Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Finding Hozho

Finding Hozho

by Mara

Summary: A spur of the moment kiss sparks something more between Arsenal and Robin.

CONTINUITY: About two years after Jack Drake finds out about Tim being Robin.
This is a sequel to my ficlet “Another Time,” which I recommend you read first.

NOTES: This is for all the folks who asked for more Arsenal/Robin. I actually
bought the complete run of Outsiders to write this, so I hope y’all appreciate
the sacrifice 😉 Thanks to Te for kicking my ass on that whole “show don’t tell”
thing. I owe my upcoming first-born to Sage for two of the best and most
thorough beta-readings I’ve ever received (and also for pestering me to actually
*make* the revisions). Lastly, thanks to Stexgirl for a last-minute read-through
and cheering me on. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to take all of their
excellent advice, so for the record: Any remaining problems are entirely due to
my laziness and not the fault of Sage, Te, or Stexgirl.

* * * * *

“Sa’ah naaghaii bik’eh hozho”

(Navajo saying: “As we move continuously toward maturity, we will walk in beauty
and harmony.”)

Roy figured they’d already had their happy ending. After all, hadn’t he patched
up the whole ‘Robin loves Nightwing’ soap opera?

He was pleased to see Nightwing and Robin regain their former camaraderie with
no apparent strain. Well, Dick *was* still worked up over Roy’s kiss with Robin,
but the big lug would get over it. Although, if he made a snide reference over
dinner just *one* more time…

After all, Roy thought with justifiable resentment, it wasn’t as if he’d
instigated the kiss. Sure he’d *looked* but he hadn’t even thought (seriously)
about kissing Robin–er, Tim–until it happened.

Granted, Roy found himself thinking about it just a *bit* more than was entirely
healthy, but that could undoubtedly be attributed to the long dry spell in his
sex life.

There’d been a period (not that long ago) when he easily took the title of team
slut, but that was over now. He’d been rapidly tiring of that life already, but
the final straw was the night he came home and Lian asked him about the new
perfume he was wearing. Maybe it was just time for him to grow up, even if Ollie
had never bothered.

Roy had gone without before and frustration hadn’t killed him yet, so chances
were good it wouldn’t do so now. Besides, it wasn’t as if his life was all that
horrible right now.

Grinning, he watched Lian prance around the living room, nearly tripping over
the television as she sang something about puppy dogs. Her fine black hair
escaped from its clips and flew in her face, but she was determined to get to
the end of the song.

Roy clapped as she stopped singing and bowed. “That was wonderful. Where did you
learn that song?”

“At school, silly. We went to music with the first graders and Mrs. Gomez
teached us all kinds of new songs.”

“Taught,” he said automatically. “Will you sing me another one?”

“Okay, Daddy!”

He leaned back into the couch, clapping along as she sang about the school bus.

The phone rang just as she was finishing and she raced to get it first, Roy
pretending to dive and falling short as she grabbed the receiver. “Hello?” she
managed through the giggles.

He leaned on the arm of the couch, watching as her face lit up. “Uncle Gar!
D’you wanna hear what I did in school today?”

Roy picked up a magazine and listened to the conversation with half an ear,
noting that Lian sounded excited about something. Finally, she said, “Here’s
Daddy,” and shoved the phone at him.

He chuckled. “Hey, Greenjeans. What’s up?”

“What’s up is that we’re kidnapping your daughter tomorrow.”

“Really?” Roy smiled at Lian as she held up the picture of a cat she was
drawing.

“Mm-hmm. I heard a rumor that a certain youngster wanted to go see a certain
Disney flick and hey, I need a kid to be my cover so I can go.”

“Lian’ll love that. The Tower’s covered?”

“Yeah, most of the kids had other places to be, so we called off training for
this weekend. Vic’s on the monitors just in case.”

“Makes sense. You said ‘*we’re* kidnapping,’ who’s coming with you?”

“Oh, Kory’s coming too. She said I need a minder worse than Lian.”

“Can’t argue with that. You sure about this?” Roy tossed the magazine back on
the coffee table and put his feet up. “I mean, I don’t want to impose on you. I
know she’s a handful.”

“Are you implying that two Titans can’t handle one little girl? I know you
wouldn’t deny us a day with her.”

Hey, with Ron out of town, he could *use* a break. “Okay, but I’m not
responsible for the therapy bills or any damage incurred.”

“We’ll be by to pick her up at about 11, and get her back by bedtime, ‘kay? Give
you a rest.”

“Sounds good. Hey, Gar?”

“Yo.”

“Thanks.”

“Any time. Titans together.”

Roy hung up and watched his daughter humming to herself as she bent her head
over a coloring book. Yeah, life was pretty darn good.

* * * * *

Roy started the process of getting Lian ready well over an hour before she was
to leave. It took twenty minutes of bouncing before she was calm enough to get
dressed, and he used part of that time to pack her backpack. Juice box, crayons,
a clean shirt…he smirked as he imagined the reaction of the many criminals
he’d captured.

Thanks to persistence, he had her ready to go by the time Uncle Gar and Aunt
Kory arrived.

When the doorbell rang, Lian screamed and Roy sighed, wondering when she’d grow
out of that. Glancing at the monitor, he opened the door and Lian rushed
forward.

“Uncle Gar! Aunt Kory!” She jumped into Gar’s arms and hugged Kory fiercely.

“Hey, kiddo,” Gar said. “You all ready to go?”

“Uh-huh!” After a big hug for her daddy, she dragged them out the door without
looking back. As the door closed, Roy could hear her voice. “Did ya know Aunt
Indigo took me to the circus. And we saw the–”

Roy collapsed into his favorite chair, grinning.

Now what? He pondered the mound of laundry that threatened to take over his
bedroom, but dismissed that as being unworthy for an unexpected free day. And
there were always mission reports, but those could wait a few hours, at least.

He should do something fun. What did non-parents do for fun anyway? He thought
back to pre-Lian days, then winced. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the way to go. He
could give Dick a call, see if he was free, but he was pretty sure Dick had said
he was in Gotham for a few days, which meant courting Barbara if nothing else.

And hell if Roy was going to interrupt *that* unless it was an emergency. Those
two had enough problems without him interfering.

Maybe Connor? They certainly didn’t spend enough time together. Roy sighed.
Wait, he and Ollie were at the monastery for a retreat. That certainly cut down
on his socializing opportunities.

He’d just decided to go rent a movie that didn’t involve talking animals and veg
out on the couch when the doorbell rang. Frowning, he checked the monitor he’d
installed to see who was at his door.

A dark-haired teenager in a tight t-shirt and jeans holding a white plastic bag
smiled into the camera. Roy blinked. He’d seen the camera? It took *Dick* five
minutes to find the damn thing, but this kid had only set off the motion
detector a few seconds ago. The teen’s smile faded slightly and his finger
traced around his eyes. Like a…

“Holy shit.” Roy opened the door, trying not to look completely stunned.

“You said I should come find you. So I did.” The smile was back and he offered
his hand. “Hi, I’m Tim Drake.”

Roy shook his hand, feeling slightly dazed. “Uh, come in.”

“Thanks.” Tim strode past and Roy glanced down automatically check out his ass
in blue jeans. Not as good as tights, to be sure, but there was the advantage of
no billowing cape to peer around. By the time he’d realized what he was doing,
Tim had put the bag down on the dining room table and was watching him. How the
hell did Tim manage to throw him so off-balance?

“Not to be rude or anything, but what are you doing here?” It came out harsher
than he intended and Roy winced as Tim’s smile faded completely.

“I was sort of hoping you’d join me for lunch.” Tim crossed his arms, looking
much more like Robin than Tim. “I guess I shouldn’t have presumed.”

“Hang on.” Roy waved his hands. “I didn’t mean to sound mad.”

Tim waited.

Roy blinked at him. Hey…

“I’m confu–” Roy stopped, rewound his brain, and stared. “Wait a second, did
you…”

Tim’s lips quirked slightly.

Jaw dropping, Roy finally managed to articulate what he meant. “You got Gar and
Kory to take Lian? So you could have lunch with me?”

“Not exactly. I mean, it was their idea to take Lian.”

“Their idea.”

“Uh-huh.” Tim ducked his head. “After I mentioned to Superboy that Dick had said
you were looking tired.”

“Superboy.”

“Mm-hmm. Superboy told Wonder Girl, Wonder Girl told Kid Flash, Kid Flash told
Changeling, and Changeling told Starfire and Cyborg. Voila, they came up with an
idea.”

Roy stared into guileless blue eyes. “Jesus, you really *are* the Bat’s
protégé.”

“Thanks.” A smile flashed across his face. “I think.”

“So, why’d you do it?”

“Because you *have* been looking tired.” Tim’s answer sounded flippant, but his
face was serious, almost anxious.

Roy pulled out a dining room chair and sat down, thumping onto the cushion
harder than he’d intended. “Definitely part of the Batclan,” he muttered. He
looked up as the thought hit him. “You’ve been watching me?”

Tim shook his head and sat down in the chair opposite him. “Only as much as you
look at my butt.”

“Oh,” Roy said with a grin, “that much?” He scrubbed a hand across his head,
momentarily missing his longer hair. There certainly wasn’t any way to deny he’d
been looking. Maybe it was time to give in gracefully. “Well, what’re you
waiting for? Sit down and feed me.”

Tim pulled containers out of the bag and Roy grabbed plates, drinks, silverware,
and glasses. His eyebrows went up as he eyed the selection. “Lemon chicken,
crispy duck…you’ve got pretty much every one of my favorites here. How’d you
manage that? Did Dick tell you?”

Tim flushed. “Not exactly.”

Roy scooped out a serving of duck and scallions. “What does ‘not exactly’ mean?”

“Um.” Tim dumped rice on his plate, keeping his eyes down. “I tapped into the
records of Dick’s favorite Chinese place to see what he ordered when you were
visiting.”

Roy’s fork froze halfway to his mouth. For a moment he could only stare at Tim’s
abashed face. Until he started to laugh. “You!” He doubled over. “You’re
amazing! You sure I can’t steal you from the Titans?”

Eventually Roy managed to stop laughing and they settled in to eat lunch. That
kept their hands and mouths busy for a few minutes, and Roy cast about for a
suitable subject of conversation that didn’t involve work. If Tim hadn’t been
‘in the business,’ Roy might have asked some harmless question about a movie or
television show, but he couldn’t even be certain Tim had the *time* for those
things.

Tim looked to be in the same boat, but he finally swallowed a mouthful of
broccoli and rice and pointed to a painting that hung by the door. “That’s
really nice, but what does the name mean?”

Although Roy knew exactly what he meant, he turned to look at it again. The
picture, a watercolor of Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo reservation, was labeled
simply with the word ‘Hozho.’ Grinning, Roy looked back at Tim. “You don’t ask
the easy ones, do you?”

