape every time he sees her.

"I'll say. Fucking A, Tim, what --"

"Tim?"

He looks up again, and Steph is looking... expectant?

"Tim, man, she so wants you to kiss her."

One of the skills he's developed recently is the ability to snort solely within his own mind. "What's up, Steph?"

Steph rolls her eyes, and smiles a small and oddly secretive kind of smile. Like there's a voice giving running commentary in her mind.

"Yeah, and it's telling her what a freak you are, Tim --"

"Is something... are you okay, Steph?"

"What?" Steph blinks. Her eyes are blue and clear. "Oh, no, I'm just... well. I was thinking..."

Tim waits, patiently, and watches Steph's mouth twist into a different sort of smile. A knowing smile, really, and --

"Are you just not getting how much she wants you, dude? You know she's been watching you all night."

Watching you. Us. For some of it.

"Heh," Jason says, and fills his mind with a memory of the spin-kick they'd used on the armed robber, the spray of blood from a mouth full of broken teeth.

Tim shivers and focuses and... Steph's closer now.

"I really love it when we can patrol together, Tim."

"Me, too. It's different when you have someone to watch your back."

"Dude," Jason says, "one day she's going to shoot you in the head, and you're just not going to have any idea why."

Steph tilts her head at him. The tilt of her eyes is on nearly the exact opposite angle. There are a few wisps of hair plastered to her forehead with sweat. He wants to --

"Lick them. Definitely --"

"Tim..." Steph reaches out, and cups his shoulder with her hand and...

It's possible Jason has a point.

Steph licks her lips and Tim leans in --

"Fucking finally --"

Her mouth is soft, and she tastes like the Zesti-Ade Tim had bought for them both from the
convenience store they'd rescued. Not sweet enough, not tart enough, just --

"Mmm," Jason says. And Steph says.

"Steph," Tim whispers against her mouth, and she's right there, pressed against him. Her breasts are even softer than her mouth, warm and sweet even through the tunic armor.

Tim wraps an arm around her waist and kisses her a little harder, and --

"Fuck, more, dude --"

Do you have any idea how disturbing this is?

Jason's laugh makes Tim's mouth open wider, and Steph makes a brief, quiet noise and slips her tongue in. Tim feels it all the way down, and feels it more when Steph licks his tongue. And makes his own noise when Steph bites his lip.

Steph pulls back and bites her own lip. "Is this... I mean..."

"Hell yes, it's all right," Jason says, and Tim can't say he disagrees. And maybe it's on his face, because there's a sharper, harder light in Steph's eyes and she slides the hand from Tim's shoulder into his hair.

"Steph --"

"Mm-hmm," she says, and pulls Tim into another kiss, sucking his tongue and licking him and biting him and suddenly they're backed against the roof-access door. Steph's backed up, and she's got one hand in his hair and the other on his ass.

"Tim, dude, now is not the time to panic."

I haven't. We haven't --

"I know. Look. Just..."

And there's the feeling, the warm hot rush of Jason coming forward, of completion, and he's right there, and Tim's right there, and Jason moves Tim's hands to cup Steph's face and the kiss is so much deeper now, so much --

"Better, it's -- "

Deeper, and Steph moans into his mouth and squeezes his ass and Tim wants to jerk at that, or he thinks he does, but Jason just rocks his hips forward, against her, and Steph moans even louder.

Tim's face feels hot. His body feels hot, and he feels himself taking it all in, noting it, remembering it -- the taste of her, the feel and sound and reality of her, that she's his girlfriend, that she wants this from him, and the curved perfection of her breast against his palm --

Fuck, Jason --

"Watch," Jason says, and pulls them out of the kiss.

Steph is even more flushed now, mouth open and eyes shining, and while he watches she lets her head fall back.

And pushes into his hand.

"Oh God," and that was out loud. But Steph just giggles breathlessly and --

He can feel her nipple hardening against his palm, even through --

"The gauntlet has to go, Tim," and Jason sounds breathless, too, even in his head.

What --

But Jason is already moving his hand, up to Tim's mouth. He feels himself pulling it off with his teeth, and then Jason jerks his head and the gauntlet goes flying and one of them moves Tim's hand back --

"Where it belongs, dude."

"You like that, Tim?" Steph is smiling again, teasing.

"Answer her. Tell her how it feels. Tell her --"

"You feel so good, Steph..."

And Steph makes a humming noise and
thrusts against him -- "So do you."

"Fucking A. I'd say 'I told you so,' but man, I'm busy."

And Jason makes them kiss her again, tugging her suit aside so he can kiss her throat. Saltier there, hotter --

"Oh, Tim..."

He doesn't have anything to say to that, and he's pretty sure Jason doesn't have any suggestions at the moment. They're moving his hips, rocking against her, and he'd think the armor would make it uncomfortable, but Steph's whimper doesn't sound anything like stop.

Steph whimper sounds like --

"Sex."

Yes, he thinks, yes, and pushes one hand into her hair and pulls her away from the door enough to slide his hand down her back. Muscular, subtly curved, and he means to pause at the small of her back, but she pushes and Jason pushes, and her ass feels so good that he has to moan against her throat.

"Oh -- oh --"

Yes, absolutely, and Steph shifts, bending one leg up and nudging at his hip with her knee and now she's grinding against him, like this is just as good for her as it is for him, even though they're both suited up and --

"So good --"

He isn't sure who says it. He licks his way up her throat, back to her mouth, and slides his tongue in and gets it sucked on again and he thrusts hard against her, or Jason does, and someone says it doesn't matter and someone agrees, and he can't stop. He absolutely can't stop.

Steph's makes this sharp, high grunting sound with every thrust and tightens her hand in his hair and rakes her nails up over his ass and --

"I want you, God I want you," Jason says, or maybe he does, and Steph bucks so hard Tim nearly stumbles, and shakes in his arms and --

"She's coming --"

Jason, she's totally -- "Oh God, Steph," and Tim knows that was him, and it doesn't feel like it matters, either.

Her moans aren't rhythmic at all anymore, and Tim hitches her up against the door and thrusts and Jason bites Steph's throat and he really, really doesn't want to come in his tights, except for how there's nothing he wants to do more right now than shoot off, right here, in the night, with Steph pulling his hair out by the roots and Jason fucking --

Oh God, Jason's fucking him, too.

Tim comes jerking, nearly spastic with it, and Jason's laughing in his head, and Tim has no idea what his moans sound like.

"You kinky bastard," Jason says.

"Mmm. Tim."

"I... uh. Steph..."

Steph laughs, and it's a different kind of breathless. She lowers her leg and slips her hand out of his hair and down to his shoulder again, and pushes.

But she doesn't let Tim get far, either.

Tell me you have suggestions for what you say after you've randomly had sex with a girl on a roof in the middle of the night.

"First off, man, it's not random when it's your smokin' hot girlfriend, and secondly... no."

Right, Tim says, and watches Steph watching him. "Um... are you... are you okay?"

Steph looks at him like he's crazy.

"Er..."

And snickers at him. "You know... I totally didn't think we'd ever do more than kiss. What brought this on?"

"Oh, dude, I know this one. Tell her she looked hot. Really, really hot."

"Well, I... you looked so beautiful. You... your cheeks were flushed and. I. Um. I just wanted... um."

He feels like an absolute dumbass, but Steph looks at him like he'd said the most perfect thing ever, like she wants to hug him and not let go.

"I..." He moves, awkwardly, and Steph does, too, and they bump noses when they kiss. And Steph laughs and reaches up and tilts his head into a better position, and this kiss is much better.

"Sweeter, anyway," Jason says, and Tim ignores him and goes with it until Steph makes a slow, happy humming sound and
pulls away.

The moon tells him that it's late, and that he needs to get the bike back to the Cave before he heads home, and --

"Yeah," Steph says. "How come it always feels harder to go home than it does to go out on patrol?"

Tim smiles ruefully. "I don't know."

"Mm. Well. I have to go see my aunt with my mom tomorrow night, can we... oh, wait, you'll be headed out to the Tower, right?"

For a second, it's almost horrifying. They'd just -- and he won't see her again until Monday.

Steph laughs again, and pokes him on the nose. "I think I could get used to seeing that look on your face, Boy Wonder."

