|the artist formerly known as oneangrykate (riseupwithfists) wrote,|
@ 2010-05-15 10:48 am UTC
|Entry tags:||adventures in solitude, fic!|
Title: Adventures in Solitude
Fandom: DC Comics, Titans-centric
Rating: Adult (aka there be sexing in here, boys and girls)
Warnings: Underage sex/drinking, language.
Pairings: Jaime/Tim(/Scarab), Cassie/Mia, Tim/Surveillance, Bart/Shenanigans, Linda/Linda/Linda, Paco/Brenda, Paco/Kon/Cows, Author/Sentiment.
Notes: A million thanks to Gloss, for being endlessly encouraging, Mona, for reading a draft that read like Swiss cheese and still being able to give gleeful, insightful, and enthusiastic feedback, and Jube, who was my personal cheerleader, hand-holder, and provider of several of the more out-there plot twists. This one's for y'all.
Art by the fantabulous vange right here. LOOKIT THEIR LITTLE FACES, PEOPLE.
This story is based in a slightly nebulous post-BftC and post-Sturges Beetle universe. Dick is Batman and Damian is Robin, but Jason still has a head of gorgeous dark hair and has better things to do then run around looking like The Punisher. Blackest Night and Cry for Justice are not taking place in this universe. At all. Full fucking stop.
I haven't read the Teen Titans title in a year and a half. All subsequent attempts to get into it again made me bleed out the eyes, so I've taken massive liberties with the lineup and the dynamics here. Hopefully the reader can catch on fairly quickly due to the nature of the plot.
Two panels which are especially important with regards to what's about to happen:
ADVENTURES IN SOLITUDE (or; Hey, Kids, Let's Put On A Show) (or; The Miraculous Autumn of Jaime Reyes)
Dying is not romantic, and death is not a game which will soon be over...Death is not anything...death is not... It's the absence of presence, nothing more...the endless time of never coming back...a gap you can't see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes no sound... -Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
No way this year anyone's gonna die/and it's gonna be totally awesome! - A Very Harry Potter Musical
remember we were the volunteers
Jaime stands in front of the bathroom mirror, takes a deep breath, and tries again.
“It’s not me, it’s you,” he says. “No, wait. That’s wrong. But it isn’t me, either, not really. I mean, it’s me in a way, technically, because I’m the one leaving the team, but anyway.” He’s going for a dead-serious tone of voice, but every time he tries it just sounds like he’s got allergies. “Ugh, this is coming out all wrong. It’s not that I’m a quitter, but I’m just not that much of a joiner in the first place. And it’s not as if it wasn’t fun. For, like, five minutes at a time. But, uh, there comes a time in every young person’s life where he has to put away childish things and stay the hell away from everyone else’s evil doppelgangers so he can focus on more pressing issues. Like homework and fighting crime closer to home and, um, other semi-normal things.” He sighs, tries not to look at the clock. “That’s not going to work, is it?”
[reply hazy: try again later.]
“Har har.” Jaime pulls a hand through his hair, scrutinizes a pimple near his ear. “I’ll just tell them that I’m drowning in angst and want to be alone. It worked for Robin. Oh, Ex-Robin. I keep forgetting.”
[further procrastination not recommended]
“Yeah, guess you’re right.” Jaime gives the mirror his best resolve face. “Time to face the music.”
He waves goodbye to Mom and Dad, pecks a squirming Milagro on the cheek, and drops the newest letter for Traci into the mailbox as he leaves.
Time for another fun-filled adventure in avoiding death and devastation. Yaaaay him.
On the flight over, Jaime keeps telling himself that he doesn’t need the stupid Titans anyway, that now perhaps he can take up a hobby. Or sleep in on weekends. That this was supposed to be something to look forward to at the end of the week, not something to dread.
He’s not used to the sight of dead bodies, and he doesn’t want to be, but there’s the unmistakable fact that if things keep going as peachy as they’ve been lately, he will.
[pobrecito], Scarab offers, but he’s also constructing graphs slightly less scientific than his usual offerings pertaining to the kinds of experiences Jaime’s been having with the team lately . [am attempting to communicate more often in your vernacular], he explains.
“Uh-huh.” Jaime can see the Tower now (as well as the tourists taking pictures with their phones at a distance). “Methinks someone’s grown a bit overfond of the internet lately.”
“A stunning comeback, buddy.” He could take another loop around the city, but that would just be prolonging the inevitable. Might as well get it over with as quickly as possible.
There’s just one problem.
“Um.” Jaime looks around the empty lounge. “Hello? Bueller?” He looks out the window, to no avail. “How am I supposed to give you my goodbye speech if you’re not here to hear it? It’s a good speech, I swear.”
He’s assuming that either everyone’s playing some sort of mean prank on him or that they’ve been spirited away to yet another evil alternate dimension of evil when the room erupts in color and sound and people.
Someone’s zipping around the lounge in some sort of Catholic schoolgirl-looking jumper. “HALLELUJAH, EVERYTHING FITS AGAIN”. When he (Jaime is pretty sure it’s he) pauses in front of Jaime, he’s wearing a pineapple-print romper and neon green knee socks. His hair is... everywhere.
“HI THERE it’s so great to finally meet you after everything I’ve heard about you it’s all been highly positive don’t you worry you’ve come very highly recommended oh look at your carapace that is so cool-“ He leans back a centimeter or so and looks Jaime right in the eyes – “Should I be referring to you and your scarab as individual entities or a collective? Hello to both of you!”
“Who,” Jaime is finally able to ask, “are you?”
[Bart Allen, alias Impulse, alias Kid Flash, alias The Flash, alias Bart Allen. Size 6 dress.]
“Dude.” Someone lumbers in, trailing dirty laundry behind him. “My gym socks are still there, right where I left them,” he boggles. “Even though I'm missing some of my underwear.” [Kon-El, alias Superboy, alias Conner Kent. Six out of every ten rural teenage boys have relations with farm animals over the course of their adolescence.] He’s even more bulky-looking in person than Jaime had expected. Like one and a half Pacos, easy. “Oh, hey little Beetle dude! Awesome!”
A girl in a yellow cloak, apparently [Mia Dearden, alias Speedy II], chuckles as she follows Superboy in. “Everyone’s little compared to you, Kon.”
“Not everybody!” Superboy starts heading for Jaime, looking an awful lot like Paco does when Jaime’s about to get noogied. Jaime wisely decides to retreat to the kitchen, where he finds Kara standing there with a sundress on and a slightly distressed expression.
Finally, someone he recognizes. “Kara, what the hell is going on? Why are you here? You know, on Earth and everything? Where’s-“ He’s about to say ‘my team’, but he’s got to stop thinking of them that way if he’s really going to go through with this quitting thing.
Kara doesn’t answer him. Instead, she declares, “People, I cannot find my uniform skirt.” [Supergirl: has no pants]
Kon’s followed Jaime, his noogie-face thankfully gone. “But you flew here in your uniform.”
Kara thinks about this for a ponderous moment. “Which makes its disappearance all the more baffling, doesn’t it?”
Cassie finally shows up, her face set in that confident, clear-headed expression she gets pre-missions. “Jeans,” she suggests to Kara as she hustles from here to there. “Giant space sea monsters rampaging on the waterfront!” Cassie apparently sees this as an appropriate greeting. “We’re leaving in five minutes! Wait, four!”
“But I only brought dresses this time...” Kara puts a hand to her mouth in thought.
“Of course you did, sweetie." Cassie claps her hands. "C’mon, guys. Hustle, hustle!"
“Cassie, what the hell is going on?” Jaime attempts.
“Besides the space-sea monsters?”
“Why can’t anybody decide whether they’re sea monsters or space monsters?” Speedy’s asking as she fiddles with her ponytail. “They can’t be both, right?” She catches Jaime’s eye and wiggles her fingers at him. “Hey there, Beetleface.” Jaime doesn’t know what else to do but wave back.
“What matters is that we can hit them really hard, Mia.” Cassie pats Speedy’s shoulder; the hand stays for a few moments, squeezes.
Speedy-Mia tips her head up to smirk at Cassie. “You know that’s exactly what I like to hear.”
Bart and Kon start up some sort of “Let's go let's go let's go!” chant and whooping at each other like some sort of demented fraternity initiation. Kon stomps around the common room. “Aw shit, I need to brush up on my banter. There are, like, trends to how you quip out in the field, you know? I’m all out of date.” He asks Mia, “Hey, what's your favorite intro line for a fight?”
Mia thinks for a second. “Usually 'I'm gonna kick your ass'.”
“The short and sweet route, eh?” Kon grins. “Works for me.”
“People!” Jaime waves his arms in the air. “Did I miss something? Did I get hit on the head? Are you all from Earth Twelve or something? Why are you all here? Where’s the old team?”
“Questions, questions,” Cassie tuts. “Two minutes, by the way.”
“I was just trying to cover every option!” Jaime feels exhausted and he hasn’t even zapped anyone today yet. “Cassie, please. Where IS everybody?”
“This is everybody, Beetle.” Cassie sweeps her arm out to include Mia punching the air, Kon and Bart whooping at each other, and Kara lifting the refrigerator quizzically. “Welcome to the new normal.”
“Okay, you totally rehearsed that!” Jaime shakes his head; Cassie just goes on with her business as if his confusion is none of her concern. “And that doesn’t even make any sense! Agh, curse you and your quippy one-liners.”
“STILL CAN'T FIND MY SKIRT,” Kara hollers from somewhere, and Cassie hollers back “JUST GO INTO THE LOCKER ROOM AND GRAB ANYTHING THAT DOESN’T SMELL TOO MUCH AND DO IT FAST, WE DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS.”
Which is how Supergirl ends up fighting sea monsters from space while wearing bright pink sweatpants with “JUICY” emblazoned on the butt.
Oh yeah. They are awesome.
There are times when Jaime doesn't actually stop what he's doing, because it's usually in the middle of a fight and stopping would be a bad thing, but sort of mentally pauses and says to himself, “is this really my life? Am I really doing this?”
In this case: “Am I really watching a slimy giant crayfish try to woo Supergirl while a boy who runs really fast and a girl with the power of shooting arrows and looking fashionable in yellow stand around looking uncomfortable?”
Answer: "Yes, I totally am". Of course Jaime is. Because his life is crazy.
“Look,” Kara starts, “Your offering of the wax replicas of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio was really sweet, and I'm sure that Madame Tussauds totally has insurance so I'm not gonna hold that against you. But I just don't think that I'm in a good mental place to be considering relationships right now. So I mean this sincerely when I say that it's not you. It's me.” She tilts her head at the sea monster beastie. “Or maybe it’s you after all.”
The giant mutant space lobster undulates and hisses. A claw clacks ominously close to Kara's face. She grimaces. “Bart, I don't think that was a happy noise.”
“Grife, I translated it wrong!” Bart's not quite tearing his hair out, but he's appearing on opposite sides of the pier in agitation. “Ze doesn't want you, ze wants Blue!”
“Heh, that rhymes,” Jaime says, then, “Wait, what?”
“Ze's a giant space bug. You closely resemble a giant space bug. Do the math.” And Jaime's doing the math, but it still isn't making any sense. Or more like he doesn't want it to make sense, because ew. “Talk about me making gendered assumptions!”
Jaime starts inching away from said giant space bug. “Okay, call me unadventurous, but I am totally uninterested in doing the mating dance with the giant crayfish.”
Kara nods at him in all seriousness. “I don't blame you.”
“God, can we all reach some sort of consensus on whether they’re space monsters or sea monsters?” Mia makes a face. “I like to know what I’m skewering, you know?”
“Oh, it's okay!” Bart's waving his arms in front of the lobster and bobbing up and down. “I just told hir that you're a furry!”
“An imposter who only dresses as a giant space bug for kicks!” Bart says this as if this is a perfectly rational and reasonable thing to say. Mia is explaining what a furry is to Kara and they're both laughing and laughing. “Ze will now go elsewhere in the galaxy for any and all mating needs.” Bart beams.
Jaime rolls his eyes. “Dude, shut up.”
They only get about seven seconds recovery time from dealing with Giant Crawfish Number One when they have to go save four kids who have just been swallowed by Giant Crawfish Number Two. Bart gets himself swallowed kinda sorta on purpose, and Mia and Jaime have to ‘neutralize the threat’ (that’s Wonder Girl speak for ‘blast the hell out of it’) without hurting anyone trapped inside. Jaime carefully lifts Mia in the air at just the right angle so she can send a flaming arrow right into the one soft spot on the monster’s head. He’s pretty sure that he’s seen this maneuver in a movie somewhere, but it works perfectly so he’s not going to complain; the beastie keels over and stops moving right as Bart manages to (somewhat messily) escape its stomach, kids in tow.
The kids don't look as traumatized as Jaime expected. The one on Bart's shoulders has been tugging gently on Bart's hair as if for steering. He presses his hands to his mouth when he sees Jaime. “BEETLE,” he squeaks through his fingers. “HOLA, BEETLE.”
“Hola!” Jaime’s grinning so hard that he probably looks a little demented through the armor, but people usually aren't this happy to see him. "¿Está herido?"
Through the resultant squeakery, the child tells Jaime that everyone is perfectly fine, except for a little goopiness, and could he please sign his autograph for show and tell next Tuesday? When Jaime happily complies (the kids ooh and ahh when the armor prints out paper to sign on), Beetlehugs are both requested and granted.
Mia sighs. "You never hear any children going, 'Ohmigod, it's Speedy!' Just the creepy older fanboys."
Bart deposits the kindergartners with their teacher, safe out of the line of fire. “Well, that turned out better than I expected!”
Mia stops in her tracks. “Bart, you were swallowed by a giant ocean monster from outer space.”
“Exactly! And look, I'm here to tell the tale!”
“Just looking on the bright side, right?” Jaime adds, and Bart’s grin is the sunniest thing he’s seen all week.
Kon lands beside them once the monster is corralled safely. “Way to go, Jamie!”
Everyone pauses awkwardly.
Kon blinks. “What’d I say?”
Mia points at him. “Who the hell is Jamie?”
“For real!” Bart’s suddenly got a flashcard on proper pronunciation, which he waves in Kon’s face.
“It's okay,” Jaime finally gets out. “My first grade teacher made the same mistake.”
Kon’s face falls like they canceled Christmas. “Oh, dude, I'm really totally sorry. That was not chill of me at all.” God, it's like disciplining a puppy. “We're still bros though, right?”
Jaime didn’t even realize that they were automatically bros in the first place. “Of course!” He hopes that bro duty doesn’t ask for anything too strenuous. He already has one Paco in his life.
“Annnd he's down,” Bart reports when the last of the monsters is taken care of. “Go Team Awesome!”
Cassie shakes her head “Bart, a name change is just not in the cards. No matter how awesome.”
“I dunno,” Kon says. He's totally posing whilst lifting a car. “Can we take a vote on this?”
“This is not a democracy.” Cassie sounds like Robin for a moment. “Superboy, did that Hummer commit a crime?”
“Yes. By existing.” Kon looks, to Jaime, like a walking refrigerator. He honestly doesn't see the appeal unless he's flying. Airborne, all of that bulk seems to have a place and it makes sense until he touches back down, and then he's sponsored by Maytag again.
“Put the gross symbol of consumer overconsumption down, Kon. We don’t want to get a reputation.”
“We already have a reputation,” Kon points out, but he sets the Hummer back on the street, more or less intact. “Next time, Hummer. You’re going down next time.”
“It’s nice to know that everyone here has their priorities in order,” Mia cracks. Jaime thinks he’s gonna like her.
Jaime flies alongside Cassie as they head back to the Tower. “Um, now that we’re not all distracted, could you maybe, possibly, ever so kindly tell me what the hell I missed?”
“Oh yeah, you weren't here last week,” Cassie says as if it had just occurred to her.