Tim flushed. “I didn’t mean–”

“No, it’s okay.” Roy waved at him, unable to resist a smile as he looked back at
the painting. “It’s just complicated. The word is Navajo and variously
translated as beauty, harmony, order, health, and other things I can’t think of
at the moment.”

Tim had stopped eating and was watching him. “How do you know which one you’re
using?”

“It’s contextual.” Roy grinned. “Hell, the whole language is contextual. Glad I
learned it so young.”

“So what does hozho mean in *that* context?”

“For me,” Roy hesitated, “well, I guess walking in beauty. It’s, I used to live
near there. Before Ollie adopted me.” He dropped his eyes, not seeing his plate,
but the stark beauty of orange cliffs contrasted with the green around
riverbeds, the sparse vegetation, the way you could shoot an arrow and it seemed
like it would fly forever.

“You miss it.”

Roy looked back up into Tim’s serious gaze. “Yeah,” he said eventually. He took
a forkful of food to buy some time. “Anyway, hozho is kind of the goal of Navajo
life, to keep things in balance, in harmony.”

“I guess that’s one reason you do what you do.” Tim drank some soda, looking at
him over the rim of the glass.

“Huh?”

“Well, evil needs to be balanced by good, right?”

Roy didn’t drop his fork, but it was close. “I guess I never thought about it
that way. But it’s true. We do bring a kind of hozho, don’t we?” Roy studied
him, impressed that Tim had noticed something he had never realized.

Tim ducked his head and went back to eating, clearly embarrassed by the way Roy
was looking at him.

“So, Boy Wonder,” Roy said, “I barely know anything about you. Tell me something
about Tim Drake.”

“Like what?”

Roy shook his head, throwing a balled-up napkin across the table. “Do you *have*
normal conversations with people?”

Tim automatically caught the napkin. “Not that often.”

“Okay,” Roy paused, feeling a little ashamed about the jibe, “what’s your
college major?”

“I haven’t decided yet.” Tim frowned, dropping the napkin next to his plate.

“Not criminology or something?”

“Why, do you think I need to take classes?”

Laughing, Roy conceded the point. “No, I doubt anyone trained by Batman would
need Criminal Justice 101.”

“I’m getting some requirements out of the way while I decide.” Tim took a
spoonful of duck and Roy watched the way Tim’s shirt stretched across his
shoulders. “I’m taking American history, physics, philosophy. Stuff like that.”

“Philosophy?”

“Gotta take humanities. And I like it.” Tim paused, eating some duck and
obviously searching for the words. “It’s…easier than the decisions we make
every night. Bloodless debate. Considering the fate of the world without it
actually mattering.”

“Hmm.” He couldn’t figure out what to say, so he took refuge in putting more
rice on his plate.

“So, how’s Ollie?” Tim asked, fiddling with his knife.

“The same.” Roy shrugged. “Likes to remind me he came back from the dead and
therefore deserves a little respect.”

A flash of Tim’s smile. “Back from the dead? C’mon, who hasn’t done that at
least once?”

“That’s what I keep saying.” Roy leaned back in his chair, idly chasing bits of
chicken around his plate, too full to eat another bite. “So, your dad’s okay
with the vigilante creature of the night stuff?”

Tim shrugged, noncommittal. “Let’s say he’s learned to tolerate it. Barely…”

“Didn’t go well?”

“You could say that. It did make coming out easier. Once he realized I was
fighting the Joker on Tuesday nights, the occasional date with a guy wasn’t so
bad.”

“How occasional?” Roy tried to make the inquiry casual, but was sure he didn’t
fool Tim for an instant. Batboys. Couldn’t put anything over on them.

Tim’s expression went blank. “Very occasional. Went to dinner with a few girls.
Saw movies with a few guys. Found I didn’t have much time for either.”

“Yeah, I know how that is.” Roy sighed, running his finger down the condensation
on his glass.

Tim dropped his eyes. “Yeah. Trying to get my dad to accept everything was
tough.”

“I was lucky. Ollie’s liberal creds require he not even blink at things like
sexual orientation.” Roy took a drink of soda, remembering various conversations
with his foster father. Looking up, he found Tim watching him intently. “I mean,
who knows what he was thinking, but on the outside it was nothing but hearty
slaps on the back and offers to set me up with some nice guy. I can’t tell you
how disturbing *that* was, though.” He shuddered theatrically.

Tim looked down at his plate, and Roy got the feeling his memories weren’t quite
so amusing. After an awkward moment of silence, Tim went to look out the living
room window. “Nice view.”

“Yeah. I figured I’m a grown-up, so I get to have a grown-up apartment with a
grown-up view.” Roy came to stand next to him. “It’s not the best part of town,
but it’s not the worst either. There’s a park a few blocks east where Lian likes
to play. I roust the few drug dealers and gang members out pretty regularly to
keep it clean. They’re not too smart, though, ’cause they come back. You’d think
the fact someone keeps beating the crap out of them would be a clue, but
nooooo.” Roy shut his mouth abruptly, wincing inwardly at the sound of his own
babbling.

“Criminals,” Tim said in a credible Batman imitation, “are a cowardly and
superstitious lot. Also,” he switched to his own voice, “they’re often dumb as
rocks.”

Laughing, Roy glanced at Tim, whose expression had gone unreadable. Roy turned,
feeling as if he should say something, but at a complete loss what it should be.

Tim stepped closer, so they were toe-to-toe, pausing to give Roy a chance to
react. Roy just swallowed hard, so Tim reached up and gently tugged on the back
of his neck.

The over half a foot of height difference was a little awkward, but Roy forgot
about that moments after their lips touched, losing himself in the sensation of
a new kiss. Tim’s lips were chapped, but softened when Roy licked them, making
Tim breathe a laugh.

They kissed again, tongues cold from the soda they’d been drinking, then warming
up as they touched. Roy slid his arms around Tim’s shoulders, feeling the
muscles shift under the shirt, Tim’s arms around his chest. Tugging Tim closer,
Roy breathed in the warmth and pressure of his body. It really *had* been too
long, he thought, resisting the urge to tear at the shirt until it let him get
to the skin underneath.

The mingled scent of Chinese food and some faint cologne or aftershave was
adorable, as Roy thought about the effort Tim had gone to. He kissed the tip of
Tim’s upturned nose, considering the startling blue of his eyes before Tim
closed them again. Hmm, Roy thought, up close, Tim really didn’t look *anything*
like Dick except in the most superficial sense. It was just the Robin uniform
that made you think they were alike. The thought made him chuckle.

Tim pulled back, looking a question at him. Roy shook his head, unable to
articulate anything, leaning back in for more–light, teasing kisses across his
lips and chin, then back to his mouth to explore with his tongue. Everything he
did elicited tiny gasps and it was ungodly sexy, making it a challenge. A brush
here, a bite there, judicious use of his tongue, what kind of reactions could he
get? A lick up Tim’s neck to his ear got a moan and Roy grinned as he made Tim
melt into incoherence.

Tim was enthusiastic, but Roy couldn’t stop wondering just how much experience
Tim had–he’d never been interested in deflowering virgins, especially those who
were the virtual baby brother of one of his best friends.

That thought was like an ice bath, making Roy pull back and try to calm his
racing heart. “Whoa there, hang on a second. Have you…I mean, are you a
virgin?”

Tim didn’t wince, his searching expression giving Roy the disconcerting feeling
that his mind was being read, a là Batman. “That was direct.”

“I think it’s an important question.” Roy took a step back, trying to look at
Tim’s eyes instead of the red marks where he’d sucked on Tim’s neck. “I know
there are some guys who’re into that, but I’m not one of them.” Too many ways to
pressure a guy, too many kids who weren’t ready. Helping Ollie out at the kids
center had just solidified his views on having sex too early.

Tim ducked his head, arms and shoulders obviously tense. “Define virgin. Hell,
define sex.”

“Uh.”

“It’s not that easy,” Tim met his gaze, almost in a challenge. “Kissing, a
little groping, but not much more. If you’re talking penetration, then no. Why
does that matter?”

“It does,” Roy said.

“So it’s a bad thing that I didn’t want to have casual sex, or sex before I was
ready?” Tim crossed his arms.

“No, that’s not–” Roy scrubbed his face with his hands. “Dick and Bruce are
going to rip me limb from limb.”

Tim looked angry now. “Believe it or not, this is actually none of their
business.”

Roy winced. “Have you ever tried to convince *either* of them that something
wasn’t their business?” He paused, shaking his head. “Good luck.”

“Actually, I have.”

“And I think someday I want to hear that story, but I’m trying to stay on
topic.” He took another step back, but Tim followed him. “Look, there’s this
whole age thing. You’re…Jesus, I don’t even know how old you are.”

“I’m eighteen.”

“Really?” He breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, good. Well, except for the part
where I’m substantially older.” Rolling his eyes, Tim stepped forward again and
Roy backed away. “Not to mention the fact I’ve got no desire to be a stand-in
for Dick.”

That got Tim’s attention and he stopped, lips pursed and eyes sharp.

“I don’t want to be a consolation prize,” Roy added, feeling noble and lonely.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Tim said finally, looking him directly in the eyes. “Not
to you or to me.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Tim snorted, but it was miles from amusement. “When I became Robin I had to stop
hiding my feelings from myself. It takes a while, but I get there. I learned
from my predecessors.”

That made Roy laugh despite himself. “It’s too bad the formerly boy wonder never
learned that,” he said, shaking his head in amusement. “Might have made his life
a hell of a lot easier and saved us a lot of time listening to him angst.”

“And I’ve spent the past month thinking.” Tim paused, shifting ever so slightly
in place. “There doesn’t seem to be any likelihood Dick will ever return my
feelings for him. So it makes sense to consider other options.”

Roy blinked, his stomach rolling. “That’s…” Cold, he wanted to say.

Flushing, Tim stepped toward him again, fast enough to catch his hand. “That
didn’t come out right. I meant…god, I meant I’d been so focused on Dick that I
didn’t notice anyone else.”

“Ah.” Swallowing, Roy wasn’t sure how to react.

“But after I left that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the kiss.” Tim
flushed even harder and it should have made him look younger, but it didn’t.
“I’ve tried to figure out why I kissed you, but I don’t know.”

Back on something like familiar ground, Roy tossed his head as if he still had
long hair. “Well, I like to think I’m irresistible.”

Tim laughed, his whole face lighting up under the dark hair. “Maybe that’s it.”

“The problem is,” Roy said, frowning, “I’m at a point in my life where I’m not
really looking for a short-term thing.”

Tim paused, seeming to consider something. “I’ve heard…about Grace. And
Helena.”

“You know about them?” Covering his eyes, Roy groaned.

“Dick and I, well, we talked about you.”

“It’s definitely gonna be a battle to the death when I get my hands on him.
Considering his history with Helena…” Roy looked away. “That’s been over for a
while. It wasn’t a relationship. With either of them.” He paused, considering
his words. “Look, I’m not interested in being your experiment.”

He felt Tim’s eyes on him and he looked back.