"Dude," Jason says, and laughs so hard that it's all he can do not to do more than smile, a little.

"I... uh..."

Steph shoves him back, only telegraphing a little, and heads toward the edge of the roof, smirking back at him over his shoulder. "Later, boyfriend."

He watches her shoot her line and swing, and... yeah. Cave, then home. He can feel Jason... not moving. He can feel Jason watching him, even though the image of that is impossible on enough levels that it makes his mind hurt.

What?

"I just... dude. You seriously just lost your virginity, and shoved it out of your mind within seconds."

And? It's late, Jason.

"I... no. Just no." And Jason pushes forward again, hard and fast this time, enough that Tim feels his -- their -- his knees buckle.

Jason --

"No, go with it this time," he says, and shoves Tim down to his knees on the roof. He --

I feel --

"Sweaty. Sticky. There's come in your
shorts --"

God, I have to change --

"Yeah, pretty soon, but it's still warm right now. Still sticky and hot --"

Fuck, Jason --

"Exactly. You fucked her. You had her. The clothes were still on, but..."

The sound of her whimpering, the sound of Steph moaning his name --

"God, yes. And how she felt. How bad she wanted it --"

She would've done anything, for a while there. He -- they could've --

"Done anything. Because you made her feel that good. That hot."

Both of us --

"All of us. You liked it when I was
controlling you. I could feel it. I could --"

Hard again. I don't want --

"This is what sex is. This is what it does," Jason says, and yanks the tunic up and shoves the tights and shorts down, pushing Tim's jock aside and --"

Jason --

"My hands on you. My hands making you
touch her, making you --"

I pinched her nipple. I don't -- I didn't even realize --

"How much she loved it. Just like you love this," Jason says, and strokes Tim so hard that he has to moan.

Jason. Jason --

"You can't deny this. You can't push it aside so you can get work done. You can't just --"

Tim can't feel his hand. He can only feel his dick, and then it's the other way around and --

"I can't -- fuck, do me, Tim --"

Tim shoves his other hand into his mouth to keep Jason from groaning too loud, to keep himself...

"Tim. Tim --"

You feel so good.

"We do, oh fuck don't stop --"

You and Bruce.

"Yes. Yes. This is -- please, Tim --"

This is why, he thinks, and bites Jason's hand and moans and jerks them off, fast and hard --

"You need it, too."

Oh fuck, yes, and there's something obscene and hot and fucked-up and hot about the sight of his own come arcing up and out --

"Money --"

Shot.

Tim snorts and pants and laughs until it's only him laughing. Or both of them. He's not sure. It's... way past time to head back.

He frowns at his jock. Maybe if he just uses his belt-knife to cut it off and trashes the thing, the trip home will be less disgusting.

*

It is, but it also makes the motorcycle ride more interesting than he's used to. Although, as object lessons in just how much of a difference an armored jock makes, it really could've been a lot worse. He parks the bike and stretches.

These days, every smirk feels like it's on his face, feels real, whether or not it actually is.

It's possible that he's tired.

"You stud," Jason says with a quiet kind of smirk.

Asshole, he thinks, and this time the smile is definitely on his face. Right up until he feels the depth of the shadow between the parking area and the garage.

Bruce, stepping forward into the light.

He shoves, reflexively, but Jason is already pretty far back.

"It's not his fault, you know."

I know. And you said you wouldn't bug me about this.

"It's been --"

Not long enough.

"You should --"

Shut up, he says, and for a second he can't tell whether it was out loud or not. He looks at Bruce, but his expression hasn't changed. Bleak and grim and needy, like Tim is something -- no. Like he has something Bruce wants.

He knows he does.

"And you know that isn't all of it. You can't lie to me."

Tim crosses his arms over his chest and watches Bruce take a slow, cautious step forward. And stop again.

The bats scream and flap above them. He really needs to get back home.

"I want --"

I know. And he does. He really... he just... he listens to the particular not-quite-silence of Bruce breathing. And hears it deepen and... pause. Before starting again. And... there was no way Bruce wouldn't know. He could
probably tell by the drape of his fucking tights.

He feels Jason moving, feels Jason feeling, and feels it, too.

"Dammit, Tim, what makes you think he doesn't love you, too?"

That isn't the problem.

Jason's pause is as palpable as everything else. The faint chill of the Cave, the presence of Bruce. Right there. Knowing.

Of Jay, and of himself, also knowing. There are a lot of things he can't not know anymore. That neither of them can.

He forces himself to look up, and Bruce's look is searching.

"He wants to know who it was."

And whether it was me, you, or both of us.

Jason's snort is humorless. "He could probably tell exactly what we did if he got a little closer."

You want him to.

"You wouldn't mind. Not really."

He feels... he isn't sure if it's Jason or not, not really. It's something moving in him,
something shifting, something feeling. He clamps down on it hard. "I... not yet," he says aloud.

Bruce's breath is almost a sigh. "All right. I. Tim."

Yeah. Me.

Tim nods jerkily and heads out of the Cave again, on foot, sinking back so far into himself that Jason has to take over.

Jason likes to run in the night, anyway.

*

Tim hates eating in the cafeteria. It's almost impossible to get a seat where he can keep his back to the wall, it's ridiculously loud, and the stink of bad food and insufficiently bathed teenager is...

Wild, strange. Not familiar enough. He'd gone to private school when he lived with Bruce. He -- no. Jason had. Tim closes his eyes and thinks back with Jason, to when his mother had still been alive and his father hadn't been a complete shit, and he'd been... really young.

Jell-o with every damned lunch. Baked beans far too often not to be some sort of conspiracy of --

Methane collection, Tim thinks, and ducks his head so Jason's soft laugh can make him smile.

He hears the clatter of the tray hitting the table before anything else registers, and frowns. Too much sensory input. He should've at least been able to pick out Bernard's particular way of moving.

"Bad Robin," Jason says. "No cookie."

"Something amusing, Drake? Do share. Lighten my drab existence."

Bernard leans back in the rickety plastic chair and crosses his legs, crosses one arm over his chest and cups the elbow of the other, resting one finger against his cheek.

Posing. Flirting. He doesn't need Jason to say it. It's... he's not sure how he didn't see it, really. "Just thinking," he says.

It's just like everything else. How to watch some thug so you could predict whether he'll pull a knife or try to punch you. How to look at a gargoyle so you'd know whether or not it could handle a grapple.

How to look at the boy sitting across from you, and see that the sardonic arch of his eyebrow is meant, consciously or not, to draw your attention from the way he's watching, and wanting.

"Waiting," Jason says, and yeah, that, too.

And... well. What about it? Why shouldn't he just lean in a little, reach out and hesitate just for a moment before grabbing the apple off Bernard's tray.

Unsubtle, sure, but he's learning. And the apple is actually the best thing this cafeteria has to offer, unmistakable taste of pesticides or no.

"I don't recall offering to share my lunch with you, Drake."

A twist of the mouth to hide the quick, nearly hallucinatory way the tip of Bernard's tongue had slipped between his lips. Tim swallows his bite of apple. "But you're doing it already." He gestures at the table, their trays. "Metaphorically."

"It's too early in the day for semantics, darling." Dry, quelling. Except for the rising color in Bernard's cheeks.

"It's after noon," he says, and takes another bite.

Bernard's hand doesn't shake when he picks up his carton of milk. "Nothing interesting happens until at least three o'clock."

He swallows again. "I think I disagree," he says. The smirk feels warm and solid on his face. He could make Bernard's hands shake. And he -- blinks. That wasn't... he isn't...

Jason's snort in his mind is strangely faint, but his voice is clear enough. "It isn't my dick that's getting hard for this game, Timmy."

Don't call me that.

"Right. I think I'll just... watch."

There's a lot to see. Bernard's staring at his mouth again, and then he isn't. He's drinking his milk, head tilted back and throat working obviously. Daringly.

Jason had said, more than once, how badly Bernard wanted to suck him off, but watching this little show isn't like remembering at all. It's like feeling it, like knowing it.

Dammit, Jason. This isn't my fault.

He's lying of course, and he doesn't need Jason to tell him that. And he supposes he could do worse than having Jason's kinks.

He could have Bruce's.

Tim can't quite keep himself from smiling. It's that or start screaming. That's a lie, too.