“Yeah,” Jaime says, “and I'm sure you all poked hearty fun at the guy whose parents made him stay home to finish his social studies presentation.” That explanatory phone call had been absolutely humiliating.
“We didn't mock you too much. Besides, it's kinda sweet.”
“Okay, thank you, but. Not answering my question, Cassie!”
Cassie maneuvers a lazy loop-de-loop in the air before answering. “The answer is that, as team leader, it was my prerogative to pick members who would form a cohesive whole. The team in its previous incarnation clearly wasn’t working. It was my responsibility to fix it by adding people who can both be trusted and who have a previous positive relationship with each other."
"So." Jaime tries to think of a way to respond to this that isn't 'you stacked the deck with your friends'. "You stacked the deck with your friends."
"No!" Cassie protests. "It was just... I thought that we'd... yeah. Guilty as charged."
"Then that's your prerogative, I guess." Jaime lands, Cassie and Kon following. Bart appears, bowing to Mia when he sets her down. He doesn't even know how to handle this revelation, because it sounds an awful lot like the cool kids at the lunch table just got put back in charge. And if that's true, then why didn't he get a pink slip, either? He's definitely Chess Club-level compared to them.
Everyone's thundering down the stairs now, everyone else caught up in their own little conversations, seemingly oblivious. "Are you really going to try to say that you were happy with the way things were? Constant bickering, and nobody having any fun?"
"Oh, now it gets to be about fun?" Who is this Cassie, and where did the real one go? Jaime wants to know. Though he has to admit that he likes smiling, sassy, Cassie better than the alternative. "I feel like I'm being gaslighted or something."
"Oh, Ingrid, why on earth would you think such a thing?"
Jaime follows Cassie into the lounge, about to point out that Ingrid Bergman jokes are way too esoteric for normal, everyday use when everyone notices that they’re not alone.
The boy is sprawled out on the biggest sofa, his feet up on the coffee table. He’s eating several chips at a time out of a super-sized bag of jalapeño flavored Doritos.
He’s wearing… sweatpants.
The sight is even stranger than the space-sea monsters, because it's him.
“Hey, guys.” Robin looks completely nonchalant as he turns around to survey the team. He raises the Doritos bag in a sloppy salute. “Miss me?”
There’s a moment of slack-jawed disbelief on everyone’s part. Mia is finally able to come out with, “No. Fucking. Way, Tim.”
Tim waves. “Way?”
Then everyone goes a little nuts.
“So you're back!” Bart's running laps around the room between sentences. Jaime has to get used to that. He lands at Tim’s side, slotting himself against his shoulder. Tim doesn’t seem to mind the intrusion. “Finally! I knew he'd come to his senses and un-fire you, I mean, talk about refusing to heed the warnings of history!”
Tim blinks. “I wasn't. Unfired, that was.” He holds the Doritos bag out helpfully for Bart to finish up, which takes about half a second. “I’m not here in any official capacity. An offer to stay here temporarily was extended to me, seeing as I have no permanent base of operations for the time being, and I decided to accept.”
Cassie tries to look innocent when everyone looks at her. “Surprise?”
Mia mock-punches her in the arm. “You are the sneakiest thing to ever sneak… I like that in a girl.”
Cassie’s still smiling as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. “Oh, you do?”
“So the little bitch is still Robin.” Kon hit his fist into his palm. “Does Superboy need to go cut a bitch?”
“Can we stop saying “bitch” so often, please?” Kara asks. “At least limit it to every other sentence?”
“Nobody is cutting anyone today, alright?” Cassie gives Kon a Look. “I swear, I am letting the tentacles carry you off next time.”
Kon, for his part, is already deep in conversation with Tim; Kon is mainly going “Dude. Dude” over and over again, and occasionally Tim answers with a mild “Dude”. When Kon pulls him into a massive bear hug, he complies without trying to squirm away for a good three seconds.
Jaime knows that Tim had been given the boot by New Batman after Old Batman died, but he’s (gratefully, usually) always been a little behind on hero community drama. Every time someone tries to explain to him exactly what's been going on with those guys he goes a little crosseyed, so he'll settle for Bart's explanation that “Tim was fired, not because he did anything wrong, but because the Batpeople all have emotional problems”.
Tim’s noticed him now, and gives him a nod. “Beetle.”
“Jaime,” he says. “Jaime is fine.”
Tim’s mouth does something funny, like he’s trying to smirk but won’t let himself. “I know. It’s good to see you.”
And there's something Jaime thought he'd never hear coming out of that mouth.
The next hour or so is sent catching up, Bart waving his arms wildly mid-story. When the alarms go off (one stray sea-space-monster has surfaced in Golden Gate Park), Tim calmly takes out a book and sets up shop on the couch. “Have fun storming the castle,” he says, blindly gesturing in their general direction. Once the last monster is taken care of and they head back to the Tower, they all eat pizza and play board games.
Cassie throws her hands up. “Someone needs to tell Tim that he can't win at Clue before the game's even started.”
“I'm playing it correctly,” Tim insists.
“It's a boardgame. You can't guess who the killer is because it's on a card that you can't see and the game hasn't even started yet. Unless you cheated.”
Tim looked prissily outraged. “I never cheat.”
Kon floats in. “Guys, do you think I'm going bald?”
“Yes,” Tim and Cassie say without looking up from their game.
Meanwhile, Jaime’s engrossed in a surprisingly cutthroat game of Scrabble with Bart and Mia. “Yahtzee is not a verb!”
Mia refuses to back down. “It is now. And I totally just Yahtzeed your ass.”
“I’m always interested in endorsing the expansion and transformation of language,” Bart says in defense when Jaime appeals to him. “Also, I have now formed a word on the board: grife.”
Kon surveys the scene before him like a disapproving television patriarch. “This is way too wholesome for me. I think I'm gonna puke.”
“Kon, stop fronting,” Tim instructs.
“Can’t boss me around anymore, Wonder Boy, remember?” But Kon shuts up and flops into the sofa to watch the proceedings anyway.
Mia is particularly unimpressed with Bart's latest move. “Someone tell Bart that he can't use imaginary words in Scrabble.”
Jaime looks at Mia. “But you just did the same thing!”
“Grife is not an imaginary word,” Bart huffs.
“Words from the future don't count.” Cassie's shuffling the Clue cards while giving Tim the old stink-eye. “You know the rules.”
“Hmmph.” Bart pouts. “Don't think I wanna play Scrabble anymore.”
“You can be Mrs. Peacock,” Tim sing-songs. He looks slightly manic. It might just be the juxtaposition of Tim acting so happy-go-lucky. It's fascinating, and slightly unnerving.
Bart looks intrigued. “What about Miss Scarlet?”
Tim sets his shoulders back and looks up haughtily. “I'm Miss Scarlet.”
Mia lifts her hand as if to pat his head, then clearly thinks better of it. “Of course you are.”
Their game is loud and boisterous, and pretty soon everyone else has abandoned what they're doing to watch and cheer the players on. Tim keeps making pronouncements about the culprit, until Cassie announces, “I did it. In the living room. With my bare hands.”
Tim smiles sweetly. “Look who's disregarding the rules now?” He gets the plastic noose flicked at his forehead for that. He answers Cassie’s only-halfway-serious glare with a stone-faced, unblinking expression of his own. They keep it up for nearly a minute until Cassie finally blinks and backs down, cursing as Tim cackles in victory.
“S’not fair,” she protests. “You’ve only been practicing that bitchface from, like, the womb.”
Tim manages to look regal in a t-shirt and sweatpants. “My bitchface is one of my few joys in life at the moment.”
The culprit is Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick. When Cassie demands a rematch, Tim smirks and settles back like he's been here all along, like he never left. It feels... right.
None of them ask how long Tim’s planning on staying. Nobody wants to ruin the moment.
“Lessons learned this weekend,” Jaime proclaims when he gets home Sunday evening. “Kids love me.”
Mom pats his head. “Of course they do, mijo. You're easy to love.” When Jaime tries to grab a cookie fresh out of the oven, she gently swats him away. “Just don't let it get to your head.”
Jaime doesn't think anyone else on the team gets regular pep talks from their moms. But then again he's pretty sure that most of them are motherless, or orphans. Or, in Kon's case, has two daddies.
It isn’t until he’s packing his backpack for school the next morning when Jaime realizes (well, Khaji-Da reminds him) that he was supposed to quit this weekend.
Well. He’ll give it another week or two. See how things go.
all the old showstoppers
bren_duh: Wait a minute. Hold the proverbial phone.
bren_duh: You said you were going to quit.
bren_duh: You had your big speech and everything: “I am Quitting”.
wwtkd: I know, I know. I was going to!
wwtkd: It's just that I got there and it was like the first episode of a sitcom that'd been running for a while, right? Where seventy-five percent of the cast has left and they're throwing things at the wall to see what sticks and the show is barely recognizable. It was like that, except without the bad 80's hair.
wwtkd: I was so surprised that I hadn't gotten the axe and so bewildered by the changes that quitting just didn't occur to me.
bren_duh: For three whole days?
wwtkd: For three whole days.
abigstick: NO BRENDA HE CAN'T QUIT NOW
abigstick: SUPERBOY'S ON THE TEAM NOW
abigstick: HE AND SUPERBOY NEED TO BECOME FRIENDS
abigstick: SO WE CAN BE FRIENDS
bren_duh: Okay, am I allowed to say that your fascination with Superboy is quasi-homoerotic in nature? Can I say that?
abigstick: you are clearly just jealous of my pursuit of a kindred spirit.
abigstick: with whom i can commune.
wwtkd: Hey there. What about me? :p
abigstuck: dude you're still my best friend
abigstick: but as much as i adore you as my partner in not-at-all crime, you're not quite at bro status. you're just... you're jaime.
abigstick: that's BETTER than a bro.
bren_duh: Someday, I will write an epic memoir about our time together.
bren_duh: It will be called
bren_duh: “NOT TONIGHT, PACO”
wwtkd: (Scarab's loling too, btw)
bren_duh: And then the inevitable follow-up
bren_duh: “NOT EVER, PACO”.
abigstick: woman what am i going to do with you
bren_duh: I don't know, bro.
The Friday after what Mia calls the “Wonder Girl-knows-best incident”, “Uncle Mike” picks Jaime up from school in the middle of AP Econ for a “dentist's appointment” (oh, har har). Jaime figures that the designation isn't that far off. Booster's like the cool but flaky uncle who always gives out the best presents and takes you for rides on his motorcycle while your parents shake their heads on the front lawn (except that it's a timesphere instead of a motorcycle, but details, details). Plus he has the best Ted Kord stories ever by virtue of being his heterosexual life partner or whatever the hell was going on there.
“Beetle-buddy!” Booster swings an arm around Jaime's shoulder as soon as they're off school grounds. “Ready to head off into the wild blue yonder? Come sail the friendly time-skies?”
“I can't believe anyone ever thought you were cool enough to sell toothpaste,” Jaime replies, knowing that he can get away with it. “If this is a timestream thing, couldn't it have waited until after school?”
“Hey, you wanna go back and sit bored out of your mind for two more hours before we go adventuring, be my guest.”
Jaime pretends to think on this for a moment. Crusty Mr. Pierce with his graphs versus exhilarating but slightly terrifying adventure: no contest. “No, no, I'm good!”
An errant piece of anachronistic tech that could potentially be used as the crucial piece of a doomsday machine constructed by Lex Luthor's granddaughter seventy-three years from now is successfully plucked from 1981 Tallahassee and secured with the Justice League of 2062 (headed up by a Flash who grins an awful lot like an Allen). All the while, Booster makes horrible jokes about disco and expounds at great length on his theory that Lady Gaga is either an illustrious ancestor or an illustrious descendant. It becomes increasingly clear through their miniature adventure that this was probably just a one man job; all that Jaime really contributes is some minor tracking and a bad guy zapped here and there. But Jaime's known all along that a large reason for the team-up was for Booster to check up on him. In his fratboyish, slightly failtastic way, but it's oddly sweet nonetheless.
Once they're back in the timesphere, Booster bangs on the controls a little indiscriminately until they bleep and bloop to his satisfaction. “Where to, kiddo?”
"Back to the future, McFly." Yeah, it's a totally obvious joke, but Jaime's completely exhausted the Doctor Who references. “It's a little early, but I'm due at the Tower in a few hours anyway. As long as you don't accidentally dump me in the Bay or something.”
“Geez, Blue, that was only the one time.” Booster fidgets all the way through the nineties before he opens up. “Not to get all protective mentor-type on you, but being a Titan isn't exactly a job requirement if you don't want it to be. I don't know if you've noticed, but uh, you guys have a history of dropping like flies.”
Jaime watches the time waves or whatever they are ripple against the shell of the timesphere. “I've noticed. Is this a protective mentor cautionary speech? Because I haven't gotten one of those in a good few months."
And there's no quicker way to get Booster flustered than to insinuate any sort of expected, mundane responsibility. “No, actually, I just- well, wouldn't you rather be out having fun?”
“I am having fun,” Jaime answers. “I know how to take care of myself. And I think that things are looking up. For once." He doesn't add 'I hope', but that part's pretty self-evident.
The Tower's quiet when Booster drops him off. It's strange, like being at school after hours, when it's empty of people and half the lights are off.
Tim's asleep on the lounge's sofa. Which is a surprise, because he was starting to think that Tim never actually slept. He's snoring softy, and his arms are raised to bracket his head. From Jaime's angle, it looks as though he's fending off something in his sleep.
Jaime's first instinct is to find somewhere else to study – the easy chair Kon broke last week, his own Ikea-bland room here. Other than an old quilt from home and a picture of his family, there's nothing personal in his bedroom; he'd never really had enough time to spend in it beforehand to want to make it homey.
Maybe it's because Tim's left himself out in the open in such a vulnerable state, or maybe it's just because Jaime is lazy, but he stays. There's just enough space left on the far end of the sofa for Jaime to squeeze in. He waits for Tim to wake up or move, but he doesn't stir.
Twenty-some pages into As I Lay Dying, Tim shifts and stretches in his sleep. His toes bump once and again against Jaime's thigh, restless. He sleeps as fitfully as Milagro.
Jaime's still getting used to seeing him without the mask, but asleep it's almost too personal, too intimate. Tim without his mask is like a completely different person. It blows Jaime's mind that something so little could have such an impact, that it could hide him to such an extent.. It's more than that, though; it's movements, voice, facial expressions. The way he puckers up his mouth when he thinks someone's said something totally stupid. Tim and Robin are two different people (or 'were', if he doesn't get his job back). All Jaime knows of Tim, really, is his name, his former occupation, and a few randomly gleaned insights into his life and personality.
Well, that and his sudden yen for snack food.
Another eight pages later, Tim pokes his head up. Nobody can pretend when they first wake up; Tim blinks at Jaime a bit quizzically, like a turtle poking out of his shell at an intruder. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Jaime suddenly feels super awkward. Why, hello, here I am all up in your personal space! Because Batpeople love that.
"What time is it?"
"Nearly time for everyone to start showing up, I guess."
"Hmm." Jaime's half-expecting Tim to bolt, but instead he draws his knees up and blinks sleep from his eyes. When he yawns, his face looks temporarily unguarded, younger.
"I, uh." Jaime takes Tim's continued presence as a license to speak. "It's weird to think of you as someone who actually sleeps."
"I sleep!" Tim insists this with the resignation of someone who has heard this all before. "Not even upside down. And sometimes for more than three hours at a time."
"Remind me to time you next time I find you napping, then." Which would be a ridiculous thing for Jaime to say a month or two ago, but this is a brave new world where Tim wears sweatpants. "Look, I haven't really gotten a chance to talk to you since-" Since things went to shit again, since Tim changed from being mostly withdrawn and emotionally unavailable to completely withdrawn and emotionally unavailable. “I'm sorry about your-” Dad? It isn't apathy; Jaime just doesn't know what to say that's better than sorry.