“Who says I’m experimenting?” Tim asked, his apparently relaxed stance not
matching the tension in his voice.

“You’re eighteen! I remember being eighteen, for Christ’s sake,” he said,
shaking his head, “and I wasn’t exactly into long-term commitment.” Snorting, he
waved a hand vaguely. “Not unless you define long-term as anything more than a
week.”

“I’m not you. And I don’t have Ollie as my role model.” That tiny smile crossed
Tim’s face. “I’m not interested in short-term. Not with the life we lead. I’d
like to try…” Tim’s voice trailed off and he stepped back. “I apologize. I
shouldn’t have assumed…”

Even Roy ‘Mr. Insensitive’ Harper could see the obvious when it smacked him in
the face like a wet mackerel. “Hey. Don’t jump to any conclusions.” He reached a
hand out automatically, then yanked it back, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“Look, I *did* tell you to find me. But I–”

Roy didn’t think of himself as being slow, either mentally or physically. Which
didn’t explain why he found himself backed against the wall with a determined
Tim on tip-toes kissing him while his brain was still thinking, ‘Uh…’
It was a good kiss, his lips noted helpfully. A *very* good kiss, parts lower
down chimed in. Tim was obviously a quick study.

It’s useful to know, Roy thought, that my hormones move faster than the rest of
me. Then he gave himself up to the serious business of making out.

Moaning, he leaned against the wall as Tim imitated his earlier move, kissing
across his chin and jaw, then experimentally licking at his neck. Roy slid his
hands up and down, tracing Tim’s spine, resisting the instincts that said to
grab his ass and pull him in as hard as he could. The last sensible part of his
brain chanted ‘Eighteen!’ over and over.

Roy felt Tim’s hand slide under his shirt, warm and calloused, and he gasped
into the kiss, the sensible part of his brain giving up in disgust. He tightened
his grip on Tim, walking them back toward the couch.

Roy pushed and Tim dropped heavily onto the couch. Grabbing a quick breath, Roy
straddled Tim, chuckling as Tim yanked him into another kiss. The brush of Tim’s
stomach against his tight jeans was electric and his heart jumped. As Tim licked
him, lapping like a cat, Roy couldn’t help moving his hips.

Eyes closed, he felt Tim’s hands skipping all over, alternately light and rough,
inexperienced and desiring. He reached for more skin, more contact, more of that
electricity. There was a button and a zipper in his way, but with some effort he
got past them, hazily noting Tim doing the same for him, their hands tangling
and groping.

Oh *god*, that felt good. Roy groaned at the smooth, sticky, skin gliding,
wonderful feeling. They found a rhythm, each brush of hands along skin and
crumpled clothing another reason to moan and move faster.

Tim was shaking, shaking, his hand slowing on Roy as his hips jerked and he came
with a gasp. Roy thrust against Tim’s loose grip until Tim resumed his movement.
It didn’t take long, pleasure radiating up Roy’s spine, arching his back.

“Oh,” Tim whispered as Roy collapsed on top of him.

“Mmmm,” was all Roy could say. His vision cleared, higher brain functions
resuming, and he looked into Tim’s wide blue eyes, pupils dilated. “Oh man.” He
scrambled off, tripping over the coffee table, tugging his pants back up.

Tim blinked. “Roy?”

“Shit. Shit. Shit.” The worst part was, Tim looked so *good* sprawled on the
couch, Roy wanted to crawl back, lick his stomach clean, and test the limits of
his eighteen-year-old metabolism. “I didn’t mean…” Oh god, how sick *was* he?
One minute smugly convinced he’d never force some kid and the next pushing him
around the couch. What happened to his self-control?

Closing his eyes, Tim turned his head away, a blush moving across his face. He
sat up, tucking himself away and zipping up. “I’m sorry–”

“*You’re* sorry?” Roy tried to figure out what to do with his sticky hand.
“Jesus, I practically forced–”

“No!” Tim jumped to his feet. “That’s not–”

Roy wiped his hand on his shirt with a wince. “I got carried away. I should
know–”

“Shut up.”

Still breathless, Roy watched him step closer.

“We both got carried away,” Tim said, voice so low it was almost inaudible.

Roy jammed his hands in his pockets so he wouldn’t reach out to Tim. “It wasn’t
a good idea. I haven’t had time to think this through.”

“You haven’t thought about me?”

Roy felt his face grow warm and when was the last time somebody made him
*blush*? “I didn’t say that. But I wasn’t, ah, that is, I didn’t think about the
issues involved. I need some time. God, I sound like a girl.” Tim’s tiny quirk
of the lips felt like a victory.

“Roy, nothing happened just now that I didn’t want as much as you.” Tim stared
at him, seeming to will him to understand. “Maybe not what we intended…but not
a bad thing.”

“But you’re–”

“Young?” Tim glared. “I’ve been Robin since I was thirteen. Jesus, I survived
the Clench. I helped shepherd Gotham through No Man’s Land. I’ve been in outer
space. I can match every damn experience you’ve had with the Titans or the
Outsiders. What does chronological age have to do with anything?”

“Look, I just need to think about this.” Roy swallowed as Tim slowly inclined
his head. “Give me some time to think.”

A short, sharp nod and Tim turned toward the door.

“Wait,” Roy paused, not quite sure what he wanted to do, “you don’t have to go
home just yet. After all, we’ve got hours before Lian comes back. I was planning
to watch a movie with lots of car chases and fight scenes to mock. Care to join
me?”

Tim studied him, face carefully blank. “Provide the popcorn and it’s a deal.”

There was no way this was going to work, Roy thought as they went to the video
store. He couldn’t offer Tim whatever it was he needed, but he also couldn’t let
him just walk out the door and lose a new friend. He didn’t have so many of
those that he could waste them indiscriminately.

* * * * *

The first Roy had heard about the new Robin was from Dick. It wasn’t long after
Jason’s death, when Dick dragged his sorry butt back to the Titans, nearly
flattened by guilt and pain at Bruce’s curt dismissal.

Everyone took turns commiserating with him and Roy could still remember Dick’s
alternating jealousy and admiration as he described the new kid.

“He figured out who we were,” Dick said, sprawled out across a couch, his whole
body sagging. “Can you believe it?”

Roy whistled. “He *what*? Bruce must’ve freaked.”

Even through his grief, that got a small smile. “It’s complicated. But he’s been
investigating us. He figured out what happened to Jason and how Bruce has been
acting and he marched in and informed me that Batman needed a Robin. Practically
dragged me back to Gotham.”

Roy leaned forward. “You were tempted.”

“Hell, no. I’m not Robin, I’ll never be Robin again. I don’t miss that.” The way
Dick’s shoulders hunched belied his words, but Roy chose not to call him on it.
“This kid’s going to be a better Robin than I ever was.”

“What?” Roy choked, certain he’d misheard.

“He’s right. Batman needs a Robin and this kid may be just the answer. He seems
a lot more stable than Jason and he’s sure as hell smart.”

“I guess so if he cracked the mystery that’s pissed off a thousand villains.”
Roy knew he was no mean detective, but he wondered if *he* could have solved the
puzzle from scratch. “How’d he do it?”

“Well, he had an advantage.” Dick paused, a familiar flash of pain moving across
his face. “He was at the circus the night my parents died.”

Roy ran into the new Robin a few times at those mass gatherings that generally
only happened when the universe was about to end, but his respect only grew over
the years, fed by stories told by a frequently amused Dick, or through the
superhero grapevine.

“Not as fast with the quips as our boy Nightwing was,” Changeling said, “But he
makes up for it by being sharp enough to cut himself.”

When the Titans encountered Young Justice in the Optitron headquarters, Roy
noticed that Robin had grown. Not so much his body–although he’d certainly been
working on that–but his whole demeanor. Leadership had been good to him, Roy
thought as he watched Robin keep a close eye on his team even in supposedly safe
surroundings. And he saw the way that team–almost unconsciously–revolved
around him and made sure they knew where he was.

When STAR labs called for help, Roy watched Nightwing and Robin sort out their
teams. He hadn’t seen them work together and was impressed anew by their skills.

The moment when Superman snapped Lilith’s neck would always stick in Roy’s brain
as one of the most surreal experiences of his life. Followed closely by the
realization that fixing their original robot opponent might be the solution to
the problem.

With one arm broken, he needed help. Somehow Robin ended up at his side and Roy
found he was smart. Tough. Everything Dick had said he was and more.

They worked together effortlessly, practically reading each other’s minds,
getting the robot later named Indigo back on her feet. Robin had to be upset
over the loss of his teammate and friend, but Roy was impressed that it didn’t
seem to affect his work at all. Indigo took off moments after they completed the
repairs.

His injuries catching up with him, Roy leaned on Robin as they staggered back to
the fight with new optimism. They arrived in time to see Donna die, her body
falling, Indigo destroying the Superman robot just too late to save her.

Roy’s knees buckled and all he remembered later of that moment was Robin’s arm
around him, holding him as he absorbed the shock, too hurt in body and mind to
do anything else.

* * * * *

Roy hadn’t seen much of Robin after that, but he kept a closer eye on the
exploits of Batman, somehow feeling a bit proprietary about this Robin. Okay,
Robin was as good-looking as his predecessors, but he had something else,
something Roy couldn’t quite define.

He’d never really thought he might find himself *dating* him, of all things. The
kiss outside Outsiders HQ had been pleasant, certainly, but Roy figured it for a
fluke after Dick’s rejection. And yet, two weeks after lunch in his apartment,
dating they indubitably were. And it was nothing like any of his previous
relationships.

When he was with Tim he found himself wanting all those sappy things he’d given
up on years ago: holding hands, soft kisses, laughter, in-jokes that nobody else
got. He wanted to make Tim forget about Spoiler, forget about Dick.

Roy had never realized just how sexy brains could be until he began spending
time with Tim. They tried to avoid shoptalk, but some of it was inevitable.

Voice just loud enough for Roy to hear him over the jukebox playing “I Heard It
Through the Grapevine,” Tim explained the previous night’s adventure, moving
silverware and sugar packets around the Formica table.

“The hostages were over here,” he said, pushing aside his half-eaten pancakes,
“and the gang had set up their explosives in these areas.” Empty glasses took
their places.

“How long did you have?” Roy asked, studying the table with a frown.

“About two minutes. Not enough time for Batman to get there with the equipment.”
Tim glanced up at him.

Leaning his chin in his hands, Roy considered and discarded various options.
“I’ve got two solutions, but you’d almost certainly have lost a couple of
hostages.” He tapped a finger on his jaw. “I give up.”

Tim gave him a tight Robin smile. “I triggered the explosives here,” he said,
pointing to his empty orange juice glass.

Roy stared.

“I told you I knew the approximate composition of the warehouse walls *and* how
much C-4 they’d stolen, right?” Tim ran a hand through his hair. “I made some
rough calculations about how much force this center wall could take and found it
was unlikely to send more than small debris at the hostages.”

“You calculated that on the spot?”