Bernard puts the carton down, empty, and licks his lips. "What are you thinking about, hmm?"

"Sex," and it doesn't really matter which one of them said it. What matters is that it was out loud.

He watches Bernard's eyes widen. They're almost the same blue as Steph's, but the tilt is more pronounced. Part of him is considering asking about Bernard's background. Part of him just wants to see what the perfect fall of Bernard's hair will become if he makes him sweat.

Makes him shake, and need, and Tim knows exactly what's on his face, because it makes Bernard's eyes get even wider.

He feels himself studying the boy, raking his eyes over him and cataloguing. Checking. Bernard's shirts aren't tight, but the way he's breathing is obvious.

And the way he's tightened his grip on his own knee is even more so.

"Tim...?"

"Mm," he says, putting a half-absent note in his voice. He knows what that brand of
non-committal-ness does to Bernard, he knows how it makes him curious, hungry, just like he'd always known, on some level, what it meant when Steph's lips stayed parted a little too long after a laugh. It's sex. And everything --

"We can do," Jason whispers.

Yeah. He makes a show of focusing, of looking away from the pound of Bernard's pulse in his throat and into his eyes again. "Let's go."

Bernard's nod is a little jerky, but he stands up smoothly. He doesn't get his backpack in front of him fast enough to hide the outline of his erection from Tim's eyes.

But then, he wasn't really trying, was he?

Tim smiles to himself and follows. And maybe this is strange, and it definitely isn't him -- he knows this, even though Jason is so faint. It's not him, but who the fuck is he, anyway?

He's a weapon and a database, a poor man's detective and a symbol -- a good symbol, but a symbol just the same. It's past time for him to have more than that. For him to have this, this touch, this connection, this heat all through him, this thrill of wrong as he walks halls half-emptied by the lunch hour, following a boy who can taste this just as much as he can.

Bernard pauses in front of a door. The boiler room. He doesn't quite look back at Tim over his shoulder, and then he does. His laugh is faintly nervous, but honest. "I always thought I'd have a bit more class than this."

"Tell him --"

It's less a voice than a feeling, and Jason's pushing it all right into him, anyway. Or something is. "It's a tradition," he says, smiling. "Right...?"

Bernard snorts. "Far be it from me to denigrate tradition." And he slips inside.

Tim checks his perimeter, and -- there. Mr. Emory slips out of his classroom and shuffles down the hallway. Much too slow. Tim clenches his fist at his side and waits. Waits.

Finally.

He slips in and pulls the door shut behind him. The only light is a bare yellow bulb, dim and sickly. It heightens the sallow lack of certainty on Bernard's face, and Tim gets that, too, now.

How scared Bernard is of his own hunger. How much he wants this, and every image in his head while Tim had been outside the door had to have been of humiliation, and bad, cruel jokes.

"I understand," Tim says, because that's sex, too -- or it can be, if you're too much of an idiot to take the alternative. And Bernard looks confused for a second, but when Tim cups his cheek, his eyes flutter closed and he tastes like milk and the clove cigarettes he sneaks every day after gym class.

Tim licks Bernard's tongue the way Steph had licked his, and Bernard's mouth falls open on a hot, desperate little gasp that makes Tim want more, now.

All the walls are lined with shelving, so he spins Bernard around just a little too easily for what Tim Drake should be able to do, and pushes him against the door, instead. Holds him there with one hand on his shoulder and the other between them, splayed flat on Bernard's chest.

The feel of his heartbeat against Tim's palm is almost as good as the choked-off whimpers.

Trying to hide it from him, trying to --

"Let it out," he says. "I want to hear it. It's sexy --"

"Oh, God, Tim --"

And for a moment it's strange to hear his name in that raggedly musical tenor, and he kind of wants to know why, but mostly he just wants to shove Bernard a little harder, feel him.

Tim pulls back enough to unbutton Bernard's over-shirt and strokes his chest through the t-shirt. Lean, no more muscle than any reasonably healthy sixteen year old should have.

His nipples are hard, harder when Tim pinches them, and Bernard's eyes are wide, pupils blown with lust.

"You want this," he says, just to hear the sound of it in his own voice. It's a little perfect and it's a little scary, and Tim knows Jason had never done something quite like this.

"You... Tim --"

Again the strangeness, and it makes his dick flex in his jeans, makes him want to be naked, and to watch Bernard strip for him and -- fuck, everything. He twists Bernard's nipples again and he throws his head back just like Steph. And... laughs.

"I knew you'd be -- God -- a control freak --"

It shocks a laugh out of him, and that feels good, too, but it also takes out some of the urgency.

Some.

He strokes his way up to Bernard's throat, not squeezing or anything, just feeling for his pulse. For the rapid, strong beat of it. Alive, and he wants to feel it with his mouth, and -- yes. With his tongue.

Bernard threads his hands into Tim's hair and holds him close, and Tim presses him a little harder against the door, riding his panting breaths.

"Please," Bernard says, and Tim sucks,
reminding himself not to do it too hard, and then reminding himself that Bernard has a collar on his over-shirt.

A little sweat. The faint sting and tang of cologne. Scent of sex and skin and pretty, easy male, and Tim hears himself growling and needs to bite. And when he does, Bernard just...

Gives it up, he thinks, or feels, or both. Loose-limbed wanting and he's going to have to put a hand over Bernard's mouth if he moans any louder. The bite. Animal, primal -- there's a lot of psychology for this. And a lot for his own reaction, the sudden, real need to hold him, to have him, and he thinks he might be going a little crazy. He thinks. He isn't sure what he thinks, and maybe that's okay, too.

He licks his way up to Bernard's ear and scrapes his teeth on the little stud in his ear. Breathes and feels the pound of Bernard's heart thud its way into his hand. "What do you want?"

The noise Bernard makes is strangled, and that makes sense, too. All of it does. How had he ever not had this?

Why hadn't he? He can't remember, it's all a meaningless jumble, and the part of him that plans on figuring it all out is real, but it's also irrelevant right now, meaningless against the feel of Bernard's hands tightening in his air and on his shoulder. Flexing.

Pushing.

Tim lets himself be moved, and lets himself stare just as hard as he wants to into Bernard's wide, shocky eyes.

And then Bernard closes his eyes and drops to his knees, fumbling at Tim's fly. Fumbling with shaking hands, and he feels himself shooting pre-come into his shorts at the sight. He can't quite figure out why Jason isn't sharing this raw, primitive triumph with him, only he thinks he knows, and it's big, and it's strange, and it's absolutely nothing compared to the way the sound of his zipper coming down cuts through the air like a knife.

He clenches his fists at his sides to keep from shoving his hands into Bernard's hair when he pulls Tim's boxers down, when he wraps his fist around Tim's dick, and those long, slim fingers are so elegant-looking around him. Every second another shock, another thrill, and it's like drowning.

It's like -- it's --

Heat. Wet.

Tim bites his lip to hold in the worst of the groans, but has to get his hands in that long, blond hair. Thinner than Steph's, and the image of her doing this makes him sick and hot and terrified, makes him pulse pre-come again, and this time Bernard has to be feeling it. Tasting it.

Bernard whimpers around him and sucks, and Tim grunts and just barely manages to brace his legs.

It's -- fuck. The feel of Bernard's tongue on him, his lips, the way his cheeks are hollowing and the way the hunger's so powerful in his eyes that it's nearly unreadable.

And suddenly he knows that this is exactly the way Bruce looked at Jason. And suddenly he remembers it, and the way his eyes had looked black, the way Bernard's eyes look black right now, the way --

"Yes," he says, and it comes out on a hiss, and Bernard's eyes narrow as he tightens his fist around the base of his dick and takes more of him. Tim can't tear his eyes away from the look of it, even as the feel is burning out large, important parts of his mind.

Losing himself to this, and maybe losing himself for real, and he thinks it's everything he's ever wanted.

The thought makes something break like air inside him, makes him gasp, and gasp again with the rhythmic pulse of Bernard's sucking. "So good --"

Bernard groans again and sucks harder, pressing up against the underside of Tim's dick with his tongue, and Tim wants to know exactly who else he's done this for. He wants to know if it felt like this for them, if they wanted to chain Bernard to the floor, wanted to keep him on his knees forever. His hips are bucking; he couldn't stop them if he tried -- if he wanted to.

