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Last Hurrah

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Tim didn’t even remember how long he’d been crying, but it felt like forever, and forever wasn’t showing any signs of ending. Tim hated crying, which was just making him cry harder.

His pillow wet with tears and snot, the sheets soaked with sweat, and the entire room was cloying with distress-sad-hurt. He knew he should get himself together before he ruined Mr. Way—Bruce, Tim was supposed to call him Bruce, even though he was an adult and an alpha and Tim was just an omega pup—Bruce’s guest room any more. Alfred was going to have to air the room out for a week to get the scent out, and Tim was trying not to be such a bother, he was, but it was just so hard and his brain was a can of alphabet soup, and everyone hated him, and-

A sudden fresh wave of burning fever rolled over him. Tim gasped and groaned, curling up further into the blankets he’d thrown together in a loose nest when he’d realized that his heat was early and that it was too late to stumble back to get back to his house before it hit.

His whole body ached and blazed with heat, and his skin burned madly for touch, for someone to hold him and care about him and claim him as theirs. He wanted his pack to love him, to approve of him and keep him safe, to hold him as his heat burned on, but he didn’t even have a pack anymore, not since he’d presented last year as the most totally useless gender ever. His mom and dad took more and more trips, longer trips, and they almost never came home anymore. After all, why come back to groom their heir and make sure he was progressing as planned when that heir was just an omega who would never amount to anything more than a bargaining chip in a business deal?

Tim turned his face into his pillow to muffle a sob of rejection and pain as another cramp stabbed his gut. He wanted, he needed-

Bruce.

Tim wanted Bruce so badly, wanted to curl up in the alpha’s arms and feel safe and protected and cared for. Tim sobbed again, because he wanted it so much, but he couldn’t do that because he wasn’t in danger at Wayne Manor, not with the state of the art security system and the massive alpha protecting the halls, so it was selfish and foolish of him to want to steal Bruce’s attention from things that actually mattered instead of the heat-wild instincts of an omega pup who wasn’t even his. Tim wasn’t part of the Wayne pack, and he was only there because he was a packless little parasite who had forced a grieving father to take another child into danger when he didn’t want to. Bruce probably hated him for that and was only keeping Tim around because he didn’t want to risk Tim spilling his secrets.

Tim sobbed into his pillow because nothing made sense and he couldn’t even control his own body, and this, this stupid mess of hormones and carnal instincts he became once a month was exactly why his mom and dad didn’t love him anymore, and he hated it too. He wanted to go be near other people so he could at least pretend he had a pack, but if he let Bruce see him like this, then he would never let him be Robin again, and Tim would be all alone again.

No matter how hard he fought it, though, the desire only grew until it was all he could think about. He could practically feel Bruce’s arms around him, strong and protective, but that just made the fact that he couldn’t feel them so much worse.

He needed to sleep. That was it. His body always shut down for so long when he slept in heat, so when he woke, he would hopefully have passed through the worst of it, and his instincts would be at least a bit more bearable. Bruce would still know that Tim had gone into heat just from the smell, if he didn’t know already, but he wouldn’t see what a mess Tim really was.

Tim rolled over onto his other side, where the pillow wasn’t soggy yet, buried his face in the heavenly cotton pillowcase, and tried to fall asleep.

It should have been easy.

It should have been so easy. Tim was exhausted. His muscles felt like lead, but he couldn’t shut his eyes.

He was alone, unguarded. But that was fine because the security system, right?

But what if the power went out and the security system failed? What if Bruce had left the manor and gone to work, and Tim had no one to protect him but he didn’t know it? What if someone snuck through the security system and past Bruce and Alfred, since it was such a big house, and found Tim in heat and unable to protect himself? There was probably already someone here, drawn by the scent of a packless omega pup in heat, and they’d be able to smell his terror a mile away.

Tim keened desperately for a pack that wasn’t coming to save him, helpless. He was going to die because no one was protecting him, and no one loved him enough to protect him because he was just a useless omega who shouldn’t be such a bother all the time. Tim didn’t want to die. He was only thirteen. He wanted to be Robin and take pictures and hack the school’s computer system and order three thousand bottles of dish soap from their account again. He didn’t want to be caught all alone and be forced to carry a stranger’s pups either. He needed an alpha with him, to protect him from that, so no one would hurt him. Tim needed Bruce now.