“Mm-hmm.” Sliding a spoon out of the way, Tim moved the sugar hostages through
the gap. “Once the wall was damaged, I brought the hostages out this way. We
made it out of the building before the other explosives blew. Total injuries: a
few broken bones.”

Roy grinned. “Impressive.” Ducking his head, Tim blushed a little and Roy
chuckled as he swatted Tim’s head, amused by his sudden bashfulness.

Glancing up, Roy saw their waitress hovering and smiled at her, automatically
noting how it made her blush. “Check?” he called to her and she nodded
furiously, scurrying away. “So,” Roy said as they put their table back in order,
“haven’t you gotten any queries from the big guy yet about your whereabouts?”

Tim narrowed his eyes in confusion. “Oh. No, he doesn’t track me as closely
these days. Besides, he thinks I’m liasing between my team and yours.”

“You lied to Batman?” Roy hissed, hands gripping the edge of the table hard
enough to leave marks in his palms.

“A lie of omission, if you’re picky.” Tim shrugged, taking a sip of his coffee.
“I didn’t correct his misunderstanding. Besides, I *am* learning a lot from
you.” Tim’s lips quirked in that adorable little smile.

Roy shook his head. “It makes me nervous.”

“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.” Tim said the famous last words with a completely
straight face.

* * * * *

Sometimes Roy had to remind himself that this relationship couldn’t possibly
work. But Tim always came back for more.

Roy hadn’t had a lot of serious relationships. A lot of sex, sure, but the
success of a long-term relationship had generally eluded him, just as it had his
foster father.

With Grace, with Helena, it had been all about sex, about stress release with
someone who understood the pressures he was under.

With Cheshire, it was adrenaline and attraction, two fast-living people who
*knew* they had no future together. Roy wondered if things would have been
different if he’d known about Lian immediately, but he doubted it.

He’d thought Donna was his future for a while, until he realized she was more
interested in his bad boy reputation than in the real him.

There’d been men, of course, but that had most often been about sex, not
companionship. Fellow CBI agent Jack, who helped him forget Cheshire, then moved
on. Sex with good-looking men he’d met in bars.

Hell, he’d never had any problem getting someone–male or female–into bed with
him. The right outfit, a flash of a grin, a low-voiced suggestion…yeah, he
enjoyed the sex. But there’d been nothing that smacked of permanence.

And that, he’d told himself for a long time, was the way he liked it. Until
recently. Until Tim showed up and smiled at him through a fall of black hair.

It wasn’t easy, but Roy and Tim took advantage of every snippet of time–dinner
in an out-of-the-way Gotham restaurant, racing motorbikes down a deserted
highway, an hour sparring in Roy’s small gym in the apartment…

They were in that gym now. The room had started out chilly, because Roy knew the
peculiarities of his workout room, but it warmed up quickly.

Roy circled to the left, not taking his eyes off his opponent. “That all you
got?”

Tim prowled opposite him, and Roy was amazed as always to see how different Tim
was in training. The way he moved, with no wasted motion and a grace all his
own. “Trash talk?” Tim asked, flexing a wrist to check range of motion.

“Never hurts to try.” Roy feinted forward with his left foot, grinning when Tim
didn’t shift at all.

“Hey, if I were you, I wouldn’t waste my–” In the blink of an eye, Tim launched
from a standing position, a blur in gray sweats.

Roy ducked to the right, grunting as Tim’s foot smacked into his shoulder. He
made a grab, but Tim evaded him, dancing back.

“Too slow, old man.”

“Old man, huh?” Roy snapped a kick with his right foot.

Tim grabbed the foot and flipped Roy backward. When he landed on his back, Tim
was there, jumping on top of him.

Roy was already in motion, rolling them, but his hand slipped in the sweat on
Tim’s arm. His elbow jammed into the mat and Tim took the opportunity to flip
and pin him. Roy grinned up at him, testing the grip on his arms. He saw Tim’s
breathing change at his grin and laughed. “Okay, tough guy, now what?”

“This.”

Roy tilted his head as Tim tried to devour his mouth. Warm, wet, pressure, who
needed to breathe anyway?

Roy’s heart was racing when Tim pulled back. “Now that I’ve got you where I want
you,” Tim began.

“But for how long?” Roy twisted his body, planting his feet to get enough
leverage, tossing Tim across the floor.

They both jumped to their feet, Roy trying to forget how good the kiss had felt.

But it didn’t work, the memory coming back at odd moments. Each time, he
reminded himself of all the reasons a relationship couldn’t work.

He waited for Tim to get tired of him, but it didn’t happen. Lian frankly adored
the newest addition to her large collection of aunts and uncles, and constantly
asked when he was going to visit. Tim adored her in return. It was hard to tell
who he smiled harder for, Lian or her daddy, and his patience with her moods and
chatter was impressive. Tim shook his head whenever Roy commented on it,
reminding him that some people actually *liked* children.

Watching Lian and Tim zigzag across a Brooklyn playground in an impromptu game
of tag, Roy wondered what it would be like to have a lifetime of this. He
stretched out on the grass, enjoying the sunlight on his skin and ignoring the
giggling teenage girls on a nearby bench.

Laughing, his face red with exertion, Tim dropped onto the grass beside him,
fanning his red tank top. “You know, I’ve gotten a better workout from your
daughter than from last night’s patrol.”

“Slow night?”

Tim leaned forward, eyes bright. He was never sexier than when he was talking
shop and the tank showed off his arms and shoulders quite satisfactorily. “Slow
in a manner of speaking. I did all the groundwork on that murder-for-hire ring,
right? Weeks of stakeouts and computer work?”

“Uh-huh, you were talking about it last week. What happened? Bats decide to take
over?”

“Nightwing happened. Turns out the whole thing ties in with a case down in
Bludhaven, but he had no idea we were on it, so he swoops in,” Tim’s hands flew
through the air, “*right* into the middle and he’s kicking ass left and right. I
swear, even Batman was surprised.”

“Now *that* I’d pay to see.”

“So we’re standing on that rooftop, just watching, and Dick’s putting the
smackdown on them. Even for him it was pretty impressive. By the time we jumped
down, there was barely anyone left.” Tim flopped back on the grass, grinning.

“Nightwing didn’t leave you enough goons. My heart bleeds for you, El Freako
Birdboy. Speaking of Gotham, when do you need to get back?”

Tim stretched out on the ground and Roy watched with appreciation. “Oh, I think
I’ve got another hour before I have to leave. I’ve got to stop off in Bludhaven
and drop off some new equipment.”

“Nightwing gets all the cool toys from Batman. All I ever get from Ollie is
trick arrows and bad advice.”

Tim slapped his arm. “Hey, it could be worse. Ollie does a hell of a lot less
glaring.”

Roy laughed at a sudden image. “Hmm, can you see Ollie as Batman? God, he
couldn’t keep up the grim exterior for half an hour before he’d be throwing
quips around.”

“Scarier thought? Bruce as Green Arrow. Just imagine him with the beard.”

Lian threw herself down between them. “What’s so funny?” They only laughed
harder at the pout on her face when they didn’t answer.

A life of this didn’t sound like a bad idea at all, Roy thought. He shook his
head to dislodge the thought.

* * * * *

Another two weeks went by. Dinner got cancelled by reason of giant blue robots
in New York. A Gotham Knights game never started due to an attack by Mr. Freeze.

Finally, they said to heck with it and arranged to meet at Tim’s place to watch
a movie. “I’m not ruling out the possibility,” Roy said into the phone as he
washed dishes, “that aliens might decide to invade your apartment, but at least
we have a chance of spending some time together while they’re invading. You take
the thousand on the left and I’ll take the thousand on the right?”

“Sounds good,” Tim said. “I’ll feed you if you bring a movie.”

“I’ve gotta be home to tuck Lian into bed, so let’s make it early. I’ll get
there at about 4, okay?” The phone started to slip and he grabbed it with a
soapy hand, tucking it back between shoulder and cheek.

“Sounds good. I can’t wait.”

“Me neither.”

There was a short silence. “Hey,” Tim said, “I’d better go do some studying
before I head out on patrol, or I’m going to flunk Shakespeare. I’ll see you
tomorrow.”

“Give it a rest, you’re incapable of flunking. Later, man.”

He heard Tim take a breath. “Love you, Roy.” And he hung up. The phone slipped,
dropping with a splash into the sink, but Roy just stared at it.

Was he hallucinating? Granted, his previous hallucinations had always involved
more pink elephants and fewer declarations of love, but there was always a first
time.

Had Tim just…did Tim really…

Roy hung up the phone. This wasn’t going the way he’d expected.

* * * * *

Roy showed up at Tim’s apartment a little late, having uncharacteristically
dithered about whether or not to go at all. When he couldn’t find any good
reason to cancel, he finally drove to Gotham, blasting the radio loud enough to
drown out any inconvenient thoughts.

Jogging up the stairs to Tim’s third floor apartment, the latest Jackie Chan
flick under his arm, Roy found those thoughts coming back. What the hell did he
think he was doing–

“Hey,” Tim said with a grin, opening the door, “I was just wondering if you’d
been called away to Burma or something.” He stepped back into the tidy main
space of the small apartment.

“No, nothing like that.” Roy shrugged out of his coat and evaded a hello kiss as
he hung it up in the tiny closet by the door.

A surprised-looking Tim took the movie and tossed it on the couch. “So, eat
while we watch the movie?”

“Sure.”

Habit stronger than any worrying, Roy followed Tim into the kitchen area–
separated by a half-wall–to grab plates and such while Tim finished dinner. It
shocked him a little to suddenly realize he knew this kitchen as well as he knew
his own. Whether he was looking for a saucepan, a mug, or a spoon, it was nearly
automatic to grab it.

He noticed Tim keeping an eye on him, but he couldn’t figure out how to
articulate what was wrong, so he talked about the happy ending of the Outsiders
latest investigation until the movie started.

Once they’d finished slurping spaghetti and meatballs, Tim leaned over and Roy
put his arm around him. It felt too good, too comfortable. Roy swallowed, unable
to completely focus on the movie.

Tim laughed. “Oh man, that was probably the most fake punch *ever*. Did you see
how far away his hand was?”

“Mm-hmm.” He hadn’t seen.

“And I know Robin’s the acrobatic one, but if I wasted time in a fight doing
that particular backflip, Batman’d have me grounded for a week. Well, maybe Dick
could get away with it.”

“Yeah.”

Tim glanced over at him, but didn’t comment, just nuzzled against his shoulder.
Apparently he’d decided to let Roy tell him what was wrong when he was ready.

After a few more fight scenes, order was restored and Jackie’s character rode
happily off into the sunset. The credits rolled and Tim tilted his head to look
at him.

Roy looked away from the shrewd eyes and Tim leaned up to kiss his cheek.
Turning, Roy captured his lips, pushing back his doubts long enough for a long,
very sloppy kiss.