Tim can't stop his face from twisting. It's ever so slight, but it's there; the Scarab has to point it out to Jaime. “It's okay. I – thank you.” His smile comes as a conscious afterthought, only slightly strained. “He liked you, you know.”
“Really?” Jaime has an immediate regret for how eager he sounded just then, but almost nobody can blame him for getting excited over that, right?
Tim nods. "He said that you were green and initially overeager, but that you held 'great potential'. That's more of a compliment than half of us ever get."
"Oh, wow." He knows that he's probably acting like a total fanboy right now, but Batman. "Um, while we're being temporarily emotionally open, can I ask you something?"
Tim almost laughs at that one. "Shoot."
"What pronoun should I be using for Bart?" Once that's out, Jaime plunges ahead. "Because he, um, Bart wears a lot of dresses and I know he's from the future and I don't want to assume anything but at the same time I want to be nice!”
“No, he's just... Bart. He says that in the future, skirts are unisex." He looks down, smiling a little to himself. "Not everyone would ask or care. It's... very sweet of you. You're very sweet.”
“Wow, did I just get a compliment? It isn't even Christmas or the end of the world.”
“It's always the end of the world,” Tim says.
Jaime tries to get his brain to formulate some sort of sufficient response to that, but gets interrupted by Mia and Cassie breezing in, talking about stupid boys. Then Kon shows up, and he's got the dog with him, and the resultant shenanigans replace anything else that could have happened.
The dynamics seem to have shifted with the latest shake-up. Jaime keeps on expecting for his ass to get booted out if the winds change. Which is a scream, seeing as he was going to quit, but he had never had seniority, had never been able to share in on the dinnertime reminiscing about adventures gone by. Much of it seems due to Bart, who seems obsessed with the concept of togetherness, of performing togetherness, perhaps more importantly. He's declared himself the de facto team activities coordinator (with a t-shirt and everything). He's the one who rouses everyone from their Sunday morning stupors and pushes them out into the city, together, Tim and all. For Jaime it's a hell of a lot more fun than sitting around watching everyone else be either passive-aggressive or aggressive-aggressive at each other, AKA his stint here before Bart and Kon showed up, so he's grateful for the realization that Titans wasn't going to be like that all the time. Nobody throws rank or attitude when, say, the general consensus is for going outside instead of staying in waiting for alarms to go off.
More importantly, Jaime’s finding himself actually looking forward to seeing everyone, and no longer thinking “Oh boy, so what new horror will we all endure this weekend?”
It's... a pretty nice feeling.
TEAM MEETING MINUTES, WEEK 5 OF ACTUALLY WRITING THEM DOWN, DICTATED BY SUPERBOY, WRITTEN BY K. FLASH.
Meeting is called to a start. Minutes are read by Bart, since he does it at speed and then this stupid meeting is that much shorter.
Taker of the minutes (that would be me) once again lodges a formal protest with regards to being forced to write down the minutes on account of how this shit is wack. Said protest is unfairly overruled by the tyrannical majority. Taker of minutes wishes for it to be stated for the record that YOU WILL ALL PAY DEARLY FOR YOUR MOCKERY SOMEDAY.
Order of business: more or less a direct quote: “Please do not add each other on social networking sites unless you have a viable reason to socialize with that person in your civilian life. and if, say, Tim over here thinks that your reason isn't sound-”
Complaint is lodged that Tim is a (in another direct quote): “a paranoid bastard” and therefore a more reasonable system should be devised.
Tim: “Tough titty.”
Meeting then dissolves into a fourteen minute friendly debate on a) whether “tough titty” is sexist or just stupid b) the etymological origins of “tough titty” and c) whether or not it is in Tim's character to use such language. The subject in question smirks in his seat for the entirety of said discussion.
Complaint is lodged as to why the hell Tim gets to sit in on the meetings, anyway, seeing as he is currently neither a Titan nor a vigilante.
Cassie: Because experience know-how perspective, blah blah.
Tim: Because tough titty, that's why. Also, if you really want to blather to each other on the internet so badly, why not use a social networking service specifically designed for your young hero demographic?
The writer of minutes asks the question of whether such a site actually exists.
Tim: Give me twelve hours.
Smash cut to –
WELCOME TO CAPEBOOK
Jaime went to sign up out of curiosity and discovered that an account had already been set up for him, with all of his basic stats filled out except for “relationship status”. Which was nice and non-presumptive of Tim, he supposes.
-enjoying marriage privileges others do not have
-still in that disgusting touchy-feely stage
-sex, please, we're Arrows
Q: What is Capebook?
A: It is a completely confidential, completely security-minded social networking site for young vigilantes.
Q: How young?
A: Green Arrow is not allowed.
Q: I can't bookmark Capebook and it doesn't show up in my browser history. Why not?
A: A traceable, bookmarkable Capebook would defeat the purpose of a social networking site dedicated to preserving the secret identities of vigilante heroes, don't you think?
Q: I have gone Evil. Can I still use Capebook?
A: If your Evil has continued for seventy-five straight hours without an independently verified explanation, your Capebook account will be put on probation. Once it has been established a) that it was all part of a well thought out plan and that you were only pretending to be Evil or b) you were under mind control and got better (as will happen 99.9% of the time) your account will be reinstated.
Q: Why can't I post more than one video or poll to Capebook at a time?
A: Because you don't need to.
Q: But I need to post this video/poll/what dead German philosopher I am!
A: No. You don't.
Q: Even if I've been dead and it's new to me?
A: Even if you've been dead and it's new to you.
Q: This doesn't seem fair.
A: This is Capebook. It doesn't have to be fair. The TOS never states anything about fairness. What, you didn't read the TOS before you signed up?
You should have.
“Oh my god,” Cassie said. “He was serious. Of course he was serious.”
“Oh my god,” Mia said, grinning. “Roy's already been preemptively banned.”
“Oh my god,” Kon said. “I can't believe he won't let me post that video of the turtles having sex.”
“Oh my god!” Bart said. He’s already filled out his profile, changed his profile picture five times, and created the very first Capebook group (“Flashes do it with the Speed Force”, thirteen current members).
Everyone is absolutely obsessed for the next two weekends. When Cassie catches Kon checking his Blackberry in the middle of a clash with the Royal Flush Gang (and who the hell names these guys, anyway?), she has to threaten to cancel the Tower’s wifi, “And the MPAA is already breathing down my neck to make us film an anti-piracy PSA, so our internet-related troubles are bad enough as it is.”
Throughout the ruckus, Tim just sits in his new favorite chair and tries his best to look innocent. “Do you really believe that encouraging monopolizing corporations to harassing and guilt-tripping their rapidly shrinking consumer base is a worthwhile investment of our time?”
Cassie narrows her eyes in mock-fury. “Oh, don’t you start with me.”
Kon’s brow furrows as he checks his profile yet again. “Hey, how come Bart's profile is under his real name?”
Bart plays with the spangles on his skirt. “Because I contain multitudes. And I'm contemplating an identity change.”
“Because I play favorites,” Tim says.
“Yes, that too! Do you think that Bart Mercury would sound impressive enough?”
Jaime winds up selecting “single”. Dammit.
The first official Capebook sanctioned event is a poetry slam organized by Kara. It takes place in the kitchen, “where the light is more conducive to Art.” Bart is the only other participant, though the sheer scope of his contribution could have arguably intimidated and stupefied any other hopefuls. “This,” Bart announces, “is a poem in the epic style about Max Mercury, the greatest hero of all time.”
The next forty minutes are accompanied only by Kon playing Dead Space in the next room and Tim snapping his approval beatnik style every so often.
At least there are cupcakes.
Then Bart tries to get a book club going. He sets up a suggestion box by the locker rooms. Jason Todd's Capebook page scores the highest number of votes.
“Don't look at me,” Kon says between bites of a quadruple decker sandwich. “I voted for Slaughterhouse Five.”
"Actually, it's Slaughterhouse Four," Mia calls out as she passes.
"You lie," Kon shoots back, but he looks briefly troubled.
Bart doesn't seem to mind. “No, we might be on to something! An exploration of new media! Nonfiction and fiction blurring in the realm of the post-post-postmodern!”
Tim is tweezering the crumbs from Kon's sandwich and placing them back on his plate. “Or it's just Jason being Jason.”
Granted, Jason Todd's Capebook page is a pretty interesting read, filled with non-sequiturs and ever more elaborate and demeaning nicknames for the new Robin. But is it Art?
“Oh! I didn't even think!” Bart's sitting on Tim's knee now; Tim doesn't blink. “Jason is still a sore subject for you, isn't he?”
Tim puts down his tweezers and ghosts a hand around Bart's hip. The casual nature of the action is – Jaime doesn't know what it means. “Are you kidding me? Last week he sent me footage of him drop-kicking the new Robin off a fifteen story building. It was like Christmas. He's the only member of my family who isn't on my shit list right now.”
"Seriously, guys." Kon appears to be in the midst of a serious philosophical moment. "It's Slaughterhouse Five, right?"
"Oh, Kon." Tim looks across at Jaime and Jaime is not that knowledgeable about deciphering Bat-Emotions but that is probably a smile. Directed at him. "Everybody knows it's Slaughterhouse Seven."
While Jaime’s perfectly happy with the rallying around Tim that’s been going on, it's a little harder for him to get into the spirit of getting all anti-Batman. Batman had always been nice to him, right? Nice by Batman levels, anyway. So on one hand, Jaime understands people’s sense of loyalty to Tim and subsequent distrust of New Batman (now with fewer calories!). On the other hand, those are some serious boots to fill, so Jaime was perfectly happy giving him the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.
Perfectly happy, that is, until the Titans have to tangle with the new Robin.
“Oh my god, he tried to bite me.” Kon is still staring at his arm, stunned at the recollection. “It would have broken his teeth, and he knows that. Who *does* that?”
“Kon, the first time that we met I tried to punch you,” Tim points out.
“Well. That was different," Kon reasons. "We had an immediate rapport."
Mia undoes her boots. “I will admit that before now, I thought you and Bart were maybe going a little bit overboard with this anti new Robin thing, but make me secretary of your little club now. This kid is a jerk.”
“I know I know!” Bart wails in sympathy. His hands are up at his face as his whole body rocks back and forth in barely-suppressed dismay. “Robin isn't supposed to be a jerk! It's a rule!”
“I don't know, wasn't Jason kind of a jerk Robin?” Cassie asks.
Mia stops stretching and frowns. “I think that Jason had some pretty good reasons to act like a jerk. And I don't think that he was a shitty person. He's not a shitty person now.”
“You're just saying that because he sends dismembered little valentines to you.”
“He does not!” Cassie feints as if to grab her, but Mia ducks. Or more like Cassie lets her duck. “Okay, he sent the thumb that one time, but they're not really valentines. He just really wants a friend and doesn't know how to admit it.”
There's silence. Tim looks up from his reading. “What is everybody looking at me like that for?”
“He sent you a thumb in the mail.” Cassie can't let it go. “That means love. That means a crush.”
“Sure, except for the part where he sent me a thumb in the mail. Unless he secretly hand-delivered it, which is very much possible with him.”
Cassie’s arm loops around the back of Mia’s neck. “Doesn't sound like a denial to me.”
Bart drums “L’Internationale” on the table for attention. “I have a solution!”
Tim’s apparently given up on reading entirely. “Bart, if this involves the spare Robin suit I once gave you, then I have to say that it’s probably a bit tight in the waist for you now. Sadly.”
Bart waves Tim off. “That’s Plan B! We must form a Club. A club dedicated to ousting the replacement, for he is too young and too ornery, with the intention of reinstating Tim, or at least making New Batman apologize and grovel while Tim surveys his options.”
Kara looks pretty eager. “So what exactly would we be doing in this club?
“Upholding the integrity of the Robin brand, organizing actions to bring attention to the plight of Tim as previous and rightful owner of the name,” Bart ticks off on his fingers, “but first and foremost, shunning the Batman.”
“So what we’ve been doing so far, except all organized? Fair enough.”
"Exactly!" Ideas are clearly percolating within Bart's head now at lightning speed; he leaves and then returns with an armful of badges, which he dumps onto the coffee table, the floor, and Tim's lap. The badges are red, and feature the insignia "RRR" and a stick figure Robin. It isn't great art by any means; the only facial features are a mask and a huge scowl, but it's a charming, deliberate sort of crude. "We can each put one on our costumes! Jaime, I could make one magnetized so it could stick to your armor, or whatever solution you see fit!" Kara's immediately, proudly sticking one right next to her S, then Kon and Cassie are reaching for them as well.
Jaime looks at Tim to gauge his response, but apparently emotional openness time is over. "Of course, Bart. Scarab's totally on board with this plan."
"Tim!" Bart's got his hands on Tim's knees, their noses two inches away. "We're in your corner! We're going to get this all sorted, and then everything will be the way it used to again!"
"Of course," Tim says, and he lets Bart hug him, but it's said with the same mild tone that he uses all the time. It could mean anything.
The first social action of the RRR comes quickly enough. After assisting the (new, new, new) Justice League with a prison break at Belle Reve, Bart behaves perfectly normally until every prisoner is safely back in their cell and the damaged interior walls are rebuilt. Then he puts his hands on his hips and says in his best hero voice, “Thank you for your assistance, every member of the JLA with the exception of Batman!” Seconds later: “No, Grandpa, I will not apologize!”
Jaime just looks down at his feet while this is happening because he can’t help but feel a little sorry for the guy. The first Batman had been nice to him, actually nice, and while he doesn’t know enough about the new guy and he’s not faulting everyone’s loyalty to Tim, it must sort of suck to be in his boots right now. It’s not like he doesn’t know that his Robin is a psychopath.
Everyone’s still bitching about it when they get back into town. Kon’s Superchest heaves a mighty sigh. “Superman just gave me the 'we have to be respectful' talk, and I hate it when that happens. I have cornfed platitudes coming out my ears now.” It still kinda freaks Jaime out when someone rags on Superman, because! It's Superman! But he tries not to show it, because nobody else in the group blinks.
“Heh, I have nothing to complain about,” Mia says. “Ole GA totally gave me a thumbs-up when nobody was looking.” She stops in the middle of Union Square and announces, “So I don't know about everyone else, but I haven't eaten in about seven hours and this girl needs a cheeseburger, like, right now.”
Everyone yells “Seconded!” at the same time, so they roll into the nearest kitschy late night diner, the kind that advertises as late “Nite” with a menu five miles long.
Kara gives her best All American Girl smile to the staff. “You guys cool with a bunch of superpowered losers eating here?”
Jaime nudges her. “Hey, speak for yourself on the loser bit.” They pile into the largest booth, their suits squeaking against the glittery vinyl seats.
Tim enters seven minutes after they do in sunglasses and a flannel shirt and sits at the table kitty-corner to theirs.
“Look at him pretending that he doesn't know us,” Kon says in what he probably intends to be a whisper.
Mia gives him her best ‘you are sort of an idiot but I’m going to humor you anyway’ face. “It's for purposes of plausible deniability.”
“Plausible deniability? There are, like, three other people in here, and one of them is asleep.”
“Constant vigilance,” Tim suddenly says, somehow without making it obvious that he's talking to their table. He smirks up at the approaching waiter.
Throughout the meal, Tim manages to carry on a conversation with them solely through his eyebrows. The waiter is paying a lot more attention to him than he is to their table.
Kara sighs. “How is he not going to the bathroom, like, all the time? He's on his fourth cup of coffee and I have yet to receive my cheese fries.”
Cassie shovels half of her fries onto Kara’s plate to placate her. “Leave him alone. He's flirting.”
“Oh, wow, he's into blondes now?” Mia asks around her cheeseburger.