Tim kicked at the covers and kicked the blankets in an attempt to get them off him. He just got himself more tangled, and that made him cry again. He needed his alpha, but his own blankets were trying to kill him.

It took so long, too long, for Tim to get the covers off of him, and by then, whoever was out there was probably close, so close. He swung his legs out of bed and shot up, only to collapse into the sharp edge of the nightstand.

Tim whimpered and clutched his side with one hand and his stomach with the other. Everything hurt, and he wanted to go back to his nest, but his nest was a pile of sheets now and Bruce wasn’t in his nest, so it wasn’t safe.

When the lightheadedness faded into cloudy brain fog, Tim finally took a deep breath and pushed himself back to his feet. He waited a minute, braced for impact again in case he fell again, but the world stayed still under his feet.

Tim placed one trembling foot in front of the other and dragged himself like that, slowly, painfully, to the door. He wanted to move fast, but he couldn’t think fast enough to go any quicker, even though there was someone probably coming for him any second.

Once he was out the door, there was a hall, and Tim choked on a hopeless sob. It was such a long hall, and he’d never known that before because no-heat Tim was stupid and a jerk for not picking the room right next to the stairs.

Stairs. Tim did start crying when he realized that he had to go down stairs. He was going to fall and die, and no one would even care. Bruce was going to be in his study, though, and his study was downstairs, so Tim had to go down there because he’d left his cellphone in his bedroom, and even if he hadn’t, he couldn’t call Bruce and make him go out of his way to help Tim. It was bad enough that Tim was probably going to be super distracting with his scent and whining, and Bruce might even make Tim leave, but he couldn’t annoy Bruce more on top of it all.

Tim sat down on the top stair and slowly lowered himself, one step at a time, sliding from one stair to the next and using the banister to keep from falling. When he finally got to the bottom, he had to stand up, and that was even worse than the stairs were because he was already so comfortable on the ground.

Tim finally managed to pull himself up and start shuffling toward Bruce’s office again when a horrible thought suddenly occurred to him: what if Bruce wasn’t even in his study? What if he was down in the cave, and Tim had to go down more stairs into the cold, dark cave. No, that couldn’t happen. He didn’t want to go down there, he just wanted to make a nest on the couch in the study and let Bruce keep him safe. He didn’t want to nest in the medbay with nothing but capes and sterile blankets for his nest.

The light was on in the study, and hope sprang up in Tim’s chest before being mercilessly crushed. Nothing ever went well for him, so Bruce was probably still definitely downstairs. Still, Tim had to find him.

Tim placed his hand on the doorknob and pushed, then walked straight into a face full of wooden door because he hadn’t turned the doorknob. Tim mewled in distress. That was so much work. Tim did turn the doorknob, and then pushed again.

Alpha scent, strong and brave, wafted over him, and Tim almost fainted right there. A deep shudder went through him, and he sagged against the doorframe to take heavy breaths of the alpha’s scent in.

Safe.

He was safe now.

“Tim?” Bruce asked, his scent becoming tinged with something unhappy and disapproving.

Tim raised his head and saw Bruce’s face, all screwed up and stressed. Oh no! Tim scrubbed a sleeve over his face, but it was too late because Bruce had already seen his blotchy red face all shiny with tears all over a stupid heat, and he knew now just how horrible a replacement Tim was for Jason, because Tim is sure that Jason was never so pathetic in his heats, and he certainly would have known better than to interrupt Bruce while he was working. Bruce was going to send him away and never let him be Robin, and Tim was going to have to go back to his house all by himself again, but Bruce couldn’t send him away because there was an alpha in the house trying to get Tim! Tim…didn’t remember how he knew it, but he knew it was true, and the alpha would get him if he was alone!

Bruce wouldn’t let an alpha rape Tim. Not because he liked Tim, but because he was Batman and Batman hated rapists. He’d protect Tim until his heat was over, but then he’d send away like he’d tried to in the beginning. It was all over.

Tim sniffed and shuffled into the office, toward Bruce. He didn’t turn toward the couch he’d been planning for his nest. If Bruce was going to send him away, he may as well go out with a last hurrah and take what he wanted most.

Selfish, a voice whispered in his ear.

It sounded like his mom.