Tim grinned into it, twisting on the couch so they were facing each other more
directly. The next kiss was deeper, and Roy had to pull back to take a breath,
listening to Tim’s heart pound.

Tim leaned forward but Roy pushed on his chest. “Wait.”

“Hmm?” Tim glanced at the clock on the wall. “It’s early yet.”

“I know, but I really should go home. Lian and Ron are probably there already
and I remembered I promised to help Lian with her homework.” He was babbling
again, damn it. Roy hated when he did that.

Tim’s expression was analytical. “Sure,” he said, “if you promised, that’s
important.”

“I’m sorry. I just…I need to go.”

“Okay.” Tim caressed his face so quickly it was like he’d imagined it. “I’ll see
you later.”

“Later.”

* * * * *

From: birdguy@tt.secure.net
To: arsenal@out.secure.net
Subject: Tuesday

I’m free after my last final. Dinner in the city? – T

From: arsenal@out.secure.net
To: birdguy@tt.secure.net
Subject: Re: Tuesday

I can’t. Another time. – R

Roy hit send, then stared at the computer, uncertain why he’d said that. Nothing
was scheduled for that evening. Well, time with Lian, but he could have brought
her along. Tim was always thrilled to see her. He…

Shaking his head, Roy resumed his statistical analyses of metahuman prison
escapes. He was no Batman, but he had a theory about who was providing outside
assistance and it might be time to nip that in the bud.

From: birdguy@tt.secure.net
To: arsenal@out.secure.net
Subject: Re: Tuesday

Okay, how about Friday? Bruce is going to be out of town and you can work out
with me in the Cave. You know you love making fun of D’s old costume. – T

From: arsenal@out.secure.net
To: birdguy@tt.secure.net
Subject: Re: Tuesday

I doubt it. I’ll give you a call when I’m free. – R

Annoyed at being pushed, Roy hit send.

* * * * *

A week passed. Lian asked where Uncle Tim was. A second week passed. Ron
pointedly asked his plans. Roy fobbed them off with distractions.

“You need to get laid,” Grace said to him after a training session, eyeing him
with that knowing grin as she sauntered into the weapons room.

“Fuck off, Grace.” He went back to inspecting a gun without bothering to look at
her.

“C’mon, I know the signs. You get edgy, grumpy–”

“I’m not grumpy!”

Grace smirked, leaning across the table. “Uh-huh. You just keep telling yourself
that, honey. Hey, you know where to find me if that’s what you want.”

Roy picked up a rag and scrubbed at a spot of excess oil. “I’m fine. Touched by
your concern, of course.”

“If you’re still hung up on Nightwing, that’s fine, but if you get any more
high-strung, we’re gonna have mutinies. I swear it’s worse than after you got
shot.”

Gritting his teeth, Roy put down the gun. “I’m not hung up on Nightwing. And I’m
not going to fuck you to prove it, so go bother someone else.”

“Fine.” Grace shrugged, muscles rippling as she strolled out the door.

“Good riddance,” he muttered as he went back to cleaning. “I’m not edgy,” he
said aloud, scowling at the gun. “Where does she get off saying that?”

Okay, he was having some trouble with focus. And he’d nearly sprained his ankle
jumping off a platform. But that was just because he wasn’t sleeping well.

Which had nothing to do with…anything. And the sooner he stopped thinking
about…anyone, the sooner everything would go back to normal.

He picked up the next weapon, determined to get on with things. Before he could
start cleaning, the door opened. Roy didn’t move as a costumed Robin stepped in,
face set and grim. They stared at each other.

It wasn’t Tim who broke the impasse by stalking over, it was Robin–every line
of his body angry as he came to stand in front of the table. “Just out of
curiosity, *Arsenal*, can I ask what crawled up your ass and died?”

“Since you’re not a member of the Outsiders, *Robin*, what the fuck business is
it of yours?”

Robin snorted and–through some intangible process Roy couldn’t define–became
Tim. “Well, that answers *that* question.”

“What?”

“I was wondering if you were being an asshole or if it was my imagination.”

“I’m trying to work, kid. Go home and we’ll talk later.”

Tim shook his head once. “Kid? Someone in this room is being immature, and
here’s a hint: It’s not me. Now, we can do this the hard way, where I kick your
ass until you tell me what’s wrong, or…no, there’s only the hard way.”

“What are you talking about?” Roy couldn’t look at him, so he went back to
cleaning the gun, only to have it knocked out of his hand by a batarang. “What
the fuck?”

“What am I talking about?” Tim glared. “Well, a couple of weeks ago we were
making out on my couch and suddenly, you’re avoiding me.”

“Maybe I just got tired of dating a kid.” He stood up, stepping back from the
table.

The remark got Roy the clenched jaw he’d expected and he felt a twinge in his
chest. To his surprise, Tim shook his head, looking amused. “You are *so* full
of crap,” he said. “I’d expect this kind of behavior from high school kids, not
you.”

“I’m sorry I led you on, but this…thing isn’t going to work.”

“If you just wanted to end our relationship, you’d have said so. Something’s
bugging you and I’d be a hell of a friend if I walked away now.”

Roy couldn’t stand the sympathy. “Didn’t you hear me? Get lost!”

Tim shook his head. “I’m not leaving until I believe it’s really what you want.
Don’t think you can make me leave by being rude–I’ve worked with Batman for
years. Trust me, he’s the master at this passive-aggressive crap. You’re just a
rank amateur.”

Roy held his ground as Tim stepped closer and peered at him. “Comparing me to
Batman,” Roy said, clenching his fists. “That’s just low.”

Tim ignored that, watching him as if he might make a run for it. “I get that
you’re trying to push me away. You’re scared because of what I said on the
phone, right? What I don’t get is *why*.”

“I’m not scared,” Roy growled, crossing his arms and then uncrossing them when
he realized how defensive that looked.

Tilting his head, Tim’s expression turned thoughtful, as if he’d been presented
with an interesting puzzle. “Well, you’re not scared of Nightwing or Batman. So,
it’s more subtle than that.”

“Thank you, Dr. Freud. Shall I talk about my mother now?”

Tim took a deep breath. “Oh. I guess I should have realized.”

Roy couldn’t respond. Damn, he hated dealing with the Batclan.

“Roy,” Tim hesitated, then stepped closer. “I’m not going to leave unless you
really want me to. I’m going to do my best to stay alive. I’m not going to get
bored with you. I’m not Cheshire or your parents or Brave Bow or Ollie.”

“I didn’t say you were. Don’t try and psychoanalyze me, damn it!”

“I’ve gotten attached to you. You’re smart, sexy, funny, and your daughter’s the
cutest thing I’ve ever seen.” Tim came closer, moving like he was approaching a
wild animal. “I’m not going anywhere. I told you I’m not experimenting and I
meant it. I’m not using you.”

For a moment, Roy couldn’t catch his breath, couldn’t find the words. “Why me?”

Tim sighed. “The reasons I just gave are as close as I get. I wa–” Tim stopped,
eyes narrowing. “You figured I was in this for the sex.”

“Maybe. You’re eighteen.”

“Jesus, Roy!” Tim stood absolutely still, vibrating with annoyance. “I didn’t
fall off the apple cart yesterday. I’m in *college*! Do you think I couldn’t
have found somebody to have sex with, if that’s all I wanted?”

“Why haven’t you?”

“Because, newsflash, you idiot, I want *you*! I’m sorry we pushed too hard to
begin with, and I’ll wait as long as I have to in order to let you be
comfortable with my age, but I’m not going to wait because you’ve got some half-
assed idea that I’m going to dump you for a shiny college student.”

Roy closed his eyes and really thought about what Tim was saying. He was right,
he’d been pushing Tim away because he was scared he was going to leave him.
Damn, he really *did* hate dealing with the Batclan and their near-psychic
ability to read people. “I…”

“Roy, listen to me.” Tim was within touching distance now. “I love you. I don’t
say that lightly.”

“Come home with me,” Roy said.

Tim blinked several times. “I’m supposed to patrol tonight.”

“Tell the big guy you’re busy. Tell him to go stuff it. I don’t care. Come home
with me tonight.”

Roy watched Tim’s breathing go shallow, then leaned over, taking him in his
arms. He was tired of being noble. Noble could go to hell and take common sense
with it.

When Tim’s arms slid around him, it was the strangest thing, like a key in a
lock, the feeling that all was right with the world. When their lips touched,
nothing mattered except Tim’s tongue, pulling Tim closer, showing Tim just how
much he’d missed him, wanted him, cared about him.

Without speaking, Tim broke the kiss and slipped a communicator from his sleeve.
Eyes never leaving Roy’s face, he dialed by touch. “Bruce? It’s Tim. I can’t
make it this evening, something’s come up. Uh-huh.” Tim started to grin but kept
his voice steady. “Yeah, everything’s fine. Call if there’s an emergency. Mm-
hmm. Bye.”

Tim slipped the communicator back in its pocket.

“Ready?” Roy asked.

“More than ready.”

They made it out of Outsiders HQ without running into anyone, which Roy could
only consider a blessing from whatever deity or deities watched over him. It was
torture getting into his car and letting Tim ride the Redbird away, but secret
identities demanded Tim change out of his uniform elsewhere.

Waiting outside his apartment building, Roy peered into the night and wondered
what he’d do if Tim didn’t arrive. Fortunately, it was only five minutes before
the cycle roared up, Tim’s face flushed under the streetlights as he jumped off.

Roy went up the steps first, conscious of Tim’s eyes burning into his back the
entire time. He wanted to throw him down in the middle of the living room and
momentarily cursed the complicated life that didn’t allow that.

As Roy opened the locks, he took several deep breaths, steadfastly not looking
at Tim. Ron was just turning out the lights and heading toward his own room as
they came in.

“A good evening to both of you,” he said, not even pausing on his way to his
bedroom. “Lian fell asleep some time ago.”

Roy and Tim stood in the middle of the room, staring at each other, until Roy
stepped forward. “We can’t exactly be as noisy as I’d like,” he said. “Maybe we
should have gone to your place. I don’t think I’ve thought this through.”

“I think there’s been entirely too much thinking.” Tim’s voice sounded hoarse.

“Bedroom?”

“Probably wise.”

Roy waved Tim in, shutting the door behind them and locking it. That act seemed
to destroy the last of his patience and, within moments, he was ruthlessly
stripping Tim’s clothing away, pausing only to suck or kiss various body parts
and listen for the gasps.

Roy never remembered exactly how it worked, but they fell onto the bed,
stripping out of clothing while trying to keep as much contact as possible. He
kissed and licked every available bit of skin.

The room was lit only by moonlight coming through the window, and Roy let go
long enough to grope with one hand for his bedside lamp, wanting to *see* Tim,
make sure there could be no misunderstandings.

Tim crawled on top of him and Roy guided his hands, encouraging him with moans
and whispered words. “Whatever you want,” he said as Tim’s hands set him on
fire. He bucked up as Tim took him at his word. “Oh yeah,” he breathed.

