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Red Robin sees him while he’s grappling through the East End.

He had been searching for much of the evening, flying over rooftops from the Bowery to the Cauldron. This evening he’s seen a great deal of the signature violence Gotham has to offer, stepping in to stop muggings and foil murders as he goes. But it’s a special kind of brutality he’s looking for tonight, and as he stands on top of an old tenement building he doesn’t need to enhance the images through the lenses of his cowl. He sees the telltale ruthlessness and an urgency to hurt. He sees a quick flash of light off a shiny red hood.

Tim sensed Bruce’s hesitation, however subtle, when he sent Tim on this particular mission. Given their history together, Tim understood the gesture. But he resented the implication, as always, that this was a situation he couldn’t handle. It isn’t Ra’s al Ghul he has to deal with tonight. He’s certain, absolutely certain, that Jason Todd is a problem that he can solve.

Tim would prefer to begin his discussion with Jason with minimal levels of distraction, so he watches for a bit while the Red Hood takes down his marks. It’s when Jason draws his Glock that Tim swoops in silently. He can see that underneath the Kevlar and leather Jason’s tight and hard, on fire and blasted through with adrenaline from the encounter. In the moment he is most bewitched by the bloodlust Tim disarms him, Jason swearing as he draws his Kris instead.

“Little busy here, kid, in case you haven’t noticed,” he grunts, thankfully opting to take out the pimps or dealers or killers before he turns on Tim.  “If you really wanna tango you gotta hit me up ahead of time. These guys were on my dance card first.” Jason kicks off the wall and comes down on a guy hard, knife not nicking anything important but rendering him out of the fight. Tim spins his staff and trips a coked up brawler, then incapacitates a guy who’s wielding an honest-to-goodness sword. If you were watching, maybe from a rooftop gargoyle, you’d see that they fight together with a fair degree of efficiency. You’d see a sort of instinctive kinetic knowledge of who the next target will be, who’ll strike first. That silent shared insight works wonders and the men, whoever they are, soon lie prone in the filthy alleyway.

Lenses from a cowl and a hood stare blank and white at each other, two chests heaving from the exertion of the fight.

Tim flips the proverbial coin: it’s fifty-fifty with respect to how Jason’ll react when he hears the name, and there’s no calculation he can conceivably run to reliably predict the outcome. He revvs up his Red Robin voice and give it a spin anyway.

“Batman says—“

Turns out Tim’s no Two-Face; heads or tails, he made the wrong call. Jason’s on him like lightning, and they’re brawling silently, raw and close. Jason throws a few punches and they miss easily as Tim dodges and weaves, flying around him. It’s a second too late that he realizes they’re feints, that in their bout with the thugs Jason noticed the shoulder injury from a few nights previous he was sure was healed enough for fighting. Jason nails him hard in the weakened arm and it’s like getting hit by a truck. In that moment of disorientation, Jason pins him against the bricks with his knife and with his body.

Batman says,” Jason repeats, in a frankly insulting parody of Tim’s Tim-voice. Jason’s weight and height and blade keep Tim pinned to the wall while he throws his head back and spits out a gunshot laugh.  “If Daddy has anything to say to me,” Jason whispers, rough and low, “he can say it to my face.”

The only face Tim sees is his own, reflected back in the polished red of the hood. He’s thankful for the cowl, because his mirror image doesn’t seem to betray the acid in his veins. He knows that Batman’s ruined him as magnificently as he has the rest of them, or maybe he just knows how to pick the black-haired boys most vulnerable to this disease. They’ve never sat down and talked about it, of course, but Tim knows Dick can draw from violence the brightest joy, while Jason can wring out a burning righteous glory. Tim knows that he feels hot and tight inside from their recent victory, and from being bested and bruised by Jason, and from fading old photographs of a bright fierce Robin he keeps in his room. There’s silence between the two of them broken only by breathing while Tim runs through the plans and contingencies he drew up for this fight. He feels Jason’s sharp edge against his throat and he tenses his body and in the quiet of the Gotham night he hears it. As if he might have needed a second chance, as if he could have possibly missed it the first time, he hears it again, louder now.

Jason’s stomach gurgles.

Okay, maybe it’s too bad the cowl only hides the top half of his face because he can see his mouth twisting and thinning as he tries not to lose it. But then Jason’s body once again makes the most ridiculous sound imaginable and Tim can’t hold it in anymore, is legitimately giggling helplessly in the Red Robin suit, and it’s like he’s channeling Dick or something because it’s infectious. Now Jason’s banging the hood against the wall behind Tim and his shoulders are shaking under his jacket too, the density of the tension between and inside them seeping away into the grime of the alley. The facts are these: you can plan all you want, but sometimes true strategic genius is winning with the hand you’re dealt, so Tim looks up at Jason and just goes for it.

“Buy you something from Five Guys?”

Jason looks back down at him, unreadable beneath the helmet.

“Can’t very well wreck your shit in my current weakened state, can I,” he replies, a very different sort of laughter ringing through his words.

There’s a pulse under Tim’s skin when Jason pushes against his lower back, propelling him down the alley.

