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I Didn't Say I Liked You

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“I want to fuck you.”

Jason stills, for just a moment, then fastens the zip tie he has wrapped around the mad scientist's wrists and straightens from his crouch on the tile floor. Stepping over the unconscious bodies of the men whose evil plans they’ve foiled, Jason enters the main laboratory, where Tim has been investigating just what was being cooked up. He sees Red Robin leaning against a counter full of beakers and test tubes and microscopes and other equipment. Several of the containers are shattered, broken at some point during the altercation, and strange chemicals are leaking onto the counter and down to the floor, right where Tim is standing. Tim’s hands are clutching at the surface, and Jason can tell that under his mask Tim’s eyes are open wide, like his mouth that’s gaping in horror.

“I didn’t mean to say that,” Tim gasps. He seems to fight with himself, he’s struggling to keep his lips pressed together, but then, “I also want you to fuck me, but I think you’d be beautiful taking it.”

Jason glances behind him, as if Dick or Roy will be standing in the hall with a big poster that says, got you! But they aren’t there. It’s just him and Tim and the new weirdness in the air. “What the hell?”

“I can’t- Hood, I’m,” Tim is shaking now, and sweating more than the fight they just won warrants. “Something is wrong, I can’t control… You’d be so hot, I want to see it. I want to spread you open and-” Tim slaps a hand over his mouth, a strained whine coming from behind his gloved fingers. He whirls around and at first Jason thinks he’s avoiding facing Jason, but then he notices Tim searching the contents of the test tubes frantically.

Jason begins to understand what might be happening, and he moves to the counter to help, pulling up testing notes on the computer and scanning them. “I get it, Red, no worries. Just chill out, keep your mouth shut, and we’ll figure this out.”

Tim nods, sorting the containers filled with ominously vibrant colors of liquid, reading the severe warning labels. Unfortunately this occupies his hands, leaving his mouth unguarded. The words are ripped from him, dripping with mortification. “I want to suck your cock with my fingers in-”

“That was a nice hit you landed earlier,” Jason rushes to say, talking over Tim’s confession. Jason doesn’t want to let Tim say it like this, and he doesn’t want to hear it like this. Tim sends him a grateful, shaky nod just as something catches his eye on the monitor. Jason speed-reads through the document. “I think I got it.”

“What is- I think about coming on you when I-”

This time it’s Jason’s hand on Tim’s mouth. “Turn off your comm. so you won’t talk to anyone else. Get back to the manor, go to your room, and lock yourself in. I’ll warn everyone to stay away. I have the info we need to whip up an antidote.”

Behind his mask Tim looks terrified, and Jason wonders what he’s so afraid of. If he’s afraid of Jason, what Jason might do. Or maybe Tim is scared of himself.

“Now go.” Jason shoves him away and Tim runs across the room at top speed, leaps out the window into the night.

Jason hurries to gather a sample of the compound that’s affecting Tim, and all of the pertinent data from the computer.

“Red Hood to cave.”

“Batman here.”

Jason tucks the vial and flash drive into a secure pocket and makes for the window. “Red Robin is on his way there. He’s been doped up on something, sodium pentathol base.”

“Acknowledged. I’ll see to him when he arrives.”

“No,” Jason growls. “Don’t go near him. Trust me on this.”

~

Jason does not appreciate the bitter, resentful looks Bruce keeps shooting his way. They’re supposed to be intimidating, Jason is sure, but at this point he’s largely immune to Bruce’s scowling. By now Jason sees what it really is. The man is pouting.

He wants to tell Bruce he may as well stop because it’s not going to work, but acknowledging it would only make him turn up the sulk factor. Jason hopes Tim appreciates what he’s putting up with for the kid.

He will. He absolutely will. No way in hell would Tim want Jason blabbing about what happened. No way would he be okay with Bruce knowing what he said.

So Jason resolutely ignores the giant brooding bat child and continues synthesising an antidote for the super enhanced truth serum that Tim inhaled. He keeps his eyes on one of the cave’s many monitors, the chemical make up laid out before him, dissected and cataloged, every element labelled. The stuff is horrible, but part of Jason is still impressed with the design. It’s brilliant, really, the efficiency. The way it attacks the prefrontal cortex and the Broca’s area simultaneously, stripping away impulse control and emotional regulation, but only in relation to speech. It makes you say whatever you’re thinking, whatever you’ve kept buried deep down. That it’s targeting speech alone tells Jason that the people who engineered it had a very specific use for it. Interrogation, most likely. It could easily be modified to affect the whole of the prefrontal cortex, indiscriminately, and then Tim would have been doing a lot more than just saying stuff he’d rather keep hidden. This compound could completely obliterate a person’s reasoning and judgment and self control.

He takes a moment to be grateful he was wearing his helmet, and that it filtered the stuff, keeping Jason from being affected.

It’s fucked up. It’s terrifying. No wonder Tim had looked so scared.

“I want to fuck you.”

Jason’s fingers stumble on the keyboard where he’s mapping out the chemical equation for the antidote, and he has to backspace, re-enter one of the components. He takes a deep breath, tries to focus. Tries to not let himself be distracted. Tries.

“I think about coming on you when I-”

When he what?

Well, Jason has a pretty good idea. An idea that’s turning into images, filling his head with skin and heat and sounds.

But no. That’s not what he needs to be thinking about right now. Because Tim needs him to solve this and make it go away. Jason cares about Tim and he doesn’t want him to have to endure this for too long. He wouldn’t have wanted this for Tim even when he did hate the kid. No one deserves to have their consent and control ripped away.

The anger and disgust that come from thinking about this stuff, and what it’s doing to Tim right now, and what it’s done to who knows who else, is enough to keep any arousal down, casting the ideas in a sick light. Between that and the pressure of getting this work done quickly for Tim’s sake, not to mention the way Bruce is still glaring at him, Jason is tense. He leans back in his rolling chair (and it shows how much he’s grown, that he has his own chair here, that he’s in the cave, working with the rest of them often enough to need one) and stretches his legs and arms in front of him.

“Yo, big guy,” he calls to Bruce, whose attention he already had, has had since the moment he entered the cave. He pointedly glances down at his wrist (bare, but it’s the gesture itself that counts). “Isn’t it about time for tea and cookies? I think I heard Alfred calling for you, wouldn’t want to let it go cold.”

Bruce, stationed at another monitor, continues his work without any response, without a twitch to show he even heard.

Jason throws up his hands helplessly. “Okay, fine. But when Al comes down here with stale crumpets and that raised eyebrow, you’ll only have yourself to blame.”

With a sigh Jason curls over the keyboard again. He knew it wouldn’t work, but he had to at least try to get Bruce and his petty judgment away.

He’s putting the final touches on the formula when Dick’s voice rings out over the comm. system. “Nightwing to cave.”

Bruce taps a button and answers, “Go ahead.”

“Robin and I have cleaned up any remaining traces of the compound in the lab, and are bringing back all chemical substances, along with the corresponding data from the hard drives.”

“Acknowledged.”

With a click Bruce ends the connection.

Jason tries to finalise the equations in front of him but something is nagging at him. He turns to Bruce. “They’re bringing that stuff back for proper disposal, right?”

“It will be studied. A weapon like that needs to be understood and documented.”

“Yeah, and then destroyed.”

“It’s a very valuable tool.”

“It’s sick and wrong,” Jason says, willing himself not to yell. “You can’t use it, Bruce. You don’t know what it does.”

“No. I don’t.” Because you won’t tell me, Jason hears in the silence of the deliberate pause Bruce takes. “I know enough. I know its function, and possible uses.”

“Its function is to completely fuck you over and make you say things you never would otherwise. It’s humiliating and terrifying, and. You have to trust me, okay? You don’t want anything to do with it.” That’s twice tonight he’s asked for Bruce’s trust. Jason knows he’s close to begging, too much pleading in his voice for how he’s trying to sound firm. But if he needs to beg, so be it. He won’t let Batman start injecting perps with this shit, just to get some information a little faster. There has to be lines the Batman won’t cross.

And how ironic is it, that Jason would be the one to remind Bruce of that?

Bruce doesn't answer, but Jason doesn’t have time to get too deep into this discussion. He’s got work to do, and he can yell at Bruce all he wants after Tim is cured. He finishes the formula and then waits for the antidote to be synthesised. He leans back, tries to relax somewhat, but spends the few minutes tapping his armrest impatiently. When the computer is done he jumps up, ready even before the alert beeps. He picks up the vial carefully, pushes a stopper into the top, and makes his way upstairs. He sets it in front of Tim’s door and knocks twice, then hurries away. Tim wouldn’t want to see him right now.

~

Two days later, Jason figures out that Tim’s plan to deal with the situation is pretending that nothing happened. He acts the same as ever, and Jason is impressed at how well he pulls it off. There’s still the slightest bit of tension, and Tim avoids eye contact too often, but otherwise it goes completely unmentioned. Jason hadn’t really expected that they would have a long discussion about it, and only a little part of him expected Tim to thank him, but he had made it clear he would be willing to talk, if Tim wanted, which he clearly doesn’t. That’s fine. Mostly.

Jason himself has spent the last two days trying to forget what Tim had said, because it isn’t fair at all that he heard it in the first place. He’s angry that it happened like that, that Tim’s voice in his head is so stressed, so embarrassed, so scared. Jason is angry for Tim’s sake, and his own, because he can’t enjoy it at all, the words that would normally be so sweet to hear are sour on the back of his tongue. He doesn’t have any right to think about it, to imagine it, to fantasize.

It’s difficult when he’s been wishing for Tim to say something like that for a while. When he’s daydreamed about Tim telling him those things, but willingly, and happily. He’s thought about Tim fucking him, wrapped around him from behind and placing kisses along Jason's back, moving into him with slow, firm thrusts and teasing his cock with light touches until Jason’s thighs are trembling, his arms shaking, and he’s barely able to suck in a breath, the sensations are overwhelming and Jason’s falling, falling, crying out-

And now it makes him feel so damn guilty.

Although, there is something, a warmth, a tickle, deep in his chest. He doesn’t want it, it isn’t right, but…

“I think you’d be beautiful taking it.”