“Blonds,” Bart corrects. “Without the E.” He'd been watching Jaime eat through his armor with an archaeologist's zeal up until now.
“He was never not into blondes,” Cassie says. “Well, sort of. Blonds and blondes. Tim’s love life is confusing.”
Apparently Tim is flirting with the waiter but Jaime can't tell too much of a difference from how Tim acts all the time. Except he's smiling a little more. Mia notices his confusion. “It's subtle to anyone who isn't him,” she explains. “This is actually flirting on an outrageous scale by Tim standards. Look at those eyelashes.” Tim is indeed peering up at the waiter from behind surprisingly thick lashes. The waiter laughs and looks away and yeah, Jaime can see it now.
“Blonds,” Jaime just says. “Huh.” He doesn't know why he's so stuck on it.
“He doesn't really have a type!” Bart says. “He's crafty like that! But his last boyfriend was blond.”
Kon spits out a good deal of his sandwich like a slapstick hero. “WAIT. WHAT?”
“Oh gods, will you shush?” Cassie says. "We can't take you anywhere."
“I'll shush if someone tells me who the hell Tim's boyfriend was!”
Tim gives the entire diner his best “I know you bitches are talking about me” smirk and oh-so-casually runs a hand through his hair.
Jaime isn't surprised at the boy part of the boyfriend thing so much as the relationship part. Sure, he joined just in time for whatever was going on with Tim and Cassie to implode (perhaps nobody will ever know what that was all about), but it became increasingly clear that all they ever did was sit in dark rooms and be sad about Kon together. And then Cassie started making out with every teenage girl in the Bay area and Tim left, and everyone else was left completely clueless.
Thinking about Tim being sexual is – weird, because he's never acted like that in front of Jaime.
It isn't impossible, though.
“Since when did the whole world start macking on Tim?” Kon asks through about twenty fries stuffed into his mouth at once.
“I don't mack on Tim,” half the team says, and Bart goes, “You say that like this is some sort of new development.”
“Let me rephrase: Tim appreciating the macking is a new thing,” Kon clarifies with a gesture towards Tim’s table.
Tim's got one hand cradling his head as he looks up at the waiter, one glossy lock falling just so to frame an eye. Did Jaime just describe it as a glossy lock? It’s the only accurate description that comes to mind, embarrassingly enough.
With his tongue between his teeth, Bart is building a to scale rendition of what he claims is the Chrysler Building out of his french fries. “He was a civilian. The boyfriend, that is.” The fry structure begins to topple; he's got the bottom half rebuilt and reinforced before the top is done crumbling apart. “And their relationship, while lengthy by Tim standards, didn't last that long, and it’s been a while since then. So no, you're not as out of the loop as you seem to think.” He sounds distracted, which isn't new for Bart, but his tone is dismissive, even cranky, which is definitely new.
Kon seems pacified for the moment, and occupies himself with collecting enough quarters from the team to play Springsteen on the jukebox. It initially seems like cruel and unusual punishment, but Kon is really into “Born to Run”. Like, really into it. Tim rolls his eyes when he’s not batting them at the waiter. He catches Jaime looking at him and winks; Jaime looks down at his plate.
When they're done eating, Kon gets up, grabs Tim under his arms, and flips him until he's draped over Kon's shoulder.
“Unhand me, you brute,” Tim says without a smidgen of concern. He wriggles in the supergrip, but Kon persists.
“Nope. You're staying like this.” He then starts marching out of the diner. The rest of the team follows suit.
“It's okay,” Jaime tells the cashier on his way out. “He's with the band.”
They tip generously.
They spill out into the street, Tim still hoisted over Kon's shoulder. “Gee,” Tim says. He's bobbing up and down in tandem with Kon's steps. “I seem to remember something you said once. Something... regarding how you didn't not want to touch me, but you had a manly reputation to uphold.”
“You see my hands anywhere near your hands, dude?”
Tim pretends to ponder this. “Because your TTK on my ass is so much more heterosexual.”
Kon just hums. Bart snorts at them and zips ahead to lock arms with Kara. They hum together softly, wordlessly.
“So did you get his number?” Mia asks.
Tim harrumphs. “What do you take me for?”
“So that's a yes, right?”
“I've never really done dating.” He's upside down and his face is half smushed into Kon's shoulder-blade, but Tim's expression could be classified as wistful if Jaime’s interpreting it correctly. He doesn't exhibit any discomfort or annoyance at being hauled around by Kon like a sack of potatoes; quite the contrary, in fact.
“That still isn't a yes or no answer,” Mia persists.
Tim shakes his head. “I'm not really fit for human consumption right now.” He says it in a “I would really rather not talk about this anymore” sort of way, so Mia drops it.
It's one of the few times that they all felt, to Jaime, like friends. Not just coworkers or something equally impersonal. Jaime has always *wanted* to believe the whole “Titans are friends, Titans are family” deal, but it always feels like everyone else is nostalgic for a time that never actually existed the way they wanted it to, something that was never quite true in the first place. It's bad enough that Jaime's totally late to the party, but Eddie and M’gann totally had stars in their eyes about being on The Team, and scary scary Rose only stuck around as long as she did because she had some weird love/hate thing going on with Cassie. Mia doesn't seem to hold any illusions, but it's hard to tell what Mia's up to most of the time in the first place. Now, Jaime feels like he sticks out like more of a big blue sore thumb, all over-earnest and out of the loop.
Jaime has to stop overthinking. “I feel like we're all about to start singing “Tiny Dancer” or something.”
“I loved that movie,” Kara rhapsodizes. Bart’s up on her shoulders now, swaying slightly with each step.
“We should go do karaoke.” Mia's walking in stride with Cassie, which isn't the simplest of feats. Their hands and hips keep brushing every few steps. Huh.
“Easy there partner,” Kara's saying because Bart's blurring because he can hardly contain himself. “THAT IS AN EXCELLENT IDEA,” he chirps. “AND WE ALL TOTALLY HAVE ENOUGH ENERGY FOR IT RIGHT NOW, TOO.”
Cassie laughs. “You won't think so when we all crash as soon as we reach the Tower. We'll do it soon, though.”
“Should we fly back the rest of the way?” Kon’s gently rearranging Tim, who’s closed his eyes. Jaime’s pretty sure that he isn’t asleep, just resting, but he still looks… more at peace than Jaime’s ever seen him, the tension gone from his limbs and face. He’s worried about looking for too long in case Tim opens his eyes and catches Jaime, but for now he’s content with studying the contrast of his pale face against the black of Kon’s shirt.
“Nah,” Cassie says. “It's a nice night. Let's keep walking.”
who cares you always end up in the city
Weeks pass and patterns begin to emerge. Jaime starts skipping out on seventh period study hall on a regular basis, and then starts working on Ms. Porter in sixth period AP European History. If his parents ever find out, he's going to get the latest verse of the “we don't want this part of your life to negatively impact your other priorities” song, but Jaime's built up enough capital in being a good enough, polite student that he's cut some slack. Usually he has about half an hour before anyone else starts filing in, and it's not like he and Tim are conspiring or doing anything special in that time. It's just – nice. They're quiet together. Jaime reads or does homework or scribbles, and Tim sits in a chair in the lounge with his laptop or a thick book and offers a comment here and there until everyone else shows up. It’s a nice routine.
It's around this time that Tim starts patching into the communicators when they're out on missions.
Kon guffaws when his voice comes through. “Miss us that much?”
“I like to keep an eye on people,” Tim replies, which just might be the understatement of the year.
Cassie rolls her eyes hard enough to be seen several states over. “What should we be calling you?”
“Administrator is fine," Tim says.
Kon snorts. “Sounds mighty S&M of you. Please, Administrator Sir, I want some more.”
For that infraction, Tim blasts a country song that's titled, Jaime soon learns, “She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy”.
“Are you turning this into a city versus rural thing?” Kon asks when he's done yowling in feigned musical pain.
Tim tuts over the communicator. “Poor baby. Pizza will be here when you get back to make it up to you.”
“Will it be Hawaiian?" Kon demands. "Because dude, Hawaiian pizza made anywhere outside of Hawaii is a complete and utter blasphemy. Which doesn't mean that I won't eat it if you order it.”
And some girl looks at Kon and says, “Hey, aren't you? I mean, I thought you were dead.”
Everyone groans as Kon says for the seventeenth time that afternoon, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated!”
“That's not the only thing that's been exaggerated,” Mia shoots back.
“We're putting him up for sale if you're interested,” Cassie tells the girl. “Scratch and dent. Slightly used, but cheap.”
“In all definitions of the word!” Bart chimes in.
“I... I missed you guys so much," Tim says.
Bart grins and grins. “We missed you too!”
“Bring back donuts,” Tim says as he signs off.
Bart turns half of the machines on at the Musee Mechanique at once, much to the dismay of the sleepy-eyed clerk up front. Jaime plays a game of vintage Skeeball and watches Kon bitch at Mia and Cassie for hogging the slideshow viewer that shows “EXOTIC BELLYDANCING FROM THE ORIENT”. He eventually gives up and joins Jaime, which isn't exactly a fair fight.
“Oh yeah!” Kon howls when he gets yet another high score. “Like a boss!”
“That is so old meme,” Kara scoffs.
Tim turns from the carnival display to clarify, “Kon is old meme.”
“It's new to me!” Bart says, not helping any.
“Yeah,” Kon adds, “listen to the little guy. Aw, motherfucker!” In his excitement, he’s accidentally punched a fist-sized hole in the Skeeball machine.
“Don’t look at me,” Cassie says. “He’s not my responsibility anymore.”
Tim puts a hand to his forehead. “Yeah, but you’re the one with the Titans checkbook.”
They're at the pirate store and Mia's sweet-talked the clerk into commandeering a cord by the front desk that connects to a box attached to the ceiling that, when pulled, dumps roughly two dozen mop-heads down on Tim's head. “I don't care if you kick my ass after this,” Mia crows, “the look on your face was totally worth it.”
Tim, for his part, stands there with his arms crossed and an expression that Jaime can’t decide whether to read as 'placid' or 'enormously put-upon'. “I have suffered far greater indignities than this,” he tells Mia. “Also, I will gain my revenge when you least expect it.”
Bart tips his pointy hat in Tim’s honor. “Like a boss.” Kon looks smug.
Administrator has formed the group “Seriously, stop eating my cheese. I've been reduced to petitioning Capebook in an attempt to protect what's rightfully mine”.
They're acting like friends, how this was the way things have been all along, as opposed to the way things should have been all along. They’re blundering around and sticking together, they’re exhibiting a solidarity that even Bart acts surprised by. Their attitude is seemingly touching everything around them – villains are a little less dangerous, a little easier to vanquish, civilians are a little less likely to cringe when they see Titans out and about on the street. The sky seems clearer; someone is always laughing.
Jaime’s not sure how much of it is in their heads. How long this can last.
The Berkeley police department requests their presence at a student-led political march in the middle of sunny September. Even the founders seem a little fuzzy about what, exactly, they’re marching about, but it’s enough for the powers that be to get concerned about security.
“Plus, you know, sunshine,” Cassie offers as incentive. “Fresh air? Ring a bell to any of you? Kon, Kara and I will remain in costume for visibility. Mia, Bart, Jaime? Feel like doing some incognito work?”
“As long as we’re protecting the marchers as much as we’re protecting corporate property, I’m game,” a typical Arrow answer from Mia.
Tim taps his pen on the table. “Request permission to take part in the security detail.”
Cassie looks over at him. “Reason being?”
“That I am bored,” Tim says. “And I would like to get some air. Plus I have a lingering interest in the student protest scene here. There are people at Berkeley writing their dissertations on us as the Hitler Youth prototypes of the new super-militarial-industrial world order as we speak.”
“And I promise you that I'm not writing any of them,” Bart adds.
Cassie stares. “I didn't even realize that was a possibility.”
In the end, Tim sticks pretty close to Jaime as they infiltrate the crowd.
“SOLIDARITY!” Jaime hollers, and totally means it.
Tim is even more into it. “Down with the kyriarchy! Resist the encroachment of the corporate-military-industrial empire!”
“Wow. Are those even real words?”
“I'm pretty sure. All I know about social justice theory, I learned from my ex.” Tim stops briefly, jostled by a few passers-by. He looks at Jaime.
“Oh, right.” Jaime tries to place Tim into context, as he looks right now, wearing nerdy yet stylish glasses and toting a sign. He tries to imagine the blond, blond boyfriend standing next to him, carrying a sign too, maybe giving Tim gentle flack for something.
“So, uh.” Scarab is laughing at him for being such an awkward freak, but Jaime and his curiosity have to ask. "Was it serious?”
Without missing a beat, Tim asks, “Serious as in we were having sex or serious as in we were in love?”
Jaime swallows. With this all new, all forthcoming Tim, Jaime wouldn't be surprised if he started enthusiastically explaining exactly what he had or hadn't done. It’s too late for Jaime’s imagination, though. “Um. Serious by whatever your standards are, I guess?”
“It had the possibility of becoming serious, but he was wrong for me.” Tim steps around a stroller, hops off of the curb. “Or he wasn't wrong and just came along at the wrong time. I don't know. These things happen.”
“That was very broad, you know.”
“I have to maintain my mysterious reputation somehow.” When it becomes obvious that this is nowhere near a satisfactory answer, Tim elaborates. “Dating within the community had lost its appeal for me.” It takes a second for Jaime to realize that he means the hero community. “The boy in question liked me but also didn’t let me get away with a lot of my more aloof coping mechanisms. At the time, I thought that a civilian relationship could, in part, distract me from my seemingly never-ending, um, job troubles. I was wrong, so I managed to goad him into breaking up with me.” He looks sidelong at Jaime. “And yes, he was good in bed.”
Jaime swallows. “Heh,” is all he can get out. He’d look away to hide the flush on his cheeks, but then that would really be calling Tim’s attention to it.
Tim shrugs. “I just don't know how to appropriately interact with people.” He shakes his fist at a small crowd sporting anti-vaccination signs. “When you all get polio, don't come crying to me!” When some of them start giving Tim and Jaime dirty looks, Tim ducks a bit behind the trustafarian brigade and takes Jaime’s hand. His grip is strong, calluses rasping over the sensitive parts of Jaime’s wrist, just below his palm. “Look, the possibility of this getting out of hand was really low in the first place, and everyone else seems to have this in hand. Wanna get out of here?”
Jaime looks around for any other member of the team, but they're pretty well spread out at this point. In the middle distance, he can spy Cassie hovering midair, but she's looking in the opposite direction. “Um, we're still on assignment. I'd really rather not get chewed out for abandoning my post or whatever."
He's pulling Jaime out of the crowd by the hand now - “What are they going to do, fire me?”
Jaime lets himself be pulled, lets himself follow. “They might fire me. And by 'they', I mean Cassie.”
Tim's smile is a little wobbly, like he's trying to look sincere and isn't sure how. Jaime can't make himself say no in the face of it. “I won't let it happen. I promise.”
“I feel a little hesitant to part with my sign. I mean, Bart spent an entire four seconds on it this morning. It's very ornate.”
“It is a masterpiece,” Tim concurs. “That cannot be denied. We’ll try to keep them with us.”
The day is gorgeous, all Indian summer and just enough sun. Tim and Jaime weave through the excited college students and anti-war grannies. They bump together amicably as they work their way. Normally Jaime would be trying to nervously fill the silence, but for now the noise of others is working for them. Their steps are in time, Jaime realizes. It's entirely unconscious.
After passing (and shuddering at) a couple of clowns passing balloons out, Tim says, apropos of absolutely nothing, “I think I'm having some sort of existential crisis.” His tone refuses to betray whether or not he's serious.
"Oh." What do you say to something like that? "It's- yeah, that makes sense. You've been through a lot lately."