Tim’s muscles felt incredible under his hands–Roy couldn’t get enough of him,
rubbing, caressing, massaging everything he could reach. At this rate, neither
of them was going to last very long.

“Do you want to be in control?” Roy managed to ask, holding Tim’s shoulders and
trying to catch his attention.

“I don’t know,” Tim whispered against his chest, licking a stripe from one
nipple to the other, making every nerve ending sing.

“Maybe next time,” Roy said, rolling them both over. “I’m tired of waiting.”

“Good.” The word dissolved into a moan as Roy rubbed their bodies together, skin
sliding and hairs tickling as Roy slid down Tim’s belly.

Roy licked everything he could reach, holding Tim down as he shuddered, tasting
salt and soap. Tim’s hands tried to grab at his hair, but slid right through the
buzz cut as Roy nuzzled his way across Tim’s firm stomach.

He glanced up, surprised when he saw Tim’s eyes open and looking at him. For a
long moment, they lay still, staring at each other. God, was he just making the
same mistake again?

“No thinking, remember?” Tim touched his cheek.

Roy pulled himself back up the bed and into a long tongue-tangling kiss, lust
tempered by a desire to get it right this time. A warm hand stroked his back,
calluses tickling as fingers skated down his spine. Roy grinned into the kiss,
then pulled away. Tim’s breathing was unsteady, his soft hair disarranged, eyes
wide, and Roy licked a slow circle around his ear, just to listen to the
whimper.

Tim’s hand moved lower, grabbing his ass and pulling him close.

“Mmm,” Roy moaned, rocking against him. Hair and muscle and skin and god,
waiting any longer really would kill him. “Mine,” he whispered, sliding down the
bed to nose through musky hair, deliberately brushing his lips across the head
of Tim’s dick.

“Yours,” Tim gasped. “Definitely yours.”

A lick made Tim squirm and Roy grinned up at him. “If you can still talk, I must
not be doing this right.”

“I think you’re–oh–doing fine.” Tim shook under his hands.

Another long lick and Tim’s whine echoed in the room, followed by panting. Roy
stroked up Tim’s thighs, enjoying the feel of coarse hair and hard muscle,
letting Tim relax for the moment. He let one hand gently rub at a thigh while
the other wandered up toward Tim’s mouth. Tim didn’t need a hint, grabbing Roy’s
hand and sucking on his fingers.

Roy sucked in the head of Tim’s dick, feeling Tim’s half-scream around his
fingers. His world dissolved into sensation and pleasure, as he focused in on
the taste and feel.

* * * * *

Some sweaty, hazy time later, Tim nuzzled against Roy, looking more relaxed than
Roy had ever seen. Eyes drooped half closed, Tim rubbed their cheeks together as
Roy licked his neck.

Tim chuckled, lazily rubbing at the spot. “I’ve been slimed.”

“You’ve been more than that,” Roy said, wiggling his eyebrows.

Tim’s soft smile was gorgeous. “I know.”

Looking down, Roy ran the hand that wasn’t pinned up and down Tim’s back. “How
you doing?”

“Hmm?”

He hesitated. “Are you, I mean, did you–”

Tim kissed him, just a light brush of their lips. “Are you asking if it was good
for me?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Roy flushed, feeling faintly ridiculous, but…

“Roy?” Tim dragged his attention back with another kiss. “It was very good for
me and I seem to recall you having a pretty good time too.”

“Yeah.” Roy continued to rub Tim’s back. “There’s just so much going on, I don’t
want to screw this up.”

“You won’t.” That was the serious Tim voice, one step away from Robin’s voice.

“You’ve got a hell of a lot of confidence in me.”

Tim pulled him close, burying his face in Roy’s neck, lips tugging gently at his
skin. “It would take both of us to screw this up. And that won’t happen.”

Roy drifted into a comforting half-doze, as Tim lay his head down on a pillow
and closed his eyes. Every once in a while, he woke up enough to check that Tim
was still there, and kiss him lightly on the face.

He glanced at the clock at one point, noting how late it was. “When do you need
to get back to Gotham?” he whispered in Tim’s ear.

“I don’t have any early classes,” Tim said, not opening his eyes but tensing up
just a little.

Roy was confused by that reaction for a moment before realization dawned. “Stay
the night?”

He’d guessed right and the tension drained out of Tim. “I’d love to,” he said,
smiling.

Roy kissed Tim one more time and then reached over to turn off the bedside
light, curling up around the warm body in his bed.

* * * * *

Another day, another invasion averted.

Roy shook his head at the surrealism of his life as he entered the rec room at
Titans Tower, currently filled to the brim.

This particular invasion had been stopped by the combined trickery and firepower
of the Outsiders and Teen Titans, when the Titans wandered into the middle of an
Outsiders investigation. Things got murky, but thanks to the leadership and
teamwork of Nightwing and Robin, it all worked out with minimal injury to
everyone involved.

Well, except the invaders. Who got their asses handed to them on a platter. Roy
grinned at the memory and leaned against the wall to watch his team and the
Titans mixing. For reasons he couldn’t explain, things went surprisingly well on
those occasions when they got together–surprising considering just how much
room for disaster there was.

But Grace and Starfire always glared, turned up their respective noses, and
retired to separate corners of the room. And thankfully everybody seemed to have
come to terms with Indigo’s continued existence, although it had been tense at
first. But she’d learned a great deal about human interaction since he’d formed
the Outsiders and she was able to disarm the few who might have said or done
something with her guileless charm. At the moment, she was busy talking to Gar,
so Roy turned away.

Dick was in the corner speaking earnestly to Vic about something and Roy thought
about joining them, until he felt a familiar presence at his side. Without
turning his head, he let a slow grin slide onto his face. “Fancy meeting you
here.”

“Yeah. Quite a surprise,” Tim replied. “Your team did a great job out there.”

“So did yours.” Roy glanced at him. “Your teamwork is a lot better than the
original Titans.”

“I think we’ve had more incentive.”

Tim was obviously thinking of Lilith and Donna, so Roy put a hand on his
shoulder. “I understand.”

“I know you do. That’s why…” He stopped, eyes sparkling. “So…”

“Yes?”

Tim’s lips barely moved and the words were practically inaudible. “Would you
like to come see my etchings?”

Mouth dry, Roy nodded. “I’d like that. I’ll meet you in the upper hall in five
minutes.”

Tim nodded and disappeared.

Roy worked the room efficiently, meandering to each of his team members and
congratulating them on their excellent work in the recent battle. He could see
Cassie watching his progress, although she was trying to be subtle, and groaned.
It was somewhat ridiculous, but Tim was going to have to talk to her. The last
thing they needed was an amorous Wonder Girl chasing him around.

He even stopped to have a quick word with Dick, because it would look suspicious
otherwise. “Hey, Vic and I were just talking about some joint training
exercises,” Dick said, leaning back in his chair, his sprawl somehow taking up
more space than should have been physically possible.

“That sounds like a good idea,” Roy said. “I’ll find you later.” He was already
eyeing the doorway, wondering how soon he could leave.

“Something wrong?” Vic asked.

“Hmm? No, nothing’s wrong. I just have some things to take care of. Carry on.
Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” He nodded at them as he left, but got nervous
at the expression on Dick’s face. Damn it, he thought, could you be a little
more obvious? Maybe you could have jumped on a table and shouted, ‘Hey, I’m
going to go screw my boyfriend now!’

Once again, Roy pondered the way Tim made him act like an idiot, like a virgin
who’d never been kissed, for god’s sake. Nobody else had that effect on him, no
one had ever made him want to be innocent again.

He strode up the hall, and only years of practice with Nightwing and Batman kept
him from jumping when Tim appeared out of the shadows, cape folded over his arm.
Roy grinned–Tim knew how much he liked to watch him walk. Something about the
way Tim stood, he obviously couldn’t wait much longer.

“Let’s–”

The rest of Tim’s words were lost when Roy grabbed him, kissing as if they
hadn’t seen each other in months. Post-mission adrenaline, a portion of his
brain noted calmly. Need to watch out for that. That’s gotten you in trouble
before.

Tim kissed him back, hands roaming all over his back until he stiffened and
started to pull away. Roy was confused, then he heard the voice behind him.

“There you…oh, fuck.”

Roy didn’t turn, just looked down at Tim, whose breathing had gone erratic.
“It’ll be okay,” Roy said quietly. He kept one arm around Tim as he turned to
face Dick. “Hey.”

Dick’s hand was twitching, as if he wanted to throw a batarang or a punch. “Hey?
That’s all you can say?”

“You’d rather I shouted ‘It’s not what you think’? My life’s enough like a bad
movie already, I don’t need to actively encourage it.” He felt rather than heard
Tim’s snicker.

Dick’s hands dropped to his sides. “I know it’s what I think. I just don’t know
what to say.”

“Don’t say anything,” Tim said. “Turn around and go back to the party.”

Both Roy and Dick looked at him. He’d stopped looking shell-shocked and now
seemed amused. “C’mon, Dick. If you’d found Roy and Grace or Roy and Wally
snogging in the hallway, you’d have chuckled and turned around immediately.
Probably teased them later, but that’s it.”

Dick was obviously at a loss for words.

“Tim’s right,” Roy said.

Dick and Tim looked at each other and Roy felt superfluous, an outsider to their
relationship. “You’re right, I’d laugh,” Dick said, voice cracking, “But…none
of them are like a little brother to me.”

Tim sighed. “You’re going to have to accept that I’m growing up.”

“With Roy?”

“With Roy.” Tim stepped out from Roy’s arm. “We can talk about this later,
okay?”

“Okay,” Dick said faintly.

Tim turned and tugged Roy along with him. Roy followed him down the hallway and
into his bedroom. The door shut behind him and he raised his eyebrows at Tim.
“Just one question.”

“Only one?”

“Well, one for now.”

“Okay. What’s the question?”

“Snogging?”

Tim shrugged. “Superboy met up with this British guy when he was trying to learn
a bit about magic and….”

Roy gave up trying to resist. He grabbed Tim’s shoulders and kissed him, feeling
the cape slide out of his arms onto the floor. “Never mind. Tell me later,” he
mumbled against his mouth.

Tim pulled on him until they sprawled together, half off the bed. It wasn’t the
most comfortable position, but Roy was reluctant to stop kissing and licking
long enough to move.

“So, this is snogging, huh?” Roy murmured, sucking sweat off Tim’s neck.

“Yeah.” Tim ran the hand Roy wasn’t lying on up onto Roy’s head, pulling him
closer. “Now do that again.”

Roy laughed, breathless, and fastened his teeth where Tim’s neck and shoulder
met, biting hard through the uniform. Moaning, Tim squeezed him harder and Roy
tried to remember why he’d wanted to stop earlier. Memory took a few moments to
trickle through sensation.

“Tim.” His only response was the feeling of Tim’s hand sliding down his chest
and he grabbed for it. “Tim!”

“Mmmm?”

“I don’t think this is a good idea. Not right now.”