He never considered Tim might want anything like that from him. It took so long for Tim to stop seeing Jason as dangerous, with reason. Jason’s reconciliation with Bruce and the rest of the family has been a slow and awkward process, but he finds himself more and more working in the cave, eating in the kitchen while he watches Alfred cook dinner, and even staying the night when he’s worked himself to exhaustion. He’s been adopted into their patrol schedule. He spars with Dick. He has a room (down the hall from Tim’s; not his old room). But still, with all the civility, he and Tim aren’t friends, as much as Jason would like to be. Tim doesn’t stay when he sees Jason sitting at the bar in the kitchen, just nods and takes his snack to another room. He doesn’t spar with Jason. Tim has always maintained a professional distance.

Apparently the kid is a fine actor, if he’s been harboring those kinds of thoughts all this time.

And, maybe, Jason thinks with a touch of hope, Tim doesn’t hang around Jason because he wants to fuck. It is a bit of a challenge wrestling with a person when you want to be wrapped around them in a totally different, but frustratingly similar way.

What Jason does know is that as it stands, Jason is aware of Tim’s attraction while Tim isn’t aware of Jason’s, and that isn’t fair. Tim being embarrassed and thinking it’s one sided, Jason pining away in secret, alone with his guilt-ridden fantasies. That won’t be good for anybody in the end.

And so Jason seeks Tim out, finds him in the kitchen in the early morning hours after the kid’s patrol. He’s freshly showered and looks tired but uninjured. His Superman pajama pants drag on the tile floor, plain white t-shirt loose around his shoulders. It’s huge on him. Probably Bruce’s. Jason’s noticed Tim wearing others’ clothes, and he’s not sure if Tim collects them intentionally or if he just doesn’t care about snatching whatever is around and keeping it for himself. Though he’s never seen Tim in any of Jason’s own clothes.

Tim is leaning against the counter, shoveling ice cream into his mouth. He glances up when Jason walks in, nods in the short way he usually does, then goes back to contemplating the design in the marble counter top.

Jason moves to the fridge and grabs a soda, fiddles with the tab before snapping it open. “Oh hey,” he says. Casual. Not like he’s been building up for this all day and painfully planning what he’s going to say. “Do you want to go out?”

When Tim looks up again Jason clarifies, “With me?”

Tim freezes, spoon handle hanging out of his mouth.

“I thought, maybe, we could get something to eat.”

Tim frowns around his mouthful of ice cream, eyebrows slowly drawing down and together.

“Well, not now, obviously, but. Some other night.”

Tim finally pulls the spoon away but Jason doesn’t feel good about the twist of his lips.

“And the new Star Trek movie is out,” Jason tries. “You like Star Trek, right? We could go. See that.”

Tim stares at him for a minute, looking increasingly angry, until finally he says, “That seems like a lot of effort for just a fuck.”

“A fu- what?”

“I mean, we don’t have to do the whole dinner-and-a-movie thing.” Tim waves his spoon around, encapsulating the whole date concept.

“But… I want to.” Jason feels his own face twisting in confusion, feels himself go red because he can’t really tell if he’s being mocked or rejected, but whatever is happening, he doesn’t like it.

Tim rolls his eyes. “What, are you going to tell me you’re a gentleman, and won’t get into bed without dinner first?”

“That’s not what I’m asking for.”

“So you don’t want to have sex?” Tim asks, amused.

“No. I mean, yes,” Jason flounders, “I do, but. Not. I’m just asking for a date here.”

“Why? It’s obvious what you’re after.”

“What makes you so sure,” Jason demands.

Tim explains, “You didn’t want me, then you learn I’m interested in you sexually, and now you want to take me out. Doesn’t take a genius to figure it.”

“That’s not it,” Jason protests. “I like you, okay? I have liked you. I just. I thought you didn’t like me, but now I know you do, so I’m asking.”

“I don’t like you.”

It’s said with such simplicity, so blatantly, that it takes a moment for Jason to comprehend the words. And then he’s still confused. “What? But...”

“I said I wanted to fuck around with you.” Tim looks away, uncomfortable with the reminder. But then he’s back to meeting Jason’s eyes. “I didn’t say I liked you. It’s just sexual attraction.”

“Oh.” Shit. Damn it all to Hades.

Tim shrugs. “But hey, that lets you off the hook, yeah? Like I said, no need for the dating when what you wanted was sex. You don’t need to pretend to care about my feelings or whatever.”

“I do care. I don’t just- I wanted to. I wanted the dating.”

“Bullshit.” Tim laughs. Jason wants to appreciate it, it being the first time he has made Tim laugh, but. It’s not a moment to be appreciated. He finds himself getting angry, and sad, and embarrassed, and a whole bag of things he can’t sort out.

“I just wanted you. Yes, I’d like sex, but I would be happy with you even if we never fucked,” Jason insists, fighting to keep his voice from raising, very aware of where they’re standing and how someone passing by in the hall could overhear. This wasn’t how he’d expected the conversation to go. He hadn’t thought to be worried about being overheard.

“Right.” Tim rolls his eyes again. Jason is starting to hate that. A little.

“It’s true.”

“Okay,” Tim says lightly. “You know what? We’ll play your game.”

“What does that mean?”

“We’ll date. And we won’t ever touch, and we’ll see how long you last.”

Jason is… conflicted. Tim still doesn’t believe him, but he did say they could go out. But it’s apparently some big test. But Jason will have Tim. Kind of. Even though Tim doesn't actually like him back.

He hates that Tim thinks this way about him. He hates that this is the only way he’ll get to date Tim. He hates the thought of. Everything. All of this.

But, there is one thought, creeping up in the back of his mind, pushing through the negativity. In such a life as Jason has led, it’s imperative to be able to spot opportunities in the rubble. He sees one here. He could go along with it, and never make a move, and prove to Tim what kind of person he is, and then maybe… Maybe Tim might realise he doesn't know Jason all that well. And he might learn to know Jason better and. Like him.

“Yes,” Jason says, as soon as that possibility occurs to him.

Tim smirks. “Well alright then, babe.” He takes one last bite of ice cream and puts the container away in the freezer, drops his spoon in the sink. He turns to leave, saying, “And yes, I do like Star Trek. And Mexican food. Plan me something super romantic!”

~

This is, Jason realises as he pulls up to Tim’s apartment, his very first date. When he was a kid, he was busy. Working hard to stay alive, then working hard to be good enough for Bruce. Working hard at school and being Robin. Then he died. After that, romantic interest took the back burner. It’s only recently that he’s been in a place mentally and emotionally that he could consider those types of things again.

Jason regards the brownstone in front of him. He’s nervous.

His first date. With Tim.

The front door opens and Tim slips out, skips down the four steps to the sidewalk. He grins appreciatively, but it’s directed at Jason’s bike.

Jason frowns. “I was going to come up.”

“What for?”

“You know… I should come to the door to get you.”

“Well,” Tim says seriously, “first, we’re not in an episode of Leave it to Beaver, so you don’t need to be all chivalrous. You don’t need to meet my dad and all that shit. And second, I don’t care because it’s not like it’s a real date.”

“Right,” Jason says bitterly. Then he pulls it back because Tim might not care but Jason does, and he’s hoping to get Tim to care. Eventually. “Okay, hop on.”

Tim slides onto the seat behind him and wraps his arms around Jason’s waist, pressing in against him. A giddy excitement tickles down Jason’s skin, and he smiles, until. Until he remembers that Tim is testing him. So Tim will be teasing him. Trying to get Jason to cave.

And then he doesn’t know if he should be enjoying the feel of Tim behind him, or if he even wants to.

He kicks off and drives down the streets of Gotham, weaving through traffic with Tim’s fingers twisting into his shirt front. He takes them to Las Palmas, the only decent Mexican restaurant in Gotham. They walk in to the sound of a man crooning in Spanish through the speakers and diners talking loudly to each other over the music. Multicolored fairy lights run along the walls and around the trunks of fake palm trees. With a smile that only mostly seems forced, the hostess leads them to a table in the back and hands them menus as they sit, promising their server will be with them shortly.

“So, is this okay?” Jason asks. “The restaurant, I mean.”

“Yeah. I love this place,” Tim admits reluctantly after a moment.

Jason grins into his menu. A waiter arrives, a man with a thick moustache and tired eyes, but he smiles politely and asks for their drink order. After he leaves Tim studies his menu, and Jason takes the opportunity to study Tim. Tim is wearing black jeans tucked into shiny combat boots and a green sweater. It looks soft, and Jason sits on his hand to keep from reaching across the table and testing the feel of the material. For all that Tim insisted this wasn’t a real date, he’s dressed nicer than Jason is used to seeing him. It even appears that he’s combed his hair; it’s swooped to the side, tucked behind his ear, long enough to brush his shoulders. A change from the usual tangled mess it is after patrol, wind-tossed in every direction, or the hasty bun when he’s working. Although Jason does like the bun. And the mess. He likes when Red Robin flicks his hair out of his face before landing a punch. He likes when Tim sticks a pen through his bun and then searches for it five minutes later.

A red glass of water is set in front of him and Jason quickly scans the menu while Tim places his order. He settles on enchiladas and the waiter nods, leaves them alone again.

Tim sips his coke. Looks up at Jason, who promptly starts to freak out because he doesn’t know what to do now.

What do people say on dates? He hasn’t done this part before. He can’t remember the last time he spent time with a person socially, no talk of intel or guns or tracking devices.

What do people talk about, when they have a history like the two of them? It’s a little surreal, to be sitting there across from a guy he’s attacked on more than one occasion, a guy he’s tried to recruit to his side and got rejected by, a guy he works with but apparently can’t have a conversation with.

It hits him then, that they’ve yet to clear the air of all of that ugliness. They’ve been operating on an assumed understanding, of unspoken apologies and forgiveness, but even then, Jason isn’t sure if Tim has forgiven him. Tim welcomed him into the cave, into the family, and he’d taken that as a truce offering. There needs to be more than that. They need to talk.

But this isn’t the best time or place for that sort of conversation.

Part of him wants to ask, Why don’t you like me? But, again, time and place.

He finally has Tim and no clue where to go from there. Tim, at least, doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable with the silence. If anything he’s amused. Tim plays with his glass, turning it in circles, and Jason notices his hands.

“You painted your nails.” It’s a stupid thing to say, but Jason’s never noticed them painted before. They’re dark grey. He keeps staring.

“Cass did.” Tim shrugs, then grins. “I asked her to help me get ready. I said, ‘make me up so he’ll want to fuck me right there on the table.’”

Jason hides behind his water, takes a sip to cool down. “She did a good job.”

Tim glances away, a little pink in the cheeks, or maybe that’s the red tint from the twinkle lights. Soon he’s focussed on Jason again, smiling in a way that makes Jason’s toes curl. “You want to take me right here?”