***

Tim sits in his civvies at a table at the back. He’s acutely aware of the fact that this time, probability is actually not likely to be on his side. While he’s deciding how long he should wait before going back out there to hunt his target down again, the door swings open and Jason actually swaggers in.  If nothing else this mission is a reminder of Jason’s ability to surprise Tim; a reminder that when this is all over it is imperative that he updates his personal files on the guy.

Jason plunks down heavily on the chair across from him, broad and tall in his leather, jeans, and shit-eating grin. Tim acknowledges his presence with the barest lift of one eyebrow, and gets up to put their orders in. He comes back with a couple of bags full of fries and tinfoil monstrosities and Jason unwraps the one in front of him with barely contained glee.

“Oh shit yes,” he pretty much moans, after basking for a moment in the arresting glory of the oozing totem to the caloric gods before him. “Sure know how to treat a man, Timmers,” he says, before diving bodily in to the burger.

Tim delicately unfolds his own and takes a bite, after which he’s probably pretty much good, maybe for the rest of his life. Instead he fiddles with a fry or two, watching Jason debauch himself with his hamburger in a borderline pornographic fashion. Tim ponders the elements of the case as he sees them currently: is this a one-time thing, or does Jason routinely go into the field all gurgly inside? Based on the necessary expenditure of energy their work requires, it strikes him as highly impractical, to say the least. Jason can’t be hurting for cash; while they’ve all been too proud to take Bruce’s money at one time or another, everyone knows Jason at least has his own more questionable sources of revenue.

So what’s the deal? No Alfred to take care of him and the guy goes to pieces? None of them can claim to be the most functional of people, but maybe Tim can use this angle to complete this mission for Bruce. While Tim decides that he’ll have to monitor Jason further to get to the bottom of it, Jason’s finished his own burger and has moved on to the brazen outright theft of Tim’s fries.

Tim’s not all that sure how to proceed here. Jason responded to Tim’s initial direct approach with violence as opposed to sobbing and tears or whatever. Now that they’re here eating together in some kind of bizarrely peaceful alternate universe, as if they actually were brothers, Tim’s not super sure what they could begin to talk about. Every topic’s a potential trigger for Jason’s rage: what he’s been up to recently, his past, their family. And while Tim’s not about to start on sports or the weather, he finds that he doesn’t even have to.

“We were pretty solid back there, kid!” Jason laughs. Shockingly. Again. “The way you took out that one guy, the one with the freakin’ katana? Wild.” In his excitement, Jason’s been flailing about a bit with Tim’s fries and he notices a splash of red high on his cheekbone. Tim’s suddenly filled with the morbid and highly unwelcome urge to check if it’s ketchup or blood, but doesn’t get a chance before Jason leans back over the table with the rest of Tim’s burger. “You gonna eat that, man?” Jason asks, as he takes a passionate bite out of it.

Tim gestures to him that he should go ahead and enjoy himself, and thinks on this Jason he’s never really seen before as he just goes to town. They’ve been sitting together for like fifteen whole minutes and nobody’s even thrown a punch, let alone unholster a weapon. Tim’s still on guard of course, always is, but it’s practically almost pleasant. Tim smiles a little crooked when a thought occurs. What if the Lazarus Pit didn’t actually knock any screws loose, didn’t fill all the cracks running through Jason with spite and rage? What if he’s always just hangry?

“Something amusing, birdbrain?” Jason doesn’t make him invent something plausible to cover up that thought, just stands up and drops his napkin on the table, the splat of red he missed still bright on his cheek.  “Thanks for the assist,” he says over his back, waving with one hand, leaving Tim to clean up both of their stuff. Tim’s not sure if he means the fight or the burger.

***

Tim gives Jason some space over the next week. He has to devise the next steps of his plan, and it’s not like he can dedicate all his time just to one guy, even if he’s family. Crazy, violent family, but technically still family. He eventually finds Jason on a rooftop up on his elbows, a lit cigarette between his lips and a sleek black sniper rifle in his hands. He doesn’t take his eye from the scope to acknowledge the newcomer on his building.

“What’s shakin’, Timmy?” he asks, shimmying a little on his stomach to adjust his position. “If you’re here to take me out again, no dice. Tonight, that’s my job,” he says lowly, gripping his gun. He can practically feel Tim’s body tense at the thought.

“Pretty close, actually,” Tim says steadily, holding out a box of pizza. “Delivery?” He offers the box to Jason and the smell that slips out almost gets Jason’s eyes off the rifle.

“Oh my God, you didn’t,” he says, flailing one arm in Tim’s general direction, trying to grab it blind. “Gimme.”

“Okay well first of all, what’s the magic word, and second, you’re gonna have to come up here first.” Tim’s sitting on the edge of the building, legs dangling off the side, the pizza box resting beside him. Jason finally turns to look at him with an expression that’s kind of difficult to read. When he looks back at the building his gun is trained on and exhales loudly, Tim takes out his Bat-noculars and focusses them on Jason’s mark. “Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” he says.

Tim counts down the seconds it takes Jason to make up his mind, and celebrates yet another minor victory when Jason sits up and sighs, swinging his legs up beside Tim’s and flicking his cig down to Gotham’s dirty streets.

