Title: Won't Hurt You (PG) - posted August 13, 2005
Series:  Comrades in Arms
Author: Lacey McBain
Summary: Sometimes what you don't know can turn your life upside-down.
Warnings: M/M relationships. Bart/Tim.  Wally/Bruce implied.
Notes: I'm still sorting out my canon for this 'verse, so if you catch any errors in continuity, let me know and I'll try to work them out. Many thanks to everyone who's encouraged me to keep writing in this 'verse.

Won't Hurt You

Tim stops by the kitchen on his way down to the Cave. Alfred’s been baking cookies again. Chocolate-chip, and Tim stuffs one in his mouth before loading up a handful and tucking the rest back under the plastic wrap. Dana’s been great, but everything in their house has been healthy since his dad’s been ill, and the closest Tim’s come to a cookie lately has been something full of molasses and oatmeal and some sort of seeds Tim couldn’t quite identify. He doesn’t like his cookies to crunch, and Alfred’s melt on his tongue in a river of chocolate. Alfred adds extra chocolate chips because that’s how Dick likes them. Tim too. Tim isn’t sure if Bruce even eats them.

If Alfred’s been baking, there’s a good chance Dick’s here, and that brings a smile to Tim’s face like almost nothing else can. Dick’s been around Gotham more lately, and that’s a good thing as far as Tim’s concerned. Sure, Dick and Bruce tend to bicker less when they’re in different cities, but things have been pretty good between them lately. Tim’s noticed.

He practically flies down the stairs to the Cave, and he’s not disappointed to see Dick doing handstands on the parallel bars. Dick’s already wearing his Nightwing uniform, blue-and-black Kevlar fitting his muscles with painted-on precision. Without thinking, Tim sets the cookies on the nearest flat surface, wipes his hands on his jeans, and swings himself up onto the end of the bars, mirroring Dick’s pose. His t-shirt slides down towards his neck to reveal a decent set of abs. They’re nothing like Dick’s yet, but he’s still growing. At least Tim hopes he’s still growing. It would be disappointing if he never got any taller than this.

Face-to-face and upside-down, they grin at each other for at least ten seconds before Dick says: “You’ve got chocolate on your mouth.”

Shifting his weight, Tim spreads his legs for balance and carefully lifts the back of his hand to his mouth. It comes away with a smear of chocolate. Tim grins and licks it off. Dick rolls his eyes, then executes a perfect dismount.

“You’re a terrible flirt, Timmy.” Dick helps himself to a cookie as he watches Tim somersault off the bars and nail his landing. “And your form needs work.”

Tim grabs a cookie and starts to shed his jeans, changing into tights. “Is that why you’re here?”

“To flirt with you? That’s not the main reason, and besides, Babs would kill me.”

“I meant are you here to work on my form.” Tim ignores the patented Grayson leer. He’s learned it doesn’t mean anything at all. “And besides, Barbara knows you flirt with me. You flirt with everyone.”

“It’s part of being Robin,” Dick agrees. A lazy tongue catches the dab of chocolate at the side of his mouth, and Tim rolls his eyes. Dick’s a worse flirt than Wally, and that’s saying a lot.

“Yeah, but you’re not Robin anymore. Maybe you should give it up.”


Dick wanders over to the Bat-computer and lets Tim finish getting dressed without the usual running commentary. Not that it bothers Tim, but he has other things on his mind today, and since Dick’s here, he might as well talk to him before Batman shows up and everything is business as usual.

It’s still hard to talk to Bruce about personal stuff, even though Tim knows he cares. He just sucks at showing it although even Tim’s got to admit he’s better than he used to be.

“Dick, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” Dick spins around in Bruce’s chair, leaning into its wide back. He grins like it’s the best thing in the world, sitting in this leather chair, sitting where Batman usually sits. Tim can’t help but laugh. You’d never know Dick was twenty-four.

“Bruce never let you sit in the chair when you were a kid, did he?”

“Not very often. That what you wanted to know?”

Dick pushes away from the computer and spins around again. He’s got the attention span of a ten-year-old sometimes, and Tim can see he’s rapidly losing Dick to something more interesting on the Bat-computer. Better get to the point. Subtlety seems to bounce off both Bruce and Dick. They’re much more alike than they’ll ever admit.

Tim hops onto the console and swings his legs, the cape spilling around him in a wave of black and yellow. He knows this is where Dick used to sit when he was a kid, and it still gives Tim a certain thrill to know he’s carrying on a legacy of sorts. A tradition. Just like Bart and Wally. Kon and Clark. It’s scary, but it’s also pretty cool.