He doesn't.

And the way Bernard closes his eyes...

He doesn't want Tim to stop either. He wants to be --

"Fuck," he grits through his teeth and bucks hard, coming before he can even think about warning Bernard off.

Bernard makes a choked, hurt-sounding noise that just makes Tim's dick twitch harder. He pulls out as soon as he's able, dropping into a crouch to make sure Bernard's okay, but all Bernard does is swallow and gasp. His hair is a mess. His lips are swollen and obscenely red, and he isn't -- quite -- looking at Tim.

Tim rests his hand on Bernard's shoulder and feels something tear in him, something that hurts so much he think he'd scream if it wasn't so fast.

"Jesus." Jason sounds stunned, and still weirdly faint.

Where were you? he thinks, but really. He knows.

"Yeah, that was --"

Intense.

Tim blinks, shaking off the lingering... something. Bernard is looking at him seriously, evenly. Even though his erection is tenting out his pants, even though he's still on his knees.

"Hey," Tim says, and reaches out. He feels a little more... off. No. A little more himself. It's scary -- more in the implications than in the fact of it, but he doesn't want to think about it. He still gets it. What Bernard must be thinking now.

"You don't --"

"I want," he says, before Bernard can say anything else, and grins, leaning in to kiss him. He doesn't taste like anything but Tim's own come anymore. And that's so hot, it's not going to stop being hot, even though Bruce's kisses after sucking him off were always --

Again, there it is again, the warmth in him, the fullness and everything it means, everything he's becoming, but Bernard is kissing him so hungrily, and when Tim slips his hand down to cup him through his pants, he almost yells into Tim's mouth.

"Tim, please --"

He shivers against the sound of his name and works Bernard's pants open, feeling the wetness of pre-come through Bernard's boxer-briefs and reaching in through the slit to get him free.

Bernard pants against his mouth and stares into his eyes, desperate and faintly disbelieving, right up until Tim squeezes him, and then those eyes fall closed and Bernard moans again.

And twitches in his palm.

This won't take long, and the angle is only strange until he remembers how many times --

How many --

Tim squeezes his eyes shut and buries his face against Bernard's throat, breathing him in and jerking him off, harder and faster until Bernard can't say his name anymore, until he can't do anything but moan.

He comes with a shuddering gasp and Tim catches most of it in his palm. And pulls off to lick it without thinking, but the way Bernard looks at him makes him do it slower. More... obviously.

He tastes like more.

Bernard kisses him again, and Tim opens up for it and opens up inside.

What --

"You reached for me," Jason says.

But --

"I know. I... don't really get the rest. We --"

The class-bell rings and Bernard jerks against him, and laughs nervously before pulling back. "So, uh... yeah." Another laugh, and Tim knows he's laughing at himself.

Bernard stands up and straightens his clothes and hair in a brief series of impressively efficient -- and effective -- moves.

Tim tucks himself away and scrubs a hand back through his hair.

Bernard sucks his teeth and reaches out to fix Tim's hair for him, the way he's done about a million different times since introducing himself into Tim's life. But he pauses.

Tim gets that, too. "I made a mess of it?"

Bernard smiles, sharp and almost entirely real. "As if that's a shock." He... does whatever he feels is necessary to make Tim's hair acceptable again. The fact that he doesn't pull the product out of his backpack is a good sign. "Time for us to go be bored to tears, I think."

"We should probably wait until the halls clear again." The sound of all the teenagers beyond the closed door is actually a little alarming.

"Mm," says Bernard, and swings his backpack onto his shoulders. "We'll be fashionably late." Again, it's almost right.

Tim fixes Bernard with a look. "You know, I'm not planning to be an asshole about this."

Bernard freezes.

"You're going to wind up dating, like, seventeen different people, aren't you, dude?" Jason sounds deeply amused. And... quiet.

Like that isn't your fantasy.

Bernard looks back at him from over his shoulder, and his expression is somewhere between flirtatious and curious. "Good to know," he says, and strolls out of the boiler room as if it was perfectly natural for him to have been in here in the first place.

Tim starts a one-eighty count, feeling the way Jason is stretching and twisting and testing within him, like something that might just be too big for his skin if it wasn't, actually, terrifyingly perfect.

He isn't going to think about it.

*

The Tower rises up out of the blue with the same weird mix of speed and grandeur as always. Bruce is silent in the pilot's seat. He hasn't said more than dozen words the whole time. And Jason isn't much louder.

He doesn't have to be. The way he looks at Tim is just... it's like looking in a mirror. Or...

Tim shakes his head, and starts undoing his restraints. Pauses.

"I'm not mad at you anymore."

Bruce's jaw tightens.

"I haven't been for a while. It wasn't about being angry." Tim stares out the window until he can feel Bruce looking at him. And then he looks right back. "But you know that."

"Yes," Bruce says, and Tim can see the tension in his shoulders that's all about a move he isn't making. The way he isn't reaching out. Bruce hasn't actually touched him -- at all -- since that night. They haven't patrolled together, and he's always made himself absent when Tim had to get patched up -- by Alfred.

And it's only been a little more than a week, and it's Bruce, but it's still....

They -- the family -- are the only ones Bruce really touches, the ones where it means something. He'd known that before, and he knows it even better now. And if he feels the lack...

Tim undoes the restraints the rest of the way and turns in his seat, deliberately turning his chin up.

The gauntlet is cool and hard, smooth on his cheek and jaw. Tim closes his eyes, and thinks about the way Bruce always stroked him afterward, like a favored pet who hadn't been de-clawed and never, ever would be.

Jason, he whispers, and feels the pulling away, the vicious, almost sickening shiver of separation, feels Jason trying to reorient himself within him, into something more like himself.

"I'm here," and Jason sounds... faint. Not weak or tired or anything, just... Tim isn't entirely sure.

Bruce's eyes narrow. "Tim....?"

Tim smiles ruefully and opens his eyes. "Mostly."

He leans back, away from Bruce's hand, and slips out of the plane into the San Francisco fog. The smell of the sea and the faint sense that it shouldn't be quite this cool, even though it's comfortable.

Tim moves out onto the roof and listens to jet lift off again.

There's a weird sense of being on enemy territory, and he looks inside to find Jason and... he knows why, actually. He knows it's because they're in San Francisco while the Outsiders are in New York.

He knows it's because there's this big, huge Tower that doesn't even have the decency to look brand new.

It's because three years feel like complete and utter bullshit, but --

Jason, if I just know these things you'll fade back into me again.

"Is it so bad? Wait, no, what the fuck? That was your thought."

Tim smirks. You see my point.

"Right. Shit. Jesus. I..."

What's it like for you when we... fade, he asks, and deliberately doesn't look for the answer.

"Like being alive. Like... no, that's all I have. It's like I'd never been dead at all."

Tim frowns. But the... it wasn't so bad is my thought. Right?

"Well, yeah, but..." Jason moves Tim's hands in a vague gesture at the Bay. "It's like I'd never been dead, but it isn't like being
me-who-was-never-dead."

I. Oh. Tim pauses, and tries to breathe around the rightness of that thought.

"Yeah."

It feels...

"Really good."

Scary.

"That, too, Tim," and Jason wraps Tim's arms around him -- them -- beneath the cape.

They watch the waves breaking for a little while, and Tim doesn't think about how quiet Jason is, compared to how he used to be, and Jason pretends not to hear him not-thinking about it.

"I bet you could totally jerk off under this thing and no one would know."

Tim smirks. Batman. Nightwing. Batgirl. Oracle.

"No one who isn't us."

Heh.

Tim crosses his arms a little less incriminatingly --

"Dude, only you."

Maybe not for long.

Jason snorts in his head. "Yeah, well, you know what they say..."

Tim waits for it, deliberately not looking for it. What?

"Live fast, die young, leave an egregiously fucked-up looking corpse -- those autopsy photos in your head? Jesus. -- then possess your replacement and get swallowed up by his personality."

Tim doesn't manage to stop snickering until his communicator beeps in his ear.

"All available Titans to the briefing room." Cyborg's voice is calm, but very direct.

Showtime.