“Don’t think you can win my heart with a little Domino’s, former boy wonder,” Jason says with a little bite. While taking a big bite. “I’m a classier guy than that.”

“So you don’t want the pizza?” Tim asks, reaching for the box.

“Oh no, I’m taking the pizza,” Jason says through a very cheesy mouthful. “But don’t think for a second I come cheap.”

“Noted,” says Tim, eyes still trained on the building opposite them. He silently continues his ongoing campaign to not let the weird shit Jason says make him uncomfortable, and thinks about the pizza. Jason doesn’t know it, but he’s wrong – Bruce’s orders said nothing of Tim trying to repair his broken relationship with his sort-of kind-of brother. This is all between Bruce and Jason; Tim’s just working a specific angle he thinks might pay off.

And maybe Jason really is letting his guard down around him, Tim thinks, as Jason enjoys the pizza a little too enthusiastically. Maybe Tim can work his way past that armor he wears to try and keep everyone out and everything in, and he can finish this case for Bruce for real. He decides to test his little theory while Jason descends further into an orgy of culinary destruction.

“So who’re you after?” Tim asks as he gets up to wander around the roof, eyes still glued to their targets.

“Oh, the usual superstitious and cowardly lot,” Jason says, low and into his pizza.

“You have to give me something to work with if I’m going to help you out,” Tim replies with a little smile, sitting back down in between Jason and his gun. Jason stares at him for a full few seconds before he goes back to his slice.

Fine. Burnley Town Massive’s back and there’s been a spate of disappearances of young kids in the area.” Jason delicately licks some errant grease off a middle finger. “I’m ending it.”

“Oh,” says Tim mildly, eyebrows raised. “Caine Regan’s in that building over there? He’s an integral source of information for a case I’m currently working. I need him alive.”

There’s a long, long moment, silent and still. They quietly hold each other’s gaze, unblinking and unmoving.

Then Tim nudges Jason’s rifle with his foot and it plummets into the alleyway below them, smashing into its component parts when it hits the pavement.

“Whoops,” Tim deadpans.

He flinches a little when Jason puts his arm around him. He was prepared for a punch or perhaps maybe a little light stabbing. Instead, Jason leans in towards him and whispers:

“You owe me a new toy, pretty bird,” and pushes him off the ledge.

Tim engages his cape and glides, then shoots his line and he’s flying, grappling across the rooftops towards Regan’s building, wanting nothing more than to laugh. At himself, at this whole thing, from the adrenaline coursing through him. Because of this high-stakes game, and with whom he’s playing it. He hears Jason zipping across just behind him and they crash through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows of Regan’s apartment one after the other.

They take him down and tie him up and bring him in alive, together.

***

The next time Tim finds Jason it isn’t on purpose. He hadn’t been hunting Jason through the dark streets of Gotham; he’d merely been on patrol. His information had been that Jason was doing what he did best: running infiltration against a new gang flooding the city with illegal opioids. Tim had perched on the broken glass of the ceiling of the old warehouse to watch Jason work, not wanting to dive down and compromise the Red Hood’s cover. He’d wait until Jay was finished and then take him out for Chinese or something after, get the lowdown on his case. As if the two of them had fallen into some sort of routine.

But none of that happens. Just a moment ago Jason had clearly had total control of the situation, but now he’s aggressive, threatening, goading on his interlocutors. Tim doesn’t have time to figure out what happened, what he’s doing, why he’d seemingly sabotage this whole thing when he’s clearly surrounded, outmanned, overpowered. He barely has time to calculate if the two of them have a chance, even fighting together. Jason’s already surrounded by guys, fighting hard and wild but already taking a beatdown, and Tim dives in.

It’s quiet, long, and dirty. The goons know what they’re doing; are well-trained and ready for them, are far beyond Gotham’s usual garbage. They’re not intimidated by capes and masks, knives and guns. Tim takes someone down, then sees Jason taking on five, six guys at once. He rolls over to help but not before seeing, almost hearing, Jason’s hand crunch beneath a boot. He’s not wearing the hood and Tim’s made aware of the blood and bruising on his face before they get back to back and finally, finally take the rest of them down.

When it’s all over Jason’s down on the ground, and it takes everything Tim has left in him to drag his limp body, heavy, to his bike. Jason coughs out directions to a safehouse of his nearby, and after Tim manoeuvers him through the hatch he lays him out on a cot by the wall.

He looks at Jason and Jason looks back at him, the two of them breathing heavily. One of Jason’s eyes is swollen shut and there’s blood oozing from his nose, his bottom lip. This time, this time he can’t hold Tim’s glare and his head drops down heavily to his chest.

“I had it under con-“

“Shut up.” Tim turns his back on Jason to try and find the first aid supplies in the safehouse, trying to focus on the task at hand. He has to make sure at least Jason’s body is okay before he starts asking question after question until he won’t be able to stop.

What were you doing, what were you thinking, he’d start. Why would you do this to yourself? To him?  Tim digs through Jason’s stuff; finds bandages, whiskey bottles. Empty, full, cheap. And how often? How many nights a week? Needle and sutures, more booze. Just because it worked once, how many times do you think you’ll be brought back again when you—

“Don’t think you’ve quite developed heat vision yet,” Jason manages to wheeze, and Tim realises he’d been just standing there glaring, his hand feeling tight with how hard he’s been gripping the bandages. Tim focusses on breathing deeply through his nose and moves up into Jason’s space. He can make this doable, if not strictly easy. Break it all down into simple steps and everything might be okay.