"I've always been through a lot." He jams his hands into his pockets, looking down. There's a hesitation in his voice, like there's two Tims: the one who can be this frank and open with Jaime, the one who wants to, and the old Tim, the one who can't and won't let himself. "And I was always okay with that, because that was the life I'd chosen, you know?"
"Yeah," Jaime says, obviously knowing that he has no idea whatsoever.
"But now everything's." The old Tim momentarily wins out, and they pass the next block in silence. "Now I'm surveying my options," Tim's finally able to conclude.
“And how's that working out for you?”
Tim looks around him. “I'm outdoors, with a friend, fighting the power. That's a good start, I think.”
Friend. Not teammate, not 'oh for the love of God, Beetle'. Jaime grins. "Yeah. I think so, too. Also, note that you are dressed like a hipster. That's got to count for something, right?"
“I am not dressed like a hipster,” Tim huffs.
Jaime looks Tim over again, making sure Tim can see. “You are wearing a cardigan over a t-shirt with fluffy kittens on it. And skinny jeans. And Buddy Holly glasses.”
Tim's hand plucks at his sweater's top button. “I chill easily. And the shirt is Bart's.”
“I'm in disguise,” he protests.
Jaime skips ahead, laughing. "Hiiiiiipster." Tim effortlessly catches up to him, then lets Jaime dart ahead again. It isn't a chase, not exactly, but it's a game, an opportunity for Tim to forget himself for about three seconds and dart, laughing, next to lampposts, behind people.
"Seriously, though," Jaime asks when they've caught up to each other, a little breathless (well, Jaime's breathless, at least). "What do you do all week when we're not around?"
Tim's put away his hipster glasses by now, and his cardigan's getting tied around his waist as he speaks. "Sleep, mostly. Catch up on my reading. Capebook is pretty self-sufficient, but I keep tabs on it throughout the day, keep people on their toes."
That... doesn't sound like an awful lot to Jaime. "So you don't leave the Tower all week?"
"I didn't say that," Tim says. "I take little excursions. Look into real estate."
“You can come over to my place for dinner any time you wanted. If you wanted, that is.” The offer comes out abruptly, almost randomly, but Jaime hates the idea of Tim knocking around the empty Tower for days at a time, even if he does enjoy his solitude. “I would've asked you before, but Mom has this rule about no masks at the table. But we'd all be happy to have you, and you could meet my friends, and I could show you around."
Tim looks down at his hands, back up at Jaime. “Maybe I'll take you up on that someday,” and Jaime doesn't believe him. It isn't a cruel lie, but.
"Oh guys here you are I have an idea well I had an idea and now I'm in the middle of implementing it do you wanna help?" Jaime's going to get used to this whole 'Bart out of fucking nowhere' concept one of these days. Right now, he yelps from the surprise of him suddenly being in front of them. Scarab snickers.
Tim is characteristically unflappable. “I thought you were still at the march.”
“Oh, that? That was ages ago. I'm doing this now.” Bart's balancing a stack of bakery boxes on one knee. The construction tilts precariously. “Wanna help me hand out cookies to people for no reason?”
“Is this some sort of superhero outreach thing?”
“No!” Bart gestures to his street clothes in agitation. “No superheroing! This is some sort of handing cookies out to people for no reason thing.”
“Of course,” Tim says as if this goes without question.
“Oh, hey, my shirt! You look nice, Tim.” Bart somehow finds a few free fingers to pet Tim’s chest with, right over the fuzziest kitten’s face.
“Thank you,” Tim says, and that’s that.
“Gluten free!” Bart calls out. “We have gluten free! And oatmeal raisin chocolate chip! That’s like eating two cookies at the same time!” A small crowd gather, and people file past hungrily.
Someone tries to take two out of the box and Tim just looks at him.
“No, we are not part of any political, religious, environmental or any other obnoxious organization,” Jaime swears to a couple of touristy-looking women.
Cassie and Mia roll up when the last of the cookies have disappeared down the throats of dreadlocked teenagers. Cassie has her hands on her hips.“Nice to know that you boys are keeping yourselves busy.”
Jaime immediately feels quasi-guilty, but Cassie’s exasperated expression doesn’t seem to be aimed at him, so here’s hoping. “What did we miss?”
“Mia punched a cop,” Cassie says with the same tone that anyone else would use to announce that dinner was ready.
Mia makes a frustrated noise. “You're worse than Connor on the whole tattling thing, jeez.”
“Since when do we get to punch cops?” Bart recyles the cookie boxes and is in the midst of making wispy paper cranes of the leftover napkins. “Is this a new rule?”
“We don't,” Cassie says at the same time that Mia says, “When they sexually harass protesters, we get to punch them. Arrow rule.”
Cassie sighs her most put-upon sigh. “We cannot become a police brutality watch group.”
Mia’s got a spark in her eyes. “Well maybe we should. If working with Ollie has taught me anything, it's that sometimes you just have to punch a cop.”
Tim’s trying really hard not to laugh, Jaime can tell. “That really needs to be your yearbook quote.”
Mia throws him a wink. “You know it, baby.” She turns back to Cassie. “Don’t make me call you a fatcat.”
“Oh, it wouldn’t have any effect on me, anyway. You don’t have a mustache to curl.”
“This is normal for them, isn’t it?” Jaime whispers to Tim.
Tim leans in to whisper back; Jaime can’t stop the shiver when Tim’s breath hits his ear. “You mean the flirting?" He lingers, the two of them locked in temporary orbit. "It's the new normal."
Jaime regards Bart twirling around a lamppost, Mia and Cassie circling around each other, the sky mellowing out in that pre-sunset settling. "I guess you could say that about a lot of things lately."
Tim in every new context is fascinating. Jaime knew the Tim that gave orders, the Tim that pursed his lips every time he saw Jaime train, the Tim that stood in the Tower at night, in profile under dimmed lights, murmuring into a tiny tiny cell phone in some emotion-leeched drama Jaime was never a party to. He'd imagined but not actually seen his figured perched up high or dealing out some serious pain in Gotham.
Each weekend grants Jaime a new Tim, sometimes several in a day: Tim helping Bart drag out a skate ramp to anchor onto the roof, Tim napping by the pool, just out of the sun and just out of the splash zone of Kon's cannonballs. Tim getting mopped (now that was funny).
Tim smiling. Not the grim, mission accomplished smile, not the fleeting, indulgent quirks of the mouth he would dole out before when someone would try to amuse him, but wide, wobbly, slightly un-centered smiles. Smiles like he's still learning how they can be formed and what they look like, new to his face. Laughter like – everybody wants to make him laugh now. They did before, but the knowledge that he'll actually laugh now is irresistible. It comes out in Kon's grand blusterings and Bart's hummingbird errands and endless offers of food and Mia's sardonic running commentary. Jaime tries not to play the fool, but tries to elicit something quieter, calmer. He's rewarded, oftener and oftener these days, by a sharp smile and a quick, clear laugh.
Jaime's not sure when this stopped being a simple jockeying of attention, a currying of favor, and began to become something like [companionship, camaraderie, brothers-in-arms]
Any and all or none of the above. Just as it’s hard to tell what’s going on with Tim, it’s hard for Jaime to pin a name on what, exactly, he wants from Tim.
Then Jaime realizes that he's been thinking pretty deeply about Tim's mouth for the past half hour, and has to distract himself by accepting Bart's arm wrestling challenge, which gets interrupted by Kara screaming and throwing shrubs at Kon.
“MotherFUCK!” Kon ducks branches and clumps of dirt thrown with the might that only a pissed-off seventeen year old can muster. “Dude, what did I DO?”
“You don’t know when to shut up, do you??” A rhododendron gets uprooted; it whaps Kon square in the face this time. “'Oh my Dad did this, oh my other Dad did that'! ENOUGH!”
Two more shrubs go sailing over at Kon and then Kara’s ready to fly off in a huff, her face like a sun getting eclipsed by a stormcloud, but then Tim steps in and lifts his hand, not quite touching her forearm, and says, “Hey. Let's go talk.” Instead of flying off or throwing more greenery in Tim’s direction, Kara’s shoulders slump and she follows him deeper into the garden.
From the window Jaime can see them sitting and talking, except it's more like Kara's talking a mile a minute, red-faced, her hands endlessly in motion before her, and Tim sits on the bench with his knees up and tucked right under his chin and occasionally saying something. Jaime chooses not to tune into their conversation, but he knows what Tim's voice must sound like right now – that soft, low, coaxing tone he uses to talk someone off a roof or handle a trauma victim.
“God, what crawled up her ass and died?” Kon asks, shaking the dirt from his clothes, and Cassie smacks him upside the head with her copy of Mother Jones.
“She's upset about her dad, dumbass.”
“They both saw their fathers die.” Bart’s replanting the shrubs that haven’t been torn up too much. “Twice, for Tim, really,” he clarifies, and Jaime is suddenly, mortifyingly aware that this is for his benefit.
At dinner, Jaime sits next to Kara in the hope of cheering her up, but she cuts him off a fourth of the way through his first story. “Ugh, Jaime, it's not your fault, and I know you're just trying to cheer me up, but it's times like this where you are just too damn normal for me to look at.”
“Oh, uh.” Jaime looks down at his plate. “Sorry.”
It's been a thing for Jaime, because he loves his family and he loves his friends and so of course they get mentioned when he talks about his life. It's natural as breathing, because his parents are kinda cool, almost, and Paco really would have killed him if Jaime had seen that dragon movie without him. Jaime's not rubbing it in, he just can't help it, and the way that everyone else acts doesn't help either, like they can't decide whether they're eating up every detail or if it's a trigger for their own individual pains.
When Jaime shamefacedly shuffles away from dish-washing, Bart's in the lounge with one hand on his hip, using the other to point dramatically at Kara. “Show me your dancing!”
Kara's mouth scrunches up. “Bart, I'm really not-”
Bart's flipping on the sound system, returning back to his spot. “Show me your dancing,” he insists with all seriousness.
“You didn't even choose a song that has a good rhythm,” she protests, but then the drums kick in and Bart's suddenly dancing with the chorus. His limbs flail like a downed electrical wire, the edges of him going all soft and blurry, hard for even the Scarab to follow. “Linda Linda!”
Now he's on the sofa, the springs under his feet almost drowning out the music. He takes Kara's hands hopefully. Kara hesitates, then leaps up beside him. Hands linked, they jump in tandem, Kara using her flight to bring Bart up a few more feet with her on every jump. “Linda Linda Linda!”
Then Mia's twirling Cassie around, one arm sliding around her waist, and Kon's standing still but bouncing on his heels like he can't decide whether this is cool or not. Jaime has decided that this is totally the opposite of cool, and that's why he hops up on the bounciest looking chair himself. “Tim!”
Tim's still lingering behind everyone else, but he locks eyes with Jaime. “Tim, hey,” Jaime says again, and Tim shuffles into the room until he's looking up at Jaime.
“Linda Linda?” Tim sounds like he's asking about a chore that's absolutely distasteful to him, comically flat.
“Linda freakin' Linda, man.” Tim's forearms are firm and warm where Jaime grips them. He knows that Tim doesn't need the help up, but everyone else is smiling and touching each other, their hair swinging around their faces, and Tim needs a connection to them, to this. They're all hollering along to the chorus until it's over, and there's a second where everyone's afraid that things might fall apart, but then the music switches right into “Pinball Wizard”. Tim and Jaime jump and jostle elbows, and Jaime feels warm all over and doesn't stop. Tim's expression doesn't slip as to whether he's enduring or enjoying this, but Jaime's getting better at reading the ambiguities that Tim throws up.
Then Kara pulls out the Footloose soundtrack and the moment just keeps going and for a while things don't matter. Not fighting, not the bullshit that surrounds them, just growing breathless and laughing with friends and letting themselves act their age for half an hour. They have to break halfway through “Let's Hear it For the Boy” so they can rescue the passengers on a capsizing ferry. One hour and twenty minutes of handing out blankets and hot cocoa later, Tim's sitting cross-legged in the chair as if he'd never been interrupted, but they all know better.
And this evening is the genesis for Bart's biggest, most ambitious, yet most traditional event to date.
success was survival and kid it still is
FIRST EVER FIRST ANNUAL DANCE BADLY PARTY!!!!!!!!
Host: Bart Allen
Type: Party – Night of Mayhem
Start Time: Saturday, September 28 @ 8:30pm
End Time: Sunday, September 29 @ 3:00am
Location: Titans Tower (if you can read this, you know where it is, right? Right.)
Dress Code: CLOTHES TO DANCE IN.
Description: NO DANCING SKILLS ALLOWED AT ALL. I MEAN IT. Dance badly. Have a good time. Be excellent to each other.
“Which is awesome,” Jaime says, “because badly is how I dance all the time.”
Bart stays glued to the Capebook event page, apprising the group of each new person who clicks the "attending" button. “Fifty-two people have RSVP'd. FIFTY-TWO. And even keeping in mind that Capebook RSVPs do not necessarily translate into actual bodies at the event, you also have to assume some plus-ones and people who are just going to show up.” Bart waves his hands about. “Fifty-two!”
“My next task as Capebook administrator,” Tim declares magnanimously, “will be to nip that disingenuous practice in the bud.”
“And just how will you do that?” Mia asks.
Tim folds his arms in smuggy smugitude. “I have my ways.”
Bart’s still in the whirlwind of his own thoughts - “A few people have said that they can't come, true, and Jason Todd sent me a very nice regretful note-”
Tim looks up in alarm. “Wait a minute. You invited Jason?”
“Oh, man.” Jaime's vision slowly clears: a white tiled ceiling, halogen lighting. The infirmary. His head hurts like hell. “Please tell me that I was knocked unconscious by something impressively menacing.”
Tim pops into view. “It was a football.”
“Dammit!” It's all coming back to him now – Kon was tossing the football around, because he just had to go the extra mile to embody the All-American image he was crafted to uphold, and Scarab said he would help Jaime catch it so Jaime had told Kon not to hold back.
Scarab had clearly lied.
“Well, why didn't you catch it?” Jaime listens. “Well, you were obviously wrong now, weren't you?” Tim is watching their conversation with an intense, silent observance. “You're just mad because we didn't make it to Cinnabon today like I said. Scarab, cinnamon rolls will still be there tomorrow!”
“Cinnabon tomorrow! Who's in charge here, huh? Hint: it isn’t you. Or your dessert cravings.” He turns to Tim. “Scarab thought I had it under control. He's totally gonna vaporize the ball next time.”
“Kon's been a little heavy on the Americana lately.” Tim looks as if the idea of football as a concept is inherently distasteful to him.
“So I fail as a red-blooded American male.”
Tim shrugs. “It could be worse. I play tennis.”
“Oooh. So you win. Or lose?” He closes his eyes. "Where's everyone?"
"In Sacramento, fighting the Weather Wizard."
"...Ah. You know what? I was going to make a joke, but I've got nothing." Jaime's head is still swimming a little; he leans back. “I'm sleepy. Am I allowed to sleep?” He's got a killer migraine, too, which Khaji Da would usually alleviate but right now he's being a dick and wanting Jaime to suffer for not offering himself up to the sugar gods, so. He’s making it as difficult as possible for Jaime, going all itchy, his complaining patter a low level constant. He’s worse than Milagro in a lot of ways.
At least you can send Milagro to her room.
Jaime twists on the cot, trying to calm the both of them down, trying to get comfortable. He sees Tim’s mildly quizzical expression. “He's a little, um, cranky. Would you.” He's trying to figure the least creepy way to ask this. “Do you mind, um?” There isn't a non-creepy way to ask this, is there?
“Oh.” Tim's mouth twitches. “Do you mean you want me to touch him for you?” He doesn’t sound automatically grossed out by the idea, so that’s a major plus in Jaime’s book.