It turns out that there's been a series of small, messy explosions in the still half-built sections out at Alcatraz. Tim is less than surprised. He doesn't read as many newspapers as Bart does, these days, but he certainly keeps track of the San Francisco dailies.

The number of protests over the fact that Alcatraz is becoming, essentially, another Slab... well.

There are just as many as there should be, quite frankly.

He sits back and listens to Bart ask questions, absently cataloguing the ratio of relevancies to irrelevancies -- larger every day. He lets Kon catch his eye, and smiles at the mugging.

He watches Starfire for a long, long moment that stops being confusing when he realizes that he's thinking about how much she's changed, about the way she used to look at Dick and --

Don't fucking sink into me yet, Jason.

"You know it'll be easier once we're working. And a lot more efficient."

They don't have to be... one to sound like each other.

"You knew that before."

Just keep talking. Just for now.

He feels Jason feeling him. The need that doesn't have anything to do with fear -- or at least not with fear of what's happening. He forces himself to think, clearly and distinctly:

I'm afraid of wanting it.

"I... so, Kory."

Tell me.

"She's... she seems smaller somehow."

She's six-four with --

"The hair, yeah." Jason snorts a little. "But that's not... I mean. Look at her, giving the mission briefing like... like some kind of general."

She is a general.

Tim can feel Jason's frustration, and knows that only a little of it has to do with looking for the right words. "Why are you --"

Because I have to. For now.

"Okay. She's... she shouldn't be, like, an Earth general. She should be yelling, and maybe slamming her fist onto that little podium thing, and --"

Tim pulls up an image of Khrushchev at the U.N.

Jason snickers. "Yeah. Only with more yelling."

Tim nods to himself and folds his hands under his chin. She lies now.

"You don't think that's... fucked-up?" And sad, Tim hears.

I didn't before.

"Yeah. So tell me about the others."

And by others, you mean...

"The hot chick who stole Wonder Woman's lasso."

Tim ducks his head so that his fists will hide his smile. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Kon seeing it anyway, and feel the question, the invitation to share the joke.

"Did I say seventeen people? I meant forty-five."

Shut up. That's Cassie. Powers from Zeus. The lasso is actually Ares'.

"I thought the Amazon types didn't really approve of war-gods. And that still seems weird, by the way."

Amazons not approving of war-gods, or the fact that war-gods exist?

Jason laughs in his head. "Bruce always said --"

Not to think about it. I tend to not-think about things a lot.

"I noticed." The laughter is gone, but, the briefing is also -- finally -- over.

Tim stands and stretches. Kon gives him a look, but Tim shakes his head and heads over to Cassie.

"Striking a blow for heterosexuality, or just thanking me for playing along?"

You decide. Or just --

In him, through him. Warm and real like he's never been, not since last time.

Cassie's still going over her notes, and Robin folds his hands under his cape and takes a moment to replay the bits and pieces of importance that he's recorded for himself. They're mostly going to earn their pay, to make an appearance, zero tolerance, blah blah bullshit.

The Mayor seems to think some new supervillain is trying to make a name for himself by taking out Alcatraz. But considering the damage reports... if it's anything more than a handful of bored college kids playing saboteur, he'll eat his fucking mask.

Cassie balls up her notes and tosses them. "So I'm your lift today?"

"If you don't mind."

"You know, I'm pretty sure Kon was just talking smack about the hand-holding."

"Et tu, Cassie?"

"Hunh?"

Robin lets himself smile, a little. "Nothing."

It's surprisingly -- in an entirely unsurprising way -- exciting to fly. He hadn't gotten to do much of it, and he'd never...

He remembers his lives and can't help comparing them. Tim and Jason, when they'd been -- they'd talked about friendship.

"Not like you," Jason had said, and it's not like Tim hadn't gotten it then. It's just that he keeps getting it. Tripping over it, slamming into it, like the cool, damp wind burning his cheeks as Cassie flies them higher, faster. He was with Bruce for two years when he was Jason, and for a year and a half of that Jason had been Robin.

And Jason had barely left the country before that really unfortunate trip to the Middle East. He'd never met Superman. He'd never spent enough time with the Titans to learn more than a few names.

He'd lived in a fucking box. A small one, with an 'R' on it and enough toys to keep him busy when Bruce wasn't doing it for them.

Jason's never leaving.

Even if he isn't...

Even if maybe he already did.

Cassie sets them down and they head
north-northeast. Theoretically, they're splitting the search equally, but Cassie isn't remotely trained for this sort of work, this sort of search. Which is probably why Kory hadn't bothered to move them to other teams.

And it's...

It feels different. He -- they'd been out here last week, and they'd carted off yet another second-rate meta with anger management issues in for the grateful citizens of San Francisco and the state of California, and there'd been a brief food-fight at Saturday dinner, and Krypto had pissed on the statue of the Founding Members, and... everything had been normal, in a way this just isn't.

The grey foggy air is ominous, portentous. The girl beside him is muscled whip-lean, beautiful in a very not-Gotham way. Sexy and alien, but he also looks at her and sees someone who might be losing too much weight, who may or may not decide to bail on them, who may or may not decide that Ares has more of what she needs than Diana and Hippolyta and the sweet, overweening ghost of Donna.

Last week he'd been Tim, and Jason. A old-hand showing a tourist around, and playing with himself in the most disturbing ways imaginable. This week...

Robin grins to himself and crouches over a particularly far-flung bit of rubble. Uncollected, and possibly untouched. It's charred on one side, greasy with ash. He smells... smoke.

What else? Batman says in his mind, and he scrapes one finger of his gauntlet along the charred side and brings it closer to his face.

Cassie is watching him. The angle is wrong for him to see her eyes, but just good enough for the way the wind is whipping her hair around to be something of a distraction. He wonders what she tastes like.

He wonders... fertilizer.

Right. Not a surprise.

"Anything?" Cassie's sunglasses are acting as a rather ineffective headband.

"Nothing much. The bombs are definitely homemade, for whatever that may mean."

Cassie nods slowly and shades her eyes against the glare of the hidden sun on the fog, looking into the distance. "So... we keep looking?"

"Yes."

He lets himself slip a few paces behind, and if Cassie knows that he's sweeping everything she's supposed to be sweeping, she doesn't care. Good enough. Cassie had never really questioned Tim's abilities or judgment, even when she probably should have.

There's a part of him who remembers watching her with Arrowette, with Cissie. The way they became friends instantly, true friends of the sort who visited each other's homes and held hands with stereotypical unselfconscious female fellow feeling. That remembers watching them laugh at a joke he'd never get to share, because...

For a lot of reasons.

It doesn't hurt as much, and it hurts in different parts of him. Part of him wonders why he hadn't collected more memories of Cassie and Cissie together, and that part doesn't, particularly, want to be Cassie's friend.

Possibly because he doesn't know her well enough. Possibly because she's living proof of all the things Bruce was perfectly correct in warning them not to think about too much. He watches her stroke the coil of lasso on her hip.

The universe is madness, wild and large and impossible in seventeen different ways before breakfast. But then...

He's living proof of that now, too.

"Earth to Robin."

She's paused again, this time over a pile of rubble that he can tell at a glance doesn't have anything particularly interesting for him. "I'm here," he says, and looks her in the eye.

"Yeah. Right." She snorts. "I guess I should be used to the way you do that, but... whatever. There's nothing here. Let's keep moving."

He wants to know more about her moods, about any changes that may or may not be occurring now that she's carrying a psychically sensitive mystical weapon on her person -- and possibly carrying it more often than she's not. It's frustrating that he's never learned how to do that sort of thing properly, how to truly get to know people beyond the usual profiling, especially since it's entirely his fault.

He hadn't been interested in doing it when he was Jason-in-the-box, and Tim had never been a person with whom other people acted naturally unless those people could be induced to forget he was there -- such as when some other person distracted them.

Bart used to be particularly good for that sort of thing.

Last week Cassie had been a friendly acquaintance, an ally, and a potential danger. This week she's more like a stranger with a familiar face.

Of course, he has more options now, but the reasons for not letting Jason take over too much last weekend are the same as their reasons for... merging, this weekend. Only so much can be allowed to be seen, and known.

If he lets out the part of him the others might like, and open up to -- Gar especially, he thinks, and perhaps Kory if she knew just who was walking around in Tim Drake's skin -- he has to do it carefully. Slowly and subtly.