First, the jacket. Get it off without hurting the hand even more, or anything else that might have taken damage. (Jason hisses). Next, the body armor. Same plan. (He moans softly when Tim accidentally bumps his ruined fingers). The next step is the gloves, both gloves. It’s the next step, the next inevitable step, and once completed the universe can continue its inexorable entropic march.

Or he could look for other trauma elsewhere, first. While he’s here, knees on the cot and bracketing one of Jason’s loosely splayed thighs, he puts his hands on his bare chest. He brushes his fingers lightly over his collarbones, palpating for any breaks, and surveys his prone patient. He doesn’t like the look of it. Across the broad thickness of Jason’s pecs, black bruises seep through the dark hair on his chest. Tim’s fingers slip down the width of his waist, across his abs, and there are shallow wounds where the armor couldn’t stop the knives. Tim can feel Jason’s shallow breaths against him and with a violent suddenness he is deeply, profoundly tired.

The number of times he’s had to do this for Dick, for the Titans. The number of times he’d seen Bruce like this. The number of times he’s had to take care of himself, alone, exhausted. Scared. Not for the first time in his life he’s so, so tired.

“Timmy,” Jason breathes, and Tim looks up. “Tim. Didn’t even buy me dinner this time and we’re already at second base?” Tim’s just not in a place where he can deal right now so he shoves off and back against Jason. He pretty much pulls off one glove and then the other, and Jason screams.

“Idiot. Stupid idiot,” Tim whispers as he does his best to fix up the hand. Jason’s sweating, pushing deep breaths through his nose, teeth almost though his lip. When it’s all finished Jason looks up through his lashes at Tim.

“I’ve had worse,” he manages through a smile still caked with old blood.

It takes every ounce of what’s left of Tim’s fraying self-control not to haul off and sock him, make that black eye a matching set. But when his fist clenches again he’s hollow, just empty with everything Jason’s been through, everything he was and is. All he can do is get up and stand before him, and head towards the hatch out of the safehouse. He’s really legitimately about to leave when he stops and closes his eyes.

“Do you,” he starts. “Do you even have anything for dinner?” he finishes quietly.

“Sure do,” Jason says slowly, reaching behind a pillow on the cot. There’s a rattle and a slosh and he dumps some pills into his hand, takes a swig from the bottle. “There you go, painkillers and Jack. The usual,” he coughs.

Tim didn’t think he had anything left, anything left inside him at all, but he takes a wet, shaking breath and turns towards the small kitchenette. He leaves Jason with the bottle and starts to look through his supplies. Of course there’s nothing fucking here, barely anything at all. Tim could go out to a 24 hour place, grab some shit, but he’s not really sure he could even make it that far right now. Finally he finds an old box of mac and cheese and tries to reconstitute it as best he can with what’s in the fridge. When he’s spooning out a bowl for Jason he’s suddenly struck by how famished he is right now, after all of that. He’s struck again, and just as hard, by a voice quiet inside of him asking if it really is that easy to lose touch with what you need this much.

Jason’s head lifts up and eyes push open, more awake and conscious when Tim throws down two bowls on a low table beside the cot. He’s put on a big black shirt (D.O.A., right, To Hell An’ Back, cute) that hides the bruising and scars and broadness of his chest from Tim. Tim grabs his own bowl and shovels it down, ravenous from all this exertion of his body and soul.

“Sorry there’s no ketchup, but you-“ when Tim’s half done his own bowl he finally looks up, and fuck if he was not about to lose it before. Jason’s sitting there with his spoon in his uninjured hand, and it’s shaking, trembling, missing his mouth. Jason drops his spoon into the bowl and he smiles, he smiles.

“Maybe the Boss didn’t spend enough time drilling ambidexterity into me,” he says, and leans his head back against the wall. Tim’s not sure how many painkillers Jason’s got himself fucked up on or if they’re for horses or what, and that bottle looks a lot lighter than it did when it first emerged from his bed. He drops his own bowl and gives himself five free seconds to lean forward and hold his head in his hands.

Fine, fine. It’s fine, fine, fine.

He gets back down on the cot beside Jason, sort of half in his lap again with the bowl of mac in his hands.

“What,” Jason asks, blearily eyeing the spoon in his hand. “What, you gonna do the old ‘here comes the Batwing, into the Batcave?’”

“I can’t say what I’m going to do if you don’t stop talking and open your mouth,” Tim replies, and though there’s something in his voice that makes Jason instantly comply, he can’t even savour this little victory.

He’s not sure if he can take comfort in the methodical approach this time around. After he brings the spoon to Jason’s lips Tim’s not sure what to do with his eyes, just dropping them when Jason chews, trying with whatever’s left of his brain right now to figure out a way to make this less weird.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Tim starts; tries to gain total control over his voice before he continues. “Sorry it’s kind of shitty, but if you’d just, like, keep your fridge stocked with—“

“Nah, don’t worry,” Jason says, smiling a little again. “Tastes a lot like how I used to make it for myself when I was a kid.” Tim knows what they all know about Jason’s past and he closes his eyes and he has to ask.