“No.” Not because Tim isn’t beautiful, but, “Doing it in public isn’t my thing.”

Tim blinks, surprised at the honesty, before that flirty grin is back. “And what is your thing?”

“Not sure I have one, but I think this probably isn’t the best first date small talk.”

“Wait,” Tim leans forward, dropping the salacious act. “You don’t have one… like, you don’t have any kinks or anything?”

“No,” Jason admits. “Do you like baseball?”

“What?”

“Baseball,” Jason repeats, desperate to change the subject. And it’s just in time as the waiter approaches with their food.

Tim digs in happily, pulling out a slice of his quesadilla and scooping beans and rice on top. After demolishing the piece he says, “Yes, I like baseball. I like most sports.”

Jason sighs in relief. He can work with that.

They talk about baseball and football and basketball and even quidditch while they eat, up until they’ve finished and left the restaurant and are climbing onto Jason’s bike. Darkness is falling as they drive to the theatre, the city now lit by fluorescent lights. The way they know Gotham best.

At the theatre Jason buys the tickets and asks if Tim wants anything from the concession stand. Tim studies him, then asks for a soda and two types of candy, looking surprised when Jason happily buys those too. They find seats as the previews are still going and settle in. When Jason’s foot accidently brushes Tim’s, he pulls it back.

In the dark with Tim just on the edge of his field of vision, Jason is left with only the impression of him in the next seat, the heat of him, the sound of his candy package being opened. He wants to look, to see the way the light from the screen plays on his face, but doesn’t chance it, sure Tim is aware of all the time he’s been staring tonight already. Turning his focus back to the movie as it starts, Jason resolves to not be too obviously distracted by Tim.

Five minutes later that resolve is shaken when Tim shifts, leaning slightly closer to Jason. He sets his elbow on the armrest between them and his upper arm is touching Jason’s. It might be the first time they’ve ever touched outside of necessity and Jason might be having trouble keeping his breathing steady. It’s a tiny thing, such miniscule contact. Arms, separated by clothing. And it’s turning Jason inside out, his toes tingling. Before he can recover, there is a piece of candy in front of him, and he stares stupidly, unable to comprehend the offer, because his mind is off balance and because Tim’s hand is right there, his fingers a few inches from Jason’s mouth. When he continues to do nothing the hand retracts, and Jason follows it with his eyes, stomping down on a noise of protest. Tim brings the candy up to his own mouth and slips it in, his thumb lingering against his lips. The noise Jason aborts this time would not have been one of protest.

Tim watches the movie, seemingly unaware of the turmoil he’s causing, but Jason knows that Tim knows exactly what he’s doing.

The next two hours are an exquisite hell of Tim teasing, testing, playing, and Jason systematically losing his shit. By the time the credits roll the armrest has been pushed up, allowing Tim to plaster himself to Jason’s side, his head resting on Jason’s shoulder. One hand is wrapped around Jason’s forearm and the other sits on his leg, just above the knee. His knee. So far away from anything and still wreaking havoc.

Tim turns his face up and asks, “Did you like that?”

Jason nearly screams. “Yeah,” he says, voice low. “I liked… It was better than the last movie.”

Tim hums in agreement, finally pulling away and standing. Jason follows him out of the theatre.

For the third and final time that night Tim sits behind Jason on the motorcycle, and Jason finds himself taking corners too fast so that Tim will tighten his grip. When he stops in front of the apartment building and Tim jumps off, he’s smiling, and to Jason it looks a little more genuine than the other flirtatious grins so far. Like maybe Tim actually enjoyed the date, and not just for sadistic reasons.

Then Tim leans in, bracing his hands on Jason’s chest. “You wanna come up?”

“Yes.” Jason pulls together any and all of his remaining sanity and functional brain cells, hating himself a little. “But I won’t.”

There’s the slightest flash of disappointment in Tim’s expression, and Jason doesn’t let himself wonder what exactly that means, or how he feels about it. Tim moves closer. “A goodnight kiss?”

A kiss. Tim’s lips. Right there, curved into a small smile. He wants it, but. Not like this.

He wants a show of true affection. Happy and warm and just for the closeness of it. Not just a kiss.

He shakes his head, because if he opens his mouth it might do something stupid like say yes.

“Okay,” Tim says, and steps back. “We’ll see about next time.” He winks and turns around, disappears into the building.

Jason heaves a deep breath as he grips his bike handles tightly to stop the trembling in his hands.

~

For their second date Jason takes Tim to the Gotham Art Museum, where he learns Tim hates modern art as he bypasses that floor entirely. They’re familiar with the layout of the building, both having stopped several robberies there, but Jason hopes Tim will appreciate being able to enjoy the art as it should be viewed, rather than in the dark, up in the rafters. Jason certainly does. He realises he’s never been to an art museum purely as an observer. It’s a week of firsts for him.

Conversation is easier, with so many potential topics hanging on the walls around them. He asks Tim which pieces he likes and which he doesn’t, and why. Sometimes Tim’s answer will be as simple as, “it’s pretty,” or, “I don’t like cherubs, they’re creepy.” Other paintings evoke long commentary about the history behind the scene, or the technique, or the artist's motivation. It’s never quite what Jason expects, but fascinating all the same.

He’d had an idea of Tim, from working with Red Robin and the… research he’d done when Tim was Robin and Jason was angry. He thought he knew Tim fairly well, but he was wrong. Starting with that night, Tim’s confessions, Jason is realising that the Tim in his head doesn’t match reality. He never expected the kid to react they way he had in the kitchen, this whole… game of sexual tension chicken he’s playing was a surprise. And spending time in a social situation, in a way they never have before, is showing him Tim in a different light. But it’s good. It’s better, in fact. Jason likes this Tim. The way he talks and the way he thinks. The fact that he might be the only person in the world that doesn’t like Van Gogh. “His stuff makes me uncomfortable,” Tim says with a shrug. The couple nearby look on incredulously when he adds, “Most of it I don’t actually think is any good, and the style is unsettling.”

He’s still overly physical, leaning in to Jason’s space, taking any opportunity to touch. Sliding his gaze down to Jason’s lips. Jason pulls away every time. That first night during the movie Jason had been too caught off guard to handle it properly, but he’s prepared now. He doesn’t let any contact go on, for his own sake and sanity, and for the message it sends to Tim: he isn’t here for the physicality. He’s here to talk to Tim, to learn more about him.

When he drops Tim off at his house, Tim leans in for a kiss again. Jason reaches up and stills him with a hand on his shoulder. Because he simply can’t help himself, he tucks some loose hair behind Tim’s ear. Tim grins expectantly while Jason stays there, close, studying blue eyes and freckles, until he gently pushes Tim away.

“Next time,” Tim promises as he leaves.

~

“You know what they say about third dates,” Tim says with a smile.

“Right, well. It is going to get hot.”

Tim pauses with raised eyebrows. “Oh really?”

“Just come on.” Jason leads the way outside. He’d asked Tim to meet him at the manor today. The vast grounds are an idyllic venue for the evening’s activities. They walk out a set of french doors to a courtyard containing a well tended garden. Past that is an open space of grass, a few trees, and a fire pit that Jason set up earlier, with a respectable fire roaring softly. Next to it a blanket is spread out on the ground, compete with a white wicker basket that, despite it’s cliche’d reputation, was terribly difficult to find.

“A picnic. By a fire.” Tim glances at the sky to west. “At sunset.”

“What, you have a problem with a nice diner?” He knows that’s not true. He’s seen Tim ravage unseemly amounts of food. The kid likes to eat. And he knows the setup is a little overused, but it will still be nice, and besides there’s more to it than that. Jason sits, and a moment later Tim joins him on the blanket.

“So what’d you bring?” Tim nods eagerly to the basket.

“Lots of good stuff. But first...” Jason reaches into a pocket and pulls out a six inch long glass vial and a flash drive. “This is the stuff from the lab.”

Tim keeps himself from flinching, but his eyes are colder in an instant. “Why do you have that?”

Setting them down between where he and Tim sit, he explains, “I thought you might like to do the honors.” He motions toward the fire.

“You want me to throw an aerosol poison onto a fire?”

“I modified it,” Jason assures. “It would only affect you if you ingest it.”

Slowly, Tim picks up the serum and the memory stick. Glares down at them. And then he tosses them into the fire.

It had taken some work to convince Bruce to relinquish the formula, and before the end Jason had recruited Dick’s and Alfred’s help. There’s a good chance Bruce squirreled away a backup copy of the data, but Jason still feels good about having reasoned with him. They talked. Like people. And even better is the way Tim is releasing tension, gradually softening until he’s smiling, the flames highlighting his face. It’s beautiful.

“Thank you.” Tim’s voice is soft, and genuine and grateful in a way Jason's never heard. Not directed at him.

Jason clears his throat. “Of course.” While Tim is basking in the warmth of fire and freedom, Jason opens the basket and retrieves the food he had packed. He made it himself. With only minimal guidance from Alfred.

He lays out diner: hand-made pizza, one for each of them, chocolate chip cookies for dessert, and glass bottles of root beer.

“How did you know… ” Tim trails off, waving at his pizza. It has bits of fried chicken, bacon, bell peppers, onions, and artichokes, with three different types of cheese.

Jason feels like he’s just been asked how he knows the sky is blue. It’s common knowledge, he wants to say. He’s seen Tim eat pizza several times, and that’s always the combination. Why wouldn’t Jason know that? “I just… do.”

Tim keeps his eyes on Jason for a long moment before picking up a slice and taking a bite. He groans happily, eyes falling shut with a flutter. “That’s perfect.”

Perfect. Jason has to agree. Tim’s hair is loose around his face, and the breeze tugs at the ends. He’s buried in a sweater that falls past his fingertips, and that along with the fire keeps him warm in the chill of an October evening. It’s quiet out here, so far from the house and anything else. Tim is relaxed and comfortable. Perfect.

“Why don’t you like me?” Jason almost regrets breaking the peace but he needs to know, and now seems like a time Tim might give him an honest answer.

With a sigh Tim sets down his food. He fiddles with his sleeves, curling the ends over his fingers and trapping them in his palms. “I just… I don’t know you, Jason. And you don’t know what kind of. Influence. You’ve had on my life. I have a lot of conflicting feelings when it comes to you and it’s all just. Really confusing.”

“Can you try to explain it? I want to know.”