Bart kissed me today, Tim doesn’t say, although part of him is longing to. Dick would understand. He’d flash him that huge smile and ruffle his hair, making some kind of comment about his little Robin growing up, but Tim doesn’t want to open up that discussion when he doesn’t even know what it means. It was barely a kiss at all—just a flash of Bart, gold eyes and warm lips—and then he was gone. Tim shivers at the memory.

“Bart came to see me today.”

“Anything wrong?”

Dick’s voice is a question, and Tim know he’s caught the shiver, can see it in his eyes. Dick can’t quite place the reason, but he’s curious. Interested. Tim needs to be careful.

“No, not really. He just—he was, well, surprised about something.”

And he surprised me too, Tim wants to say. He wants to close his eyes and remember the exact moment when he realized Bart was going to kiss him, but it’s dangerous to do that around Dick, who knows him far too well. Who’ll ask all the right questions. Eventually.


“How long’s Wally had a boyfriend?”

Dick cocks his head to the side and grins. Tim definitely has his attention now. “Who says Wally’s got a boyfriend?”

“Okay, you’re not surprised, so obviously you knew Wally was gay.”


“Whatever.” It’s semantics and Dick knows it, and Tim’s not in a mood to play games right now. Not really. “Bart was upset Wally never told him. About being gay—bi. Whatever.”

“Bart’s not the most observant kid, is he?” Dick asks and Tim’s forced to kick him in the thigh. For Bart. “Come on, Tim, Wally’s a huge flirt. He’s dated everyone, male and female.”

“He hasn’t dated you.”

“I don’t date guys. Babs had to draw the line somewhere.” Dick drags the chair closer to the console, and puts a hand on either side of Tim. He feels boxed in, trapped. He wonders if Bruce used to do this to Dick when he was little. It seems likely. “What’s really the problem here, Tim?”


“If Bart’s got a problem with Wally, he should talk to Wally. And you should stay out of it.”

Tim tilts his head back and lets out a huge sigh. There’s no point even trying to hide his frustration. Dick was supposed to just tell him what the deal is with Wally, not turn it into a lecture. This isn’t going anything like Tim imagined. He’s grateful he decided not to bring up the kissing part.

“Bart doesn’t have a problem with Wally! You’re not listening. He was just—surprised, that’s all.”

“He shouldn’t have been. Wally probably figures he knew.”

“About the boyfriend?”

“Well, maybe not about the boyfriend—if there is a boyfriend—but the rest is pretty obvious. Bart needs to grow up.”

“That’s not fair, Dick. How would you feel if you suddenly found out Bruce was gay?”

Dick’s got the strangest look on his face, not quite a smile and not quite shock, and Tim has a horrible, sneaking suspicion he’s missed something vital in his assessment of Batman’s sexual preferences. Dammit. Bruce doesn’t have time to date most of the time, and when he does it’s always tall leggy blondes or redheads. With breasts.

Tim shakes his head and leans back. No, there’s no way.

“You’re not very observant either, Timmy, my boy.”

Dick’s closer now and Tim notices he’s risen out of the chair, hands still resting on the console. When Tim finds his voice it’s shot up half an octave and he can’t seem to get it back down.

“You’re jerking me around.”

“Sorry, but I’m really not.” Dick looks at him sympathetically, and pats his knee. Tim pulls away, not caring that there’s a flicker of hurt in Dick’s eyes.

“Batman’s not gay,” Tim says fiercely.

“Bi.” Dick ignores Tim’s glare and keeps going. “But he hasn’t dated anyone in ages, so it’s really not a surprise you didn’t know. You know how private he is about stuff.”

“I’m his partner.”

Dick laughs—actually laughs, and Tim resents it. So what if Bruce never told Dick much of anything? This partnership is different, Tim’s always thought. He and Bruce don’t have the same kind of issues, the same father-son hang-ups. He expects Batman to be honest with him about things, the important things.

“Tim, don’t take it personally. It’s got nothing to do with you. It’s just the way Bruce is.”

Dick sits back in the chair and lets Tim jump down from the console. Tim’s angry and he doesn’t know why, but at least he gets why Bart was so upset. He should’ve known. Someone should’ve told him. It’s fine for Dick to say it’s not personal, but it feels personal. It feels like Bruce is more of a stranger than he was five minutes ago, and Tim hates that feeling. He’s worked hard to get Bruce to let him in even a little. He’d thought they were pretty close. It looks like he was wrong.

But at least he didn’t walk in on anything like Bart did.

Dick’s watching him pace back and forth when he seems to remember what they were talking about before. “If Wally didn’t tell Bart, how did he find out?”

“Bart went by Wally’s place today and he walked in on …something.”