“Why not?”

Roy nuzzled against Tim’s hair, relishing the feel of the smooth strands. Tim
was *never* allowed to get a buzz cut like his. “We’re coming down off a battle
high. Our teammates are downstairs. *Dick* is downstairs. Almost certainly
figuring out the best way to castrate me.”

Tim leaned his head against Roy’s shoulder again, a warm and solid comfort. “Way
to break the mood,” he said, smacking Roy’s shoulder.

“Yeah, sorry ’bout that.” Roy concentrated on the feeling of Tim tucked up
against him and let the rest of the world disappear for a while. Right now, he
needed the comfort more than the release. After all, there was still one big
hurdle left in a very long day.

* * * * *

Roy jogged down the steps, knowing what he would find before he reached the rec
room. He’d deliberately told Tim to wait a few minutes before coming down, so
that he could be the one to face the music.

“Roy.”

“Dick.” Roy stopped and looked down the hall to the doorway his teammate leaned
against.

Dick glared at him, then turned and entered the small meeting room. With a sigh,
Roy followed, closing the door behind him. “What’s up, Short Pants?” He leaned
against the circular table in the center, projecting casual with all his might.

“What the hell is going on?” Dick asked, his posture half-threatening.

“I’m dating Tim. Didn’t we establish that already?” Roy took deep breaths,
willing himself to stay calm. He tried to channel Connor.

Dick paced across the room, almost kicking a chair out of his way. Abusing the
furniture was *never* a good sign in the Batclan, Roy thought. “Dating.” Dick
turned and glared at him some more. “So that’s what they call it these days.”

Roy rolled his eyes. “Okay, *now* I get to say ‘It’s not what you think.’ Yes,
dating. Dinner, goodnight kisses, movies. It’s been a long time, but I seem to
recall that’s dating.”

Dick paused, studying him. “You’re serious.”

“Yes, I’m serious!” Okay, that was nearly a shout, so Roy took another deep
breath, shaking tension out of his arms. “I care about Tim. He’s not, he’s not
Grace or some cheap fuck.”

“Damn straight he’s not.”

“So we agree on something.”

Dick’s mouth opened, then closed. He crossed his arms, and Roy relaxed, knowing
that meant his friend wasn’t going to punch him. “When…I mean, how long has
this been going on?”

Roy did a quick count. “Seven months. It’s been serious for about five. Knowing
Tim, he could probably give you an exact number.”

Dick shook his head. “That long? I didn’t…I can’t believe I didn’t know.” He
turned and went back to pacing around the table, finally looking up at Roy. “He
means a lot to me.”

“I know.”

“He’s just a kid.”

“See, that’s where you’re wrong. He makes *me* look like a kid.”

Dick laughed at that. “I know what you mean. I’m sorry I…” He waved a hand.

“I get it. I’m still not entirely sure what he sees in me.”

“Roy…”

“Sorry, just my insecurities speaking, as usual.” He grinned, although he wanted
to grimace. Why the hell had he said that?

Dick’s look said he didn’t buy the grin for a second, which was the difficulty
of having friends who’d known you so long. “You know, Tim’s not the only one I’m
worried about.”

“C’mon, you know you get off on protecting Tim from bad ol’ Roy.”

Now Dick was frowning, and Roy knew he’d said the wrong thing. “Okay, you’re
officially worrying me,” Dick said, stepping closer. “Make up your mind. Do I
need to protect him or you?”

Roy waved his hand. “Neither of us, damn it. We’re doing just fine without
anyone’s help.”

“Uh-huh.” Dick looked unconvinced. “Look, Roy, I know–”

Roy shook his head, unreasonably annoyed. “If you’re done with the lecture, I’m
heading back to the party.”

He stalked out of the room without waiting for a response, taking a few minutes
to walk the shadowy back corridors to calm down.

When he returned to the rec room, his eyes automatically found Tim, who was
playing poker with Cassie. He shot Roy a worried glance and started to stand,
but Roy shook his head. Feeling eyes on him, he looked for Dick. Yep, Dick was
looking worried too.

Roy deliberately turned away to sit down with Indigo, who was patiently
listening as Gar and Shift explained chess. The back of his head itched from the
feeling of both Dick and Tim watching him and he made an effort to seem normal.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tim approach Dick and whisper something in
his ear. Dick looked startled, but he gave that small headshake that Roy knew
meant ‘not now.’

He should reassure Tim. He should apologize to Dick. He should just get over
himself.

Oh yeah, Tim was going to have a lot to say about this.

* * * * *

Roy was hoping for a bit of a reprieve, but less than 24 hours later, Dick
entered the Outsiders HQ control room. “Hey, Arrowboy, look who’s come to
visit.”

Roy turned, sighing as Tim–in his Robin outfit–came in behind Dick. They
looked at each other and Dick glanced between them. “Uh, I’ll be beating up some
practice dummies if you need me. Just don’t kill each other. I’d hate to have to
explain it to Batman and Green Arrow.”

“So,” Tim said, leaning against the console next to him, “any chance you want to
tell me what happened?”

Roy sighed, glancing at his half-completed monitor schedule for the HQ.
“Nothing.”

“Uh-huh. Dick shows up in Gotham and gives me an hour-long lecture about your
past and how I need to take care of *you* and you expect me to believe nothing
happened? Just how dumb *am* I, anyway?” Tim scowled, smacking his shoulder.

Roy stared resolutely down. “Dick and I talked. That’s it.”

“I repeat: how dumb *am* I?”

“Screw you.”

“Is that a threat or a promise?” There was a laugh in Tim’s voice.

“It’s a promise if you’ll drop this.” Roy shook his head. “I’m fine. Dick is
fine. No blood was shed.”

“As long as we’re not seeing a repeat of the ‘Tim’s going to leave me’ incident,
I’ll let it go.”

“It’s not that.” Roy drummed his fingers on his keyboard. “Just a moment of
doubt when faced with the guy who got me through heroin addiction.”

“I love you, heroin or not.”

Swallowing sharply, Roy looked away, but Tim’s hand on his chin made him look
back. “You still don’t believe me,” Tim said, voice soft.

Closing his eyes, Roy couldn’t think of a response. How could Tim expect him to
believe it? Tim hadn’t seen, hadn’t lived through it, hadn’t been *betrayed* the
way Dick and the others had.

“Roy?” Stroking Roy’s cheek once, Tim leaned back against the console,
analytical face back in place. “Whatever you’re thinking, I’ll almost guarantee
it’s wrong. You really don’t get it.”

“Get what?” To his own ears, his voice sounded rusty.

“I *admire* you.”

Roy stared.

Tim smiled, shaking his head once. “You survived. You beat the addiction. That
takes courage on a level I can’t imagine.”

Roy’s hands dropped from the keyboard to his lap and he was left speechless.

“I love you,” Tim said, voice firm and strong now.

“I…I love you, too.” Roy felt like an idiot saying it and he was glad nobody
else was there to see him blush. He was willing to swear that Tim said it
sometimes just so he could watch Roy’s face turn red.

Tim leaned forward and pulled Roy into a hug, kissing the top of his head. The
smell of kevlar was faintly comforting, the feel of Tim’s arms and lips even
more so.

* * * * *

Another month passed, a bit blurry as Roy juggled Tim, Lian, Ollie, Connor, and
his work. But somehow even the blur was satisfying, he thought, staring at the
computer screen. Time with Tim had become an unmitigated joy.

Outsiders HQ was pretty much deserted, which was why Roy was finally getting
some work done. Glancing at his watch, he estimated Lian and Ron would be home
in about two hours, which gave him some time before he had to head out.

Buried in the problem of how to describe why they’d accidentally blown up a
bank, he barely noticed the ring of his cell phone. “Yeah?” he said into it,
trying to find *just* the right euphemism for “explosion.”

“Hey,” Tim said on the other end of the phone, “are you free Saturday night?”

Roy typed a few more sentences into his report, cell phone tucked between ear
and shoulder. “I can be. What’s the plan?” Maybe they could do another
motorcycle ride out of the city, he thought idly.

“Um.”

Roy stopped typing, suddenly worried, and grabbed the phone. “Tim?”

“Um, I was thinking you might come to Gotham and we could have dinner with my
dad and Dana.”

Roy relaxed, grumbling as he looked at his still-to-do list. “Pull the other
one, man, it’s got bells on.”

“I’m not kidding.”

“Oh god.” Roy’s head hit the desk with a solid thunk.

“Look at it this way.” Tim paused.

“Please tell me this is a late April Fool’s joke.”

“It’s either that or dinner with Batman.”

It was a moment before Roy recovered his voice. “So, uh, what time do they want
us there?”

* * * * *

As he and Tim drove up to the Drake Gotham brownstone, Roy tried to remember the
last time he’d been this nervous. He was fairly certain it had involved nuclear
weapons or a vast number of demons infesting Star City.

He distracted himself by trying to remember if he’d *ever* had to “meet the
parents” before. Nothing came to mind, which made it all worse. He was too old
to be doing this for the first time, damn it. He briefly amused himself by
trying to imagine Cheshire’s parents before going back to the need to impress
Jack Drake.

It wasn’t that the man could stop their relationship–hell, Tim didn’t live at
home and Batman would pay for Tim’s college in a heartbeat, if necessary–but
Tim wanted the man’s approval. It made things more difficult, but considering
his tenuous relationship with Ollie, Roy could certainly understand.

His nervousness wasn’t helped at all by the fact that normally imperturbable Tim
looked like he was going to explode out of his skin, fingers tapping in no
particular rhythm on the seat, and even an occasional tapping toe. “Are you sure
it wouldn’t be easier to talk to Batman?” Roy asked, putting the car in park.

“I’m beginning to wonder. At least Bruce *knows* you.”

“I’m not entirely sure he *likes* me, though.”

“That doesn’t count. He doesn’t like anybody.”

Taking a deep breath, Roy got out of the car, resisting the urge to check his
hair in the mirror or something equally feminine and absurd. The front door
opened and Tim’s stepmother stepped out, beaming at the two of them. Well, that
was a good sign, Roy supposed.

Dana hugged Tim the moment he made it to the top of the steps and Tim hugged her
back. She whispered something in his ear and let go.

“Dana,” Tim touched Roy’s shoulder, “this is Roy.”

Roy held out his hand. “Mrs. Drake, I’m very pleased to meet you.”

“Please call me Dana,” she said, shaking his hand. “And I’m pleased to meet you.
Tim has told us…almost nothing about you.”

“Why am I not surprised?” He shared a conspiratorial grin with Dana, while Tim
sighed in mock exasperation.

“Come in. Tim, your father’s in the living room.” She hesitated, obviously on
the verge of saying something else, but she changed her mind, opening the front
door and walking inside.

Tim looked more nervous than Roy had ever seen him, although he doubted anyone
outside their small community of do-gooders would be able to see it. It was all
about the tension in his shoulders and the way his fingers twitched.

