Title: What You Don't Know (PG)
Author: Lacey McBain
Fandom: JLU/DC verse
Summary: Bart runs to Tim when he
learns something unexpected.
Timeline: Part of the Comrades
in Arms Universe. Takes place
Warnings: Discussion of m/m
relationships. Bart/Tim suggested.
Notes: Yes, I realize there are some canon errors in here - the
eye colour, Wally is Bart's cousin, etc. I will make revisions
and repost here as soon as possible. In the meantime, bear with
me. I'm still learning. *g*
Tim’s awake before he opens his eyes. It’s a trick he’s learned
from Batman and Nightwing. One that’s paid off more than a few
times since he’s been doing the Robin gig, and he’s learned to do it
almost automatically now. Keep
breathing evenly. Listen. Stay relaxed. Wait.
If the bad guys think you’re still unconscious, you’re likely to learn
something and less likely to get a boot to the head that’ll send you
back to dreamland with a concussion. An unconscious partner’s
nothing but a liability, and Tim doesn’t want to be a Boy Hostage if he
can help it. It really doesn’t matter that Dick says it happens
to everyone, even Batman. Tim still hates it when it’s him.
But Tim’s lying in his own bed where he lay down for a nap when he got
home from school—too many late nights, too few hours of sleep lately,
and he’s got to be ready to hit the streets tonight. Joker’s out
of Arkham again, and God only knows what kind of sick joke he’s got
planned for them this time.
So, Tim can’t figure out what woke him up. Or why his bed seems
to be vibrating.
He shifts under the old quilt he dragged out of the linen closet, and
wraps one hand around the batarang under his pillow—more comforting
than any stuffed animal ever was—and lets his eyes slit open.
There’s a yellow-and-red figure, slightly out-of-focus, perched on the
foot of his bed. It takes Tim a second to realize the blurriness
isn’t because he’s just woken up. It’s Kid Flash, and he’s
vibrating enough to shake Tim’s whole bed.
“Jeez, Bart,” Tim whispers, sitting up and dropping his batarang into
his lap. “What are you doing here?” Tim doesn’t think
anybody else’s home yet, but there’s no point taking chances, and he
really doesn’t want to have to explain why he’s got a costumed
super-powered teenager in his bedroom. They don’t even like it
when he plays his music too loud, so he’s pretty sure red-and-yellow
spandex and a mask would require an explanation he’s not prepared to
There’s a blur and Bart’s right beside him, picking the batarang out of
his lap and examining it. “You sleep with a batarang? Is
this one of the exploding ones? Isn’t that sort of
dangerous? What if—”
“Bart.” Tim grabs the batarang and tucks it into his
pocket. He knows he’s not going to be getting any more sleep now,
and there’s no way he wants his dad or Dana finding a batarang under
his pillow. He already gets enough grief about not getting enough
sleep. If they had any idea what he was doing most nights, he knows
they’d pack him up and move him as far away from Bruce as they
could. Tim can’t let that happen. Being Robin is the best
thing that’s ever happened to him. He finally feels like he’s
found a home. A purpose.
“What are you doing in bed at five in the afternoon?” Bart asks
suddenly, and Tim shakes his head and tries to focus. Bart’s one
of his best friends, but there are still times he’d like to gag
him. It’s like spending time with an ADD kid who’s sold his
Ritalin and traded up to speed. Except more so.
Bart slaps a warm, still-vibrating hand on Tim’s forehead and looks at
him with concern. “Are you sick? Should I get a
doctor? Batman? Chicken soup?”
And Tim remembers why he routinely stops himself from strangling
Bart. Because Bart’s just about the sweetest guy there is, and he
cares with all his heart. He really can’t help the talking thing;
it’s a speedster trait. Bart’s cousin Wally’s the same way, and
Batman hasn’t killed him yet, so Tim figures he at least has to make an
effort. He brushes Bart’s hand away gently.
“I’m not sick. I was just trying to catch a nap before patrol
tonight. If I fall asleep in Trig class one more time, my dad’s
going to ground me for a month.”