“Listen, why—“ he brings the spoon to Jason’s mouth again, shutting him up so he’ll let him finish. “Why don’t you…” Maybe that was a tactical error and he needs the interruptions to buy him time to think. “Why do you do this,” he gestures at Jason’s safehouse, at everything around him, everything that’s not around him, at all this. “Why do you do this?” is all he can repeat, the ‘to yourself’ left unspoken. Jason swallows and is gazing past Tim’s head, eyes a little unfocussed from the pills and the drink.

“Well,” Jason says with a cough. “Some days…” he runs his good hand through the front of his hair, through the white reminder of his return from the Pit. “Some days… don’t you just…“ And it’s like he suddenly remembers where they are, who they are, who he’s with, what just happened. His eyes are hard now, and unclouded. “Listen. Fuck you, that’s why,” he finishes. Tim’s blue eyes freeze to match and he gets off the cot, throws down the half empty bowl of mac and cheese. Jason can finish it himself, Tim thinks, as he leaves him to get gangrene or something. He sweeps towards the hatch and turns on his heel just before leaving.

“Fine.” (It’s fine, it’s really fine.). “Just one thing,” Tim says. “If I see you out there on patrol with that hand,” he turns to look Jason in the eye when he opens the hatch. “I’ll break the other one myself.”

***

Tim wants nothing more than a whole month off from the Jason thing after that, but he knows he can’t, because Batman trusted him with this. He has to see it through. Anyway he thinks he sees a flash of a red helmet one night as he’s gliding through the rooftops and if Jason goes and gets himself killed, again, then he’s certainly not going finish this thing for Bruce, or at least not any time soon.

Tim knows that Jason should be on his knees and apologizing for that night, for not showing even the slightest appreciation for literally anything from Tim saving his ass to patching him up after. The quiet voice from before might be trying to convince him it’s because that’s not what he wanted, and instead understands, logically, that they’re Bats and it’s simply what they do. For everything he’s given them, Bruce’s leading by example never quite managed to instill in any of them what people call emotional range. The way they’ve been trained left them mostly with the deep-seated knowledge that fighting is easier than thinking; than talking. But Tim knows that this was never supposed to be easy.

When he’s had his time to calm down he returns to the manor and has tea with Alfred. Tim has to step up his game if he’s going to recover the ground that he lost that night in the safehouse, and he hasn’t yet given up on his old strategy which legitimately seemed to be having some effect. More than anyone alive or dead it’s Alfred who could help him now, Alfred who could tell him what Jason’s favourite foods were when he was the resident robin of the house. What did he enjoy, what made him smile when he came home after a hard night of patrol? What did Alfred bring him on those wet gray days when the dark cold halls of Wayne Manor swallowed you up inside, before Bruce finally found you in an empty room, staring out old windows?

Tim takes thorough notes; most of it seems simple enough, things he could probably make on his own. Wouldn’t be as good as Alfred’s, of course, but he’d try. He thanks Alfred again, sincerely, before returning to his place in the late afternoon. All the intel he’d received was perfect. He had been more than prepared to hack into Bruce’s files on Jason to get this info, but in hindsight this was much better. He’s not totally confident that he’d want to read what’s inside of them anyway.

He puts the information to good use: he tells Batman he’ll be out of commission for regular night patrols for a while, and instead he spends his days running intel for him instead, when he isn’t cooking. At first his explanation for why he’s been dropping in on Jason in the evenings was because he was making sure that he was allowing the hurt hand to heal (‘of course I am, mom, you think I’m stupid or something?’), but it soon becomes something a little more relaxed than that.

Tim drops in with chili dogs and a Wii and they play Mario Kart, with lasagna and they have their own private campy horror film fest. He even shows up at Jason’s door with some artsy pastries he’s really quite proud of one day in the middle of a workout. Tim leans against the frame and watches Jason sweat his way through a set of one-handed pushups, and when Jason catches him staring at his shirtless torso, maybe a little thicker than he remembered from that night at the safehouse, Tim walks over and rewards him with cream-filled puffs while he spots him for sit-ups. Jason makes happy little noises when he pops them in his mouth, and licks the filling off his fingers when he heads to get his weights.

They go on like that for a while, Tim dropping in and bringing Jason snacks and dinners, long after Jason’s back to doing pushups with both of his hands on the ground.

***

The routine stays pretty stable until it doesn’t.

They haven’t always been meeting at Jason’s lately, and they haven’t really been keeping a schedule either. Today Tim’s plan was to spend the day running tissue samples for Bruce, maybe go out and blow off some steam with Gotham’s nastiest after dark. That’s what he tells Jason when he lets himself in to Tim’s place and shoulders past him to the couch, holding a couple of big plastic bags in each hand.