Roy sighed, remembering Tim telling him about his dad’s initial reaction to his
son’s other life as Robin. Did the man have any idea how much danger he’d been
in, waving a gun at Batman? Probably not. In any case, if Tim had brought home
another eighteen-year-old, even a guy, it wouldn’t have been quite this nerve-
wracking. But Tim’s father had a history of worrying about older men tampering
in his son’s life, which made this evening a question mark large enough for the
Riddler.

The living room was classic upper middle class, the kind of thing Ollie would
sneer at as mildly bourgeois, then completely ignore. The room didn’t have a
great deal of personality, Roy thought, but his upbringing hadn’t been precisely
normal, so what did he know? There were a few pictures of Jack, Dana, and Tim,
pieces of art that were very Dana, and furniture in standard earth tones.

Jack Drake stood when they entered the room and Roy wondered if he always looked
quite that unhappy, or if it were in Roy’s honor. Jack’s clothing looked like
he’d deliberately resisted dressing up to meet Roy. Roy suspected the slightly
frayed cuff on the shirt was intentional, but Dana had probably insisted on the
nice slacks.

“Dad,” Tim said, “this is Roy.”

“Roy.”

Jack held out his hand and Roy shook it, smothering a chuckle at Jack’s attempt
to outgrip him in some macho test. Roy thought about using some of his own
prodigious hand strength to make a point, but decided against it. “Very nice to
meet you, sir.”

“Tim.”

“Dad.”

There was enough history buried in those two words, Roy thought he could
probably write an entire novel. A tense silence fell over the room, thankfully
broken almost immediately by Dana.

“Well,” she said with tremendous false cheer, “the rolls have a few minutes, but
I think we can sit down.”

It was going to be a long evening, Roy thought as he obediently followed her to
the table, set under the brownstone’s large windows.

After a few minutes of inconsequential chatter over gazpacho, battle was joined.

“So,” Jack said to Roy, who sat across the table from him, “what do you do? I
know you’re not in school.”

Roy was ready for this one and he and Tim had discussed the options. “As I think
you’ve guessed, I’m in the same business as Tim.”

“Which one are you?” Jack put down his spoon and studied Roy’s face. “You’re not
Nightwing.”

Tim choked and Roy couldn’t look at him. “No, I’m not. My present code name is
Arsenal and I lead a team called the Outsiders.”

“I’ve heard of them,” Dana said.

Roy grimaced. “We do have a tendency to make the news. Usually whatever they say
is wrong, though.”

“The Outsiders.” Jack frowned. “Didn’t you–”

“They work with the Titans sometimes,” Tim said quickly. “And Roy has known
Nightwing since his own days as a Titan.”

Jack looked annoyed at being cut off, and Roy hoped Tim knew what he was doing.

Dana jumped in. “Oh, Tim said you have a daughter.”

“Yes, her name is Lian.” Roy couldn’t help his grin of paternal pride.

“Who’s the mother?” Jack asked.

“Jack!” Dana turned pink, while Tim went white and started to rub his forehead.

“What? It’s a legitimate question.”

“Yes, it is,” Roy said. There was dead silence as he faced Jack over the table.
“Her mother is out of the picture. Our…relationship was a mistake and the only
good that came of it was Lian.”

Grasping at straws now, Dana jumped in again. “Do you have a picture?”

“Of course!” Roy had his wallet out before Jack could say anything. “Here’s a
good one.” He held out the wallet to Dana.

Her face softened and she smiled at him. “She’s just darling.”

“She is,” Tim said. “Runs us ragged and talks a mile a minute, too.”

“The next picture’s my favorite,” Roy said.

Dana flipped to the next picture and giggled, looking up at Tim. Dismay on his
face, Tim turned to Roy.

“Relax,” Roy said, “it’s not *that* one. I promise, I threw out of every copy of
you teaching Lian the chicken dance. No, this is Coney Island.”

Tim sighed. “You had me worried.”

Dana held out the wallet to Jack. “Isn’t this adorable?”

Roy could only agree. It really was his favorite photo: Tim and Lian crammed
into a Coney Island bumper car. By a quirk of fate, Roy had snapped the photo at
exactly the right moment and captured them on impact with another car. They
clutched each other, dark hair flying, with matching grins of satisfaction and
glee.

Jack looked at the picture for a long time. Tim and Dana stared at each other in
obvious anxiety, while Roy went back to eating his soup. If he was going to
crash and burn, it might as well be on a full stomach.

“You have a lovely daughter,” Jack finally said, eyes flicking briefly to meet
Roy’s before he looked away.

“Thank you.” Roy nodded, taking back his wallet.

Conversation moved back to the inconsequential as Dana asked Tim about his US
history class. These details managed to get them through most of the meal, with
Jack unbending enough to make polite conversation.

Dessert got a bit touchy when Jack insisted on asking after Steph, but Tim
stifled that with a single glare. Roy tried to decide if that had been a jab at
his gender or his occupation–finally concluding it had been both, since he was
fairly certain Tim’s dad didn’t know Steph was Spoiler (or the temporary Robin).

“Tim, why don’t you help me clear the table?” Dana asked as Jack ate the last of
the chocolate mousse. There was a brief exchange of glances and Tim nodded.

Roy crossed his arms and waited as Dana left the room, interested to see that
she’d forced this confrontation. Obviously there was more to her than the
friendly stepmom. Tim shot Roy a pleading glance–which Roy interpreted as ‘He’s
a pain, but don’t kill him, please’–and followed her.

“So,” Jack said slowly, “you’re dating my son.”

“Yes.” Several smart-ass responses leaped to mind and Roy saved them up to tell
Tim later. They stared at each other and Roy felt as if he were on trial.

“You understand my concerns,” Jack said. “He’s my son. He may not think so, but
he’s just a kid.”

This guy must get along great with Nightwing, Roy thought. “No offense, but
you’re wrong. He hasn’t been a kid for a long time. He’s been places and seen
things you can hardly comprehend. Tim’s too polite to point that out, but it’s
true.”

Jack shook his head in denial.

“I’m a father. I get it, okay? If I could keep Lian this age forever, make sure
nobody ever touched her or hurt her, you know as well as I do that I’d do it.
But I can’t.”

“Tim deserves better than some glorified bounty hunter.” Jack practically spit
the words at him.

“Yeah, I don’t think I’m any prize either, but I’m here.” Roy looked past Jack
into the mirror hanging on the wall, trying to see what Tim saw in him. “Until
and unless Tim changes his mind, you’re stuck with me.”

“It seems like I don’t have a choice.”

Roy took a deep breath, looking the other man in the eye. “Sure you do. You
could disown Tim. Tell him to never darken your door again. Take him out of the
will. Whatever you want.”

Jack pushed himself back from the table, a touch of fear on his face. “I’d never
do that.”

“Good.” Roy felt his own heartbeat drop back toward normal. “Then your other
choice is to accept that Tim doesn’t *need* your approval, even if he wants it.”

Closing his eyes, Jack turned away. “I don’t much care for being lectured by my
son’s *boyfriend*.”

“Fair enough. I don’t much care for being treated like some predator trying to
corrupt your son. Ask him who chased who and then we can talk about it like
adults.” Roy was trying to channel Connor again, with limited success. He was
going to have to talk to his brother about this whole Zen thing.

Jack’s shoulders tensed up and Roy counted his breaths until he saw them slowly
relax again. “You’re right,” he said finally.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Tim said from the doorway.

Jack turned and Roy tried to look like he’d known all along Tim was there.
“Tim?”

Tim glanced at Roy. “Give us a few minutes?”

“Yeah. I’ll just be in the kitchen.” As he passed, Roy let his hand rest on
Tim’s shoulder for a second.

He found Dana sitting at the kitchen table looking faint. “I think it’s going to
be okay,” he offered. “They didn’t look like they were going to kill each
other.”

“Good,” she said, twisting her hands together. “Their relationship…”

“I get it. Someday I’ll tell you about my foster father.”

Roy sat down at the table and in moments, the pictures in his wallet were back
out, and Roy was telling every cute Lian story he could remember. Dana laughed,
looking more relaxed than she had all evening. Tim was lucky to have her as a
stepmom, Roy thought, glad she was obviously on their side.

Finally, Tim leaned his head back in the room. “All clear. Everyone alive and
accounted for.” Dana stood up and went to hug him, and Tim grinned at Roy over
her shoulder.

Roy was somewhat reluctant to leave the safety of the kitchen, but he let Tim
pull him back to the living room. He didn’t want to look cowardly, after all.

Jack managed a polite nod when he entered the room, and if he wasn’t precisely
thrilled with Roy, he and Tim seemed to have come to an understanding. Dana
brushed a lock of blonde hair behind her ears and eyed the room with the air of
someone used to breaking the tension between father and son.

“Since I’ve seen all of Roy’s pictures, perhaps it’s time to embarrass Tim by
bringing out some of his,” she said with a smile.

Tim groaned, burying his head in his hands and Roy laughed. “Oh, I’m sure he was
a sweet baby.”

Dana grinned back. “I won’t embarrass him *that* much. Well, not this visit at
least. I’m sure we have some slightly more recent photos.”

Roy winced as Dana pulled a photo album off the shelf, realizing that older
pictures would probably have Tim’s mom in them. Whoops.

Tim and his father–with occasional comments from Roy and Dana–talked sports,
while Dana flipped through the album with Roy.

From there the conversation moved to politics, which in any other household
might be a hot button issue, but compared to what they’d already weathered that
evening, it was a positive relief. Jack completely forgot his previous animosity
for a while, as he and Roy had a lively debate over the Luthor administration’s
foreign policies.

Eventually Roy glanced at his watch and he and Tim nodded at each other. Tim was
on patrol this evening and Roy had some research he wanted to do before going to
sleep. They made their farewells.

Jack managed a marginally polite smile and goodbye, and hugged Tim. From the
relief on Dana’s face, that was obviously a good sign.

Dana hugged Tim and Roy as well, to the latter’s mild embarrassment. “I’m very
glad we got to meet you,” she said, “and I hope we’ll see you again soon.”

“Thank you for a lovely dinner,” Roy said. “And I’m sure I’ll be around.”

They made it all the way to Roy’s car before sighing with relief.

Roy leaned back against the door, grinning at Tim. “See? That wasn’t *so* bad.”

Tim groaned. “I think I’d rather go up against the Joker, Riddler, and the
entire Injustice Society than do something like this again. At least there I
know what I’m supposed to do and I’m allowed to kick ass.”

“C’mere, you.” Roy held out a hand and Tim fitted himself in between Roy’s legs,
nuzzling against his neck. “‘s all good, right?”

“Right.” Tim leaned his head up for a kiss.

As their lips were about to touch, they both heard a small sound from above and
behind them. Roy closed his eyes. “Oh shit.”

Batman dropped silently down beside them. Folding his arms across his chest, he
waited. “Well?”

“Um…” Tim paused. “It’s not what you think?”

“That’s it,” Roy said. “I’m dead.”

–end–


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