Tim sighs again, runs his fingers through his hair, probably getting pizza grease in it. That makes Jason smile, until Tim starts to speak. “You were… Everything. You were the reason I became Robin. You were who I talked to when I was angry and scared. You were my goal, the shadow I had to live up to. My ghost story, the warning about what could happen in this kind of life. Why I learned to be extra careful so that nothing would happen to another Robin. You were why Bruce refused to get close to me for so long.

“Then you came back and you hated me.” Tim’s voice is even, his expression flat, but Jason can see how much that hurts him. It hurts Jason too. “The first time I met you, you attacked me. The first time you touched me was a punch to the face. And I know, okay, I know you were dealing with stuff I can’t comprehend, and you were unstable and in a lot of pain. I’m not saying it’s completely fine, but you were sick and I don’t blame you for that. But you caused a lot of pain for Bruce and Dick, and everyone I love. Until recently, all of my experiences with you have been fighting, yelling, fear. Batarangs to the chest.”

Jason has to look away at that reminder. This is harder than he thought it would be.

Tim continues, “And now, I don’t know you. You, as a person. Not as a suit hanging in a glass case or Red Hood, but just Jason, normal and happy and whole. I don’t know who that is. But...” Jason glances back in time to catch the soft smile Tim grants him. “I think I might be starting to.”

It takes a long while for Jason to get his mouth to work enough to say, “I’m sorry,” and it’s not enough, but he doesn’t know what could be.

Chapter Text

Jason has finally found something he cannot do. There’s no reason this should be so difficult, he has years of training, hardened reflexes and impeccable aim. He can do things your Average Joe could never hope to. And yet.

And yet the ball once again veers too far to the left and Jason stands with the tip of his boots right at the line grumbling curses (the wholesome, not-actually-cuss-words kind, because there are children around), flapping his hands, waving his arms, directing the ball where it should be going. It drops, and Jason digs his fingers into his hair, pulling.

Jason Todd is a surprisingly terrible bowler. Half of his shots fall into the gutters, and the rest are lucky to knock over more than two pins. He hadn’t known, when he planned to take Tim out bowling, that this would be such an issue for him. Sure, he’d never bowled before, but he assumed he could do it. Because tossing a ball down a lane nearly four feet wide to knock down some sizable, unmoving pins sixty feet away seemed like a cakewalk compared throwing a knife through a six inch gap to hit a running target one hundred feet away, which he can do with his eyes closed.  

He whirls around and stalks back to the table, where Tim is all but out-right laughing at him.

“The floor is uneven,” Jason claims as he falls onto the seat next to Tim. “It’s all… wobbly. And tilted.”

“The balls are probably weighted improperly too.”

“Right!” Jason nods seriously, choosing to ignore Tim’s sarcasm.

On the screen above their lane, a sad little number two is added to Jason’s score, and then Tim’s row is highlighted. Tim stands and stretches his arms above his head, getting his shoulders nice and loose for optimum swing, as if he needs it. Jason’s eyes dart to and from and to again the bit of skin that his raised shirt is showing. Tim holds the position for a second longer and then relaxes, and Jason quickly looks away and inspects his shoes, mumbling something about how they slide too much and it throws off his aim.

Tim bends to pick up a dull, pink ball from the ball return and moves up to a few feet before the line. He slides his fingers into the holes and settles into a stance (cocking his hip out a little more than Jason thinks is necessary), and then takes the one, two, three quick steps, dropping his arm and swinging it forward, releasing the ball at the perfect moment. It rolls beautifully, straight down the aisle, and knocks into the front-most pin, then fells the rest. A strike.

Jason can’t help but glare at the kid, and he’s not sure whether it’s at the fact that Tim is bowling so well, or that his ass looks incredible in the jeans that Cassandra probably picked out for him. They pass each other as Tim walks back to his seat and Jason approaches the lane, blue ball in hand, and Tim brushes against him, reaches out and trails his fingers down a bare forearm. He says, “Try to keep your head out of the gutter,” and Jason trips on air.

Jason can feel Tim watching as, tension locked into every joint of his body, he throws the ball a little too hard, a little too stiffly. It immediately rolls sharply to the right, flies toward the gutter, and Jason snaps, “Neptune’s beard!

~

They’re sitting on a bench in the park and Tim is trying to lick at his ice cream cone seductively. He’s not doing it very well, he’s clumsy and messy, and some of it’s dripped onto his shirt and he doesn’t seem to have noticed. Tim is not, Jason has learned, a naturally sensual person. Whenever he tries to be sexy, past the teasing touches, it doesn’t quite work. So Tim is artlessly fellating a swirl of chocolate and vanilla, and even if it was arousing, that wouldn’t be why Jason can’t look away.

Jason is watching the shadows from the leaves of the tree above them play over Tim’s face. He’s making note of how a simple thing like ice cream and fresh air make Tim happy. He’s just looking at how lovely Tim is, and thinking about how much pain he’s caused and that now he needs to make up for all of it. How he needs to treat Tim the very best he can, because Tim deserves that. He deserves better than what Jason can give him.

He still hears Tim’s voice in his head, but now instead of I want to fuck you, it’s you caused a lot of pain for everyone I love and all of my experiences with you have been fighting, yelling, fear.

It hurts. Worse than so many of the other things that have hurt him before because this one is his doing, his fault. Tim said he understood and he doesn’t blame Jason for those things, but Jason can’t help but blame himself. He doesn’t regret everything that happened after he came back, but he does see that Tim shouldn’t have been a part of it. His issue was with Bruce and it should have stayed between them.

It would be easy to write it all off, Tim had given him an out. You were sick and I don’t blame you for that. Jason could, at least with Tim, forget it happened. But he needs to deal with it. They, together, need to accept that it happened and find some forgiveness, and then one day Jason won’t feel so guilty, and Tim won’t occasionally flinch away, though he does a good job at hiding it. And Jason wants to heal this thing between them. There is too much that’s gone unhealed in Jason’s life, so much open and bleeding and resentful and angry. He’s pulling those wounds together, slowly, and he knows he’s come a long way from where he was, but sometimes he wakes in the night with laughter ringing in his head and all of that rage, all of that insecurity comes flooding back, and he wants to go back, rip it open again and yell and hit and hurt-

He’s not normal and happy and whole, like Tim said, but he is better, and the fact that Tim can see that feels good in those moments when Jason thinks about destroying everything he’s worked for, destroying himself again. So he will mend his relationship with Tim. Because it’s important, and he needs to remember that.

Beyond that, he ought to just leave Tim alone, let him find someone that deserves him back. But Jason wants to be selfish with this. There aren’t many things in this life he’s worked for solely for his own sake, and if Tim is willing to put up with him, he’ll take it for as long as it lasts.

Tim finishes the ice cream and Jason keeps staring at him, but Tim seems to have gotten used to that by now. He looks down at his empty cup with sad eyes.

Jason asks, “Do you want another ice cream?”

Tim glances up, startled, then tilts his head and smiles. “You’d go get me one?”

“Of course,” Jason replies instantly.

~

When Tim sees the look on Jason’s face, the way his eyes scan Tim’s body, he sighs wearily. “They’re overalls, okay? And they’re super comfortable and practical,” he recites, sounding like he’s had to argue these points before. He indicates the many available pockets on his sides and front. “I can carry so much stuff, and I’ll know right away if anyone is trying to pickpocket me.”

“Yeah,” Jason says softly, vaguely dazed. He doesn’t correct Tim, that he thinks Jason has some sort of problem with what he’s wearing. He’s still focused on the overalls, and the baggy plaid shirt underneath, all of it making Tim look like he stepped right out of 1994. It’s the first time Tim hasn’t dressed up for one of their dates, and while he appreciates the view of tight black jeans and soft sweaters, he’s appreciating this view too. He’s seen Tim around the cave or the manor in comfortable, casual clothes, but this is different. He’s struck stupid by those overalls. “Yeah, sure. They’re cool.”

Tim snorts. “Cool. Thanks,” he says as he takes the spare helmet and slides onto the bike.

Jason blinks, focuses on the bike between his legs and not the arms around his waist, pulls away from the sidewalk and they zoom downtown to Robinson Park. Jason leaves his motorcycle on the edge of the park and they walk the path to the open space in the center.

This time they’re not there to enjoy the afternoon on a bench. This time there is a massive stage set up on the grass and a crowd is gathering in front of it. A few people are on the platform, tech assistants running final checks on the instruments and microphones.

Tim takes in the wall of people in front of them and nods decisively. “Okay.” He grabs the back of Jason’s shirt in his fist. “Use that size for something good and get us through. Over there.” He points to a spot up and to the right, miraculously free, if they can reach it.

“You want me to bulldoze our way through?”

“Gently.”

“Gently bulldoze. Got it.” With Tim clinging to his back, Jason gently pushes through the crowd. It’s not difficult, anyone paying enough attention to see him coming steps aside preemptively. Soon they reach the empty patch of grass and settle in, sitting down until the show starts.

“I should take you with me everywhere I go,” Tim tells him. “I wouldn’t have to fight so hard to get anywhere. Plus,” he adds with a grin, “people might stop asking me if I need help finding my mommy and daddy.”

“Sure,” Jason agrees. He winks. “I’ll be your daddy.”

Tim laughs. Laughs, free and sweet.

Jason digs his fingers into the grass, clutches it by the root and dirt gets under his fingernails. He hates dirt under his fingernails, but it’s better than diving forward, pushing Tim to the ground and throwing himself on top. Sliding his hands into the many pockets of those overalls and feeling Tim underneath, firm and real. To feel that laughter right up against his chest.

Later when the music starts Jason stands and pulls up Tim alongside him, and Tim is close enough that when he sways (off rhythm) to the beat he brushes against Jason every so often. Jason enjoys the show, though he listens more to Tim singing along than what’s blaring from the speakers.

~

Jason borrows a Wayne Enterprises jet (he didn’t ask permission, but surely if Bruce had a problem he would have stopped it) and flies Tim to Italy for the day. Someplace bright and warm, where Tim can lay out on the beach and burn in peace.

Jason spends most of the time covered and shaded, lounging under an umbrella, pretending to read Austen, but instead watching Tim soak up the sunlight and wade in the water.

~

Jason’s standing in his kitchen, naked but for Wonder Woman boxers, when his phone chirps with a text that says, I’m coming in- don’t shoot. Twenty seconds later Tim strolls through the doorway, though how he managed to break into the apartment, Jason has no idea and it’ll drive him batty trying to figure it out. It’s not like Tim will tell him.