Bruce spun his desk chair as Tim swayed closer, limbs tense and ready to spring, like he thought Tim was about to fall. Tim tried to smile at how protective Bruce was of an omega he didn’t even like, but that just reminded him that Bruce hated him. Tim’s breath hitched on another sob.

Tim didn’t let himself stop in front of Bruce, or he would have chickened out. Bruce stared at him, unmoving as Tim wrapped his arms around the alpha’s neck and pulled himself into Bruce’s lap. The alpha stiffened, but Tim just pulled his knees up to his chest and slumped his head against Bruce’s shoulder. His socked feet slid on Bruce’s smooth slacks and nearly fell off, so Tim whined in frustration and grief and curled his toes into the fabric to anchor himself before finally turning his face into the crook of Bruce’s neck so he could breathe the strong alpha scent and hide his tears.

Tim’s soggy nose on his scent gland jolted Bruce back to his body, and Bruce seized Tim’s shoulders and pushed him back fast enough that he lost his grip on Bruce’s neck and would have fallen were it not for the painfully tight grip on his shoulders.

“What’s wrong?” Bruce demanded with a growl that was broken by high panic. “Are you alright? Are you hurt? Stay here, I’ll go get Alfred!”

Tim burst into tears and reached desperately for Bruce’s neck. “No, please! Please don’t leave me!”

Bruce would leave him eventually, but he didn’t want it to be now. He didn’t want to be alone yet, not when he was so weak and miserable, not when the touch and presence of another person, especially a strong alpha Tim wanted so much to like him, felt like heaven to his starving instincts. Bruce was such a nice alpha that even if he hated Tim, he probably would feel obligated to hold Tim while he was so upset, but if he didn’t, Tim thought he might die before the intruder alpha—whoever it was—got him, just from a broken heart.

Bruce’s panic drained slowly from his face, leaving only exhaustion behind. Tim sniffled and tried to stop crying because Bruce was already tired and if he was going to hold Tim, then Tim had to be good and not tire him out more by being whiny, and he was trying to be good, really, he was, but Bruce probably hated him so much and it wasn’t fair because Tim only ever tried to be good but he was a stupid omega so it didn’t even matter what he tried to do. His body hated him, and his parents hated him, and the world hated him, and Bruce-

The exhaustion softened into something tired but kind. The death grip on Tim’s shoulders slackened, and Bruce leaned back in his chair and gently pulled Tim back up against his chest.

Tim squeaked in surprise, but Bruce just chuckled at the sound instead of smacking him for being undignified. Tim wasn’t Bruce’s kid, though, so he wasn’t embarrassing the family name by not being proper. Bruce’s laugh was quiet, almost inaudible, but it vibrated through Bruce’s chest and into Tim’s head. It was soothing in a way Tim hadn’t known he could be soothed, and he smiled as broadly as the pain in his stomach and his fear of the future would let him. He wasn’t being kicked out yet.

Bruce laid one of his massive arms around Tim’s back, and Tim whimpered—it was heavy and solid, like a tree trunk gently pinning him to the ground, and Tim had never felt more safe in his life. Bruce’s other hand rubbed circles on his back for a few moments before trailing up his spine, cupping the back of his head, and pulling Tim’s face back against his scent gland. Tim melted against Bruce’s chest and dug his fingers into the alpha’s shirt as the free hand went back to rubbing his back.

“Alfred told me you were in heat,” Bruce murmured. “I wasn’t expecting you to leave your nest.”

Tim sniffled and whimpered. “I’m sorry.”

“What? Tim, Timmy, no,” Bruce soothed. There was a pause, and a stutter of Bruce’s even breathing, and then placing a small kiss on the top of Tim’s head, and that didn’t make any sense because Bruce didn’t like Tim and Tim didn’t need a kiss to be safe, but it made him feel so warm and loved even though he wasn’t. “I just know how heats are. I thought you’d feel safer in your nest.”

“Do I have to go back?” Tim mumbled in tears. He didn’t want to go back to his nest.

“No, Tim.” Bruce kissed Tim’s head again, and Tim sobbed in relief. “Were you lonely? Is that the problem? Should I call your parents?”

Tim shook his head and whined, “No, no, they’ll get mad if you call them! They hate me!”

The hand on his back stilled, and Bruce’s scent tinged with rage. Tim flinched hard and the scent softened, but there was still a buzz of anger in the alpha’s words and the faintest hint of it in his scent.

