many thanks to slodwick for this art, long ago. i remember when it was first posted and it's still ho-ot.
Wrote a story 'bout it, like to hear it, here it go.
Title: Who We Are
Rated: R for questionable content
Disclaimer: ...criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot. me, i'm just borrowing.
Characters/Pairings: Tim/Jason/Dick, Tim/Dick, Tim/Jason, implied Bruce/Jason
“I do things to induce dreams of meeting you. I've done things. They aren't the kind of invocations you read about, so many of those are just to bring back memories, and they work like tear gas works. If you build up enough tolerance, over time, you don't remember how to choke anymore. I never had a chance to do that. Usually, he just shoves the rebreather over my face. And keeps swinging.”
“Yeah, the first time he did that,” he said, throwing his arm back behind his head, slid his body down mine and under the sheet, “there was a fire, and I cried a little, the tears they just popped out of my head. And I said 'I love you' to him for the first time.” He slipped a little further down, brought the other arm out to clasp his hands behind his neck, against my chest. “Course, he couldn't hear me. Just like when you die, he's always too busy saving your life to listen.”
“Jason, I think about you all the time. Thought.” There's more I want to ask him, but I whisper because I don't want to wake Dick. I don't want to make him jealous? I'm scared he'll think I don't trust him, that I want to cross-reference all his stories against the archive. The archive, I still think of him like that with a pool of sweat above his tailbone, pressing that spot against my hips for the second time tonight.
Dick stirs a little, but he's a rock. Pertinence mechanisms: he wakes up for his name, for a woman's voice (figures), for Jason's name, for breakfast meats (before Alfred scolds him by letting them burn) and the sound inside a lock when you turn a key. Thieves worth waking for have keys, he warned me. They've already been inside. They've already held it in their hands, slid their top lip along its edge, what they want. The ones who break a window are amateurs, let Alfred handle it and go back to dreaming. The best ones always get interrupted.
“What do you dream about, Robin?”
It was nearly a week ago, he asked me. Called me a cat (had to be the way I moved along his body and kept my balance-- sure I didn't have family in the circus?) and nipped at my ear while we waited on the rooftop. It's not that he never asked me what I wanted, he's always been good at getting information out of me. He acts on intelligence. He's that kind of agent, better at the takedown than the trap. It's just that he'd never asked like that before.
“There's a difference,” I parried, “between the dreams you have and the dreams you talk about. I can't answer that question honestly, it's categorically impossible.”
“He has you reading Freud, right? I thought Cain turned him off to all that--”
“I used to dream about you,” I deflected. The wind picked up. He crouched even closer to me so my cape wouldn't block his view. No one had gone into the warehouse in an hour. All the cars that had shown up had left the lot, and new ones were coming to take everyone home.
“You mean you stopped?” Disarmed. He's blushing, but nowhere you can see, even if he took the mask off. He's bringing his guard back up on his strong side.
“I figured out some... most things, about you and him, while I was sleeping,” I said, and he knew he should have put up a guard on the weak side. Out of practice. “Not enough time during the day, plus school, so I just started to schedule detective work later and later.”
Dick's technique is flashy, like the Western styles. He didn't have to fight Shiva. You don't try to hide the fact that you're telegraphing your moves by making more moves. It saves strength, because stealth is hard, but you have to learn stealth when you don't have as much strength. Maybe that's why I always know which mornings I'm going back to his place after we patrol. Maybe that's why I always ask if that's where we're going, just because I like being right. I like being right.
“You didn't answer my question,” he said. Recovery. Short refractory period? High-impact training. Acrobats. He put an arm around me but he held the digicam; he wanted pictures of license plates.
“Got me there.” I'm flailing. Flashy works for me, too, right? Wild gestures create the illusion that I'm not that much smaller.
“Not gonna work. You've already answered, once you concede that you're in an interrogation,” he held a little tighter, not just because he had to adjust the zoom but because the Nomex makes a sound when your armor grinds against a cape, he's always told me. I suppose you can only hear it from the grinding side. I wonder if only adult bats can hear it? A car door opens while lights start to go out in the warehouse. I have my grapple out just in time.