There are ways. But it will take time and -- it won't be today.

Cassie gets to the man first, of course. He's young, scruffy. The wind brings the scent of some sort of incense, or perhaps a truly unfortunate cologne. He's yelling something about fascism, or perhaps the integrity of the landscape with regards to socio-environmental concerns. It's difficult to be sure.

Spittle flies from his mouth and he wants it to be blood and -- he has other things he needs to do.

The timer has, of course, already been started. Two minutes. The man had an optimistic sense of his own speed and subtlety. And, considering, he doesn't really think there could be more, but...

"Are there others?"

"Fuck you, pig!"

One of the best things about Cassie is that you never have to tell her when to hit someone.

Robin focuses on the bomb, listening with half an ear to the saboteur's attitude adjustment and eventual denials. Too eventual.

One minute, thirty-one seconds and counting. It's just as crude as he'd suspected, the timer nothing more than a two dollar alarm clock, the mass of explosive put together badly, sloppily... chances are they'll be able to find this idiot's allies by the pieces of themselves they leave when their other projects explode in their faces.

He could, probably, disarm it safely. He could, and he wants to. One minute, fifteen and a part of him is always going to hate the Joker for nothing but the head shots, the ones that took him out of the game.

He hisses between his teeth. The tools are in his hand.

One minute, five. He can. He shouldn't. He isn't reckless.

"Robin...?"

One minute. He breathes.

He snarls behind his face. "You have to take it. High enough --"

"I know what to do," Cassie says, and drops the saboteur. She isn't as fast as Bart, but she's faster than Kon. He watches her fly for just long enough for the saboteur to do a runner.

Robin smiles just as widely as he wants to -- there's no one to see -- and follows, only picking up his own pace when the asshole shows signs of veering towards the others. That's simply unallowable.

He didn't get the bomb -- he extends his staff on the fly and sweeps -- he will get this.

The man goes down hard, and Robin's close enough to hear the whoof of breath when he hits the ground with his chest. Robin comes in from the side and aims something like a punter's kick at the guy's ribs and --

Perfect. He flies up just enough to flip and lands on his back, flailing like a crab, like a dying insect. One shot to the ribs. He gets two more, tops. One if he makes it -- yes.

He lands purposefully, knees down, and the guy still doesn't have enough air to do more than wheeze pitifully. This is getting excessive, he thinks, but the faint, coughing boom of an explosion high overhead gives him all the excuse he needs. His hands are still wrong, but the new gauntlets are just right.

One to the mouth, and his mind takes a perfect snapshot, the gruesome humor of a man's lips pooched and twisted out of true, scraggly whiskers standing for just long enough for the human eye to catch.

One to the chest, far enough above the solar plexus to be safe, hard enough to get him another wheeze, a brief splattering explosion of blood.

One more to the mouth, and then he has to plan. He stands, wrapping one fist in the collar of the man's shirt and lifting. He almost staggers -- almost -- but remembers just in time to compensate for his not-quite-right frame.

He thinks about drinking milk, about the newest brands of meta-drugs... no. He can wait. He's a growing boy.

He pauses. Considers.

The man is limp, but it still has more to do with surrender than physical hurt. It would be better if he fought.

Robin firms his grip and pulls back for one more punch -- the man's nose isn't even broken, yet -- intending to let go as soon as he lands it. If he times it right, he knows the man will fly impressively. A little further, a little to the left --

"Jeez, Robin. I think he's done."

If he doesn't apply pressure to the slide of his teeth over themselves, it doesn't count as 'gritting.' That's been Tim's rule for years. He takes a deep, quiet breath and drops the guy, plastering something a little less blank onto his face before turning. He needn't have bothered. Cassie is impressively singed, and impressively tattered.

She's going to need a haircut to even out the damage. The lower curve of her left breast is plainly visible, rosy pink with what would probably be a crippling burn on a normal human being. There's a hint of... trouble in her eyes.

He shouldn't have given the man quite that much time to run, but then he'd been careful. The Titans should have been able to find the precision of his attack familiar, and not especially worrisome.

She isn't wearing a bra. Her breasts really are just that firm, and the trouble comes in a little deeper in Cassie's eyes. Women are always quicker on the uptake about this sort of thing than you'd expect, and the part of him that's still Tim is desperate to -- He has to --

Split, focus, and it's the most painful thing he's ever done, the most painful, he can't, he absolutely --

"Jay," he says, and he hopes it was silent right up until Cassie says,

"What?"

Tim bites his lip and feels breathless, worn in a way that has nothing to do with the physical. He's slammed against the near wall of himself, of his consciousness, and Jason is a massive, impossible weight pressing, wanting -- it's more than just Jason.

"Rob -- Tim -- what's wrong? Are you okay?"

Cassie's hands are on his shoulders, and that's enough to snap him too attention. He pulls on something that should resemble a rueful smile and looks directly into Cassie's eyes. The effectiveness of the move when he's wearing a mask is variable, but Cassie responds the way she should.

The relaxation of the tension in her body is just as obvious as the smell of burnt hair.

"I think... that's supposed to be my line."

She smiles, California-girl perfect. "I'm fine. You know how quickly I heal."

Within six hours she'll be blandly perfect again, eight at the latest. "Yes. I -- yeah. I just..." This calculation is more difficult, more of a gamble than a true calculation. "That bomb could've killed him just as easily as it could've damaged the building. I can't..." He looks away, deliberately, feeling the blood pound in his ears, feeling it flush his cheeks.

Cassie squeezes his shoulders until he looks at her again. Her smile looks like one of Troia's, motherly with a more perfect kind of rueful, wry amusement than he'll ever be able to manage without a great deal more effort. "Hey, nobody likes a sloppy worker, right?"

He gives her a brief laugh, and watches it register in the way her eyes widen, in the way the mass of Jason and... other roils within him and swells with dare and demand. A little too much.

The hint of trouble is back, a skim of clouds over blue sky. Cassie wouldn't find anything comforting about a Tim who hits on her.

He pulls back carefully, folding his arms under his cape. "I should... can you handle the rest of this?"

"Sure," she says, and as he turns he can see her slinging his whimpering not-quite-victim-enough over one shoulder. It's an interesting question -- those shoulders aren't very broad. It must be frustrating to have that much power without having a body designed to allow the maximum efficient use of same.

Then again, she's probably also used to it.

Tim walks toward where he knows Bart will be patrolling with Starfire, and when he gets there she raises an eyebrow at him. He knows it's wrong now. He knows how she should be.

Everything changes, he says to the confused mass within, and feels it tear itself a little closer to order.

"It's done," he says, perfectly blank. He has a lot of practice at not showing discomfort.

Starfire nods, and frowns at him. Studies him, really, and it's disconcerting. But it shouldn't be a surprise. Starfire's decided to learn from them. And that means learning them.

This tear makes it feel as though his mind is a fragile, liquid mass, one good yank from exploding all over his body.

He didn't hide that wince especially well.

"Are you all right, Robin?"

"Just... a headache. From..." He can't quite immediately decide why he should have a headache. Never start a sentence you don't know how to finish, Bruce says in his mind, and the next tear makes him swallow back bile.

"Robin! I think I should take you --"

"Just back to the Tower. I need... a dark room. A little silence. It might be a migraine."

"I wasn't aware that you suffered from migraines...?"

"Just tell her they're stress-related," Jason whispers from behind a thousand curtains.

He lets the smile make it onto his face. "My doctor said something about stress. I'm sure I don't know what he's talking about."

For a moment, she looks like she's thinking about ruffling his hair, or maybe just petting him, but it passes, leaving him with an uncomfortable -- but soothing -- mix of relief and sadness.

She wraps a powerful arm around his waist, instead, and they're back on their island quickly.

"I could fly you directly to your quarters...?"

"No, that's all right. There's something..." He isn't sure at all how to say it, and Jason is too quiet to hear. He looks toward the one door that's always shut, and Starfire lands them gently.

She does touch his face, this time. "Is that sort of solitude really best for you right now, Robin?"

The scent of her skin triggers a brief flood of images. Impossibly long hair in a white sink, the New York City skyline through a half-open window, a long, golden stretch of thigh, and a hand instantly recognizable as Dick's traveling along its length.