‘That would suck,” Bart says. “But, hey—good that you’re not
There’s a blur and Tim’s staring at an empty space beside him. He
sighs. He’s pretty much gotten used to Bart moving at lightning
speed, but he doesn’t know if he’ll ever get used to Bart investigating
his stuff like a rampaging four-year-old. There’s a reason he has
a code-lock on his room at the Titans Tower. He sees his CD
collection being man-handled, and then there’s grinding bass guitar and
heavy percussion pulsing from the speakers. Two seconds later,
it’s classical music, and Tim needs to stop this before Bart finds the
Frank Sinatra single Dick got him as a joke. He’s not sure he’ll
survive “The Girl from Ipanema” blasting from his stereo. It
still brings up bad memories of wearing a bra and getting hit on by
that med student. He’s not asking Batman for any more undercover
assignments again. Ever.
“Bart! Bart, just sit down a minute. What are you doing
here?” Tim’s thankful when Bart stops and turns around, leaving
Wagner playing in the background. The stereo remote’s on his
nightstand, and he turns it down about thirty decibels to a respectable
level. “And why are you vibrating?”
Bart shrugs and flops back down on Tim’s bed, sending a ripple of
energy through the whole structure. Tim’s really glad his
headboard’s secured to the wall, otherwise his dad and Dana might
wonder what the hell’s going on in here. It's pretty clear
they're not home, and he's grateful for that. Trying to maintain
a secret identity when you're a teenager living at home really sucks.
“I—I vibrate when I’m upset. Or happy. Or … well, there are
lots of reasons, really. There was this one time—”
Tim rolls his eyes. “I know why
you vibrate, Bart. I’m trying to figure out which it is today.”
“Huh?” There’s a quick, confused smile and then Bart seems to get
what Tim’s asking. “Oh, upset, I guess. I don’t really
know. Maybe just surprised.”
Tim lays a hand on Bart’s chest and looks at him carefully. “I
know it’s tough, but just breathe, okay? I need you to tell me
what’s going on, and you can’t do that if you’re bouncing off the
walls.” He’s using his best grown-up voice. The one he
pulls out when he’s Robin and there are frightened civilians
around. No one wants to listen to a teenage boy at the best of
times, even one in a mask and cape, but if they think he’s just a
stunted adult, he’s found it works better, although he knows he’s going
to hurt the first goon that calls him the “Short Wonder.” And
he’ll enjoy it. It might even get a smile out of Batman.
Bart’s chest is rising and falling under his hand. They’ve
practiced this at the Tower—him and Kon and Bart. Getting Bart to
focus when the world’s overwhelming, and running around the globe only
leaves him more wound up. Getting Kon to stop setting things on
fire when he’s angry enough he can’t see straight, and flying to the
moon doesn’t make his eyes burn any less. And even Tim knows he
needs this too, a way to calm himself. Batman says to never fight
when you’re angry, but it’s hard when someone’s hurting your friends,
your family, torturing people for no reason at all, and he’s the only
one who’s had to learn to not be silent. They’ve had to teach him
how to talk. How to let things out.
So it seems really strange that Bart’s the one who’s here now, and
doesn’t want to talk. Or at least, he can’t talk about it
yet—whatever it is—and Tim
just keeps rubbing slow circles on Bart’s
chest and telling him to breathe. Tim wonders when they all
became so comfortable with each other. Vulnerable to each
other. Maybe dealing with life and death every day does that to
you. Makes you closer than you thought you could be.
The vibrations die down, and even Wagner slips into something more like
an adagio. It seems
fitting. The whole world’s slowing down
so Bart can deal. Tim thinks the world owes it to them sometimes,
considering how often they save the damn thing—even when it doesn’t
“You want to tell me?” Tim asks. Bart opens his mouth, and Tim
puts two fingers gently over Bart’s lips. “Slowly. I’ve got
Bart nods and takes another breath. And another. Tim pulls
his fingers away and waits.
