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As it turns out.

That’s the fucking Bat-car.

“Oops,” slips out of Jay’s mouth before he clamps his lips tightly shut.

Batman tilts his head. Like some kind of. Bird bat. An owl, maybe? Do owls tilt their heads, or do they just spin them? Jay’s never seen an owl except in videos, and he’s not sure. He’s never really seen a bat, either, or a bat-man, and he definitely never expected to see a bat-man, because he thought Batman was a shitty made up story like Red Hood that people didn’t even have the decency to admit was a story.

He’s probably going to get his blood sucked or his organs ground up or something. Whatever things like whatever Batman is do to people who jack his tires.

“How old are you,” says Batman. His voice has ripples and crackles in it, like a bad radio connection or a rock dropped in a pond. It definitely doesn’t sound human. And it doesn’t sound like he’s asking a question, either, just making a statement that ought to have a question mark at the end but doesn’t.

Jay tries to widen his stance, puff up his chest and throw back his shoulders without pulling his hoodie too tight across his chest or revealing the tire iron he’s holding behind his back. “Sixteen.”

“No, you’re not. How old are you really.”

“It’s none of your business,” Jay says. Maybe Batman’s like… some kind of fae, and the more information he has on you, the more he can magic you. Jay’s not giving any information up, none at all.

“I think I have a right to at least know the age of the person who stole my tires,” Batman says, advancing slowly.

Jay shuffles his feet backwards. He knows this alley, knows the fire escapes and the chain link and the holes in the pavement. “I didn’t take ‘em,” he says.

“Then what’s that tire iron for,” Batman says, and suddenly he’s right in front of Jay and Jay is ready but it still gives him a start, ice in his gut and ants on his spine.

“This!” Jay says, and slugs Batman with the tire iron before bolting. He hops over a hole and launches for a fire escape, uses that to get over the fence and runs down the other side of the alley. He hears Batman stumble behind him - caught his boot on the edge of that hole.

Jay keeps running.

He didn’t know it was the damn Bat-car. He thought either some rich asshole was trying to be cute, sight-seeing in Crime Alley, or someone had stolen the car and was stashing it for later sale. Either way, it had a nice damn set of tires and Jay had a tire iron.

And a death wish, apparently, though he kind of already knew that.

He’s out of breath when he gets back to his apartment, copper taste all down the back of his tongue. He’s wheezing as he climbs the stairs, pops open his door, closes it and slides onto the carpet with his back against the wall. His fingers shake as he tries to light a cigarette and he almost drops it three times before he can even get it between his lips.

He just ripped off the god-damn Batman.

That would do all kinds of things for his cred if he didn’t know it was a bad fucking move to go around bragging about stealing Batman’s tires.

He exhales slowly, shakily, and Batman says “Those’ll stunt your growth.”

Jay picks the tire iron back up and runs across the room, wedges himself into a corner. Batman stays in the doorway, but reaches over with a foot to stomp out Jay’s dropped cigarette before it can burn the whole place down. “Take your damn wheels and leave me alone!” Jay yells, gesturing at the tires with one elbow.

“The tires aren’t my biggest concern.” Batman moves his head like he’s looking around the room. His eyes are totally white. Lenses or for real? Jay’s not sure. Now that he’s seeing Batman in the light of his apartment (bad though that light may be), Batman’s looking less like some night-stalking ghost and more like a guy in really good, creepy looking body armor. “Do you live here, or was this just a convenient place to drag stolen goods?”

Jay snorts. Convenient his ass. He’d never have tried to haul the tires all the way back here if he had somewhere closer to put ‘em. And if he’d had somewhere closer, he’d have gotten all the tires off sooner, and Batman never would have caught him in the act, so there you go. “I live here,” he says. He wants to dare Batman to say something about the peeling walls and the smell of mouse pee and the ratty, burned-up carpet. From the looks of that car, being a man-bat pays pretty damn well, so he’s probably feeling pretty out of his element here.

“Anyone looking out for you?” Batman says.

Jay almost says yes, that they’re ten feet tall and have muscles like watermelons and they’ll bash Batman’s head in if he so much as looks at Jay funny. But Jay’s learned a thing or two about making threats he can’t back up. “No, but if you try anything you’ll wish you hadn’t,” he says. He’s got a pocketknife on him as a last resort - if he can’t bludgeon Batman away, maybe a little cut and the threat of infection will chase Batman off.

Can man-bats get HIV? Jay’s not sure, but his blood’s the best threat he’s got.

“When’s the last time you had a real meal?” Batman says.

Jay drops his guard in a moment of surprise, tire iron resting against his thigh before he picks it back up again and waves it aggressively. “Why do you care?” he says. It’s been long enough since he last ate that he just feels hollow, not really hungry. Weak and shaky and like he might fall into pieces like a bad toy, but not hungry. Batman can’t tempt him that way. Definitely not.

“Help me put the tires back. I’ll take you to whatever drive-through you want.”

“I’m not supposed to get in a car with strange fuckers like you,” Jay says.

“You’re not supposed to smoke if you’re under eighteen, either, but we all make choices,” Batman says. “I have food in the car, too. Let’s start there.”

Food in the car. More food later. Jay considers it.

Hell, what’s Batman gonna do to him that hasn’t already been done?

“Fine,” Jay says. “I’ll eat your weird creepy car snacks and put your tires back and if whatever drugs you put in the food haven’t kicked in by then, I’ll go to a drive through with you.”