Tim’s eyes fall on Jason’s bare arms and chest. “Tsk. I said put your guns away.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Oh. I should have, that would have been funnier.”

Tim’s still looking and Jason fights from covering himself with his hands, overly aware of what Tim is seeing. They all have scars, he knows that, but his are… different. And he’s sure they’re making Tim uncomfortable.

“I’m gonna… be right back,” Jason mumbles and darts out of the room. He quickly grabs a shirt and jeans from his bedroom and pulls them on. When he comes back to the kitchen he finds Tim peering into the pan on the stove, inspecting the pasta sauce simmering there, the lid in one hand and a spoon in the other. Jason tells him, “It’s not ready yet.”

“Still good,” Tim replies, licking sauce off the spoon. “I didn’t know you could cook.”

“What about that pizza I made for you?”

“You did that?”

“Is that really so shocking?” Jason steps over to the stovetop, nudging Tim to the side and out of his way. Sure, he’d gotten a little bit of help from Alfred on that pizza, but he wasn’t a terrible cook before that, and he’s only gotten better since. He tastes the sauce. Adds a dash of pepper and a bit of honey.

Tim sets the lid on the back burner and spoons out another taste. “I just never considered it, I guess. Mm, it is better now.”

“So, did you just come over to eat my food?”

“I came to take you out.”

Jason freezes. There’s two possible meanings to that declaration, and he’s not sure which would be more surprising. “Take me out as in, shoot me in the head?”

“What?” That startles a laugh out of Tim, and he slaps at Jason’s arm good-naturedly. “That’s not funny,” he says, although he’s still giggling a little and Jason hadn’t actually been joking. “I’m taking you out today. It’s always up to you to plan stuff, so I thought it should be my turn.”

Jason can’t seem to move, even to pull in fresh air, and his only thought is, What the fuck? Tim is standing there in Jason’s kitchen, in his home, standing close and tasting his pasta sauce and propositioning to treat him to a date, and all of these things are refusing to correlate, his brain can’t compute. All of these things things have no precedent, and he hadn’t prepared to handle it, why would he have thought to prepare for this, it’s. It’s like Tim forgot. Like Tim is here in Jason’s house, in his personal space because he wants to be. It’s as if-

It’s as if Tim likes him.

“Why,” Jason finally croaks out.

“Well, I decided I have a problem with you doing and buying everything for me.”

“But...” Jason won’t say that he’s the one doing all the work because he’s the only one that actually wanted to be dating in the first place. Just in case Tim got hit on the head and really did forget how this all started, why it’s even happening. All he says is, “But I enjoy doing things for you. I want to.”

Which is true. He wants to give Tim everything.

“And that’s nice. But if it’s too one-sided, the dynamic can get unhealthy too easily. You can’t have one person living for the other, with no reciprocation.”

Jason stares.

Tim shifts his weight. Glances at the floor and the ceiling and back to Jason. “Stephanie told me that. She actually wasn’t even talking about us, apparently I’m a ‘selfless idiot that runs himself into the ground trying to live for everyone else’. I kinda thought it might apply here, too. Much as I love you doing shit for me.”

Vaguely Jason registers the fact that his sauce is burning. He needs to turn off the fire. He needs to say words back to Tim.

After a moment Tim does it for him, reaches over and turns down the dial. “So, where do you want to go?”

~

“Really?” Tim asks as they follow the trail, surrounded by pine that are shedding needles and oak that are turning golden. “This is fun for you?”

“Not fun, exactly. It’s peaceful.” Quiet and fresh. The air tastes sweet. In a place like this, time could stop. The world could crumble. And they could be here, together.

“I guess I figured you would pick something more exciting. BASE jumping. Deep sea fishing. Karaoke.”

“Karaoke? That’s not so exciting.”

“Sure it is. Singing in front of people? Quite the adrenaline rush.”

“You sing in front of people all the time.”

“What? When?”

When he’s sitting on the floor in the living room at the manor, taking apart and cleaning his grapple gun. When he’s mixing a bowl of cereal and humming the commercial jingle for said cereal. When he’s showering in the cave after patrol and when he’s folding laundry and when he doesn’t realise he’s doing it at all. “At the concert, you sang along.”

“That’s different, everyone was singing along.”

“Anyway, I get my adrenaline fill on the job. That’s plenty.”

Tim gives Jason a strange look.

“What is it?” Jason asks.

“You just.” Tim huffs a sharp breath. His cheeks are red from the autumn wind. “You’re not what I thought.”

~

They go to a karaoke bar and drink too much and sing Wanted Dead or Alive together. It is exciting, because Tim keeps his eyes on Jason the whole time. When he’s not laughing.

~

Jason takes off his helmet, relieved for the cool air of the cave. He’s sweaty all over, hair matted to his head, and clothes sticking to his skin. It’s certainly not the most disgusting he’s ever been,  but the shower is calling for him. He can smell himself. Gross.

Or maybe that’s Tim.

Probably both. They worked hard tonight.

As Jason yanks off his gloves and armor, Tim unclasps his cape, tosses it on a nearby bench.

Slipping off his boots, Jason says, “Well that was one busy patrol.” The floor is wonderfully cool through his socks.

“Indeed. But we kicked ass.” Tim grins, and Jason finds the strength to match it. “Hey, do you want to stick around for a little while? We could eat lots of junk food and watch a movie.”

“Sounds great. Although I’ll probably fall asleep halfway through. And we’ve got to write up a report first.”

“Alright, cool.” Tim peels off his mask. “How about you take care of that super fun paperwork, while I get our feast ready?”

“Deal.”

“Meet me in the living room, twenty minutes.”

Tim goes upstairs, presumably (hopefully) to shower in his own bathroom, and Jason strips the rest of the way and makes use of one of the shower stalls by the training area. He has a little cubby, like the rest of them, for a quick change, and he grabs a soft pair of sweatpants and tugs them on. The shirt is missing though, and he goes up to his room to grab another one.

Tim is already set up on the couch when Jason walks in. He asks, “What are we watching?”

“Men in Black.”

“Ah, a classic.” Jason plops down on the other side of the couch from Tim. His eyes catch on Tim’s shirt. “Is that...”

“What?”

It’s too big for the kid, and it’s got a Shakespeare reference on the front. There’s a little cigarette burn on the sleeve. Jason smiles. “Never mind.”

Tim starts the movie and Jason does end up falling asleep halfway through. When he wakes up the menu screen is playing on a loop and Tim’s head is in his lap, snoring softly.

~

When it happens, it’s not the long, dramatic moment that Jason thought it would be. Had thought it should be.

When it happens, they’re looking at otters. They’re at the zoo, standing in front of a glass partition, and on the other side is some grass and rocks and water and the otters seem content with it all. One jumps from a high rock into their little pond and in an instant is on the other side, surfacing with what Jason thinks is a grin, and who knew otters could grin. There are two off to the side, floating on their backs, eyes closed. They’re holding hands. Paws. The information plaque says they hook arms when they sleep so they don’t get separated.

When it happens, Tim is smiling, saying how cute that is. Jason sees Tim, young and happy, and it twists something in his chest, pulls his gravity, burns his eyes, his lungs.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. And this time, for now, that’s enough.

Tim’s smile turns soft, a little sad. He says, “I know,” and takes Jason’s hand in his own (small, but strong), hooks his arm around Jason’s like the otters are doing.

When it happens, it’s not complete. They’ll talk again later, and Jason will explain, and Tim will listen, and Jason will apologise again, and Tim will forgive him.

But when it happens, in that short (huge) moment witnessed by the otters, it’s good, and Jason breathes deep with lungs that haven’t quite worked right for a long time, but he finally feels like he’s got enough air.

~

He’s running. Running, leaping, diving, cursing, climbing, and Tim along with him, moving just as fast, faster even. They’ve been at it for hours and Jason is starting to feel it, the way his muscles burn, his lungs go tight. Most of his focus is on regulating his breathing, trying to keep it under control.

A shot zings past, too close.

Up they go, to the top of the building, to the top of the city. So high up they could reach out and touch the smog. The wind pulls at his jacket, snaps Tim’s cape. They’re up there and they realise, they’ve nowhere to go. They’ve been cornered. Trapped.

“I can’t believe this,” Jason spits.

Tim gives a rueful laugh. “Oh can’t you?”

He can, actually. Dick had called it, even. Shortly before he took one to the chest and Damian wouldn’t leave him and they both got taken out, quick and hard. Brutal.

“They’ll be here any second.”

Tim hums. “Might leave us for a minute, play with us.”

“Does that help us?”

“Not really.”

They have no more ammunition. No more tricks. Nowhere left to run.

It’s over.

Then, there, two dark shapes land on the other side of the roof. They stalk forward, like the vicious predators they are.

Jason is quietly gasping inside his helmet, body still trying to drag in the oxygen it thinks it doesn’t have enough of. He finds himself moving to stand in front of Tim. It won’t do any good, he knows. Only delay the inevitable for a moment.

“Aw,” one of the figures sighs, raising their gun to point directly at Jason. “How sweet. Isn’t it?”

“Very,” the other says, amusement apparent in the voice. The pair comes to a stop just ten feet away.

From behind him Tim whispers, “I have an idea.”

Jason cocks his head slightly, to indicate he’s heard.

“On my mark, duck down. I’ll use you like a spring board and fly at them, and while they’re busy with me, you rush in and disarm one, then take them down.”

“What?” Jason hisses, hoping his words will be eaten by the harsh winds before their opponents can hear. “You expect me to sacrifice you like that?”

“It’s happening whether you want it to or not, so you may as well give it a chance and give me a boost.” Tim’s hands are on his back, curling around his waist. He squeezes. “Let me save you.”

“Tim, no-”

“Now!” Tim urges, and pushes.

Jason drops to a kneel and Tim jumps, fingers and heels on his shoulders, and Jason shoves up, as hard as he can, sending Tim flying toward their adversary. As expected, they fire at him. Jason hears the sick thud of contact, over and over. He jumps to his feet and runs forward, grabbing for one of the guns, but the gunman puts up a fight.

Tim lands. Falls.

Jason forgoes the gun, grabs the person instead, swings them around just in time as the other turns to fire at Jason, but hits their partner instead. Jason snatches the gun as it falls from limp fingers, aims and shoots.

He’s the last one standing. His shaky breathing rattles around the inside of his helmet.

“Oh my god!” Stephanie pulls herself up from where she’d been sprawled next to Jason’s feet. She repeats, “Oh my god, are you kidding me? We had you!”