Fire is creeping into Tim’s face, and he wonders if Dick has any idea how weird this is. Tim’s just figuring out that maybe he’s got feelings for his best friend, maybe both of his best friends ‘cause Kon’s face has definitely been creeping into more and more of Tim’s dreams, and now he’s got to deal with his mentor being gay. Bi. Whatever the fuck they want to call it. Tim seriously wonders if dressing up in tights is somehow responsible for the alarming number of gay or bisexual men he knows. But Dick’s with Babs and Clark’s with Lois. At least that’s what they say.

“Walked in on what?”

Tim’s got every bit of Dick’s attention now and Tim doesn’t want it. Blue eyes are focused on him with frightening intensity, and Tim suddenly feels the need to escape. He doesn’t want to talk about this anymore. He shouldn’t have brought it up. Maybe he can leave before Batman shows up. Pretend he’s sick. One night’s patrol won’t be such a big deal. He’s not sure he’s going to be able to concentrate anyway.

Dick’s across the room and gripping him by the arms. Tim just stares at him as if he’s a stranger. He’s seen Dick get serious, but this is out of the blue and it’s freaking him out. He doesn’t need anything else to happen today. The weirdness quota has already been reached.

“Bart walked in on Wally and … who?”

Dick’s voice is dead calm, each word carefully measured and Tim doesn’t understand the shift in his tone, his body language. It’s like the answer to this question has become fundamentally important and that doesn’t make any sense. Unless Dick knows more than he’s telling.

“It was an accident. Bart didn’t know anyone was—”

“Who was Wally with?”

“What’s it matter?

“It matters, Tim.” Dick seems to realize he’s got Tim’s arm in a grip that’s making him wince, and Dick lets go with a mumbled apology. He walks to the other side of the room, muttering. Tim can barely make him out. “He wouldn’t—I mean, he’s a flirt, but not—no, he wouldn’t do that. If he did, I’ll kill him.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Tim demands. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“Tim. Dick.”

They both turn in one fluid motion, and Tim knows neither of them heard Bruce come down the stairs. Not that they always do, but it’s never good to be caught off-guard by Batman. There’ll be extra training sessions for sure.

“Everything all right?” Bruce is still in street clothes. Dark pants and a shirt so blue it looks black. He starts unbuttoning even as he looks at them, trying to gage the situation from their reactions.

“Fine,” Tim says.

“Where were you?” Dick asks. His tone is trying to sound like it’s just business but there’s something desperate there, and Bruce looks at him oddly. There’s a question in Bruce’s eyes, and Tim can’t quite read it. Those two have known each other too long. No need for words sometimes. Tim wonders if it’s ever going to be like that with him and Bruce.

“I was delayed.”

“At Wayne Enterprises?”

Bruce’s shirt is fluttering open, pale scars showing against his skin. He undoes his cuffs one at a time, and waits for Dick to explain himself. Tim doesn’t understand what’s going on, or how they got here from where they were a moment ago. Bruce’s appearance seems to have shifted everything, and Tim feels like the world’s tilting on its axis. He’s sliding into something he doesn’t know how to handle and there’s nothing solid to hang on to. None of this makes any sense.


Dick strides forward, and Tim steels himself for a confrontation. He’s seen it before and it’s never pretty, and this time it feels completely unexpected. It’s a shock when Dick puts a hand on Bruce’s shoulder, leans forward and whispers something in Bruce’s ear. Then steps back, obviously waiting for a response. There’s a flicker of surprise in Bruce’s eyes and then a short nod. Dick nods in return, and when he turns back to face Tim, all traces of concern have disappeared from his face.

“Come on, kid, let’s saddle up. Gotham needs us.”

Bruce has disappeared into the back to get his uniform, and Tim’s left standing open-mouthed watching Dick slap on his mask and rev up his cycle. He doesn’t know what’s just happened or what’s going on. He wants to find Bart and complain, maybe see if Bart will kiss him again. The last thing he wants to do tonight is creep around rooftops with the two least communicative men on the planet looking for a crazy man who likes to make people laugh themselves to death.

Sometimes Tim hates being part of this family.


They’re settled on the roof of an abandoned warehouse down by the docks. It’s across from the old Slap Happy Candy Company, and Tim’s really starting to wonder why so many buildings in Gotham seem to have giant clowns on their rooftops. That’s just asking for trouble as far as Tim’s concerned.

“How did he get out this time?” Tim asks.

Arkham Asylum has the worst record for keeping prisoners. Tim doesn’t get why it’s so difficult to keep the crazy people inside, behind bars. It seems like a simple procedure to him. Shut the door, lock it, throw away the key. Simple.

“They gave him a deck of cards.”

Tim can see Dick shaking his head. He’s staring through the binoculars, sizing up the building across the street. It looks pretty quiet, but Tim’s learned not to count on that.