“Ok, that’s cool, or,” Jason says as he dumps the contents of one of the bags onto the coffee table, “you could take a day off for once in your life from doing Batman’s laundry or whatever and appreciate some cinema with me. I’ve got 1940’s Pride and Prejudice, 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, and of course 2016’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” He pries the first disc out of its case and starts to set up Tim’s fancy sound system. “Afterwards we can see how they hold up. Of course Laurence Olivier was a master at his craft and Keira Knightley’s a babe, plus as we all know—“ Jason takes an extravagant little bow “—zombies are fucking awesome.” Tim rolls his eyes.

“What, is this your new master plan?” he deadpans. “Mildly inconvenience Bruce by temporarily disrupting his flow of information?”

“You got it, kid,” Jason says as he ducks into the kitchen to pour popcorn into a big bowl. “Later tonight I’m heading over to the Clock Tower with a bottle of red to marathon Friends with Babs.”  

“Hey, too much TV and not enough kicking ass and you’re gonna go soft, huh?” Tim says, looking over at Jason who’s already throwing handfuls of popcorn into his mouth.

“Impossible, check out this sculpted physique,” Jason says with a laugh, flexing. Tim was invited, so he does: Jason’s always worn tight shirts but this one seems a little tighter than usual. He goes over to Jason and pokes him in the side, feeling a little give that he didn’t fully expect. He can’t help smiling and he’s not sure why.

Still,” and he draws out the word. “Do a couple of rounds downtown with me tonight?” He does actually think they both could use the workout, plus he wants to see if Jason’ll actually leave his guns at home again if Tim promises to make him spaghetti carbonara after. That kind of trade worked at least twice so far and Tim is not gonna deny it next time someone accuses him of being a genius.

“If you sit your ass down and get your Austen on with me first, you got yourself a deal, Timmers.” Tim enters one last string of data to the document he’s compiling and sighs. Bruce has come up in conversation already and none of his plates or windows or anything have been smashed. Jason’s gonna go on patrol later and Tim thinks he might just keep up his streak of not putting guys in the hospital. Plus, Tim surprises himself because he actually does want to take a break. It won’t be too bad; he can finish the work for Bruce when they get back before dawn. They both deserve a little reward, don’t they?

“Deal.” Tim goes to turn the lights down with a sigh and plunks down beside Jason as he pushes play. Truths are generally being acknowledged and single men in possession of good fortunes are wanting wives, and they both settle in to the softness of his couch and the rhythm of the film. Tim gets into it for a while but eventually his mind kind of wanders – he’s always been a bigger fan of the Brontës anyway—and his eyes do too. The movie has Jason’s full attention, though: his eyes are glued to the screen and Tim can see the way its light causes his eyelashes to throw little shadows over his cheekbones. He suddenly feels as if he very desperately needs something to do with his hands, so he reaches over Jason to grab some popcorn from the bowl.

He pulls his hand back slowly, not wanting to disturb the intensity of Jason’s engagement with the film with his movement, and as he does it sort of catches against him. It doesn’t seem to bother Jason at all so Tim slides his hand the rest of the way back across him to chuck the popcorn in his mouth and it’s a little interesting. There’s… more of Jason there than he expected, kind of. He reaches back over to grab another handful and slides it back the same way, mapping out the sort of curve of Jason with his forearm on his way back to his side of the couch. He keeps going back for more, staring as he draws his wrist back over where Jason is slightly soft and very warm. He reaches for one more handful, one more and then he’ll drop this strange fixation, but on his way back with a couple of pieces he’s startled as he suddenly feels Jason’s fingers tight around his wrist.

Eyes still on Mr. Darcy Jason raises Tim’s hand to his lips. Tim watches with open-mouthed fascination as Jason ducks his head a little and eats the popcorn right out from in between his fingers. He’s immediately worried he’s finally worked himself into unconsciousness and is dreaming strange dreams on his couch while Jason watches old movies. But the feel of Jason’s hot tongue against his fingers when he slowly licks all the salt and butter and flavouring Jason loaded the popcorn with off every single one, proves to him that he’s definitely awake. When Jason’s licked him totally clean he lets go of Tim’s hand and Tim starts breathing again. The sounds of the film seem to fade into the background of his consciousness when Jason whispers, still gazing at the screen:

“Keep fondling me like that, Timmy, and you might give a guy the wrong idea.”

“Uh,” Tim says, exceptionally smoothly. His popcorn-taking, Jason-touching hand had been dropped against Jason’s chest, and he’s absently wiping it off on Jason’s shirt while his whole body sparks like he’s been tased by pure feeling. He’s staring wide-eyed up at Jason, whose mouth is turned up just slightly at the corner. He doesn’t look back down at Tim; just takes some popcorn himself and licks his own fingers clean after finishing the handful.

“Why would I give you ideas,” Tim whispers, and it comes out with cracks running through it. Now that his hand’s moving of its own volition it’s rubbing little circles over Jason’s chest.

“’Cause you’re warm for my form, babe, have been for a while.” Jason smiles for real and puts his arm around Tim, pulling him tight up against him on the couch. Well, it would be thermodynamically inaccurate to deny that Tim’s not warm for something right now.

“Well what if I don’t think that they’re good ideas,” Tim mutters into Jason’s neck, inhaling his scent like smoke and getting just as dizzy with it.

“Tell me one good reason why it isn’t the best idea,” Jason whispers into his hair, dark and low, and he puts his other arm around Tim and pulls him easily into his lap.