“Why do they hate you, Tim?” Bruce said in a carefully level voice.

“Because I’m whiny and I’m clingy and I get in the way and I’m not an alpha like they wanted so I can’t be their heir and they’re just going to marry me off as soon as they can so they can get at least get a little bit of value from me.”

It all came out in one self-condemning sentence, broken by sobs and gasps for breath. Bruce’s hand rubbing his back pressed harder and his arm squeezed tighter as Tim spoke. He probably hadn’t thought of that, or was just giving Tim the benefit of the doubt and assuming that Tim didn’t know how much of a pain he was to be around.

“Tim…” Bruce said. There was another hesitation, and then his arms left Tim’s back, and he was going to push him away again, wasn’t he? Tim tensed and dug his fingers into Bruce’s shirt with desperate abandon. He wasn’t going to pull Tim back onto his laps with hugs and kisses, either, he was just going to get Tim as far away as possible so he never had to see him again.

One of Bruce’s arms—his wrist, now uncovered with the sleeve rolled up—came back up to Tim’s back and began to massage circles again, this time leaving Bruce’s scent, thick with protective pheromones, all over Tim’s shirt.

“B-Bruce?” Tim hiccupped.

“Sh, ssh, Tim. It’s alright,” Brue promised. His hand came up and started to comb through Tim’s hair, snagging a few times before Bruce worked out enough tangles to be able to card his calloused fingers along Tim’s scalp and to the tips of his hair without resistance.

Tim hesitated only a moment before he relaxed in boneless pleasure with a tiny purr. He closed his eyes, focusing on nothing but Bruce’s scent and the shifting weight of Bruce’s fingers on his head.

“That feel good?” Bruce chuckled, and it shook Tim’s body.

Tim purred louder and nodded. He didn’t know why Bruce was being so nice to him, but it felt really, really good.

Bruce laid the side of his head against the top of Tim’s and kept petting him awhile before he finally mumbled, “Jason used to do this.”

Tim frowned, because there was no way Jason had ever been so horribly behaved. Jason had been Robin! The boy wonder, the one who Tim had once photographed beating the living hell out of a creep who’d tried to grab a kid, the one who Tim had watched effortlessly deal with cheek-pinching and snobby socialites at a gala while Tim had gotten scared and hid in the corner, he was just…Jason.

“Jason was so whiny when he was in heat,” Bruce laughed, but it was a very wet laugh. “He would have been in here the second he knew his heat was starting. He would have dragged me to the corner, where he would make a giant nest with all the couch cushions and every pillow and blanket he could carry.”

Tim made a small questioning noise. Bruce’s didn’t answer immediately, but after a moment, his fingers trailed up to Tim’s neck, right next to his throat. Tim felt his artery pulse against the rough pads of Bruce’s fingers.

“I miss him so much,” Bruce whispered. He sighed, and his fingers slipped from Tim’s neck and down to squeeze Tim’s shoulder tightly. “But I’m glad you’re here. I’m so glad you’re here, Tim.”

Tim froze. That wasn’t— Bruce was just saying that, right? Because he was wanting Jason, and so he was settling for any small omega pup he could get? Right?

Desperate, starving hope lit in his chest that maybe Bruce actually meant it—that Bruce actually liked having Tim around, even if Tim was inconvenient and whiny and an emotionally needy omega.

Bruce sighed and hugged Tim tighter. “Do you want to go lie down in a nest? I know Jason always felt safer in a nest.”

Tim hesitated—but he was supposed to be helping Bruce feel better, and if taking care of a little omega helped him, then it wasn’t selfish for Tim to nod.

Tim felt more than saw Bruce’s smile, then definitely felt the way Bruce pulled him tightly against his chest before he stood up. Tim wrapped his legs around Bruce’s waist and tightened his grip around Bruce’s neck, but Bruce still put one arm underneath him and used the other to hold Tim’s back to his body as he started walking to the door.

Bruce moved with enviable ease, navigating the stairs like they were nothing. It was only a minute or two before they were coming to the guest room where Tim had been sleeping the last couple times—

Bruce stopped suddenly and sniffed once before stepping past the door and moving down the hallway. Tim couldn’t smell anything, clutched as he was with his nose against Bruce’s scent gland, but he blushed in shame, knowing that Bruce could no doubt smell how pathetic and scared Tim had been.