“I went to Central City to see Wally, and--”
Another breath, and Tim has time to wonder what’s wrong. Wally
West. The Flash. Fastest Man Alive, and Tim forces himself
to keep his own breathing even. If something’s happened to Wally
… no, somebody would’ve called him, told him. Dick.
Bruce. They’re both close to Wally, and everyone’s been more than
a little paranoid since that whole thing with the Justice Lords from
the parallel dimension. Batman wouldn’t tell him exactly what
went on over there, but Tim got the impression it wasn’t good. It
wasn’t good at all.
“Is Flash okay?” Tim asks. He’s known Wally a few years now, even
got his help on a thing with the Riddler once, but he’s always been
closer to Bart, which only makes sense ‘cause Wally’s old. Well,
older than Dick, anyway, and that’s enough for Tim. Sure, Wally’s
still one of the coolest adults around—with his toys and games and the
fact that he’ll take you for pizza or ice-cream any time you want—but
he’s definitely an adult. Wally pulls rank on Bart all the time,
just like Dick does to Tim, and Clark does to Kon. They think
they’re doing them a favour, protecting them or something, but most of
the time it just feels like they don’t trust them. Tim gets it,
but he doesn’t like it. None of them does.
Bart gives Tim a strange smile and kind of tries to shrug and shake his
head all at the same time. All he ends up doing is getting one of
his lightning bolts stuck in the edge of the quilt, and Tim gives an
exasperated sigh and tugs it loose.
“Just spill, Bart. Seriously. You’re freaking me out.”
“Sorry.” Bart sits up and tugs off the mask, running a hand
through his hair. “I’m a little freaked myself.”
Deep breath, and Bart looks him straight in the eye. “Did you
know Wally’s gay?”
“What?” Tim wants to laugh, but he doesn’t think that would be
the appropriate reaction given the serious flushed face in front of
him. At least no one’s dead or kidnapped, and Wally liking guys
is not much of a surprise since Wally flirts with everything that
moves. Male or female.
Bart bounces off the bed, ignoring Tim’s grab for his arm, and starts
pacing as only a speedster can pace. Tim doesn’t know how he’s
going to explain a worn groove in the hardwood floor of his room.
He throws himself into Bart’s path, and gets mowed down for his
trouble. The two of them tumble to the ground with a thump that
has Tim praying there’s no one else home. He barely catches the
lamp on his way down, and he hears Bart swearing softly under his
breath as Tim manages to shove the lamp back onto the nightstand and
still pin him to the ground.
“Bart, there’s nothing wrong with Wally being gay. What’s the
matter with you?”
“I didn’t know, okay? It seems like kind of an important thing to
Bart’s vibrating again, and Tim’s thinking this isn’t the best position
to be having this conversation since he can feel the ripples of
movement in every part of his body. Every part. He stands
up hurriedly and hauls Bart to his feet.
“Sit,” he tells him, and pushes him onto the bed. Tim grabs a
chair and pulls it up beside him. “Okay, so Wally should’ve told
you, but is it that much of a surprise? I mean, really?”
Bart just stares at him and shakes his head as if Tim’s missing the
entire point of this conversation, but Tim isn’t even sure what that
is. So Wally’s gay. Big deal. He can think of half a
dozen heroes he knows who are for sure, and twice that many who
probably are. Tim’s always thought the tight spandex and the
vibrant colours were sort of a shout out to the gay community
“He wasn’t alone.”
Tim knows he’s making that face that Bart hates, the one where he
creases his brow and raises his eyebrow at the same time. Bart
says he looks like a transporter accident between Spock and Freud when
he does that. Tim isn’t sure he can disagree, but he doesn’t
think he can stop doing it either. It’s a patented Robin look.
“You walked in on him?” Tim holds back a shudder. He
doesn’t like to think about the people in his life having sex.