“Do they even read the case files?” Dick wants to know.

“I think they’ll read them now.”

Batman’s standing on the edge of the roof, cape fluttering behind him. Tim goes to stand next to him. It doesn’t feel any different than it normally does, and Tim knows nothing’s really changed. Maybe Dick’s right—it’s nothing to do with him, but it’s still hard not to take it personally. Of course, he’s not jumping up and down to declare his sexual preferences to Bruce, so maybe Dick’s got a good point. Better not to know. Nobody’s business.

“Movement,” Dick says, and Tim can feel anticipation driving his heartbeat faster. He takes a breath and tries to slow it down. Bruce is motionless, but he’s assessing, considering, planning. There are nights when Tim forgets how amazing this is until he watches Bruce doing what he does best. Being Batman.

“Joker, Harley, and five others.” Bruce doesn’t have the binoculars, hasn’t moved a muscle. Tim never knows if he’s reading something in Dick’s body language or if his vision’s just that good.

“Don’t forget the hyenas,” Dick adds.

A low growl from Bruce, and Tim checks his belt for sleeping darts. He hates Harley’s hyenas. They’re filthy, slobbering beasts that are always hungry, and they seem to have been brought up with a particular taste for Robins.

“Robin, stay sharp,” Bruce says, as if he needs telling. Tim’s had to replace three capes already. The hyenas always go for him. He was one step away from Bruce forcing him to go for rabies shots last time. There’s no way that’s going to happen again.


Dick’s sliding the binoculars back into their black bag, readying his jump-line. He’s only here because it’s the Joker and because they’ve made a pact that says nobody faces him alone—even Batman. It’s too dangerous, and the Joker’s just too insane. Barbara’s never far from their minds on a night like this. Tim hadn’t thought there were degrees of crazy, but he knows better now. Joker’s in a class by himself. A psychopath among psychopaths.

“He’s waiting for something.” Batman’s trying to think like Joker, get inside his head. It’s scary when he’s able to do it. Tim wishes Bruce wasn’t so good at it. He knows Dick wishes that too.

“So we wait,” Tim finishes. There’s a slight nod from Batman, then nothing. Tim stares across at the shadowy figures milling about behind grimy windows on the top floor of the old factory, tries to focus his thoughts on what’s happening around him. He knows it’s dangerous to let his mind wander. There have been close calls before. It doesn’t pay to let your guard down around Joker.

“Someone’s coming.” Dick’s voice from beside the roof’s edge.

He’s kneeling on the concrete, barely visible. If Tim didn’t know where he was, he might not even see him there. Dick’s almost as stealthy as Batman when he wants to be. Tim’s got a long way to go before he’s even half that good. Sneaking up on the Teen Titans really isn’t that much of a challenge—even though it’s fun to watch Bart freak out.

There’s a blur in the street and a rush of wind. Garbage and leaves are swirling wildly, and Tim has a sinking feeling. He knows that whirlwind, sees the same recognition on Dick’s face. Batman’s jaw doesn’t move. There are only a handful of people who can make an entrance like that and none of them should be here tonight.

Tim almost hates to look, but when he glances over the edge there’s a whirl of yellow, and Kid Flash is standing in the middle of the street looking around as if he’s expecting to see something. Or someone.

“Nightwing, get him out of there.”

Dick’s a step away from launching himself over the edge when there’s an even wilder gust of wind and The Flash blurs to a stop beside Bart. Batman reaches out a hand and grabs Dick by the back of his uniform, holding him in place. Tim looks up in time to see movement in the building across the street, and there are faces pressed against the windows. Faces, white and laughing.

“They’ve seen us,” Tim says, and there’s no need to explain which “they” he means. Bruce has pressed a button on his JLA communicator, and Tim can hear the faint answering beep from the street below.

“Flash. Opposite rooftop. Now.”

Batman’s voice is chilling, and Tim thinks he sees Wally’s face falter a little when he looks up. There’s a blur and a few seconds later there are two speedsters standing on the roof, looking out of place in red and yellow. At least Tim’s got a black cape to cover up his colours. Bart’s squirming out of Wally’s arms, and Tim’s got a bad feeling Wally just picked him up and ran on Batman’s command. That’s not going to go over well. Not today.

“What the hell did you do that for?” Bart’s face is almost as red as Wally’s suit, and Tim shoots him a sympathetic look, which just seems to make Bart’s face turn more miserable. Tim wishes he could do something, but he’s working. This is totally different from working with the Titans. There’s no room for emotions here. Nightwing’s watching the other building and trying to ignore the drama going on behind him.