Tim stands, the front of his uniform covered in yellow and purple paint splats. Grinning, wide and proud, he throws his hands in the air and cheers, “Team Red for the win!”

Jason’s lungs are spasming inside his chest, desperate.

Cassandra pats Tim on the head. “Nice.”

“Nice? It was brilliant,” Tim tells her. “I was brilliant.”

He fights it, the need to suck in as much as he can. It won’t do any good, despite what his body thinks.

“You died, honey,” Stephanie chimes in, inspecting the yellow paint splattered over the front of her own uniform.

He wants to say something there, can’t ever pass up an opportunity to joke about the whole dying thing. But he can’t.

Carefully timed inhale. Hold. Slow and steady exhale. Hold.

“Still won!” Tim starts to wiggle around in what Jason thinks is supposed to be a victory dance. Jason watches, breathing deep and smiling like an idiot because no one can see it from under his helmet.

“And we’re all shocked, Drake.” Dick and Damian land nearby, both made messy by red and pink paint.

“Yeah, whatever.” Tim walks over to stand next to Jason, gives him a high-five. “You two were the first ones down, you’ve no room to talk.”

The late November air is cold, burning in his chest that rises and falls at precise intervals, forced regularity, until finally his lungs adapt.

“It was Grayson’s fault,” Damian mumbles.

Dick smiles and wraps an arm around the kid’s shoulders, which is half-heartedly protested. “And you couldn’t stand to leave me.”

“Alfred knows how to get this paint out, right?” Stephanie asks.

Jason, voice mostly steady again, answers, “Yeah, I made sure before.”

“Okay, good. This was fun! Great idea, Jay,” she says, and Cass nods, and Dick adds, “Great team-building exercise,” and even Damian seems like he enjoyed it. Though he would have a better time if he’d managed to shoot someone. They break off, making for the manor, leaving Jason and Tim alone on the roof.

“It was a really great idea,” Tim confirms.

“Of course it was,” Jason says, throwing as much smug satisfaction as he can into his tone.

Casually, Tim reaches over and takes the paintball gun Jason’s been holding. “There’s just one thing though, that’s a little unfair.”

“What’s that?”

With a sweet smile, Tim takes aim, and then Jason hears the thunk of a pellet hitting his helmet.

~

Tim is perched on Jason’s counter, socked feet swinging from side to side. “Can you make strawberry frosting?”

“I don’t have strawberry extract,” Jason answers as he cracks an egg on the edge of a mixing bowl. The raw insides plop into the milk and butter and he tosses the shell into the trash.

“So that’s a no?”

“That’s a no.” Jason plugs in the mixer and beats the contents of the bowl.

Raising his voice enough to be heard over the whirring, Tim asks, “What flavors extract do you have?”

“Vanilla.”

“In that case, you should make vanilla frosting.”

Jason grabs another bowl, with the dry ingredients, and slowly combines it all, pouring the flour and sugar and such into the first bowl. “Hey, thanks, that’s a great idea.”

“You’re welcome. That’s what I’m here for.”

“You’re here to lick the bowl clean.”

“Well, that too.”

Jason turns off the mixer and pops out the beaters. “Here, you can have these.”

With a grin Tim takes the offering and licks off the batter, tongue twisting out at funny angles to get it all. Soon there are smudges on his cheek and chin and the tip of his nose.

Jason pours the batter into a cake pan and places it in the oven. He hands the empty bowl over and Tim, now finished with the beaters, swipes his fingers along the inside walls to gather any remaining batter.

Tim asks, “How long?”

“Thirty to forty minutes.” He picks up a towel and runs a corner under the faucet to wet it, then moves to stand in front of Tim, who rolls his eyes, but smiles and lets Jason clean the chocolate mess off his face.

“I’m pretty sure I’m an adult, you know.”

“Good for you.” Jason rubs at a particularly sticky patch on his chin. “Now sit still, Timmy.”

When he finishes Jason realises how close Tim is. Or rather, how close Jason is to him. Jason is the one crowding Tim into the cabinetry. Jason is the one not moving away.

But Tim is the one that kisses him. Leans forward and brushes his lips against Jason’s gently.

Jason jerks his head back, but his thighs are still touching Tim’s knees, his hands are planted on the counter top on either side of Tim’s legs. He could move in again. He could let the kiss happen again, let whatever wants to happen, happen. He could pick up Tim and carry him to the couch, or his bed, and touch and taste and feel, and then. Then.

Then after, Tim would go away. He wouldn’t want to see Jason anymore, and he would have proven that Jason is what he thought all along, that Jason hasn’t really changed at all and he doesn’t deserve to be with Tim, or around the rest of the family, he should just leave-

“No.”

Tim blinks. “What?”

“Tim, please, just.” He steps back, finally. “I don’t want that.”

“Don’t want what?” Tim frowns, asks, softly, “Me?”

“No, I. I do want you.”

“Then come back. I’m right here.”

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

“Because I want you,” Jason tries to explain, scrubbing his hands through his hair.

“Jason, what the hell are you talking about?”

“I’d rather just stay like we are, than lose you altogether. I don’t need anything else to happen between us.”

Tim is quiet for a minute, then he sighs. “Forget about what I said, about the bet, or whatever.”

“What?” Jason asks, looking up from the floor he’d been studying.

“It doesn’t… apply. To us anymore.” Tim smiles, small and crooked and maybe shy. “It hasn’t for a while. I guess I thought you knew that.”

Jason isn’t exactly sure what it is he’s supposed to have known. Isn’t sure what Tim is implying. “I can’t know what you don’t tell me.”

“Right.” Tim scratches his cheek. “Well, then I’ll say it now. This,” he waves a hand between them, at the room around them, “isn’t because of what we talked about in the kitchen that night. I’m not here because I’m trying to prove something, or test you. I’m here because I want to be. I like you, and I wanted to watch you bake a cake, and kissed you because I wanted to kiss you.” He adds, “I’d like to do it again, in fact.”

Jason crosses his arms, clears his throat. Digs his nails into his skin and feels the heat of the oven nearby. Closes his eyes and opens them again and Tim is still there, watching him. “And… I was supposed to just figure this out on my own?”

Tim shrugs and grins sheepishly.

“You’re an ass,” Jason tells him.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Although,” Tim argues, “I do feel like I made it kind of obvious.”

And maybe he did, but Jason needs these things spelled out for him. He still can barely believe it.

“So.”

“So.”

Slowly, warily, like Tim is some wild thing that might bolt at any moment, some ethereal being that might disappear if Jason looks away, he steps forward. Leans down, and Tim moves closer and takes Jason’s jaw with cold fingers, pulls him in until they’re kissing, and Jason is struggling to keep his breathing steady. His hands tremble as they land on Tim’s arms, slide up to his shoulders. Every touch is tentative, barely there at all.

“Come on, Jay,” Tim whispers. “Kiss me.”

So he does. Presses in closer, harder. Lets himself have this, and it’s good. So good, so much, too much. It doesn’t even make any sense, it’s just. It’s just lips. It’s just a mouth, skin, stubble, teeth. Heat. Slick. Soft. It’s lips and tongue and Jason wants more, craves it, somewhere in his chest, his legs, his fingertips. All of him.

But this is enough. It’s good. Wonderful.

Tim is biting a little at his bottom lip and Jason’s knees go weak. He didn’t know that actually happened, but he suddenly wants to curl into Tim.

Later Jason pulls away when he smells the cake, the smoke. The cake ends up ruined, charred black, but Jason makes the frosting anyway and they spread it on graham crackers to eat while watching tv on the couch, legs tangled together.

~

Red Hood is looming over some piece of trash that’s begging for his life, as if he deserves it. As if he has the right to keep breathing, keep functioning, keep seeing sunshine and having opportunities to laugh or read a book or eat his favorite food.

Jason glances to the corner of the small basement and sees the kids laying there that won’t ever have those opportunities again, and his fingers tighten around the gun he has trained on the man’s forehead, and he tries to remember why he shouldn’t pull the trigger.

Behind him, someone comes down the stairs. There’s a moment while they take in the scene, and then, “Red Hood.”

“B,” Jason growls. Pleads. For permission, or help, or to be left alone, or. Something.

“Stand down.”

“I can’t… I’m.” He can’t lower the gun. He can’t make his feet step away. He doesn’t want to.

The man, kneeling in the filth of the concrete floor, turns to Batman, hopeful. “You’re not gonna let him kill me, are you?” He looks back to Red Hood, to the gun. Reaches out a beggar’s hand. “Please, don’t kill me. Don’t hurt me!”

“Shut up!” Jason roars, but the man keeps pleading, crying, and all Jason can hear is how the children must have pleaded. How they had cried.

“Red Robin,” Bruce commands into his comm. unit, “finish your sweep of the house and then come to the basement. Quickly.”

Jason’s hands are sweating but the material of his gloves grips the gun. He can feel the pattern of the traction pad on the tip of his finger when he drags it across the trigger. And that, for a while, is all he can focus on. The feel of his gloves and the weight of the .45 in his hand.

And then there’s Red Robin, standing in front of him, between Jason and the man on the floor, taking up Jason’s whole field of vision.

“Red,” Tim says, snapping Jason’s attention to him, to the air between them and the way Red Robin is standing, open even with the gun that’s now pointed at his stomach.

“Red,” Jason whispers. Louder, “Move.”

“I’m not going to do that.”

“He deserves to die,” Jason argues, the words old and familiar. He’s been arguing for so long.

“Probably,” Tim answers. “But that’s not your call.”

“You want me to just let it go? Let him go after he did that?” he demands, pointing to the two small bodies a few feet away.

“Yes.”

“Why? So you and B can pat yourselves on the back and say, ‘look how we saved the big, bad Red Hood. Look how we tamed him.’ Well I’ve got news, you haven’t changed shit. I still want to kill them all.”

“So do I.”

“What?”

“I want to kill them too. Or, at least," Tim glances at the two little boys, "sometimes I think they should die. But it’s not my job to decide that, or to carry it out.”

“We could make it our job.”

“I don’t want to be that. And I don’t think you want to, either. You’ve done that before, and you stopped.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have.”

“I’m glad you did.”

“So you can feel good about being with me?”

“This isn’t about me.”

“Then why do you care?”

“Because I care about you. And that,” Tim motions toward the gun, “won’t do you any good. It won’t help you.”

“So?”

Tim points to the trash on the floor, “So, you matter more than that man.”

That knocks Jason back a step, and his arm drops to his side. He blinks, and the room is quiet. The man is off to the side, unconscious, bound. Batman is gone.