It’s bad enough he suspects they’re doing it, he doesn’t need it
confirmed. His dad and Dana are happy and all that, but he
doesn’t want to know what they’re doing when they close the bedroom
door. It’s why he’s got a Discman, and he’s already accepted that
slight hearing loss may be the result, but as long as he’s oblivious to
what’s going on down the hall, he’s happy. And even those days
when Dick shows up at the Cave looking all glowy and pleased with
himself, Tim ignores it and pretends Dick didn’t spend the night at the
Clocktower. He just doesn’t need to know.
“No! Not exactly.” Bart’s flustered and his breathing is
coming in short gasps and the bed’s starting to shake again. Tim
lays both hands on Bart’s shoulders and squeezes. “I went by
Wally’s apartment. Thought we’d grab a burger or six, and maybe
some ice-cream. There’s this little place that’s got the best
cappuccino ice-cream in Central City …” Tim decides there’s no
point interrupting. Besides, ice-cream’s not a bad topic of
conversation at this point.
Bart gets his focus back. “Yeah, well, anyway, I went to his
apartment ‘cause Wally’s always told me to drop by if I’m in the
neighbourhood, or lonely, or just want to hang out. He’s good
that way. I can’t complain. Even when he’s giving me heck for
doing something stupid, I know he cares, but I just didn’t expect to—I
mean, the place smelled like wet dog and ocean—”
“Ew. That’s gross.” Tim wrinkles his nose
involuntarily. There are a lot of reasons not to be a superhero,
and the things you end up trying to get out in the wash make up a bunch
“Sinking ship in the harbour this afternoon. Saw it on the news.
But yeah, it was pretty gross. I once rescued this Pomeranian
“Yeah, well, I let myself in ‘cause Wally gave me a key, and I didn’t
think he was there at first, but then I heard the shower going. I
was just going to hang out on the couch and wait for him—he usually
takes pretty fast showers—but then I heard two voices, and—”
Bart’s face is getting redder as he talks and sometimes Tim forgets
Bart’s not like the rest of them. He’s read every book in the
library, but his life experience just doesn’t add up to everything he
knows in theory. It’s as if he’s still finding out everything for
the first time, and sometimes that’s hard.
“—I was going to leave right away, really.” Bart’s blushing to
the roots of his hair, and Tim can feel his own face growing
hot. He can’t believe they’re sitting in his bedroom discussing
Wally’s sex life. Jeez, he didn’t even want to know Wally had a
sex life. “It’s just, there were clothes strewn in the
hallway. The Flash uniform and other things—shirt and pants,
really nice shirt, too, looked like silk—and I thought maybe something
Tim looks at him, unconvinced. The eyebrow goes up again.
“Stop that!” Bart says. “Okay, I was kind of curious, but then I
felt stupid and I just ran. I mean, how could I not know?
Why didn’t he tell me? And they were obviously doing it, pretty damn loudly
too. I think I heard some of the tiles shatter, and what exactly
do you have to do to make tile shatter?”
Tim doesn’t know how to answer that, and he’s not sure he should answer
even if he did have some experience in that area. Which he
really, really doesn’t. Crap. Where’s Dick when he needs
him? Dick would wrap an arm around Bart’s shoulders, explain the finer
points of the birds and the bees, tell him everything’s fine and
normal, and send him off with a cappuccino shake. The best Tim
can offer is a red face and a grip that’s likely to leave bruises on
Bart’s shoulders. He lets him go.
“So, Wally has a boyfriend,” Tim says.
“Looks that way.” Bart lies back on the bed and pulls his knees
up to his chest. “And I don’t even care about that. I mean,
the gay part, but I really think he should’ve told me. He treats
me like a kid, Tim. I just want him to start taking me
seriously.” Bart’s rocking back and forth like a wary
armadillo. “You know what I mean?”
Tim nods. He does know. He was thirteen when he tried to
convince Bruce he needed a Robin. He’s had to work to prove
himself every step of the way, and he knows it’s not because they don’t
trust him. They’re just scared of letting him go out there
without being ready. Tim knows it’s because they care, but
knowing doesn’t make it any better when Dick’s explaining to him how he
left himself open for an attack, or when Bruce gives him that silent
headshake that tells him he’s being pulled off the streets until he
practices whatever move he fucked-up tonight. Tim knows exactly
how much Bart is hurting right now.