“Sorry, Bats. Didn’t know you were here. Bart took off and—”

“No names,” Batman whispers harshly, and Tim’s got the feeling it’s something he’s reminded Wally about a hundred times before. Wally’s already nodding before Batman gets the phrase out.

Tim can only see Wally’s chin and mouth below the mask, but it looks like he’s as upset as Bart is angry. He’s got one hand on his hip, the other on Bart’s shoulder. Yup. Totally gay. Tim isn’t sure why he didn’t see it before.

“I know. I’m sorry!” Flash lets Bart go when he jerks out of his hand and blurs to a stop beside Tim. “Family crisis.”

“This isn’t the time.” Batman’s voice is harsh. “Joker’s across the street, and—”

“Joker?” Bart’s eyes go wide under his mask. Yeah, Central City doesn’t offer much more than a guy who turns things to ice and a super-smart gorilla or two. Gotham’s always been the top of the pyramid for whacked-out villains. Tim thinks there’s something seriously wrong with being proud of that fact.

“Take him and go home,” Batman says, moving to stand beside Nightwing. Dick shakes his head. No movement yet.

Wally gestures at Bart to come on, but Bart’s halfway behind Tim and doesn’t look like he’s going to be moved.

“Don’t try it,” Bart says. “I’m not a kid. You think Batman just picks up Robin and tucks him under his arm when he wants him to go somewhere?”

Tim starts to point out that, yeah, that’s occasionally what happens, even now, but since it usually means the difference between being able to keep breathing or not, Tim’s learned to give Batman a certain amount of latitude. Besides, he’s seen Batman do it to Nightwing too, so he doesn’t feel quite so bad about the whole thing. As a rule, Tim’s learned that staying alive is more important than his ego. Most days.

“Bart,” Wally whispers, obviously already forgetting the rule about no names when in uniform. “Please. Let’s just go home and discuss this.”

“Discuss it? Since when do you talk to me about anything important?”

Bart’s voice is getting louder, and Tim can’t help but cringe. He can hear the loneliness in Bart’s voice. The only thing Bart’s ever wanted was to be included in things. Tim forgets how strange it is for Bart sometimes—experiencing the world in a way that’s totally different from everyone else. A head full of knowledge, but no context for most of it. Just words he’s trying to make sense of. Bart always seems one step away from being disappointed.

“I would’ve told you. It’s …” Wally glances over at Batman and Nightwing, but Tim can tell there’s going to be no help forthcoming. Flash is on his own. “It’s complicated.”

Bart’s standing with his hands on his hips too, and Tim’s edging out of the way of those pointy little elbows. He’s half-afraid Bruce and Dick are just going to make a break for it, and he doesn’t want to be left on the roof with two arguing speedsters. He’d rather take his chances across the street with Joker.

“How complicated is it to say ‘I’ve met someone. I’d like you to meet him’?”

Tim’s always thought of Wally as a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. The guy who hangs out and orders pizza for them, and who always has the coolest toys. Not ten thousand dollar electronic toys that will immobilize someone at fifty yards like Bruce has, but the kind you get from a toy store: Battle Bots, radio-controlled cars, and super-soaker water pistols. Tim’s never seen Wally angry. Until now.

Tim didn’t see Wally move, and neither did Bart apparently because Wally’s right there in Bart’s face, a hand on each shoulder, and even Tim can tell there’s no getting out of that grip. Wally’s no pushover in the strength department.

“I’m sorry you’re upset, but now’s not the time. We’re endangering everyone by being here, and quite frankly, what happened at my apartment is none of your business.”

Bart starts to vibrate, and that can’t possibly be good. Wally’s forced to match his vibrations to keep hold of him, and Tim can see Batman glancing at the two of them with a peculiar look on his face. He says something to Dick, who looks up at him and nods. There’s a whispered conversation and Tim isn’t good enough at lip-reading to catch more than a word or two. It doesn’t help.

Somewhere it sounds like there’s a hyena howling. It doesn’t sound that far away, and Tim wonders if anyone’s paying attention to the Slap Happy Candy Factory anymore. All eyes seem to be focused on Bart and Wally.

“You don’t want me in your life. You never did. If I was important enough, you would’ve told me.”

Wally’s shaking his head. “My life’s a shambles most of the time. I can barely keep my hamster alive, and I get new houseplants every month. I couldn’t look after you. Max is stable; I’m not.”

“You didn’t even try!” Bart yells, and Tim can feel something inside him hurting for Bart, who’s even more screwed up than the rest of them.