“I know, it’s totally Cronenberg, but yeah, if you don’t mind.” Jaime rolls over. “You can do it through my shirt, it-“
Tim’s unceremoniously rucking up Jaime’s shirt. A palm rests between his shoulder blades. “Show me where?”
Jaime’s first instinct is to say ‘anywhere’, which… wouldn’t be helpful. “Up a little bit… There, yeah. Just maybe rub down a little?”
Tim complies, and the constant bitching in Jaime’s head immediately goes down to a dull roar. Scarab is burbling happily and Tim is circling his thumb around a knob of his spine over and over. “Better?”
Jaime wriggles a little involuntarily. It’s embarrassing how good this feels; he’s flooded with warmth, with the sound of the Scarab humming through him, lulling him into a low, comfortable calm. “He likes you.”
“Really?” Tim shifts behind him. His free hand goes up on Jaime's shoulder.
“He's practically preening for you, Tim. He likes the attention.” Jaime feels the urge to preen, too, the warmth settled over him like the world's nicest electric blanket, and because the filter between his brain and his mouth have apparently been shut off he says, "This is nice. You're nice. When, you know, you actually let yourself be."
"I see." Tim's voice is hushed, his hands absently stroking.
Jaime wants him closer. Saying it seems like another matter entirely. Plus he's so blissed out right now that anything that comes out of his mouth would probably be total gibberish. "Tim?"
"I don't know, just." He feels cotton-mouthed and cotton-brained and stupid. He rolls over on the cot so he can look at Tim. Tim doesn't lift his hands, but lets them trail over Jaime's skin until they're both on his chest. And wow, Jaime feels super naked right now.
He puts a hand on Tim's arm. "Thanks. You calmed him down."
“I didn't do that much,” Tim demurs, casting his eyes down. His eyelashes, thick and dark, seem to be the central feature of his face all of a sudden.
“You do a lot,” Jaime says absently. Tim's so close that he's growing slightly out of focus. Their breathing serves as counterpoint to the Scarab's low, contented humming, steady as a heart.
He's about to open his mouth again, to say who knows what, when the infirmary fills with the shriek of an alarm.
"Those are the proximity alarms. There's something outside." Tim's up and moving and suddenly he looks like Robin again. Eyelashes gone, soft, slightly dreamy expression gone, steeliness in its place. "Stay here!" And he's out the door.
Jaime hoists himself up. "Uh, I really don't think so. I'm coming with. Concussion or not." Scarab assures Jaime that his head is [no less deranged than usual], so he's gonna take that as an all-clear.
Tim's headed up the stairs, probably taking them ten at a time or some other impossible Batperson feat. Jaime runs after.
Two flights up, he stops. “Wait, this is stupid. I can fly.” Scarab giggles at him and covers him up, armor quick and close as a whisper. Even then, Tim beats him to the rooftop.
“Beetle, I told you to stay inside.”
“Yeah. I decided that was stupid.” Jaime's got the Scarab scanning for anything out of the ordinary on the grounds, but it'd be a help if he knew what the hell he was looking for. “False alarm, maybe?”
“It's never a false alarm.” Tim's got his eyes to the horizon, searching, and there's something in his voice and stance that 's sort of freaking Jaime the fuck out. “Oh, bother.” And okay, either Jaime's got to trade Khaji-Da in for a less defective model or those giant people rising up out of the bay came out of motherfucking nowhere.
“What the hell?” Jaime’s about to patch into the comms to call everyone back to the Tower, but Tim grabs his arm right above the elbow and squeezes, just enough for Jaime to barely, barely feel it through the armor.
“No. They’re here for me.” And there's enough resignation in Tim's voice to send Jaime straight into grand old flashbacks of the bad old days, when a tone like that meant that someone was about to die.
“What are you talking about?” Jaime squints at the approaching giants. “Are those Halloween masks?” Tim’s calling for him to wait, to stay back, but Jaime launches himself off of the roof and heads straight for the tallest one, the weedy one with a giant pinstriped suit and a Batman mask. “Or half-assed cosplayers. Are you guys cosplayers?” He's aiming right for them, but right as he accelerates further something makes him stop, like he's just smacked against the world's biggest windshield. It hurts, but at least he didn't get squashed or something. And now he's got the attention of the giants, which is either good or-
Okay, it's most assuredly gonna be bad.
There are four of them, looking like normal humans for the most part. There are the masks – the cheapo-looking drugstore kind – of superheroes, of course. Of course they are. Jaime counts them out: Batman giant, Superman giant, Wonder Woman giant, Batwoman giant, and since when did Batwoman get a franchise deal? And it's – hard to look at them head-on, like they're too bright, like they're carrying colors that don't exist in this world. “Scarab, what's happening? Who are they?”
[error: cannot identity]
“What do you mean, can't identify?” He tries to get closer, again, but the invisible windshield isn't getting any more forgiving. The giants are headed for the Tower in what looks like slo-mo but is really just them taking their sweet time, which gives Jaime the creeps like he wouldn't believe. It feels wrong, the air feels wrong, why does the air feel wrong-
“Well. That isn't good.” The giant with the Wonder Woman mask is looking right at him now, and it's impossible to read the faces that lie underneath the masks but he swears that the mask frowns.
“We're not here for you,” Wonder Woman sneers. “You're too nice.” The hand coming his way is impossible to stop. Scarab's still blue-screening at him, spouting off nothing but gibberish and the Scarab equivalent of 404's. Jaime can't move, not in the way that he means to, so when the hand hits him he can't stop the inevitability of being sent in a downward arc into the water. For a split second he knows he's gonna drown, that if the Scarab's shorting out then his armor and life support system will, too, but then the armor's kicking back in, rocketing him back up through the water.
He breaks the surface, sputtering. “Did you just make the Windows start-up sound at me? You're not even a Mac?"
[banter later – help now]
“On it, I'm on it!” Jaime rises out of the water, ready to try to blast these suckers with all he's got; he can't get to them, but maybe some energy blasts can. He looks up at the rooftop to see how Tim is and-
Tim's not on the rooftop anymore.
The giants have moved out into the water. Jaime can't see any boats or- or people, or anything. There's a silence that he can feel somehow, all around him. Like someone's pressed the pause button on the video game and everything extraneous has disappeared.
One of the giants is holding a squirming Tim in the palm of his massive hand.
All Jaime can do for a moment is hover in midair, staring. “Fuck.”
Jaime tries to head for Tim, but he just smacks against the windshield again. And again. He can hear them though, clear as day.
“You were intended to be out of the picture,” the giant (and apparently Scottish) Batman booms, “But not this out of the picture. How are we supposed to cull the herd if you're encouraging competency and discouraging cannon fodder?”
Tim's shaking his head and yelling, “-had a deal! We had a deal!” He catches his bearings and stands, pointing unwaveringly up at the Batman. “You said I could have time! You're the one going back on your agreement.”
He looks so small.
The Wonder Woman crosses her arms like a disappointed schoolmarm. “You can't hide from your character arc forever. Your issues sell. People like to see your pain.”
“So you admit it!” Tim sounds triumphant and slightly deranged. “You've been deliberately destroying my life for the sake of your own whims!”
Jaime has no idea how these guys have such a close and personal relationship with Tim. Jaime has no idea how Tim's able to stand there in the palm of their hand and yell at them instead of pissing his pants until he remembers that it's Tim. Tim who stares down the storm on a regular basis, Tim who can look Superman in the eye and tell him that he's wrong.
The Batwoman almost looks sympathetic. “Sorry, kid, but that's the way of your world.”
The Superman giant clucks and shakes his head. “And I've just done so much for you lately, too! Look at the thanks I get!”
“So ungrateful,” the Wonder Woman commiserates.
Tim's either fearless or crazy, Jaime's not sure which. Maybe both. “Oh, don't you dare use them as leverage against me. We had a deal. Don't think that I haven't been noticing your little attempts to renege on our agreement. I just tipped the Justice League off about Prometheus, by the way. Nice fucking try.”
“That was, uh.” Batwoman shifts nervously. “That was editorial mandate.”
“Oh bullshit.” Wow, Tim's got a mouth on him. Jaime means, um. Yes. There's something wrong with Jaime. “Un-mandate it, and fast.”
The Batman's sigh ruffles Tim's hair, un-steadies him for a moment. “Look, that isn't the point. Can't you at least be a little more miserable? We'll stick to our timetable if you stick to yours, and yours dictates considerably more angst than you've been generating lately.”
“Oh, I'm sorry that my period of mourning isn't profitable enough for you.” There is definitely something wrong with Jaime, because he should be scared out of his wits right now, he is scared out of his wits because the windshield's still keeping him from getting any closer and Scarab spouts off error messages every time he tries to find another way in but, but.
But Tim right now, fierce and fearless in the face of something that's nearing Lovecraftian levels of being beyond reason, crazy, brilliant, fearless Tim has never looked more beautiful than he does right now.
The Batwoman pulls out a limp red suit and waggles it by its tiny sleeves and wait, why is the giant waving a Doctor Midnite suit at Tim? “Are you sure you don't want to slip into your pajamas a little early in the timeline? You'd get a nice little following out of the deal, I assure you.”
Tim stays firm. “Absolutely not. Go away. Now.”
“Suit yourself.” The Batman shrugs and drops his hands away. Was that a pun? That was definitely an evil pun.
Tim plummets toward the water so quietly. Jaime expects him to pull a Bat-parachute out of nowhere and then he remembers that he's just Tim now, and then he's racing to catch him. The forcefield's gone, or else he's just smashed right through it, and he's chasing after Tim's falling body and willing himself to go faster, faster. All he is is a heart right now, constant and hot, pounding in his ears and throat and everywhere and Scarab is bleeping at him so Jaime remembers to compensate for the rate at which Tim's falling so he doesn't snap his neck or something and – there. Jaime catches him easy, slowing gradually instead of snapping to a halt, then heading back to the roof. And Tim's eyes are closed and his face is pale but he's fine, go Team Beetle, he caught him just in-
“What?” Scarab's got to be reading something wrong, there has to be some mistake-
[heart has stopped; immediate resuscitation required]
Tim doesn't look dead. Jaime would say that he looked asleep except memories of Tim napping on the sofa are his only point of reference. Tim doesn't look like anything, and when Jaime's seen death before it's always looked like something, this can't be-
“Yes, okay, defibrillate, defibrillate!” Paddles grow out of his armor, connected to his back. Jaime grabs hold. He knows that it isn't a magic word or anything and nobody is around, but Jaime still yells “CLEAR” as he presses the paddles to Tim's chest and activates them.
Tim's body limply convulses. There's no heartbeat.
“Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no oh-”
[do not panic Reyes]
“Which is exactly the right thing to say if you want me to panic, Scarab!” Jaime’s feeling himself losing it, the panic sloshing up against his insides, “-oh no oh no what do I do now-”
Tim's eyes open. Even though it was the response Jaime had been hoping for, he still jumps. “Jaime?”
Tim smiles and lets Jaime lift his wrist to check his pulse. The armor's sliding back up his arms, and Jaime's got his bare hand on Tim's arm, then in Tim's hand.
“Infirmary,” he manages to get out in English, “or should I not move you? I-”
“Hey.” Tim pulls Jaime's hand in and, oh, when did Jaime start shaking? It's mortifying, it's unprofessional. Tim squeezes his hand. “I'm fine, I'm-” He shakes his head and chuckles unsteadily. “They weren't going to actually kill me. They wanted to fuck with you.” He looks up at Jaime again.“I owe you one, nonetheless.”
“Yes, you do! I mean you don't, but you do!”
“No, I.” Tim closes his eyes and breathes a few times. “I really do, Jaime. You have no idea.” When Tim opens his eyes again, there's something in them – an openness – that Jaime can't turn away from. Their hands are still touching. Tim squeezes.
Now that the panic over Tim being temporarily dead is settling down, Jaime's able to panic over other issues. Like, oh, the giant fucking cosplayers. “Tim, why did they know you? Who are they?”
Tim makes a face. “It's really complicated. Let's just say that they're basically jerks with delusions of grandeur.”
“Which doesn't answer a thing, Tim, and you know it.” Jaime keeps holding onto Tim's hand. He cant even let himself enjoy how it feels, because Tim's being so damn evasive and trying to pretend that he isn't gulping in air like he thought he'd never get to again. “I thought -”
Tim nods. “I know that you were worried. I just can't tell you right now. I will tell you, though, when I can.” “We should get back inside before everyone else gets back. Just-” He holds onto Jaime with both hands. “Don't tell the team, okay?”
“What? Tim, if you've got people gunning for you, we need to prepare ourselves. Safety in numbers and all that.”
“They won't come back to the Tower,” Tim insists, which doesn't make Jaime feel any better because he clearly hadn't been expecting them here in the first place.
“You're really going to keep this from your friends?" Jaime's about to say that this isn't like him, but then he remembers -of course it's like him. This is what Tim does, hides from people.
Tim gently pushes himself away from Jaime, standing up. There's no shake in his stance, and the Scarab's scanning indicates no averse affects. Tim is perfectly healthy again. He's studying Jaime's face, looking for assurance, for something. “Do you trust me?”
No fair, no fair. Tim shouldn't get to play that card, not when he looks so vulnerable and earnest. “I- of course I trust you.”
"Then I promise that I'll tell you when the time is right, okay?" He tries a small smile. "I'm just not ready yet. And I'll tell everyone else on my own time, but for now it's really not a good idea to let them in on this."
“Okay, I.” Tim Drake, you frustrating, courageous crazy little person. “I can handle that.” It isn't as if Tim's leaving him with much of a choice. Jaime watches him brush himself off and head down the stairs. After a minute, Jaime follows him.
The next day is the Dance Badly Party, and the event in question is almost derailed before it even begins.
Cassie insists on holding a team meeting a few hours before people are expected to show up, “just to cover some bases”, and everyone obviously have their minds on other matters, Jaime included. So he's not even sure exactly how they got onto the topic of recruitment, which is plenty ironic considering that they basically booted everyone on their ass a month or so ago.
“I've been kicking around the idea of assembling some sort of beta team. More intensive than the reserves, but without a weekly commitment-”
Cassie sighs. “Tim, do you have something to add?”
Tim's slumped in his seat, Doritos bag in hand. “Seriously, why would we want to recruit new people when the vast majority of them are either going to drop out within a month or turn evil?”
Cassie, doubtlessly relying on some ancient Amazonian breathing exercises or something, says, “Tim, remember when you asked me if you could crash here at the Tower and use our wifi and I said 'Sure, Tim, but could you do me a favor and try not to backseat drive because I've got things under control and am really not in the mood for a power struggle', and you said 'Oh, okay', and went back to your bag of Doritos?”
Tim remains inexpressive. “Vaguely.” Cassie's about to turn away and get back on topic when he adds, “It's not backseat driving to point out that the more the team reaches out to more young heroes, the more that those young heroes tend to have exceptionally horrific things happen to them.”
“Dammit, Tim.” Cassie frowns and it's like a bad flashback for Jaime. “You're saying this as if we're not all perfectly aware of our recent past.”
“Oh, I know that there's awareness.” Tim waves his hand in the air with a self-indulgent air. Jaime doesn't know what he's getting at here. He thinks that it might have something to do with the crazy cosplaying giants and Tim's near-death experience - stuff like that messes you up temporarily, right? - but if Tim wants to keep it hidden from the others, then why is he ranting now? "I just think that we're willfully keeping ourselves from realizing that we're stuck in a self-defeating loop of history."
Mia straightens up, finally tuning into the debate. “What, you mean that you doubt our commitment to Sparkle Motion or something?”
“Of course he didn't mean it that way,” Jaime says, while Tim says, “That is absolutely what I mean.”
“What he is doing is backseat driving,' Cassie said, “and he really needs to cut it out or re-assume leadership already, because this back and forth nonsense is giving me a headache.”