“It’s really not the gay thing,” Bart says again, rolling back to a
sitting position. His amber eyes are bright against his pale
skin, and the setting sun is turning his hair more red than
brown. “Or bi, or whatever. I just—”
“Wish he would’ve trusted you with it,” Tim finishes.
“Yeah. That’s it.” Bart nods and looks away. “I left
as soon as I realized I was interrupting.”
“So, you don’t know who it was?” Now that it’s out in the open,
Tim can admit he’s kind of curious. He always thought Wally had
kind of a thing for Hawkgirl, or maybe even Green Lantern. Tim
shakes his head. That’s not an image he needs in his head.
He’s never going to survive the next Justice League BBQ if he’s got to
picture Green Lantern and Flash making out.
“No idea. But he had nice stuff, and kind of a deep
voice. It was hard to tell since there weren’t actually a
whole lot of words—”
“Too much information,” Tim says, waving his hands in the air.
Bart just grins at him and Tim can’t help but grin back. It
suddenly feels like the earth’s slipped back into its axis, and things
are turning smoothly again. Bart’s stopped vibrating.
There’s a click when the CD shuts off, but Tim can’t be bothered to get
up and change it. He figures Bart will do it anyway, but Bart’s
just sitting there looking at him with interest. The kind of
interest one gives to a particularly exotic animal trapped behind a
wall of glass.
“What?” Tim shifts uncomfortably.
“Have you ever … you know?” Bart’s blushing again, but he’s not
looking away and the mask is still lying on the bed beside him.
Tim wishes he had the Robin mask on. This might be easier.
But probably not.
He takes a moment and considers lying, but decides there’s no
point. It’s Bart, and he does enough lying in the rest of his
life. He’s going to be as honest with his friends as he can be.
“No, I haven’t. You?”
“No.” Bart’s eyes dart towards the ceiling as if asking for
divine intervention, and then he blurts out a sentence so fast, Tim
isn’t sure he’s heard him right. Except he must have because
Bart’s just staring at him expectantly, and Tim doesn’t want to ask him
to repeat the question.
He says “um” and tries to figure out what to say.
“You don’t have to answer if you’re uncomfortable. I mean, I was
Tim’s pretty sure that line about curiosity and cats should also be
applied to speedsters because Bart has a bad habit of asking him stuff
no one else ever would—except maybe Dick, and he’d only ask to
embarrass the hell out of Tim. Not for any other reason.
Tim’s afraid Bart’s got another reason for asking.
“Tell me the question again.” Tim’s trying to buy time, or at
least hoping maybe he misheard him the first time.
“It’s okay, Tim. It’s cool.” And Tim knows it’s not
anything like cool. Not at all. “I just figured I’d
ask. Since we were on the topic.” Bart looks at him
again. “And ‘cause, I’ve thought about it. Sometimes.”
Tim swallows, and wishes he’d left the batarang on the bed because it’s
digging into his thigh in a really uncomfortable way and he doesn’t
want to squirm in his chair because … well, that might give Bart the
wrong idea, and he doesn’t think Bart needs any more ideas at this
point. It’s been a big day already. Tim’s not sure either
of them can take any more revelations.
“Bart, I don’t know what to say.” It’s the truth, and yet it’s
not the whole truth, and Tim thinks Bart knows it, but it’s okay.
Bart’s been his friend for a while now, and sometimes it’s enough to
say half of something. He’ll figure out the rest.
Tim hears a door open downstairs, and his dad calling his name.
He stands up and looks at Bart helplessly. This conversation
isn’t over by a long shot, but there’s nothing more to say. They
both know it.