“Well, just from recent memory,” Tim says, running both hands up and down Jason’s broad shoulders, the huge imposing muscles of his arms. “You pushed me off a goddamn building.”

“Oh come on, tell me that wasn’t fun as hell.” Jason laughs and puts his hands on Tim’s ass, making him gasp when he squeezes hard. “Anyway you deserved it,” Jason growls, lips right up against Tim’s ear. “You broke my fucking gun.” Tim closes his eyes and pushes back into Jason’s hands behind him, forward into Jason’s body in front of him.

 “Great,” Tim pretty much moans. “Reason the second: you use guns?” He turns his face against Jason’s and rubs his cheek against the roughness of his stubble. “And with a bat on your chest!” Jason takes Tim’s face in both big, warm hands and their foreheads touch as they lean against each other.

“Yeah, I’m a Bat just like you, I guess,” he whispers hot against Tim’s lips. “Doesn’t that mean we get off on a little danger?”

Tim’s shocked by how soft Jason kisses, had been half expecting to be eaten alive by the big man beneath him. Jason just holds him still, rubbing his lips gentle against Tim’s own, placing indulgent little kisses along his jaw when they both need to breathe. Tim gets both hands down Jason’s sides and squeezes, and Jason moans.

Yeah,” he says, pushing Tim back a little so he can pull his shirt over his head, slowly exposing his torso to Tim again.

But it’s different from the last time, so different from what he’d seen before. No fresh dark bruises, some yellowed and fading of course, but they’ve been more careful in fights since they’ve been patrolling as partners. No deep oozing wounds, but lots of scars Tim traces with soft fingers and an aching heart. But most of all, over his hard muscles, over the thickness of his pecs and abs, something new, something soft—

Fuck,” Tim whispers, his hands just resting against Jason, not daring to yet.

Language,” Jason teases, and Tim can’t take his eyes off him. “Like what you see, little bird?” Jason asks, arms bulging as he folds them behind his head, showing off.

“Oh. Yeah,” Tim barely breathes out, and he can’t stop staring.

Jason legitimately full on blushes when he accepts where it is Tim’s attention is focussed, his chest and cheeks and ears turning faintly pink.  

“What the hell, you little freak. Really?” Jason drops his arms like he’s less sure now, laughter in his voice but the smile hanging a little awkwardly on his face.

“It’s—“ Tim starts. How can he begin to tell Jason now, here, like this, exactly what it is he’s doing to him? Tim’s not even sure why he feels this way himself; it’s not like he’s ever felt like this before. He couldn’t tell Jason now, because he would surely dump him off his lap and leave, what this newfound softness means to him. As he stares it kind of hits him little by little.

He could never tell him that it represents a Jason that seems totally different than the one so desperate and broken in his safehouse that night. He could never tell this fiercely independent man that it shows on his body that if he’s not taking care of himself, at least he’s being taken care of. That he was hard lines and rough edges and now he’s still all that, he is. But whatever softness and sweetness and warmth that pain and death and loss had buried deep inside of him can still be seen, at least by Tim. That he’s safe, as safe as they can be in their line of work, not bruised and bleeding but whole, deliciously whole, at least for tonight, and for Tim.

That quiet voice he can’t seem to get rid of that lives in darkness whispers that there’s something else, too, the sinister little instinct that he did this to Jason, that he changed him and molded him into a pleasing new shape just for Tim’s own pleasure.

But he can’t tell Jason any of this, not if he wants to keep his hands on those new sweet curves like this.

“It’s nice,” he finishes helplessly, petting and stroking Jason, loving the new little bit of give in his tummy and sides.

I’m not nice,” Jason growls and puts his arms around him and lifts him completely up, Tim’s arms and legs wrapped around his body as he’s held.

Jason’s new body is all those things, of course, but god is it sexy. Jason’s always had so much height and weight on Tim since he came back, always looming tall over him and pushing wide against him. Tim’s always felt small, always been ashamed of how Jason makes him feel weaker, tinier, and always been ashamed of how good it feels to be thrown around by a guy he should not, absolutely not, find this smoking hot.

But Jason just carries him like he’s nothing to his bedroom, and kicks the door closed behind them.

***

Tim has Jason on his hands and knees and is buried as deep as he can go inside of him. He savours the slow drag, drawing back inch by inch out of Jason and then thrusting back in hard and fast, enjoying the bounce of the new softness of Jason’s ass when he fucks all the way into him. It might not be at Dick-levels of perfection (Tim feels a jolt through his body from thinking of him right now), but it’s still incredible, looking honestly bigger than Tim remembered it from before when Jason first eased his pants down over it when he was stripping himself bare for Tim.

Tim fucks into Jason more steadily and breathes hard through his nose just remembering the bites and bruises he sucked into it earlier with Jason face down into the mattress in front him, moaning into his pillow as Tim kneaded and squeezed.

Jason’s kind of desperate and shameless in bed and Tim likes it, likes the way he pants hard and grunts loud, just like before when Tim was exploring his body thoroughly. He liked the sweet, high noises he never even imagined could come out of the man when he sunk his teeth into the soft insides of his thicker thighs. He liked the honest to goodness laugh Jason let out when Tim rubbed his cheek against his tummy, kissing it and licking it and teasing it just a little. He likes the way Jason sounds right now, his voice fractured and soft while he takes Tim’s cock deep inside, so hot and tight it doesn’t seem real.