“I am not backseat driving, I am just trying to change things. This isn't working, is it? What is our definition of working?” Tim spread his arms out as if the lack of an answer is self-evident. “Because as fun as the last several weeks have been for us, we need to start entertaining the idea that the happy days may well run out soon.”
“Way to be a grumpy Gus, Tim,” Kon says, but he's starting to look concerned.
Tim’s standing at this point, his hands clenched at his sides. Jaime’s not even sure if he’s speaking to the group or himself at this point. It's becoming increasingly clear that Tim's forcing himself to go on, that he has to say this. “We need to stop holding our breaths half the time worrying that something horrible is going to happen, and then acting shocked when something does.” Tim's face is growing pinker. “Things like acting completely surprised when we get ambushed or if our parties get crashed by the same half dozen usual suspects with a grudge.”
“Don't!” Bart is turning pink, his arms blurring up around his head. “You're going to jinx it!”
Tim holds up a hand as if that's all it takes to hold off a mini-Flash. “No, I'm unjinxing it. I've brought up the possibility, so now it won't happen.”
Bart nods. “Oh, well, that's a relief.”
“WHAT?” Kon’s floating a few inches above his seat by now. “That doesn't even make any sense!”
“Well, it kinda does.” When everyone looks at her, Kara throws her hands in the air. “I don't know why, okay?”
“Tim, why are you doing this?” Cassie's aghast. “Why on earth are you doing this to us now?”
Tim’s like a steamroller, unyielding, like he never heard her, “And a newbie will die and we'll all feel very sorry for ourselves and pledge that things will be different this time, you'll see. And then somebody will give a bullshit speech – and I've given more than one of them in my time – about how we're all a family, a beacon of light, an unbreakable circle of friends, and everyone turns idealistic and things turn nice for a while but then it all goes to shit again, every time, because that's the way it's all been designed.”
“Do you know who you sound like?” Jaime started calculating how quickly he could catch Tim if Cassie ended up swatting him out the nearest window. “Do. You. Know. Who. You. Sound. Like. ”
“If you're about to say Batman, then I’ll take it as a compliment, Cassie.”
Cassie throws up her hands. “What the FUCK, Tim.”
“Tim.” Jaime's getting out of his chair before he even realizes it, headed for Tim. He's not sure exactly what he intends to do once he gets there, but Tim's out the door by now anyway so it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter.
The rest of the team is left in semi-shock in the wake of what Mia is currently decrying as a "hissy fit, Jesus Christ, he sounded more self-important than GA".
“Oh man,” Bart says, then, “Oh man, is he not gonna come out of his room? Because we're dancing badly in just a few hours and it would be ferociously, mindbogglingly wrong to do this without him. It can't happen today!”
“Not on Rex Manning Day,” Jaime added without thinking first of how bitchy it would sound. He leaves everyone else fretting among themselves and heads for his room.
Trying to talk to Tim would be pointless, so Jaime holes up in his room for the next few hours, ignoring the intense discussion the Scarab can pick up on back in the conference room. Jaime works on his history homework. He calls home to check in - “No, Dad, everything's peachy”. He finishes his letter to Traci - Of course I would love to visit next week! Just tell me, you know. Exactly where and stuff. I'll be there. He seals the letter, opens the window and sets it out on the sill, sticking a half-full Coke can on it as an anchor. He sits on the bed. He wants to go home.
“Jaime?” Mia's knocking at the door. “S'cool if I come in for a minute? You're decent, right?”
“I'm never decent, Mia.” Jaime opens the door for her. She's already dressed for the dance – a short, bright red dress and black leggings. “You look nice!”
“Yeah yeah?” She twirls a bit, then laughs at herself. “Look at me, acting like I'm going to some stupid tv show prom.” She sits down on the bed and pats the space next to her. Jaime complies. “You know, I hate taking part of the typical team member heart to heart thing, but better me than Superfreak, so. Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” Jaime's so confused at the general state of the universe at the moment, and he has no idea why Tim has snapped or what to do about it, but. “I'm okay.”
Mia fingerguns at him. “Okay, I'm gonna tell you what I wish somebody had told me right when I joined up. The great thing about this gig? It's never just you. The sucky thing about this gig? It's never just you. Next, there is always stupid, stupid drama happening, you are always going to feel out of the loop about it, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar or in denial. Third, everyone is a little gay for each other. It's okay, just roll with it.”
“Well,” Jaime says, “that sure makes me feel one hundred percent not-better.”
“Hey, I'm just the messenger.” Mia rolls her shoulders back and looks up at the ceiling, sighs. "Look, I'm just saying, as a fellow member totally on the periphery of the Tim-Cassie-Bart-Kon clique of awkward, that this shit is unfortunately totally normal and part of the package. All this reminiscing about the good old days? There weren't any. Not really. They've idealized the way that things used to be, but it's something that never really existed. Things have always been sort of awesome and sort of awful, and you're not." She shrugs. "You're not missing out on as much as you think you are, that's all."
This should completely dishearten Jaime, but instead he's just grateful for Mia's honesty and acceptance. "So things are always going to be wretched and full of stupid drama, huh?"
"Always and forever." Mia pats his shoulder. "Just gotta roll with it."
and here's the party it turned into
It's not perfect as far as pep talks go, but it's enough to get Jaime out into the hall outside the gym twenty minutes before the scheduled start time. The Tower is already starting to fill up with people, milling about, complimenting each other.
"It's just too weird to all be here without something catastrophic going on," he hears someone say, and, "Oh, I haven't seen you since the last funeral!" and, "The JLA said that things were never gonna get that bad anymore. The lack of anything tremendously awful happening lately seems to back that assertion up."
The response to that one is what sticks with Jaime as he makes his way: "It doesn't mean anything, you know. It's just a longer calm before a larger storm."
"Jaime!" Kara's wearing a blue-green 50's style party dress and her hair's up in a bouffant. She hops up and down in glee until Jaime can get next to her. "Isn't this exciting! I think it's kind of exciting! Oh, wow, you look really nice!"
"Um. Thanks." Jaime isn't wearing anything that he wouldn't normally be wearing, but before he can point that out Kara's cheering and embracing two teenagers that she introduces to everyone as “my Kryptonian countrypeople”.
"Jaime." Tim's wearing a mask again, for the first time since he quit the team. He looks at Jaime sidelong. “I'm comfortable with the team knowing my identity and seeing my face. Not so much anyone else.”
“I see.” It's - it's like someone put the curtains back up again, and the strength of Jaime's disappointment shocks him.
"I'm going to ask you to hold out until after the dance for Bart's sake, but you can let me have it afterward if you want."
“What makes you think that I want to let you have it? Wait, wrong choice of words.” Jaime pauses, expecting Tim to snicker, but he just looks at Jaime patiently until he continues. “I'm not going to yell at you. I think that'd be counterproductive, as frustrating as it is to have to deal with you when you act so deliberately exasperating. I swear, Tim, are you trying to make Cassie wallop you?”
“Oh, that's just how we are,” he says unconcernedly. “We bitch because we, uh, mutually respect and admire each other.”
“You. Total. Jerkass.” Cassie jabs her finger just short of hitting Tim's chest; if she made contact she'd probably put him out into the bay. “You pull a stunt like that again and you're bunking at the San Francisco Holiday Inn, you got that?”
“See? Nothing but love here.”
Cassie is clearly counting to ten, then to twenty, in her head. “I'll deal with you later. For now, you are going to smile and be polite and refrain from making any more doomsday speeches, please. Please, Tim.”
“I know how important this is to Bart.” Even the shape of his mouth seems different now, more reserved, more restrained. “I promise to be good.”
Kon strolls up with his best shit-eating grin. “So. I managed to get a date.” The date in question is a petite but very powerful looking Asian girl.
“CASS?” and Tim's right there, hugging this girl with an intensity that Jaime finds to be slightly alarming.
“Tim.” The girl smiles. “Robin." This is clearly an emotional reunion of some sort, and Tim's life just can't get any more complicated through Jaime's eyes, can it?
"Dude, macking on my girl," Kon whines, but both Cass and Tim flip him off at the same time.
“Oh you're here you're all here!” Bart bursts through the gym doors, and Jaime's eyesight grows momentarily fuzzy until he can adjust. White go-go boots. Bright green mini-dress that hits mid-thigh. Shoulder-length honey brown hair.
Bart looks Kon over. “Not bad,” Bart said, “though you might want to add a hat to the whole ensemble, for safety's sake. Tim!” He shakes his head for emphasis, his hair following luxuriously behind. “Thank you for the loaner! I think it's working for me despite the difference in our complexions!”
Tim looks completely unfazed. “No problem.”
Jaime looks to the nearest person for confirmation. “So that's... Tim's... wig.”
Mia shrugs. “Batpeople, man. Whatcha gonna do.”
Bart sweeps Tim away from this Cass girl and up in a hug, his wig sweeping back and forth as he moves. “You! I was so worried for a while there that you weren't going to show but I told myself that I should just give you a little time – which was very patient of me I hope you appreciate that! - and now here you are and everything's gonna be okay! You!”
“Yes,” Tim mildly affirms, but he's grinning and clinging to Bart. “Me.”
The gym is all done up like a high school prom on acid – dripping with streamers, sporting a disco ball, a refreshment table with a punch fountain. All of the equipment's been pushed to one side, and streamers in every conceivable color are twisted from the ceiling beams. One wall is covered by a mural painted on thick paper – an impressionistic take on the Golden Gate Bridge, its span surrounded by Van Gogh starry swirls. A figure of a girl sits upon the top, her knees up and face in profile as she looks at the sky.
“Wow, Kara,” Jaime says and means it. “It's really. Wow.”
“Yeah?” Kara’s beaming. “Thank you. Also, um, I’m sorry about the, you know.” She bites her lip. “The whole yelling at you the other week thing. I never did apologize. You were just trying to help.”
“It’s cool,” Jaime says, and he means it. “Don’t worry. We all have our down days.” He turns to Bart, indicating Tim, who’s still deep in conversation with the new girl. “Okay, so her name is Cass. And then there's Cassie, and-”
“Jaime!” Cassie's towing yet another blonde girl alongside. “I'd like you to meet my good friend Cissie.”
Jaime does a double take. “Oh, you're joking,” but any potential follow-up to that is drowned out by an ear-splitting... honk?
“OKAY PEOPLE,” a voice says over the PA. “IT IS TIME TO PARTY THE FUCK DOWN.” Then the honk again, louder and longer this time, accompanied by demented Superboy laughter.
“Oh my fuck,” Mia says, “who gave Kon an air horn?”
The music for the evening has been ingeniously compiled. Nothing is brand new or of the moment; the lack of newness means that disco flows into a cheesy late-nineties pop song as if they had always been wedded together, with blood-warm familiarity. Every song is familiar, or, cleverly, has been carefully selected to be new to their brains but familiar to their bodies, so that nobody misses a step. Everyone claps along, sings choruses out loud, picks up rhythms stitched seamlessly by dear, dear Bart. There isn't even a DJ booth. Jaime barely notices Bart leaving the dance floor in order to tend to the music; it might just be on one big night-long loop. The Japanese pop songs are pretty clearly from Bart’s own personal stash, and the Top 40 hits of five to seven years ago are obviously Kon's contribution. Nobody's fessing up to the disco, but everybody's glad that it's there. Tim actually whoops when “Life During Wartime” comes on. And Mia's claiming every great song as her contribution.
Tim, by the way, dances awfully. Jaime gets the idea that he's purposefully being awful, but it's really quite charming because he's smiling. Jaime dances badly and jokes around with his teammates, his friends, and it's easy to forget how awful things were only a few hours before.
And there it is again as he's buffeted from person to person, group to group, that vague feeling that's always there, like he's running with someone else's crowd.
Well, he is, isn't he?
At some point everyone took off their shoes, and Kon's running around giving everyone feet-off-the-floor hugs, and every time there's a new song everyone roars like it's the best night of their lives. It probably is the best night of some of their lives. It's a night full of gorgeous random moments and it seems to stretch on forever.
The thing is that Jaime has a life. He has those tiny perfect moments all the time, and already has people in his life to share them with. Most everyone else, though... this is what they get. This is all they get.
By hour three, Kon starts sneak attack hugging people. “HEY JAMIE,” he roars, and when Jaime winces, he adds, “Don't worry dude I'm just kidding I swear hey, hey,” and picks Jaime at least a foot off the ground.
“It's okay,” Jaime insists.
“Nah, you're alright, you know that? We're bros!”
“That may be true, but.” Jaime squirms experimentally in the Super-hold. “Scarab's starting to get a little nervous, kinda wants to blast you, so-”
“Oh, right, right!” Kon lets him down more gently than expected, then ushers him over into a corner by the drinks table. He begins to mix a pitcher of fruit punch with a couple of unlabeled bottles he reveals from under the table and a flask that he pulls out of nowhere. “I've got the special alcohol for metahumans, mixed up with some Kryptonian stuff straight from...” Kon waves the bottle like a yo-ho-hoing pirate. “...Kryptonia.”
Kara throws up her hands. “It's called New Krypton and you know it, Kon.”
Kon continues, “ Along with some special ingredients of my own, which shall remain a pleasant surprise.”
“Nobody listen to him,” Kara says. “He got it from Grace Choi. I'm pretty sure it's got drain cleaner in it.”
“Nobody asked you.” Several shotglasses float before Kon as he readies the pitcher. “For my little buddies, a shot should be sufficient. Maybe just, like half a shot at first just to be safe. Or maybe a thimbleful-”
Tim takes the pitcher from Kon’s hands. He fills his mug to the brim, then hands the pitcher back. Kara's mouth opens in horror. “You are going to die. Kon, he is going to die.”
“Naw, it's Tim. He's done worse. Shall I fill you up?”
Kara waves the cup away. “I'm a designated flyer.”
“A toast!” Kon holds his cup precariously high. Jaime lifts up on his toes in an effort to match him. “Die young, stay pretty.”
“Melodramatic much?” Tim says in response, but everyone drinks anyway. Tim appears to drain his mug in one go.
Kon’s grin is just the slightest bit sloppier now. “Au contraire, little buddy, I say it's just enough.”
It tastes... not like drain cleaner, which is a start. Jaime’s not even very sure that it’s working until he’s suddenly convinced that the floor is a very nice, very comfortable place to be. Which is okay, because apparently Tim’s decided the same thing as well. “Fancy seeing you here,” Jaime says. “On the floor. Where the cool kids live.”
“Cassandra and I are forming a club,” Tim announces. His pointing finger sways like a fidgety compass. “Psychopathic midgets are not invited.”
“Oh, this is so not hero behavior.” Jaime rolls over. “We are not role models right now.”
“I don't recall role modeling being in my oath.”
Jaime tries to sit up but his elbows fail him. He settles for flopping his head over to look at Tim. “You took a Robin oath?” Of course he did.
Tim curls in on himself a little. “...maybe.”
Jaime giggles and can’t stop. “That’s cute. And I’m not saying that in a patronizing way.”
Things blur together from there and turn from a linear progression into a grab bag of events and moments:
-watches that Cassandra girl quietly and intensely chew Kon out for not inviting someone named ‘Stephanie’ to the party, until Kon finally has to go down on his knees and half-seriously grovel for a bit until Cassandra says “fine,” and walks off to confer in a corner with Tim some more;
-and Bart's suddenly next to him patting his arm and declaring, “You're my absolute favorite new person!” Jaime spends an inebriated and enthusiastic few minutes telling Bart just how much that means to him and how Bart is his new favorite *everything*. This leads to Bart needing what he calls a “micro-micro-nap” and Jaime's sitting against the wall with Bart's head in his lap. Jaime's currently rocking The Wig and petting Bart's goldy-red hair and he officially has no idea as to how he got here. Bart says something muffled into Jaime's hip and settles like a cat and remains more or less still for two entire minutes. After that, Bart suddenly springs up, brushes his mouth across Jaime's face, ticklish like a hummingbird, and zips off again to the dancefloor;
- talks to a girl for several minutes before they both figure out that they have no idea who the other is. “I don't even know you, do I?”