Part of Tim wants to leave, doesn’t want to be witness to Bart breaking down like this. There’s something wrong about standing on a rooftop and listening to your best friend spill out his heart. Tim doesn’t know whether to go over and hug him, or tell him to shut the hell up. Yeah, Bart’s had a hard time of things lately, and being shot in the leg by Deathstroke certainly didn’t help his confidence any, but even Tim knows this isn’t the time or the place, and Wally’s been more than patient. So has Batman.

Tim hates it when he can see their side of things. He doesn’t like having to be the one who acts responsible all the time. It gets boring awfully fast.

“We’ve got movement,” Tim says, catching a shadow out of the corner of his eye. Two dark heads swivel back to the street. Joker’s men are setting up something that looks like a cannon. Naturally it’s aimed at their rooftop.

“Breathers in,” Batman says, but Tim and Dick are already reaching for theirs. Joker Gas. Permanent smile, and Tim’s not ready to die laughing. Bruce gave him a dose of it one day in training to show him what the effects would be. It was horrible. He can still hear his own demented laughter echoing back at him from the walls of the Cave. Tim always carries extra antidote pills with him. Just to be safe.

“We’re leaving,” Wally says, but Batman presses a pill into his hand. He gives one to Bart.

“Too dangerous. Take those and cover your faces.” Batman pulls out two pocket handkerchiefs from who knows where and hands them to Wally who takes one and ties it across his mouth and nose. Bart does the same. Tim knows swallowing the pills dry is nasty work, but neither of them says anything. Bart’s sobered up instantly. Tim’s kind of proud of him.

A balloon lands on the roof and bursts beside Tim. The red gas floats up around him, stinging his eyes, and he forces himself to breathe evenly. He’s got to trust the breather to do its job, and he’s got to do his. He moves to the edge of the roof, and aims a batarang at the outermost thug. Easy hit.

Tim can hear Wally giving instructions to Bart. “Do whatever Batman and Nightwing say. They tell you to move, you move.”

Another balloon lands on the roof. Purple gas this time, and right beside Bart. Tim’s there in an instant. He can see Bart’s eyes watering, but he’s got a weak grin beneath his handkerchief, and Tim knows the pills will work. With limited exposure. It’s not healthy for them to be up here for long. Tim puts a hand on Bart’s arm and hopes it’s reassuring. It’s the most he can do right now.

Batman’s standing on the edge, cape fluttering behind him even though there’s no wind, and Tim waits for orders he knows are coming.

“Flash, circuit of the factory. See if Joker’s still there. Just recon and return. No heroics. Nightwing and I’ll hit the cannon. Robin, stay here.”

Tim’s face falls flat. He’s about to protest, but knows there’s no point.

“Take out the guards, Robin,” Batman says pointedly. “You need practice with distance throws. And Impulse,” Bart looks up even though he hasn’t answered to that name in a while, “see if you can keep this area clear of the gas. Send it up, not down.”

Bart seems happy to have a job, and Tim can feel the wind starting around him before the others have even hit the ground. Just to make a point, Tim takes out three of the guards with three precision throws. Dick and Bruce secure the other two. Flash appears, shaking his head. Joker and Harley seem to have disappeared.

No doubt they’ll run into them another night. And the hyenas.

“I’m sorry, Robin,” Bart says, standing beside him as the last of the gas dissipates upwards. “I didn’t know who else to come to.”

“You came here looking for me?” Tim’s flattered and happy and whoa, Bart came to Gotham to find him. Twice in one day. Because he was hurting and he thought Tim could help. Tim feels a smile spreading across his face.

“Yeah. I just needed to talk to someone.”

“How did you know where Robin would be?” The voice is Batman, and Tim turns as three sets of boots land on the roof.

“Um,” Bart shifts uncomfortably, and now that Tim thinks about it, there’s no reason Bart should've known where he’d be.


“I put a tracer on you.”

“What?” Tim’s horrified. Dick looks like he’s about to laugh. Tim really can’t tell what Batman’s about to do.

“Where’s the tracer?” Batman’s voice is harsh.

“His watch.”

Tim checks the watch, and finds a small metal tab hooked to the strap. He probably wouldn’t have noticed it for at least a few days. That’s kind of unnerving.

“Don’t do that again,” Batman says, and Wally glances up at him with a look that says he’s had about as much of the Dark Knight as he can take. Tim knows the look well. He’s seen all of them get it at one time or another. Even Superman.

“Oh, come on, it’s not like you’ve never done it,” Wally says suddenly. He taps his boot against the rooftop, and Bruce’s mouth quirks into a grin. Tim just stares. What the hell?

“That’s different,” Bruce says, and Tim’s pretty sure it’s Bruce talking now. The tone is lighter, more playful, and he’s totally not used to that voice coming out of that cowl. Bart seems to be as freaked out as he is.

Wally walks over and tugs the handkerchief off Bart’s face. He looks at him fondly and shakes his head.