“Tim,” Bruce said, a slight chide in his tone. “You can come to me if you’re upset. You don’t need to wait so long.”

Tim sniffed hard and said nothing. He didn’t know what Bruce wanted him to say, and he was just going to embarrass himself if he tried to squeak out an apology.

Bruce stopped in front of a different door and carried Tim inside.

Tim didn’t have to lift his head to know that they were in Bruce’s own room. It smelled of him, not strongly, but noticeably. Bruce’s hand was petting Tim’s hair again, but his actions were soothing his instincts.

Bruce carried him across the room and bent down so he could lay Tim on his back on the side of the bed. Tim moved over quickly to make room for Bruce—not that Bruce had to stay, but he’d said that he’d cuddled with Jason, and if Tim was being Jason…

Bruce stood up and stepped away from the bed. He turned around and started walking away.

Tim keened desperately and stretched out a hand, but Bruce was leaving, leaving, leavingleavingleaving, always leaving—

Bruce turned around and walked straight back to the bed, and it shouldn’t have felt so much like a victory when he swept Tim into his arms and kissed his head, because Bruce wasn’t his dad, but it felt so, so good.

“I’ll be right back, Tim. We need more blankets for a nest,” Bruce murmured against Tim’s head. “I wasn’t going to leave you. I would never leave you, Tim, not like that.”

Tim keened a high-pitched distress cry, meant to call pack to protect him, but he shouldn’t do that, he shouldn’t

A sudden cramp hit him hard in the stomach, and he let go of Bruce by accident when he flinched.

Bruce stood up and ruffled Tim’s hair. “Right back, Tim. Just a few minutes, I promised.”

Bruce walked out, and Tim couldn’t get his breath back in time to call him back before he walked out, leaving Tim all alone again in a huge room on a giant bed that didn’t belong to him.

It did smell like Bruce, at least. Miserably, Tim crawled up the bed, digging his fingers into the duvet to drag himself forward and forward until he could grab the slightly-indented pillow—the only one that showed any signs of having been slept on—and pull it down to bury his face in it.

He didn’t know how long he cried before the door opened, or when it closed. He didn’t look up when the air swished as silent footsteps brought Bruce closer. He didn’t look up when Bruce set something light on the foot of the bed. He didn’t look up even when Bruce shook his shoulder.

“Tim? Don’t fall asleep yet,” Bruce said. “Don’t you want to make a nest?”

Tim sniffled and buried his face farther into the blanket but—a nest did sound nice.

Tim slowly lifted his face, swiping his eyes with his sleeve before he looked up at Bruce.

Bruce’s face softened, and he ran a hand through Tim’s hair. “Tim…I told you I was coming back.”

Tim flinched. So did his parents.

Bruce put a hand behind Tim’s back and helped him sit up. “Do you want to make your nest? I made a couple for Jason when he was injured, but I know that everyone is different.”

Tim looked up at Bruce in shock. He was supposed to make the nest? Him? Really make a nest, and for more than just him? Sure, he’d learned basic nesting in school, but everyone had to take health class. He wasn’t going to be able to make a nest that was worth looking at, much less lying in. But he couldn’t make Bruce do all the work, either.

Tim hesitated, then slowly turned to look at what Bruce had set on the end of the bed.

It was a massive pile of fluffy and thick blankets, and he could feel his mouth watering just looking at them. Set on top was a pile of laundry.

Tim’s eyes watered, but it had nothing to do with sadness. Bruce had actually gotten him scents from the other members of Bruce’s pack. There was Dick’s jacket, one of his shirts, Alfred’s favorite apron and one of his gloves, and Bruce’s scarf that had been hanging in the foyer.

Bruce was accepting him.

Tim smiled, but it was a wavery, watery thing. Now he had to build the nest himself.

Tim turned around to look at the fashionable pile of pillows along the top of the bed. It was a lot more than a normal bed, even a normal king bed, but of course Bruce Wayne would have a giant Alaskan king bed. That meant more pillows for Tim, so he wasn’t going to judge.

Tim crawled across the bed, grabbing all the pillows and tossing them into the middle of the bed. He didn’t push back the blankets already on the bed. They’d make a good base, soft and squishy underneath them.