“GCPD is on the way. Come on,” Tim says, and takes Jason’s empty hand.

Jason follows him up, out of the basement.

~

“I never said it was a bad thing to just want sex,” Tim says right as Jason makes his toss, and the ball ends up in the ten point hole, rather than the hundred.

“What?”

Tim throws a ball and lands fifty points and pulls a pained face, flashes big, blue, sympathetic eyes. “Uh-oh, lost your touch? Is this gonna be like the bowling?”

“Oh fuck you,” Jason says because he’s sure Tim timed it perfectly, on purpose, because Jason has been winning. But he smiles when he says it, and Tim grins back at him. “I am a master at skeeball. As you can see.” He points triumphantly to his score, then Tim’s, which is impressive but not as high as Jason’s.

“You could, you know.” At Jason’s glance he clarifies, “Fuck me. If you wanted.”

Jason fumbles another toss but he doesn’t think Tim meant to mess him up that time. He just saw an opening and took it, in his strange way. But apparently he’s learned to be clear with Jason, which is great because Jason didn’t actually know that he could fuck Tim, if he wanted. They go on dates, and work cases together, and kiss sometimes. A few days ago Stephanie called Jason Tim’s boyfriend and Tim didn’t correct her. So they’re together. Apparently. But Jason doesn’t know exactly what that means because he’s never been together with anyone before.  

“Okay,” he says, and nothing else because he needs to process that, and it’s all he can say right then. He rolls a ball for a hundred points.

“Okay.” Tim nods. “But anyway, it’s not a bad thing, to just want sex.”

Jason asks, “Are you trying to tell me you only want me for sex?”

“No.” Tim runs out of balls to throw and inserts two more tokens. Another group of balls tumble down the shoot. “It seemed like you thought I would think less of you, if that was what you were after.”

“You did get pretty upset,” Jason points out.

“I was angry about the situation. And embarrassed. But not about that, specifically.”

“So...” Jason gets a new set of balls as well. “If I had just asked to fuck, rather than for a date, that would have worked?”

“I’m not saying I would have said yes to that. I probably wouldn’t have, at the time. I didn’t like you then.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah, well, I do now.” Tim pulls Jason down for a quick kiss. “But I wouldn’t have looked down on you or anything. Not for that.”

“You were looking down on me for other things?”

Tim shrugs. “I didn’t know you. Didn’t understand a lot of things.” He repeats, “But I do now.”

~

The last time Jason celebrated Christmas at the manor (the last time Jason celebrated Christmas at all) it had been only him and Bruce and Alfred, and it had been the biggest Christmas gathering he’d experienced in his fourteen years. It had been overwhelming, a little.

He was in a home, warm and safe and filled with decorations, green and red and gold and beautiful. He had presents (multiple) under a real tree. Bruce and Alfred provided whatever he needed year-round, but this was different. They didn’t have to do any of this, and he told them so as he unwrapped books. Lots of books. And although the manor’s library contained any book he might want to read, these were his. They even said so, on the inside of the cover, To Jason written there in pretty cursive, in black ink. Then came dinner, which, while they always ate well, looked straight from a Norman Rockwell painting.

The three of them stayed inside all day, together, drinking hot chocolate.

That night Bruce took him out and they fought thieves in the snow, and it was the perfect way to end the holiday.

Now, back in the manor with all of the decorations up, with the massive tree in the corner, with people everywhere, he’s overwhelmed. A little. Again.

The whole clan is here. Bruce in his high-backed leather chair by the fireplace. Alfred, standing in the corner, waiting for someone to need him. Watching his family. Barbara, who spent the morning with her dad and came for dinner while the commissioner went in to work, to stop crime the legal way. She’s sharing a loveseat with Dick, and Damian is on the floor between their legs. Even Stephanie, curled up next to Cassandra on one end of the couch.

Tim is with Jason on the other side of the couch, pressed against his side with Jason’s arm slung around his shoulders. When he gets up to go to the bathroom, Jason feels open and exposed and vulnerable without him. He shouldn’t be intimidated by these people. (If anything, they should be afraid of him.) But still, he wants to hide. Wants to stand behind Tim and shove his face between Tim’s shoulder blades, never mind the fact that he’s bigger and everyone would still be able to see him. Tim comes back and Jason snatches him by the wrist to pull him onto his lap. Tim seems surprised for half a second before relaxing, settling back into Jason’s chest with a smile.

Jason grunts, “Your ass is bony,” even though it’s not, not with how much muscle Tim has, everywhere.

Tim, who had snatched a candy cane off the tree on his way back from the bathroom, rolls a little, shifts until his bone really is digging in to Jason’s thigh, and Jason hisses and Tim laughs as he unwraps his candy and pops the straight end in his mouth.

They’ve finished dinner (just as lovely as Jason remembers).

They’re about to open presents (just as surreal as Jason remembers).

Damian was voted the elf this year, so he’s in charge of passing out the presents to their intendeds, though he refuses, vigorously and with much scowling, to wear the striped elf hat.

In the end Jason has eight gifts on the sofa cushion next to him, one from each person there, and while he knew, logically, that would be the case, he’s surprised. He’d gotten something for everyone else, and Tim had assured him they would do the same, but part of him didn’t really believe it. Was expecting to be the exception.

The first one he opens is from Alfred. A thin, silver frame with a picture of Jason, in his Robin suit, in the cave with a big grin and arms akimbo. He’s standing there looking like nothing could ever knock him down, even with dirt on his knees and his hair mussed up, obviously just having come back from patrol. Off to the side is Bruce, his cowl pulled back and watching Jason, a tiny smile in place. Jason doesn’t remember this moment specifically. It could be one of hundreds, he realises.

Next is a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, To Jason scribbled inside. He glances up to find Bruce watching him, a hint of a smile like in the photograph. One he probably would have missed, if he hadn’t been looking for it. He wonders how many smiles like that he’s missed.

After that Tim chooses one for him to open, a little envelope containing a pair of tickets to a production of Hamlet. Jason smiles, pulls Tim down for a kiss that tastes like peppermint, sticky on his lips.

Stephanie whistles and Tim gives her the finger without taking his lips away from Jason’s.

Later they all go out on patrol, together, and fight thieves in the snow.

(They also fight each other, with the snow, at two a.m. when Cassandra starts the most intense snowball fight the streets of Gotham have ever witnessed.)

~

Tim’s got his hand down Jason’s pants and his mouth on Jason’s neck, and Jason is falling apart. With every slide of his fist Tim is ripping out seams, with each lick he’s loosening screws. His panting breaths are melting the glue and Jason is barely holding himself together.

This isn’t a first for him, and yet it’s completely new. The way Tim moves, the way he kisses and sounds and pulls sounds from Jason is somehow different and better than anything Jason’s experienced, not that he has that much experience. Tim is straddling Jason’s lap, pushing him back into Jason’s couch, arm braced to one side of Jason’s head. Filling Jason’s apartment with noises and heat. Crowding into Jason’s space and breathing his air. Making himself a part of everything Jason has, everything he is.

Tim leans back, lets go to tug at the waistband of Jason’s boxers, at the open zipper of his jeans. “Can I?”

Jason is nodding before he quite understands what Tim is asking, but he figures it out when Tim starts to pull. Jason lifts his hips and Tim gets the material out of the way, and then Jason feels a little silly, his cock standing there while the rest of him is still covered, but Tim is looking at him, at it, and he’s... smiling. Smiling like he can’t help it, like he’s excited, like he’s giddy.

“What?” Jason asks, setting his hands on Tim’s knees, running fingers up his thighs.

“It’s pretty.”

“...What?” he asks, again.

“Pretty,” Tim repeats. Then adds, “Lickable. Makes me want to pet it.” At Jason’s look, Tim rolls his eyes a little. “You have a very nice dick, okay?”

Some ridiculous part of Jason wants to preen at that, but mostly he’s just flushed and embarrassed. “And that’s why you’re so happy?”

“I’m happy because I like you,” Tim tells him easily. He finally goes back to touching, sliding the tip of his thumb up and down, softly. “But yeah, this like a perfect cherry on top of an already awesome sundae.”  

Right then, Jason barely feels what Tim is doing. His mind is stuck, focused on what Tim said that’s more important, even than the touching. “You do?”

“Do what?” Tim asks absently, tracing the lip of the head.

“Like me.”

Tim glances up, his movements pausing.

“You like me?” Jason prompts, a little desperately. He hadn’t realised, but he needs to hear Tim say it. He knows, mostly, that it’s true. But still, he needs to hear it.

Tim’s eyes go sad, and then he grabs Jason's face with both hands and holds it as if Jason might look away. Like he might want to hide. It turns out Tim knows him fairly well by now, because when he meets Jason’s eyes straight on and says, “I like you,” Jason does try to duck his chin, and Tim’s grip tightens a bit. Jason fidgets when Tim says it again, and again. He squirms when Tim starts to tell him why, though he takes in the words like oxygen, like water, like sunshine and chocolate and everything good, everything he needs in this world.

“I like you because you’re the worst bowler I’ve ever seen. Because you’re a pretty good singer, even while drunk. And you cook,” Tim breathes happily, and his hand returns to Jason’s cock while the other slides into his hair. “Because you didn’t take advantage of the situation, of me, that day in the lab. It never crossed your mind to let me keep talking.”

The duality of sensations, of Tim’s fingers caressing him and his words filling him, is exquisite, and he’s not sure which is actually doing the most damage. Doesn’t know which to focus on, and just tries to keep breathing, keep his eyes open because he likes to watch Tim’s mouth spelling out all of it, needs to see the words there to confirm what he hears.

“I like that you fought for me,” Tim goes on, “even when I was being an ass. I like that you always fight, fight everything and anybody, if you think something is wrong.” Jason would point out that he doesn’t fight Tim (anymore, at least), and he’s the only thing in this world that Jason doesn’t want to battle, that feels right. He would, if he could form words. He can’t.

“You’re a fighter.” Tim emphasises the word with a twist of his wrist, with a tighter grip that makes Jason gasp and dig his toes into the rug. “Always. You’re so strong.”

No, Jason wants to say, but he can’t manage to get the word out around his panting breaths, through his fluttering lungs. But it must show on his face, because Tim’s eyes go fierce and he repeats, “So strong. You’ve taken one blow after another, your whole life, and here you are.”

Tim swoops in and kisses him, hard, yet reverent.

He watches Jason closely. “I like you because every time I kiss you, you look like it’s a gift.”