“That’s the spirit,” Batman says. His voice is just as distorted and affect-less as before, but he almost, somehow, sounds amused.


If Jay dies tonight, at least he’ll die having seen the Batman roll into a drive-through and order two twenty-piece Chicken McNuggets, four large fries, a large orange juice, and a diet soda. The people working the drive through seemed largely unimpressed when he came up to the window. Jay guesses they probably thought it was for a prank video. They’ve probably seen weirder folks come into McDonald’s at 2 AM.

Now he’s sitting on the hood of the bat-car (“Batmobile,” Batman had corrected, very seriously) wolfing down chicken nuggets. The sandwich and the (blech) protein shake Batman had given him earlier are churning in his stomach, but he needs to eat. Needs this. Who knows when the next time he’ll see so much food is going to be.

“You should slow down,” Batman says. He’s holding his soda and fries. Jay really, really wants to see him eat or drink. “If you’re not used to eating this much, you could easily make yourself sick.”

His stomach does feel… tight. Jay swallows against a burp and nods, reluctantly. He keeps a tight hold on his bag and the open box of McNuggets. “What’s up with all this?” Jay asks. “You looking for a call boy?”

Batman actually takes a step back. “Good god, no,” he says. “You’re twelve.”

“Thirteen,” Jay corrects automatically, and then punches himself in the leg. He’s pretty sure Batman’s not fae, but Jay wasn’t going to tell him anything anyway. And now he’s gone and blown it.

“Still not an adult,” Batman says.

“Yeah, well there’s some people who like that,” Jay says, and is shocked when something wet and hot rolls down his left cheek, followed by the same sensation on his right. He mops the tears up with the sleeve of his hoodie, utterly mortified. What’s he gotta go crying for now?

“God,” Batman says, and half-turns away, a hand pressed to his chest. “No. No, I would never. No one should.”

Jay tucks his knees against his chest. “Well, what do you want, then?”

“To get you fed,” Batman says.”Hopefully, to get you someplace safer.”

Jay tenses. They’re pulled off in an empty parking lot. Doesn’t seem like anyone’s around. He knows the area, sort of - from before his mom got sick. If Batman drops him at a home, he’ll be able to get away, but he didn’t want to ever go to any of those places. “If you try to take me to juvie, or to some social worker or something, it won’t last,” he warns. Batman turns away again, but this time, there’s a little hiccuping shake to his shoulder that’s almost like... “What’s so funny?” Jay demands.

“You remind me of someone,” Batman says, voice crackling.

“Who, yourself?” Jay says, because he’s seen enough bad TV to know where this goes. That must be the whole thing. He reminds Batman of himself, so now Batman’s trying to be some kind of weird mentor or savior or some shit.

“No. A... friend.” Something about the way Batman says it makes Jay think that he doesn’t usually call this person a friend.

“He steal your tires, too?” Jay asks.

“Never my tires, no. Though I wouldn’t put it past her to try.”

“Hey now,” Jay says, “I ain’t no fuckin’ girl.”

The not-silence of cities, of cars and distant chatter and passing airplanes and rumbling trains fills the parking lot. Then Batman says, “Me, too.”

“What,” Jay says.

“I don’t mean to assume,” Batman says. “But I’m trans. Too.”

Jay tilts his head. “Like… a trans man.”


“You a trans bat, too?”


“Huh.” Jay plays with the folded-over bit of the bag. “Well, that’s cool” he says. “So you wanna help me because you’re trans, too, and because I remind you of a friend who might someday steal your tires.”

“Well. When you put it like that,” Batman says, then sighs, a great billowing cloud of static interference. “I can’t in good conscience leave you and not do everything I can to help.”

“A regular good Samaritan,” Jay says. He wouldn’t normally buy that line, but. This is Batman. And Batman just bought him food. After Jay stole his tires and smacked him in the spleen, even. Jay pulls off a piece of the bag, wrinkles it between his fingers. Why not try to push his luck? “So what’s your idea of everything you can to help?” he asks, not as casually as he was trying for.

“Well, the absolute most I could do is take you home with me, legally adopt you, and provide for you for the rest of my life,” Batman says.

Jay stares. “You’re joking me,” he says faintly.

“I wouldn’t joke about this,” Batman says.


“But I know that you hardly know me, and this is far from the most comfortable situation to be in,” Batman begins, and Jay interrupts. He’s gotta go for it. He’s not going to ever get this chance again.

“Take me home with you. We’ll talk about the - the other stuff later. But take me home with you.” Jay’s stomach really hurts. He takes a sip of his orange juice and hopes he doesn’t puke in the Batmobile, because if there was a way to make his bad first impression even worse, that would be it. “Please.”

“Okay,” Batman says. He takes a step forward, takes another half-step, freezes. Turns towards Jay. Extends his hand. “I should. Probably ask your name.”

“Call me Jay,” Jay says. “It’s short for something, but I haven’t figured out what yet.”

“Jay,” Batman says. “Thank you for trusting me. I’m Bruce.”

Jay nods seriously. “I can see why you go by Batman. That’s not a very scary name.”

Bat - Bruce smiles again. “Let’s go home,” he says, and opens the passenger side door.

Jay does not throw up in the Batmobile, but he does scream semi-incoherently for a while when he finds out ‘Bruce’ is short for ‘Bruce motherfucking Wayne.’