Once he had all the pillows, he crawled back to the middle and started pushing them into wide ring. He had to make it big, seeing as he had a guest the size of Rhode Island to fit in it, so he couldn’t make it very deep even with the massive pile of pillows, but he did still manage to get it two pillows deep almost all the way around. It would be fine to leave their feet a bit open, though.

Hopefully. Unless Bruce didn’t like that.

“I need—” Tim gestured vaguely at Bruce, who nodded and sifted through the blankets until he pulled out a thick down duvet.

Tim actually purred when he took it. The blanket was purrfect though. It was so soft, and it was sturdy and big enough to cover all of the pillows entirely.

He had to stand up and leave his ring of pillows to be able to spread the blanket right, and he nearly fainted. Bruce looked a little queasy watching Tim stand, so Tim decided that he was never doing that again ever. His knees agreed.

Once he had that, Tim gestured again and Bruce pushed the pile of blankets and laundry back over to Tim. Tim nodded in approval and fished out a nice red furry blanket to put right where their heads would go. Yes, that was beautiful. He spread a muted orange wooly blanket over the area next to it and let it overlap slightly with the red one.

No, no, that wouldn’t do at all.

Tim switched them so that the corner of the red blanket was just slightly over the corner of the orange blanket, and that was better, but it still wasn’t right.

Tim glared at it for a few moments, then dug around in the bedding pile until he found Alfred’s glove. He set it right along the edge where the blankets met, propped up against the pillows underneath.

Bruce was chuckling, but Tim didn’t know why.

He continued to lay out the blankets and adjust them, and he didn’t know what Bruce thought was so funny, but of course he had to put the scarf at the foot of the bed where they were vulnerable, and he put Dick’s shirt down there too, just to warn any enemies that Tim’s nest was defended by two scary alphas—even though he only had one—but he put Dick’s jacket up at the top of the nest, where he’d be able to smell it better.

“It’s not funny!” Tim exclaimed tearfully when Bruce laughed at him for fussing at a particularly awful blanket.

Bruce was doing a really bad job of hiding his smile. “Of course Tim. I agree. You could never put the blue next to the pink. I shouldn’t have suggested it.”

“That’s not it!” Tim gasped, betrayal stinging in his core, and held up the blue blanket. “This is flannel!”

It took forever for the nest to be good enough, with everything set just right. After taking one more deep breath, he nodded shakily to Bruce.

Bruce laid a hand on his shoulder as Tim’s gaze flicked along the bed. Was there anything more? Something wrong?

“Tim, it’s lovely. I love it,” Bruce assured him…and he sounded honest.

Tim waited for Bruce to climb into the nest, very carefully so he wouldn’t mess anything up—though Tim did still have to adjust that glove—before he grabbed the quilted comforter that smelled a bit like dust but mostly like fabric softener and pulled it into the nest with him. Bruce took it from him and settled it over both of them.

Bruce pulled Tim close and tucked him under his chin, Tim’s back to Bruce’s chest, and his head pillowed on Bruce’s arm. Bruce’s other arm was wrapped around Tim’s waist, leaving both of his wrists, and their scent glands, within a foot of Tim’s nose. With the way Tim was snuggled more under the blankets than not, the air quickly became warm and filled with Bruce’s alpha-protective-caring-concerned-minemineminemineMINE scent.

A purr rattled in Tim’s chest, and a low rumble in Bruce’s answered it. Bruce raised the arm holding Tim against him up to Tim’s collarbone and brushed his own scent over Tim’s.

Tim closed his eyes and let Bruce cover him with his scent. Even if Bruce was only doing this for Jason, it didn’t matter, because he was doing it to Tim.

“Goodnight, Tim. I—I love you,” Bruce said.

Tim nodded and smiled, turning his face so that Bruce would be able to feel it on his arm. He couldn’t find the words to respond, to let Bruce know how much that meant. He didn’t—his parents had never said that.

Tim knew that he should stay awake, enjoy it longer, but he was so tired. And…Bruce wasn’t going to leave, was he?

Tim yawned massively, and Bruce’s chuckle vibrated through his head.

“Go to sleep, Tim. I’ll be here when you wake up,” Bruce promised him, carding his fingers through Tim’s hair in a slow pace that was impossible to resist.

Tim breathed a sigh of relief and fixed that glove again before he snuggled in close and let that gentle rhythm lull him to sleep. He was safe. He was protected. He was…loved.