"I want to tell her," Jason says, more clearly.

Not yet, he thinks, and looks up -- and up -- into Starfire's eyes. "Just for a little while, I promise."

She smiles at him, and the strangest thing about her eyes isn't the color, or the lack of pupil -- it's the way they narrow, instead of crinkling at the edge. Almost -- predictably -- feline. She looks like she wants to butt his nose. "Sometimes you make me think of..." She shakes her head, hair shifting like a heavy curtain behind her, and taps him lightly on the chest -- where the 'R' would be visible if his cape wasn't folded around him. "You're probably tired of hearing that."

He shrugs, enough for it to show even with the cape.

Starfire nods sharply, the general again, and Tim feels Jason watching her go.

Soon, I think.

"Okay."

He moves them into the Memorial, letting the door fall shut behind him. There's no echo, there's no scent or anything in particular, there's no sound. Just the sense that he's entering a shrine.

No, a church.

Icons lining the walls, demanding... nothing but what he wants to give.

He sits tailor-style between and a bit behind Troia and the Golden Eagle, resting his head against the pillar.

"I could've been here."

Mm?

"Well... I've had some time to think about it, you know? I was never really a Titan except on paper, but... I could've been. I had the choice. I didn't really think I did, but... you know what I mean."

Yes.

"And... time." Jason laughs, and there's something strange about it.

Something Tim can't quite put his finger on.

"I'm not here as much as I was before."

Don't --

"I know you don't want me to do it, Tim, but... you have to admit there isn't much point. You're not here as much as you were
before, either."

Tim breathes, and breathes, and pulls his hands out from under his cape, tugging the gauntlets off and staring at his hands. Intellectually, he knew that they'd look perfectly normal -- pale from being inside the gauntlets, save for his knuckles, which will probably never be the same -- but it's still something of a shock to see them... solid.

"It's..."

Where were you, Jason. Before.

Jason laughs again, and overlaying the reality of his hands is an image of the way they'd looked in the alley, his knuckles bloody and torn.

"You tell me, man."

We have... a problem.

"No shit."

It's not just --

"A temporary thing when we merge. It's not just --"

Some other strange thing we can do. It's --

"Our future. Unless --"

No, Jason. I won't let you --

"Yeah, well. It's not like I want to leave."

Even if you... if we wind up... gone?

"Even then."

There's a finality to it, and that's always felt so good. There are few things more satisfying than a sure thing, than knowing your path. Inevitability.

"I always thought it was kind of limiting."

Tim smirks. I wonder what we'll think... later.

Jason snickers in his head. "Maybe we'll just be really fucking schizo."

Well. So long as we're making the intelligent decision.

It takes a while for the laughter to fade, for the Memorial room to settle itself back into silence and dust and viciously comforting weight.

Tim rolls his head on his neck and lets himself smile. It's gotten a lot easier, lately.

"So... what happened to Joey?"

Tim shows him what he knows, what he's inferred. The sword, the rather uncomfortably familiar brand of possession. Wintergreen.

"That... doesn't really sound like Joey."

So I've heard. Is that why you didn't look?

"There are some parts of your mind that were, like, labeled with names I know. Only when I got close..."

Tim feels it. The wrong. The sense of impending knowledge. Spoilers, really. The kind without --

"Beautiful torsos."

Beautiful, soft, touchable -

"Pinchable."

God. Fuck. Is it Monday yet?

"Heh. I'll make a heterosexual out of you yet."

Before or after you make me suck Bruce's dick?

"Don't knock it --"

"Rob...?"

Tim freezes and feels Jason moving within him, waiting to merge or... there's no 'or.' Not anymore. All or nothing.

"We didn't really think this through, did we, Tim?"

It'll be okay, he thinks. Aloud, he says: "I'm here, Kon."

Kon's footsteps are heavy and steady. He's tired, but uninjured. One of his boots -- the right -- has an uneven sole. He should get that fixed.

Tim waits until the footsteps pause to open his eyes. He remembers when that sort of thing didn't make a difference when, like now, he was wearing the white-out lenses. But Kon's posture shifts, just a little. His expression... sharpens. Focuses.

"You trained him, man."

Guess I did. "What's up?" he says aloud.

Kon's expression sharpens even more, and Tim knows he's seeing... everything that feels like it should be real and visible and isn't.

All the ways he just isn't here, and all the ways Jason is, and all the ways... they both are. Tim swallows, and holds Kon's gaze.

"Rob... are you... Tim?"

Tim smiles a little helplessly. "Excellent question." Jason snorts in his head.

"Listen, if you want me to leave you alone, just say the word. It's just..." Kon shifts on his feet again. One hand is shoved in his back pocket. He scrubs the other over his brush-cut. "Cassie said you were acting kinda off, and, well... you know you can talk to me, right?"

Wide, blue earnest eyes.

Jason's entire presence within him is one, big 'I told you so.'

"I know," Tim says. Probably to both of them.

"Yeah, okay." Kon drops into a crouch in front of him, and his hand is big and heavy and warm on Tim's shoulder, even through the suit and the cape. "Do you want me to split?"

"What's he like," Jason asks in a voice that shouldn't feel like as much of a whisper as it does.

Look for yourself, Tim thinks, and he knows Jason hears every implication of that. Out loud, he just says, "no."

Kon grins at him, and it's hard to distinguish the familiar warmth of it from the familiar warmth of Jason... moving. Being. It feels so right. Stupid to fight it, really.

He closes his eyes for just a moment, and feels Kon shifting to settle in beside him. He thinks about leaning in to kiss him, holding it firm until Kon got over the shock and kissed him back. He thinks about just leaning in, getting closer, and he knows that Kon would lean in just as far as he did, or perhaps a little more.

He remembers not knowing that at all. He remembers that he would've been surprised, because he remembers a time when his
body -- this body -- was an adequate weapon and an endless source of (usually unpleasant) surprise and inconvenience.

He remembers, and knows that he always will, because Tim hadn't allowed himself to forget anything in years.

But he also isn't Tim.

"So..." There's another smile in Kon's voice.

"Mm-hm."

"We're just going to hang out with the dead people?"

Robin smiles. "It's surprisingly soothing."

*

Sunday evening, and it's not quite sunset. In another hour, the Bay will be countless different shades of gold and the sky will be pink. For another two hours or so after that, it will be warm enough to, say, stand out on the roof of the Tower in nothing more than his uniform, and watch the city sparkle and live across the Bay while he... does something.

Part of him is irritated that he has to go back to Gotham now that the weather has finally gotten reasonably attractive. Most of him knows he'd be bored, or at least restless.

He always gets into trouble when he's restless.

He ducks his head to hide a smile from the boy standing not quite far enough away, or possibly too far. Kon's either feeling self-conscious or suspicious -- it could honestly be either. Most of the time, good mood or bad, Kon stands close enough that they could hold hands, if they did sort of thing.

"I hear the jet," Kon says.

Robin nods. Bruce isn't late for anything short of criminal apocalypse. He's honestly not sure whether even that would be enough to make Bruce late for... who he thinks he's picking up. He grins at the roof again.

"Tim..."

He thinks about telling Kon that he misses the days when he called him "Rob" or "Robbie." That really is the sort of statement that requires more lead-in than they actually have time for right now, though. He settles for, "mm."

One big hand on his shoulder and... mm. The other big hand on his other shoulder. Kon sighs, and the small part of the back of his neck not covered by the cape prickles. "I... you'd tell me if there was something going on, right?"

Kon deserves to ask that question. They've spent most of the weekend... Robin's spent most of the weekend fucking with Kon's head, if he's going to be brutally honest. Not out of malice, or even amusement. Just because he doesn't actually want to lie to Kon, but every truth he tells right now, every silent thing he does with his body...

He knows that it just leads to one question after another, and not just because every one of those questions is in Kon's eyes. He thinks he's significantly more intelligent than he used to be.

He thinks he used to be a dumbass, in two deeply distinct ways.

Kon's hands tighten on his shoulders.

"I will," Robin says. "Eventually. I just have to figure out how."

He hears Kon take a sharp breath, and... "So that means there is something going on...?"