Jason has been digging his hands into the couch cushions, ripping at the fabric with his nails, but when Tim says that, he lets go and loops both arms around Tim’s waist, pulls him in closer, because Tim is a gift. Tim is precious, and kisses and hugs and little, fond smiles and affection are incredible, and Tim giving those things to Jason is a stunning experience. He holds Tim closer even though it makes the angle go a bit awkward, with Tim not having proper room to move his is arm. He plants sloppy, praise-drunk kisses on Tim’s cheeks and jaw and neck. He makes desperate little noises, and can feel Tim smile before he starts to talk again.

“You’re brilliant, and beautiful, and you watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies with me, consecutively, even though you hate them.” Tim laughs, and it’s cut off by a whine when Jason licks at his throat. He rocks his hips, but there’s nothing for him to rock into with how he’s straddling Jason’s legs. Jason moves one hand to Tim’s lower back, to slip under the fabric of his shirt and press his thumb into the little dimple there. His other hand lands on the line of Tim’s cock under his jeans, and that can’t be comfortable but Tim pushes into it with a moan and his hand slides faster on Jason.

“You… You’re so,” Tim pants. “So good. Fuck, Jason, you’re amazing, and I l-like you so much.”

Jason comes, pressing his face against Tim’s shoulder and biting at his shirt, feeling the vibrations of Tim’s triumphant groan as he works Jason through it.

“Fuck,” Jason sighs a minute later, his first word in so long, as he slumps back into the couch.

Tim hums, voice high, and Jason finally notices the way he’s biting his lip and his eyes are a bit frantic and his hips are moving, slightly, against Jason's slack hand. So Jason gathers together the scattered pieces of his brain enough to move, to unfasten the button of Tim’s pants and slide down the zipper. To pull out Tim’s cock, which earns a sigh of relief.

Jason smiles. “Pretty.”

~

There are s'mores flavored poptarts in Jason’s pantry. Jason doesn’t like s’mores.

Jason’s blanket, his favorite blue one that he keeps on his couch, smells like Tim.

One night when he’s getting ready for patrol, Jason picks up a domino mask and tries to put it on, but it doesn’t quite fit his face. He looks at it, and it’s the wrong color, too.

~

Jason is awake the moment someone steps into his bedroom, but after a quick peek, he relaxes.

Tim falls onto the mattress, making the whole bed bounce. “Morning, sunshine.”

With a groan, Jason rolls to shove his face more firmly into the pillow. His soft, quiet pillow that doesn’t wake him up in the wee hours of the morning. And it’s probably around four in the afternoon, but still. It was sleeping time.

Tim sits leaning against the headboard, legs out in front of him, and Jason abandons his pillow, as lovely as it is, to lay his head on Tim’s thigh. Tim drops a hand into Jason’s hair, and Jason groans again, happily this time, as fingers scratch and play. He rubs his face into the fabric of Tim’s pants, feeling like a dog but not minding at all being pet. When Tim moves down his neck and shoulders, Jason feels himself slipping toward sleep again.

Then Tim pauses, his touch turned hesitant on Jason’s back, and Jason recognises the spot, curls his hand around a fistful of the blanket that’s draped across his lower half, but doesn’t move otherwise. Waits to see what Tim will do.

What Tim does is press down, trace the line of scar tissue with his thumb. He slides two inches to the left and touches the pale slash there. Then the one that cuts across Jason’s spine.

Jason is tense all over now, wide awake. But he hasn’t moved away. He almost wants to apologise. Not because they’re his fault, but just for having them. For ruining the moment for Tim. For forcing Tim to look at them. Tim shouldn’t have to be reminded like Jason is, every day.

“Is this making you uncomfortable?” Tim asks, hand moving down, to the side and over ribs that didn’t heal perfectly right, he must be able to feel the knot where the bones meet, and Jason huffs out something that’s not quite a laugh.

“Yeah,” he whispers.

“Do you want me to stop?”

“I don’t know.” Jason keeps his eyes shut. With each touch he can feel and see and smell things attached to that spot, to that scar, to that healed bone. Tim’s finger runs across Jason’s cheek, and he hears himself, remembers that terrified, angry kid spitting, then let’s boogey! and swinging his last punch.

Tim was right. He is a fighter. Always has been.

“No,” he finally says, opening his eyes to the afternoon light spilling in through the half-open curtains. “Keep going.”

~

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Super-duper sure, or just kinda sure?”

“Tim.”

“Yeah?”

“Fuck me.”

“Well okay, then.”

~

“You all right?”

“Yeah, it’s just. A little weird.”

“Do you need me to stop?”

“No, no- oh fuck. It’s good weird, don’t worry.”

~

“Oh God, Jason. Are you o- ah. Okay?”

“Y-yeah, just. Go slow. Fuck.”

~

“Wait, Tim, wait.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s… It’s too much.”

“Of what?”

“Everything. Can you hold on for a minute?”

“Of course.”

“I’m sorry.”

No, Jason, it’s fine, okay? Take as long as you need.”

“Okay. Okay, yeah. Thanks.”

~

There’s lube dripping down his thigh, smearing onto the pillow he’s propped over.

Tim’s right hand is braced on Jason’s lower back, holding him down because Jason keeps raising his hips, trying to get closer, get more. He wants to stay where Tim wants him, because it really is the best angle, but his body is moving, pushing back and Tim’s palm digs in hot and strong on his skin. Tim’s left hand is on the bed next to Jason’s face. He sees it when he opens his eyes, the fingers tangling into the sheet. Jason grabs onto Tim’s forearm and feels the muscles working as Tim moves in deep, firm thrusts that have Jason trembling, toes curling, a growl coming from low in his chest that finishes as a whine.

His face must be doing something awful, so Jason turns his head into the mattress. His moans are muffled against the sheet but it’s still loud, roaring in his head.

“Shit,” Tim gasps. “Fuck, Jason, you feel- oh God, you’re trying to kill me I think.”

“Already done that,” Jason says, turning just enough to get the words out through heavy breaths. “It wasn’t nearly as much fun as this.”

A shaky laughs breaks against the skin of his back when Tim leans down over him, giving sloppy kisses between Jason’s shoulders. “And this is fun,” Tim whispers against him. “So good.”

Jason answers with a whimper, with a roll of his hips.

Tim presses in deep and doesn’t leave. Just rocks in little movements that keep Jason full and scrambling, reaching out with his hands and feet to find something to ground him, but there’s nothing but the pillows and sheets and Tim, everything is Tim and Tim’s cock inside him.

“Beautiful,” Tim groans. “I was right, you are so beautiful right now. This is- you’re incredible.”

Jason can’t get enough air and has to raise his head, is left gasping still, chest heaving in the small space between Tim above him and the bed below.

“Perfect,” Tim says, and leans back, away from where he’d been curled around Jason.

It doesn’t help the tightening in Jason’s lungs. He thinks dizzily that it might be a problem, that he can’t control it right now. Normally that would be concerning, at the least, but then Tim pulls out of him completely and Jason’s mind reels from the change.

Tim sits back on his heels and pulls at Jason’s sides. Jason follows the tug of Tim’s hands until his knees are drawn up underneath him and Tim is kneeling behind him. He slides back in and these thrusts are faster, coming out all the way to the head each time, and Jason yells. Screams Tim’s name and any curse word he’s ever known, in a few languages. Tim reaches around to take Jason’s cock, and Jason’s thighs are trembling, his arms shaking, and he’s barely able to suck in a breath, the sensations are overwhelming and Jason’s falling, falling, crying out-

And then he’s coming. His arms give out and his shoulders drop to the bed, as would the rest of him if Tim weren’t holding him up, hands tight around his waist and thigh as he pushes in a few more times, ragged nonsense falling from his lips with Jason’s name in there, somewhere, and then Tim stills. Jason can feel him, his cock twitching as he comes.

The room is filled with their breathing, heaving and desperate, and then the squelching noise when Tim pulls out, and his little laugh, because he thinks awkward sex noises are hilarious. Jason does too but he’s too out of it to laugh.

Tim gets up and walks to the bathroom to discard the condom, and Jason hears running water for a minute before he’s back, flopping onto the bed. “Fuck,” he groans. “That was. Well. Just really good.”

Jason opens his mouth to respond, something along the lines of, It was the best sex I’ve ever had, great job, buddy, but instead he’s just gasping.

“Jason?”

He’s dizzy, heart pounding, breaths turned into wheezing, and that’s when he knows he can’t pull this back on his own.

“What’s wrong?” Tim sits up, worry clear on his face. “Are you… are you having an asthma attack?”

Jason nods.

Tim’s eyes go wide, and his hands raise to hover over Jason like he might be able to do something with them to help. He can’t. “What the fuck? Since when do you have asthma?”

Since he woke up and his body was ruined.

Jason points to his bedside table, and Tim dives toward it. Yanks open the drawer and rummages around until he finds Jason’s inhaler. He practically throws the thing at Jason, who sits up and gives it a quick shake, pulls off the cap from the end and puts it to his mouth. He presses down on the top and sucks in, sharp and deep, and holds as long as he can. It isn’t very long. After a few seconds he does it again, and this time is better, and when he exhales it’s shaky, but slow and somewhat controlled. He keeps holding the inhaler, just in case, but he thinks it’ll be okay now.  

“I’m fine,” he says, his voice weak and raspy.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“Shit,” Tim sighs as he slumps against the headboard. “Don’t apologise. A warning would have been nice though.”

When Jason glances over, Tim is smiling. Jason leans over and kisses him, dry and sweet.

“So,” Tim asks, “is this gonna happen every time we fuck?”

Jason laughs. “No. I mean, it might, sometimes. But this was just. Really intense.”

“That’s… adorable.”

“What?”

“Not the whole, almost dying thing, but that it set you off like that.” Tim shrugs. “It’s cute.”

Jason lays down, relaxing finally. Now he can feel the aftermath throughout his body, the sore muscles and fading warmth. He smiles. “You’re kinda fucked up, Tim.”

~

Red Hood’s got some low-level thug pinned to the wall and spilling his guts (verbally, of course) when his phone chimes.

“Hold that thought,” he says, and the guy gives him a look somewhere between terrified and incredulous. More terrified, though, so it's okay. Jason pulls out his phone and reads the text.

We’re out of milk.

I’ll get some on my way home, he replies.

ETA?

20 minutes.

Cool <3

With a smile, Jason puts his phone back in his pocket. “Now, where were we?”