Jason laughs at Dick's snore. It's been six days since we busted that coke deal, since I admitted to myself that I was in one of those archives again every night. The dreams are always like that when I'm close, when the answer is just in a long box somewhere and I have to keep walking around until I find it. It's so much better than scouring the city, asking the police my own questions without letting him know what I'm doing, sneaking a peek under the cowl to see if he can tell I'm onto something. I know he knows, sort of, but he always tells me if he wants me to stop pursuing something. How are you supposed to become a detective if you have to stop everything halfway? When am I going to be ready?
“He's just like I remember,” Jason says, and he's not happy. “Is he good to you?”
“You were there. Looks like he was pretty good to you,” I said. It was sweet, the way they opened up to me, like I would be so humble to come into their clubhouse and play with the big kids, that I hadn't just stumbled onto this secret, sticky, hungry place they kept to themselves and, somehow, they had meant for me to find it. Like Dick knew he was alive again and was just waiting for me to figure it out. I wouldn't hold it against him. But at the same time, this was the first time we'd all been together, and I knew it wouldn't be the last, and I didn't know what that meant, and it made me hard like nothing but an unsolvable mystery does.
Now I know why Dick draws away at the end of a kiss. Now I know why he holds me so tight when he comes, and why he asks if it's okay every time before we even get started. Sometimes I'm just taking off my boots and he says, 'You don't have to do anything, we can just sleep,' and I look at him like I don't have a mask on and he should be able to tell what my ass is saying by looking at my face. As soon as I figure out how to make that face, with the mask on, I can be Batman.
“What are you thinking?” Jason asks. He's a metahuman. He's impenetrable. Well. He's like Dick, in the way that he's the complete opposite. He's opaque, in a way that means everything you want to know about him is on his surface. Surfaces. Some are under his clothes, under the sheet, lying with each of his flanks sweating against each of my legs, now. He sweats on his surfaces, he breaks, he cries out when he likes something and tells you to do it harder, he's a great sparring partner. Responsive. I suppose Jason must have more surfaces on the inside, the way they moved around me I couldn't deny it. All his surfaces move. Plate tectonics. No. Dick is tectonic: volcanic, pressurized. I'm never going to figure out which one I am, now.
“I'm confused,” I tell him. “I never really had to think about who Robin was, because he was the only one I knew. So I knew what I wanted to be like. I used to be able to say, if I was taking a tack Dick would never, I was just emulating you. But now you're real. You can tell me I'm doing it wrong.” Honesty. Disarming?
“You get confused? He says,” he says, kneeing Dick in the back a little. Still sleep. “He says you know everything. He calls you--”
“It's a term of endearment,” I start. No disarmament possible. Mutually assured destruction. Abort, abort.
“Freakboy is a term of endearment? How long was I dead?”
“It is,” I say in The Voice. It works on the Titans. I know he knows that, he has to respect it.
“Says you. I don't believe you get confused. I think you just want to flatter me,” he says. Half true. He's broken down my defenses. “I think you're the real Robin, anyway, I mean, you're the only one who'll fit into the costume. Does he really have it in a case?”
He's smiling. I don't know if he's happy, but I wish.
“So what do you mean, doing it wrong? You didn't do anything wrong tonight, seriously, you're... well, he's lucky to have you as a partner.”
“We don't.” I don't think Jason Todd is a liar, but I can't honestly believe he'd think that about Bruce and me. About me, maybe, the way I touch Dick it's pretty obvious that mine is the heroic type, but about Bruce?
“What? You're not serious.” He turns around, putting his arms down and pulling up from the sheet enough to expose a little below the navel. It's the beginning of a gorgeous place and there's even a trail of hairs to tell you where to go. I follow clues. I'm good at this.
“Never. Of course not, not after you. Jason... I'm sorry. Did you want to know? Does that make this different?” There is always a solution. Someone is always guilty. If it's me, even better. I can catch myself. I'm good at this. That's why it makes me hard; there's always a solution, but it's better to work for it.
“No, no, you jump to conclusions. That's bad form, you have to follow something through all its implications,” he says, and I realize he speaks my language. He invented it. He taught me everything I know. “I'm flattered. Not enough to, you know, talk to him or see him again or anything, but it makes me like you more.”
“You guys,” Dick slaps him ineffectually from behind. “If you want to go at it again without me, fine.”