Figuring out how is just a part of it. Figuring out what he'll do next is another. Sooner or later, he'll either have to declare himself some sort of free agent or... settle down? He's more than a little conflicted about that prospect. Even now.

He supposes that makes sense. Jason and Tim really had been rather... different.

Kon starts rubbing his shoulders, and Robin knows Kon thinks he's not saying anything because it's difficult for some emotional reason, as opposed to the problem of phrasing. And, well, the utter rape of logic.

It feels good, though, and he lets himself lean into it.

"You know I'll be here, right?"

"Yes," he says, and he should probably have made that sound a little less... available.

Kon doesn't stop rubbing until Robin can hear the jet. At which point he moves far enough away to be... close enough to hold hands.

Robin grins at him over his shoulder, and Kon looks like he wants to say something, but he winds up just grinning back. The jet's landing throws out a backwash of air that sends Robin's cape flying, and Kon catches one edge and looks like he's seriously considering trying to fold -- and hold -- it back.

"Kon."

Kon blinks and shakes himself like a slightly less terrifying Superdog. "I... yeah. I'll just head inside before your boss decides to play target practice with my 'S.'

Robin grins a little wider. "See you next weekend, Kon."

He waits until Kon's inside again before heading for the plane.

Bruce starts powering up before he gets his restraints fully fastened. Robin raises an eyebrow and waits.

And waits.

And turns to see Bruce pretty much radiating tension. He thinks he could see it if he flipped to infrared.

Robin frowns. He really thought he'd settled... this. Or that Tim had. Whichever. "Bruce...?"

"What... did you do."

The fact that, for a moment, Robin thinks Bruce is talking about Kon is more proof than anyone could ever need that he really needs a timeout. A cold shower. A chance to get used to the fact that he's become a person who really enjoys sex. He bites the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing at himself.

"T -- what did you do?" There's something close to honest panic in Bruce's voice.

It's not funny anymore. "I didn't have a choice. Not really."

"Tell me --"

"We... I..." Robin sighs and scrubs a hand back through his hair, briefly surprised by the lack of gel until he remembers that he's decided to give that a rest, too. "I'm just one person now."

"Autopilot engage."

"Confirm," Robin says, reflexively, and checks the instruments.

"Confirmed," Bruce says, but he doesn't let go of the throttle for several long moments.

"Look at me, Bruce."

Bruce exhales in a long, shuddering, shockingly loud gust. And shoves his cowl back. And looks at him.

Robin has had five long, strange years, and he doesn't think he's ever seen Bruce's eyes quite that wide. He takes his own breath. "I didn't have a choice," he says, again.

And waits for it to sink in.

Everything Jason had whispered to Bruce that night. The long, dead time of trying and failing, again and again, to come back. The way it finally worked. The only way it could have. And everything that hadn't needed to be said at all, really.

Whether or not any of them could have managed to let him go; Jason would have done anything, given everything to stay.

And he had.

"Tim."

"No."

Bruce moves nearly too fast to be seen, but the result is obvious enough. Bruce had smashed a dent in the one fist-sized space on the console clear of important instruments. "What. About your parents."

"I --"

"What about your friends?"

"Bruce --"

"Stop. And think. About what you've done."

Robin bites the inside of his cheek hard. There's nothing within reach that he can safely smash to shit, after all. And... Bruce has a point. But. "I didn't have a fucking choice."

Bruce looks away briefly, and when he turns back the smile on his face is sharp enough to bleed on. "No. You didn't."

The stress is unmistakable. Robin narrows his eyes.

"The nature of life is the inherent urge to protect it. To fight for it. Self-preservation... Robin."

Robin bites his cheek again and gives himself a five-count. "They gave me life."

"And you took it."

"You're acting like I'm not them! Like --" Robin clenches his fists hard. "I'm not. I'm not either of them. Because I'm both of them." I'm better. Stronger. Smarter. I'm alive.

Bruce looks away again.

Robin rips off the restraints and stands, dipping his head just a little more than necessary, just enough for the hair to fall in his face. "I'm still here, Bruce. And I remember everything."

Including what it's like to watch Bruce shudder all over. The horror and the power of it.

"Bruce," he says, and rests his hand deliberately on Bruce's shoulder, close to where the cowl is still protecting the side of his neck.

"Don't. Do that."

"You think it's a lie. It isn't."

When Bruce looks up at him again, his eyes are clear as lasers. "It's just not the entirety of the truth."

Robin looks right back. "Maybe now you'll get a chance to hear the whole truth. You think they would've done this if they weren't ready? If they weren't sure?"

"Not... Tim."

Robin snorts. "Part of me wants to punch you for that. And I bet if you tried to guess which part you'd be dead fucking wrong."

Bruce doesn't flinch anywhere but in his eyes. It's more than enough. Robin grabs Bruce's hand and pulls it up to his face, tugging on the fingers until they're out of the fist, until they're splayed against his cheek.

"What do you see when you look at me, Bruce?"

"An abomination."

Robin lets himself smirk exactly as much as he wants to. It's not like the answer was a surprise. "Or maybe a mirror...? What's the matter, Bruce? Choices don't count unless you're a scared little boy with bloody knees?"

Bruce's hand tightens hard on his face. If he holds that pressure for much longer than a few more seconds, Robin will almost certainly bruise.

He is not going to look away. "There's a lot you don't know about me, Bruce."

After a while, Bruce lets go, and lets his hand fall back between his knees. "It was never. The right choice."

Robin blinks. "I. How can you say that?"

The smile in Bruce's eyes isn't, entirely, without humor. "There's a lot you don't know about me."

And... he doesn't know what to say about that. The autopilot shifts their course according to some momentarily obscure change in variables, and Robin corrects his stance accordingly. Reflexively.

He takes the awareness he has of Bruce watching him do it as his due.

"Bruce."

"There's no going back." It's actually a question.

"There hasn't been since the first time it... happened." The memory of Steph's sweat on his tongue isn't one he has room to enjoy right now. "Every time they tried, it was harder, more painful. And less effective."

Bruce settles back into his seat, and the shadows give him an effective cowl again.

Robin knows that move must have been reflexive for Bruce since before they were all born.

"Tell me why," Bruce says.

Tim would explain it detail. Jason would want to know what the point was. And he... "Tim wasn't attached to himself. Jason was. And if you want the whys for that... you're going to have to give me some time. Though I have my theories." Robin resettles his stance again before just giving up and leaning against the side of his own chair.

"Tim... never wanted to lie to his parents."

"I have fewer compunctions."

"He never wanted to lie to his friends, either."

"I don't intend to."

Bruce shifts, and the shadows only hide half his face now. The question is obvious.

"This isn't Young Justice anymore, Bruce. I'm not asking."

It takes a moment -- and Bruce's wintry little smile -- for him to remember the last conversation like this any of them had had. Tim.

If he reaches, he can feel it. The rage and frustration and the way it was the only thing Tim had felt comfortable admitting to. "I'm better than that now," he says. "And I'm going to show you."

The smile fades from Bruce's face slowly, leaving something that might have been unreadable if he wasn't... who he was. But...

While it's possible -- probable -- that he doesn't know Bruce as well as he could, he knows him well enough to know hope when he sees it.

And that old, familiar hunger. Nothing to do with sex, or love, or anything so simple.

Everything to do with the way Bruce needs to believe in something brighter.

Robin can do that, too.

He smiles a dare at Bruce and slides back into his seat, refastening the restraints and settling back after one more check of the instruments. And one small moment just to run his gauntleted finger through the rough, uneven curve of the dent Bruce has left in the console.

Bruce's grunt is entirely noncommittal -- which is, of course, an answer in itself. Though not an especially relevant one.

He's Robin.

That is, by far, the most important thing.

end.

Please post a comment on this story.









Fandom:  Batman
Title:  And you alone of pure substance
Series Name:  Drowners
Author:  Te   [email]   [website]
Details:  Series  |  NC-17  |  het *slash*  |  75k  |  05/19/04
Characters:  Tim, Jason, Bruce, Steph, Bernard, others.
Pairings:  Tim/Jason/Various
Summary:  Tim and Jason miscalculate.
Sequel to:  You who know my heart

[top of page]

Home/QuickSearch  +   Random  +   Upload  +   Search  +   Contact  +   GO List