“You drive me insane, Kid, but don’t ever think I don’t want you around.”

Bart looks hopelessly guilty, and Tim’s really fighting not to hug him now. Everything Bart feels shows on his face and you can’t help but like someone who’s that open about things. It’s a nice change for Tim.

“I gave you a key so you could come by whenever you want. Nothing’s changed,” Wally says, “although you might want to knock first.”

Tim remembers what Bart told him, and he can’t help but blush. He really doesn’t want to think about Wally having sex. Or anyone having sex. These tights hide absolutely nothing, and he’s still a fifteen year old boy. He can’t help it. Dammit.

“I just don’t want to be left out.” Tim knows Bart’s trying to apologize for acting like a kid. It’s almost impossible to stay mad at him because he tries so hard, and even when he screws up, his heart was in the right place. Tim can tell Wally’s struggling not to strip off Bart’s hood and ruffle his hair. It’s a very Wally thing to do. Tim’s been ruffled many times.

“I wasn’t trying to leave you out,” Wally says seriously. “This … relationship is pretty new, and I don’t know where it’s going yet. I didn’t want to say anything until I was sure.”

Bart smiles and Tim knows he gets it. He and Wally are a lot alike. Same reason Dick and Bruce get under each other’s skin. Too much alike and too much love between them. Tim thinks it’s kind of nice—when they’re not fighting.

“You didn’t want to be disappointed either.”

“Something like that.” Wally looks slightly embarrassed, but Tim’s got to give him credit for laying his personal life out for them to see. Anyone else would’ve been long gone by this point.

“You won’t be.” Every face on the rooftop turns towards Batman. Wally looks stunned, and Dick’s got a grin on his face that’s wide as a trapeze.

“Bats, you don’t have to—”

“I think they already know.”

Batman’s standing beside Flash, and there’s a softness in his jaw that’s not usually there. He’s almost smiling. When he lays a hand on Flash’s shoulder, Tim’s brain catches up about the same time Bart’s does. There’s a look of horror reflected in Bart’s face that Tim is sure no mask can hide.

Oh. God.


“Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” Tim yells. They’re careening through the streets on Dick’s cycle. Bart and Wally had disappeared in a gust of wind, and Batman had taken the car. Patrol’s officially done for the night, and Tim figures he can get at least eight hours of sleep since he doesn’t have to get up for school tomorrow. He loves Saturdays.

“I can hear you just fine, Tim. You don’t have to yell.”

The bike’s almost sideways when they hit the curve at the pier, and Tim’s hands tighten around Dick’s waist. If Dick wasn’t wearing a helmet, Tim would smack him in the head. Reckless, stupid, incorrigible Dick.

“You could’ve given me a heads-up!”

“Why? It was much more fun to watch your face when you realized—”

Tim does hit him now. A hard fist to the back, but it doesn’t make any difference with the Nightwing uniform on. Tim knows Dick will have barely felt it. He can hear Dick’s laughter over the headset in the helmet.

“How long?” Tim feels totally out of the loop and horrified at the same time. He would never have picked Batman as Wally’s type, but then again, he and Bart are more different than alike, so maybe there’s something to that.

“And the world’s second greatest detective fails to see what’s right under his nose.”

Tim hits him again, harder. More laughter.

“Come on, Dick, it can’t have been that long!” And Tim realizes Dick’s rapid personality shift earlier means Dick wasn’t sure who Wally was with either. He was worried Bruce was going to get hurt. Tim decides he loves this family, fucked up or not.

“About a week, but Wally’s had a crush on him forever. I just didn’t think he’d ever do anything about it. Either of them. They’ve been dancing around this for months.”

Tim raises an eyebrow even though there’s no one to see it. Months? Way too much stuff happens that Tim doesn’t know about, and it’s starting to annoy him.

Dick’s still talking, but his voice is softer, more thoughtful and Tim strains to hear it over the roar of the engine. “I think the Justice Lords scared both of them.”

Tim perks up. Batman wouldn’t discuss it beyond a few simple facts. Said it was ‘need to know’ and Tim didn’t.

“Did he tell you what happened with them?”

“Not much. Wally told me more, but even then, I don’t think I heard the whole story.” Dick seems reluctant to continue.


“Their Flash died. Killed by Luthor.”

Tim swallows and tries to process that. He wonders if Bart knows any of this, and can pretty much guarantee he doesn’t. Flash dead? Yeah, Wally’s a superhero, but he’s not nearly as threatening as some of the others. Including Batman. Tim can’t imagine anyone really wanting to kill Flash—even the super-villains mostly seem to want to challenge him to race or watch him skid on ice or toss him around a bit. And Luthor’s the President. Yeah, he’s evil, but Tim thinks killing a national hero would be a pretty good way to get yourself kicked out of power pretty fast. Or worse.