“I don't think so.”
“I thought you were Nightwing,” she confesses.
“Um, I am baffled by that comparison, but totally taking the compliment nonetheless.”;
-opens a Zesti can for a very frustrated M'Gann, then listens patiently as she gives him a very detailed plot synopsis of The Adventures of Milo and Otis, complete with a warbled rendition of the theme song;
-spends twenty minutes in a men's room bathroom stall because Cassie's hiding from Rose, giggling and shushing each other while Eddie's going, “Seriously, guys, this is getting ridiculous, it's not like she's out for your blood. Much,” and Cassie replies, “It's my party, and I can be childish and irrational if I want to,” and then Jaime has to point out that it is not, in fact, her party, which earns him drunken hair-ruffling. When they finally decide to hell with it and pile out of the stall, that new Nightwing kid's at the sink looking at them all flabbergasted. Kon comes in, checks out the situation and whaps him on the back. “This is how we roll on Earth, bro.”;
-and then it turns out that it was M'gann pretending to be Rose anyway, which Kara put her up to, so then Cassie chases a shrieking Kara up and down the halls and then outside until it turns into a game of drunken sky tag, and Jaime and Eddie and M'gann and half a dozen others join in until they're all too breathless and hysterical to see straight anymore and keep colliding into each other;
-bitching out the Scarab when his armor comes down at the end of the game and his party clothes are suddenly half a size smaller. [more appropriate attire for the occasion], he tries to insist.
“Since when did you become Heidi Klum? Yeah, no. You don't get to decide these things for me unless I say so-”
“Oo, is that what you're wearing now?” Bart's petting Jaime’s sleeve. “Good choice! Very flattering!”
“Uh, thanks!” Jaime tries to ignore Scarab's smug-ass chittering;
-Watching Mia kiss Bart, Mia kiss Cassie (with far more tongue), Mia giving Tim a noogie. Then she dances with Jaime for a few songs until Queen comes on. Mia gets that look on her face that Jaime's still learning a little, the “are you fucking serious” face. When she says something, Jaime can barely hear her over the music and the press of jubilant people moving together. They make their way to the side of the room so they can hear each other more easily.
“Noticed anything about the music?” Mia asks. “Like, thematically?”
“So you haven't noticed the increasingly morbid turn Bart's selections have taken over the last hour or so?”
“What? It's just Queen.”
As if on cosmically-decided cue, most of the people in the place roar along to the last chorus. “JUST GOT TIME TO SAY YOUR PRAYERS! WHILE YOU'RE WAITING FOR THE HAMMER TO FALL!”
“Get it now?” Mia pats Jaime on the shoulder and melts back into the crowd to dance with Cassie.
Her point is underlined when the next song's chipper chorus sounds an awful lot like “one of us is gonna die young”, complete with handclaps.
“Haven't heard this one in a while.” Tim's sidled up next to him without Jaime even noticing. Sneaksy bastard.
When Tim smiles his now-typical halfway there smile, Jaime realizes that he's said it out loud. “Sorry! Blame it on the... boogie? Is that too awful of a joke even for me?”
Tim just laughs. He gently bumps his shoulder against Jaime's. Jaime bumps him back, and Tim smiles at him. The look he's giving, Jaime realizes, is an awful lot like the one he was giving the waiter in the diner way back when.
“Wanna get some air?” Tim asks.
All around them, young people are smiling and dancing and singing along to songs about dying.
“I'd love to,” Jaime says.
They purposely bump each other some more as they pick their way through the crowd and into the hallways. Their fingers find each other, briefly brush and curl as they move in tandem, and Jaime simultaneously knows that they're flirting and knows that he is equal parts entirely okay and entirely confused by this realization.
The roof isn't as isolated as they had hoped. Okay, so that's a pretty major understatement. Kara's sitting up there with about a dozen others in a circle, and they're all singing “Tiny Dancer”.
“So, we're apparently all in a Cameron Crowe movie now.”
Tim holds his arms straight up and stiffly apart. It takes Jaime a moment to understand. “Which song would you play on a boombox outside my window?”
“Maybe you'll find out someday.” And oh, wow, here come the eyelashes. Jaime has to look down in order to blush a little, but then he almost trips over his own feet and Tim has to take his arm.
They find a place to sit near the stairwell that's about as secluded as they're going to get. There's just enough of a chill in the air to make their breath form tiny clouds when they speak. Jaime stares at his sneakers for a while before saying, “I don't feel like I'm a part of this. Not really.”
Tim shakes his head. “I never really did.”
"Really?" Surely Tim's just saying this to make Jaime feel better. But looking at him right now, his head tipped back at the sky, Jaime thinks he can understand a little. “But you have a shared history, at least.”
“I know.” Jaime keeps expecting for Tim to elaborate, but he doesn't. He just sits there, waiting for something.
They sit there for a while longer and Kara switches into “Stairway to Heaven” and it's all a little too much. Tim puts his hand on Jaime's knee. “Wanna go back inside?”
Jaime isn't sure exactly where 'back inside' is supposed to be. He's drunk, and everyone's gone a little crazy, and Tim is half closed off and half open, and Jaime doesn't know what to think. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
They delicately elbow their way back downstairs and through the halls. Everyone's a little louder now, a little more raucous. Jaime's pretty sure that there are makeouts going on in the bathrooms, but that's actually the type of superhero gossip that he has little to no interest in, so he keeps his eyes ahead and his hand in Tim's. If anyone was paying attention, that would probably start up a round of gossip of its own, but they're both swaying a little from the Superboy Special and everyone's too caught up in their own individual dramas to notice.
Then they're in the kitchen and Tim's hands are twitchy. He tries to occupy himself with filling up glasses of water for the two of them, but once he's done with that his hands clasp together, fidget at his side. He wants to touch me, Jaime realizes, and then Tim does.
Jaime’s not sure whether he should lean into the touch of Tim’s palm cupping his cheek or lean away or just.... stay shock still. He goes with option three, and they're still in positions that can be plausibly denied when Kon and Cassie bust in on them.
“I was just getting him a glass of water,” he blurts out, but they're not paying attention.
Kon’s got his arms out in abject bro confusion. “Okay, what is this about you two making out?”
Tim eases himself up onto the counter, away from Jaime. “Where did you hear that from?”
“Um.” Tim is suddenly very, very interested in the cleanliness and overall appearance of the counter.
“You missed me so much that you made out with each other?” There's no trace of sarcasm; Kon's face is positively rapturous in the possibility.
Tim's head snaps up. “Actually, yes, that's exactly what happened.”
“And then we were mutually horrified and repulsed,” Cassie adds. “We both missed you. That was all that happened. It was an awful time and we were both depressed and confused and doing awkward, horrible things.”
“Like trying to clone you back,” Tim says quietly.
“Wait, wait. So you,” -Kon points at Tim- “got all morally dubious on account of me?”
“Sounds about right.”
“That is the greatest thing anyone has ever almost done for me!” Kon beams and pulls them close. “I knew you guys loved me!”
“Oh great. Because your ego wasn't big enough before...” Cassie hugs back anyway.
“What’s the greatest thing?” Bart demands as he enters.
Tim waves. “Nothing much,” he says. “We’re just hashing out the usual romantic drama.”
“Ohhh.” Bart looks them over. “Like about how you and me used to make out?”
Jaime tries not to choke in surprise.
“OKAY,” Kon announces. “Who in this room has *not* kissed each other???”
Bart and Cassie point at each other.
Jaime raises his hand. “This isn't some sort of creepy porn setup, is it?”
“Not purposefully,” Bart assures him. “Hold on a sec, I was in the middle of a conversation with Kara and a conversation with Lagoon Boy and a conversation with Raven." He's gone again.
They can practically hear the wheels turning in Kon’s head. “So, if you two have already made out, and if you're both into me-”
“Formerly into you,” Cassie reiterates-
“Then maybe you could be into me, you know.” Kon waggling his eyebrows at Cassie and Tim may be the most obscene thing Jaime has ever seen. “Together.”
“Yeah.” Cassie’s trying pretty hard to look forbidding, but there’s exasperated affection in her smile. “Not gonna happen.”
“Blondes are treacherous creatures, chum,” Tim offers with his trademark smirk.
“You,” Kon and Cassie both chorus. “Headlock. Now.”
“I have a modified super-taser,” Tim retorts. “I've been working on it for the last three years for it to affect the both of you. It will knock your asses into at least next Wednesday.”
“Well, where is it now?”
Tim pauses. “...in my room.”
Tim is spry, but the chase only lasts a few seconds. Headlocks ensue. Tim and Kon scuffle and spar and almost screech with laughter. Kon thumps his head down on Tim's shoulder and holds him there. “Missed you, Wonder Boy.”
“Missed you, too,” is Tim's muffled response, then, “I miss being able to breathe as well.”
"Oh shit!" Kon backs off a bit, but he still keeps an arm looped around Tim.
“I'm sorry,” Tim says. “For being a giant scary freak earlier.”
Cassie just shakes her head. “Don't you fucking do it again, but it's okay. You don't know what you're doing. It's okay.”
The three of them hug, and then Bart, sensing a chance for physical affection somewhere in the vicinity, pops in and joins them. Jaime's feeling like they're probably having a moment and maybe he should go... somewhere.
“Get your ass over here, Blue,” Cassie says. “If we're going to have a moment, then we're all going to have a moment.” “We're retroactively inducting you into Young Justice so you can be part of the old school group hugs.”
The hug shifts somehow, and Tim's face is twisted and cloudy, turning away. He silently collapses where he stands, sitting and bringing his hands to his head, and Bart's stroking his back and cooing at him, “it must have been so hard, I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” and Cassie squeezes Tim's hand and looks at Jaime and he understands.
“Thank you,” she mouths. Nobody else notices him leave. Awk.Ward.
“Okay, I'll leave you all to that, then,” he says to nobody in particular and goes to his room for the night. As he passes the gym, he hears “Don't Fear the Reaper” playing.
Jaime shakes his head.
The next morning giant Luthor robots attack Pier 39, of course. Of course. Jaime’s woken up by Cassie commandeering the PA system.
“Attention everyone. Will anyone who is not currently hungover report to the roof immediately.”
Two minutes later: “Will anyone who is less hungover than their bedmate, roommate or neighbor please report to the roof immediately.”
Jaime gets out of bed just as the message changes to, “ Okay, anyone who is not currently puking is being drafted. Roof. Now.”
Jaime stumbles out of his room around the same time that Mia stumbles out of – Jaime checks – Cassie's room.
“Don't even,” Mia says.
“I'm not even saying anything! And won't!”
“Better not,” but she's smiling a little now.
The robot fight is a nightmare. Everyone's either sleep-deprived or hungover on Kon's punch or both so they fight sloppy, and Jaime thinks of Tim's tantrum the other day. That this is how someone gets killed.
Nobody dies. Mia twists her ankle and scowls even when Cassie scoops her up in her golden arms to fly her home and everyone is cranky and exhausted.
Tim's kicked everyone out by the time they return to the Tower. “Politely!” he stresses. He's nursing a cup of coffee that's probably ninety -three percent rocket fuel and danging from one of the kitchen stools. His toes barely brush the floor. For a second Jaime thinks he can see Tim as a child, asking for one more cup of milk before bed. He can’t quite complete the image because Tim and footie pajamas really do not compute. When he says hello to Jaime, he looks away a little bit, shyly, and Jaime isn’t sure what to say to that. Good thing that he’s interrupted by Kara rushing into the room.
“Um, I don't know if anybody else knows this? But Nightwing is up on the roof? The old one? In the suit?”
Tim goes rigid.
“You mean-“ Mia shakes her head. “Holy shit, and the hits just keep on coming today, don’t they?”
Bart is already in a tizzy, and Kon rolls up sleeves that aren't actually there. “We can tell him to shove off, Tim-”
“No.” Tim holds his chin up. “It's alright, guys. I should do this. I need to do this,” like he needs to tell himself this. He stands up and looks ahead at nothing on his way up to the roof.
Cassie frowns and tells everyone that “they need their privacy”, so naturally Kon's using his superhearing to give everyone a play by play in the next room. “Nightwing's got a scrambler or something, his voice is blurry, but Tim's just screaming to the heavens like he doesn't give a shit.”
Mia says, “That's because he doesn't give a shit.”
“It's okay, they're family.” Bart's clutching himself in dismay, rocking back and forth a little. “They're going to end up hugging it out.”
Kon shakes his head. “They are not even in the same universe as 'hugging it out' right now, bro.”
Curiosity wins over and Jaime asks the Scarab to tune in:
“-that, you don't get to call me that. You have a new little brother now.”
“He has nothing to do with this-”
“Oh, bullshit, dick!” Tim's voice sounds ragged, devastated. “You're the touchy-feely one, didn't you know what this would mean to me? Don't you remember how it felt when this happened to you?”
Tim's voice cracks. Jaime orders Scarab to kill the connection. “Kon, we should really stop listening.”
“They’re speaking some crazy Bat-language now or something, I can’t understand them anyway.”
Bart starts passing out RRR badges again. Kara sighs and stands. “This is tedious and kind of sad. I'm going to go paint.”
Bart looks torn. “Can't we do both?”
“Doesn't matter.” Kon starts looking vaguely guilty. “It's over.”
After a minute, Tim appears with the gleaming eyes of a lunatic, says, “I just told him to fuck off and die,” and doesn't stop walking.
Mia shakes her head. “Wow. So they hate each other now? The present day sucks.”
“You're telling me.” Kon's hunching his shoulders; for the first time, he starts looking kind of small.
Bart's practically dancing around the room, plans spilling out of his mouth uncontrollably - "This just means that we have to up our efforts! We need to think of some kind of big stand that we can take to show that we're serious about respecting Tim and putting him back where he belongs, something like a flash mob only more private and more serious!"
"Bart," Cassie says softly. “Honey. Has it occurred to you that, maybe, Tim doesn't want to go back to being Robin? Or that they'll figure things out on their own time? Or that just-”
“Traitor!” Bart shrieks, and he vanishes in a wave of speed, returning seconds later “This isn't how it's supposed to be!”
Kon makes a face. “I feel that way too, little man.”
“I mean it isn't fair, he worked so hard for so long and then they TAKE it from him.” Jaime knows that Bart's distress is about more than just Tim, that he's reflecting all of the awful of the past year or so and channeling it into this one cause. That still doesn't make his anguish any easier to listen to.
“You didn't even ask me, you know,” Tim says from the doorway. “I love you, Bart, and I love that you did this for me, but I don't even know what's right for me anymore. This was going to happen eventually, some way or another. We all knew that.” When Bart doesn’t answer, he continues, “We’ve all had a really shitty few years, and I don’t know how to automatically make it all better, but.” Tim puts his hands to his face, pushing at his temples. "But I don't think this is helping."
Kon’s reaching out to Bart like he’s a wounded animal. “Hey, buddy,” he says softly. “I think I can say that nobody's had a tougher few years than you.”
Bart bristles. “I don't know what you're talking about.”
“We all know what he’s talking about, Bart.” Cassie suddenly looks so tired, and they’re all too tired for this, and Bart was gone as soon as she started talking. Too hungover, too emotional, and when the alarms sound out again it’s a relief because Jaime's been feeling like such a voyeur, like someone on the outside of everything.
He can't read Tim's face when he leaves – which happens a lot, and it doesn't bother him until he thinks that maybe he should have been bothered by it. He should have seen something in the set of his shoulders as everyone else headed out.
By the time they get back, Tim's room has been cleared out.