“Jason,” Tim moans, and Jason sighs back in answer, already fucked inarticulate. “Jason, turn over, I wanna see…” Tim eases out and gives Jason’s ass a parting slap, watching it move a little from the impact before he flips over.

Tim looks down at him from his knees and takes in how wrecked Jason looks. His eyes are unfocussed from the pleasure, his whole body their colour, red red red, but he’s still able to give Tim a little crooked half smile when he spreads himself wide open for him.

“C’mon, baby,” he says, his voice scratched and shot from the sounds that’ve escaped him, and from having Tim’s cock crammed down his throat earlier. “Show me what you got.” He tips his hips up towards Tim, needing him to stop staring at them and starting fucking him again.

As much as Tim loves to look, it’s not like he could stay out of Jason for a second longer, so he slowly eases in again, folding himself down against him. This time it’s Jason’s arms and legs that wrap around him, holding him close as he rocks into him gentle and slow. He brings his lips to Jason’s and he’s tasting his little moans, trading and sharing them between the two of them as Tim revels in his body.

The feeling of Jason all around him – being held in his strong arms, being clenched tight inside of him – and underneath him is so raw. He’s hot and shivering under his body, so big and soft and solid. Jason’s cock is trapped between them and with every deep roll of Tim’s hips Jason surely feels the overwhelming friction from all sides. Tim is feeling closer and closer to losing it, and he drops his head down to Jason’s shoulder, burying his face in his neck and breathing hard. Jason turns his head slowly and puts his lips to Tim’s ear.

“That’s it,” he breathes. “That’s it, Timmy. Give it to me just like that. I feel so full.” Tim groans deep at that, and can’t hold back any longer. He pounds into Jason, dropping his head down to kiss the wetness from his eyelashes, and Jason just takes it all. Now Jason’s got a hand around his cock and is squeezing and pulling it to Tim’s steady rhythm, and Tim thinks he must be close too from the way he’s tightening and shuddering around Tim inside of him.

“Tim, hey,” he says, looking him right in the eye. “Tim. Wanna see you come for me.”

Yeah,” Tim grits out, and he does, he gives Jason just what he wants, pulling out with a groan and losing it hard all over him, all over his belly and hips and chest even. Jason groans at the sight, at the warm feeling of being covered in it, and Tim watches through half-mast eyes as Jason jacks himself ‘til he lets go too, his come mixing with Tim’s and dripping down his sides.

Fuck,” Jason says emphatically, and Tim barely nods.

“Yeah… yeah,” he manages to reply, flopping down beside Jason and burying his face back in the crook of his neck. They both take a second to breathe and come down, Tim’s fingers on his Jason’s stomach, lazily rubbing their come into it.

“You… really like it, huh?” Jason asks, as Tim moves to kiss the warm drops off his chest that landed there, laying his head down once it’s clean.

“Oh, you know,” Tim replies, voice shot to hell. “It’s not bad.” He smiles against Jason and squeezes his hip, rubbing his body against Jason’s slowly.

“Yeah, suppose I can see its benefits,” says Jason, stretching out with a moan. “More cushion for the pushin’.” In his post-coital haze Tim almost giggles and nods. He’s trying to banish this weird internal struggle going on inside of him, where he’s trying to calculate a formula for caloric intake vs. physical exertion, and there’s an angelic figure in black and blue on one shoulder telling him to leave Jason alone, and a little demon on the other in red black and yellow telling him to go for it. In the end Tim knows nothing lasts forever, especially nothing that feels this good. A laugh rumbling through Jason’s chest shakes him out of his thoughts.

“You can go ahead and do it, you know,” Jason says solemnly, reaching up to push his pecs together. “I know you want to.” Tim’s confused for a second and then laughs and blows a raspberry into Jason’s chest, and Jason puts his arms around him tight.

“Ready for patrol?” Tim asks, kind of sleepily.

“Okay,” Jason whispers. “But maybe after dessert.”

***

“Tim,” says Batman, as they stand together in the cave. “I want you to debrief me on the Red Hood case. You’ve met your primary objectives: he has significantly lowered his kill count, and he also seems considerably more amenable to contact from the family. I’m prepared to move on to the next stage of the operation in which I contact him myself.” Tim stares him straight in the eye before he brings his hands up to remove the cowl. Once it’s off what comes out of him his more Bruce than Bat. “Jason—“ he begins, his eyes soft in a way Tim’s never seen. “—Jason seems… calmer now. More relaxed.” It sounds almost like a question but Tim can’t imagine Bruce sounding uncertain. Bruce puts the cowl down beside the computer and when he turns back to face Tim he’s schooled his expression back into its usual unreadable state. “How did you do it?”

Tim thinks back on everything that happened; the fighting, the feeding, the fucking. He thinks very quickly about the excitement of the challenge of how to take on the World’s Greatest Detective and win. He looks the Batman straight in the eye and says:

“Well... I broke his hand.”