The truth of that hits Tim like a punch in the gut. In the other universe, the Lords took power. Killed Luthor. Tim knows that much, and he’s starting to see the connection between the one event and the other. What would it do to the League if they lost someone like Flash? Someone so genuinely happy about life that he keeps the rest of them grounded when they’re dealing with horror? Tim’s been walking the dark streets with Batman long enough to know what would happen. Disaster. It’s the same reason Batman needs a Robin. Or at least that’s what Tim always tells himself.

“Do you think that’s why Bruce and Wally—” Tim doesn’t really want to finish that sentence. It’s still weird to think of them together. Really together. He shudders.

A half-shrug from Dick. “Maybe. Maybe it would’ve happened anyway, but it certainly gave them a push in that direction.”

Dick slows down to make the corner onto Tim’s street. He pulls the bike over to the curb and lets it idle. Tim scrambles off, depositing the helmet on the back, and starts to slip into the shadows. He’s looking forward to crawling into his bed.


“Yeah?” Tim turns back. Dick’s got the face-shield on his helmet up, his Nightwing mask off.

“I’ll talk to him. We’ll try to make sure you know what’s going on. Personal or otherwise. Okay?”

Tim nods and grins, ducking back into the shadows as the cycle peals out. Sometimes Dick’s a pain in the ass, but mostly he’s everything Tim could’ve asked for in a friend. He climbs the trellis up the side of the house, and slips in through his bedroom window. Perfect.

“I thought you’d never get here.”

Tim feels his heart leap into his throat until he realizes it’s only Bart, now in a t-shirt and jeans, sitting on the floor beside his bed. It looks like he’s three-quarters of the way through the book Tim was reading.

“What are you doing here? I thought you were talking to Wally.”

“I already did. It’s cool.”

Tim forgets that Wally and Bart do everything faster than everyone else. Even talking. Their heart-to-heart probably lasted all of five minutes. If that.

Tim pulls off his Robin boots and slides them under his bed. No one ever looks there. He doesn’t even like to look under there most of the time. It’s creepier than the darkest corners of the Cave. He uses the spray to loosen his mask, then tugs at the clasps holding his cape. It’s never bothered him to have someone around when he’s getting undressed, but the fact that it’s Bart is making him nervous in a way he wouldn’t have been twenty-four hours ago. Tim stops and waits for Bart to say something.

“Bats and Flash, huh? I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“Me neither. My money was on Green Lantern.”

“Me too. Good that we know, though,” Bart adds thoughtfully.

“I guess.” Tim thinks it’s going to be weird for a while. He liked it when life was simpler. He didn’t think about this stuff as much when he was thirteen and being Robin was the only thing he cared about.

“What you don’t know won’t hurt you?” It isn’t really a question, and Tim knows Bart doesn’t really believe it either. They’ve both been doing this long enough to know that what you don’t know cannot only hurt you, but possibly kill you.

Tim sits down beside Bart. “Sometimes it’s just easier when you don’t know.”

Bart nods. It takes Tim by surprise when Bart’s fingertips brush against his lips. They’re a little bit rough, but the touch is gentle, and Tim gives a half-smile as he turns his head to look at him.

“Is it easier not knowing this?” Bart’s voice is shy, but his eyes are steady. Honest. He really wants to know.

“Maybe,” Tim says. “I don’t know yet. I don’t think so.”

“I won’t hurt you,” Bart whispers, and then his fingers are gone, and Tim feels hands on his shoulders and lips pressing against his. Warm and a little bit wet as if Bart just licked them, and Tim closes his eyes and kisses back. He doesn’t have much experience with this, figures Bart doesn’t either, but they manage okay. Tim feels himself shivering again, but it’s a good kind of shiver. They pull apart, flushed and a little bit breathless.

“I’ve got to go.”

“I know.” Tim thinks it’s good to take this slow and it strikes him as important that Bart seems to know that too. Bart who does everything faster than normal. Bart’s trying not to scare him, and Tim shouldn’t be surprised how well Bart knows him, but he is.

“I’ll see you soon.”

Bart’s gone in a flash, and Tim just sits on his bed for a few minutes trying to make sense of what feels like the longest day in history. He folds his Robin cape into a neat pile. Changes out of his uniform and hides it away. Crawls under the covers.

His hand wraps around the batarang under his pillow. Its sharp edges nestle against his palm. Things are only dangerous when you don’t know how to hold them, how to handle them, Tim thinks. It’s just a matter of learning what to do so you don’t get hurt.

His grip softens as he drops off to sleep.


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