“I’m sorry,” Tim says. He means it. Just once he’d like his
real life to not interfere with his secret life, but he’s learned
that’s not the way these things work. There’s always a cost
“It’s okay. You helped. Really.” Bart’s already
at the window, and Tim knows he’s going to run. Maybe Keystone
City. Maybe Central City. Maybe even all the way to
Canada. He did that once when he was bored. Said there were
lots of trees and open spaces and he even saw a moose. At least,
Bart thought it was a moose, but he really wasn’t sure.
There are footsteps on the stairs, and Tim figures they’ve got about
thirty seconds before his dad knocks on the door. He doesn’t know
what to do. Bart looks at him sympathetically and tugs on his
“Sometimes I think about it too,” Tim blurts out, wondering when his
sanity left him. Bart stops with one foot on the edge outside
Tim’s window. “I don’t know what that means. But yeah, I’ve
thought about it.” His eyes dart towards the door, then back to
In the space of a blink, Tim can feel hands on his shoulders and
there’s the brief press of lips against his. He doesn’t even have
a chance to close his eyes, and the kiss is something he’ll always
remember as a blur of cat-coloured eyes and warm skin and lips that
shiver, even if it was only for a fraction of a moment.
“Tim, are you home?” There’s a light knock at the door, and even
as the door opens, Tim catches the wave Bart gives him as he disappears
out the window. There’s a flutter of papers, and Tim’s trig
homework floats to the floor.
“Ah, working on your homework, I see.” Tim’s dad reaches for one
of the sheets. “Sorry about that. Must’ve created a draft
when I opened the door.”
“Yeah,” Tim says, taking the paper from his dad’s hand. For the
second time this afternoon, there’s a hand against his forehead.
“You all right, Tim? You seem a bit flushed.”
“Fine, Dad. Just fine.” He glances towards the
window. Nothing but blue sky and a soft breeze floating in.
Bart’s probably already halfway to Kansas by now. If that’s where
“Well, just take it easy. You’ve been working pretty hard on
things lately. Maybe take a break and come down to supper.
You can tell me about your day.”
Tim drops the pages onto his desk and leans into his dad’s arm around
his shoulder. He’ll tell him about the quiz he aced in English,
and maybe even about correcting Mr. Balfour’s algorithms in computer
class. He might even tell him about the red-haired girl that sits
behind him in History Class and asked if he was going to the
dance. She’s pretty and kind of nice, and Tim isn’t sure how he
feels about her.
Or about the other almost red-head who made his lips tremble this
afternoon. But he definitely isn’t going to tell his dad about
that one. No. Definitely not. He needs to think about
that one a lot more before he says anything to anyone. ‘Cause he’s
thought about it before--being with a guy. Not a lot, but enough
to make him wonder if the closeness he feels to Kon and Bart isn’t more
than wanting to be friends.
He tunes back in to what his dad’s saying. Something about the
ball game on television and Dana having to work late this
evening. Tim nods and starts pulling food out of the fridge for
sandwiches. They work in silence for a few moments, and it’s nice
having this time. Tim likes Dana, but this is nice too. It
makes him feel like a normal kid. He needs that some days.
His dad pops open a Corona, and looks at him fondly.
“I’m proud of you, Timmy,” he says unexpectedly, then goes back to
spreading mayonnaise on the bread. “You’re a good boy.”
Tim smiles, and puts on his Robin face. The one that never says
how he’s feeling. He hopes his dad’s always going to be proud of
him. Proud of what he’s doing as Robin. Proud of whatever
choices he makes. Even if Tim's been lying to him for years.
“Let’s go watch that game.” His dad ruffles his hair as he passes
by with the plate of sandwiches. Maybe it’s okay to have an
ordinary day once in a while, watching the game with his dad.
Eating sandwiches on TV trays in the living room. Paper napkins
instead of those linen ones Dana likes. His dad’s drinking
straight from the bottle instead of grabbing a glass.
He wonders if this is what it feels like to be ordinary. To be
worried about Trig homework and red-heads and kisses. To be more
confused than he’s ever been in his life. To be maybe a little in
love with his two best friends.
Yeah, maybe he’s not so different after all.
He smiles and reaches for a sandwich.
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